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Author's note: I wrote this story in a gothic style. I've read a lot of V.C. Andrews books, and this is a little bit like one of her novels. We were writing gothic stories in school, so I got inspired and decided to write a short novel. I hope people enjoy what I write, even though it isn't the most pleasant subject. I hope as you read this story you keep wanting to learn more, and I hope you find it interesting.
I’m not allowed to leave the house, except for saturdays when I go to Synagogue. My mother believes that we should have strong religious beliefs because it will help us in the future and make us better people. On Saturdays I enter the garage dressed in my black suit, and open the door of the black mercedes. I sit next to my sister in the back seat, and Nadia drives us and Mother to Beth El Synagogue. My mother twists her hands in her lap, looking down at her dark gray skirt. Her wispy thin dark brown hair falling past her elbows, and parting into thin tendrils of soft ribbon.
Like every saturday Nadia leaves the car to open the doors for us, Mother silent as usual. She started playing with the cream colored strands of pearls around her neck, twisting and twirling them, as if she was a little child, nervous for her first day of school.
“I’ll be waiting right here,” Nadia said, as usual. My mother just nodded. And then she murmured something and beckoned for me and my sister to follow her as she started walking toward the doors of the synagogue.
We entered the synagogue, walking down the dark red carpet, and found our usual spots in the fourth row, five seats down. I glanced at my sister. I have to say that she is very pretty, actually beautiful. She has thick blond hair that falls in a golden curtain down to her waist. She has beautiful china blue eyes, and cream colored skin. Her features are small, small ruby lips and a small snub nose. And her looks are completely different from mine, except for the eyes.
My sister folded her hands in her lap, staring straight ahead. She was trying to ignore the stares of the group of boys in the back of the Synagogue who were whispering and pointing at her. But she couldn’t ignore them, and turned around and smiled brilliantly. She winked.
Mother quickly grabbed my sister’s arm, and pulled her violently so she faced forward. “Don’t look at them Vivienne,” she hissed viciously. My sisters eyes showed her pain. Her eyes began to fill with tears. Mother let go of her arm and I saw that there were five bloody marks from where she had grabbed her.
“That was for your own good,” mother said, “you will have nothing to do with those boys. You’ll have nothing to do with any boys.”
“But I have something to do with Adrian,” my sister said, bringing me into the fight.
“He is your brother, not a boyfriend,” mother narrowed her eyes. “Do not talk back to me Vivienne.”
“Yes mother,” crystal tears were now falling down her cheeks. I raised my hand and wiped them away. My sister smiled a little at me, and mother watched suspiciously, as if she thought my sister was going to stand up and walk away, to the back to talk to those boys. But of course she didn’t. We always listen to mother.
After the service, three hours later, mother stood up and we followed her out the door and to the black car. Mother avoided everyones eyes, looking down at her feet.
“How was the service?” Nadia asked, as she always did.
“Fine,” mother said stiffly. She was twisting those pearls again. “Adrian is behind in his lessons, and I would like you to help him with them,” she commanded Nadia, who nodded.
The only time Mother really addresses me is when I am behind in my lessons, or if I didn’t clean the kitchen, or fix the constantly breaking dishwasher. Mother has certain ideas about a perfect son. He must be strong, and capable of manual labor, which I do all the time. Mother has me cut wood from the forest in the back to stoke the fireplace she likes always blazing. I fish in the stream because mother commanded it. When I protest and tell mother I don’t like fishing she looks at me with that cold look, narrowing her eyes. And then I go out and fish.
“Vivienne I would like you to make dinner,” mother said. My sister muttered her consent, and the car pulled around the bend in the road entered the gates to the Dumont property. Nadia guided the car up the gray graveled drive, and pulled up in front of the doors of the house. Nadia opened the doors of the car for us, and I slid out.
“I will help you with your lessons at exactly two o’clock,” Nadia told me. Her tired brown eyes looked at me kindly. “Don’t worry, it will be easy.”
I smiled and nodded, “thank you for helping me,” I said.
“It is my pleasure really,” Nadia said, looking out of the side of her eyes and seeing mother standing on the other side of the car listening intently to our conversation. Then when I started to walk into the house Mother turned on her heel and walked past me.
I made my way up to my room, along the dark hallways and past the locked doors. Nadia is the only staff we have, and she can’t possibly clean all those rooms, and the hallways. So some of the unused halls smell like must and mildew. The once beautiful carpets are now faded and frayed. Cloth sheets cover furniture in some of the unused sitting rooms.
My room is in the back of the house, near where the servants used to sleep. I took my suit jacket off and then my button up shirt and replaced them with my usual plain white t-shirt. I pulled on a pair of jeans. Then I grabbed a book off my bedside table and lay on my stomach on the bed. I was reading the Catcher and the Rye, which I had already read multiple times. Aunt Maggy had given it to me for my sixteenth birthday. I don’t get many books as gifts. Mother doesn’t think it is right for a boy to read books, because reading isn’t manly. I don’t understand why she always wants me to be more manly, to do more physical activity. You would think a mother would be happy about her son no matter what his interests were.
