FLOWERS FOR THE ATTIC

FLOWERS FOR THE ATTIC

© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour

 

            Linda had begun working as Mrs. Janson’s personal companion in 1995. Mrs. Janson had been frail then, to say the least, but Linda never dreamed the old woman would live ten years, and she would have such a fabulous time caring for her.

            There had only been one strict rule––Linda was never to enter the attic. In fact, even if she had wanted to, the door was locked, and if there were a key she was not privy to its location.

            Linda travelled the world with Mrs. Janson during the first five years. Mrs. Jansen loved to visit the beautiful flower gardens in different countries. In fact, she would bring seeds back, and Linda was instructed to plant them in the gardens that surrounded the old mansion.

            Linda laid her car keys on the kitchen counter and gazed at the emptiness. It was hard to believe Mrs. Jansen was gone, and she had no idea what to do now. She’d decide after she spoke with Mr. Kennings, Mrs. Janson’s lawyer. He had approached her after the funeral and said she was expected at the reading of the will at 10:00 tomorrow morning.

            Linda spent the evening packing her meagre possessions. The next morning she loaded her car and headed off to Mr. Kenning’s office.

            She was surprised to be the only person there. “Are there no others?”

            “No,” Mr. Kennings pulled a file from his drawer and set it on the desk. 

            “Strange, Mrs. Janson had numerous pictures of young women on the wall in her den. I just assumed they were nieces, or relatives of some sort.”

            What happened next was even more shocking. Linda was named the sole recipient of an estate greater than could ever be imagined. “Sign here, Miss,” Mr. Kennings directed. 

            Linda drove back to the house, returned the suitcases to her old room and then wandered around, revisiting all the places that she had sat and read to, or listened to music with, Mrs. Janson. She had been a peculiar old bird, though, very secretive about her past.

            “We should live only for the present,” she would say, “because that is a gift. The past is gone, and the future is uncertain.” She would smile, sip on her cup of tea and sit back in her old rocker, surrounded by the fragrance of fresh flower bouquets from her gardens.

            Linda stopped by the den and gazed at the pictures. An eerie sensation crept through her bones when she saw a framed picture of herself hanging on the wall. It had not been there yesterday. She wondered who had hung it up, because, for sure, Mrs. Janson could not have done it herself. And, to Linda’s knowledge, no one else had been by the house for weeks.

            She continued on, her steps leading to the previously forbidden attic. As Linda drew near she noticed the door was cracked open. She pushed it, and the creaking warned it probably had not been used for a long time. As the door swung open an ‘angle wing’ formed in the dust.  Linda stepped over it, not daring to walk on an angel’s wing.

            She proceeded slowly up the stairs, watching for broken boards or splinters or nails.  She noticed holes in the wall where once there must have been a railing.

            Finally, the last step. Did she dare? What treasure awaited her, or would she only uncover the ghosts of lives lived long ago? Linda jumped––she was not alone! She thought she noticed a figure at the far side of the room.  Silly fool––just a reflection in a mirror. Strange, though, how dust covered everything, yet not the mirror. She shuddered.  Had someone managed to clean the mirror, yet not disturb anything else?

            Linda meandered her way around the room, running her fingers along the dusty furniture, touching the soft, velvety clothing hanging in an antique armoire, eyeing the corner filled with old wooden toys––toys that had been meticulously crafted by someone’s loving fingers.

            What was that?––there––in the middle of the room––a flower garden? Linda knelt down beside the huge wooden barrels and touched the leaves of the plants. They were real enough. She dug her fingers into the earth and enjoyed the rich aroma that floated into her nostrils. Strange, the flowers seemed to have been freshly watered. The blooms appeared ready to be born. Linda observed the rich colours peeking from the buds.

            She heard the door at the bottom of the stairs creak shut. Linda looked back and noticed her footsteps on the dusty floor had vanished. She stared up at the mirror. Mrs. Janson smiled and reached out her arms.

            “Welcome Linda, we have been waiting for you. Our garden is complete once again. Unfortunately, our previous white rose came to a most bitter end.”

