I pushed the decrepit, heavy wooden door slowly as it creaked open.
“Hello...?” my voice echoed in the vaulted ceiling which looked as though it had been ripped open—pieces of black cloth were hanging in shreds.
Looking around, I noticed everything was draped in cobwebs. There were black and white marble mantles covered with various trinkets and pictures: photographs so dusty I couldn’t make out the contents within, animal pieces...claws, dead lizard skeletons...
I tightly clasped the amulet around my neck.
Perhaps I should turn back, I thought.
Frozen in time, the place was reminiscent of the mansion from The Addams Family— only real. I had never encountered anything quite like it—especially as a young lady from a small midwestern town. Spooky, might be a more simplistic way to describe its particular ambiance. Or eerie. If I continued searching for synonyms of this unusual place which I accidentally found myself, I might as well be a Thesaurus. I thought to myself trying to think of amusing thoughts to drown out the fear and anxiety clamoring in my mind.
“Hello.” A voice nearly whispered back to me.
Suddenly, right in front of me apparated the most beautiful, cold, haunted gentleman I’d ever seen wearing what only could be described as a Victorian butler uniform made of crimson velvet. He looked as though he were straight out of a period drama.
Had I unknowingly time traveled?
“Hello…” I began explaining my plight, “I was traveling, and found myself so incredibly exhausted I fear I can not go on any further...and so I need a place to stay—”
“Ahh, a weary traveler...We get those a lot.” His British accent made him seem even more formal.
I made a strange nearly guttural sound to acknowledge his statement.
“I have a room...Will it be for one?”
He suddenly appeared behind the counter before me.
“How? Wait...What just happened? Just a moment ago you were—”
“Right in front of you? Yes. I know.” He smiled at me. He spoke in reserved, measured tones.
I gasped again. This time a bit louder.
This made him smile with amusement, “Are you alright, Miss…?”
“Umm, Rebecca.” I nearly fainted as I struggled to remember my own name. While his accent was delicious, his smile knocked me out. I felt dizzy.
Where was I? Who was he? And was this safe?
“Lovely name.” He began musing, shifting to near expressionless, “I oft imagined if I had a daughter I would name her Rebecca. Guess naming my synthesizer Rebecca will have to do for now.”
The closer I studied him— this “Mr. Rhodes” according to his tag— the more he seemed like a classic vampire. Cold, angular cheeks, chin...So intriguing.
“Will you be the only one checking in?”
“Yes.” Part of me hesitated in telling him my status. I still wasn’t sure if the place was safe or haunted. But my intuition wasn’t screaming to turn back. It must be alright, I thought to myself.
“A solo traveler...But for such a beautiful woman. How is it possible?” He began earnestly, then after a pause, “My apologies, I shouldn’t be so nosy. For all I know, you are a widower and how dare I ask you to relive your trauma. My apologies, dear Rebecca.” He gently grabbed my hand and planted the softest kiss with his cold lips.
I inhaled deeply. He smelled of rich pine air. Or was that the hotel? It was difficult to discern at present.
“Actually, it’s funny. You will be my only guest tonight…” he checked a worn crimson booklet that matched his uniform precisely. There wasn't a computer in sight.
I swore I had time traveled into an different century entirely— perhaps the 19th.
He continued, “...and the only guest in the foreseeable future for one year, it seems.” He closed the book and looked at my matter-of-factly, head slightly cocked to the side, chin lifted.
“Well, I’m hoping to simply spend the night, get some rest, and then get back on the road tomorrow. I can’t imagine staying more than one evening, let alone a year!”
The thought! This place was creepy enough— one night would be plenty. Although, with my intrigue of this handsome stranger, I began imagining nights with Mr. Rhodes, just briefly enough to stop my thoughts before they became inappropriate.
What a shame— such a handsome, mysterious man at such a seemingly haunted place.
“Well, suit yourself, but I have you penciled in for tomorrow and maybe even the next night.” He began writing my name in his book. The quill pen seemed to start moving as if by magic as he lifted his hand. Before my very eyes, the quill was beautifully scribbling Rebecca over and over again in different dates in the book.
“Wait!”, I implored.
Sharply, the quill stopped and fell on the book
“What are you doing?!” I nearly screamed.
Flustered, he picked up the writing utensil, put it away, and quickly clasped both of my hands in his, “My deepest, most sincerest apologies, ma’am. It’s just that I am an energy reader of sorts, I suppose you could say...and yours was telling me you wouldn’t mind our energies merging, so I was giving you time to build up the courage to ask.”
I began quiet, nervous laughter. That had to be the most narcissistic statement I had heard in a long time, if ever. Time for me to ask him? Pssh!
He looked at me confused. Oh no, perhaps he was being earnest.
Oh my God. He could hear my thoughts, or feel my energy as he said. I suddenly remembered I was thinking of him right before he began putting my name in the book.
“One night, it is then, m’lady. Here are your keys.” He suddenly shifted back to an air of complete professionalism.
Quickly finishing up the transaction, he briefly explained the ins and outs to me with a severe efficiency, and with that, I headed to my room.
As I opened the heavy, wooden door, slipped off my shoes, I sighed a sigh of great relief. There in the corner of the vast room, which seemed more like a grand lobby, was an enormous bathtub. Just what the doctor ordered before I got some rest and headed on my way. This is merely a pit stop, but I was pleasantly surprised at the glamour of the room compared with the decrepit nature of the lobby.
I drew my bath, closed my eyes and relaxed into the night.
A single knock on the door.
