The Manor in Sussex
There was a manor in Sussex, England. A queen had once gone there for holidays, when she was very young, but something strange occurred at that particular residence when she turned 21. It was on a cloudy September afternoon on a Friday. September 13 to be exact. She was said to have died on the property. No one was certain either way, but the woman had never been seen again. The flowers stopped growing on that dreary day. Forever. The lake flooded the property, and, ever since then, anyone who wandered there noticed that the leaves never grew on the trees.There were people who were said to reside in that house, or were they ghosts? No one in the town was entirely certain. Bonnie MicIntosh, the housekeeper, was seen by some but not by others. She had ebony skin, and she was always wearing the same outfit, trapped in time, forever, it seemed. She could exit the house, cook, and clean, but she was never once seen anywhere except on the property. There was no car around, and anyone who saw the woman wondered how she actually went about getting groceries.One day, a little girl by the name of Lucy was exploring with her friends, even though her mother had warned her not to, and she got very frustrated with Samantha, who kept beating her when they were racing. The two of them, and Samuel, chanced upon the place. The clouds were overhead, the property went on for miles, and, finally, they saw the woman. They’d heard the rumors around town but were never quite sure whether or not they should believe them.The trouble was that Samuel saw nothing. The two girls, however, were talking to the same woman, the housekeeper, who the boy thought must be some sort of ghost. Who’s to tell who was right and who was wrong? Perhaps the woman was a distant memory to the two of them, perhaps the boy simply didn’t see her because he didn’t want to, didn’t believe she existed, and never would. Nonetheless, she made them tea and biscuits, set the table, and talked about many, many issues that were quite current. She knew about all of the goings on in England: the new café that had just opened up on third street, the hip new pub as well. It was rather odd. Finally, they decided it was time to leave the property. Samuel, the boy, simply strolled out, beckoning for the girls to follow him.The two of them could not leave. There was an invisible barrier that stopped them from doing so. Suddenly, they saw a banner on which was written, “The Forever House,” held by the housekeeper, which then rapidly disappeared. The boy told them to try climbing over the wall, thinking it was odd that they could enter but could not exit, and saying that he was going to call either the police or the mental hospital, because they were seeing what, to his eyes, was nothing but a ghost, an apparition of their subconscious.Lucy tried to climb over the wall, as did Samantha, but they would always fall right before they were able to reach the other side. Samantha got to the very top, was about to jump, and, as she did, fell backwards. Samuel swiftly dialed a number on his phone. It was his uncle’s. He told him of the dilemma that he and his companions were in, and the man made his way to the manor.The problem was that, by the time he had arrived, the housekeeper had already made supper for the two girls that was apparently absolutely delicious. The boy was horrified to try it, thinking he would join this deceased woman in what must be one of her hauntings. She insisted that the house had been given to her by Elizabeth (no one could confirm or deny this), and that she had promised herself to tend to it as if it was her own for many, many years to come.The moon began to rise over the trees, the lake murmuring on the grounds with whispers that could perhaps be either human or animalistic: it was impossible to tell because the sounds were all muted. The only thing that anyone could hear clearly was the housekeeper’s voice. Finally, at last, the uncle arrived. Henry was his name. He wondered exactly what was going on. He thought that maybe he was alone because, at first, he didn’t see the house. He only saw Samuel, screaming for his friends at what looked like empty space.As he took a deep breath, the place emerged, seemingly out of thin air, and the children with it, but, he, too, did not see the housekeeper.“Uncle! I’m so glad that you are here! The girls are inside, and they can’t get out! Perhaps you can help! I’ve been inside the kitchen and been served tea by what appears to be a ghost, but the girls see and hear her. They tell me she’s absolutely splendid: quite a lovely woman.”“Odd!” the uncle exclaimed, before entering the home.He went inside and wondered what exactly he would do. He wondered what he would say and where he would go, if this woman really existed. He entered the kitchen and saw the two girls, laughing and knocking their knees with their hands, talking to the air as if it was a very engaging woman, eating biscuits and drinking tea.I have never seen anything so strange in my entire life…He mused, then prodded them gently to leave the property. He took their hands in his and marched them to the gate. Samuel walked off of the property quite easily.“Hold onto my hands tightly,” He said.The two girls did so and they were able to move through the barrier effortlessly. Samuel was waiting for them.“There you are, nephew! I don’t know what you were on about!”He paused, looked at the two girls, and pointed his finger at them, “What did I tell you about talking to strangers? Hmm?”He furrowed his brows.“I’m going to tell your mother!”Samuel smirked and Samantha sternly told him that it wasn’t funny. Mothers could get awfully furious about these sorts of things.