“Get up!” Mother came into my room. She hadn’t changed out of her skirt and blouse, and her face was tight with anger. “Why are you always lying around? Don’t you have better things to do. There are many things I could have you help me with, and you didn’t even offer. A good son would offer to help his mother.”
“I’m reading, Mother.” I sighed, sitting up. “Would it be better if I read outside?”
“No! You’re trying to vex me Adrian, and I do not think this attitude is good for a young man to have. Go outside and go hunting. I would really appreciate some nice venison for dinner tonight,” she commanded. Mother doesn’t ask, no, that isn’t for her. She expects her orders to be obeyed.
“But I don’t want to go hunting and I don’t want to kill a deer. I want to read,” I said stubbornly. Mother was practically steaming now. She stood there, her face the perfect picture of rage. But then suddenly her face calmed, and she took on an almost sad expression.
“And I had so much hope for you. I was looking forward to having a son you know,” she sighed and shook her head sadly. “I thought you were going to be a strong gallant boy, opening doors for me, and being ready to help. But look at you, you are lazy and aren’t even good at your lessons. All you do is read that one stupid book again and again,” as she continued talking Mothers expression got angrier and angrier. “I don’t want to have to put up with this! Will you try to change? Yes, I know you will, because your mother asked you to. Now go outside and go hunt.”
I was afraid now. I didn’t want Mother to paddle me like she did to Vivienne that one time. No, I didn’t want that. It wasn’t the pain that scared me, but the humiliation. So I stood up and pulled on the big boots that Mother insisted I wear. Mother watched me the whole time, with her china blue eyes, identical to mine.
“I expect you to be back in time for your lessons, with something to show for your time,” Mother said. I nodded, and walked down the stairs and to the cellar. Mother has me store my gun there, I actually have three; all presents from Mother. I grabbed my hunting rifle and then looked around the cellar. I never really spend that much time here, and I don’t look that far into it either. Really the farthest I’ve gone is to the gun closet right near the staircase leading down. Mother had forbidden us to look through her things down here.
But right now I did not care what Mother had forbidden me. So I put the gun down and flipped the switch that turned on the dim lights that hung periodically on the cracked ceiling. The whole cellar smelled like rotting vegetables, but Mother never stored any food down here. She only stored papers and items. The Dumont property has been in my Mother’s family for two hundred years. Those vegetables might have been down here two hundred years. I didn’t want to think about the mold and spiders and rats down here, but I could see them.
I still sat down on the decaying wooden floor and opened a large wooden chest, like something you would see from the 19th century. But the objects in the chest were modern, they had been my mothers. They were journals, tons of them. I counted and found that there were thirty of them in all. And careful not to disturb the order of the journals, I found the one with the earliest date, and flipped to a random page.
January 18th, 1965
Two weeks ago was my fifteenth birthday, and this is when father said I would turn into a woman. My father had gotten me a new dress to celebrate, it was a pretty light blue, he said it matched my eyes. He said I looked very beautiful in that dress, and I guess I did. I really did. But father looked at me in a strange way that I didn’t exactly like. Maybe it was because I was becoming a woman. And then, he just grabbed me, in a strange way I thought. It scared me at first, but father told me that this was perfectly normal. He said that it is what parents do to show their children that they love them. And of course my father is always right. Now every night father visits me in my room, and at first it was unusual, but I understand now. He has asked to call me by his first name, William, and I do now. It seems odd, but right at the same time, if that makes sense. I haven’t written in my diary as of late, but I will continue more now.
I stared at the diary, and then, closing it, put it back in its correct place in the chest. And then I just stared at horror at the rows of diaries. I shouldn’t be reading this I realized, this was Mother’s childhood. I didn’t want to read more, but I felt compelled to, as if I had to. And I opened another journal.
October 2nd, 1965
I do not know what to think anymore. Does William love me? Does he not? I’m not so sure any more. Was I just a stupid girl to believe that he would love me, a pathetic little girl? I do not know. But I have begun to realize that maybe he isn’t the same wonderful person I thought him to be.
I cannot even leave the property anymore, because people might see the bruises that William inflicted on my skin. He beats me, and I don’t know why. I don’t know what I did wrong. I don’t think I did anything to displease him. He yells at me too, and I am afraid for my baby, who hasn’t been born yet. What if something happens to him?
I have to wear long sleeved sweaters and pants all the time incase Maggy sees me, because she would be horrified-
“Oh my god!”
I spun around from where I was kneeling on the ground. Nadia was standing there, her black hair escaped from its bun. Her hands went to her mouth. “What are you doing?” She asked, sounding almost hysterical.
“I just wanted to look around down here,” I told her. I closed the chest.
“You may never, ever, look down here,” Nadia said, she came to me and grabbed my wrist and pulled me up. “Never, do you hear me? How much did you read?”
