Topping the stairs leading to the attic, she turned and saw the sunlight fighting through the spaces between the door and its frame. Bright, burning light almost like a laser cutting into the darkness, and outlining the door to her new attic. Moving forward, she turned the brass and glass knob, pushed the door inward, and covered her eyes to a blinding midday blast of sunlight.
Walking into the room she could smell moldering clothes, and the ancient newspapers covering previous occupants’ left-behind articles. Some old dishes, perhaps, but rancid cardboard was the first thing she felt as she stubbed her toe on a pile of boxes she could not see. The light inside the room was overpowering! After rubbing her toe, she began to feel her way around, reaching out her hands as she moved toward the large window. She could barely make out the line of a sheet hanging half-off the window. The plan was to tuck it back into a chink on the left side, which had a pillar standing strong and sturdy there.
Finally, she found the edge of the sheet, shook it out a bit and sneezed from all the dust and possible spores she had just scattered. She stood on what looked to be a stronger box and gently tucked a corner into the sliver between the top of the pillar and the roof. The house definitely needed to be leveled!
Looking around the room, she could make out several stacks of boxes, and one lonely armchair, directly in front of the right pillar – facing it, as if it was left to stare at it, or perhaps something out the window. She knew that this house was the only one in a five mile radius, so it had to be a seat for watching the sunset…perhaps? Pulling the sheet back over the right side, she saw not a pillar, but a statue. Marble and smooth, carved to near perfection. She pulled a little more, running her hand over the surface, she discovered a finely toned leg. Knowing she couldn’t just rip off that sheet, or else risk burning her retinas, she searched the room for a light switch or lamp.
In the corner, tipped over and missing a shade was a red, vase shaped lamp, still plugged into the buckling wooden wall socket. Dare she try to click it on? She stood the lamp upright, then picked it up and blew a deep, long breath over it to remove dust and cobwebs. She gave the whole apparatus a little shake just to see if there was anything loose inside. No sound, not even a burnt out filament in the bulb. Oh well, here goes nothing, she thought, as she turned the switch near the bulb.
“Click”, and soon a small ray of light flickered to life and helped to brighten the room, without blinding her, or shooting into sparks! Close call, she set the lamp on the floor and returned to the hidden statue. Pushing back the sheet, she discovered it was a man’s figure. He stood tall and strong. She could make out the smoothness of muscles and curves that could only be formed through hard work in the fields; not the kind earned through protein shakes and hours spent at a gym. She could appreciate the subject and his many curves and ripples…she began to appreciate it all to much…
Shaking the dust and dirty thoughts from her brain, she decided to check out the rest of the room. Boxes randomly tossed or stacked in several places . None of it seemed to make any sense. She began opening them one at a time. the first held only a few objects, a candle half-burnt, a teacup and mis-matched saucer, and a small pillow. She took them all out and threw the box into an empty corner. Using an edge of the hanging sheet, she cleaned off the dust from the dishes, and the beat the pillow, again releasing decades of dust motes and mold spores into the air. Sneezing, she placed the cup and saucer near the lamp on the floor and tucked the candle inside. She placed the pillow on the seat of the chair; she now noticed it was plush, red velvet upholstered and quite soft, almost cuddly, when she sat in it.
Again, she noted that it faced only the pillar. The window was quite out of the line of sight for watching the sunset. She sat in the chair, studying the situation. She tried to move the chair and found it was too heavy for her. She was no wimp, but this chair seemed to be rooted to the spot. She tried to lift it up and it wouldn’t budge. She finally came to the conclusion that it was either glued or nailed to the flooring. Hmmm…
Leaving that for a moment she opened another random box. This one held 3 books. the first had a soft leather cover and loose sheaves of paper inside. It was wrapped together with a long leather tie, looped around it several times. The second was a black, hard cover with the years “1920-1921” pressed in gold lettering on the spine. She set it aside also and finally pulled out the final book. It looked like a young girl’s diary, with a tiny broken lock on the side. Well, at least she wouldn’t feel like a complete creep when she opened it!
She picked the books up and sat in the red chair, expelling millions of dust particles and aged velvet fibers into the air around her. Eventually she was going to learn that she needed a mask and antihistamines before she came in here again! Sneezing and sniffling, she opened the girl’s diary, and began to read.