Note: This short story was inspired by the following prompt from Reedsy:
"Set your story in a gothic manor house."
Prologue to Midnight Roses
As the police officer drove his car to the scene of the crime, he observed a lifeless body, sprawled between two tombstones. He parked his vehicle, got out of it, and examined the dead human form.
Leonard Scarborough, the famous lead singer of Midnight Dreams..
The officer, Patrick Gundy, was shocked at the flawlessness of the body: No blood. No gunshot to the head. No obvious injuries to the neck, and the mouth open. He suspected the man had been poisoned, but there was also a slight possibility of strangulation.
He dusted some fingerprint powder over the corpse.
Nothing to be found. Whoever committed this crime had left no trace of evidence behind.
It’s Not for You
My cascading locks, my pixie cut
My eyeshadow or lack thereof
My long blonde hair or deep brown mane
My dangly earrings
My bare face
None of it is for you.
You can’t tell me what to do.
That my ass is too big or too small.
That my breasts aren’t to your liking.
That I need makeup.
That I should embrace my feminine side.
That I must wear jewelry or hide my pride.
Because none of it is for you.
I dress for myself.
I’ll wear bright red lipstick or nothing at all.
Beautiful colors even in the fall.
I’ll walk to the beat of my own drum.
I’ll wear long earrings or simple studs
Sometimes all that you’ll see are my beautiful eardrums
But none of it is in your control.
This is my body.
This is my soul.
I am tied to a chair now. She is shaking. Her fingers are trembling. The tiny hairs on her skin are standing straight up, and she looks at these men. Three of them. She looks long and hard and she wonders about their humanity.
Did they have mothers growing up, and if so, what did these women teach them? One man’s mother was sick. He needed drugs so that she would feel better. That was moral, it seemed, at least in his mind. It was moral to lie, murder, cheat, and steal simply to heal her from her condition.
“I’m sorry about your mother,” I say, “It’s awfully horrid when those we love are sick.”
I can see a tear escaping from his eye, but that wouldn’t go along with his tough guy facade, so he rubs it away.
“That’s none o’ yer damn business, ma’am!”
“Well, I suppose it is since you’ve stolen my money and meddled with my affairs. I believe that’s the definition of a person’s business: An event that involves someone’s financial state of wellness. Of peace of mind. Of abundance. And you’ve taken that from me, have you not?”
I hear a car pulling up in the drive, and I silently pray that it’s Irene. A gun is on my throat now. The man is holding it there. I couldn’t believe someone could do this, but, then again, was there anything truly unbelievable about the human beast when you really sat down and thought about it? No. People committed heinous crimes every day, for many reasons, some of them justified in their own minds, and this man, in his own opinion of himself, was a hero: A son saving his mother from the death that we are all so afraid of.
His phone rang and he picked it up. He automatically placed the gun elsewhere before hand and I breathed an enormous sigh of relief.
Then I could see his shoulders hunch as he listened. The man broke down and sobbed uncontrollably.
“My mom’s dead. All of this and she’s dead.”
“I’m so sorry,” I offered.
“Shut up,” he snapped.
“Well, my mom still needs drugs. My sister’s in rehab and my brother’s dealing some blackmarket shit on Wall Street. He needs drugs and he needs them now! So I’m still gonna get your damn house, lady.”
“Is that why you killed the man’s wife?”
“What? I didn’t kill nobody’s wife. Not me, dog. I was just runnin’ around stealin’ shit. What the fuck you talkin’ about?”
I hear a knock on the door.
The kid opens it.
“Who is it?”
Irene is finally here. She’s going to save me from the insanity and she’s...holy shit, the darling, sweet, innocent, pure Irene came to fight. She’s got a gun.
“Untie her. Now!” she says, gun to the man’s neck. He realizes quickly that his doesn’t have any bullets anymore and obeys. Andres is still sobbing and, despite myself, I just want to hug the man. That’s it that’s all. We drive away. I escape.
