Life In The Manor
By Mavis Applewater
For disclaimers see part one.
A big thank you goes out to my beta reader Mary.
As always this is for Heather.
Stewart, Massachusetts 1912
‘In many ways my new sister seems to be a kindred spirit.’ Anna thought happily as she brushed out her hair before preparing to retire. The taller woman seemed as disgusted and distrusting of the Captain as Anna was. Catherine Stratton seemed to strain herself during the evening meal each time Horatio spoke. It was evident to Anna, at least, that the woman was fighting an internal battle in an effort to refrain from informing her older brother that he was nothing more than a pompous bullying blow hard. At least that was how the tall blonde referred to him once the two of them had retreated to kitchen to clean up the dinner dishes.
The only regret Anna possessed regarding her newfound friend was that she would probably grow weary of the Captain’s bullying and simply leave. Anna sighed heavily already regretting the day Catherine would leave her. She placed her brush down on the bed and went to the door. She was careful when she opened it, not wanting to awaken the Captain. The last thing she wanted was one of his late night visits. She listened carefully to ensure that he wasn’t wandering about. When she heard nothing except the wind she shyly stepped out of her room closing the door quietly behind her.
She crept along the hallway and up the staircase to the third floor. She felt her heart flutter as she timidly raised her hand to knock on the door. Her body trembled slightly as the door opened a little. Her heart leapt when she was captured by Catherine’s warm smile. “Good evening Sister.” She stammered shyly as Catherine continued to smile at her.
“Good evening Sister.” Catherine responded warmly her voice caressing the nervous Anna’s fragile heart.
“I just wanted to see if you were settled in for the evening.” Anna explained suddenly feeling silly for her late night visit. “Is there anything you need?”
Anna timidly looked up at the taller woman when she failed to respond. At first she would have sworn that Catherine was blushing. Anna brushed aside the foolish notion quickly realizing that it must have been the dim lighting playing tricks on her. “I’m fine thank you Sister.” Catherine softly responded.
“Well then I bid you a good night and sleep well.” Anna said suddenly feeling reluctant to leave.
“Sleep well.” Catherine echoed as she leaned down and lightly brushed her lips against Anna’s cheek.
Anna released a small gasp as she felt her sister in-law’s body brushing against her own. She felt flush and her skin burned where Catherine’s lips had touched her. “Good night.” Anna stammered quickly before fleeing from Catherine’s gaze. She felt a wash of confusion and heat coursing through her body as she quickly retreated back towards her own bedroom.
“What are you doing out of your room!” Horatio demanded as he blocked her bedroom door. She trembled as he glared down at her. “Well?” He fumed.
“I was just checking on Sister.” She quickly explained as her eyes darted down to the floor.
“Leave her be.” He scoffed. “I wish to be rid of her as soon as possible.” He grabbed Anna roughly by her arm. “I have need of you tonight.” He coldly explained as he closed the bedroom door behind them.
Anna felt sick as she nodded in understanding before removing her nightgown and climbing onto her bed. She reclined and waited for him with her eyes closed as she waited to hear the bed creak as he joined her. She said a silent prayer that he would be quick about his duties and leave. She never understood why he still demanded her services, since he seemed extremely displeased with her.
Catherine seemed distant in the morning as they prepared the morning meal. “The servants leave every day at dusk and do not return until after the morning meal?” Catherine finally inquired as Anna went about preparing her husband’s breakfast.
“Yes.” Anna answered with a smile happy to finally hear her sister in-law’s voice.
“Always?” Catherine asked still avoiding looking at Anna. “Even when he is away?”
“Yes.” Anna answered sadly not understanding why Catherine refused to look at her. All Anna could think about last night was the chaste kiss the blonde had placed on her cheek. There had been something in Catherine’s touch that held her captive even as the Captain was making his feeble attempt in her bed.
Silence once again loomed around them as they continued preparing the meal. “Have I done something to offend you Sister?” Anna finally inquired; weary of the silence that was strangling her.
“No.” Catherine flatly responded her gaze meeting Anna’s for a brief moment.
