Lazarus stopped in front of an immodest manor house.
‘Gabriel had more money than sense...’ he muttered, trying to account for his ex lover’s huge house. The building was in ruins, but it was surrounded by the trees and had its privacy. The bordered windows seemed to glare at them as they approached. Lazarus’ mood was echoed by the aura of the house. Creepy, angry, mourning. Desolate. ‘You go ahead, get out of the day light. I’ll... I’ll come in a minute.’ His voice was barely more than a whisper, his breath clouding around them. Melissa moved into the shade, but didn’t go inside the building.
‘What’s wrong?’ she asked.
‘Just go inside, please.’ Lazarus’ voice cracked hoarsely and the corners of his mouth turned down in an unhappy scowl.
‘O-okay...’ Melissa turned quickly and let herself into the house. Lazarus hardly noticed as the memories he was fighting to hold back spilled over, flooding his mind. The building as it was in his human days swam before his eyes, the grief of the past and present merging. Here he was at home. Here he was cast out. Here he had first killed. He gritted his teeth against the croaky cry that tried to force its way out of him.
‘Gabriel... forgive me.’ He muttered as he blinked the memory away, taking a halting step towards the house. He put a hand to the front door, but looked at the floor, unable to make himself enter. Turning, he dragged himself to the door the servants had used and let himself into the servant’s rooms. He shivered, the layout of the house as fresh in his mind after all these years as it had been when he frequented it. The sun streamed in through holes that had formed in the ceiling and his lips tugged down even further. He wandered through the cramped rooms until he reached the main house, a pull in his stomach making him feel ill. He hugged himself and shivered again, realising suddenly he was only half dressed. Swearing softly, he padded through the house, looking for Melissa.
‘Melissa,’ he said, forcing some volume into his voice as he reached the entrance. She was sat by one of the bordered windows, her chin resting delicately on her hand, her elbows on her knee. ‘Sorry. I just have too many memories in this place. I needed a moment to compose myself.’
‘How did you get in?’ She asked, looking up at him, surprised. ‘And it’s okay, I kinda guessed.’ She trailed off, looking at the floor.
‘Servant’s quarter. Told you he had too much money.’ He grimaced. ‘I’m sorry there won’t be anywhere all that comfortable to sleep; all the beds will have rotted away by now. I think half the ceiling is caved in upstairs too.’
‘It’s okay,’ she smiled half heartedly, ‘I’m used to sleeping on the floor.’ Lazarus just shrugged and turned back to face the way he had just come.
‘I’m gonna look and see if there’s still a lock on the basement, or if I need to find a key.’ He muttered, glancing back at Melissa.
‘Okay. I’ll be fine, I promise.’ She smiled, though in truth, she found the place a little creepy, and Lazarus’ behaviour was hardly helping her. Lazarus walked off without a word and left Melissa to find herself a place to sleep. She looked around the entrance hall and a heavy door to her right seemed to coax her in. Getting up, she pushed into the room and was met with a comfortably dark room, rotten furniture littering the floor. Crumbling shelves lined the walls and she guessed it was once a study room of some kind. Mouldering books were scattered around, long past being readable. Hesitantly, she nudged the mess aside, clearing a space for herself to curl up and sleep.
Lazarus was followed by his echoing footsteps down the stairs to the basement. Only half hopeful, he tested the door. It stuck in its frame and he put more weight into his push. To his surprise, the door was unlocked. No one cared, did they? They just abandoned the place. He choked back his bitter thoughts, slightly relieved he didn’t have to go searching for a key. He shoved the door aside and let himself into the dark, damp cellar. He walked between the untouched racks of wine, looking for a room he had discovered once at the back. He remembered exactly where the door was, without needing a light. He just hoped the key would be just as easy to find.
Running his fingers along the wall around the door, he found the hook the key once hung on, but the key was missing. He cursed under his breath and crouched down, scraping the floor with his hands. Rusty metal scratched his fingers, his heart raced as he picked it up. Praying inwardly that it was the right key, he slotted it into the keyhole beneath the rotten handle. It took a moment for him to realise that the door wasn’t opening because half the key had broken off. It was a small detail that he had failed to notice in the dark. He banged his head on the door, swearing. Using what was left of the key, he tried to unpick the lock, feeling his blood pressure rising as minutes passed him by.
Suddenly the lock gave a promising crunch and he tried the handle. He pulled open the door, dropping the key to the floor again, half expecting a skeleton to fall out into his arms as he faced the room. A disgruntled spider scuttled across the floor by his feet, but nothing more. He didn’t need a light to know what was there. A desk, with paper and a dried up ink well, a pen sitting abandoned beside it. He swore again as tears battled against him. He let them fall, no one to see his weakness. He allowed himself to crumple to the cold floor and weep.