The Chestbrooke Bay

May 5, 2010
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My feet moved back and forth at a steady pace, molding each footprint into the soft sand. I’ve always heard from diet magazines that jogging on sand can increase the intensity of a workout. My burning legs made proof of that. But the pain in my body felt good. It was a pain that I for once had control over. It was a pain that distracted me from the outside world. For once I stopped worrying about the complexity of my life, and for once, I focused on the simple things, like breathing-deeply inhaling and slowly exhaling. For a moment my body was lifted into a euphoric state. I was flying through the sand, catching the waves as the foam touched my running shoes. The wind was crisp against my face and the sky was dimly awakening from its sleep. But I was quickly slumped to reality when I jogged past a young couple. They were smothered in each other’s presence, obviously newlyweds. I rolled my eyes. That was the image I once shared with Jared. He and I were once madly in love, but that was months ago, and he’s moved on to better and bigger things.

Apparently I’m no fun anymore. That’s what he said to me. He said I was spending too much time at the office and not enough time catering to his needs. I came home every night, thinking our relationship was flawless, when the truth was; he was slowly falling out of love with me. I clenched my fists together as I remember the words, ‘I don’t love you anymore’ slither out of his mouth. I started to run faster, almost in a sprint. Never again will I let Jared destroy my life. He has ripped the fibers out of my heart, and I am not capable of loving again. I am exhausted. That’s why I moved away from New Jersey. I left the one- flat apartment that was saturated with memories. Memories that Jared and I once shared. And now at thirty years old, I am left with nothing. My sprinting accelerated into giant leaps. I’ve never ran so fast in my life. Immediately, my lungs tightened into a knot. I stopped abruptly, putting my hands on my knees. My heavy breathing turned into wheezes as the sweat dribbled down my forehead. I definitely needed to get in shape. I’m not one for exercise because I rarely ever had time to step foot outside with my old job. Being an attorney at law was a lot of work, and even though the paychecks were bountiful, quitting was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve never been so happy in my life. I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else in the world but here. It’s been so long since I’ve stepped on this white sand. Standing on this beach reminds me of when I was a child. Every summer my parents and I would drive down to Chestbrooke for two weeks. It was the one time of the year where my parents seemed entirely happy. My dad was always at the office and my mom worked as a part-time nurse. Life was always stressful with my parents constantly fighting. But those two weeks at Chestbrooke made all the heart- aches worth the while.

My breathing began to ease as I lifted my head to keep moving forward. I was near the end of the bay. It was stopped by a 20 foot black rock that stretched into the horizon. On top of the black rock perched a two story Victorian house. The white shingles cascaded across the roof, complimenting the bright white shutters. The house was angled perfectly, facing the ocean waves. After all these years of coming here, I’ve never noticed this delightful house. It was absolutely stunning in every way. It peacefully sat on the rough rock, safely looking down on the ocean.

Something inside compelled me to see it up close. My feet steadily walked towards the house, crunching against the gravel. As I reached closer, the house looked more magnificent than from a distance. The entire structure towered over me. Intricately carved panels framed the roof that covered the wraparound porch. I stepped onto the shaky white steps that led me to the extravagant glass pained windows. I opened the door with a creek and peeked inside. I was welcomed with large windows that hovered over the hard wood floors. A window was cracked open, and I could hear the chime of the sea- shell chandelier’s dangling in the wind. The delicate sound hummed in my ear like a lullaby. My eyes sunk heavily as my body swayed back and forth. In the midst of my meditation I heard faint voices in the distance.