Anna cringed as she caught the accusing look in the blonde’s eyes before Catherine looked away. “He is my husband.” Anna asserted feeling suddenly betrayed.
“I understand.” Catherine muttered in a weak voice.
“Do you?” Anna harshly asked.
“Yes.” Catherine sighed as she looked at Anna her eyes filled with sadness and regret.
“Don’t pity me.” Anna coldly responded before she turned away her arms filled with plates of food.
“I don’t.” She heard Catherine’s weak sob from behind her.
Later that day Anna still felt the anger lingering as she tried to distract herself by working in her garden. She felt her skin prickle as a shadow was cast over her. She didn’t need to turn or look up to know that Catherine was standing above her. “I’m sorry Sister.” Catherine offered as Anna ignored her and focused on her precious flowers. “I forget my place. It was wrong of me to say or imply anything.” Anna could feel the anger and tension slipping away as she was lulled in by the soothing sound of Catherine’s voice. “I just cannot abide the way he treats you.” The blonde finally blurted out.
“Nor can I, but I have no choice.” Anna explained weakly as she finally lifted her gaze to look up at the taller woman who looked nervously down at her. She shielded her eyes so she could see Catherine more clearly. “I can’t even vote.”
“There are places where you could.” Catherine offered in a conspiratorial whisper as she knelt down beside Anna. The smaller woman smiled at Catherine’s sudden playful attitude.
“So you wish to whisk me away to California?” Anna played along.
“If I could.” Catherine responded in a suddenly serious tone.
Anna was taken aback by the strange sense of warmth that spread through her body from Catherine’s simple jest. Catherine looked around nervously as Anna wondered if the woman was teasing her. “You could divorce?” Catherine suggested in a hushed tone.
Anna clutched her bosom as she felt a wave of panic rush through her. “And then what?” Anna responded with fear as she looked around to ensure that no one was nearby who would hear their conversation and go running to her husband. “Lose my son? My home? Without an education or a penny to my name. My family won’t take me in since it was my father who sold me to your brother.”
“But you’ve thought about it?” Catherine encouraged her.
“Yes, I’ve considered fleeing with my child.” Anna confessed. “Taking Richard and running off one night while the Captain is away at sea, never to look back, and to be truly free for the first time in my life. Yes, dear Sister, I have thought about it every day since the moment the Captain placed this cursed band on my finger.” Anna was almost shouting as she held up her hand and showed Catherine the simple gold wedding band that to her signified her enslavement. She calmed herself before she continued. “As I’ve said, I have nowhere to go. And do you think that the Captain would simply allow me to leave?”
“No, my brother is very careful when it comes to his possessions.” Catherine bitterly acknowledged. “He would never allow you to leave or free his heir from his grasp.”
“No he wouldn’t.” Anna agreed in a defeated tone. “I doubt that he cares for either of us, but it would wound his pride. He would never allow us to be free.”
Anna felt a warm tingling as Catherine brushed her fingers across her cheek. “I wish I could bring light to your eyes.” Catherine sadly admitted as her fingers lingered on Anna’s face.
“And I to yours.” Anna softly admitted as she covered her sister in-law’s hand with her own. They sat there each unwilling to move as they stared deeply into one another’s eyes. Anna was experiencing the strangest sensation of excitement as she leaned into Catherine’s touch.
New York City, 2003
“So just how does one acquire a white elephant like Whispering Pines?” Faith yawned as she stirred her coffee. They had been sitting in the small coffee shop she had allowed Miss St. James to drag her to for almost a half an hour, and the smaller woman still hadn’t explained just what it was she wanted.
“The old fashion way, I inherited it.” Miss St. James explained with a sad smile.
“Lucky you.” Faith snorted.
“White elephant is an apt description.” The brunette continued. “Ownership of Whispering Pines is a huge responsibility that sucks you in. You can’t tear it down, or sell it. Despite the trust my grandfather set up renovating it has proved to be impossible over the years.”
“Hard to find good help?” Faith quipped.
“To say the least.” Miss St. James sighed in response. “The noises, the apparitions, the garden in the back blooming over night, and one out of every ten workman running from the kitchen in a blind panic aren’t helpful.”
