The Weird Weekend

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

An unusual autumnal weekend meeting which isn't quite what the guests expect.

 


THE WEIRD WEEKEND

“We are real women, we pay the bills, the houses, the cars and the holidays. We don’t need anyone to maintain us. As far as I’m concerned, men can put themselves together with the dinosaurs in the pages of history. They are completely obsolete.”
After having finished her speech, Sandra sat down at the table with the other women who had decided to spend a weekend together to be of mutual help. There were six women: two sisters, and four friends or acquaintances. As usual, the idea was Caroline’s, who as a psychologist had to show off as a know-all twenty-four hours a day. The ones chosen by such an illustrious lady were varied. Sandra, the speaker, now seated beside the shadow of a person, was fat, quite ugly, and with enough complexes to fill up one of Caroline’s files to make it go off bang. The shadow, if she had a name no one knew it or took the trouble to find out. At the end of the enormous table was Teresa, who looked as if she had got lost. Woman of many men, what was she doing there? The two sisters were very special, the elder Rosi and the younger Vivi. There was a large age difference but they got on well.
The venue chosen for that weekend was an old country house that was still used by Caroline’s family. Anyway, it was not uncomfortable in spite of the time of year. Caroline had these mad ideas to get odd people together from time to time. The week before the meeting Caroline had rung them all in turn, inviting them to spend a weekend in the country, from Friday night till Sunday. During dinner they were going to get to know one another. The only thing they had in common was Caroline.

The old house was a little way off outside a village. The dinner to welcome everyone was for eight o’clock. An autumnal rain fell over the countryside that Friday in September. Sandra, who usually spent the weekends alone although she didn’t tell anyone, was very keen on distancing herself from the city. For the first time in a long time she did not have to invent a weekend, reality had arrived at the end of a phone call with Caroline’s invitation. Sandra didn’t know Caroline well, the two had crossed paths at feminist meetings. Sandra was jealous of Caroline, more for her profession than for any other reason. When Friday came, and the rain with it, Sandra didn’t get upset and packed her case just the same. Sandra had invited the shadow because she needed to feel sure of someone. Caroline had said that that the others were strangers. And so with a sense of well-being, Sandra prepared everything and even provided a box of chocolates. The shadow and Sandra had been friends for a long time, it was more of a mutual agreement than a deep relationship. Neither one of them was able to live without that ‘relation’. Even though both of them would have rejected that idea as being absurd.
Rosi and Vivi lived in a small apartment. Years ago Rosi’s husband had suffered a serious traffic accident which had confined him to a wheelchair ever since. Vivi had a boyfriend with whom she was always arguing and then making up. Rosi and her husband had an agreement that she worked and he looked after their daughter. The family life moved between the women’s work, the comings and goings of the little girl, and Vivi’s boyfriend’s visits. Rosi was the only one invited, but she had thought it would be a good idea to get Vivi away from the places she and her boyfriend usually frequented. When Vivi saw the rain she didn’t feel like going out into the countryside and complained, but Rosi insisted, and after having convinced her that the house would be comfortable and that a weekend away from the boyfriend would be beneficial, Vivi capitulated.

At a quarter to eight Caroline had introduced them to each other, and after a glass of wine any feeling of insecurity had gone. Dinner over, Sandra had started to speak, it was more of a speech than a conversation. The shadow stared at the languid Teresa with hostility in her eyes, as Teresa stood up to move closer to the fire. She suddenly went back to the table and said to Sandra, “If men are obsolete what do you do if you want children?”
Sandra looked at Teresa as if she couldn’t believe her ears, “Haven’t you heard of sperm banks, where on earth have you been?”
Teresa didn’t answer and contented herself by looking at her well cared-for nails. Caroline stared at the expressions on her guests’ faces. The shadow had a smile on her mouth, and Caroline appeared satisfied with her choice of guests that weekend. She was going to enjoy herself very much!
“Is there no one who would like to add something or argue with Sandra?” Caroline asked.
Nobody replied.
“Well, if you’re all tired, we’ll talk about this again, and any other subject that interests any of you. Good night.”

The guests walked up the staircase to the bedrooms above. In a few minutes the downstairs part of the house was left in silence, the only exception being the crackling of the firewood in the fireplace.
Upstairs not everything was silent. Sandra and the shadow were arguing about who was going to occupy the bed nearer the window.