I cracked my eyes open, looking around, orienting myself to my surroundings. I didn’t do well when I slept in unusual settings. I typically needed a few moments to get my bearings straight. I then remembered I was at the rickety hotel in the middle of nowhere. Why was someone knocking on my door?
I glanced at the clock: 3:33 a.m.
I pulled myself as together as best I could, wrapped my navy silken cover-up around myself, and cracked the door open. It was still dark, so I could barely make out the face, but I certainly recognized the voice.
“Good morning, Miss Rebecca. I apologize for the extremely early morning wake up, but I had a report from the shop keep next door that your tire is flat on your vehicle. I can call to set up service so you can leave in the morning, if you so wish?”
“Oh…” I was still foggy, trying to process that I had a flat tire and perhaps there was a quick, easy solution. “Yes, that sounds wonderful, Mr. Rhodes, thank you.”
As he was saying something about a good day, I began closing the door and went back to sleep.
I awoke to the memory of mere hours before. I got myself ready and walked to the lobby to see where my car was in the process.
I stood by the counter, looking around. Mr. Rhodes was nowhere to be found.
A voice from behind me gently stirred, “I tried the closest place...two hours away...They are closed on Sundays...I will try again tomorrow.”
I turned around to face him. This time, his uniform had changed to a deep, navy velvet. Same style, different color. His hair was darker now too. Perhaps my memory was faulty, but I could’ve sworn his tresses were a platinum blond. He greeted me with raven black strands, some falling into his light, ocean green eyes.
After a beat, I realized what this meant for my stay. And I paused for another beat of indignant suspicion. “Wait! Did you do this to my tire on purpose? So I’d stay another night?”
He put his hands up. “I would never vandalize property, this I can assure you.”
“Sorry. I just...I can’t believe this. What are the odds!” I threw my hands in the air out of frustration. I was supposed to be in a city two hours away speaking at a writer’s convention that I clearly would not be making in time. My burgeoning career would take yet another hit.
“Well, it looks like you’ll be here awhile, so let me treat you as my one and only guest. Each meal, hand made by yours truly. Would that make your stay so bad?”
Why was he being so accommodating? Oh yes, I reminded myself, business wasn’t exactly booming. I suppose if I had a single customer, I would hold onto them for dear life too.
“What’s on the menu for breakfast?” I decide to let down my walls a little bit. He had proven himself a few times now. I couldn’t hold out forever.
“Whatever you’d like…Here….”
He took my hand, and whisked me to the dining area. It was a place in the mansion that he had clearly designated and designed specifically for the purposes of cooking and entertaining simultaneously. There were multiple instruments, cooking stations.
“Have a seat, my most honored guest.” he said in his impeccable British accent.
I sat on the most comfortable chair in what seemed like the most interesting, antique haunted kitchen entertainment area. How could I even begin to describe or name such a unique area? I was intrigued by Mr. Rhodes, to say the least. The more he revealed, the more I leaned in closer to his mystery.
“A drink for the gorgeous lady?” He opened the refrigerator door.
“Ahh, after these past few days, I could use a stiff drink...how about a glass of some crisp, cool white, since it’s breakfast time, whatever you’ve got...surprise me!”
He smiled and quickly apparated to his wine cellar and within seconds was back with a bottle of champagne. It appeared to be glowing or shimmering.
“France 1918, believe it or not. This one is well-aged.”
As he began pouring my cup. It was sparkling with golden flecks when he handed it to me. The man was magical, was he aware of his powers? I wondered.
As I began sipping my bubbly, he asked for my breakfast preference. “Oh, surprise me again!”
He laughed. “Non-committal, I take it?” He raised a brow.
“Hmm. I suppose, in a way...but especially when it comes to food.” I nodded my chin in approval of my statement.
He walked towards the kitchen and got to work. I began staring out of the windows accented by Gothic archways. It was lovely and the view was even lovelier. An English side garden, with rows and rows of colorful roses—the brightest pinks, yellows, and blues. I apparently picked the perfect time to see them bloom.
Just as I began getting lost in thought from staring at the beauty that is the flowers, a cup of tea was set before me on the table.
“Your highness.” Mr. Rhodes bowed.
In his Butler uniform, he seemed so regal and formal, but something told me he was warm and even slightly flirty underneath it all.
“Thank you, kind sir.” I smiled at him.
He quickly apparated back to the kitchen and I turned back to the window.
The next morning I awoke for breakfast around 7 AM.
As I rounded the corner, I saw an apple with a note attached with a string of yellow yarn on its stem. It read:
May you have the best day.
Clutching my apple, I looked around. A cool breeze swept across my back.
“I mean it.” He nodded towards the note in my hand. “Your chariot awaits, my dear.”
He held out his delicate hand. It was icy to the touch.
He began humming a familiar childhood tune as thunder clapped very near. “Merrily, merrily, merrily…” he started singing under his breath.
"A nice song." I nodded.
He opened the door for me to walk to my car. I could hear the same song he was humming, quietly playing in the distance, almost as though it were through a phonograph. He leaned in and planted a soft kiss on my cheek.
“Safe travels, my fairest Rebecca.”
I walked towards my car, opened the door, and turned around to meet his glance one last time.
All I saw was a majestic bright blue, cloudless sky on the sunniest day I'd seen since my arrival at the hotel.
In some spooky, supernatural turn of events, both the building and Mr. Rhodes had completely disappeared. I slowly blinked my eyes in astonishment and confusion as the music reverberated in my ears.
Merrily, merrily, merrily.
...Was it all but a dream?