“So you know?” Faith pried.
“Yes. We’ve always known about the kitchen.” The brunette confirmed. “It can be unpleasant for anyone but if you are batting for the wrong team it can be dangerous. My poor Uncle George was never the same after his one and only visit to Whispering Pines.”
“Uncle George a bit light in the loafers is he?” Faith teased with a knowing smirk. “So hire a straight crew.” Faith suggested with a shrug.
“First off my grandfather was very big on gay rights even before homosexuals called themselves gay. Tolerance and working for change is a lesson he passed on to his children and they passed it on to us.” Delia proudly explained. “Secondly how do you know if someone is in the closet or in denial? That kitchen is the best gaydar on the planet.”
“Oh, so Grandpa was light in the loafers as well.” Faith yawned.
“No his mother.” Delia explained.
“Your grandfather was Richard Stratton?” Faith choked. “That poor man. Wait you know about Anna and Catherine?”
“Yes.” Delia responded. “It wasn’t a secret. I don’t know how my grandfather found out, but he knew that his mother and aunt died because of the love they shared. At least that is the way it has always been explained to us. How did you know?”
“I was there.” Faith tried to explain. “Shawn, I mean Dr. Williams and I saw them together. And I could feel how they felt about one another.”
“And that is why I’ve been looking for you.” Delia began. “In the history of Whispering Pines only six people have ever spent the night in that house. The Captain, Anna, Catherine, my grandfather and, after The Captain’s death, you and Dr. Williams are the only others that have been able to sleep in that house.”
“Trust me I didn’t sleep much.” Faith stammered as the memory of her visit played out in her head. Then she felt the blush rising to her cheeks as she recalled how she and Shawn made love for the first time.
“Miss Charles I’m straight and I’ve never lasted more than an hour in that house.” Delia continued. “Whispering Pines has a secret that you and Dr. Williams finally revealed. Despite what my grandfather knew he was never completely certain that the Captain murdered them.”
“Trust me he did. Dr. Williams saw the whole thing.” Faith blanched. “So what do you want from me?”
“As I said ownership of Whispering Pines is a huge responsibility. And part of that responsibility includes finding and putting Anna and Catherine to rest.” Delia explained. “What I want, what I am asking for is that you and Dr. Williams return to Whispering Pines.”
“Not a chance in Hell.” Faith flatly refused.
“Please hear me out.” Delia pleaded.
“No.” Faith refused once again. “You don’t need me. I’ll be honest I’d love to bring peace to Anna and Catherine. Their fate has troubled me since the day I left that house. But I’m not in any hurry to go back. Dr. Williams is the one who connected with them, and let me tell you she isn’t in hurry to walk back into that house either.”
“Yeah she pretty much said the same thing.” Delia reluctantly admitted. “Only she added not for a million dollars and Julie Roberts strapped naked to her bed.”
“Now that sounds like Shawn.” Faith laughed as she picked up her bag. “I wish you luck Miss St. James, but as I said I wouldn’t be any help. Dr. Williams is the gal you need and knowing her the way I do, I suggest you try finding yourself another psychic.”
“I’m sorry to have wasted your time Miss Charles.” Delia reluctantly conceded. “I just thought if the two of you worked together again it might at least point us in the right direction. Or at least get her to talk about what really happened that night, the book you wrote together was a little vague.”
“Well there is the other problem with your idea.” Faith sadly informed her. “At the moment Dr. Williams and I aren’t on speaking terms.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Delia apologized.
“Me too.” Faith muttered as she lifted her bag onto her shoulder.
“If you don’t mind me asking what happened?” Delia inquired.
“Basically I’m a jackass.” Faith offered in a flippant tone as Delia gave her a strange look. Faith shrugged and left the woman sitting in the coffee shop.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2003
Shawn tightened her suede barn jacket in an effort to fight off the chill. It was a rainy day in Pennsylvania and the house where they were shooting was full of bad energy. She shrugged as she got the nagging feeling that a telephone was ringing. It took her a moment to realize that the telephone was ringing somewhere else. ‘Please I need to find her.’ She distinctively heard Faith saying. She shook her head and tried to focus on the sounds, as they grew quiet and vanished. “Faith?” She whispered as she wondered why her ex-lover’s voice was echoing in her head.
