The hallways, labyrinthine, wide and ghoulish, attracted her in a weird manner, as if her feet were eager to feel the touch of the cold hardwood floor and explore that fascinating place. For some reason, Pauline could not stop thinking about it; she sighed, tossed and turned in the imponent matress that she laid on, faced the ceiling and counted sheep, however she could not sleep. Every now and then her eyes met the eyes of the big oil portrait that hanged in her room; it was a woman, fair and pale, with unsettling big brown eyes and some sort of mocking smile. Pauline kept trying to remeber where she had seen her before, but no results came out of that labor. Maybe that unsettling sense of familiarity was one of the reasons that kept her from falling asleep.

When Pauline went to that hotel with her family, she felt as excited as a young child in Christmas morning, her, that never was excited about a thing. Her family was supposed to be in a tiresome road trip to visit her uncles; however, because of the overwhelming amount of rain, plans had been changed and a little detour took her to this peculiar place. It was surprisingly cheap, considering that the house was an authentic old mansion. But it was, after all, October, in the middle of the english countryside, where the rain fell with no rest and mud was all around; it seemed only fair that it didn't cost much to spend the night.

The house was Victorian, said the old lady who owned it; on those rooms, her relatives grew up and built relationships, cried of sadness and overflowed with joy, lived and died in days that would not come back. The walls were filled with their portraits, she told them. The house was the only thing keeping them alive, and now - consequences of our economy - she had to make something out of the place in order not to lose it.

"People find it rather extravagant. They enjoy it." She smiled as she said it. "It brings memories of times gone by." 

"The only thing I recommend is to, please, do not wander during the night." She recommended afterwards. "People get lost. We don't have numbers on the doors and there are way too many rooms and hallways. We don't want any inconveniences, do we?"

No, we don't, Pauline answered. Her mother and father also did. And yet, she could not take out of her mind the idea of leaving her chamber, walking around the place intrusively, rummaging through the memories of that old lady as if they were pages on a book. She couldn't recall a moment in her life when she felt such an urge; she wasn't normally that curious. Pauline was always the type of girl who had no problem in leaving things alone, as they are. Besides that, she had the spirit of a follower; it was rare to find someone like sweet Pauline, that did exactly as told everytime, smiling and nodding submissively. Yes sir, yes m'am! Those were Pauline's favorite words. And oh, how she loved to be the role model of perfect obedience. And yet there she was - was it even really her? - urging to break that one, single rule she was asked to obey.

Before she even realized, she was sitting down in her bed, her legs swinging, because it was such an tall mattress, and suddenly she remembered what day it was. Chills went down her spine, and for some reason the quick realization that it was Halloween was the crucial factor that boosted her to stand and decisively walk out of her bedroom. The door didn't make a noise; she was now in the hallway.

The old lady was right, there were no numbers on the doors, Pauline noticed. She wasn't even quite sure whether her parents were next door on in front of her room. She followed all the way down the shadowy, dingy hallway, where she found the main staircase, wide and opulent. From up there she could see the main hall, completely empty and lit with just the moonlight. There was something poetic about it, she thought as she faced it. 

Weird, peculiar thoughts crossed Pauline's mind. She didn't feel scared in the least; in fact, she had that vivid sense of expectation in the pit of her stomach . She knew that it was cold, but didn't quite feel it; her skin was not molested by the gelid air, and when a hand touched her shoulder from behind, it didn't startle her, as if it was expected. 

- Who is it? - Her voice resoned in the silent place while Pauline still faced the staircase. 

The hand left her pale skin and a man showed himself in front of her. It was a slender figure, so pale he seemed to gleam in that dim light. Dark locks adorned his head, waves of a raven sea; his eyes as green as emeralds, narrow, the eyes of a gypsy, were fixated on Pauline's face as if she was herself a painting. The man's features were overrall intriguing, not beautiful, but bewitching in some form. He took Pauline's hand and kissed it with his cold, rosy lips.

- I have been waiting for so long. - The man spoke. His eyes gleamed with joy.

- For what? - Pauline replied in a barely audible whisper.

- Come, give me your hand.

She gave him her hands and his touch felt as the touch of a corpse. Then, he guided her down those stairs as one guides a child, looking back at her with a loving smile at every step. Something about him was familiar in a comforting way, almost as the feeling one gets when coming back to a childhood place. She knew they had met once before, or many times before. She knew him.

Once they reached the botton, the man took her to the center of the hall.

- I thought you would never arrive. - He whispered to her. 

- I promised I would. - The words left her lips without her permission, and yet she did not take them back.

- Dance with me, my love. 

He took her left hand and placed his at her waist. She didn't resist that gesture. Pauline had never danced the waltz, and yet she knew that her hand should go on his shoulder; she was aware of when she should turn, of when she should walk back and when she should walk forth, just like one knows how to chew and how to blink, how to smile and how to sleep. They twirled and twirled at the rythym of silence, their feet moving ethereally; in every movement the man felt more as an old friend, maybe an old lover.

During that dance, an awkward realization came to the girl. For the first time in her life, she felt truly as if she existed; she became suddenly conscious that her entire life was as a movie she watched in a tiny black and white TV. Now, however, dancing with him, she was truly herself. That was the moment she had been expecting, eagering, desiring for so long. She knew that man from those fantasies one has when one is caught in the peculiar place between sleep and awareness. He was the one Pauline always missed; the meeting of their lips while they waltzed was the lattermost proof of it. 

They danced for a long time, and while they twirled around the silent hall, the old lady watched from afar, barely able to contain her joy. For years and years she had dealt with the uncertainty; would the Lady return, as she promised, or the final vow was simply provenient of an dying woman's feverish mind? Her grandmother, her mother and all before her had kept the house there, opened for visitors, in the hope that the sweet Lady would come back to the arms of her lover, who still wandered through the lonesome house during the dawn, waiting for his love to return, even after his death. Now she knew. 

Now, all was well. 

October 31, 2019 10:52

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Deanna West
05:29 Nov 27, 2019

Awww, it's a creepy yet intimate love story. Very well written.


Theodora Simões
14:43 Dec 13, 2019

Thank you so much!!


Deanna West
04:08 Dec 15, 2019

Very much welcome!


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