They try to take me back but eventually give up. Andres’ willpower was the oil on this machine and he’d lost a significant amount of willpower to go through with anything after he learned of his mother’s death.
People are so complicated sometimes…
“Thank you for saving my life.”
“You’re welcome. What the fuck, Annette? I found Eduardo’s wife, Juanita, dead in the shower. Do you know who did that?”
She sighed, “I’m sorry. You’re my best friend and I’m glad you’re alive. It just spooked me. That’s all. I really need to know who the fuck did it.”
“I don’t think it was those guys.”
“Are you sure?”
“No, but I’m not sure about anything thee days,” I answer, looking out of the car window and replaying the rather tame scene of my escape in my mind.
The trees rush past me and I look at her, her beautiful, long blonde hair, her flattering but conservative pink top, and her beautiful, skin-tight jeans.
Irene’s always been prettier than me. She was the one who’d always picked up boys at the bar, while I was locked away in my room, writing something or other about boys falling for women. It was much easier to control on the page than it ever had been in real life.
“They stole all of my money, Irene. They said it was for Andres’ mother, but she just died. Of course, they haven’t given it back. They were fighting about that when we left.”
“Well then I’ll call the police.”
“No. You can’t.”
“I was sleeping with him…”
“What...you were sleeping with him...well, the police know people have affairs, Annette, but, honestly, the poolboy? I didn’t have you pegged for that sort of woman, and after writing all of those novels about sordid affairs too…”
She shook her head in disgust.
“I know. I know. I don’t think Eduardo’s found out.”
“Who the fuck broke into our house though? The only other person who I ever saw was that dude dressed like a clown.”
“That’s the guy who did it. I’m sure of it. I saw a knife once, in his pocket.”
“Well a lot of people carry knives in their pockets, Annette. Cowboys who’ve moved to the big city think that those things remind them of home. They’re heirlooms of sorts, souvenirs from a long-lost era. Everyone has knives.”
“Yeah, but there’s this gang of guys who dress like clowns and they have an emblem on each one: a jester hat. They use the knives to slit peoples’ throats. I looked, and that’s what happened to Jaunita. Exactly what happened to her.”
“Damn. Are you sure?”
“As I said, one can never be sure when it comes to murder. It could be Eduardo, for all I know. Maybe he didn’t want her to find out. It’s odd that she was in New York. She usually stays in Bevery Hills. She must have known something about her husband. Figured out what he was doing behind closed doors and followed him here, determined to hold him accountable for his behavior, but then, she was stopped by someone. Maybe the criminal in her mind. The traitor. The betrayer. She could have been angry. Maybe it started out in self-defense and then, rather than confessing, he took out his knife and slit her neck to save himself from her wrath.”
“Wow, Annette. You really are a writer!” Irene shook her head.
“I swear I never could have made up such a fucking story on the spot, but we don’t know. This is real life. Things aren’t always as they seem. Was anyone following you the night you two...slept in the hotel together?”
I inhale sharply.
“Well, let me think. There was a man. A man with a briefcase and a blue suit. He was wearing glasses. He always wore very pointy black shoes. They seemed expensive, vintage probably.”
“Why on earth did you spend so much time staring at this man’s shoes?”
“Because there was something different about them. A jester hat emblem, and there was a bulge in his pant pocket that looked a lot like the knife I saw. He had a similar stature to the clown.”
“Hmm...That does seem odd.”
“Yeah. He was staying in the room across the hall. I saw him leave early and get breakfast. I didn’t see him after that.”
“I’m calling the police. This is ridiculous. We’re staying at a fucking hotel tonight.”
She dials a number and calls.
“Hello? Jim? Yes, I would like to report a robbery. Andres and these other two guys, I don’t have their names, stole 4 million dollars from my friend, bestselling author Annette Baker.”
She hangs up.
“They’re looking into it.”
“Okay. Let’s stay in a hotel tonight.”
“Have you told Eduardo?”
“No. I haven’t told him.”
We saw the writing on the wall as we continued driving. This is what it said:
by an hour.
We steal time
from the Universe
unaware as yet
we will have to give it back.
hang like masks
mirrored in the dark
our own ghosts
visiting this night.
I watch myself
as if seeing
someone from another world
who is & isn’t me.
Outside a bird
unknown to us
creates the dawn
whistling like a janitor
the early morning.
this extra hour
(this added time) .
