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           I had always loved the big house behind the big gates that was at the outskirts of our little village. As a child I would ride my bike on weekends to those big gates and just stare in through the rusty iron paling’s. My imagination would run wild, who had lived in such a grand house, did a princess once live there? Did a handsome prince ride up that drive to claim her as his own and then whisk her away to be his bride in a carriage made of gold to live happily ever after?

           My imaginings knew no bounds back then, but as I grew my thoughts turned to other things, I had to finish school and then get a job and basically get on with my life but I never forgot that old house, the love I fostered as a child never really left me, it just went to the back of my mind. When my mother rang me one day and told me the / my house was for sale I was ecstatic but worried. I had done well for myself, I had landed a job in the advertising business and after many years had worked myself up into a well paid position within the company.  I was still single so I only had myself to think of but would I be able to afford to live there, not only financially but the travel to the city would take a while. The train from London took about 45 minutes to get to my village on weekends when I went home to visit but during peak hours the trip would take a lot longer. Was I prepared to travel that distance every day? Well I could always work on the train and my boss was pretty flexible, I could work a few days a week from home easily enough.

           With the help of my mum I met the estate agent at the gates and she opened them for the first time that I had ever seen them opened. The shrill sound of metal on metal made an eerie sound but I was far too excited to be bothered about such things. The sound of the gravel under our feet filled me with delight, I felt like that little girl again who looked through the gates imaging herself being that princess. As the agent put the key in the lock and turned it I was on tenterhooks. Slowly the door was pushed open, the hinges squealed as they unwillingly moved. It was clear no-one had lived here for quite some time as we stepped over the threshold. As I walked into the dusty hall I was filled with awe, I had wanted this moment to happen since I was a small child and now it was finally happening. 

           The agent was apologising for the state of the place but I didn't hear her. I was moving in, placing furniture, cleaning, dusting, making curtains, deciding paint colours, everything. The house was sound, just neglected, nothing some hard work wouldn't fix. We spent about an hour looking around, she herself hadn't been inside so it was all a learning experience for us both. After we left I followed her to her office and a price was decided upon. I could take possession in 30 days, thirty long days.  

           During those days there was so much to do, it all passed in a whirl but when settlement day arrived and I was handed the keys I knew that all my dreams had come true. As I drove up to those gates I was full of hope, this would define me, this house would make me that little princess, not to be claimed by a handsome prince but to make, me, to complete me. I had in my car a small can of oil and my very first job was going to be to oil those rusty gate hinges, That done I drove down to the front door and opened up, again a few squirts of oil on rusty hinges and then I was in.  My second job was going to be to open up as many windows as I could to get some much needed fresh air circulating. I had on my oldest clothes with a scarf tied around my head as I made my way through each room, grappling with stiff window frames covered in cobwebs. Most of the windows eventually gave way and soon the house was full of fresh air. As I wandered through each room I checked every door and oiled all the hinges. It was very satisfying opening up as I continued going from room to room. I collected all my cleaning equipment from the car and I set to work, sweeping out years of dust and dirt, cobwebs and dead flies, I found a few dead birds in the fireplaces and made a mental note to get in a chimney sweeper. 

           In the front room the walls were covered in built in bookcases and these were proving to be difficult. Each shelf had to be cleaned separately and there were lots of shelves, by the late afternoon I was exhausted and I decided to call it a day. As I picked up my dusters I tripped a little and banged my head against part of a shelf, as I stood up rubbing my head I saw a sight that I was not expecting, there in front of me was a passageway, I rubbed my eyes to clear them and looked again, yep it was a passageway, where had the bookcase gone? I slowly stuck my head through the opening and I could see that the bookcase had opened like a door. How did this happen? I pulled at the part of the bookcase that had slid away and it slid back into its place effortlessly. I stood and looked at it and scratched my head, how did this happen? 

