- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
The Weston Inn
A desperate chill settled over Lilly Belle’s skin, raising the hair along her arms and over her legs. She rolled over, hugging her body tightly as she curled up into an even tighter constricted tangle of goose bump ridden limbs. If only sleep would take her… But in a dark so dense, that her focus was indifferent to the back of her eyelids or straight ahead, sleep still evaded her.
Sometimes however, the call of memory lane is just too forceful to push under the pillow, and one is left wandering down its soulless streets, losing a will-less fight.
Lilly Belle still vividly remembered the first time she set eyes on the Weston Inn. It was late autumn, edging into winter, and she had just left the train station. She was a young girl, only 18, and for the first time in her existence, being handed the reins to her own life.
So there she stood, wandering the crumbling, lane like streets of Millet Creek, all of her belongings dangling in the floral bag strung over her shoulder.
Millet Creek was a small town, acting as a tiny island in the ocean of farmland stretching endlessly in every direction. It was the place where everyone rested the horses and spent the night when traveling. Consequently, it was filled with a traveler like air. Vagabond clouds of dust swept through the town, coating the buildings and the streets, even seeming to seep into the inhabitants. To Lilly Belle, the world looked coated in a thin layer of permanent dust.
The building she eventually came to stand in front of was no exception. It leaned, tall and daunting, right beside the railroad station, in easy reach of the tired traveler. The color seemed to have been weathered out of the dry, cracked wood nailed together to form what was surely the largest building on Main Street. It was three floors high and painted in what at some point must have been white, but the elements had reduced to a peeling tan.
There were no flowers out front, and no rocking chairs. Not even a window opened. Only a cracked door and a rickety sign above it reading “Weston Inn, Bed and Breakfast”.
Lilly Belle slowly approached the Inn, the steps creaking as she ascended onto the porch. She reached the door and paused. There was… music. It streamed through the cracked door much like light does into a dark room, illuminating it.
She nudged the door open, stepping into an interior that was nearly as plain as the outside, except for a large, ornate piano resting in the center of the room. A man was bent over it, his shoulders hunched as his fingers slid over the ivory of the keys. Lilly Belle watched in fascination. Rays of sunshine fell from the shutters above in streaks over his back, accentuating his broad shoulders. She listened to the music building and saw the man’s fingers flying. She took a step, longing for a better view of the performance… and the wood under foot creaked. The music stopped and the man straightened his back. Slowly, he turned to face her.
His face was young, maybe 25, and his skin so pale that it was apparent light hadn’t touched it in years. His hair was a dark contrast, black waves smoothed back, and away from his face. The man was a handsome image of black and white, from the top of his head all the way down the black dress jacket to his shined, dustless shoes. The only feature of color, just so happened to be the extravagant green of his eyes, which currently, were pinning Lillie Belle to the wall.
“Do you play?” The man asked her, a smirk playing at his lips at discovering her.
“No sir,” she said, a blush burning into the tan of her skin.
“Oh come on now,” He said, getting to his feet. “A woman such as you must have some entertaining skills.” His eyes wandered over her mischievously.
“I do, um, sing,” Lilly Belle offered, still abashed at being caught.
“Why are you really here?” He asked, a knowing smile settling on his face.
“Well,” She said, feeling awkward. “This is an Inn, correct?” She asked, glancing around at the desolate looking little building.
The Man nodded. “It is indeed.”
“Well I was hoping to book a room,” She said, her voice becoming sterner. “I’ve just moved here from the family farm and haven’t found a place to live yet.”
“Why would a pretty young girl like you want to move to this bland town?” He asked.
Lilly Belle fidgeted nervously. “Well you see, sir, I grew up on a farm in the east, but only last month our barn caught fire. It spread to the house and got the entire wheat field.” She tried to keep the waiver from her voice, the wound still fresh. “I’m the only one who made it out alive.”
The man folded his hands in front of him, seeming to concentrate for a moment. When he spoke, it was with a wicked smile that made her uneasy. “I have a deal to offer you.” He paced the floor as he spoke, watching the stained wooden planks. “If you agree to sing when I play, and work in the Inn kitchen, then I will offer you board and bread free of charge.
Lilly Belle didn’t even consider her response. “That would be wonderful sir! Thank you so much I would love to accept!”