In the two sisters’ bedroom, Vivi said, “What a collection! I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”
Rosi wasn’t so sure it had been such a good idea, and while she was brushing her hair she wondered why Caroline had invited them and why she, Rosi, had accepted the invitation. At least Vivi was with her and so she didn’t have to share a room with an unknown woman. Vivi put Rosi’s thoughts into words, “What is it that Caroline wants? It seems to me that we are toys or guinea pigs for her and that sooner or later we are going to come out in a psychology paper.”
Rosi got down to thinking and staring at her sister, “Yes, it is strange. We’ve nothing in common except Caroline. Have you seen Teresa? What elegance and taste, on the other hand ugly Sandra and the shadow are the opposite. What a pair! And us, what are we doing here?”
Rosi was more or less talking to herself, she got into bed turned out the light on the bedside table. Vivi seeing that her sister didn’t want to talk, said, “Good night. Have you heard the rain? Let’s see if tomorrow brings better weather.”

The house was soon all in total darkness, the only light coming from Caroline’s room where she was writing in a notebook her impressions of the evening. Then, with a smile, she switched off the light thinking of the preparations for the next day.
Teresa stretched out her legs and held onto the pillow, the lids of her beautiful eyes fluttered like the external reflection of a painful dream.
Sandra snored in the bed nearer the window and the shadow slept with an expression on her face even emptier than the usual one.

During the night the fire in the fireplace went out and the only sound was that of the rain falling as a punishment on the earthly beings who had squandered the summer on superficial pleasures. That rain wanted to tell them that the time had come to return to more sensible and deeper things as the days became colder.

At eight o’clock the following morning Rosi and Vivi were in the kitchen having breakfast. The other women still hadn’t got up. The coldness in the bedroom had made them long for something hot to drink. As Caroline had told them nothing about meals Rosi and Vivi had no reservations about going downstairs to prepare breakfast.
“How nice, just what I need to start the day,” Sandra said on entering the kitchen.
The two sisters stared at her without saying a word. Sandra helped herself to coffee and biscuits and seeing that the sisters didn’t want to talk to her, as soon as she was finished went off to get the shadow. Teresa entered as Sandra was leaving and from the kitchen window stared at the wet countryside. Teresa accepted a cup of coffee and biscuits from Rosi and sat down at the kitchen table.
“At least it’s warm in here. Looks as if it’s been raining all night.” Teresa said.
“Yes, that’s what it looks like. Did you sleep well? During the night I heard a sound like a moan but I wasn’t sure what it could be. Vivi says it was a dream or my imagination. Did you hear anything?”
Teresa put the cup and saucer in the sink and turned on the tap and let a long gush of water fall over the crockery before washing it. With a thoughtful look on her face Teresa answered, “It’s possible I heard something, but you know that in these old houses where there’s a lot of wood and old furniture, at night is when everything is relaxed and creaks like an old man on sitting down, or a door, or the floor, any hypothesis is valid but if you haven’t got anything more concrete to base the noise on then it’s better to forget it.”
They had no more time to talk as at that moment the door was flung open and Sandra with the voice of a megaphone announced that Caroline wanted to see them.

The three women entered the dining-room in which, the evening before, Sandra had launched her speech. They sat down at the table. The evening before, the dining-room had been lit with lamps and the light from the fire, in daylight and on a grey day that had brought with it a cold light that wasn’t very favourable, the smaller details that in the firelight hadn’t stood out, were now visible. From the walls hung portraits of people long dead.
“They must be Caroline’s ancestors,” Vivi said to Rosi, who was already desirous of leaving and had zero interest in the house or in Caroline.
Caroline, seeing Vivi’s interest in the portraits said, “They’re my ancestors. I hope you’ve all slept well.” Caroline said these words for the sake of saying something than for any other reason. As if she wanted to remind them that it was her house and they were visiting. She wasn’t properly dressed, she wore a kimono so as to insinuate more that she was the owner, wealthy, and powerful. In other words she was the sultana and they were her followers. The shadow, who now appeared more shadow than at the dinner the evening before, sat beside Sandra, who was smoking like a chimney. Although the morning had just begun there was the smell of shut in, not fresh air. Why?

