Thursday, July 12, 2007

Entry: Short Story July 2 - July 13

Maris Manor
by Carolyn Kenney


In the early afternoon, Christine leisurely walked down the path from Maris Manor to Colina Hill situated on the edge of the property. Rays from the sun slipped through the trees lining both sides of the wide lane. This part of the estate was not as popular among the inhabitants of the manor as it once was years ago. However, Christine loved it here where she could be alone with her thoughts. Her long flowing skirt brushed the grass beneath her feet. She took off her shoes and felt the soft earth stirring with each step she took.

Christine and her mother, Rose, lived alone in the beautiful mansion with their few servants. Her father, Patrick Kelly, had passed away two months before from an unexpected heart attack. Her parents had been so deeply in love. Christine felt her mother’s pain and deep loss every time she looked into her eyes. Christine, who was now nineteen, had attended a private girl’s school and had graduated shortly before her father’s death.

Her father had left them well off, or so she and her mother thought. Her uncle, Charles Kelly, had told them two weeks after the funeral that her father had not left a will. Patrick and Charles’ father, Sefton Kelly, had left his beautiful home to his oldest son, Patrick. Charles had inherited another stunning manor not far away. Now as the only surviving son of Sefton, Charles told Rose and Christine that Maris manor would now fall to him since there was no will. Uncle Charles said Rose and Christine could live there as long as they needed, but would be limited to a few rooms on the second floor.

Christine was deep in thought as she reached the top of Colina Hill; on the other side, it sharply descended to the raging sea below. Suddenly, a voice startled her.

Charles said, “Hello, Christine. I was hoping your mother would be here also. I could not find her in the house. You must watch out for her or something may happen.” There was a sneer on his face and his eyes had a sinister look to them. “I need papers in the library for my attorney. However, the door is locked.”

“The papers and everything in that library now belong to my mother,” said Christine.

“You will have to ask her if she will let you in, but do not count on it!”

“My dear,” said Charles. “We must learn to trust and respect one another. We only have each other now.”

Ignoring him, Christine said, “I must be getting home.”

“Let me help you,” said Charles. He gripped her shoulder firmly forcing her to stop where she stood. The sea raged behind her.

“Let go!” Charles released her abruptly and she stumbled forward. As she walked down the path, she could hear Charles laughing.

She was almost home when she heard a familiar voice. “Christine!” James Bentley was walking towards her.

“James!” said Christine. “James, am I glad to see you!” As she watched him walk around the bend, she all but rushed into his arms. Although James was two years older, they had been friends since childhood. He lived with his parents and brother in the neighboring estate a few miles away. He was now studying law and had grown into a handsome young man. Christine was overjoyed at seeing him again. It had been too long.

“James, when did you get home?” Christine inquired with joy.

“I arrived today,” said James. “I was anxious to see you. How are you? I missed you!

How is your mother?” The tender look on James’s face made Christine relax and almost forget the conversation that had taken place with her uncle.

“Oh James, I was up on Colina Hill taking a walk and trying to sort things out. Uncle
Charles followed me! He scares me and I do not know what to do. I cannot say anything to mother about him because she is still grieving for father. Please come into the manor with me and have some tea with us. I need to take my mind off these sad events. Tell me, how is law school? It must be so interesting. The people you meet, the places you visit. I wish I could go to college, but young ladies must stay home, learn how to manage a house, knit, sew and raise a family. You are so lucky.”

“Believe me,” said James, “the classes are difficult. I spend most afternoons and nights in my room studying. But, that is not all I do, I must admit. I think of you often.” He blushed and turned in her direction. “Christine, my heart goes out to you and your mother over the loss of your father. What can I do to help?”

Christine was relieved at James’ apparent feelings for her. She was also happy to know she had someone she could turn to in her current distress. “Oh James, Uncle Charles told my mother that my father did not leave a will. Now, he will inherit Maris Manor and all the land. I cannot believe it. I heard father and Thomas Mitchell, his financial advisor, talking shortly before father’s death about the will. I never said anything, but now I think that I should let my mother know. I know there is a will. I also think Uncle Charles knows, but it‘s funny nobody seems to know where the will is now. Charles only wants this manor.”

“You haven’t been told what is in the will?” asked James in amazement.

“No, after father’s death, mother was totally devastated.” said Christine. “No one wanted to cause her any further grief. Actually, Mr. Abington, our lawyer, is coming this afternoon to see mother. Hopefully, he will have some good news for us!”

“If you like,” said James, “I would be more than happy to stay when Mr. Abington comes to visit you and your mother.”

“James, that would be wonderful. Mother will be so happy. Come in and have lunch while we wait for Mr. Abington.”

Sitting in the drawing room that afternoon, Thomas Abington said, “I drew up Patrick’s will, but he wanted to keep it himself. He took the will and I never saw it again. Did he say where he put it?”

Panic-stricken, Rose Kelly said, “Patrick told me about the will, but never said where he put it. I assumed you would have it.”

Thomas said, “It must be somewhere in this house. The sooner one of you find’s it, the better. When you do, please let me know at once.”

“We will Thomas,” said Rose and walked him to the door.

Christine said, “James, can you stay for lunch?”

“No, but I’ll return tomorrow. We can look for the will after lunch.”

“James, you’re a wonderful friend.”

“I’m glad to help,” he said smiling tenderly. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

As Christine walked slowly to her room, she suddenly remembered the widow‘s walk at the top of the manor! A little alcove was located near it. Years ago, her father had given Christine the key, which she put away and forgot all about - until now.

She hurried to her room, found the key and headed for the stairs to the alcove. Once at the top, she opened the door. Feeling inside the dark space, her hand suddenly fell upon an envelope. Carefully she brought it outside into the light. Her heart raced as she saw her father’s familiar handwriting with the words “Final Will and Testament.”

“What do you have?” said Charles.

Startled, Christine turned and said, “What are you doing here?”

“I see you have the will!”

“Yes! Now, you will never get this house!”

“Give me the will!” exclaimed Charles.

Suddenly, James walked through the door and shouted, “Get away from her Charles!”

“J-James,” said Charles. “I didn’t expect to see you.”

“I bet you didn’t.” Leave this property - now!”

“Th-this is my l-land!” he exclaimed.

“No, Charles it isn‘t your land and never will be!” replied James. “Now leave, once and for all!”

Charles turned and started for the door. Turning he said, “You haven’t seen the last of me!”

Walking to Christine, James said softly, “Are you all right?”

“Yes, but why did you come back?”

“I thought you could use a little company. I saw you go outside to the widow’s walk.

Charles was right behind you! But, from now on you’ll never have to worry again.”

“James, I hope you’re right. I don’t think we have seen the last of Charles Kelly.”
Submitted by
Carolyn Kenney

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