The Lost Lady of Darcy House

Submitted into Contest #148 in response to: Write about an apartment building being demolished.... view prompt

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Creative Nonfiction

Write about an apartment building being demolished

Darcy House has been known as a great many things. A grand estate, an orphanage, temporary war barracks, contemporary apartments, and, most recently, a hazard. Or so says the yellow paper haphazardly stapled to the door: unstable foundations and damp. In the words of the inspector, the house was collapsing from within.

It was a somewhat unreasonable response I thought at the time and my temperament towards the topic has only worsened. Blatant disrespect to the Darcy name, ignorance of the house’s legacy and, most infuriating, the target of the current generation's melodrama. The house was a grand, classically Edwardian construction with large sweeping views of the devon Moores. Redbrick and faux Tudor beaming made it the envy of all. Like a fine wine, time has done nothing but justice for the build. Wisteria covers the south-facing entrance, delicately framing the original ornate door. The large windows, though the glass has long been replaced, are outlined in detailed masonry that only the wealthy could afford. No longer a grand estate house, rather divided into flats, its residents were to be promptly displaced, that was for certain for all but one. The original Lady Darcy, the one who had died in 1909. Me.

I consider ghost a derogatory term for I am not aimless nor a restless soul. I am not malevolent or murderous but rather a protective spirit of the house. Though only inheriting it through a technicality in my deceased husband's will, Darcy House is my pride and joy. It provided social security in the unruly rise of the peasantry and secured my Ladyship following my poor Husband, Lord James Darcy, fateful blight with tuberculosis. I followed not long after, virulent tumours eating away at my body.  James just did not understand the importance of the house. He was born as a man into the aristocracy thus the world fell into his palm. I was merely the servant of it. I had to fortify my position in it through any means, the house saved me and I am painfully aware of my inability to save it in return. 

I now pace the halls of the house, invisible as I observe the frantic comings and goings of the living. Two stand before the portrait in the hall, unaware the subject walks among them. The final portrait of James and I, looking proud and aloof. The final proof of my existence. They are talking. 

“It's a shame, you know. So much history, gone like that.” Sighs one. Miss Kate Green, I believe. She has an awful cat that has scratched my beautiful parquet floors, I shall not be sad to have that thing gone.

“No,” the other says firmly, “My flat creaks and the sink leaks. This place is a manky shithole and you know it. You’re just too busy looking at the pretty bits to notice. Have you got another place lined up?”. This one is Mr Oliver Hurst of 3B. I took a great disliking to him immediately, he had a rather frightful appearance with ink all over his skin and an affinity for loud bashing noises I think maybe music. Either way, it is ghastly and unnerving. Miss Green passively shrugs and they wander out of the house, continuing their conversation. 

Their nonchalance is infuriating. It is a stab in the gut to hear their indifference. Now the living are ungrateful, so quick to toss something aside as soon as inconveniences arise, much like dear James. I recall our marriage often and with every year, a new memory emerges. Whilst alive, I chose to suppress them: what else could I do? All my love and devotion however could not mask my loneliness. As a woman, I was alienated from visitors. Boisterous men who drank and ate and left in the morning all while was I stowed away in private. As a lady, I could not associate with the servants. I believe they feared me and I fear I liked it. I could not bear an heir, they said it was my inhospitable womb. My inadequacy did not go unnoticed as James retreated further and further from his responsibilities. From his wife. 

I force my eyes to the portrait hanging on the wall. In death, it has inexplicably brought me discomfort when my heart used to swell with pride. My husband's eyes bore into my own. He grips my painted shoulder, I reach to mirror the gesture. He did not hold me for stability or affection. The woman in this painting is as much his property as the frame she rests in. It is clear, that I was his, he was not mine. How bitter he would be to see me now, possessor of his beloved legacy. I do not like this portrait. I have overheard that It will stay in the house for the demolition. Seemingly no one wanted the faces of those long forgotten.

People are now outside. Residents, neighbours, and passersby wait in anticipation. Cries of excitement can be heard as a large machine with a hanging ball approaches. 

I slowly lead myself to the stairs. History stands on the gallows as I make my way to a wisteria laced window facing a heather laden field. 

Wide eyes are trained on the men in hard hats as they bark final commands and last rites. Bodies are pressed up against the metal barrier and children are hoisted up on shoulders. 

I settle into the window seat. No longer the home for a cat bed, a medic station, a child’s pillow or the reading nook of a Lady lost to the past. 

There is a collective inhale as the machine swings back. Gaining momentum to deliver the blow.

I decide in this moment. I will not dwell on the past or cling to it in my present. For everything is temporary in this world. As the wisteria grows, the bricks crumble. I close my eyes. In eerie stillness, I wait for the collision. There is no impact, only blinding light.

June 01, 2022 12:26

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