Caroline opened a folder and took out some questionnaires. Sandra grabbed them happily and shared them out. They were the typical psychology forms, that asked silly things like, what is your favourite colour, to, what position do you adopt in bed, and from those questions and many more, a prototype is made, and of course everyone in the world is a prototype.
“What has this questionnaire got to do with why we are here?”
Before Caroline was able to answer Rosi’s question, Sandra interrupted, “You don’t have to ask questions you only have to do what nice Caroline says.” Sandra turned to Caroline with a gaze of pure adoration on her face. It was obvious that Caroline had found a slave in Sandra, ready and willing to do everything she ordered. The other three women said nothing. The shadow got out a pen and began to fill in the form. Teresa got a pencil and, as usual in her, she began answering Caroline’s questions with an air of indifference. Of course she wasn’t going to put anything juicy in to give the shadow and Sandra pleasure, but something to get a positive reaction. Rosi filled in the form in her own way - the least possible information. And Vivi invented a story. And so the five guests did what Caroline had asked for. Caroline observed them with a remote look in her eyes, as if she were thinking of something far away from what was taking place in the dining-room.
When they had all finished, Caroline picked up the questionnaires and without looking at them placed them in the folder. “I’m going into my study for a few hours. You have the rest of the day free.”
“What about lunch?” asked the shadow who still hadn’t had breakfast.
Sandra stood up saying, “We mustn’t annoy Caroline with domestic matters. You don’t expect a woman like her is going to prepare the food, do you? Let’s go, if you’re hungry we can get something to eat in the village.”
Sandra and the shadow left the dining-room without more ado. Caroline said goodbye to the others and went to her study, saying, “There is food if you want anything. Meanwhile, I’m off to study what you’ve answered.”

“Is that why we’re here, to cook and wander around the house in such bad weather. I’ve got an idea, Teresa, if you like you can stay with us.” Rosi declared.
Teresa smiled, she wasn’t used to having friendships with women. “Thank you, but what are you going to do?”
The two sisters heard the door of Caroline’s study close and they went into the kitchen. Vivi took hold of Teresa’s arm, taking her with her, Rosi opened the fridge and the cupboards while the other two watched. Outside it had begun to rain heavily again as if the rain knew that something was about to happen in that old house.
“I’m going to make some soup and an omelette. There are different types of sausage here too, and by the look of them they are a local product,” Rosi said.
Between the three of them they had soon prepared lunch. As soon as the table was laid, the outside door to the kitchen opened and, dripping water everywhere, Sandra and the shadow entered. Rosi felt her heart fail, and neither Vivi nor Teresa said anything.
“Great! Didn’t I tell you that they would probably have made lunch?” Sandra said, approaching the table and sitting down. The shadow, either through habit or because it was easier to copy Sandra, did the same. Teresa got up, “This food is ours, if you like you can make your own.”
Sandra who had already started filling her bowl with soup gave her a brief stare, “The food is Caroline’s and therefore belongs to her.”
“But we have prepared it for ourselves, not for you. You told us you were going to eat in the village.”
“Yes, that’s true, but we aren’t going to the village in such bad weather. Just put up with it.” Sandra busied herself with eating and the shadow too, neither of the two intruders could have had any idea of what the others were thinking. Rosi made a signal and Teresa and Vivi began eating. Nobody spoke.
At last, Sandra and the shadow left, and the sisters and Teresa cleaned it all up and washed the dishes.
“Rosi, why did you make me a signal?” asked Vivi.
“Because I think that everything that happens here is recorded or observed by Caroline. If, for instance, we do something silly such as go out instead of staying with Sandra and that repellent girl, what do you think would happen? Straightaway, those two would say we don’t treat them well and that we were eating our hostess’ food without sharing it with them. Caroline has invited us to have some fun, but I have no intention of satisfying her.”
Teresa understood, “Now all of this makes more sense. However, what’s it all about? That’s what I’d like to know. There is indeed something strange and pathetic in Sandra, and the other one must have crept out from under a stone.”
“She should go back under,” said Vivi, who had made coffee and had got out a tin of biscuits from a cupboard.
“Don’t you think you’re exaggerating a bit with food?” her sister asked her.
“You know that when I’m bored I pick at everything I can. I’m going to see whether those two beauties want anything, We have to be pleasant and understanding with them if we want to avoid appearing in one of Caroline’s papers. She can’t say we are antisocial in spite of the temptation to be so.” Vivi went off, leaving Rosi and Teresa by themselves. It had stopped raining.
Rosi said, “As soon as Vivi comes back I’ll ask her if she would like to walk to the village, what do you think?”
Teresa said yes, but Vivi preferred to go to bed with a book instead of going out in the uncertain weather.