I guess its finally time to use this thing! My mom gave it to me 5 years ago when I got my first period. I guess she thought I needed to talk out my feelings or some shit. Whatever. It doesn’t matter. She’s too busy with Tom to notice me anymore. I couldn’t find the key, so I broke the lock. I hope someone reads this anyway. I tried pot for the first time a few weeks ago, but nothing seems to help. I always feel like shit. I always feel alone, and sad. Everyone around me seems to see the world as some wonderful, happy place. All I see is darkness, loneliness, and I feel a hard, heavy ache in my chest every time I leave the house. So I sit here in my attic room, and stare for hours at the Angel whose eyes never quite meet mine. He stands guard at my window, keeping demons away. But just once I wish I could talk to him. Ask him questions. How long has he stood guard here? Am I the first girl to fall in love with him? I wish he stood guard at my door. Then Tom couldn’t come inside. I leave my lights off, and use only the candles I can steal from the corner store a block from school. I’m sure the owner has noticed, but he never says anything when I buy a pack of cigarettes, and a new lighter. At least I am still giving him money. I don’t smoke, but I need the lighters for my candles. When this is over, please give him a hundred or so dollars, for keeping my secrets. My angel watches over me, and I am sure that even without his wings he will carry me to a safer place. I keep my candle burning only long enough to read, and I leave my window open so they think I have decided to sneak out, even though I am only hiding under my bed from Tom. Whoever reads this, please know that I cannot live with what he has done to me. No one should have to. I tried to tell my mom, but she moved me into this attic to keep me away from her man. I may be 17, but I know I am not going to be a part of this world any longer. Today, I stole a pack of those old style men’s straight razors. I was reading in a book in the library, about where to cut and how, so that I won’t feel as much pain. Not that I am afraid of pain, just that I have felt enough of it. The last seven years have been a complete nightmare, and especially the last four, when Mom moved me in here. The heat doesn’t reach this room, so I have a lot of blankets to wrap up in. Tonight is unusually cold, I think its a sign that the time is right. If anyone reads this, know that despite it all I love my mom, I miss my dad, and I wish my Angel – Adam, I’ve named him- would speak to me. I stare at him, I tell him my secrets, and when I can sleep I dream of him taking me away. Now’s the time. Tom will knock on the door soon, and I’ve already made the cuts. My blankets will soak up the blood, mom won’t have to clean up. Goodbye, whoever you are. I am leaving this pain behind. -Maddy”
She sat back in the chair, crying tears that burned hot on her cheeks. That poor girl, she thought. flipping through the book all she could find were a few red-brown stains on the edges of the pages, and on the back cover. She tossed the book out of her hands and wiped away her tears. Thinking back over the only journal entry, she wondered if “Adam” was the statue. there were no wings, but she hadn’t pulled the sheet back far enough to see his face. Shaking those terrible words from her mind she picked up the next book. Hard back and slim, it was more like a journal, more adult and sophisticated. With any luck it would prove a much lighter read than the last one.
The cover cracked a bit as she opened it. the first page was a note to its owner. “Dear Mathilda, I hope you are able to fill these pages with love notes and happy memories as we begin our lives together. I love you deeply! Yours Always, Frank”
So far it seemed to be a much happier book. The first two pages were blank, and as she began to flip through the book she read a few recipes, a few notes about births and deaths, as if Mathilda was keeping a family record. Not at all a bad read. Mathilda seemed a happy caring wife, with notes on how to help a fever using herbs, and recipes for roasted beef with vegetables, pulled fresh from the field. This book was a treasured record of the married life of Matilda and Frank.
Reaching the final entry she noticed a shaky hand had replaced the swift and smooth one of earlier entries. Mathilda must have stretched these pages over her entire lifetime. But her final entry seemed rushed and pained as the words continued on…
“Its been ten years since Frank has passed. My usefulness has gone and my kids have made me nice room here in my attic. I hear them downstairs as they fight about keeping me here or putting me in an old-age home. No one has asked me, but then, I only see my son when he brings me meals. Breakfast, he brings me oatmeal with a bit of jam mixed in for sweetness, just the way I like it. And dinner, whatever his new wife has managed to cook. I can’t remember her name, but her food is awful. No wonder my Frankie is getting so thin! I’ve been talking with my young friend here, and he agrees that none of us is happy. Frankie, got his young wife, only to find out she was a bratty child. He should be ashamed. She thought she was getting a sugar-daddy, but forgot that his first wife would get most of his money and his house. She hates being here, as much as I hate seeing her. And then here I am…an old useless woman on the edge of death. My young friend watches out the window, he thinks it’s time I made things a bit easier for them. I may be feeble, but I’ve built my stairs to the window ledge, from boxes and books Frank and I packed up here making room for new life. Seems ironic in a way, I suppose. The tracks of life are making a path for my death. But soon I will see my Frank again. I hope he will look at me the way my young friend looks longingly out the window. Good night dear Frankie, Momma is ready to go home.”
That was it?! Nothing else written in the book. Another freaking suicide note!!! This house must be a horrible place for so much unhappiness to have taken place inside, under the roof! And in this room, most of all! She needed a drink! This was getting to be more and more of a daunting task than she had originally planned. She knew the house had a history, but her romantic mind always twisted it into happy couples and families, growing and loving each other more and more. This was all too much. The wine waited down in the kitchen. No sense tumbling down all those stairs in the dark! She grabbed the half melted candle and used the lighter in her pocket to light it. Dripping some wax in the teacup she made a well to hold the burning candle. The house was wired for electricity throughout, but no one ever put lights at the top or bottom of the stairs. That made absolutely no sense. Calling the electrician in the morning, would be first on her list.
