But it still wasn’t finished. So here is the finale.
Sun, Sea and a Cup of Tea – Finale
Jane walked down the street from the apartment complex to the main part of town. She heard a couple of guys wolf whistle as she went past. She smiled to herself. Her fifty-year-old body may not be as slim as it used to be, in fact curvaceouswould have been a kinder description, but clearly, she still had it. Then she heard footsteps behind her. Angela was walking a long behind her wearing a white sarong dress over her black bikini with a black wide-brimmed hat. She wore stylish espadrille wedges on her feet that gave her extra height. Jane felt a pang of jealousy as she realised the wolf whistles hadn’t been for her at all but for Angela’s stunning twenty-something year old figure instead.
Angela walked up to her and gave her a warm smile. “Hi Jane, are you headed into town too? Do you mind if I join you?”
Well it didn’t seem finished and a few people told me that it needed some more, so here is part two.
Jane opened the door to her apartment. To her relief her husband had managed to wake up, all by himself and judging by the sound of the shower was preparing himself for the day ahead. It was twenty minutes past ten and he’d been asleep since eleven o’clock last night. She had heard practically every snore. She was beginning to worry that he’d gone into some kind of hibernation. She’d always suspected he was at least half bear, he was hairy enough from the neck down. When they’d met he had a good head of hair too, but that had since deserted his head like snow deserted the mountains in summer. He claimed that thirty years of marriage to her had caused it to fall out.
She walked over to her open suit case and took out her travel kettle. She knocked on the bathroom door. “Who is it?” Her husband called out. Who does he think it is? She wondered.
Putting on a bit of an accent she replied “It’s Lolita your Spanish maid can I come in and squeeze your bottom?”
It was a lovely hotel and for once it looked exactly like it had in the brochure. The online reviews ranged, like they normally did, from describing it as paradise on earth to an outpost of hell. Ignoring the two extremes most people had posted that they’d had a positive experience, so she booked. For the money, it was reasonable accommodation.
One of the unexpected things that really pleased her was how silent it was. They had chosen to come out of season. It was the middle of September and so the schools were back, thank heavens. She couldn’t think of anything worse than going on holiday and being surrounded by packs of screaming kids. It reminded her painfully of the fact that she couldn’t have any and also made her feel slightly glad of it.
I reposted a short story that I wrote a couple of years ago about the discovery of a secret from the past.
This is the final part:
I flicked through that infernal diary.
No, no mention of her wedding, but I stopped at another entry.
January 7th, 1918
Edgar and Theodore have enlisted. Emma and I both cried and begged them not to go. They looked so solemn. They had to go, they said. Foolish Pride! We had had such a lovely Christmas together, just the four of us and then they had to spoil it but joining the army. The war has been going on in Europe for some time, but America only joined in last year. I never knew why they did. What do we care about Europe?
November 15th, 1918
The war has ended. Finally, we have heard that Theodore and Edgar are coming home. They were both injured in battle and have been recovering at a Hospital in London but they should be home soon. Neither of them wrote about their injuries at all.
Emma and I have been getting on fine, keeping house together. We haven’t had an argument or a fight once, who would have thought it?
This should be the best Thanksgiving ever.
November 22nd, 1918
Both Edgar and Theodore are different now. The war has made them withdrawn. I can understand why Edgar might have been affected by it, he’s lost and eye. Theodore doesn’t seem much damaged, he’s walking awkwardly but I couldn’t detect any other sign of injury at all.
February 14th, 1919
After months of pain down below I finally went to see Doctor Chinnery. He told me what I had begun to fear. My womb is deformed and I will never be able to have children. He told me it was probably something that happened to me as a child. I suddenly remembered when Emma had pushed me out of that tree house all those years ago. It was all her fault. She told me about Theodore’s war injury the other night too. Apparently, he had been shot, in the groin. So at least Emma won’t be having any children either, I don’t think I could bear that!
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I hadn’t gotten over how nasty and resentful Great Aunt Sally was coming across. She had always seemed such a sweet and dear old lady, always handing out sweets to me and my brothers. Clearly, she had been quite different on the inside. The thing that had caused me to pause and reread that particular entry was the bit about not being able to have children. If neither of them could have children then how could my Mother have been born?
I thumbed my way past pages, ever forward, hoping to find some answers. I wish I had stopped there and not read further but I did.
