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I was in disgrace, apparently.
There was this big party tonight that everyone in the village had been invited to, to celebrate Halloween. Auntie, Uncle, and I had, of course, been invited and my outfit was already picked out. I loved Halloween maybe even more than my birthday and certainly more than Christmas.
I sat, staring out the window. The rain outside was poring down, heavy on the window pane. The power of the rain and wind combined was so strong; I thought the windows would break and I’d be pulled out and carried off, into the night.
Wrapped up in blankets sitting on the sill in my bedroom, clutching a hot water bottle, warm inside, protected, from the harsh weather, staring out at the cars passing by in the darkened street below; headlights making shadows on the wall.
I looked up; high on the hill was the castle no one dared go up to. People in the village said it was haunted, I didn’t believe such nonsense, and being a curious child I longed to go up there and see this terrifying place for myself. Little did I know, what would happen when I did. Maybe, if I’d known what would happen, I wouldn’t have gone.
Anyway something had to go wrong at the last minute and I had an argument with Auntie. It wasn’t actually my fault, I was meant to put the washing out but the weather was awful, dark clouds in the sky, the air was cold, and it looked like it was going to rain. I explained this to Auntie but she wouldn’t listen.
Uncle’s outfit was in the washing basket, I didn’t know this, but then again he shouldn’t have left it to the last minute and actually I feel it’s a sign, they, Auntie and Uncle are the only ones who don’t dress up for Halloween, who doesn’t dress up? Isn’t that the point of a Halloween party? Everyone dresses up.
It was hardly a travesty, he put on a black suit, looking a bit like Count Dracula, which I thought was much more suited to Halloween, and Auntie put on this strange looking frock, (if anyone didn’t know her they’d have thought she’d made an effort). All suited and booted they headed to the party and I was sent to my room in disgrace. I wasn’t completely alone; Mrs Greggings, the old lady from next door, and the only other person not going to the party, had come over to look after me. She was the guard and I the prisoner, kept from having the slightest bit of fun.
Mrs Greggings was an old lady in her late seventies; she smelt of cats and always wore her woolly hat even in the height of summer. I didn’t like her and she certainly didn’t like me. I was a trouble maker, an insolent little child who shouldn’t be seen or heard at all. She wasn’t exactly innocent herself, she was the type of ‘old lady’ you’d think is a little old dear but is really a witch is disguise.
I wasn’t the sort of child to let an old lady stop me. I wanted to go to the party and have fun with Joseph and the other children but I knew that wasn’t an option, I couldn’t risk getting caught. Then I had an amazing and very brilliant idea. I’d go up to the castle and finally see the terrifying place.
Opening the window, I climbed up onto the window sill, steadied myself, and then jumped; landing in the bushes I dusted myself off and ran.
Before I knew it I was at the foot of the hill, on the outskirts of the village, leading up to the castle. Adrenaline was pumping and then out of the darkness came a voice. “Where are you going?”
“Oh Joseph, you startled me.” I breathed a sigh of relief and I turned to see a small boy, only slightly taller than me, standing in a ghost costume.
“I know that look.” He said, pulling the white sheet over his head, face full of suspicion.
“What look?” my voice sounding far from innocent. He wasn’t fooled. I could never fool my dear little friend, he knew me too well.
“You’re going up to the castle aren’t you?” Terror in his voice.
“So what if I am?” I replied, a little too harshly.
“You, you can’t.” He stuttered, “You know the rumours.”
I knew the rumours well, a little too well; they had haunted my nightmares for years. I was terrified but if I showed I was scared Joseph could have easily talked me out of going. I needed to go and face my fear.
“I can do what I like.” I said, trying to sound brave.
His face crumpled, tears appearing in his eyes. “I’m sorry Joseph, that was really mean of me.” I was truly sorry, I didn’t mean to upset him, he cared about me a great deal, he was my only friend. “I have to do this.”
“I don’t want you to get hurt.” He said, turning to leave, knowing he’d lost this battle.
“Joseph.” I called but he didn’t turn back. “I don’t want you to get hurt either.” I whispered. It was too late, he’d already gone.
Time to make my way up the steep hill, it was now or never. My heart was pounding fast now; I pushed open the gates and walked in. I nearly jumped out of my skin as the gates slammed shut behind me and now I was left alone and scared in the gloomy courtyard.
The air was cold but the rain had eased off a little. Water was trickling off the battlements and streaming out of the gargoyles mouths. The stone work was wearing away; moss and ivy were growing up the outside walls. A half rotten British flag was flying high off the rusty flag pole. The castle looked so desolate, dark, and uncared for.
If I hadn’t been thinking about the dark I may have missed the small glimmer coming from a top window. Someone was up there; I saw a face. Even though my heart was thumping I wanted to know who it was, maybe they were the key to finding out about my past? My curiosity got the better of me and I found myself walking up the steps to the front door. The handle was stiff; I tugged but it wouldn’t budge. I thought perhaps it was just stiff, from being unused but it was locked.
After battling for what seemed like hours, with this stubborn door, it suddenly clicked and the door creaked open. I walked inside, tiptoeing, breathing heavily.
Curiosity had taken over. As the moonlight shone through the windows of the castle I realised how late it was. I looked around, the room was very dark, but as my eyes adjusted I could make out what things were.
In the room there was a big old fashioned fire place. It was beautiful, so much detail even though it was covered in many layers of dust. Above it hung a huge oil painting; I could barely make out what it was until I got up close and saw it was of a young woman, she was so beautiful, her long wavy blonde hair and her blue eyes, and her smile well it was like something of an angel. I brushed some of the dust off, lightly with my hand, to uncover a young man. The girl was stunning but he was so handsome. His hair was a reddish brown and his eyes green. They were smiling at each other, looking so happy, so in love.
The people in the village also said they often heard noises coming from the castle and said it was the young man who had been bitten by a werewolf and hid up in the tallest tower but on the night of the full moon he climbed down and went on the rampage to find the villagers, (who had made his secret known and driven him out of the village), and kill them.
Could this man in the painting be the young man the villagers talked about?
The rain poured down harder and the sky had turned black. With a flash of lightning that made me jump, I felt shivers down my spine. My heart was racing; someone was coming down the stairs. The footsteps got louder, I ran. I tried to open the front door but it wouldn’t budge, I didn’t have enough time to stand and wrestle with it, the person was coming now. I could see his shadow on the wall. I backed off into a corner and sunk down into the shadows.
Could the gossip be true? The castle was haunted, not by a man though, a werewolf. I gasped, I hoped this was a coincidence; the man was probably just wondering why I was trespassing.
Suddenly he was in the room, walking straight to where I was hiding. I was breathing so heavily, I was sure I’d been discovered. Then something made him stop, he turned to look at the fireplace, at the painting I had been looking at moments before.
We sat there for what felt like hours. I peered around to see him, his hair covered most of his face, but beneath the untrimmed fringe I could see piercing green eyes. He was the young man from the painting, much older now. “Come out please. I know you’re there.” His voice was calm and quiet. I was absolutely terrified, my courage had gone, and I had reverted back to being a scared child.
Then something strange happened, the frown disappeared and he smiled as if remembering happy times. “I won’t hurt you.” That was all I needed to hear. I wasn’t frightened anymore; something in his voice told me he was telling the truth. In coming out from where I was hiding I came face to face with the man who haunted this house, the werewolf.
One look at me and tears came to his eyes. He looked back at the painting and so did I. I knew her face now, the lady in the painting was my mother. He turned to me and told me to take a seat, then he lit the fire and placed himself in the opposite chair. I listened patiently as he told me the story of how he met my mother and fell deeply in love with her. The story was far from the modern world I lived in; it sounded like a cruel fairytale.
“There was a man in the village called Igor Chivensky. He never liked me, he knew my secret, and that scared him. A jealous fool Igor was and more fool the man who ever got on his bad side.” He spoke of how Igor was also in love with my mother, but when he saw my father and mother together he got insanely jealous. “He told everyone in the village about my secret and I awoke one night to find everyone in the village, apart from Lillian, at my door with burning torches and pitchforks ready to drive me out.” Tears streamed down his face as he told me the story. “Lillian and I were going to run away but Igor caught up with us. He told her to choose and when she refused he produced and gun and said he would make the choice instead. Igor pulled the trigger and she...” his voice broke now. I begged him, “Please tell me, I need to know what happened.”
