People say it isn’t as heartbreaking when you’re older. That you will understand that people die, that it is okay. I can’t though. The loved ones, their vivid faces appear in my dreams, disturbing my peace, waking me up in cold sweats. All I can think about is the hurtful words I said in the past. They only cared for me and loved me with an unending passion. I now know what my mother meant when she said, "You will thank me later, I am just the beginning..." My scar has been ripped open with a fresh wound joining the old. Both of my parents are gone forever, I thought as I brushed my fingers over a picture of the two of them "together again, after so many years".
There was a knock on the door. A thin white envelope shoved its way through the brass mail slot and landed on the slick cherry wood floor. My terrier, Jasper, flew into the hallway; his unclipped nails rasping against the varnish as he bounded and slid to a stop around the corner. I ran in after him knowing the envelope would be in slobbery pieces if I let him reach it first. Bending down I grabbed the envelope scrutinizing the address as I shuffled back to my seat at the round glass kitchen table, pushing Jasper away as he leapt for the note. The letter was unsealed; I turned it upside down and let its contents fall onto my pink flowery plastic placemat. Two sheets of paper and a large rusty key lay before me. One of the documents was clean, folded neatly, and conveyed 4 short sentences in Italic cursive.
Ms. de Frait,
My condolences to the loss of your father. He has left the family castle in France, with all of it’s belongings and your entire family’s savings to you being that you are the last living relative. The key is in the envelope, do with it what you will. Directions to the castle are written on the back of this sheet; although I’m sure you remember the way.
Johnathan Ramsey was my family’s attorney before they all passed. I set this letter down and picked up the other paper. It was yellowing and musty, obviously very old. The ink was almost faded but, the words were easy enough to read. It was the deed to the castle. I remember visiting it in Paris every year until I was seventeen. Distant memories of my younger years were now flooding back. Before I even reached for the key I had already decided that a visit to the castle would be a good distraction.
My red and white Mini Cooper was cramped and uncomfortable. Jasper was growling at an innocent pedestrian walking by while I was parking in the only space left. We had finally arrived at the Piccadilly underground. The hallways were crowded with bustling Londoners. After wrestling Jasper into his plastic carrier I gave him to an attendant to put with the other animals in the back carrying room. I got my ticket checked and I climbed onto the train. Walking through the train to my cabin, I stared out the window and watched a young couple kiss and hold each other, saying their goodbyes like my mom and dad did before he and I left for Paris so many years ago. She never much cared for France, therefore never came with us, she told me it had too many smells and too much romance, and that "romance is for people who have nothing better to do, Londoners always have something to do". My dad and I never agreed with her, the smells and romance in France has kept it alive.
The squalls of babies and the rumble of conversations were interrupting my thoughts. I was being shoved into the tiny train compartment by a frustrated attendant. The room had a row of blue plastic seats, a rectangular window, a table and a bed on the left wall. I slid the door shut behind me barring the noise out. Immediately I plopped myself on the hard bunk bed and was asleep.
She was submerged, the darkness of the alley hid the scarlet flush gone of her face, blue eyes glassy, hands clasped as if in pleading. His firm steps were slow and hesitant against the eroding concrete. There was an object in his smooth left hand that glimmered, silver shadows reflected on his face. He found her cold and gone. Matters were out of his hands now. Raising the sparkling diamond stake to the full moon he brought it back down to his soulless heart.
The train stopped with a jolt that welcomed me back to my surroundings. "Bonjour Mademoiselle, I am sorry to wake you, but we are at the station, it says on the guest list you brought a dog, he will be brought to you momentarily," said an attendant in broken English that opened the door a crack, but then closed it. As I thought of the eerie dream that I just had, perspiration was trickling down my back and forehead, there was a folded up towel on a table in the cabin that I pressed to my face. The two hours had been swift in passing. There was a knock and the same French man brought Jasper in his carrier into the small room, Jasper probably barking at him the whole way. I handed him a few Euros and then I was alone again. Tucking the dream away for later I bent over to gather Jasper and my carpetbag.