It seemed that they lived together, in this house and been quite happy together. Even Great Aunt Sally’s rantings seemed to die down a bit. I skimmed over snippets of parties and gatherings, Christmases and thanksgivings. Great Grandmother had moved in and eventually died. The passing of years played out in monologue until I stopped at an entry that made me shudder.
April 17th 1935
I had noticed something odd about Emma that was causing me to wonder. Since Christmas she seemed to be gaining a little weight around the middle. It was odd because we ate the same things. Neither of us had much of a sweet tooth. I noticed she had a kind of glow about her too. I challenged her about it and she admitted the truth. All those years stripped away and we were children screaming and shouting at each other, just like in that tree house. She told me she always knew I hated her and she hated me too. She admitted choosing Theodore because I had told her I loved him. Then she admitted that she and Edgar had been enjoying each other’s company. She was pregnant with Edgar’s child. I nearly killed her then. Only one thing stopped me. The thought of that little baby, that sweet innocent child. I decided that I would keep her secret for now. For the baby’s sake.
Then the final entry.
August 19th, 1935
The baby was born. A beautiful baby girl, we’ll call her Alice. Emma had managed to convince Theodore that he was the father. As if he could be capable of it with his manhood all withered, but I suppose love will make you believe anything. Edgar knew, of course, but he was keeping himself well out of it. I moved out of our double bedroom to that room at the end of the landing. I couldn’t sleep with him any longer knowing what he’d done. What Emma had made him do. Now the baby had been born safe, I didn’t wait another minute before I went and told Theodore the truth. He hadn’t wanted to believe me at first. Then he looked at me with dead eyes. How much he had changed from that handsome, blue eyed young man he’d been. The War had started it, but I had just finished it. He was dead on the inside now. Edgar was out in the barn chopping logs, making himself scarce. Theodore stood up and walked out of the house. I saw him through the window, go into the barn. I heard the gunshot too.
I went back upstairs to Emma. She was still sleeping softly. She’d had a hard time of it, but I’d helped her through. She begged me that if anything should happen to her, if she died in childbirth, that I would bring up her little girl. Of course, I would. That was all part of the plan. It was easy in the end, so easy. She always kept that gold locket around her neck. A quick pull was all it took really.
It’s the end now. All that Love and Hate, all those years. We had hated each other but now I was free. I will bury her outside under that tree that Theodore planted not long after we all moved in. Theodore will help me. We’ll bury Edgar too. I’ll lock this book up in the box that my sister loved so much and I’ll put the key in the locket around her neck and bury it with her. Nobody will know, but just for myself, I had to explain, why I killed my Sister today. I hated her, that’s why.
I looked down at the book. I had never felt so chilled in all my life. The Summer’s heat, it was 100 Fahrenheit in the shade, failed to dispel the sudden cold. I shivered uncontrollably.
I remember Grandfather had been a quiet man who barely spoke. He’d died when I was six or seven. My Mother had met and married my Daddy at college and he’d moved in to the family homestead and had me and my brothers. I remember it had been a happy home then, happy families. Mother and Father, Father’s brother, Uncle Peter and his wife Auntie Annie and their sons, my cousins, Bobby and Elwood. My brothers Denny and Will, and of course Great Aunt Sally. She seemed to love all the children running around. How could a woman who had shown them so much love have had such potential for hate? They’d all gone; moved away or passed over. Looking back, that game of happy families seemed so shallow and empty now.
Coming back suddenly to the present, I decided that it was best that this secret died. I didn’t want my brothers reading it, or their children.
I worked with a single-minded purpose that I’d always had. I didn’t have trouble finding wood to burn, or kindling. The dry summer had provided plenty. I built a huge pile of logs over that body and I didn’t let myself think about who it was anymore. I took out a match and lit the pile. It caught straight away, the fire raging through that tinder dry kindling. I then threw the leather-bound diary into the heart of the flames. It seemed to act like a solvent, making the fire explode. Sparks flew up and landed on the timber roof tiles of our family house. Within seconds the house was on fire.
For just a moment I stood there open-mouthed as the flames licked along the roof and down the clapperboard facias. I thought I caught a glimpse of an old lady at the upstairs window, peering out through the lace curtains. Could it be Great-Aunt Sally?
Then I came back to reality. My Mother was in the house. The house was on fire. Quickly I ran into the house and up the stairs. My Mother was still on her bed at the other end of the house. She coughed then and started to stir slightly as I picked her up. She was so frail that I didn’t have much difficulty in holding her up and moving her towards the stairs. The smoke was building up now. I grabbed my handkerchief and put it over my mouth and managed to half-drag my mother down the stairs and out of the front door.
We both lay on the dry grass and watched as the family house burned. I hoped to God that the past would burn with it.
My poor mother was clearly in no fit state to deal with the issues that had suddenly been dumped upon her. The storm knocking over Grandfather’s tree and exposing a body. The locket containing a key to a box kept locked for who knows how many years. Then finally the revelation of Great Aunt Sally’s diary. It had all been too much for Mother and she descended into tears.
I did the best thing I could do. I helped her into her bedroom, made her drink a glass of water containing her sleeping powders and put her to bed. I sat with her until her chest rose and fell in that steady rhythm of deep sleep. Her body looked so gaunt and frail. She had never been a big eater and living on her own, she clearly hadn’t been eating enough to keep her strength up. Any strength she’d had noticeably ebbed away with the shock of recent events. Her pale hair hung in wispy tendrils around her softly lined face. Her eyes were sunken. She looked more like an eighty-year-old rather than a woman in her sixties. In fact, she reminded me of Great Aunt Sally herself, who’d been eight-eight when she passed. The memory of her, reminded me of that leather-bound book I’d left in her old bedroom.
I walked slowly back down the landing to Great Aunt Sally’s bedroom and sat down upon the bed. A musty smell surrounded me as I sank into that old feather mattress. I picked up the diary. Dare I read this, knowing that it will bring me face to face with some dreadful reality? I knew I had to read on, no matter how dark the journey will be. This was a part of my family history. I prepared myself to amble through the past.
The book fell open at the front page, scrawled with those terrible words my Great Aunt had written ‘Why I killed my Sister today.’
It was clear that these words had been written in some time after the first entry below. Although it was the same hand, the fateful words had been written in a shakier less steady hand but was in clearer ink. The entries below appeared to have been written many years early. The ink was faded and it looked like it had been written in one of those scratchy old-fashioned pens.
The first date was December 25th, 1910.
I received this diary for Christmas and this is my first entry. Emma and I were so excited when we discovered Santa Claus had been. Both our stockings that we’d hung at the bottom of our bed were bulging, but Emma’s seemed to be more so than mine. I was pleased with my Christmas Orange and the walnuts. I had four but I think Emma had six walnuts but she hid two and said she’d only had four like me. We both had gifts wrapped in brightly colour paper and string. Emma’s was bigger than mine, as usual.
Well no surprise that my present was this diary, and I am quite pleased with it, but Emma’s present was much nicer. It was a wooden box carved with animals and the wood smelled so nice. I wish I had that box instead. Emma always gets the best. Just because she’s the elder by ten minutes and she has dimples and I don’t. I hate being a twin. Mother said it’s special being a twin because you always have a friend to play with, but I hate it, hate it, HATE IT.
January 30th, 1910
I am recovering in the infirmary because I fell out of our tree house. They were worried I may have been killed. I remember we were playing, Emma and I, but then as so often happened, she said something spiteful so I slapped her and we ended up fighting again. People may have thought it was an accident, but I know better. Emma pushed me. I heard the doctor talking to Mother, I have broken my legs but they will heal but the doctor said I had internal bleeding of the uterus and as such I may have issues in the future. I can’t say I understand much of the words he used but It sounds impressive. Mother came and sat with me and made a lot of fuss over me. It makes a change from Emma getting all the attention.
I flicked over some of the pages. The childish outbursts and pettiness irritated me. I hadn’t known Great Aunt Sally and my Grandmother had been twins, but I had never known my Grandmother at all. It was clear that not every day had an entry, or every week. Sometimes weeks would pass before something was recorded. As I skimmed over a couple of pages, this resulted in travelling through time by a few years, then another entry caught my eye.
August 21st, 1915.
Our first ball. When Mother had said it was time for us to attend our first summer party I was thrilled and so was Emma. We seem to have been getting on better lately and I must admit it is nice to have someone to talk to and share secrets with. Emma always seems to know just what I’m thinking. We have had new dresses made, in a light frothy lacy material. Mine has green trim around the neck, waist and hem whereas Emma’s dress has red ribbons. As we entered the room people stopped and stared at us. I must admit we looked lovely with our long hair neatly curled into ringlets. I couldn’t help but overhear Mrs Paxton say “Don’t they look adorable” as we walked past. Then spiteful Cathy Anderson said “Emma does, I don’t think green suits Sally at all.”