            The mirror’s reflection shimmered into the room. It stopped over the barrels of flowers and hovered there. Mrs. Jansan began to sing a sweet melody and the blooms began to grow and dance, drawing Linda into their loveliness. The last thing she heard was the gentle voice of Mrs. Janson: “Well done, Mr. Kennings.”

            “Likewise, Mrs. Janson,” he replied.

Review: The Jury

The Jury
The Jury by Fern Michaels
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What happens when those in high places use their power to abuse their family, thinking they can get away with their crimes just because of who they are? That is the basic essence of “The Jury.” I was intrigued by the write-up on the back of the book, however when I started reading it wasn’t until half-way through the story that Paula Woodley, the victim, showed up and the real meat and potatoes of the novel started to piece together. Until then, I was tempted, numerous times, to just put the book down.
Would I recommend The Jury as a must read – no. I finished it more out of curiosity than because of the story. Having said that, though, I did enjoy the justice that was inflicted on the perpetrator. Would I read another of Fern Michaels’s Sisterhood novels – not likely.

View all my reviews

FACELESS

FACELESS

© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour

 

She turned off the movie, even though it wasn’t finished yet, and looked around her small, scantily furnished apartment. Tears choked at the corners of her eyes. It had been years since she’d actually cried. She closed her eyes and tried to dream sweet dreams, but all that seemed to kaleidoscope before her were the same excruciating scenes of her tortured childhood…

            Upon first glance, one would have thought that the picture of the young girl on the swing was one of blissful innocence. Her face was tiny; her eyes were an innocent blue. Her cheeks were a rosy-red upon a pallet of pale skin. She sighed contentedly, and her lips smiled as the swing swung back and forth. Her blond curls bounced in the light breeze.

            But the next slide was different––an obscure figure stepped out from behind the tree. It stood there for a moment, silently scrutinizing the child; a sadistic twist to its lips as its tongue flicked in and out, similar to a rattler’s warning.

            The little girl’s innocent blue eyes darkened in a face that had turned an ashen colour. Her breathing became laboured. Perspiration bubbled on her forehead, dripping down into her furrowed eye-brows. The tiny fingers became white at the knuckles as they clenched the rope on the swing. The swing slowed to a standstill as the figure approached. Its hands reached up and covered the little girl’s trembling ones. Its lips curled up revealing a yellow smile.

            The walk to the house took forever as the little girl dragged her feet through the grass and then struggled up the steep concrete steps. The back door creaked open. There was another figure standing in a shadowy corner of the kitchen. It was silent. All the little girl saw was its back as she passed through, heading down the long, gloomy hall, to her room at the back of the house.

            Snap…

            The little girl was sitting at the dinner table. Her innocent blue eyes were red-rimmed.  Her face was mottled purple. Her hands twisted nervously on her lap as she waited for her food to be served. There were two figures sitting at the table with her––the one with the yellow smile and the one whose face she could not see…

            The young woman woke up. She glanced at the clock. It was only 2:00 a.m. She was so tired, yet sleep never seemed to relieve her fatigue. She’d given up on trying to figure out what would. She got up from her chair and made a trip to the bathroom, glancing in her bedroom on the way past. She felt dizzy. She’d been getting a lot of dizzy spells lately––maybe she should give the doctor a call and get a check-up. She splashed some water on her face and then looked into the mirror.

            One would never guess she was only 29. Her blue eyes were dull and lifeless; dark circles surrounded them. Her cheeks were artificially coloured, her complexion sallow. Her blond curls had been replaced with a short, spiky mousey-brown hair-do. Her lips had not been able to smile for years.

            She stepped away from the mirror and studied the full effect of time. She was rail thin, having lost another unaffordable ten pounds within the past two weeks. It didn’t matter what she did to try to gain weight. “Okay,” she remarked to the mirror’s reflection, “I’ll call the doctor in the morning.”

            She returned to the living room, flopped down on the couch, and flicked the television back on. She may as well finish the movie, even though she knew it off by heart, having watched it over and over and over. She didn’t know why she tortured herself so because each time it ended it felt as though another nail had pierced her coffin…

            The morning sun streamed in the window, settling on the young woman’s sleeping face.  Her hand reached up and brushed at a fly that had landed on her nose. She opened her eyes, crawled off the couch, and walked down the hall to her bedroom. She glanced around at the emptiness. She straightened the covers on the dishevelled bed she never slept in, and then walked over to the dresser and gathered the bills that were sitting on top of her jewellery box. She counted them; she’d have enough, now, to pay the rent for another month.