“She saved my life; she pushed me out the way and took the hit. She couldn’t be saved but you could.” He told me how Igor was taken away and imprisoned but they, my Aunt and Uncle, wouldn’t trust my father with a baby so I was taken away from him. My heart was breaking, tears streamed down my face; I didn’t want to hear anymore. “I am so sorry Adeline.” He paused and stared hard into the flames, “I wish things had been different.” I was so confused, if he was my father why hadn’t he taken me away from them, fought for me? I’ve spent years not knowing who my parents were, trapped, a prisoner and my father had been only a few yards away the whole time. “Why didn’t you fight for me?” He stared harder into the flames now, as if he was looking there for answers. I reached out and touched his shoulder; my hand was shaking.
Then I left. I stood up and walked away. As I opened the front door, I turned to look at him; he was still slumped down in the chair staring into the fire, the flames embers now. I turned once again, the door opened as if by magic and I walked out into the night. The sky was clear now and the moon as beautiful and as white as a swan. I wandered back down the hill and climbed back into my window.
I awoke the next morning ready to tell Auntie and Uncle I was leaving and then I would go and tell my father. We’d pack up, move away and be happy.
Auntie and Uncle had a surprise of their own; they were taking me away. I came back down to earth with a bump, reality set in. I’m not sure if they found out but a few days later we were all packed up and ready to go. I had no choice but to leave with them.
I had a dream last night about the day I met my father. It’s been nine years, nine long and very painful years. Something has always been missing, and now I know what it is. I have to go back, find him, and escape this prison.
Auntie finally popped her clogs weeks ago, I must sound awful, but she took me away from my father and kept me here. Now she’s gone maybe I can finally be free.
“Adeline.” My Uncle called up the stairs, “Come down, we need to talk.”
I snapped out of my day dream and called out “coming,” before bolting down the stairs to see what he wanted.
He spoke one word, “Go.” There was something in his eyes I’d never seen before, life. For years he had been controlled by this woman and now he was free, we both were. “You don’t want to be here anymore, I can see that now.” He stared down at his shoes as if ashamed by his actions. “Uncle I...” I paused and looked at him. He was staring so hard I thought he might burn a hole in the floor. “You need to be somewhere else. You should have gone a long time ago.” It wasn’t enough, he still played a part, she may have been the ring leader, but he could have stopped her, couldn’t he?
I turned and started up the stairs. “Adeline, I’m sorry.” His voice made me stop, still. He sounded sincere but I couldn’t bring myself to look at him.
Packing didn’t take long. I didn’t say goodbye to him, he kept out of the way, and I was glad. Everything was in the car and I went on my way, home, not looking back.
The drive was long. I finally reached the village and saw the castle. Jumping out of the car I ran, all the way up. My heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest but I kept on. Reaching the courtyard I pushed open the gates, not stopping to breathe. Falling up the steps I burst through the front doors and into the hall.
Something was wrong. I continued into the room, light pouring through the windows and onto his chair. The room was empty and that’s when I saw it. There was a letter sitting on his chair, waiting for me. He knew I would come back.
Picking up the letter I sat in the chair opposite, ‘My dearest Adeline, it has only been a few days since you found me and already they are planning to take you away again.’ I was blinking back tears, ‘I wish I could fight for you my darling child, I should have fought for you all those years ago,’ was that supposed to make it all ok? He wished he had fought but he didn’t. ‘your life would have been so much worse with me in it.’ It was for the best, really? I read on, ‘Your mother died saving my life. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something ever happened to you because of me.’ That wasn’t his choice. ‘I am writing to tell you that you must not look for me again, you will come back, but this is where it ends.’ Tears were streaming down my cheeks, I couldn’t hold them back any longer, ‘And you must know I will always love you.’
I finished reading the letter and then sat there. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t breathe. Finally I got my head together, and got up stuffing the letter in my pocked, I had to accept what he’d said, it would be hard, but I had to try. Then I walked and down the hill, the sky was a beautiful clear blue and the sun was beaming. “Adeline.” I turned and that’s when I saw him.
“Joseph, oh my, is that you?” I rushed over and hugged him, tight. “Are you ok?” I could never fool my dear little friend, so why try now.
“No not really.” He handed me a tissue.
“Would you like to talk?”
“Yes.” I replied, “I’d like that.” Maybe things were going to be ok after all. Joseph, my dear little friend, he was always there when I needed him to be.