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Creative Nonfiction Mystery

Caroline had an affinity for dogs and design. Her parents promised her that once they moved, Caroline’s passions would be a priority. These words were intended to convince or offer a quid pro quo as they were moving Caroline, a junior in high school, to another state. The home had property which would allow Caroline to raise her beloved golden retrievers in the rear yard. Additionally, design opportunities were abundant within this classic center hall colonial which sits atop a hill, deep in the woods, where neighbors could not be seen.

Caroline’s beautiful white carpet was just installed in her bedroom. Her newly discovered love of antiques had inspired the décor of her room within her parents recently purchased country home. This styling was a huge departure from her previous bedroom located on the 30th floor of a 1975 modern hi-rise building. Dramatically she showcased her bed against a stark black wall. She had an ensuite with a private balcony. All adorned in black, wicker, and posters. Inspiration for this serious change in taste was a relief for her parents as she now desired chinoiserie and old-world furniture. While antiquing in Nyack, New York, she happened upon a dresser over 100 years old, with gothic spears flanking the attached oval shaped mirror. Rich red oak wood finishing with patina brass pulls set up this piece of furniture as a significant focal point. Custom white wooden plantation shutters that secured privacy were already in the room placed by the girl who lived there before Caroline, who was just about the same age. A bent-wood rocking chair, a skirted table covered in the same pink and white silk-moire fabric that covered the walls, a color filled Tiffany Lamp, a gift from her Grandmother, with the lux white carpeting, all became just the right touches to finish the enchanted feeling of the room.

Evenings at her new digs offered a dark moody experience. She listened with eyes closed to the sounds of the country. Crickets rubbing their feet together, as coyotes howled, topped off by rustling leaves, all under a dark moon.  

The attic creaked above her bedroom sparking lots of thoughts, but one adjusts when it happens with regularity. Her family described it as house settling, but she always wondered how long it might take a house to finish settling. This house was not young. She laid in bed and stared up at the ceiling wondering if its friend or foe? Should she be fearful? Perhaps a friend. But oddly, she felt safe and guarded in her new home even though she felt a sense of being watched. Staring into the darkness, she noticed a slice of light peeking through her closet door. Where was this light coming from? The closet light was not turned on. The closet door was difficult to close as the new thick carpet prevented smooth even movement. 

Caroline’s mother Anita would proudly show the house to her friends taking them all around and describing each room and its usage. Caroline’s room received the most praise for beauty but more interestingly for creating an emotional response. It brought people back in time. Often sensing a feeling of warmth and security. Described as a delicious hot chocolate after coming indoors from a punishing blizzard. Some said it was a heady sort of feeling, with definite messaging. She loved hearing about people's reaction and would anxiously wait for her mother to report the tours and the responses that it would inspire.

Caroline’s family lived in that home for 30 plus years. Caroline was married on the grounds. There were 4 births, 4 deaths, countless holidays, and celebrations. The house was magical. Everyone who passed through its doors felt it. Visitors were frequent and always wanted to come back. No one wanted to leave…ever!

Caroline’s Grandma Rose, passed away after a long illness. She had moved up to the family home from Florida, as she needed custodial care. The house was unusually quiet on the day that Grandma Rose passed. She lived in the house for 4 years. Shiva was held at home. Lots of people in attendance coming and going for 4 days. Grandma’s unsettled spirit was with us as we sat Shiva. She loved her family very much but shared an unusual connection with Caroline. She wanted to be sure that each person received a personal message. One by one she reached out. At first the family was frightened by her apparition, but our bewitched home seemed to aid Grandma in her final messaging, as we began to embrace the experience.

 Anita heard sounds like her mother calling to her. She opened her eyes to see an illusion of her mom at the end of her bed. Anita felt a calm and peace wash over her and wondered if it were real or a dream, until someone working in the house confirmed hearing Grandma Rose calling Anita’s name. Grandma Rose appeared willowy, pure, and translucent, as she rose slightly above the end of the bed hovering for a few moments as if to say, “I’m okay” before disappearing into nothingness. Anita was overcome by the scent of her mother’s perfume. It was just seconds, but it was powerful.

Grandma’s spirit seemed to want to reassure her family as she moved toward Caroline’s room. The closet door gap had widened slightly allowing more light to seep in. Caroline was awakened by Grandma’s scent and noticed the attic was unusually quiet that evening, as if the spirit’s focus were placed elsewhere.

Grandma loved to cook and entertain guests. Cooking for her family presented her with great pleasure. She made a scrumptious apple cake that was everyone’s favorite and her signature faire. Appearing on one of Grandma’s own cake plates was her freshly baked apple cake, but no one laid claim to it. Duplication was not possible as there was no specific recipe. She folded in the ingredients by feel, not measurements.

Caroline her heart and her true motivation was to receive her final essence. The sweeping staircase displayed photos representing 5 generations of family. Only pictures of Caroline and Grandma were selected to be placed neatly, right side up, leaning carefully against the wall, exactly below where they usually hung. One last message went to Caroline. Her precious antique Tiffany Lamp was laying on its side, unplugged, as if to say, “I'm gone now.”

It was 1999 when Grandma Rose passed. The family home was sold in 2002. A young couple purchased the home. No children. Caroline and her family did not stay in contact with the new owners of 55 Cavalier Path. One day in 2021, 46 years later, Caroline received an Instagram message from someone asking if she was the same Caroline Mavery  that lived at 55 Cavalier. Caroline responded, “Yes, who is this?” My name is Madeline and I currently live at that address. I am 16 years old and grew up in this house. I was wondering if I could send you a picture and ask you a question?” Caroline replied “Of course, I would love that. I think about the house all the time. I miss it so. As a matter of fact, I was thinking about it recently and I’m amazed that you should reach out at this time after so many years.” Caroline was in great anticipation trying to imagine her question. She found it curious that the child was reaching out and not her parents. Madeline finally sent the picture. It was Caroline’s bedroom. The silk-moire wallpaper gone. The room now modern with the color scheme of grey and white. She did recognize the windows which still had her white wooden shutters attached and spied the light fixture in the hall, a brass horseshoe, once adored by Caroline. Madeline asked, “Did you find that the closet door opens nightly allowing light to stream into the room and creaking sounds that come from the attic?”

July 22, 2021 16:53

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3 comments

Nina Chyll
08:58 Jul 29, 2021

Hi, you’re in my critique circle this week! This reads a little more like a chronicle than a short story. As an interlude in a longer, action-filled piece for slowing down the pace a little, it would work fine, and it’s got a charm and a simplicity to it that would give the reader some reprieve. But I’m not sure it stands up as a free form. I think if you zoomed in on some singular events, some exciting anecdotes from the household, it could add some spice. It would also do it well to raise the stakes, so that the entire narrative hinges on...

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Noelle C. Lee
18:08 Jul 29, 2021

Hi Nina, I am so thankful for your critique. I am brand new at this and providing real criticism is something that I long for... Believe it or not, this was a true story, of course with exaggeration here and there, but the new inhabitant actually did get in touch with me to ask that very question! I found it difficult to reword since I was dealing in truth! I clearly understand your points and they are beyond helpful. Many many thanks!! Noelle

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Nina Chyll
07:38 Jul 30, 2021

Ha! Amazing. Sometimes life can be so unbelievable - perhaps that person was in their angsty teenage years? Leaving that line in would be fair enough if the character was sketched out as a little over the top, I reckon. You’re very welcome and I hope I was of some help. I do worry sometimes that I’m perhaps too harsh but I’m glad you took my words in good faith which is precisely how they were meant.

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