“Not much,” I gulped, scared. What if she told Mother?
“Good. But don’t read more. Come with me, we’ll start your lessons now. I’ll explain to your mother that there was no game outside, because of the rain last night,” Nadia nodded to herself nervously, and then dragged me up the stairs.
I allowed her to sit me down in the attic room where we studied, and listened to her as she explained math to me, and had me write numbers down on paper. It was all meaningless to me. I wanted to know what came next in Mother’s story. I wanted to know.
After my lesson was done I went downstairs to get myself a glass of water from the kitchen. But I heard the loud angry voices of my mother and my sister, so I decided not to enter. Instead I looked through the doorway, and listened to them argue.
“You can’t even cook a decent meal!” Mother said angrily, her cheeks were flushed.
“I just messed up, I overcooked the chicken,” my sister said. She was crying, for the second time today. She usually doesn’t cry, this was odd for her.
“You just don’t try at anything, do you? Daughters are supposed to be able to cook!” Mother said furiously.
“I tried, I really did,” she wiped her face with her sleeve.
“Don’t do that, it’s gross,” mother said harshly. “You were supposed to be a boy!” Mother almost screamed. “A boy! Why couldn’t you just have been a boy?!”
“Mother, I...I..,” my sister stuttered.
Now Mother was crying as well. “You were the second born, and after your brother died, you were supposed to take his place. You were supposed to be the second Kyle!”
“What?” My sister looked completely startled, which was exactly how I felt. Who was this Kyle? Why hadn’t I heard of him? “Who is Kyle?” She asked.
“He was my son, my firstborn,” Mother was crying hysterically. “He was so perfect,” she whispered. “My perfect little boy. He was going to be the heir to the Dumont estate. He had the largest blue eyes, exactly like mine. He was beautiful,” and then she started sobbing.
My sister stared at Mother, her eyes wide. And then cautiously she patted Mother on the back. “I don’t want you!” Mother screamed vehemently. “Get away!”
My sister’s eyes grew even bigger and then she was sobbing as well and running out of the kitchen. She was me, and then flung her arms around me and cried and cried. I wrapped my arms around her and held her tightly. Her tears made my shirt wet.
I led her up to her room, which, like my room was furnished in an old fashion. There was a four poster bed, and rugs covered the wooden floor. A chandelier hung from the ceiling, it was really the highlight of the room. The cut glass sparkled in the light, even without the candles in their holders lit. An old wooden desk sat in the corner next to a huge bureau.
I sat down on the bed next to my sister and held her tightly. “Mother doesn’t love me,” she sobbed. I was surprised, I thought that she already knew. Mother didn’t love me either, she doesn’t love anyone.
“Of course she does,” was what I said.
“I feel so...so...trapped!” My sister cried. “I have nowhere to go. My life isn’t moving forward. I’ll never get married Adrian! Never have a family, or a job, or anything! I want to leave Adrian.”
“I want to leave too,” I told her, stroking her hair. “But where would we go? What would we do?”
“I don’t know. Just as long as I could be with you, anywhere would be fine,” my sister raised her tearstained face. “Why do you never call me Vivienne?” She asked suddenly. “You only call me sister.”
“That’s what Mother told me to call you,” I said. “I don’t know why. If you want I’ll call you Vivienne.”
“I know why Mother wanted you to call me sister,” Vivienne said, nodding.
“Why?” I asked curiously.
“Because of this,” and then she put her hands on either side of my face and pulled me in so that I was kissing her lips. I pulled back abruptly.
“Sister, what are you doing?” I demanded.
“Being a human being,” my sister replied to me, she put a hand on my arm and leaned in closer to me. “You’ve never kissed someone before, have you? I haven’t either, but I’ve read about it. Don’t you want to try something new? We’ve never seen anyone besides Aunt Maggy, Nadia, and Mother. And, and,” she breathed in deeply, “I think I like you more than a brother Adrian.”
“You don’t know what your saying,” I said, but I didn’t pull away from Vivienne. “I’m your brother.”
“Your more to me than a brother,” she told me. “And even if I meet another man, I’ll never love him more than I love you. Your perfect in every way Adrian.” And then she smiled at me and leaned in and put her head on my shoulder.
“Th-thank you,” I stammered. And as I looked at Vivienne’s perfect face I realized that maybe she meant more to me than just a sister.
This new discovery alarmed me for a few days. Vivienne tried to find me, and follow me, but I mostly stayed in the forest. I hunted a lot in my time, making Mother quite happy. But I couldn’t exactly tell if she was happy or not, she was in a mood. She muttered to herself, unintelligible things. She wandered around the house, unlocking those doors to the musty old rooms, and sitting there. I once saw her in an ornate giant bedroom, she was stroking the white and red duvet, her eyes full of tears. It looked like a girls room, maybe when the girl had been a teenager.
“This is where he slept with me,” she had muttered to herself. “This is where, this, my childhood room,” and she was crying. I had quickly walked away.