The clock caught napping
still living in the not so long ago
stepping into her future
that is now
the extra hour
like a useless bauble
falling out of
You held my hart in your hands and my soul in your mouth, we watched the moon slip through the dark knight, A lullaby of blood and sticky labels, reach for the sky, reach for the sky, No more dollars, No more heists, No more; No more, Bonnie & Clyde.
won't you save me, for I've been running all my life, I've been sinning, I've been stealing and I know that that ain't right, won't you save me, won't you teach me right from wrong, I've been sinning, I've been stealing, please take me home.
We sang to the pound of the engine, you lay your head in my lap, so sweet so simple, you toyed with the coins in my pocket, reach for the sky, reach for the sky, No more dollars, No more heists, No more; No more, Bonnie & Clyde.
won't you save me, for I've been running all my life, I've been sinning, I've been stealing and I know that that ain't right, won't you save me, won't you teach me right from wrong, I've been sinning, I've been stealing, please take me home.
We danced to the backdrop of yellow fields, spattered with red confetti, shookhands with the devil, all dressed in rags, reach for the sky, reach for the sky, No more dollars, No more heists, No more; No more, Bonnie & Clyde.
The devil he has taken me, and I can't run no more, No more sinning or stealing, for now my life is done; you can't save me, You can't teach me right from wrong, No more sinning, No more stealing, For now this soul has gone.
Ten cops, camera and a smile, Photo for a trophy, V8 Ford full of holes, reach for the sky, reach for the sky, No more dollars, No more heists, No more; No more, Bonnie & Clyde.
I wasn’t really sure what to think about it, to be totally honest. The words that had been graffitied on the wall were eerie, particularly because they were etched in red, and there was a jester hat near each one that looked a bit too similar to the shoes and the knife for my taste. The problem was that there was no real way to know if the man I saw by the hotel room was the same man I saw dressed up as a clown: He wore too much face paint. It was a disguise, and a stupid one, and how on earth had he obtained my mother’s locket?
Everyone Has Empathy, but Only Some Decide to Use It for Good
Even bad guys are capable of being good, and good guys are capable of becoming evil if they are pushed far enough. I’ve found that human nature is a complex puzzle and all of the pieces must fit together perfectly in order to avoid wickedness, sadism, and selfishness, yet it is still all-consuming for many of us. In short: Good people can do bad things, often by accident.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, was quite fascinating to me because of Lennie's seemingly harmless character: The guy killed bunnies and various creatures, eventually a woman, simply because he was hugging everyone too hard, and George’s character became more and more relatable as the story went on. Neither one of these people meant to be villains. Lennie was clearly delusional, unaware of the power of his own strength, yet the part of the story that stood out to me most was that George, the supposed hero, killed Lennie: His friend. What made the narrative even more complex was that he actually did it for the guy’s own good: He wanted to protect him from Curley.
So, in essence, George killed Lennie out of empathy for him, which shows just how twisted human beings can become when put in certain situations.
This has taught me to be very mindful of my actions in life: Just because one has empathy doesn’t mean that an individual will use it for good. In fact, many have said that a person with empathy is more dangerous than one without it: If someone knows what hurts another human being, they know exactly how to twist the metaphorical knife into the other person’s chest and fuck with their mind. So, ironically, using empathy to cause someone else pain can become destructive.
What I’ve learned is that it is not only important to experience empathy, but to examine every issue from several angles, deciding which course of action is most prudent. I’ve also learned the hard way that bullying someone because you know what will hurt them is deeply wrong, and that one should instead use the gift of empathy to try to make the situation better insted of causing more pain. Whenever I’m in a situation that requires empathy, I ask myself if I’m acting in a self-serving manner or if I’m actually doing what’s good for everyone involved. It doesn’t always work because I’ve made more mistakes than I can count, but at least it’s a start.