“Sir?” The man chuckled. “You may call me Peter. Peter Weston.” He stood up, and led her towards the staircase. “You will have the room of my wife.” He paused, noticing Lilly Belle’s assessment of the silver encircling his ring finger. The corners of his mouth turned up in the wicked smile once more. “She died years ago. I loved her dearly.”
Feeling intrusive, Lilly Belle grasped for any change of topic within close reach. It just so happened, that lining the shelf at the top of the stair case, was an abundance of dusty, gold plated trophies. They weren’t much for the eye, the gold leaf was flecking off, revealing the copper underneath, but they were a change in conversation.
“What are these?” She asked, running a finger over the closest. It was just a simple plaque. But her finger left a smudge in the dust.
Peter looked bemused. “A man’s got to make a living around her somehow. And the lousy business in this Inn just isn’t cutting it.” He’d started walking again, up another flight of stairs.
“What do you mean?” Lilly Belle asked, struggling to keep up with his fast steps.
He didn’t slow down. “Every year the town gives away one thousand dollars to the man who presents the largest pumpkin at the harvest festival.” They were now walking down a hall way lined with pretty white doors. “It just so happens that the past few years I’ve come out the winner.”
“I bet you have a secret,” Lilly Belle teased. They’d stopped in front of a door in the center of the hall.
Peter twisted the door knob open. “It’s all in the fertilizer.”
The room was gorgeous. It was decorated in shades of yellow and cream, and adorned with tons of lace. There were doilies under nearly every surface, and the little wicker bed in the corner was fitted with what appeared to be a hand sewn quilt.
“This room is beautiful,” Lilly Belle gasped.
Peter turned back to the door frame. “As I mentioned before, it was my wife’s.”
The only word that could be used to describe Peter was charming. Something about his mannerisms, and his words, was just…. Charming. He was good to Lilly Belle and she was grateful for his hospitality.
Never once did she see a customer other than herself walk through that door, so her daily duties consisted of preparing meals for Peter and herself, and singing in the evening.
The music they made was beautiful. The high soprano of her voice and the thrum of the keys filled the house with an almost visible energy, transforming a house lacking in life into something magnificent. She savored the hours they spent together, playing the night away.
And in good time, Peter did just was Lilly Belle expected. He asked her to marry him. And just as Peter expected, she accepted. Peter was good to her, and provided for her. She didn’t know where the money came from, considering the lack of customers, but there was always a full pantry and pretty surprises waiting for Lilly Belle in her room.
It had been three months since Lilly Belle had arrived, and never once had she had reason to leave her new home. But the wedding date was fast approaching, and even if neither had family left to attend, it was still a wedding and Lilly Belle still needed a dress.
And so she found herself standing on a stool inside a cute, tidy little dress shop on Main Street, speaking to the first woman she’d seen since she left the train station.
Mrs. Cottonway was an elderly woman, her skin so creased and wrinkled it looked soft, like a piece of paper folded so many times it lays like cloth. She had a sweet, grandmotherly voice and a vicious hand that poked Lilly Bell repeatedly with the needle she wielded as she stretched and pulled various fabrics over Lilly Belle.
“So who is this lucky gentleman takin’ your hand in marriage?” The old woman asked, prodding at her waist with a clip.
“His name is Peter Weston,” Lilly Belle answered proudly, nervously watching the needle.
Mrs. Cottonway paused, needle mid stitch. “Wesson you say?” Her voice had gone rough. “As in the Inn keeper?”
“Yes ma’am,” Lilly Belle said, keeping the annoyance from her voice. After all, the woman was holding the needle.
Mrs. Cotton was squinted up, her lids drooping so bad they almost covered her eyes. “You can’t marry him.” She said, her voice dead serious.
“Why not?” Lilly Belle could hear her own girlish anger.
“There’s something just not right about that man,” She said, going back to sewing. “The company he makes just don’t seem to stick around long. He was married once, but she left him. Come to think of it, no one has seen her in years.”
Lilly Belle let the woman finish the dress in silence. She then paid and left, too peeved by the lady’s nerve to do more than nod to her as she left. How dare she…
That night, after the evening songs, Lilly Belle sat in her room, doodling away in her notebook, her long, looping letters telling tales of the day and her annoyance at Mrs. Cottonway, and the fit of the engagement ring on her finger… But mostly describing her wedding day fantasies. One day. That’s all she had to wait to become Mrs. Weston.