Rosi and Teresa left the house and went for a walk. On the night of their arrival it had been getting dark and they had not been able to see the house from the outside. The house was a big box, completely square. They went down six steps that led onto the garden with no flowers or plants. There were some dripping trees and behind them a low white building where the tools were kept. The two women stopped a little way off from the house and contemplated the countryside, the house, everything.
“Which ones are our rooms?” asked Teresa.
“Those two on this side. Caroline and Sandra’s are behind.” Rosi guessed which was her room as the curtains were drawn and Vivi had to be in bed.
“Shall we go to the village?” Rosi suggested.
“Where is it?” Teresa asked.
Rosi showed with her hand the direction of the village and there in the distance Teresa saw it. They walked along the road. The countryside was flat. The sky was still overcast although in some parts there were sunbeams that tried to rub out the clouds. At the beginning neither of them felt like talking but little by little they gained each other’s confidence.
“Are you married, Teresa?”
“Not at the moment. But I have been, twice.”
Even though Rosi didn’t usually ask questions, she felt curious about Teresa. “I can’t imagine having two husbands. I’ve got one and that’s more than enough for me for what’s left of my life.”
Teresa glanced at Rosi, “Yes, it’s strange but it’s a fact. I got married very young and didn’t want children as I was just starting out on my modelling career. I put it off till it was too late. One day my husband told me he had found another woman who was more stay-at-home. The funny thing is that it was he who had pushed me into modelling in the first place. My second husband was more like a work-mate than a marriage partner. Eventually, he went off with a woman who is of the type who gaze at a man in devotion. I now live alone, but from time to time I go out with a man whose wife is saint-like. The only time we coincide is at social gatherings. Apart from that, nothing. I don’t expect anything from him, although he’s very good to me. At least we laugh a lot when we are together. I’m no longer a model, instead I design clothes, and my gentleman friend is the editor of a newspaper.”
Rosi was open-mouthed. How interesting was Teresa’s life in comparison to the grey and monotonous life that she led with her invalid husband, a small daughter, and a sister who was still juvenile.
“Is it true that your husband can’t walk” Teresa asked.
“Yes, it’s the result of a traffic accident. We’ve got a daughter of eight years. The child was two years old when the accident happened. Since then, I work and he stays at home. He does what he can and he makes sketches for some of his friends. Till now we’ve been doing fine. There are days when he doesn’t feel well, but this is to be expected so I don’t take too much notice on those occasions. This weekend he and our daughter will be preparing a party for her and her friends, to help him have more fun. Vivi’s boyfriend will take them to the park tomorrow and they’ll eat in a restaurant. It looks like they’ll have a better time than us. By the way, how did you get to know Caroline?”
“I once attended a meeting during my lunch break. The idea came from one of the girls at work. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed and the invitation was a real surprise. The reason why I accepted was because I don’t want my friend to feel too sure of me. Now I believe I’ve made a mistake, I’m missing him very much.”
Teresa felt somewhat sad and angry with herself for not having rejected the invitation.
“What am I doing here? I don’t know, and you?” Teresa looked at Rosi.
“I met Caroline the same way as you did, at meetings. I went as I was tired of the life I led. The office, the house, the child, and the fights and arguments between Vivi and her boyfriend. And then him always at the window waiting for me, or spying on me. That’s why I went for a few times. That’s all.”
The village turned out to be like any other and after tea they decided to go back to the house. They had found a common bond between themselves. As they got nearer to Caroline’s house they felt troubled. It had stopped raining and now a wind blew and the sky was getting clearer. In the distance the house was like a big box of surprises.

Teresa and Rosi went inside and saw there was a peculiar atmosphere - almost violent. Caroline was absent. Sandra and the shadow had been drinking, and when they realised the others’ presence in the dining-room doorway they slammed it shut. “ If I’m not mistaken something big has happened here,” said Teresa.
Teresa and Rosi went upstairs together. Rosi opened her bedroom door and saw Vivi sitting on the bed reading. When Vivi saw Rosi she put a finger to her mouth as a gesture to keep silent. Rosi cleaned herself up and brushed her hair and then sat down beside her sister, whose eyes were shining.
“You don’t know what you’ve missed.”
“What is it I’ve missed?”
Apparently Sandra brought with her a box of chocolates and the good shadow ate the lot, and that’s not all - Sandra caught the shadow in fraganti with a bottle of whisky. There was a right to-do. I was afraid blood would be shed. The divine pair do get on so well. Was the village worth the walk?”
“You have only told me an outline. Did Caroline say anything?” asked Rosi.
“That’s the best part. Caroline knows that Sandra has a problem with alcohol, apart from other problems with men, etc. When I came out of the bedroom to see what was happening, Caroline was staring at them as if they were in a cage at a zoo. She did nothing to prevent Sandra from hitting the shadow. When Sandra noticed that Caroline was observing them she began babbling. Caroline said that she was going to the village to get something, but gave no more information. She left and the other two went up to their bedroom.”
With the story now told, Rosi felt surer than ever that Caroline was up to something. But what?
They heard the sound of Caroline’s car. She must have come back.