She found the wine, and a glass, and headed right back up the stairs, after grabbing her favorite microfiber throw. The attic was a bit cold, just as the others had said. And she did have one last book to go through. Only the Gods knew what fresh hell awaited her eyes in this one! She quickly climbed the stairs and shut herself into the attic. The sun outside was going down and she pulled the sheet down completely, to finally reveal the statue in all his glory. Glorious was an understatement! More perfect than David, whoever this guy was, he certainly had it going on in all the right places! Her eyes wandered up and down soaking in all the manliness, when she noticed his eyes. they weren’t looking out the window, instead they seemed to be looking at the pillar on the other side. Hmmm…
Setting that thought aside she poured her glass of wine, and began to drink as she wrapped herself in the throw blanket, she flopped down in the chair. Sneezing and clearing her sinuses of dust and ancient debris, the lamp flickered out and popped. Dead. Well Hell… Again she lit the little candle and used some of the boxes as a table while she carefully unfurled the soft leather wrapping of the final book. Loose sheets breathing life once more, the pages shifted when the cover was opened.
Grabbing them before they fell to the floor, she held up the first page and noticed that it seemed to be a drawing of a grand front gate. Two tall walls topped with a statue on either side, and a metal double gate between them. Hmm…
She carried on drinking and sifting through the pages. More structures, small house like buildings, and a long driveway that circled a weeping willow. Wait! A Willow? She jumped up and looked out at the sinking sun, and sure enough in the distance was a huge willow! These were the original plans for the house. Lifting and piling, page after page carefully between the covers of the book she searched for the details of the statue in the attic. Names of carpenters, stone masons, and metal workers all employed to build the plantation home.
But THIS wasn’t a plantation home. This was a Victorian 3 storey home on 3 acres. Accessible by long winding roads in the middle of farm land nowhere, this was literally the ONLY house in 5 five miles! She kept flipping pages, and somewhere in the middle she found sketches of two statues. A man, ruggedly handsome and fine. And a woman, delicate and beautiful. Their pedestals were sunk into the ground 10 feet with cement and iron, securing them for eternity. But there were no statuary for the garden, or the façade of the house. Just the two at the gate.
Reading on she found an inscription on the page detailing the woman’s statue.
I hope when you or I leave these gates, we are reminded of our deep and abiding love for one another. I have personally carved these statues after years of watching you from afar. I present them to you today, as a wedding gift, along with the promise of my true love. In the coming years we will build a fine home for our growing family, and our love will shine like a beacon for others, as a symbol of the deepest and truest of all. May these statutes welcome many generations of loving families, and happy times.
Forever yours, Adam…”
Holy Shit his name really was Adam!!!! She looked at the pillar across from Adam, and threw off her blanket. Snatching up the candle she began to examine it more closely. This was a wood panel over the statue of Margaret! She sorted through a few more boxes and found an old screwdriver. She began pulling and prying the boards away from the statue. Tearing and ripping at the aged panel, she began to reveal what was meant to be Margaret. Running her candle over the place inside the wood, she saw a face. A delicate, womanly face. Ripping and pulling more wood away she discovered the statue had not been completed! There was a general humanoid form with a clear and lovely face, but there was nothing more.
Rushing back to the book she tossed sheet after sheet of paper aside, finding nothing but more plans and drawings. What the hell happened?! More pages scattered onto the floor, as she sped through them, until she picked up the final sheet.
“Margaret Reed aged 17 years, laid to rest in St. Christopher’s cemetery, April 17th, 1789. A Victim of the smallpox, she was accompanied to her final resting place by her fiancée Adam Cummings, a victim of suicide. Upon her deathbed Margaret stated to her beloved Adam, ‘Do not mourn me, for we are bound by our souls and will be together in heaven.’ The couple were found holding hands, covered in his blood.”
She could not believe her eyes! This man was left here as a stern reminder of loneliness. A friend of many, and confidant to at least two other women, equally cursed in life. She fell into a puddle on the floor and sobbed at Adam’s feet. Slowly she climbed up his stone body, and attempted an impotent hug. As if he could feel her sorrow for his lost love, and life. Leaning into his cold shoulder, she noticed a face on the wall. Grabbing her teacup candle, which was quickly losing life, she brushed away cobwebs, and found a mirror, that looked directly at Margaret’s face, only there was something oddly familiar about the face. She compared her features to Margaret’s and suddenly realized they had the same nose!
Dashing back to Margaret, she ran her fingers over Margaret’s face and compared them to her own. Margaret was an inch taller, though that could just be the plinth. Their eyes were similar, and so were their cheeks. All in all, they could, at the very least, pass for sisters! And looking back over what should have been Margaret’s shoulder was another mirror, looking directly at Adam’s face!
His stern gaze seemed to melt into a small grin, as if seeing his beloved once more was enough to force the stone to remake itself…