Kiss the Darkness Blog Series – Chapter 2

October 14, 2019 tracy No comments exist

Part Two


Gerty smiled, seeming to understand. Guess she did have a teenage daughter of her own. “I’m normally away by six, but I can stay a little later tonight.”

I smiled. It was nice of her, but it didn’t help my misgivings. She turned away to get on with her clearing up and I left her to go in search of the bathroom.

I checked out all the paintings again on my way upstairs, pausing at the last one. I wondered what the secret in her eyes was. Then I retrieved my washbag and towels from my room and found the bathroom at the very end of the hallway.

The room was huge, as they all seemed to be; probably the same size as my bedroom. The fact there wasn’t much in it, made it look even bigger; just a toilet with a cistern right up near the ceiling and a basin with brass taps the size of my fist.

The bath was going to be a problem. For a start it was on a raised platform and, second, it was tall. I had my waterproof sock, but I would need to get onto the platform, put my bad leg over the side and rest my weight on it so I could get in.

I assessed the height I needed the water to be without getting my plaster wet. It was fiberglass, but I hated getting it soggy. At least the bath wasn’t very long. If I positioned myself just right, I could maybe put my leg up over the side. I decided to try.

It looked pretty comfortable—the enamel type I’d seen in films where you had to bend your knees. The lip that rolled over the top would make a good headrest.

The wind whistled and interrupted my thoughts; a creepy sound that fitted the house perfectly. The bathroom must be at the corner of the building. I ignored it and turned the large faucets and, after much coughing and spluttering, murky brown water came out. It smelled metallic and made me jump back for a bit, until eventually the water ran hot and clear. There was a rubber stopper on a chain that I plugged into the hole in the bottom.

While the bath filled, I took a closer look at the room. It was decorated in dusky-pink tiles that went halfway up the walls. The top bit was covered in a plum-colored wallpaper in the design of climbing vines. It was a good color to hide the bubbling mold appearing in the corners near the ceiling. A big gold oval mirror hung above the sink and a corner cabinet in dark wood stood to its left.

I leaned one of my crutches against the wall and opened it, turning my nose up at the dusty old bottles. Some didn’t look like they’d been used for twenty years. I got the impression that this bathroom was the same.

The words Bath Salts caught my eye on a clear bottle with blue crystals inside. Soak those aching muscles was the tagline. I’d give it a go. Bubbles would have been better, but I guessed that was a bit too ‘twenty-first century’ for this place. It would do the job though, even if just to color the water.

Abandoning my other crutch, I sprinkled some of the contents into the already half-filled bath. The water instantly frothed and became clouded.

My face cloth and shampoo was in my washbag and I placed them next to the bath, along with the jug. I undressed, then sat on the raised step and pulled the plastic sock all the way up my leg. It had to completely cover my plaster right up over my knee and the elastic had to be tight enough at the top to stop any water that might go in.

The faucets were so large that the bath was deep enough by the time I’d finished. I daren’t let it get too full.

Steam came off the surface so I took my weight on my good leg, held onto both sides and dipped my bad one in. It felt a little hot but I didn’t mind. I hadn’t felt properly warm since I got here. I put it down, turned and prayed my leg held. As soon as I was in, I swapped my weight and sunk slowly in, hissing, until I got used to the temperature. My legs had to bend to my chest so it was easy to put my bad leg up over the side. The elastic was more likely to hold too, due to gravity. When I eased back with a sigh, resting my head on the curved top, the water was almost over my shoulders.

I lay there looking up at the ceiling and listening to the drips and loud sloshes of water as I scooped it over myself. It was the same dark berry color as the wallpaper. The brass light fitting had an opaque glass shade that buzzed and flickered slightly. It made me wonder how safe the electrics were.

A low moan of wind wailed around the building and rain started to lash against the small window over the bath. It was a lonely, desolate sound and would have scared the hell out of me if I hadn’t already worked out it was the wind. It made me feel truly isolated, something I’d only ever felt emotionally at home. The room felt warm now at least.

I picked up my shower gel from the floor and lathered it in my hands, rubbing it over my arms and doing the same with my good foot up out of the water.

The wind moaned again, louder, as if to protest. The lights flickered again. They buzzed and then went off completely.

Crap. I froze.

The drips of the tap and the raindrops rapping on the window were almost drowned out by sound of my heart, pounding so loud I thought it would beat right out of my ears.

The wind hissed and moaned as if it were saying the words ‘Lila … Lila.’

The lights buzzed and flickered again. Then came on. The relief was so great I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding and I sagged back against the bath. My temples were throbbing.

As soon as I’d got a grip on myself, I climbed out—almost stumbling off the dais in my rush to hop onto my bad leg. I wasn’t going to hang around for it to go off again. I dried myself quickly, pulled on my nightshirt and hobbled out into the hallway. The contrast after leaving the warmth of the bathroom hit me immediately.

The flames in the wall lamps flickered in a draft and I blessed them for not being electric. Trying not to run and fall over, I reached my room. Gerty must have been in as the lamp by my bed, with the frilly lampshade, was switched on. The curtains were drawn and flames now licked around a log in the grate. After my scare, it didn’t really feel that much cozier.

There was no lock on my door so I dragged the surprisingly heavy, old rocking horse, to block it. I figured it would act as an alarm, even though it wouldn’t probably stop intruders.

The cheeriest thing was the fire. I stared into the flames and a tear ran down my cheek. I didn’t like it here. I was trapped and there was literally no one else who would have me.

The people I’d just met weren’t exactly horrible, but they weren’t overly friendly either. It felt like I’d travelled back a hundred and fifty years in time. I wiped my eyes with the back of my hand. I don’t think I’d ever felt so alone.

I sniffed back more tears and pulled back the old-fashioned blankets to get into bed. I immediately jumped back. Inching forward, I sagged in relief. There, in the middle, was a flat orange bear. I picked it up by the ear assuming it was Tallulah’s idea of a joke and it gurgled. I shook it next to my ear. It was hot and full of water.

I instantly brightened. Gerty must have put it there. I put it back, climbed in bed and sighed into the warmth it had created. I was tired and overwrought. Maybe once I’d had enough sleep things wouldn’t seem so bad.

I leaned down and pulled my laptop out of the bottom drawer of the nightstand. It was my link with the twenty-first century. It was impossible to be alone with technology. The familiar green light came on and I waited for it to fire up. But nothing happened. I tried again. “No … no. Don’t break on me now.” All I got was the ‘blue screen of death’. Then it buzzed with grey fuzz like an untuned TV. Nothing.

I continued to stare at it for a full minute waiting for something to happen, but nothing did. I fell back against the pillows. The silver stars looked down on me from the ceiling as if painted to brighten up some poor child’s life.

I hated it here. Hate, hate, hate it!

Then I sobbed.

Crying was the best way to fall asleep. I’d learned that lesson a very long time ago. The next thing I knew, the grey light of a new day was peeping through the gaps between the heavy velvet drapes.

The room air was cold against my face. The fire had long since gone out. I checked my phone: nothing. I sent a message to Mom, anyway, letting her know I’d got here OK. The time was 8.50 a.m.

I loathed the idea of getting up into the cold but I remembered I had about three hours until Tallulah came to collect me for our shopping trip. That meant I had time to spend in the orangery before she got here.

I washed and dressed in jeans and the warmest sweater I could find. More sweaters and a pair of boots definitely had to be on the shopping list today.

Then I grabbed my phone to read on, and went down through the kitchen in search of breakfast before I went outside.

The kitchen was warm and filled with the delicious smell of baking. Gerty was there, beating some mixture in a bowl by hand. “Fresh muffins cooling. Tea?”

I had to get used to that, but for now I shook my head. “No thanks. Any juice?”

Without so much as a deviation from the rhythm of her beating, she nodded to a fruit bowl on the side. “Oranges are over there.” And, with a flick of her eyes: “You’ll find a squeezer in the drawer.”

I picked up a large orange and looked at it quizzically. I’d seen machines do this in a shop.

Gerty tutted, which I realized was a habit of hers when she became inpatient. She put down her bowl and took the orange from my hand. Then she took out a sharp knife, cut it in half and began pushing one half down over a conical glass dish. She tipped the contents into a glass and did the same with the other half. I never knew it could be done like that. It barely made half a glass, but when she passed it to me and I tried it, I’d never tasted anything so nice.

“You won’t get fresher than that,” Gerty said. Then she picked up her bowl and resumed beating her mixture. The rate she kept up, she must have muscles of steel. “So, where are you off to this early?”

I picked up a muffin in a paper towel and put it in my bag. Then I arranged my crutches and moved towards the back door. “I thought I’d read in the round house for a while.”

Gerty stopped beating and studied me for a long moment, as if I’d said something that struck a chord for her. Then she smiled as if she’d swept it away. “You mean the old orangery.”

“Yeah, it’s peaceful there.”

“Well, be careful. Bert will see to it this week.”

I gave her a small smile and left through the back door. Going to the special place I’d claimed as my own filled me with excitement. When I got there I propped my crutches against the wall outside and hopped in like I did the last time. I held onto the fallen rafters to get closer to the pedestal with the angel. Because against all the faded white paint and rotten wood, in one of the angel’s hands was a single, perfect rose—the color of blood.

Copyright T Stedman 2019

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