The two sisters were each sitting on their beds where they had spent the previous night. The novel that Vivi had been reading all afternoon was lying on the bed beside her, it had to be romantic of course. Rosi was sleepy and the last thing she wanted to do was dress for dinner, and even less now that Vivi had told her about what had happened. Rosi asked her sister, “Did any of them see you?”
“I don’t think so because they were wrapped up in that absurd fight. Know what? Caroline was not just a simple observer but formed part of the show. Strange, isn’t it?”
Rosi was on the point of falling asleep when she heard someone knocking on the door. Vivi opened the door to Teresa.
“Don’t you know it’s dinner time?” seeing Rosi lying on her bed, “What’s up? Did the walk make you feel ill?”
“No, I’m tired. We’re from the city and aren’t used to the fresh air of the country. With all this emotion going on around us, that also plays a part,” replied Rosi.
Rosi got up from her bed and brushed her hair mercilessly. “Well, I’m ready. Let’s see what the evening brings. By the way who’s made the dinner? I can’t see any of the others capable of doing so.”
“The only way to find out is to go down and see. I might not be hungry but I’m curious,” Vivi said, and left the bedroom followed by the others.

The table was already laid with Caroline in her role as hostess. It was all well done, the table with a floral centre and the matching tablecloth and crockery. Yes, it was perfect, like a scene on a theatre stage. Where were the players? In the centre of the dining-room Caroline was standing with a glass of something in her hand, on the other hand she wore a huge ring.
“Hello, Caroline. How’s it going?” Vivi asked.
“Very well, thank you. Did any of you go to the village?”
“Yes, we went this afternoon.” Teresa made no reference as to who she was referring as she doubted Caroline’s integrity.
Caroline seemed to be happy with the reply, and offered them a drink which was turned down by all three. Teresa sat down in an armchair and began to leaf through a magazine. The two sisters got closer to the fire. The three were all thinking the same, what had happened between Sandra and the shadow? They weren’t left in doubt for long; the door opened and the two entered carrying plates of food. It was a total disaster. From Sandra’s mood of a contained fury, and the shadow with her malevolent air, to the dinner they had prepared. Caroline, still in her role of hostess, placed her glass on a table and sat down in the place she had occupied the night before. The others did the same.
“I hope the dinner’s all right, I’m not used to cooking.” Sandra declared.
“Say what you really mean that you are not used to doing more than opening tins or thawing something out.” Caroline spoke in a sweet tone of voice, behind which there was another meaning. What in fact was she telling Sandra? That she was superior, or that Sandra had better be careful in everything she did or said while she was in Caroline’s house. Sandra could put up with anything except Caroline’s scorn, she put the dishes on the table and sat down. In all this time the shadow had said nothing.
During dinner Caroline tried several times to introduce an idea or suggestion as a theme of conversation but her guests limited themselves to making amiable sounds. Caroline didn’t seem to be aware of her guests’ discomfort, and she started with a programme for the rest of the evening.
“After clearing away the dinner plates, which will be done without any problems, won’t it, we’re going to speak about the questionnaires. I want you all to take part in the discussion and that we don’t have a repetition of last night when Sandra was the only one to speak. So full co-operation.”
No one said anything, they all went on eating. To free themselves from that uncomfortable situation Vivi and Rosi offered to do the washing-up. Teresa took the dishes to the kitchen. Sandra had recovered from what had happened earlier in the afternoon.
Caroline had the folder on the table in front of her, and with a professional attitude waited for the sisters to return.

“I’d like to know what’s behind all this.” Rosi said to her sister.
“Me too. We’ll soon find out.”
Rosi with an air of resignation entered the dining-room with Vivi, who saw everything as if she were in a film.

