By Jazmin Sullivan
1876 was a very troubling year for me. My grandmother passed in the month of December. After that my own mother refused to acknowledge my presence anymore. Daddy was never home because he is at sea again and my mother has gone to stay with him while he is docked for one months’ time during the spring. I thought I was truly alone until she showed up at my door.
. . .
I was in the attic sitting on my late grandmother’s rocking chair. A storm was coming in and raindrops were gracefully starting to make their presence, "pitter patter". The rain was starting to hit and slowly run down the window. Before I got too entranced in the dancing tears from above there was a knock at my door. I gingerly made my way to the front door, and opened it to find a tall slender woman.
She was in an exquisite pastel pink dress, corset tight around her middle and softly hugging her curved. The curled lengths of her dark hair came down to her waist, and were slightly being blown by the wind. Is that strawberries I smell? What an entrancing scent. Her eyes were a sharp green that seemed to take your attention away from anything else around you.
"Evening ma'am how may I assist you today?” I asked.
"Greetings Ms. my name is Esmeralda I've been sent by Madame Caroline to come take care of the house during her absence. To my knowledge I did not know someone else has already come to do my job. My apologies", she said in such a milky soft voice it gave me goose bumps.
"Oh no forgive me Ms. Esmeralda. I am Belinda also the daughter of the house. My mother has asked you to come and watch the house? I have no memory of this, but then again my mother always failed to share details with me. My grandmother died in the winter, and during the spring my mother leaves to visit my father Michael. He is a sailor, and docks one month’s stay. My mother does not trust me to watch the house myself, but do not worry I do not feel offended by your presence. I feel relived in all honesty, but I'm pleased to meet you come in." I said responding as fast as I could in fear she would leave.
"I'm sincerely sorry for the inconvenience of my arrival, but if you say it’s no trouble for you then thank you for allowing me into your home ma'am...”, she stopped. Looking around myself I can see why someone would be taken back by the view. Double spiral stair cases made from marble encrusted in gold led up to the second floor. Burgundy rugs cascaded perfectly down hugging each stair. All the floors were glistening white allowing you to see your reflection. Several candles were positioned around the foyer leading up the stairs and down each hallway at the top. In front of us was an elegant burgundy rug embroidered with gold thread making up our family crest; a shield with a panther on it surrounded by stars. Straight ahead was a large bay window that opened up to the used to be garden my grandmother would tend to everyday.
"It is beautiful ma'am", she managed to choke out. In response I almost said, "You’re beautiful as well", but then I realized how absurd I would have sounded in front of this kind woman.
"Please Esmeralda you will be stayed here a while we should at least be familiar with each other; call me Belinda", I said with a soft smile.
"Thank you Belinda I know that I will enjoy my stay here", she said while looking around the great estate that surrounded her.
"Come with me, and I will show you to where you will be staying the next month", I said a little excited because I would be showing her a bedroom. What is with all these inappropriate thoughts, and in the presence of a woman!? Maybe I was coming down with the flu. Esmeralda does not say anything to my request; she just continues to look around as I lead her up the stairwell, and down a long hallway. The floor was carpeted in the deepest burgundy; while the walls were a crisp white, and each candle holder was accompanied by a single burgundy candle. There was a picture in between each candle putting on display the people of my family (some of which I'm ashamed to admit are, but they are still my family.)
I see the portrait of my Aunt Matilda and tried to guide Esmeralda to her room as quick as possible. Then I hear her gasp and she stops dead in her tracks. I turn around and she is looking into the eyes of my late Aunt.
“I see you have discovered the painting of my late Aunt Matilda. I tried hurrying you into your room in hopes you wouldn't see it. I should have known you would have eventually, but I'm glad it is now so I can explain. Yes I am the niece of the woman who was the master serial killer of the century. My Aunt was an insane woman who went around posing as a nanny, try and seduce the husband of the house to be hers, and when he did not comply she killed him, his wife, and left their children orphaned. When she was caught we were all in complete shock; she was sentenced to death in court for her actions." I said as calmly as I could. I did not want to await her reaction in fear she would turn around, and run for her life out the door.
“Well as long as her stunning niece is not going to kill me in my sleep I see no problem staying here, and helping your family in their time of need." She said with a hint of humor in her voice.
"I don't normally kill people in their sleep that is to cliché. I like the excitement of them being awake and not expecting it", I replied with the same sarcasm. She laughed, and it sounded like a million soft ringing bells.
“Well this is your room make yourself at home. I have some duties to attend to in my quarters. Since you’re the guest, and it is your first night I will make the meal for the evening," I said.
"Thank you Belinda how kind of you. I will settle in, and if you wouldn’t mind giving me a tour later. It would be easier with me living here without getting lost in the process," she smiled.
"Of course", I said with a slight blush. I hope she didn’t notice! I turned down the hall way appalled at my reaction to this woman. Mother would be quite disappointed in me. Not only is she a stranger, and possibly seen as someone you would call "the help" she is a woman. A breath taking, kind hearted and unique woman. I caught myself thinking as I bite my lip. NO! I said to myself this could not be happening. I hurried down the hall to my bedroom scared the portraits on the wall could hear my absurd thoughts. I shut the door behind me, leaned against the door, and closed my eyes. I don’t know what’s going on, but I do know I'm enjoying her presence here, and planning on making the most of it. While I was cleaning my room all I could think of was, "what does she think of me?", and, “is she thinking of me too?".