Chapter 3: Memory Lane
I’m taking a drive today. The trees rush by. There is so much to see. The mountains roll by. I’m listening to Tim McGimmons on the radio. He’s singing about loss today. My mind wanders back to a woman who had stolen my heart a long time ago, back when I was just a kid. She had brown hair, drove a pickup truck, and she always wore brown leather cowboy boots. She listened to country music. She was here and gone. She was so beautiful. So free. I remember seeing her galloping on a horse on our dirt road. I wished the two of us could ride together, but it never happened. I guess she thought I wanted more. Lord knows she was right. I wanted so much more. At the time, I swore I would marry her. She just wanted to hang out. There was one night we both got a little drunk. We were in her red pickup truck, and the stars were lining the sky. They reminded me of the starlight I always saw in her eyes. She never talked to me again after that. I’m not sure just why. Just what happened. That night is magic to me. That’s why I swore, after Miranda, I’d never fall in love again. Not with Allison. She was too good to be true. Too good for me, if I really got down to it. I sighed, kept listening to the radio, and driving down the road.
I knew where she was today. We’d known each other for years, and I knew that she was painting. I’d seen her paint once. Allison. She deserved so much more. I hated myself for hurting her the way I had. She was there, in her log cabin. Her wooden easel was right in front of her window. Outside, there was a forest, and the sun was setting right about now. She loved the sunset. I knew she did, when she was painting. She dipped her brush into the assortment of paints she had, sighed, and started to stare at the blank canvas, wondering what to create today. She starts with dark blue. It’s probably the color of her heart’s emotions. I hated myself. I took a drink of the beer I had in the cupholder. There was never anyone on these roads. No cops. It was a good place to be when I wanted to ease my mind. A good idea to be moving when I didn’t want to stay in one place.
I pictured her, adding a little bit of yellow. I also figured that was how she wanted to feel: happy, bright.
I was only picturing her the way I saw her, I supposed. The way I wanted to see her. The way she used to be, before I’d broken her. Sometimes I wondered how she’d gotten that desperate. Why she’d started throwing herself at men as if they were going to heal some kind of void she’d felt since she was a little girl. I feared it was lost. Her grandmother had died when she was only seven years old. She probably wanted to hang onto any relationship she could for as long as she could. She probably didn’t want to let anyone go willingly, the way she’d been forced to do with her grandma. I was taking advantage of her, but I knew no other woman would have me.
I knew that no one would come to me that easily. Most women would see me for who I really was: an insecure cowboy with nothing to lose. Very little to gain, and a very small amount of money in the bank. I killed my own meat. I went deer hunting every year, brought home the big ones, did all the trimming and cutting and whatnot and then I roasted em up. Made some really good deer jerky. Allison never came with me. She always wanted to, but I told her it was a man’s sport, and ladies had no business with them shotguns. She didn’t listen to me. She was quite feisty. She went on her own one time and she actually caught one, put it in her daddy’s truck, and drove him, angry the whole time because I had refused to go with her. That afternoon had been fun. She’d called me a chauvinistic piece of shit for not ever goin’ with her before. I ain’t no chauvinistic shit. Just a good ‘ole country boy. I remember tellin’ her that but she wouldn’t listen to a damn thing I said.
I rolled my eyes just thinkin’ about, put the bottle down, and hunkered down on the couch, watching the sunset over the Sangre de Cristos. Women...I thought, as I laid there, takin’ it all in.
Irene lit the candle and did a recitation. She’d seen the dead woman in the shower and she’d seen the dropped cell phone with a call to 911 that hadn’t gone through. She’d gotten home and found the place empty and the door unlocked. She knew something had happened. She just didn’t know what it was, but she figured it probably had something to do with the man who spoke five languages. She wished she knew what his name was.
It was that place that was in ruins that no one ever knew about because no one ever went up there. No one was around. They could kill her, if they wanted to, in cold blood, and fucking get away with it. Those bastards. How did they know that Annette was having an affair? How long had they been following her.
After miles of driving, she turned on the radio because the intensity of the boredom and the silence was simply too much to bear. She knew what she’d do: She’d pull the knife from the glove compartment, but then she realized that would be stupid. These men had guns. They were experienced criminals. Maybe she could pick one up herself, from one of the makeshift stores that sold them when no one was watching: It shouldn’t be legal, but it was, so she dropped by a little county store and she purchased a solid gun for herself. One she’d knew she’d have to use in self defense when the time came. Irene prepared to kill a man, maybe more than one, in cold blood to save her friend.
The moral barometer of right and wrong quivered back and forth in her heart and in her mind.
Was killing ever okay? What did okay, acceptable, even mean, really? It depended on the circumstances, on the people who would kill her friend for her money, on who sinned and how often, didn’t it? Or was a murderer just a murderer no matter what?
