Thursday, June 12, 2008

Entry #3 New World: Maris Manor

Maris Manor
By Carolyn M. Kenney

The Present

Christine gazed out the window of her history class dreaming of Victorian England . She and her friend, Laura Harrington, were juniors at Cummings College thirty minutes from their hometown. The clouds grew steadily darker reflecting the grief within Christine.

“Christine, do you know the answer?” asked her teacher, Mrs. Andrews.

Christine slowly broke out of her reverie. Her thoughts stumbled over each other causing havoc in her mind. Mrs. Andrews wants an answer? But what was the question? Mrs. Andrews was an outstanding teacher on the history of the Victorian era in England, but was extremely demanding of her students.

At that moment, the bell blared with an unusual shrill. Chairs scraped the floor as students hurried toward the door. No one heard Mrs. Andrews give the assignment; many students did not care. It was Friday and the weekend was upon them.

Christine was glad she wore her white sweater and dark wool pants. The weather had turned unusually cool; winter would be here before they knew it. Christine’s auburn hair hung to her shoulders and enhanced her slim figure, which captured the eyes of many young men. Today her hair was pulled back with a stunning barrette she had received as a gift from Jim Bailey. Jim, who was in his third year of law school, was the only boy Christine was interested in. With the sudden death of her father, however, Christine devoted much time helping her mother instead of spending it with Jim. Rose was still devastated over the untimely heart attack of her husband, Patrick, who was looking forward to retirement in a few years. Her mother, Rose worked full-time, with a part-time job on weekends, to try and make ends meet. As the bell rang, Christine slowly got to her feet, picked up her books and headed for the door.

“Christine, can you come over for a while?” asked Laura. “I want to show you some new clothes my mother bought me for our cruise!” Laura, her parents and sister were leaving at the end of the school year for a two-week Caribbean cruise.

“I would love to!” said Christine. “Oh Laura, you’re going to have so much fun!” Actually, Christine could not see herself going anywhere for quite a while. Once she got through college, she would need to get a full-time job in order to help her mother pay some bills.

Together the two girls walked down the hall and started out of the building. The day had turned dark and dreary; the wind had picked up and rain was coming down in torrents. “I’m so glad my mother is here to pick us up,” said Laura. “My car needed an oil change.” She looked at her friend and said with concern, “Christine, do you feel all right? You look a little pale.”

At that moment, Christine turned to answer Laura but never got the words out. As they walked down the wet stone steps of the building, Christine slipped and lost her balance. Laura reached out to prevent her friend from falling, but it was too late. Christine’s head hit partly on the soft grass and partly on the cement walkway.

“Christine!” screamed Laura. “Somebody help!” Laura raced to her friend’s side and bent down. “Christine, are you all right?”

Christine slowly opened her eyes and stared at her friend. “L-Laura? W-What happened?” she stammered.

“Christine, don’t say anything. Just lie there. I’ll go and get help!” Laura raced inside and was back in minutes with Mr. Butler, one of the teachers, as Christine was trying to sit up. Gently they helped Christine to her feet and brought her back inside the school building to an empty classroom where they guided her to the first empty chair they saw.

Laura said, “I’ll be right back. I’m going outside to get my mother.” With that, she was out the door and down the steps. Mr. Butler spoke softy saying, “Christine, sit right here. Wouldn’t you know I don’t have my cell phone today. I’m going to the telephone down the hall to call the ambulance. You should go to the hospital and be examined.” With that, he hurried out of the room. Alone, Christine sat uncomfortably on the wooden chair staring into space. Her white sweater was covered with dirt and grass stains. She gripped the arms of the chair and started to rock from side to side. Her blue eyes shut slowly; she slipped off the chair and onto the floor.

Mr. Butler heard the noise and quickly raced to where Christine lay unconscious before him. “Christine!” he screamed, as the paramedics, Laura and her mother entered the room. Gently, Christine was placed onto a stretcher. Students silently stood along the sides of the hall whispering among themselves as Christine was carried outside.

Mrs. Harrington said to the harried teacher, “Laura and I will follow the ambulance. Here is her mother’s telephone number at work. Please call her for me.” With that, they were off.

The drive to the local hospital only took a matter of minutes; for Christine it was much longer. When she slipped off the chair, she had slipped into unconsciousness and into her own fantasy world. Christine never heard the noise from the racing ambulance or the cars screeching to the side of the road to let it pass. She was not living in the current year any longer. In her mind, the year was 1840.

The Past

The year was 1840 and the English countryside was alive - finally. Rich green trees and vibrant flowers linked heaven to earth in a striking display of colors. Christine walked leisurely down the path leading from Maris Manor to Colina Hill situated on the edge of the family property. The green grass beneath her feet looked like velvet. She took off her shoes and felt the soft earth stir with each step.

Five months ago, Christine Kelly graduated from a private girl’s school. Why did it seem like five years? Shortly after graduation, her father, Patrick passed away from an unexpected heart attack. Christine and her mother, Rose, were devastated and now lived alone in the beautiful mansion with their few servants. Christine’s uncle, Charles Kelly, had told them that her father had not left a will. Thinking about it now, Christine reflected sadly, “That is highly unlikely.” Now as the only surviving son, Charles said that Maris manor would fall to him.

Christine neared the top of the hill; on the other side, it abruptly descended to the sea below. The view from the top was breathtaking! A voice from behind startled her; she jumped and almost lost her footing.

“Christine, how are you?” Charles Kelly was standing beside her; she shivered despite the warmth of the summer day. “I was looking for your mother, but could not find her. You must watch out for her or something may happen to her.” There was a sneer on his face and his eyes had a sinister look to them. He continued saying, “I need to get into your father’s library, but the door is locked.”

Ignoring her uncle, Christine said, “It’s getting late, I must be getting back to the manor.”

“Let me help you,” said Charles. As he extended his hand to Christine, he gripped her shoulder firmly. They stood facing one another with Christine’s back to the raging sea below.

“Let me go!” she exclaimed. “Now!”

Charles released her and Christine stumbled forward. She quickly regained her balance and rushed away from her uncle. As she walked down the path, she heard Charles behind her laughing silently.

At the bottom of Colina Hill, Christine began the walk home deep in thought. Suddenly, she heard a warm familiar voice. “Christine!” James Bentley was walking towards her.

“James!” said Christine. “I’m glad to see you!” They had been friends since childhood; James was now studying law.

“When did you get home?” Christine inquired with joy.

“I arrived today,” said James. “How are you and your mother?” The tender look on James’s face made Christine relax and almost forget the conversation with her uncle.

“We’re fine, James. However, I was up on the Hill when Uncle Charles frightened me!” said Christine with a heavy heart.

James said, “What can I do to help?”

Christine blurted out, “Uncle Charles told my mother that father did not leave a will, so he will inherit Maris Manor. I know there is a will, but nobody seems to know where it is.”

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

“No,” said Christine sadly. “Mr. Abington, our lawyer, is coming tomorrow to see mother.”

James said, “I would be happy to come over when Mr. Abington visits you and your mother.”

Christine exclaimed, “That would be wonderful. He is coming at 11:00 tomorrow morning.”

“Good,” said James, “I will see you then. “Don’t worry about the will or Charles Kelly. I know things will work out.”

“Goodnight James,” said Christine with joy in her heart.

The next morning both men arrived promptly at 11:00 a.m. “Hello Thomas. Hello James,” greeted Rose Kelly warmly. “It is wonderful to see you both.”

Thomas Abington said, “A few years ago, I drew up the necessary paperwork for Patrick’s will. However, he wanted to keep it in his possession. He took the will and I never saw it again. Rose, did he tell you where he put it?”

Rose Kelly’s face was stricken with fear as she said, “No. Patrick told me about the will, but never said where he put it. I assumed that you would have it.”

Thomas Abington said with concern, “I believe the will is somewhere in this house.” He looked at Rose and Christine saying, “The sooner one of you is able to find it, the better. Otherwise, Charles will inherit everything. Look around the manor and I will be in touch with you. If you find anything, please let me know at once.”

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

“Christine, what are we going to do?” asked Rose.

“Mother, please try not to worry. I know this isn’t easy, but father must have put the will somewhere safe. Why don’t you rest? James and I will look for it.”

Turning to James Christine said, “Let’s start in the library.”

They walked down the hall to the library where Christine unlocked the door. After searching the room thoroughly, Christine said, “James, I really don’t think it is here. Father would have left it someplace that few people would know about.”

“Do you have any idea?” asked James

Christine said, “Let me think about it. Can you stay for lunch?”

James said, “No, but I will return tomorrow and we can continue looking.”

“Thank you, James,” said Christine. “You are a wonderful friend.”

“I am glad to help you and your mother,” said James. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Christine closed the door gently. Suddenly she remembered an incident from her childhood and returned to the library. Walking to her father’s desk, she sat down in the plush leather chair and looked out the window as thoughts of her father came to mind.

As a child, she would spend hours here playing quietly or reading while he worked. One day she asked, “Daddy, what is that at the top of the manor?” Christine pointed out the window. The widow’s walk always fascinated her. The widow‘s walk! Why hadn’t she thought of that before? A little alcove was tucked away at the top of the stairs near it. Years ago, Patrick Kelly had given his daughter a key and told her to put it in her jewelry box. Christine did as she was told and forgot all about it - until now.

Christine hurried to her room, opened the box and with relief found the key. Silently, she headed for the stairs to the alcove. At the top, she removed the key from her pocket and slipped it into the lock. The door creaked open. She knelt down and felt around in the dark when suddenly her hand fell upon a large envelope. Carefully Christine picked it up and stepped outside into the light. Her heart raced as she saw the familiar handwriting on the outside with words “Final Will and Testament.” What a tremendous relief.

Christine straightened up, locked the alcove door and walked onto the landing. She glanced once more at the envelope in her hands when a voice startled her. “Christine,” said Charles. “What do you have?”

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

“I see you have the will,” he said. “Why don’t you let me have it?”

Christine shouted, “You will never get this house! Get out of here - now!” Slowly she started to walk around her uncle, but he stepped in front of her. She stumbled, grabbed onto the railing and steadied herself. All she could see was the drop two stories below to the rich green earth.

“Give me the will!” exclaimed Charles with a gleam in his eyes. She needed to get away from him and away from this precarious position.

Out of the corner of her eye, Christine saw James walk quietly through the door of the widow’s walk. He shouted, “Get away from her Charles!” Charles Kelly turned in amazement to face the younger man.

“J-James,” said Charles, “I did not expect to see you here!”

“I bet you didn’t,” said James glaring back. “Now leave!”

Charles exclaimed, “This is my property now.”

James said, “I heard that at the first opportunity you are going to sell the manor and the land. Now leave here once and for all.”

“Th-this is my l-land!” stammered Charles as the younger man started walking towards him. Charles turned back to face Christine who was standing against the railing. “Give me the will, Christine.”

“Never,” she said. Charles lunged forward to grab the will; Christine stepped to her left barely avoiding him and he crashed through the railing.

Christine screamed; James raced to her side where she buried her head in his strong chest. “Christine, are you all right?” asked James.

With tears she looked up into his deep blue eyes and said, “Yes, James. I don’t know what I would have done if you had not been here. Why did you come back?”

“I decided to have lunch with you and your mother. I thought you could both use a little company. As I came up to the front door, I saw you stumble onto the widow’s walk with Charles right behind you! I ran into the manor and up here!”

“James, will life ever be normal again?”

“Christine if I have anything to say from now on you will never worry again.” He put his arm around her waist and led her through the door.

Submitted by
Carolyn Kenney

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