3 comments

General

(Write about people spending a long-overdue weekend away at a cottage.)

We bought this cottage as a retreat.   My husband Mike and I had both been raised in quiet country settings but now earned our living in stressful jobs in the city.   We had expected children but when we were not blessed with any,  we filled our free time with other things but soon we agreed that we missed the quiet of an open space,  room to grow things,  take long walks and watch the seasons change.   

The cottage has a Victorian look and we both agreed on sight it was for us.   Room by room we have been restoring and repairing the minor neglect of the previous owner,  an elderly woman who had lived her whole life in this small but elegant house.   We visited with her during the house purchase and she seemed more than a bit eccentric,  a spinster who had shared the house with an older sister, now gone, and so it was time for her to find a smaller place that offered care for her needs.   

We had asked her about the room on the second floor that was unfurnished and appeared to be unused but in the best repair of any of the rooms in the whole cottage and her answer was.....”well,  I can only say that that room is special,  for as long as I can remember,  it has been empty except for sunshine and happiness”.    

The room looks so ordinary,  a couple windows overlooking the gardens and double French doors that have gathered lace curtains covering the glass panels.   What is unusual,  it has no furniture,  just bare hardwood floors and one complete wall is covered with medium size very ornate cabinet doors.   I tried a few but found them locked,  I made a note to inquire about keys as they were much too beautiful to ruin by forcing them open.

This weekend we planned to celebrate our first year here with dinner on the porch and enjoying the evening in the gardens.  We had hired a local fellow to work on the grounds during the week when we were away, we were very pleased to see the gardens quiet and beautiful.  

We spoke about how to spend our free time now that the work was mostly complete.   Mike wanted to explore the trails and lanes in the area,  check out the marsh and river, he  wanted to see what lives here with us and nearby.    I have something quite different in mind.   I want to find a use for “the room”, make it my own special place. 

Mike had packed a small lunch for himself and rode off on his bicycle just after breakfast and so I took my second cup of tea and climbed the staircase to “the room”.   Starting at the top cabinet door on the left,  I began trying each door,  rattling the handle,  trying the latch,  all were locked.  I felt annoyed that somewhere we had not found a key ring with the key for these cabinets.   There were  twelve doors in total, four doors in each row,  I had tried a full row and now,  on the second cabinet door in the second row, the door opened easily.  It was such a surprise it startled me.   

The space inside held three velvet boxes,  written in hand embroidered words on the top of each was dreams,  wishes,  and finally,  memories.    They were beautiful!   I picked up the one with “memories”  written on top and slowly opened it,  I was suddenly flooded with so many personal memories!   Like a wave they washed over me,  from earliest childhood to recent times,  a flood of my life’s moments.   Closing the box quickly,  the memories stopped just that suddenly.  I found myself feeling tired and turned to find the room now had furniture,  a lovely chaise by the window,  my tea steaming on a side table.  I sat sipping my tea and thinking about the velvet boxes.   What had really just happened?   I laid my head back and closed my eyes remembering a few of the best memories.

Finally I got up and replaced the box in the cabinet closing the cabinet door.   I wanted to see what was in the other cabinets but they all appeared to be soundly locked.

Going back to the one that had opened,  I tried it again,  it opened easily,  this time I removed the box that had written on the top, “Dreams”.   Sitting again on the chaise,  I sipped again on my tea,  surprisingly still quite hot, and slowly opened the lid of the box.    I was filled with the thoughts of things I had always dreamed about, the wool gathering impossible dreams of a child,  the wishful dreams of a teen, the hopeful dreams of a young woman....where had all those  dreams gone in this busy life?   

The words Busy Life brought me back to thinking about the hours I had spent in this room and things that I must do this day,  get some dinner started and bake some fresh rolls.  Putting away the dreams box,  I closed the cabinet door tightly,  when I turned the room was empty again except for my empty tea cup.   

Turning in a circle I look again at the whole room,   I should feel confused and maybe frightened but I see sunshine and I feel happiness.  

I must hurry now,  things to do!   Leaving the room and heading down the stairs I hear the clock chime eight times,  how can this be?   It was about eight when I went up!   Turning on the small TV in the kitchen,  the Eight O’Clock news is just beginning.   Confused and amazed,  I have the whole morning ahead of me!  Going to the bottom of the stairs,  I look up at the door to the room.   This is just so bizarre, I can’t understand the room!  To spend time and still have time!  