“And this here is the dining room, the most beautiful place in the house. If you listen quietly, you can hear the waves crashing against the rocks. Listen and…”
Immediately I opened my eyes and saw a couple and a woman in a dress suit standing in front of me.
“Oh.Uh…sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude. I just saw the door was open and…”
“Oh please! No need to worry my dear,” the women in the dress suit exclaimed, “This house has been for sale forever! I’m just showing this nice couple around, you can have a look around if you want. Beautiful isn’t it?”
“Oh absolutely unbelievable.” I said while nearly forcing my jaw closed.
The buyers, however, didn’t look to happy with the house. They quickly left with a ‘thank you, goodbye’ without ever asking for the price. I suppose it’s no surprise that people don’t want to buy a 150 year old house with an abundance of bumps and bruises waiting to be repaired. But with a few touches of paint and hard work, this place could look as good as new. I began to contemplate my options. I wasn’t planning on leaving Chestbrooke any time soon, and I do need to wean myself off of living at the bed and breakfast. This was my chance. This was my opportunity to make something of my life. Before I could come to my senses I fished for my check book in my purse, “I’ll take it!” I said with no remorse.
Yes, now I live in an empty large house. There is no one but me, to fill those six empty bedrooms. It’s only use is to collect dust. At this moment I have never felt so lonely. I am such a stupid woman for buying a house. I am in a house that is not meant for my life. I’m pretending to be something that isn’t real. I often wondered about the people that once slept in those six bedrooms. I wondered who once played in the lush gardens that are now nothing more than dead branches. I wondered if a family ever sat in the broad dining room, or if someone just as pathetic as me sat here alone, eating nothing more than a TV dinner.
Let’s be honest, I am not very good at keeping steady relationships. My last relationship with Jared makes perfect proof of that. But from the moment I stepped into this house, I felt a bond between us. We shared a common history. There was a time when family was once present in our lives. There was a time when we were happy. But we were soon betrayed by the people we trusted the most. This house was deserted and left with nothing but peeling paint and a rotting info structure. I myself have felt the same sense of destruction from Jared. The house and I are both broken and begging for repair. I decided to fill my days with caring for the house. I spent endless hours planting new flowers in the garden, repainting the walls and scrubbing the floors. I was bringing this house back to life, and it was doing the same for me. Once I introduced myself to the house, the house started introducing itself to me.
I decided to spend my Sunday night peeling wallpaper off of the dining room walls. Standing on a chair it was difficult to take of every square inch of this giant room. However one peel uncovered an eye painted underneath the paper. Curious to see what it was, I frantically peeled all the paper away until nothing was left. A giant mural of a family of four was staring down at me. The only one smiling was the woman holding her baby, swaddled in white lace. The woman’s silk blue dress draped around her shoulders and tightened at the waist. Her slick black hair was tightly fastened in a bun, which framed her angelic face. Her smiling eyes were just as blue as her dress. Next to her was a young, broad man. His stern eyes we painfully glazed over, as if he wanted to say something tragic, but could find the words. His eyes shown the only sign of pain, his body stood there tall and strong, one hand hugging his wife and the other hand on his other daughter’s shoulder. The young family sat in a luscious garden filled with vines, lilies and sunflowers. In the distance you could see a white house with blue shutters. My fingers grazed the man’s face. What happened to this poor man? His face never left my mind as I walked in the kitchen to get a glass of water. I tipped the pitcher on to my glass and a drop of cold water slithered down my knuckle. I took a sip, when suddenly, “SLAM!” I jolted backwards and dropped the glass of water on the tile. Chills ran up my spine. The noise came from upstairs, and it sounded like a door slammed shut. I walked over the shattered glass and walked towards the large flight of stairs. Without stopping I grabbed the metal candelabra sitting on the mantle. I quietly crept up the stairs and tip-toed down the dark hallway. All the doors were open except for my room. I reached out and slowly turned the crystal knob. The door burst open, pushed by an enormous gust of wind. I looked in the room and noticed the drapes dancing in the wind. I sighed with relief. I must have left the window open. Trying not to expect the worse I shut the bedroom door behind me and prepared for bed.
That night I dreamt about the family in the mural. The sun beamed through the white puffy clouds, and kissed the young girls face. Her mother hummed a tune in her ear while she braded her daughter’s sleek black hair. At the mother’s side her baby slept quietly in the carriage. In the distance I heard a rumbling of horses and gun shots. The mother’s face grew terrified. She grabbed her two children and ran for the house. ‘RUN!’ I thought to myself. I didn’t know who they are or why they’re running from them, but I knew it was bad. Husky men dressed in blue uniforms jumped off their horses. One unusually large man with a furry beard pulled up his trousers and walked to the door. “Ms. Peter Dempsey,” he yelled from the porch, “your husband here is a runaway soldier. He illegally disappeared without the army’s permission. Us here confederates take that treason business pretty damn seriously.” He paused, “I’m afraid I’m gonna haveta come in thur and kill you and your family if you don’ tell me where he is!” he demanded. The silence made him even angrier. He loaded his gun and kicked the door open. Several men rushed into the house. ‘Get away while you still can! HIDE! RUN! ANYTHING! ’ I frantically thought to myself. Screaming rang in my ears as I heard the woman scream, “Charlotte, run baby run!” Tears poured down my face and I tried to scream but my lungs wouldn’t allow it. Everything blurred into silence as I was moving farther away from the house. I tried running back but my body was paralyzed.
I shot up from under my covers, drenched in sweat. A bolt of lightning shattered through the windowsill. A sense of fear slithered up my spine. A family had once lived in this home, and shortly after a family had died. A lifestyle that seemed so perfect was quickly torn apart by violence and despair. I quickly realized that when the husband, Peter, shortly returned from his escape and saw his dead wife and children lying on the floor, he probably never felt so alone. He knew who had done this because his friends were off somewhere in Virginia doing the same thing. He was betrayed by his own confederate soldiers because he wanted to be with his family. His children’s lives were destroyed because of his insolent behavior. I could picture his strong body slumped against the staircase in shock, being held up by a piece of wood. His eyes glazed over with anger and sadness. I could see him sitting in the dining room alone, eating nothing more than canned sardines. The thought of a family being torn apart in this very house didn’t scare me. I wasn’t going to leave this place. Loneliness lingers in every fiber on these walls, but I wasn’t going to run. I’ve always been told to face my fears head on rather than run from them.

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