I would have said something back to her, Cathy with her terrible complexion! The Gall of it, but then I saw them. Theodore and Edgar Taylor. They are twins too! They are visiting from Carolina and we spent most of the evening talking together. What gentlemen and what lovely dancers.
August, 25th 1915
I have lost my heart completely. Theodore Taylor is the most handsome man I have ever met. Of course, his brother Edgar is nice too, but Theodore’s eyes are bluer and he is just a bit taller, I think.
September, 3rd 1915
The most horrible thing has happened. Theodore has asked Emma to marry him. Doesn’t he know I adore him? It was all Emma’s doing. She knew I loved him. Why did I tell her? Why? She set out to deliberately steal him from me. I will never forgive her, never, never, never.
June 2nd 1916
So today was Emma’s wedding to Theodore. I didn’t want to go, but Emma begged me to be her bridesmaid. She even shed tears. She could always turn on those tears when she wanted something. I relented in the end. I felt cold inside watching Emma walking down the aisle and Theodore standing there waiting for her. It should have been ME.
Something, at least, has come out of today. Edgar proposed to me. I was sitting outside the church and I couldn’t help shedding a little tear as Emma and my Theodore rode off in that carriage. Edgar thought I was sad to see Emma go, bless him. He actually got down on bended knee and proposed. I said I would have to think about it.
I don’t love him, but I think I will accept. He and Theodore are very close. Much closer that Emma and I will ever be.
I thought it odd that there was no mention of her own wedding day, I skimmed over the pages but I could see no mention of it whatsoever.
It had been a while since I’d been to the family homestead. It was a rambling clapperboard house that at one time housed two extended families. Now only Mother lived there all alone. Walking up the pathway I passed plant after plant that was withering and dying in that long hot summer. It had been months since we’d had any rain.
The door creaked just like it always did as I pulled it open and walked into the relative coolness of the dark hallway. It smelt of wood and beeswax. All the wooden furniture was polished to an incandescentshine. I felt a bite on my ankle. Looking down I saw a solitary ant climbing my bare leg, which I promptly squashed beneath my fingertips. The long hot dry summer had brought out a lot of ants lately. God, how I’ve prayed for rain.
“Mama, where are you? It’s me Laura” I called out, my voice echoing around the practically empty dwelling.
“Laura, is that you? I’m upstairs dear, In Aunty’s room.”
There were a lot of bedrooms upstairs that were practically untouched, except for dusting, since the previous occupants had departed. Her Great-Aunt Sally had lived in the bedroom at the very end of the landing and for the last few years of her life had rarely left it. It was still full of all her knickknacks and memorabilia.
I walked in to find my Mother sitting on the bed crying. I sat next to her and put my arm around her.
“There, there Mama. Great Aunt Sally’s been dead twenty years, why are you carrying on so?”
“No, it’s not that. There was a storm last night and it blew over that old tree, the one that your Grandfather planted not long after he bought this place.”
I still couldn’t understand why she sounded so woebegone. All this fuss about a tree. I couldn’t help feeling some scorn. It was a lovely tree, but It was only seventy years or so old, not really that old as trees went. I gave Mama another hug, but she pushed me away.
“You don’t understand. There was a body buried there, under that tree. The storm brought it to the surface. It was wrapped in a tarpaulin, but it was unrecognisable. There was a locket with it and in it was this key.”
I looked down at the small, ornate brass key in my Mothers frail old hand.
“What was the key for? It’s too small to be for a door.”
“It was the key to this box. No one could open it when she died but we didn’t think there was anything important in it. Not enough to force it open.”
I remembered the beautiful small box, inlaid with scented sandalwood, that now lay on the floor, open.
Also, on the floor, lying as if it had just fallen from my Mothers hand, was a small leather-bound book. The kind used for keeping a diary or perhaps notes and recipes in.
I reached down and picked up the book. I recognised the highly ornate handwriting from birthday cards I had received as a young child. It was Great Aunt Sally’s writing.
Yesterday my Mum came to tea, and looking out at my garden she announced “What an overgrown mess!”
My ears could not believe this terrible calumny! This attack on my green and lush sanctuary, my little recreation of Eden. Then the scales fell from my eyes and I realised that my mother had spoken the truth and I had deceived myself.
I decided to redeem myself and so today I spent some hours doing some major pruning of the garden that has really grown due to all the heavy rain intermixed with short periods of sunshine. A major chopping back was something that the garden really did require and it has left me feeling totally exhausted (but just a bit pleased with my efforts).