Trying to busy myself with the jobs of the day,  my mind keeps going back to how pleasant the “other morning was”.   I stop now and think about the box I did not open,  “Wishes”.    I wonder what wishes are in the box,  what wishes do I still have that have not been fulfilled or given up as impossible?   Now the clock chimes only once.   Time to finish the preparation for dinner,  soon Mike will return and I will tell him about the room.

Mike returns with wonderful stories of his morning.  The dinner is good and we are enjoying the evening but “the room” lurks in my mind,  ever present.  I had planned to talk to him about it in the morning,  But I MUST KNOW,  what he will think about this?  this?   This?  whatever the phenomenon might be called!

“Honey,  can I show you something?”  I asked.

He follows me up the stairs, opening the door to the room, we see  just two wedges of moonlight illuminate the room from the windows.  Turning on the light,  everything appears normal,  or at least normal for that room.   

I tell  him that  I spent some time in here this morning trying to find a way into the cabinet doors,  I move through the room trying the latches,  all remain locked,  going now to the one I had open in the morning,  I lift the latch and it too is LOCKED!   I am totally speechless!   

Finally into my silence Mike asks if I had any luck.    I am stunned.....I don’t know what to tell him, three possibilities come to mind...the first and most likely,  I imagined the whole thing,  second,  it only works in the sunshine,  (as in sunshine and happiness),  or it only works for one person at a time.    

Turning to Mike,  I tell him that this morning I had a few ideas but now I think I would like to get my ideas better defined.   He tells me that before it is time to return to the city,  he would like to explore in another direction,  will I come along in the morning or will I be thinking about my ideas?    “Yes,  my ideas are filling my head,  I will give it another morning’s thought,  but thanks for including me in your exploration”.

We wake to rain and heavy cloud cover forcing Mike to use the car to go exploring but now he can cover even more area.  I make him a thermos of coffee and send him on his way.   

I stand at the bottom of the stairs, why do I hesitate?  I am not a fan of things that are not logical,  I don’t enjoy ghost stories or weirdness....and this is weird!    

Going into the room,  the gray light filtering in from the windows gives me an even creepier feeling.   Going immediately to my cabinet door,  I pull on the latch and it OPENS immediately.    Well, OK,  not my imagination,  and no sunshine this morning but as I turn, the room is full of sunshine and the furniture is there also.  OK,  no imagination, and works without real sunshine,  this may mean....it only works for one person...ME!

I carefully lift out he remaining box.   Wishes....I sit on the chaise and lift the cover....sparkle like bits of stardust fill my sight and mind.   Wishes from long ago make me laugh at the silly things I wished for,  no braces,  contact lenses,  superficial things,  then the wishes for a true love,  the wishes for a child,  never to be.   Then the box is empty!   Have I stopped wishing?  Today,  this very day,  I will wish for something....something grand.....but for now,  what is this about?   

Time has again gone by and if we are going back to the city tonight,  I must gather the laundry to take back and other real things.   Returning the box to the cabinet I have an involuntary shiver,  I close the cabinet with a firm CLICK!    The furniture is gone and gloom returns to the room!    Is this real??  OR?   I am losing my mind!

Going down the stairs I check,  like yesterday,  it is still early,  I wonder how one can spend the moments of their life’s clock,  the time allotted to a soul and still have the time?   Illogical!   Very illogical!

When Mike comes in shaking the rain off his umbrella,  I ask him immediately to go up to the room, close the door and try every cabinet door beginning with the top left to the last on the bottom right!   I finish with, “Please Honey,  it is important to me!”   Looking bewildered and hungry he goes up the stairs and disappears into the room!

My mind is racing!   What will he find?   What will the room have for him?  

Mike comes slowly down the stairs,  his look is questioning and he says....”All of  the doors were locked, as always.  I turned off the light,   NOW MAY I HAVE SOME LUNCH?”

We have a very quiet lunch, the rain continues.  We decide to head back to the city early and are soon off down the highway.  The repeated slap of the windshield wipers seems to dull my worry,  my thoughts stray going over this weekend.   There has to be a plausible explanation but I cannot find it.  Going over it and over it,  the ending is always the same.  I make a sudden but firm decision!   When we go back to the country, I will have another WISH in the box in my drawer.  I will begin to wish now, I will wish everyday this week that the room did not exist!! 

The week went by quickly.  Finally we arrived back to the country and it should have been a happy time but I could not shake off the unanswered questions that clouded my mind.  The house seemed much less inviting,  how strange!  Mike questioned my quietness and I told him I might be getting a cold. 

