As the open door shed more light on her situation, she saw that she was standing beside a sofa. She was able to duck behind it before Christopher turned the light on to examine the room for the source of the noise he had heard. Even though she had reset the lamp and nothing looked out of place, it seemed he needed to check further. As he started into the room Bethany heard Ivy call his name. He shut the door. This was probably the only time she would be thankful for Ivy in her life. In his haste, he didn’t make sure the door latched. It was slightly ajar, giving Bethany just enough light to find her way across the room.
She heard the front doors close. She waited a beat before exiting the safety of the blackness. As she opened the door, the mansion revealed itself in all its glory. She had hidden away, deep inside, her feelings about the place. She had loved living at Ocean Point. It was a grand estate. She and Christopher had no idea that his parents were going to give them the mansion as a wedding present – all that beautiful marble, the grand staircase, more rooms than anyone needed. There was a dining room, a salon, a parlor, a kitchen with butler’s pantry, and 5 bedrooms with attached baths. Everything was opulent, but the most magnificent part of Ocean Point, for her, was the grand foyer. It connected to a large open space from which all the other rooms on the ground level could be entered.
She remembered the first time she’d walked into the grand foyer. Her eyes were immediately drawn to the chandelier. It was dazzling and shimmering like a cluster of brilliant diamonds. She had never seen anything like it. Ocean Point was an old estate. It had been in the Wakehurst family for three generations. Of course the mansion’s electricity and plumbing had been updated completely. The furniture and light fixtures were modern. It was lavish. She knew what it was like to have money, but her parents didn’t live as extravagantly as the Wakehursts.
Being back inside Ocean Point awakened the joy she had always felt living there. Two things she adored the most about the mansion were the walls and the ceilings. The ceilings were filled with painted scenes that took her breath away; the walls with blues, greens, and yellows that seemed to be from some magical color wheel. The colors shimmered with elegance. It didn’t seem possible that one could walk into a Home Depot and have the colors mixed. There were other walls covered in wallpaper that made you want to reach out and touch them. Images of trees so full of ripe fruit that you were sure you could pick it, birds poised to take flight, peacocks with vibrant plumage, beautiful flowers that you were positive you could smell. Of course, the smell was coming from bouquets of flowers that, now, as then, were in every room she had seen, perfuming the air.
She had nothing to do but wait for Christopher and Ivy to return from the party. She made her way across the foyer to the grand staircase. She was torn. Part of her wanted to look through the mansion and the other part was apprehensive. She knew as she approached her old room the memory of that night would flood back to the present. She didn’t want to put it off. She didn’t want the fear to win. She wanted to confront the room just like she wanted to confront Christopher.
She made her way up the stairs, turning back to look over the grand foyer when she reached the top. She couldn’t help but remember during their first year of marriage when they hosted a party. She had watched from the very spot she now stood as her guests enjoyed themselves. She could see it like it was happening right then. The conversations and laughter. The slaps on the back when seeing an old friend. The air kisses, the cheek kisses, the hugs of hello and goodbye. The champagne glasses never empty. The orchestra filling the room with melodies that bounced off the walls. The flowers permeating the air with their ambrosial fragrance. It was a happy time.
There was never any indication to her that Christopher was unhappy, but there were unexplained absences. She didn’t think much of it until those absences became more and more frequent with no real explanation. She had always been able to reach him during the times when no one seemed to know where he was. Always. Until the night she couldn’t. That was the night she started being suspicious of him. She didn’t want to ask him if he was having an affair without any proof, but she couldn’t help feeling that an affair was the only possible explanation.
Bethany knew that Christopher wouldn’t want to be caught, or even suspected of, having an affair. He would lose his inheritance if he got a divorce within the first 5 years of marriage. A stipulation that Grandfather Wakehurst put in his will for all those who inherited his money. Honor and family name were very important. It was no secret, the stipulation. Everyone who married into the Wakehurst family knew about it. What Bethany also knew was there was no clause on the will separating the Wakehurst from his money should the spouse disappear or die.
Christopher loved the affluence that his money and name imparted upon him. His was an old-money world and he wouldn’t endure a hit in the purse. Bethany knew Christopher wanted to have his cake and eat it too. She also knew her trust in him had been broken.
She now stood outside the bedroom door. There was a conscious hesitation before opening it. She wondered if it was the bedroom Christopher shared with Ivy. It didn’t matter though. It was the bedroom he had shared with her. It was the bedroom where he turned his back on her. It was the bedroom where he left her dying. She took a breath and turned the knob. This was no time to be scared. She had long ago put the scared, fragile little girl inside of her to rest. That girl died the night Bethany almost died.
With the door open, she stepped inside and turned on the light. It looked just like she’d left it 10 years ago. Well, not exactly. There was no blood on the floor. But other than that, it looked as if the room had been put in order and then shut away behind the door - still vibrant, still red. He didn’t share this room with Ivy. This room was all about Bethany. It was almost a tribute to her by the mere fact that it was unchanged. It was a shrine; a room no longer in use. Her painted portrait was actually hanging above the mantle. She wondered what it meant that he had kept the room. Was it a trophy for what he had done to her? Could it be that he stole moments away in his life to sit inside this room and bask in the glory of his achievement? Or was it a punishment he kept to remind him of that terrible night? She felt sick, but the real wave of nausea hit her when she looked at the floor at the foot of the bed. She closed her eyes as the present gave way to memory.
She remembered seeing Christopher kissing Ivy. She couldn’t believe he had the nerve to bring her into their home. It was almost like he wanted her to catch him. Maybe he did. She stood frozen to ground for a moment, willing herself not to faint, before turning away. She knocked over a vase as she ran from the scene of the kissing. She heard Christopher running toward the sound of the crash. She turned and saw him see her as she ran up the stairs. When she reached their room she ran inside and slammed the door. It never occurred to her to lock it.
He burst through the door and walked with purpose straight to her. She tried to pull herself together and stop crying before she looked him in the eye. When she did look at him, she saw no remorse. It was a look she had never seen on his face before. He looked angry, pissed off.
It seemed to Bethany a moment of sheer panic. Before she knew what was happening he was choking her. He pulled her to her feet. She tried to pull his hands away, but the man she had never seen be able to stay mad at her, was different, changed. He seemed to be lost in his own mind. She remembered the pain his hands were causing her neck and the struggle to breathe. She was gasping for air. Her head was pounding. The light was fading. She was slipping into unconsciousness, death. Her body began to go limp and the light around her faded to black. And just like that, he let go and her body fell to the ground.
She couldn’t move and was barely breathing, but her assault was not over. Consciousness was returning. She was just beginning to open her eyes. They were no more than slits, but she could see his feet approaching her. Then she felt excruciating pain as she was hit on the head. She knew that she was bleeding. Something must have snapped him back to reality, because he screamed. He dropped the object and didn’t hit her again. His primal, agonizing scream was the last thing she remembered as the blackness consumed her once more.
Bethany snapped herself out of the painful memory and back to reality. With her right hand she wiped a single tear away from her cheek. She let her gaze move around the room, then she settled on the bureau. More precisely, she settled on the crystal candlesticks. She knew without any proof that it was one of the pair that had been his weapon of choice. She wanted to walk away from them, but her curiosity made her walk toward them. As she was about to pick one of them up she heard a voice behind her.
“Who the hell are you?”
She turned to see Ivy standing in the doorway…
©2010 Michael Rohrer