The candle burns not for us, but for all those whom we failed to rescue from prison, who were shot on the way to prison, who were tortured, who were kidnapped, who ‘disappeared’. That’s what the candle is for. Peter Benenson
She sings and hums, chanting to the universe for help, and then she leaves, knowing she cannot stay here if she wishes to be safe. She must find a place where she can call 911 and save her friend.
She wrote a poem in her diary, which had always helped her through troubling times:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”
She walked out of the apartment and got into her car. She noticed that Annette’s hat had dropped onto the sidewalk and she picked it up, figuring out what her next move would be.
Where would I go if I was a kidnapper?
She asked herself and the answer came to her immediately.
The Catskills. There weren’t many people, and there was an abandoned cabin up there, perfect for sins of every kind, if they had money, they could probably rent a better one. That’s what they’d done. She was sure of it.
She put her foot on the gas pedal and started driving. She figured she knew exactly where they were.
Here I am again, in Irene’s apartment and there is another knock on the door. It’s locked and I fear I’m going insane. It’s dark out. I can’t see the moon through the skyscrapers on seventh street, and the streets are invisible. The pollution is becoming more and more intense, and I look around at the art.
“Hello. It’s Marcuson. The man who speaks five languages.”
A shiver ran down my spine.
“The Seven Social Sins are:
Wealth without work.
Pleasure without conscience.
Knowledge without character.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Worship without sacrifice.
Politics without principle.
From a sermon given by Frederick Lewis Donaldson in Westminster Abbey, London, on March 20, 1925.”
― Frederick Lewis Donaldson
“I am here to tell you that we have your life’s savings in our own hands. You are coming into the Mercedes Benz, and, if you don’t, we will kill you.”
I pick up my phone, shivering, and call 911, but there was no reception.
“We’ve taken care of that. You won’t be able to call anyone.”
Crap. Why does Irene have to be out for groceries right now. Why the fuck did I open the door? How stupid!
“May I got the bathroom.”
I could climb out the window…
I went to the bathroom and the walls were high, tiles that looked like stone. There was a red towel and a bit of blood on the toilet bowl, but I figured that was probably only because Irene had been menstruating.
That would make the most sense.
That’s before I looked into the shower...there was...a woman there. She was dead. Her corpse was cold and it was too damn much to bear. I tried to escape through the window but I can’t because there is a mirage of guards there, probably people who work for the man who speaks five languages. I lock the door and stay in the room. The bathroom. That was that.
I stayed there, staring at the corpse and wondering who on earth it could be. There was no one staying with us and no one had visited us recently. As I looked closer, I saw the locks of black hair, the glassy brown eyes that used to be so full of life, and then I realized it: the rose on her shirt and the pendant with her husband there. She never traveled without it.
Holy shit...This probably happened the night I was gone...I had slept in this morning. Was Irene actually okay this morning. Did she actually go grocery shopping or...what the fuck happened this morning? What the fuck happened?
I’m shivering at this point, phone in hand. I’m not sure what to do. The man barges in and picks me up, shoving me into his Mercedes. He shoved me into the trunk after putting some shit on my head and I could hear him driving off. At first, the familiar sounds of New York City kept ringing in my ear. Then I started hearing less and less of it. I started hearing coyote howls, and, soon enough, different types of birds. I heard the kidnappers talk about how much they loved the birds.
Damn assholes. They don’t love birds nearly as much as they loved women. God I hope Irene is okay. I hope she’s still alive. I hadn’t had the chance to see if her car was still there, just assumed. That’s all I can really do.
Finally, the car stopped and the guys got out. They took me out of the trunk and I then they put me back into the backseat and they tied me there. I continued looking around, trying to get my bearings. There were so many stars. I hadn’t seen them in so long. I listened to the man and the passenger, plus the other man sitting next to me. I noticed they were all quite handsome, but caught myself, reminding myself that they were kidnappers. They kept speaking in Spanish. They got out and peed, then came back into the car.
We were driving through what seemed like paradise: Daffodils were blooming, but my mouth widened as I realized that we were heading into the forest, deep into the forest, and guess what? There wasn’t a body around. They could choke me, shoot me, rape me, and no one would know the better for it. Not in a million years.