This went on for a little more than two months. Nadia taught me my lessons, I read my book, I spent time with Vivienne, and then one wednesday Aunt Maggy came to visit. She has blonde hair very much like Vivienne’s. Actually Aunt Maggy probably looked exactly like Vivienne when she was a child. Usually we go over to Maggy’s house, where she makes us tea and tells us stories. Sometimes she takes us hiking in the forest.
All I really knew about Aunt Maggy is that she is my mothers sister, and that she lives in a little house next to our property. She mostly does her own thing, but she has to stay on the property because Mother has her reasons.
“How is my little boy?” Aunt Maggy walked through the front door. She pulled me into a hug and kissed my forehead.
“I’m great,” I smiled, “how are you?”
“Oh, same, same,” Maggy said distractedly. She looked around until she spied Vivienne and then snared her in a hug. Mother came down the stairs, and her expression softened when she saw her sister. She even allowed Maggy to hug her.
“Don’t you have things to do?” Mother turned to me and Vivienne. “I would like to talk to Maggy, alone.”
“Yes mother,” we chorused, and we both went up the stairs. I continued to make my way to my room. But Vivienne grabbed my arm.
“Don’t you want to listen to them?” She asked. Since when did she become bad? I was the one who snuck out of the property and walked down the streets, buying books from the bookstore with money I had taken off of Mother’s dresser. But I did want to listen to their conversation, so I nodded and then followed Vivienne back up the hallway.
“Are you sure you’re okay Mary?” Aunt Maggy was asking Mother. I couldn’t see them that well from where I was crouched in the hallway.
“Yes, yes, I’m fine. But she reminds me so much of him!” Mother cried. “I don’t know how, but it haunts me Maggy. It’s as if he’s standing there whenever I see her.”
“But she’s your daughter, not your father. They are very different people. You can’t blame your daughter for looking like Father,” Maggy was probably putting a comforting hand on Mothers arm. “And Father is dead, he can’t do anything to us anymore. He’s gone.”
Mother paled a little, she twisted her hands in her lap and looked slightly guilty. “Yes, yes he is.”
“See? You have nothing to worry about,” Maggy smiled slightly.
“It’s not just how she looks Mary. She has that same haughty pride, that same defiance that he had. As if rules don’t apply to her,” I looked at Vivienne and saw that she was pale.
“She’s not the same,” Maggy said resolutely. “I love that child, and you can’t hold anything against her. Don’t be mean to her, okay, that’s all.”
“Your not their mother!” Our mother rounded on her sister. “I say how my family is run!”
“Yes, of course you do Mary. Actually Vivienne reminds me of you,” Maggy said thoughtfully. “You are sisters as well in a way. Your fathers are both the same-”
“That’s enough Maggy, I know what my family structure is like. I know who Vivienne’s father is, and I know who Adrian’s father is.”
“Oh yes, I remember that man. Wasn’t his wife’s name Clara Blythe? Yes, I remember him, Oliver Blythe. Yes. He was a good looking man, but pity he was married,” Maggy rambled, as if talking to herself.
“That is enough Maggy,” Mother said through gritted teeth.
“Lets go,” Vivienne whispered. I crawled after her down the hallway, and we both in agreement went to my room.
“This, this, is horrible!” Vivienne cried, sitting on my bed. “How could any of this be true?”
“She has her reasons for hating her father,” was the first thing I said.
“What are they? and how would you know?” Vivienne asked curiously, and I explained to her about the journals.
“I have to read them!” She exclaimed. “I have to find out why Mother is like this. Oh, please Adrian, can you help me?”
“Of course,” I said shyly, a blush creeping onto my cheeks. “I would always help you.”
“I love you!” She hugged me tightly. “Now lets go read those journals!”
We made our way down the creaky old staircase and opened the thick wooden door with the heavy rusted metal knocker that led to the dank staircase that went down to the cellar door. And he cellar door was slightly ajar. That was weird, maybe I had left it open last time I went in.
I pushed open the door, the smell of rotting vegetables hitting me again. Then I flicked on the lights cautiously. The crates and chests and boxes were placed exactly where I left them, except for the chest with the journals, its lid was flipped up. And as we neared the chest we saw that all the journals had been slashed, the precious pages were ripped and torn. Vivienne fell to her knees and looked at the journals. She didn’t cry, but her face had turned ashen in the dim light.
“Why would Mother do this?” She whispered. “Tear up all her writing like this? What happened here?”
“I don’t know,” I replied. “Nothing we can do about it now. Wait,” I rummaged through the chest, “Look, this journal is fine.” It was a newer journal, and the date was a current one. “Let’s read.”
January 15th, 1985
I feel really bad sometimes. I feel as if I’ve taken away my children’s childhood. But I know I haven’t, because they have gotten practically everything they wanted. They have their lessons, they have Nadia, they have the forest and this old house to explore. So I shouldn’t feel bad.