But as her fantasies thrived into the night, her conscious mind did not. It wasn’t until an alarming wetness soaked her arm that she woke up.
Ink. It was everywhere. Blotted on her arm, dripping onto her dress, trailing down the page… The page. It was still filled with her words, but they had taken on an odd redundancy, the same dreams written again and again. Covering two pages. Interrupted only by the spine of her journal and the black ink. Running like blood.
Lilly Belle shook her head, and uneasiness settling over her.
She grabbed her shawl from the bedpost and headed out back. The night air might clear her head. The pumpkin contest was days away, and they desperately needed the money for he wedding. That alone was enough to keep her awake at night. There was no way she’d be getting back to sleep now. All she could do to calm her nerves was offer up a little sugar water to the pumpkin, hope it helped.
Lilly Belle had never seen the garden before. All she knew was that it was out back, and a good three acre away from the Inn. The chill of the morning air urged her to walk swiftly. It was just light enough that she could make out the bramble beneath her and not trip, but that was all.
She smelt the garden before she saw it. There was a horrid stench that clang to the air, so vile it was no wonder Peter kept the garden isolated and away from the Inn. She approached a decrepit fence, the gate falling off at the hinges and flakes of wood littering the ground.
The garden was set atop a hill, and in the darkness of the dawn, the fence sat a silhouette against a deep blue sky, tinged with a sickly yellow. At the sound of footsteps, she jolted to a stop, squatting behind one of the many scrub oak bushes littered over the acreage. She peered around the twiggy leaves, recognizing the figure at once as Peter. Lilly Belle watched in fascination as he wandered the garden. She couldn’t tell what he was doing, but some deep, inborn instinct stopped her from making her presence known.
From where she sat, it appeared that he was talking, or singing possibly as he slowly trudged through the garden, running his fingers over objects Lilly Belle couldn’t make out. At one point, she heard a wave of laughter so distorted and strange, that it raised goose bumps on her skin. Something about this wasn’t right.
After twenty minutes or so, he left. Lilly Belle watched him with trained eyes until Peter was far out of sight. She then, swung open the gate, which squeaked so loudly she was certain Peter would return for her.
Feeling oddly exposed, Lilly Belle crept across the garden.
It lacked most of the characteristics a normal garden should possess. Color. Variety. In fact, all that this garden seemed to contain were pumpkins. Huge, unbelievably large pumpkins so tall that they reached all the way to Lilly Belle’s shoulders. They were yellow, green, and orange and grown so close together that they seemed to lean on one another for support.
The further back she wondered, the sicker the plants looked. They began to droop, and cave in, the walls looking soft as they folded in on themselves and disintegrated. Worms had burrowed their way into quite a few, the bottoms of the plants all but nonexistent as they faded into the earth, a mess of dirt and mold.
Bits of vine lay scattered over the ground, acting as fertilizer. The plants just looked sad.
Some of the pumpkins looked puckered around the rim. As if someone had given them stitches and they had grown back infected.
Lilly Belle stopped at such a plant, and ran her fingers around its broken crown. She felt the tawnyness of what could only be string, and a sick wetness oozing from its sewn shut lips. This particular plant was so very deflated however, that it took little effort to wedge her fingers through the lid, and pry the walls apart.
The inside of the pumpkin was moist, and clang to her fingers as Lilly Belle pulled, and tugged, using her foot to help break the rough skin, until suddenly it gave and Lillie Belle went tumbling into the squash, a smell like death encompassing her.
Lilly Belle couldn’t help herself. A scream flew from her lips and it took her a moment to gather her thoughts enough to stop it. What she now lay upon appeared to the decaying remains of a woman, the flesh almost completely rotted off the face and dirt clinging to what was left. Clumps of ratted hair still clung to her skull, making the corpse a sick mockery of a woman.
Lilly Belle scurried out of the pumpkin but not before a clawed hand hooked into her neck line, coming with her. She yanked the fleshless hand from her dress aiming to chuck it to the ground, when she noticed something.
A wedding band.
She lifted the whole hand closer to her face to get a better look in the limited light. It was a simple, silver band, decorated in a pattern of vines. She slid the ring that Peter had given her from her finger, and held it next to the ring on the skeletal hand. She held them side by side, they were identical from the engraving right on down to the ring size. The only distinguishable difference was a tiny scratch running over the surface of the corpse’s ring. A sick dread filled her stomach. Lilly Belle pocketed the rings. She did not know if or when she would confront Peter.