            “Not all movies have a fairytale ending, Julia,” she whispered huskily as she put the money in her purse.

IN REMEMBRANCE OF…

REMEMBRANCE DAY

 

Tears trickling

Lips trembling

Cheeks wrinkled

Heads bowed

Looks thoughtful

Jaws determined

Silent

Lifted prayers

To God

For remembrance

On the next

Remembrance Day

 

 

THE STORM

THE STORM

© Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour

 

What a miserable day. The rain wouldn’t stop, and the temperature was dropping rapidly. That meant everything would freeze, and the roads would be extremely hazardous to drive on.

            My cat was acting downright weird today, too. Not that she isn’t naturally weird, but today, she just kept running from one window to the next. She even knocked over the one and only houseplant that I have managed to keep alive. Oh well, the poor plant was on its way out anyway.

            Lightening flashed across the sky, and thunder boomed on its heel. The phone rang. Who the heck would be calling at this ungodly hour of ten o’clock at night, I wondered as I checked my watch. Everyone I knew understood better than to call my house past nine fifty-nine.

            “Hello,” I said, picking up the receiver.

            A raspy voice was on the other end of the line. “Did you check your barn in the last couple of hours?”

            “Who is this?” I demanded to know.

            “Just answer the question lady.”

            “Not until you answer mine,” I insisted.

            “What a pretty horse you have, lady,” the voice rasped on. “Is he still in the barn?”

            I plopped down in the chair beside the phone. I started to shake. “What do you mean … is my horse still in the barn?” I shouted, fear welling up in my throat.

            “Look lady, get the picture … I have your horse, and I want you to put one hundred thousand dollars in a sealed envelope and drop it off by the old mission cross out on West 99th street. Do you know the place I am talking about?”

            “Yes.” I was too dumbstruck to say anything further.

            “Good, have the money there by six p.m. tomorrow, or you will never see your horse again!” The receiver clicked shut before I could declare poverty.

            I stood up and began to pace. Where the hell was I going to get one hundred thousand dollars by tomorrow? Who was playing this sick joke on me? I had sunk every penny I had into buying the beautiful Arab stallion, Alehandro, and I was hoping to earn back some of my investment by studding him out. He had a pedigree as long as my arm.

            I wondered if it was Mr. Gunner. He had wanted Alehandro for himself, but I had outbid him at the auction. I remembered the ugly look on his face when I had led Alehandro up to my trailer.

            “Too much horse for you, missy,” he had shouted at me.

            “We’ll see,” I had retorted back. I had never liked Mr. Gunner. No one actually liked him. His reputation in the horse world was not a particularly respectable one. He was mean to all his horses, so the stories were told.

            I picked up the phone to call the police, but I hung up before dialling. I needed to check out the barn first. I grabbed my coat and headed out the door.

            The wind hit me hard. The rain, which had turned to sleet, burned my exposed skin. I was running in the direction of the barn, but it wasn’t there. I became hysterical, running in circles. It started to snow. Drifts were appearing everywhere, surrounding me, encircling me in. I tried to make my way back to the house. I couldn’t find it.

            Then I heard a loud crash. I slid on some ice, and I was falling … falling … bang … bump … meeeeooowww!

            My eyes opened. I was on the floor beside my bed. The cat was charging out of my room. I picked myself up off the floor and headed to the bathroom. I was sopping wet. I took a towel and wiped the sweat from my face. 

            “Thank God it was just a dream,” I mumbled to the empty room.

            I went to the window and looked out at the weather. Looked like the rain was turning into sleet––we were most likely in for an ice storm. I turned to go back to bed.

            The phone rang. I let it ring seven or eight times before picking up the receiver.  After all, it was after ten o’clock.

            “Hello,” I said, slowly.

            A raspy voice was on the other end of the line. “Did you check your barn in the last couple of hours?”

            The receiver crashed to the floor.