When I was a child Father took me out of school when I was ten years old, and he hired someone to home school me. I learned so much faster that way, which is what I’m trying to have my children do. But I think that they might be getting lonely, especially Vivienne. But it is the right thing to do, and because I do this I protect them from the horrors of the outside world. I don’t want them to meet anyone like my Father. It’s because of him I’m doing this. Yes I think it is a good decision.
“Let’s looks around this place some more,” Vivienne pulled herself to her feet, her expression blank. I could barely tell that she was shaken by the words she had just written. If she had been disturbed by these words, it was only because Mother had written them.
Vivienne took my hand and pulled me deeper into the cellar. The underground complex was quite large because it stretched under the house from the front to the back. I heard the scurrying of rats, and shivered. Vivienne wasn’t scared.
There was old damp furniture, and broken tables and chairs. I saw strange looking vegetables hanging from the ceiling, and then a whole cabinet that when opened displayed fine china. There were shelves full of old musty books, and in one part the floor had completely collapsed in and was covered in water that was leaking from a pipe.
“Lets look behind these doors,” Vivienne suggested, she was having fun exploring this nasty place. I just wanted to go back upstairs. This was like a whole other world, a world I definitely did not like.
“Alright,” I muttered, and followed her as she pushed open a creepy heavy door. There was no creak to this door, proving that it had been opened lately, by who? Mother probably, she liked sneaking around. The room was almost completely bare except for a cabinet in the corner. Vivienne opened one of the drawers, being more adventurous than me. Inside were stacks of papers. Words were written on them in a messy scrawl that despite the carelessness of the writing looked quite sophisticated.
December 23rd, 1966
I am traveling in Europe right now, as you know. I am currently in the grand city Paris, I wish you could be here with me, you would love it. How is your uncle Jonathan treating you and Margaret? I hope you are enjoying your time in the country, Jonathan really has a beautiful estate.
I know you must think that I am a bad person, and you must hate me. But I beg of you not to feel this way, because that is not the way I feel about you. You are more to me than any daughter, you are my life Marilyn. I wish that we could live together the rest of our lives, in the Dumont estate. But I am afraid that that is not possible, we must think of your young sister Margaret, and think of the wishes of your grandparents.
On a happier note how is our baby Kyle? He had such beautiful eyes and such a good spirit, and I’m sure he is no trouble to you. I regret not being able to see him at this special time. He of course will be his fathers son, and I want to remind you that you won’t be able to take him away from me, no matter how hard you try.
I also wanted you to wish you a merry christmas. You might follow your mothers religious beliefs, but you must embrace the spirit of christmas. Christmas is about family, and being together, and even though I cannot be with you this christmas, I will be thinking of you.
Love as always,
“Isn’t William our grandfathers name?” Vivienne asked in a whisper. It was too dark down here to talk in normal speaking voices, as if we didn’t want to wake the ghosts of this place.
“Yes, he and Mother had a relationship,” I whispered back as if it was perfectly normal. “Lets read another letter,” I said.
March 2nd, 1968
I was so happy to hear the good news! It is wonderful that we were blessed by another child, a girl this time from the photo you sent me. She is beautiful, more beautiful than Kyle, and she looks exactly like me. I also had blond hair when I was born. She has my face as well, and I am glad that she will be the heir to the Dumont fortune. I will train her in the arts of the family business myself, and I’ll be a wonderful father to her.
I know you have not named our daughter yet, and I would want to give you a couple suggestions for the names. I expect you to chose one of them. I am especially attached to the name Vivienne, and that would be the most appropriate name, but you may also name her Jennifer, Elizabeth or Isabella.
I cannot wait until I come back from my trip, and I can see her. Please send my regards to your sister Margaret, who I know is living in the small house in the back of the estate. This can be her new home, and she can stay there for as long as she would like.
Love as always,
“I think I’m going to be sick,” Vivienne said, her face was even paler and more ashen then it was before. I patted her on the back awkwardly.
“It’s okay, everything will be fine,” I comforted her. “Nothing has changed.”
“No, you don’t understand Adrian,” she wiped the tears from her eyes with her sleeve. Even though her eyes were red and her face was deathly looking she was still beautiful, it made my heart ache to see her looking so strong after what she had just read. “I shouldn’t even be alive! I don’t want to be alive.”
“But, but, you have to stay alive! What would I do without you?” I stared at Vivienne in horror. How could she think of dying, and leaving me all by myself? What would I have to live for? And then I pulled Vivienne into a hug and just held her tightly. What would I do without her?
“Your so sweet,” Vivienne murmured, “I don’t deserve you.” She pressed her face into my hair.
“Of course you deserve me, you are so beautiful and wonderful and smart, I can’t even keep up with you,” I told her.
“Don’t say things like that,” she smiled at me. “Now,” she let go of me, “do you want to look behind that door?”
The door was in question was even bigger than the last one, like a door leading to the dungeons. And I was almost right, because behind the door was a set of dark stone stairs. Vivienne’s eyes widened. This house seemed to have many secrets.
“Here, I saw a flashlight on top of the cabinet,” Vivienne said, “I’ll grab it.”
She momentarily left my side, and came back with a large flashlight, and we started making our way down the stairs. Our shoes clicked ominously on the stone stairs, and we had to keep one hand on the wall so we didn’t trip over each other and hit the wall. And then there was another thick door and I pushed it open.
The room we stood in was of a medium size, and very dark except for a row of five candles. And behind the candles was a large picture of a baby, with china blue eyes and blond hair. He was laughing, and he was definitely the baby Kyle.
As we explored more we found that this room was a shrine to Kyle, and Vivienne was soon in tears after we spotted the blue baby blanket and the wooden blocks that Kyle must have played with. Pictures of Kyle lined the walls, and one picture stood out to me.
It was Mother, she looked younger, no more than seventeen years old, and happier, but she had deep circles under her eyes. It seemed as if she had been worrying. In her arms she held the baby Kyle, and next to her with his arm around her was a smiling handsome middle aged man, he had wavy blond hair and china blue eyes. This was William.
“My father,” Vivienne said, touching the picture. Her voice echoed off of the walls of this shrine. I shivered, it seemed wrong to be making so much noise down here.
“Hello?” It was a male voice, and it wasn’t mine. Vivienne screamed, and I gasped. It wasn’t manly to scream. The voice was coming from behind a door in between a picture of Kyle wearing a poncho and smiling from under an umbrella, and a picture of Kyle in light blue baby clothes.
“Hello?” The man said again. The voice was hoarse and raspy, as if it wasn’t used often.
“We should leave,” Vivienne said to me frantically, grabbing my arm. “Lets go, please lets go.”
“No! Don’t leave!” The man said desperately. “Please come talk to me. Please, help me! Tell me who you are!”
“My name is Adrian, and Vivienne is with me,” I said. I wanted to see who this man was, and what he was doing in the cellar. This was a good time to show myself and Vivienne how brave and manly I could be. I wouldn’t be afraid of this person.
“Vivienne? Vivienne! Please come here Vivienne, I would like to see you,” the man said. “And Adrian, your mother has told me about you. I held you when you were a baby, if you remember me. Do you remember me Vivienne? Remember how I would play with you when you were little. Don’t you remember?” The man’s voice became more and more desperate.
“I remember you, I remember your voice,” Vivienne said, taking me by surprise. “You would bring me toys, and we built a train track in the whole house and had trains run on them, and bring things to other rooms. I know you, but who are you?”
“Come here please, let me see your face, please Vivienne,” the man begged.
“First tell us who you are,” I demanded.
“My name is William Dumont,” the man said. Vivienne gasped, but then her face set in a expressionless clay mask.
“You are my father,” she said. “You are also my grandfather.”
“Yes, I am. I’m sorry for what I did, but I have an explanation, just come here and listen to me,” Vivienne’s father pleaded.
“Okay,” Vivienne said and pushed open the door, and walked in. I followed her. It was dank in that room, like a jail cell. It smelled horrible, like rotting dirt, and human uncleanliness. There was a toilet next to a metal frame cot with a thin mattress on it. And on that mattress sat a thin gaunt man. He once was handsome, and once had blond hair. But now his hair was a light gray and falling out in places. His face was hollow with sunken eyes ringed with blue circles. His lips were pale and thin, and his arms were painfully scrawny. He looked like a prisoner. He was wearing a dirty shirt and a pair of soiled loose pants. On one of this wrists was a metal cuff that was chained to the wall.
“Isn’t this pathetic, this condition I’m in?” The man laughed humorously. “I was top in my class when I graduated from Cambridge. I was a brilliant scholar and philosopher. And now look what happened to me?”
“Why are you like this?” Vivienne asked in horror. “Mother told us you were dead.”
“Your mother, Marilyn, the one woman I loved did this to me. She wanted Maggy to think that I died, so she would stop worrying. But your mother didn’t have the heart to kill me, but hated me enough to keep me locked down here. She was angry at me, and so I have been in this cellar for thirteen years. And do you know what I regret the most about the time I’ve been locked in this cellar? That I couldn’t spend time with you Vivienne. You were always special to me, ever since you were born. I knew you would be beautiful and wonder and brilliant. And I see that you are. I love you Vivienne.”
After a speech like that I thought that Vivienne would go on her knees and cry and forgive her father for everything. But I was wrong. She stared at her father, and her eyes narrowed. “Do you love me like you loved mother?” She asked him, her voice harsh.
“Yes! Of course I love you as much I loved your mother!”
“Really? Then I don’t want anything to do with you,” Vivienne said coldly.
“You are my daughter! Of course I love you!” He tried to rise from his caught, one hand stretched out as if to catch something. If he wanted to catch his daughters love, it wasn’t working. My grandfather’s chain grew taught and he had to sit back down on the cot.
“Well, my mother was also your daughter, and you loved her in a very different way.”
“You are my daughter, and will only be my daughter to me, I promise. Please, help me get out of here,” it looked as if the old man was about to start crying. He had been down here for thirteen years, and I didn’t understand why Vivienne didn’t feel sorry for him like I did. I would let him out, and help him escape even. What Mother was doing to him was beyond cruel, it was inhuman, unmoral.
“Why, why did you take advantage of Mother? Why did you do that to her? She's obviously never recovered from it, she doesn’t act normal. It’s as if she has a mental illness. We’ve seen her, walking about, muttering to herself. Do you know what you have done?” Vivienne demanded. She sounded angry. “Mother must have been a wonderful person, and now she is just hateful, a shell of her former self. You ruined her life, and in doing that, you ruined mine. Don’t you feel any regret?”
“I loved her Vivienne, you don’t understand. And she began to love me. I saw her as she grew up and became a beautiful woman, and I felt a connection to her. You wouldn’t understand. Unless... maybe you would,” the old mans eyes shifted down to where he saw our intertwined hands.
“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Vivienne said primly, her eyes still cold.
“Oh, I think you do. And once I tell your mother, she will have you thrown out of the house,” the old man didn’t look loving or kind any more, he was glaring at Vivienne, and I interpreted what he said as a threat.
“What does that mean?” Vivienne asked.
“If you do not free me and then come and live with me as my treasured daughter, I will tell your mother about your little secret and tell her that you and your brother were plotting against her. That you were plotting to kill her.”
“But we weren’t!” I exclaimed.
“Well, she doesn’t know that, does she? Now promise me that you will come live with me after I am free, and then free me. I will tell her nothing,” my grandfathers expression was cold and calculating. I wondered if he really loved Vivienne, or if he just wanted to use her to help him escape this cellar.
“Of course father dear,” Vivienne said sweetly. Her whole expression changed, but there was something under it I didn’t understand.
“I’m glad you’ve finally seen what is best for this family,” Vivienne’s father said, smiling. “Now come here and giver your old father a hug.”
Vivienne walked over to him and leaned down and hugged him. But then her hands moved up his back and I saw her hands gently encircling her fathers neck.
“What are you doing daughter?” The old man asked.
“You will pay for what you’ve done to this family,” Vivienne hissed and then she grabbed his neck and started squeezing.
“St-stop!” My grandfather screamed. “What are you doing?”
“I told you father dear,” she smiled. “I thought you were smart, a great philosopher. You should know these things, and you should know all about revenge. Well, this is my revenge.”
And as I watched in horror my grandfathers neck turned red, and then blue and his face turned blue, and his tongue hung out of his mouth. He tried to breath, and he tried to struggle. But Vivienne was too strong. She started crying, her tears running down her cheeks and dropping on her fathers head.
And then the old man stopped struggling, and became limp. Vivienne let go and put her hand on his wrist to check for a pulse. Obviously there was none, because she straightened and walked back, toward me, and away from her fathers body.
“What have I done?” She cried.
“You...you...” I stared at the dead man in horror. I couldn’t describe what she had done, kill her own father. There really is no words to describe death. I couldn’t handle the sight of it. So I ran back into the shrine room, and then into the room with the letters. And I puked my guts out.
When I finally straightened I saw that Vivienne was standing in the doorway of the room. She looked like an avenging angel, her eyes dark and troubled, but her face beautiful and clear. Her long hair flowed behind her as she walked toward me. “It’s okay Adrian, everything is okay.”
“No, it won’t be okay,” I said. Backing away from my sister. “It will never be okay.” And then I turned and ran from the room. I passed the old furniture, the chests and crates, the rotting vegetables. The vegetables rotted like the secrets of this house. I couldn’t take it anymore, I couldn’t be part of this any longer.
I ran from the house and into the forest. And I sat next to the stream and wept. I had never known my grandfather, except maybe I had seen him when I was a baby. But he was dead now, and now I would never know him. How could my beloved sister do such a thing? What was wrong with her? I needed to talk to someone about this, to anyone. But I didn’t know anyone. I couldn’t trust anyone from this family, not even Nadia or Aunt Maggy. They were part of these secrets as well.
And then I realized who I could trust. Who else to trust but the rabbi? I could convince mother that I just wanted to pray at the Synagogue, I could leave and I could ask the rabbi all of my questions. He would listen.
I made my way back to the house, and back into my room. I pulled on a clean polo shirt and some slacks, combing my hair and washing my face. I wondered where Vivienne was, and then realized that I didn’t want to know.
“Mother, may Nadia drive me to the Synagogue? I would like to pray,” I said. Mother was sitting in her study, large blue circles under her eyes. Her hair was in a messy ponytail, and she looked much older than thirty five years old. Pity was the only thing I could feel for her.
After Mother gave me permission to go to the Synagogue Nadia drove me, and dropped me off in front of the main doors. I took a deep breath and walked into the rabbi’s office after knocking politely on the oak door.
The rabbi is a big man, with a graying beard and very little hair with a blue and white kipa on his head. He asked how he could help me and I sat down across his desk and spilled out the whole horror of my family history. I omitted the part about Vivienne strangling my grandfather and that my grandfather was locked in the cellar.
The rabbi looked at me over his thick glasses thoughtfully. “I do not know what to do about this ordeal,” he said. “But life has to go on. Jus remember that, no matter what happens, just live life to its fullest.”
I wanted to scream and ask what kind of advice that was. But instead I smiled and nodded my thanks and left the building, getting into the car and slamming the door behind me. Nadia stared, but didn’t say anything. We drove back to the estate in silence until we reached the front gates, and then Nadia turned to me.
“I know that you and your sister got into a fight earlier today, and she was crying. So please go to her room and talk to her. I want you to make up, you have to support each other and love each other. You’re the only other person in this world that she can really rely on.”
“Ok, I understand,” I said. I would talk to her. She couldn’t be feeling so great after killing her own father. And so I ran up the stairs and down the passage ways of locked doors until I found my sister lying on her bed. She was staring straight up at the ceiling, her face expressionless.
“Do you think that I should be punished for what I did?” Vivienne asked when I entered the room. “Will god punish me? Like when Cain killed Able, he was banished. Do you think I’ll be banished?”
“God will do nothing to you. You’re an angel, he can’t harm you. And god is forgiving, he will forgive you. Just keep on living, that’s all you have to do, just live for me, okay?”
“Yes, I will,” Vivienne said, still staring at the ceiling. And then she opened her mouth and screamed. Her eyes opened wide with terror.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” I asked, rushing over to her.
“Don’t you see him? He’s there, right there!” Vivienne screamed and raised an arm and pointed straight above her head.
“What are you talking about?” I asked. “There’s no one there.”
“It’s my father! He’s going to kill me! He’s coming closer, Adrian, help me!” Her screams became louder, and her body went rigid.
“Stop it Vivienne! He’s not there,” I said.
“Yes he is! He’s going to make me pay for what I’ve done!” Her eyes rolled up into her eyelids, and she started twitching violently.
“No, it’s all in your head, come one Vivienne, he is not here!” I said forcefully. I was freaking out, I didn’t know what to do.
“I’m going to die!” She screamed and screamed and screamed. And finally I didn’t know what to do, so I slapped her face. I had never hit a girl before, actually I had never hit anyone before. But the slap seemed to work, and I saw Vivienne’s eyes focus, and she breathed out and shuddered. And then she looked at my face and passed out.
The next few weeks were strange, and distant. Vivienne barely talked to me, but she barely talked at all. She had these fits, saying that she was seeing her father’s spirit. I told her it was just because she was feeling the guilt of killing him. But no matter whether it was guilt, or she was actually seeing ghosts she wasn’t the same person.
Mother was also not the same. She seemed almost frantic, not calm and distant like usual. She kept on trying to talk to me and Vivienne. Vivienne ignored her, I gave her one word answers. And later, I saw Mother crying in her room. But she had her reasons, and I wouldn’t worry about her now. She had ruined my life by keeping me trapped in this estate, not being able to see any other kids.
“I don’t know what to do Maggy,” my mother was sitting with Maggy in the main parlor, and I was spying on them as usual. I had nothing to occupy my time. I hadn’t been on the streets in a while, I hadn’t even gotten a new book. I just wasn’t in the right mood.
“What do you mean Mary, what’s wrong?” Maggy asked, taking a sip of her iced tea.
“I’ve wasted so much time. I’ve focused so much on hating Vivienne, because she is too much like her father. But why should I hate her? She’s my daughter, and I love her. I don’t know how to make things right. She won’t even talk to me now.”
“You still have time to make up with her. Just keep on trying. I know you for the wonderful person you are, and I know that Vivienne will be able to see that in time,” Maggy patted Mothers knee.
I was ecstatic, this might be able to bring Vivienne out of her misery. So I pulled myself to my feet and jogged to her room. The door was ajar, which was odd. As of late Vivienne never left her door open, she was always locked in her room as if she was a prisoner.
“Vivienne?” I called, “can I come in?”
I waited outside the door, expecting for her to answer. She never did. So I slowly pushed the door open.
There, hanging from the beautiful crystal chandelier was Vivienne’s body. Her face was death pale and her eyes were open and stared straight ahead glassily. And for the first time in my life, I screamed. I fell to my knees and screamed and screamed.
On my sisters body painted in black ink were the words “I got what I deserved,” in bold dark letters. William Dumont’s spirit had killed her. And then I realized that couldn’t have happened, even if spirits were real. Vivienne had done this, she had taken her own life.
“Oh no,” a voice issued from behind me. I looked and saw Mother standing in the doorway, her hands over her mouth. “I’m too late.”