Caroline opened the folder, removed the questionnaires and read them in silence. Slowly Caroline raised her eyes and looking at Teresa, said, “Why haven’t you had children?”
Teresa answered without any sign of feeling uncomfortable said, “Because I didn’t want to be a mother.”
Caroline tried again, “Wasn’t it because your first husband didn’t want children?”
“It was my idea and nobody else’s.” Teresa seemed to be calm but she knew that if Caroline continued that way she would lose her calmness.
Caroline tried again, “Do you still see your second husband?”
“That’s my business, but as you are so determined to know, I’ll tell you we have a business in common, and I don’t see why just because he’s with another woman the business has to fold up.”
“Yes, I understand.” Caroline now set her eyes on Rosi. “I remember you attending several meetings. Why?”
“Girls from the office urged me to.”
“What conclusion have you got from this weekend and the meetings?”
Rosi had the desire to tell Caroline some home truths, but she said nothing. “I haven’t arrived at a conclusion yet. I don’t know what I’m supposed to say.”
Sandra opened her mouth and sent out a strident laugh. “What an idiot!” and at the same time she nudged the shadow.
“Sandra, please don’t interrupt.”
“I’m sorry, Caroline, excuse me, it’s that….” What she was going to say was not pronounced thanks to Caroline’s glare.
The atmosphere was anything but cordial and it was not at all agreeable to be sitting before the great judge. That’s what Caroline was - a judge, judging them, why?
“Rosi you shouldn’t say anything you don’t feel. Why do you call yourself Rosi and not Rosina which is your real name?”
“There’s no reason why I’m called Rosi instead of Rosina. It’s just shorter.”
“Laziness. You’re very lazy, aren’t you?” Rosi was furious, but said nothing as it would have made things worse. She thought to herself, Lazy, with all the problems I have? Who is she to tell me such a thing?
Seeing that Rosi wasn’t going to say anything else, Caroline turned to Vivi. “Yes, you are irresponsible. All those boyfriends. Do you think that men can make women happy? Is that why you’ve been out with so many?”
Vivi tried not to laugh. “I don’t believe that men make women happy but, on the other hand, a woman without a man isn’t happy either.”
Sandra intervened again, bursting out laughing, even the shadow started laughing. Caroline sent an icy glance in the shadow’s direction. Sandra said, “Shut up, you are annoying Caroline and showing yourself up.”
The shadow shut up in a moment, the other women were surprised by the vehemence in Sandra’s voice. It was as if she had to please Caroline at any price. It was clear that the thread that had bound them together was very worn. Sandra’s gestures lacked the confidence she had shown the previous night. But at the same time Sandra was far from being sweet or accommodating. In her relationship with Caroline, she was still vulnerable.
Vivi laughed hard for two reasons: the first, because she had written on the questionnaire a tale with some truth in it, but very little; and the second, was because the frightened rat-face of the shadow beside that of Sandra’s brutal face made a strong impact on her. In spite of her frivolity and the fights with her boyfriend, Vivi loved her sister a lot and didn’t have time for silliness. Until that moment the whole weekend had been very colourful and interesting, however, now she didn’t find it so funny.
With the wind now blowing much stronger and the fire blazing away, the six women were more aware of the drama that was gradually developing and each one with her own part in it.
Sandra spoke to Vivi again “Have you never had a relationship with a woman?”
This time Vivi couldn’t help herself and started laughing. “Sandra, don’t make me laugh. Women with women, when I like men so much? I’m sorry but I don’t see any logic in that. It’s like bread with bread. It couldn’t be more boring.”
Teresa got up and returned to the table with a bottle and glasses. “Brandy, anybody?”
For a moment the tension was loosened and then Caroline took out the shadow’s questionnaire.
“Why are you always with Sandra when deep down you can’t bear her?”
The shadow stood up, “It’s not true. I like Sandra a lot.”
Caroline without any reaction continued, “If you two get on so well, why don’t you say anything when she insults or hits you?”
“That’s none of your business,” the shadow appeared a bit put out and looked at Sandra, “And you, who do you believe, Caroline or me?”
Sandra swallowed back some brandy and served herself some more before answering. “Maybe Caroline’s right . How should I know? After all, she’s an expert.”
Caroline directed her gaze towards Sandra, “Why do you drink so much?”
Sandra blushed, “Excuse me, Caroline, I didn’t realise.”
“I’m not referring to what you have drunk now but to other times. You know I don’t care for people who can’t take their drink, then why do you still do so? Didn’t you promise me you’d be more in control of yourself in this matter?”
Sandra didn’t look at anyone. It was difficult to see her face because it was buried in her chest. Just for a moment there was an eloquent silence full of implication.
Rosi yawned, “I’m going to bed, I’m very tired.”
“Please stay,” Caroline begged.
Rosi tried again, “I’m very tired. I’m not used to staying up late and what with the fresh air as well, I’m just plain worn out.” Rosi wanted to add that she was unaccustomed to scenes such as the last one. The quarrels between Vivi and her ‘love’ were of a different type, and without any undercurrents that hid something more sinister, which was what she felt in that dining-room. Rosi wanted to flee far from the invisible .
Vivi asked,” Do you very much mind if I go to bed as well, and for the same reasons?”
Caroline was long-faced and was staring at Teresa, “I suppose you want to go to bed, too.”
Teresa politely said, “Very kind of you, Caroline, for being so understanding. Thanks, yes, I’d like to go to bed, it’s been a long day.”
Rosi and Vivi said their goodnights to Sandra, who didn’t bother to reply other than a grunt.
The shadow said, “Sandra, let’s go to bed, too,”
Sandra didn’t answer her friend. The shadow asked again, “Come on, Sandra, you must be very tired.”
“Don’t be a wet blanket like the rest. And go to bed if you like. The other women don’t appreciate anything. This weekend must have been very important for Caroline but ‘they’ have spoilt it.”
“Don’t be silly, they haven’t destroyed anything.”
“You know nothing. So go, and leave me alone.”
The shadow was used to obeying but with Sandra always at her side. After one more glance at Caroline and Sandra sitting at the table wrapped up in themselves, the shadow shut the door and went up to the room she shared with Sandra.

