I’ve had a crazy couple of weeks, but I finally managed to carve some time to write and visit my online friends. The following story is inspired by the above photograph. It was taken by a friend, Jarno Willemarck, in the French part of Belgium (he’s not allowed to give exact location). He titled it Cinderella Castle, so I’ve used that (you know how I struggle with them anyway!) I hope you enjoy.
Garrett timed his movements to the haunting whistle and wail of the breeze through a barren landscape. The old house was a ghost of her former self, the old girl about ready to collapse and spill her secrets.
Let’s raise a toast to our freedom.
The voice, floating to him on the wings of times past was followed by the remembered echo of breaking glass. Pausing from the pursuit to gain freedom from his bindings, Garrett’s gaze fell on the table he had carried into the room at Fiona’s request almost fifteen years ago.
He took in the solitary glass, its twin littering the ground by the exit after Fee’s explosive declaration.
Here’s to a taste of freedom and the chance to blow this godawful joint.
The words echoed around the room, ghosts pulling at his memories until she appeared beside the table, her unruly gold curls bouncing as she moved, her graceful body bowing as she raised her glass and hurled it at the closest wall.
The wine they had been drinking had splashed back at her laughing frame, droplets of crimson soaking into the simple cream tunic she wore.
Garrett’s muscles bunched in response to the memory and he saw glimpses of his former self rushing to lift her from harm’s way. His Fee rarely wore anything on her feet, and he had been possessed by a need to protect her from further pain, a need made sharper by the sight of the growing patterns on her dress. Patterns that reminded him of the times the dark rich colour had been evidence of the beatings she had taken.
Let’s do what we should have done years ago and cremate the bitch.
His eyes closed as the soft, vulnerable note to her voice. It wasn’t real, but here, where memories were being drudged up with the filth in the room, past and present merged.
To centre himself, Garrett pulled on the wrist attached to the radiator, and the scrape of metal on metal screeched in a pitch that rivalled the wind.
Fiona had been talking about the house, though neither of them had truly blamed the ancient walls for the atrocities that took place here.
Still, they had tried to burn Gillingworth Manor to the ground. The scent of petrol and red-hot flame rose up to scorch his nose, trapping him with the sounds of burning timber. This room had been among the few that had survived their wrath, and it hadn’t gone unscathed.
When he glanced around, he saw the scorch marks on the ceiling and the debris scattered across the floor like pieces of his past. The rough bite of fabric scratched across his bare chest as the heavy curtains shivered in the breeze. They were darker than they had been. Garrett remembered them blooming as green as the walls, before water had soaked into the fabric and sealed in the house’s weary screams.
It had once been an opulent space, the furnishings a mask for what true horror took place behind the scenes.
Garrett raised his free hand to wipe the sweat from his face. He flinched in pain as the grime from his fingers caught in the open cut on his left cheek. The opposite eye was swollen shut, perhaps the reason his vision was so hazy and his mind flickering between the then and now montage to showcase his predicament.
The bruises across his torso added insult to injury because he swore if he took a snapshot the they would be an exact replica of his first foray into the room.
As though pressing a button to play a soundtrack to his misery, the punch of flesh against flesh echoed around him. He might have dismissed the thud of a body hitting the floor as a painful memory if it hadn’t been for the vibration that shook his bones.
“Fee.” His voice came out on a rasping breath, like the fire had been real again and he’d inhaled too much smoke.
Fiona stepped into the room carrying twin batons and a frown that could make a hardened criminal search out his weapons. She wasn’t bare foot now. The ghost of the girl she had been evaporated in the presence of the fierce woman she had become.
Dressed in black, from her boots to the cap she wore to tame the curs, Fiona looked like a fallen angel. He was afraid he was hallucinating until she spoke.
“What did I tell you about taking side gigs. You never go anywhere without backup.”
Despite feeling repentant for his stubborn actions, Garrett grinned at her. The cut on his lip seared fire across the skin and he knew the fresh flow of blood must have made for a macabre smile, but he didn’t care. They had been searching for Gillingowrth Junior for five years and he was certain his Fee had just made mincemeat out of the sick fuck.
She would never have been taken unaware, as he had been, but then she had always been smarter than him. He’d always followed her. Into the army, the security firm, he would follow her into hell itself.
It took her less than a minute to free him and then she was pulling him to his feet. He swayed until she caught him, and again when she pressed her lips to his.
“Ouch,” he whispered, making no move to step back.
“Stop being a baby. It’s just a scratch.”
He laughed at the words, ones she had spoken many times as a nod to their past. There was little that compared to the wounds inflicted by Rory Gillingworth.
“Can you walk?” she asked in a more serious tone, her pale brown eyes showing the first hint of concern.
“I’ll aim for a hobble and go from there.”
Her musical laughter bathed the room in a soft playful light, banishing every dark corner.
Using Fee for support as he’d been doing most of his life, he let her guide him from the room, confident he provided the same – the security of home.
The house would never be that, not for them, but someday perhaps it would be restored and filled with the kind of joy they had found in each other.
Thanks for stopping by