           I took a good look at the wall, ran my fingers around the shelves gently but I couldn't find any leavers so I decided to just tap the shelf where I had hit my head and magically the doorway opened again. To say I was flummoxed was an understatement of biblical proportions. How could this be, what had I uncovered? I decided that I should go in and have a look but I was scared of what might happen if the doorway shut and I couldn't get out, so after rummaging around in the boot of my car I found my torch and the jack.  I went back inside and placed the jack in the corner of the doorway to hold it open, just in case, and I crept into the passageway. It was a good thing I had on my old clothes as the cobwebs were quite thick in places. As I wandered down the passage way, it got quite gloomy but my torch had new batteries and the light was strong.

           The first thing I noticed was the smell, dusty, dank, old. And the temperature had dropped as well. As I slowly inched my way further inside I could sense that I was going downhill ever so slightly. The further I went in the cooler it got and the smell started to change from musty to earthy, I must be below ground level I mused. Suddenly there came a sharp bend in the passageway and at the end of this was a door, not like the door I had come through but a shoddily made one, large planks of wood seemed to have been nailed together without much thought to style, just function. There was a handle made of rough metal and as I grabbed it, it felt very rough. I tried to lever the handle downward to open the door but it wouldn't budge. I tried several times but it was stuck fast, I thought of the oil tin I had so I rushed back along the passageway to the front room and grabbed it.  I took little notice of the passageway at that time, I thought I could take note another time, for now I just wanted to open that door.

           I squirted some oil around the base of the handle and tried again, no luck, so a little more oil and another try. This time it moved, just a little. I wiggled it up and down to try to work the oil in and after a few minutes the handle gave way and I pushed to open the door. It was heavy but I managed to prise it open just enough to let me through. I had no fear of this door slamming shut on me, it was way to heavy. I directed the torch beam around what was behind the door and I was amazed to see a large cavern in front of me. I walked inside to examine the walls and it looked like it had been hollowed out by pick and shovel, I could see the pick marks in the stone. I ran my fingers over the walls and they were cool to the touch. As I wandered around I could see the remnants of broken wood palings scattered over the floor of the cave. It must have been a hiding spot for contraband I figured. How exciting I thought, not only did I own my childhood dream but it now came with the added bonus of pirates and thieves! Suddenly my torch beam passed over what looked like a trunk hidden in an alcove. I was beside myself with anticipation, what could be in it! I looked over the trunk and besides being covered in dirt and dust it looked unbroken, I found the latch on the front and gingerly turned it and pulled. The lid of the trunk gave way and it lifted with the sound of wood against wood, it was deafening in the quite gloom of the cave and I was frightened for a second about who might hear this and come rushing in to the trunks defence. Don't be silly I told myself, there is no-one here but yourself, you are secure in your own home. I lifted the hatch up as far as it would go and then I looked inside.


           My house is complete now, I tried to keep as much of the original features as possible except for installing a modern state of the art kitchen. I turned the front room back into a library and filled the shelves with old and new books, and I spend many evenings in there with the fire crackling heartily. The garden has been brought back to life, with a lot of help from my mum and friends and the gravel drive is now weed free. I am happy and content now, I still travel 2 days a week to the office but most of the time I work from home and this suits me down to the ground. I have time to potter in the garden or read one of the many good books I now own or just sit and contemplate how lucky I have been. And what was in the trunk? Not much really, just a dozen or so bottles of French brandy, cognac to be precise and they ended up in Southerby's auction rooms and they fetched a nice tidy sum. The money helped with my renovation’s and now I am debt free. I will never forget finding the secret passageway and I have kept it as it was and all my friends and family have gone “on tour” to see where I found the brandy and experience the mystery of the hidden passageway.


The End.

March 24, 2020 04:41

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1 comment

Amar Haj Hamad
21:34 Apr 01, 2020

Hey Wendy, I liked the flow of the story, and how it is engaging and exciting. However, there are some punctuation mistakes that made it harder to pause or unpause when necessary. The explanation of the house and the passageway made the picture clear and vivid, and gave an insight into your own image of things. Regards.


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