“What was that?”
“Sorry Milo.” She blinked as the strange feeling left her. “What were you saying?”
“I was saying that you’ve been in high demand since Whispering Pines.” The sweaty heavyset man explained. “I wish I had stayed.”
“No you don’t.” Shawn shivered as she responded. “I’ve never experienced anything like that place and I hope I never will again.”
“Still spending the night with Faith Charles might have been worth it.” He snickered.
“Back off Milo.” Shawn hissed not caring for his lecherous tone.
“What ever happened to her?” He asked missing her hostile glare. “She just seemed to drop out of sight.”
“She is back with CNN,” Shawn explained with a hint of sadness in her voice. “Last I heard she was in Afghanistan, probably in Iraq by now.”
“Hmm,” He hummed thoughtfully. “Probably for the best. Couldn’t be much work for her doing this since it is her job to prove that we are nothing but frauds. Whispering Pines ruined her.”
“I suppose,” Shawn muttered as she tried to distract herself. The truth was that Whispering Pines still haunted her. It was a terrifying and amazing experience that brought her and Faith together and later drove them apart. Mentally she understood that Faith was unhappy in her newfound role as her tag along. Emotionally she was hurt by the tall brunette’s sudden decision to run off.
“Shawn?” Milo asked with concern as he reached out to her accidentally grasping the sterling silver bracelet that had been on wrist for months. His eyes fluttered shut as he began to hum in the most disturbing manner.
“Bastard,” Shawn spat out as she jerked her arm away. It was a hazard of traveling with the people she did. Occasionally she would experience what she did to other people and someone, quite by accident, would get a glimpse inside of her.
“I’m sorry,” He quickly apologized as his eyes snapped open. “It was an accident. You and Faith Charles? She is so arrogant and bitchy. Of course she is hot. I’m confused the woman I saw when I touched your bracelet was shy and nervous.”
“Milo,” Shawn fumed. “Drop it. Wait. What do you mean she was shy and nervous that doesn’t sound like Faith?”
“Certainly not the woman I’ve met,” Milo responded with surprise. “But when she was picking out that bracelet she was very nervous.”
“You mean my parting gift?” Shawn sneered as she held the silver band up.
“That isn’t what she meant it to be,” He tried to clarify. “She wanted it to be a promise.”
“Right,” Shawn scoffed as she recalled the last time she saw her former lover. Faith looked exhausted. She pleaded with Shawn to listen to her and accept the bracelet. Shawn had been too angry to listen to what the reporter was trying to tell her. In the end Faith walked away leaving the gift behind. Shawn felt weak when she placed it on her wrist. Now each time she looked at it she had to remind herself that Faith was gone and their romance was over.
“Dr. Williams?” The director called out to her, snapping her out of her thoughts. “We need for you to do your walk through.”
“This place sucks.” Shawn muttered. “I hate places where there has been a suicide there is just so much pain.”
Later that night Shawn returned to her hotel room and called Deb the woman she had been seeing. She really did enjoy Deb’s company, but there was just something missing. As Shawn took a long hot shower she wondered just how long she was going keep lying to herself about her new relationship. At times Shawn understood that being a physic didn’t mean she knew anything when it came to her own life.
Shawn dried off her aching body and threw on a pair of tattered old sweats before reclining on her bed. She stared up at the motel’s drab ceiling as she tried to convince herself that she just needed to give Deb a chance and forget about Faith. Her body erupted in a rash of goose bumps as she felt a familiar sensation invading her. She sat up quickly and stared at the door knowing that there would be a knock at any moment. She also knew whom she would find on the other side. The knock came and she climbed off of the bed. Her palms were perspiring as she reached for the handle. She hesitated placing her hand on the door as she tried to balance herself.
Finally feeling prepared to face her visitor she opened the door. She knew who was waiting on the other side; she just wasn’t prepared to find the woman looking so haggard. “Hello Faith.” She greeted her former lover in a cold tone despite the rapid beating of her heart.
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