It was evening. Lilly Belle had managed to avoid Peter the entire day, claiming to be preparing for the wedding that evening. She had made a decision to make a run for it, Peter’s haunting music had filled the house all day, a warning that he was blocking the door. Being as she couldn’t jump from a three story building, Lilly Belle had no choice but to give the appearance that she was getting ready for the wedding. She could feel it in her bones now, that whatever Peter was up to was wrong, and wicked.
Around sunset, while Lilly Belle was putting in her earrings, with the help of her jittery fingers one fell to the ground. Stressed already, she dropped to her hands and knees and began to search. Her fingers scanned the ground, until they caught on the slightly upraised edge of a floor board.
Curious, Lilly Belle pried her fingers underneath the edge, and with a slight tug, removed the board. In the tiny space beneath sat a small, leather-bound journal. The inside cover confirmed that it had indeed belonged to Megan Weston, Peter’s old wife.
She thumbed through the book, stopping at the last page. It had been written five years ago. On the exact same date as was today. Lilly Belle flattened herself onto her stomach ready to read.
“Weston knows about Spruce. I can see it in his eyes. The way he watches me, I am like a mouse about to set foot in his trap... It scares me. I am honest to goodness scared of this man. If I’d know his true self the day we said our vows I never would have said “I do.” He has become so possessive, treating me like property. Like I didn’t have a heart. But I do. A heart that needs to be loved. That’s why I ran to Spruce, because he gives me that love that Peter won’t. Be he knows now. I need to get out of her. I need to get on a train and leave. Go someplace he’ll never find me. I’m scared of what might happen to me if I don’t.”
Lilly Belle closed the book and set it back where she’d found it, replacing the floor board.
A knock at the door startled her, and Lilly Belle lost her concentration. She had been staring into the mirror, no longer seeing the lace of the dress that climbed up her neck, or the cascade of curls tumbling onto her shoulders. Only seeing her own eyes, shrouded by her veil as she waited.
Peter entered without permission, looking dashing as always in his suit.
“You’re not supposed to see the dress yet.” Lilly Belle said, still watching the mirror. Her heart beat faster as he took a step toward her.
“Nonsense. You’re my bride. And I haven’t seen you all day.” Peter walked up behind her, each step echoing over the hollow wood of the aging floor. He wrapped his arms securely around her. They felt like prison bars. Every instinct inside Lilly Belle was screaming to run, to get away. She didn’t move.
Peter spun her around and took her hands in his. “You look lovely.” He pulled her fingers to his lips, and pressed his lips to the knuckles, looking down.
Slowly, he pulled away, his hands still encasing hers, eyes trained down.
His hold went hard, becoming painful almost in an instant. “What do we have here?” Peter asked, his voice taking on a sadistic quality that Lilly Belle was yet to hear in all her time with him.
He slid the ring from her finger, still holding her tightly. In the lamplight, Lilly Belle saw it too. A scratch. In that instant, they both knew the truth. That wasn’t Lilly Belle’s ring. It was the corpse’s. She’d put the wrong one back on.
Lilly Belle jerked out of his arms just as they fought to constrict around her. His hands fisted into her hair and yanked her back, but Lilly Belle kept fighting, making a reach for the door. She stumbled to the floor, tripping over her own feet but still managing to keep moving, now crawling like a wounded animal.
“You get back here!” Peter howled, all of his cool, and charm vanishing. His hand dug into her back and he dragged her towards him. He’d grabbed a candlestick and held it high above his head in his left hand, ready to drive it into Lilly Belle’s skull.
There was something angry and desperate gleaming in his eyes, eyes that shown like those of a demon and wearing a smile that curled just as maliciously.
That was the last image Lilly Belle saw before everything went black
And now, here she lay in eternal darkness. Lilly Belle rolled back onto the side she’d started on, shivering viciously now. It was surely winter by now. If starvation didn’t kill her, then the cold certainly would.
Her legs felt odd, pressed against the viney walls of the pumpkins insides yet still wrapped in lace.
Screaming had done nothing, and she didn’t have the strength to beat against the walls. In the end, all Lilly Belle was left with were rotted memories and the eternal question, which decomposes faster? A pumpkin or the human body?
Peter Peter pumpkin eater, Had a wife but couldn’t keep her, Put her in a pumpkin shell, and there he kept her very well.