Mike was again up early and anxious to get out and explore the area.  It was nice weather,  sunny and a nice breeze so he took his bike,  he called out to me that he had his lunch and would see me this afternoon.   I tried to tackle a few small jobs around the house but each time I passed the stairs I felt compelled to look up!  It was a crazy thing....to want to know more...and not want to know more.   I finally decided on another course of action.   

Taking the car,  I wanted to go to visit the elderly spinster who lived in the house just before us.  She was in the next town in an assisted living facility.   That would be my next stop,  a visit and I hoped a nice chat...maybe answers.

It was nice to see her again and even nicer to see how well she had adjusted to her new life.  I found her sitting in a sheltered alcove watching squirrels and birds.   She knew me on sight and said, “I wondered if you would come to visit,  maybe have questions about the cottage.”  I told her we have enjoyed a full year there and most of the tidying up was done.  She nodded and seemed pleased but added with a knowing smile,  “What did you decide to do with “the room”?   The way she said , “the room” there was no misunderstanding what she meant.   

Sitting down across from her and looking into her face, I knew the answers were here!     I told her of some improvements we had made but really how much we loved many of the things already there,  things that just needed polish and minor repairs.   “Yes!  Yes!”  she seems impatient,  even agitated, but what about “the room?”   

And so I began, I told her everything, as best as I could remember!   She took my hands in hers,  “I felt you may be one who could use the room, but you must be very careful, my sister lost her mind because of that room,  things that are there are sometimes best left alone”!   

“I tried a few times to find my door,” she said, “ to open it and see what it held for me,  some very pleasant,  at least in the beginning,  but some very dark and unhappy!”  Now she seemed to drift off into her own reverie, her eyes a blank stare.  I patted her hand gently,  thanked her and got up to leave.  

Her voice called me back...”In truth,  I would recommend you leave it alone,  it will never get dirty, never need dusting, it will remain as you last saw it.......no need to go in there!   No need to go in there again,  EVER!”  Her words were so final,  as though they were in fact a warning, and I believe they were.   

I sat in my car for a long time trying to remember exactly how she said things,  her exact words,  it seemed important now.   I shivered at the thought of  secrets and magic and spells.  Knowledge can be powerful,  it can be destructive and it could make a person lose her mind!

Driving home,  so many thoughts churning around in my mind,  but now I felt, no I knew,  it would not be my mind making this decision,  my mind was a mass of confusion,  but my heart.   My heart understood that I had a good and loving  life,  I did not need a mystery room,  I did not want to interfere with my soul clock and the days allotted me.   

The only remaining question,  what to tell Mike?   How to close the room to our use in a logical way?   He would never understand just ignoring a part of the house, unless I could give him a good reason.   I felt some peace for the first time in weeks.

As I entered the drive at the house,  the gardens were beautiful in the sunlight,  the cottage stately and attractive,  really more,  it looked inviting again.  Going in I got totally busy preparing a summer salad and marinating some steaks,  we could eat on the patio and I would tell Mike of my day.  I would tell him a version of my day,  a logical version.  Knowing how kind and gentle Mike is, I knew he would agree.

The story I told him went like this.....

Today I went to visit the old spinster at the assisted living center,  she is doing well,  very well but she often slips into deep feelings of the past.   We chatted for quite awhile and then she asked me a very strange thing, and even stranger, and I’m not sure why, but I agreed!   

She told me “the room” had been her sister's room,  she had lost her mind in that room,  she would never leave it.  Her sister had died in that room and now that she had let strangers in, it was wearing on her mind!   She felt the worry was making her physically ill.  Would I promise to lock the room and not use it,  just lock it,  at least until she is gone?   

I’m not sure why, but I agreed!    I wanted to honor her wishes,  we have many other rooms that go unused, so why not this one too?  

And so it remains...locked and waiting for ??,  well I really have no idea!  I have never entered it again,  it doesn’t call to me or draw my interest.  

I am at peace here and we are happy! 

August 01, 2020 15:31

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

3 comments

P. Jean
02:48 Sep 18, 2020

Many just like stories. I hope they really read them before liking! I hope you do! Thank you for the likes!

Reply

Show 0 replies
. .
06:24 Aug 18, 2020

Wow! I really enjoyed this so much. Loved the characters and their own characteristics it really brings it all together! Hope to see more, happy writing!!!!

Reply

P. Jean
10:29 Aug 18, 2020

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I appreciate your thoughts!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply