Flash Fiction: New Management
The Lady of the house is dead.
This, coupled with the fact that her daughter—the only remaining heir—had been kept in ignorance her entire life, are the two best things to happen to me this week.
The great clang of the doorbell pulls Roderick, the butler, to the front hall to welcome our very first guest. Lady Marjorie—the new lady of the house—sits tall and proud in the stiff needlepoint chair of the salon.
“The Lady Belamy,” Roderick says with a bow, as he stops short at the entrance to the room.
“Sylvie,” Lady Marjorie breathes.
She stands and crosses the room in two strides, a giggle on her lips. Sylvie returns the sentiment. Roderick shuffles away.
The two women embrace in a hug, then the guest pulls back to inspect the room. “Oh, Marj. It’s just beautiful. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Tell me again why your mother kept this place such a secret all these years?”
Lady Marjorie gives a delicate shrug. “I still can’t figure it out. Twenty-nine years and not a soul has seen our house, save for Roderick and the few servants we’ve left. Mother never told me.”
Her friend sighs and glances around the room once more. “Well, I’ve seen it now and am beyond delighted. It’s just precious, dear sister.”
A blush fills Lady Marjorie’s cheeks but the clink of glass alerts her to the arrival of the maid. “Oh, afternoon tea. Thank you, Petunia.”
The maid sets the tray on the table between the chairs the ladies settle in, then takes her stance along the far wall, eyes glazed, not a twitch of recognition on her lips.
Sylvie takes her cup and holds it in front of her, a wary look on her face. “Not very talkative, that one, eh?” Her voice is meant to be a whisper but it projects far enough for the curtains in the hall to hear.
My Lady pinches her lips together and looks at the maid. “Yes. She’s been that way as long as I can remember. Never an emotion or word from her. Just goes about her duties like an empty shell. Mother never would tell me what was wrong with her.”
“Mmm. Roderick seems nice, though. Although his steps seem a bit off.”
The Lady takes a sip of her tea with a nod. “Well, he’s all but completely blind. Sees shadows and such, but can’t see proper to save his life. The only reason Mother kept him on is because he’s been here so long he’s got the place memorized. No need to see when you know the exact number of steps from the kitchen to the parlor, eh?”
Sylvie giggles and gets back to her tea. Then the smile drops from her face. “I’m sorry, Marj. About your mother. This place must seem awful lonely without her.”
With a sniff, Lady Marjorie sets her cup down and lifts a hand to her nose, mist in her eyes. “Yes, well, it was a long time coming, I suppose.” The silence screams discomfort before she abruptly stands. “Excuse me, I just need to—” She leaves the room without another word.
Her friend frowns, sets her own cup down, stands to peek around the corner. She doesn’t leave the room, though, and I almost shout with joy when she finally approaches me. Something I’ve waited for since the moment she arrived.
She glances up at me. The breath catches in her throat, a small sound of agony as I release myself, pull at her essence with all my strength, drink my fill of her while the life drains from her eyes. In seconds it’s over. Power pulses deep inside me unlike anything I’ve felt in years.
“Sorry about that,” Lady Marjorie says, as she enters the room.
Her friend turns and takes her seat, her gaze fitted straight ahead, back ramrod stiff.
“I’m feeling better now,” my Lady goes on. She lifts her cup to her lips, a small smile in place. Until her eyes settle on her friend.
She stops. “Sylvie?”
My power quivers. Had I taken too much? Please don’t figure it out.
“Sylvie?” Lady Marjorie stands, presses her hand across Sylvie’s forehead.
The stupid girl sits there, dumb and slow, like the rest. I’ve taken too much. I’ve left too much to question this time. But it had been so long. I needed to, needed the energy to restore myself.
Lady Marjorie glances in my direction, accusation behind those lashes. “Roderick!”
The blind man stumbles into the room, is by her side in seconds.
“S-something’s wrong with Sylvie. Can you help her?”
The old man holds our guest’s hand, looks at a spot beyond where my Lady stands. “What has happened, my Lady?”
She looks right at me. Through me. “Roderick, why did my mother never want guests in the house?” Her voice is soft. She hasn’t looked away yet.
He shakes his head. “I’m sorry, my Lady. I don’t know.”
“Petunia…has she always been this way? So…quiet?”
“Yes, my Lady. For as long as she’s worked here.”
The Lady pauses, narrows her eyes at me.
I freeze. She can’t have figured it out!
“Roderick, I need you to do something for me. Get a blanket, a thick one.”
“Yes, my Lady.”
He’s gone for minutes, yet her gaze never severs from mine.
It’s over. I know this now. My Lady is much smarter than I could’ve known.
The butler returns. Lady Marjorie grabs the opaque monstrosity of a blanket and walks toward me.
Nooo! Not yet!
The last thing I see is her face, twisted in anger, a tremble in her lower lip. She throws the fabric over me.
“Roderick, tomorrow you are to contact the garbage company. I want this mirror disposed of as soon as possible. Make sure no one ever looks in the glass of it, again.”
©Laura L. Zimmerman 2016
Photo credit Pixabay