Teresa said good night to the sisters at the door of her bedroom. She lay down on the bed and began thinking about everything that had happened since Caroline had rung her to invite her to spend those days in the country, together with yesterday’s events, and then those of today that Vivi had told her. Supposing it wasn’t the shadow who had stolen the chocolates. Then who? And who had given the bottle of whisky to the shadow?
Teresa got undressed and got into bed, switched off the light and was soon asleep in spite of making an effort to stay awake. The woman entered into a profound sleep before arriving at a conclusion. Later on during the night someone tried to open her door, but whoever it was seeing that it was locked went away.
Teresa wasn’t aware of it.

Rosi and Vivi were in their respective beds, with only one bedside lamp lit. They were speaking in low voices.
“I don’t like this at all, and you?” Rosi said.
“You know what I think? It’s horrible but at the same time it’s funny. It’s a mystery, isn’t it?” Vivi was the only one who wasn’t bothered by having spent such a boring and disagreeable weekend.
“Vivi, you’re impossible. You see everything as if it were a film on television. Life isn’t like that, it’s much less interesting. People suffer, and love, and all kinds of emotions come and go in human beings’ lives. That’s why you shouldn’t take it all so lightly.”
“I’m sorry, but it’s my safeguard. Know what ? I believe that at bottom Sandra is more pathetic than the shadow.”
“Why?”
“Because the shadow is ghastly and takes advantage, whereas Sandra is alone, and the adoration she shows towards Caroline is morbid. And have you seen Caroline when Sandra is praising her? Well, Caroline has a look on her face of deep contempt. Poor Sandra. What does she aspire to?”
Rosi was already drowsy and Vivi, without getting an answer, turned off the light. Soon both sisters were deeply asleep.

In spite of the confrontation maintained between her and Sandra, the shadow had no doubts about going back to the bedroom that the two shared. While the other two were still in the dining-room, the shadow like the other three went to bed and fell asleep.

At half past seven the following morning Teresa woke up to hear blows and shouts. She left the bedroom to find out what was going on.
Rosi came out of her bedroom at the same time and they decided to investigate together. The noise didn’t come from any room in the house. When they went into the kitchen Caroline was making coffee.
“Did you want something?” Caroline asked them.
Both of them were flabbergasted with surprise on seeing their hostess drinking coffee so early in the morning.
“What’s happening and where’s that noise coming from?” Teresa asked.
“The blows and shouts are coming from Sandra. She went crazy last night, and I had no other resort than to shut her in the tool shed.”
“But isn’t it dangerous with all those tools, and the cold too?”
Caroline didn’t reply to Rosi’s question, she only said, “I’ve rung for someone to come and take her to a hospital where she will receive the appropriate treatment.”
Teresa and Rosi were open-mouthed at this.
“What do you call this kind of stupidity?” Teresa put her coffee cup down on the table.
Caroline indicated that they should both follow her. The three entered the dining-room. Everything was upside down, there were even broken objects. The smell of whisky dominated the atmosphere and Caroline opened the windows. The sky outside was grey again and there was still quite a wind. Teresa and Rosi’s eyes were straightaway fixed on the building the other side of the trees. In the dining-room the noise wasn’t so loud.
“I feel cold and I’m going up to get dressed. Coming?” Teresa looked at Rosi.
“Yes, I’ll take some coffee up to Vivi.” Rosi turned to look at Caroline, “Have you told her companion about this?”
“Not yet, there’s more than enough time for that.”

In their bedroom, Rosi got dressed very quickly while Vivi drank her coffee, and heard all about Sandra.
“One thing I know is, that I wouldn’t believe that story in a million years.”
Rosi was amazed, “Why not?”
“Because we only have Caroline’s word about what actually happened. In spite of the fact of not liking Sandra nor her friend, they have the right to speak for themselves.”
The sisters packed their suitcases as soon as they were dressed and made-up. Rosi knocked on Teresa’s door. “Are you ready?” Rosi asked.
Teresa glanced around the room, “Yes, I’m ready.”

They went downstairs only to find Caroline was waiting for them. “Are you leaving? How are you going to get to the station?”
“Walking.” Teresa moved towards the front door but Caroline stopped her.
“Wait a minute. What’s the rush? Nobody’s thanked me yet.”
“I’m so sorry. With all that’s taken place and the hurry we’re in to get to the station, we’d forgotten.” Rosi replied knowing that it wasn’t a valid answer, she had another thought in her head - to leave and as quickly as possible. “By the way, where is Sandra’s friend?”
Caroline said, “Over there, look.”
Through the window they saw the shadow outside the white building. There were a lot of questions to ask and Vivi asked the most obvious one. “According to what you’ve told my sister and Teresa, Sandra destroyed the dining-room. The first thing I want to know is, how come we never heard anything? And then, how is it possible you are here safe and sound?”
Caroline replied after a long pause.
“Why must I have scratches? And why should you three have heard anything? This is absurd. Don’t you remember? You were all tired last night.”
Rosi didn’t like the way the direction of the conversation was going. “Let’s go, Vivi. There’s a good walk to the station. Thanks, Caroline, and goodbye.”
Rosi shook hands with Caroline and left. The other two were close behind her like two sheep. Caroline, seeing Rosi’s determination, did nothing to prevent them from leaving, she stood to one side to make it easier for them to go out through the door.

In the wet autumn air, leaves that were on the point of falling, under a sky that wasn’t sure whether it would rain, Rosi, Vivi and Teresa said goodbye to the house. The shouts had ceased some time ago, and from the other side of the door of the white building came the sound of a moan. The shadow gestured in the direction of the door.
“Sandra hasn’t gone mad, she is in there because Caroline tricked her to go inside and then locked the door. Sandra’s anger is due to the fact she was inveigled into going in there. She wasn’t angry before.”
“Then how do you explain all that destruction in the dining-room. Has Sandra told you a tale?” Rosi asked the frightened creature.
The shadow was incredibly pale, she wasn’t used to saying more than a couple of words at a time. “I swear to you. Caroline carried out all that destruction.” Then, shouting through the door. “Sandra, tell them what happened.”
Sandra could not say anything. A heartbroken silence filled the place. The shadow banged on the door, shouting, “Sandra, answer me.”
Nothing.

The sound of a vehicle reached the women’s ears. Caroline came down the stairs and she showed the man who had got out of the ambulance where he was to go. In a minute they were in front of the shed door that Caroline had locked with a padlock. Caroline took out the corresponding key and opened the padlock.
“Sandra, come here,” as if she were calling a dog.
The man said to Caroline, “If she’s as violent as you told us it would be better if I go in first.”
The shadow got in first, “She’s my friend and she isn’t violent as she says.”

Inside the shed all was in darkness and a pale light came in through the dirty windows. The shadow was silent, but slowly, like a zombie, she approached Sandra’s inert body, her blood covered the hay and the scythe was still in her neck.
The man stared intently at Caroline, “Knowing the unfortunate woman’s tendency to having a violent character, I’m surprised that you locked her in here with all these tools. It could be assumed that she would attack someone or kill herself. There’s something here that just doesn’t add up, and even more so you being a psychologist.”
Caroline looked at him calmly, “Where was I supposed to put her? She had destroyed the dining-room. Should she have been allowed freedom to run through the house breaking it up? This was the only solution.”
The man went back to the ambulance to inform the police of the tragedy.
The shadow said to Caroline, “Sandra told me everything before she died. She realised too late what your game was. You wanted to get rid of her. Who ate the chocolates? Who destroyed the dining-room? It wasn’t Sandra. All this set up was to eliminate her, why? What was it that Sandra knew about you?”
Caroline made a move to return to the house.
“Is it true what we’ve just been told?” Rosi asked.
“Prove it.” And with this, Caroline tried to go, but Teresa stopped her, “I think you owe us an explication, don’t you think so?”
Caroline said nothing.
Teresa grabbed Caroline’s arm to prevent her from going. “Just a minute. I’m convinced that you had some motive for getting rid of Sandra. I don’t know why, but I’m sure that poor creature adored you so much, she was a nuisance for you. Although maybe you didn’t actually put the scythe in Sandra’s neck, you pushed her into killing herself. Neither do I know the reason why all this happened here, if it was for some work of yours, or for an experiment, or maybe simply to free yourself of her for good - with us as witnesses. What I’ll never understand is why you had to go so far.”
Caroline didn’t listen to Teresa’s words. She removed the restricting hand from her arm and went into the house.

“That moan I heard on Friday night. Do you think it might have had something to do with this?” Rosi asked trembling.
“We shall never know. Caroline used us for her own ends, just as I thought from the beginning,” Teresa said.
“Yes, and what ends!” Vivi now saw nothing funny about the weekend.

Teresa raised her coat collar against the cold and started walking towards the station. They were all thinking about their own impotence against the professionalism with which Caroline had planned everything. They realized they had been deceived about the true motive behind the weekend visit. What can you do? What’s done is done.

Deep down, they had all learned something about themselves.

They didn’t have to wait long at the railway station. The train left as soon as they were on board. None of them took the trouble to look out of the window.


Submitted: October 14, 2012

© Copyright 2020 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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