I awaken the next morning to the sound of twinkling music filling the silence around my recent slumber. I grab my robe and cautiously make my way downstairs to the sun room, where my mother’s baby grand piano was. There she was like an unknown beauty stroking the keys, and making an extravagant melody. Her eyes were closed as if she were having a dream and dancing around on the keys. The song sadly came to an end and automatically applauding jubilantly. Esmeralda jumped up and away from the piano as if she was caught doing something wrong.
“My greatest apologies I did not mean to wake you. I awoke early to treat you to breakfast, but then I saw this beautiful masterpiece and couldn’t resist”, she said short of breath.
“Oh no Esmeralda no need to apologize. It was quite an unlikely gift waking up to music. It’s been so long since any type of music has been heard in this house”, I said with a reassuring smile.
“Do you play?” she asked.
“No... My mother did. Every day she would awaken everyone with these amazing pieces she would write herself. My father had the piano imported over from Spain for an anniversary gift many years ago. When my grandmother died so did the music in the house”, I sighed.
“I am so sorry about your grandmother Belinda. Where you close?” she whispered.
“All is good it was her time to go, as she would have said. Let’s just say she was more of a mother figure then my own...” I replied.
She didn’t say anything for a moment; we sat in an awkward silence looking at the baby grand.
“So what about that breakfast?” I giggled.
“Coming right up”, she smiled. I watched her stand over the stove as she scrambled a serving of eggs. Esmeralda had already cooked; bacon, grits, and made fresh squeezed orange juice, and after all that she made pancakes as well. The kitchen was filled with an aroma of lovely smells all wafting together. She served me and sat down to join me.
“It all looks lovely Esmeralda!” I exclaimed.
“Oh it is nothing. Just a little appreciation I am after all staying in your home.” she smiled. We ate all our breakfast while: swapping little stories here and there, sharing a laugh or two. When Esmeralda was little she was abandoned by her parents and put into a foster home. At the age of 13 she as adopted by a kind woman who raised her to be smart and wise. Her mother died three years ago fighting cancer until her last breath. Too bad I would love to have met the woman who helped shape the angel before me now. When she talked about her mother it was like she was visiting the ghost of her past. She was looking at me when she talked, but she was looking at the memories of her mother.
“I’m sorry for your loss I would have loved to meet her, and thank her for adopting you. If she had not I would not be sharing my home with you for the next month”, I said. It seemed like she was snapped back into realized, and realized what I just said. She stayed silent.
“I’m... I’m sorry Esmeralda I did not mean...” I stuttered.
“It is quite alright. I am glad my mother adopted me as well, and I am just as glad to be sharing this experience with you”, she blushed. We sat and stared at each other smiling like lovers would. Finally, she got up and said she was going to get ready for the day. I stayed in the kitchen and clean up joyfully humming the song I was gracefully woken up by just mire hours ago.
. . .
I walk down the stairs dressed and proper for going out to show Esmeralda around town. I was in a tight corseted white dress that flowed carelessly down my body with short sleeves showing off my strong, but soft arms. I had thrown my hair up with a turquoise encrusted burette. I make it half way down the stairs when I notice her standing there staring at me. Her eyes widen and a smile crosses her lips. Her eyes slowly make a path down my body and it makes me feel uneasy knowing that she is making my head flustered. I clear my head long enough to really see her. Esmeralda was in a light blue long sleeved dress, and it seemed to hug every inch of her body. I am sure my expression matched hers.
“Belinda it is quite shocking that you gave nor been wedded to a gentleman caller yet.” she said.
“Same to you Esmeralda even though I am sure you have had many followers. I mean look at you. You are a true beauty.” I whispered embarrassingly.
“Actually I have had no gentleman callers nor ever been intimate with a man.”, she confessed.There was silence, one she probably took as horrid. A precious flower untouched by a man; how special and rare. Women at our age are either wedded or home wrecking floozies.
“That is such a rare find. A woman who has yet to be de flowed. You are truly lucky Esmeralda. If only I was to be that blessed”, I said worriedly.
“Being intimate with a man is nothing to be ashamed of. Yes he should have been the one you married, but that is not always the case is it? I don’t see you as any less than a person.” she stated.
“I have been intimate with a man but I am not proud of it because it was my brother. Ezekiel was handicapped and had no idea what he was doing. He over powered me when I was 13; he held me down and no matter how much I screamed or said stop it was like he was somewhere else. I fought as hard as I could, and didn’t stop fighting until he finally got off of me. When he saw my bruised and battered body gasping for breath on his bead he ran out of the room screaming. My family is the only ones that know. He tarnished our name which is why you will not see his portrait hanging anywhere. A few years later he died of scarlet fever. My father had his room locked so no one was to ever enter again.” I finished in tears.
Esmeralda ran up the stairs, wrapped me in her arms, and rested her head on my shoulder. Her body was so warm mine almost stopped shaking immediately. The way her body felt against mine made me feel weak in the knees. She pulled away, looked me in the eyes, and then she did what I wanted her to do the first moment I looked into those green eyes of hers. She kissed me.
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