Well this was my attempt. Like my friend says about herself, I am not at all familiar with the genre. I never read horror books and I never watch horror films. I am scared stiff of them. I am therefore not a very good judge on whether this story I have written actually meets the requirements of being a Horror Story. Please let me know if you think it works.
I found the map among my Aunts things. Mad Aunt Alice, she’d been cruelly called by my Father. Growing up it had just been my Father, Aunt Alice and me. Aunt Alice had looked after me tenderly, but she never spoke. My Father would order her about, shout at her and even hit her, but she never spoke.
My father always called her Mad. Said that she wasn’t ‘all there’. She’d been like that since a childhood game with an Ouija board had gone wrong. The Devil’s got her tongue and he won’t give it back. That was what my Father said. I never paid no mind to what he said though. He was drunk most of the time. Aunt Alice was always kind to me. She made me dinner and breakfast. Washed my clothes and made sure I went to school. Father went to work then came home and drank. His exercise usually involved smashing something or punching Aunt Alice. She never said a word.
Then one day Father grabbed me by the skirt and pulled me towards him. I screamed at him to let me go. Before I knew it, the Knife had appeared in Aunt Alice’s hand and my father’s head had rolled across the floor. I will never forget his eyes. They put Aunt Alice into one kind of institution and me into another.
She’d overslept again. This was the third time this week!
Luckily, she had only overslept by five minutes and she always allowed enough time to get ready for work. She would have to do something simple with her hair again, no time to blow-dry, just a pony tail.
Walking into the bathroom she checked her face.
Was that a new wrinkle? There just above her right eyebrow?
She didn’t remember seeing it before. She had a few frown lines on her forehead, but who didn’t when they’d passed the thirty mark?
After her shower she slapped on a bit of extra moisturiser, just to try to keep the lines at bay. She also promised herself a spa day in the not too distant future.
Her commute into work wasn’t remarkable. The usual traffic, the usual impatient honking of horns. The idiot who cut into her lane without any indication. Why did people insist on driving without bothering to let others know what they are going to do? They’ll end up on a slab one day in the morgue where she worked.
She worked as a mortician at the local morgue. Not a glamorous job but it was stable, there will always be a constant supply of customers, that was for sure.
As she arrived at work her colleagues all greeted her. It may surprise people to know that people who work in the morgue were actually quite upbeat and friendly. She got on with almost everyone. Of course, she spent most of her time with the customers and they couldn’t answer back or get on her nerves. She probably had the best customers of any company anywhere in the world!
Stan came up to her to give her the news.
“Morning Jenny, you’ve got two new ones come in this morning. Do your best to a make them look nice for their families. One is a lady in her early 90’s who died in her sleep. The other’s a girl in her early twenties, had an overdose, poor thing. See what you can do.”
She went into her studio and looked at her customers. What a contrast.
One was as wrinkled as a burlap sack. There wasn’t much skin that wasn’t wrinkled.
The other was as perfect as a body could be. Not a blemish on it. The face didn’t have a single wrinkle. It was flawless.
And yet, here was a woman who had lived a long life. Who had had children and grandchildren and who, judging from the wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and around her mouth, must have enjoyed a good laugh. The wrinkles were like life’s calling card etched on her body for all to see.
And there was this poor, lovely, unblemished girl who had not really had much of a chance to live life to the full.
She realised who she most wanted to be like.
Never again would she look at a wrinkle in the same way.
It wasn’t a curse, each was a little blessing.
She was lucky to have her wrinkles. So many people didn’t live long enough to get them.
He glanced out of the narrow window at the ships anchored in the harbour. This was the scene that had greeted his eyes every day of his life and it had inspired him to write several novels. Many of his books had Piracy as the main theme. He’d written many of the men who had come off those ships into his novels, embellished to represent a pirate king or a kidnapped victim.
The book he was currently working on was particularly challenging. It was a story or revenge and books about vengeance and retribution require a long time; it is the rule. However, he also knew that brevity was key. People’s attention spans nowadays were shorter and novels were often half the size they used to be. He decided to use a mechanism that was the retreat of many authors faced with this problem. He would use flashback to condense a long time into a handful of pages.
He began writing furiously and with a smile he placed his pen down at the end. He knew he’d penned another great novel. If only there were enough people around who could actually read. The Covid pandemic had killed all the teachers.
This story was written for the 50 Word Thursday Challenge.