There we were, heading down the winding road. There was this beautiful cabin and, with awe and a pit in my stomach, I realized that’s where we were headed: the only cabin in the woods. That was it. There were no other house. No other people. Just long stretches of woods, that is all it was. That’s everything that was there.
Oh my God. What the fuck am I doing? What will they do to me? I have to figure out how to get away from these people.
I try to practice empathy. I am a Buddhist and I know that there is nothing unbelievable about the human beast: We can do this well. We can do it all. We know what to say and what to do, and then, if we are smart, mean, or both, we reject conventional wisdom, lie, cheat, and steal. If we are geniuses, we simply lie creatively. Isn’t that what a story is, a lie?
“I was amazed as people must be who are seized and kidnapped, and who realize that in the strange world of their captors they have a value absolutely unconnected with anything they know about themselves.”
― Alice Munro, Lives of Girls and Women
I am here now. I am being dragged into the cabin and died to the bed, probably for their sick pleasure. I rack my brains, wondering why on earth these people are doing this to me.
“What do you want? You have my money?”
“I want your keys.”
“You know what I’m talking about. Give me the keys! Now.”
“Well I don’t have them.”
“Bullshit. You always have them.”
I look down and I remember that I wear the keys around my neck: the keys to the beverly hills house.
Why did they kill Eduardo’s wife? Did they know?
“Why do you think? We want money. I need money for my mother. She has cancer. She needs drugs.”
“So you steal from me? You already have four mil.”
“How much do you need?”
“5 mil, and I know that house is about that much.”
“Well, I actually got it for $900,000.”
“Close enough,” the man who speaks five languages, Andres, says and rips the necklace off of her neck.
Today is the day that a sane president of the United States got elected. It is also the day that I said goodbye to Eduardo, the poolboy who worked for me and also cheated on his girlfriend in my Beverly Hills estate (I had an apartment and a house because I’d done well for myself, but someone else was looking after the place. In fact I should probably check in on it in light of recent events.)
Anyway, to make a long story short, Eduardo has been having an affair with me for quite some time now. His wife, Camila, has no idea, but I’ve felt guilty in the back of my mind about it for years on end, and, I must confess, it has inspired many sordid love affairs in my romance novels: That’s what people seem to live for.
I continue typing but I have to stop because tears start rushing down my face. Irene asks me if I’m okay and I tell her I most certainly am not. I miss Eduardo very, very much, and there is no way on earth that I can forgive myself for what I have done to his poor wife Camila. She certainly didn’t deserve this. She had been nothing but my loyal housekeeper for years on end. Eduardo had recently come to New York to see me, and I myself, the writer and the mistress, had had the audacity to break it off with him, after paying for his flight nonetheless and pressuring to come over. There is something you might not know about me: Sex calms me down when I’m in dangerous situations. It always has and it always will. Of course I took a shower and all because there is a global pandemic going around, wreaking havoc on the entire planet, but I still totally lost my head for one night. I did it after the sex, of course, because I didn’t want to miss out on that. That’s what I was looking for, if I was being totally honest with myself. Companionship was not exactly what I was craving: It was just too much damn work.
I was sobbing now, praying to the Lord and then glaring at my phone, working on myself but then deciding not too. I kept going back and forth about whether or not this was the right thing for me to do, but as Irene pointed out so accurately, it was obviously the right moral course of action because this man was married.
My favorite memory is sad to write about because my uncle isn't here anymore. I spent an incredible summer with him and then he passed away, but I wouldn't trade it for the world.
We went fishing and I caught more fish than anyone else! I felt so honored and celebrated by him for my skills, and, primarily, for my outdoorsyness. I have never felt that way except with him. I've always felt dismissed by other men in one way or another, especially when I mention how much I love camping or admire the trees. They've always wanted to help me and be my protector, but I never felt that way for those three months with Monique Andre.
My cousins and I went tubing and he drove the skido we were tied to. We spent the summer in a cabin by the lake and, then, soon after, he died very young, and I never got to see him again. For years, subconsciously, I've tried to relive the memory in one way or another, seeking out men to date who remind me of him, but that's never worked, because none of them have truly loved me the way he used to, and the way I used to love him.
Recently, I've come to grips with the sad reality that I can't relive that memory with anyone else, no matter how hard I try to, because no one will ever be my uncle. He is irreplacable. That makes me tear up, but it also makes the memories that much more special. I miss him every day.