Rain began to pour in the mid-afternoon as I sprinted over to the shiny black cab. I was disgruntled and annoyed with the expensive amount of the short drive. Getting dropped off at the beginning of the winding brick steps going up to Chateaux de Frait, I let Jasper out on his red cloth leash. We ran to the overhang above the doorstep. There was no need to gaze in awe at its ancient gothic beauty, past memories returned. As I turned the key, brushing spider webs and bits of rusty metal flakes off my hand, the large wooden round-top black door creaked open and the acrid smell of decay washed over me when I stepped in. Jasper sneezed as I closed and locked the door behind us. I empathized with him; both of senses tingled, ready to pass out with the smell. There was a silver light switch next to the archaic door hinge. When I flicked it up a surprisingly new set of electric light bulbs popped on filling the long hallway with an orange glow that ricocheted off the bumpy gray-brown stone walls. The cab-driver followed in with my suitcases, I had already paid him, though the fare seemed like it was enough.
I dropped my threadbare blue carpetbag in the hallway on the multi-colored frayed rug in the foyer and sidled into the room down the corridor. Aimlessly my hand ran along the rough damp stone wall, making my fingertips bounce slightly against it. Before I took my first step, I flicked on the lights again. The brilliance compared to the soft orange light of the passageway made me squint as the bulbs from the chandeliers came to life. My mouth dropped to form a gaping puzzled expression. I had completely forgotten about the beauty of this place. The room was colossal. The library was a dome shape that reached all the way down to the floorboards. The mahogany wood floor was covered with dust. Each step I took left an impression on the wood. I bent down and inscribed my name upon the dust causing me to sneeze. Eventually I glanced up at the ceiling following the arches and loops.
There was a vast captivating painting across the entire ceiling. The art was alive; I could picture the people moving, laughing. The aged volumes were so numerous encircling the whole room with their stories. Each book resided in its own home on the angular shelves. But, the most prized possession in the library wasn't the books on the shelf, or the paintings permanently stained on the wall, it was floating above it all. Suspended by rope, a boat hung in the center of the ceiling, stationary like a windless day on the water. The same boat my father and i use to row in when we'd take it on vacation to the Mediterranean, right before my mom passed away. After she died, my father decided to retire the boat to the library and it has been there ever since. Blowing on the spines of the books to read them I realized, It was all horrifyingly beautiful, my eyes burned, the world was spinning, I actually owned this inhuman heaven. The salty tears brimmed over and I laughed and jumped uncontrollably. The tears landed on the floor leaving spots of happiness. This was the first time I’ve laughed since my father’s death.
Even the carved reading tables and squishy velvet chairs were warm and inviting. The fireplace looked lonely though. I decided to move two large maroon chairs on either side. Stepping backward I graded my work giving myself an approving nod. Turning around I noticed a piano with yellowing ivory keys hidden in a corner. Gliding to the instrument I wheeled it into the open.
I could hear his quick breaths and quick feet. Jasper, flopping ears and lolling pink tongue came galloping in dragging my carpetbag along the floor behind him with the strap in his mouth. He crossed the room excitedly bounding towards me. I had forgotten about him in my fit of happiness. He must be starving. I jogged over to my carpet bag and took out his favorite treats. "Cow liver and pig snouts right boy, yum?" His short stub of a tail was wagging crazily. I patted his head nonchalantly already back in my other world.
I opted to move on to the next "arena." There were no electric lights in this next room, but large rectangular windows bounced gleaming rays everywhere. One part of the room caught my eye, a large spiral staircase stood behind me and I realized I had found the staircase of my youth. I remember the feeling of my hair fluttering around. I would fly down the banister laughing with childish amusement when I landed into my father’s loving arms. A sad smile flitted across my face.
The windows portrayed the magnificent rolling green acres of land. I stared out over the ledge; and concluded to open one of the smaller windows sucking in the fresh musky smell of rain. Turning around I trailed off up the stairs allowing my hand to slide up the smooth banister. At the top I straddled the rail and slid down landing with a tumble. There was a giddy feeling in my stomach and I walked up stairs and discovered my old bedchamber to the right of the staircase opening. The sunset glowed through the blotchy windows brightening the bedroom.
I chose this to be my room for the time being. There was a comfortable bed and a nice view of the garden from the rooms outside balcony. Before I go to sleep I would have to shake out the dust and mites from the untouched sheets. For now I had to leave to buy essentials for my stay. I looked for Jasper for 15 minutes and was content to find that he had been snoozing quietly under the piano. I softly whispered for him to be a good boy while I was gone and planted a treat by his nose for when he wakes up.