Authors: PEPPI HILTON
There was a distinct improvement in Anton’s mood, and the cloud of thunder which had spread across his features earlier had disappeared. Lucy was thrilled.
They tucked into their meal, and after clearing the dishes away they sat in front of the fire. Anton relaxed in his rocker as they both finished the bottle of wine. The heat of the fire was making them feel drowsy after a hot meal and alcohol, and when Lucy saw his eyes drooping, she suggested they go to bed early and spend some time together. Anton knew exactly what she meant and he woke up in an instant at her recommendation. They mounted the stairs arm in arm, and everything felt as it should be. It was like starting all over again.
As they settled down to enjoy a romantic moment together, Lucy took the lead in an effort to make him feel good, and he responded with a passionate kiss as he settled into some serious love-making. But at that crucial moment, Lucy thought she could hear music playing from somewhere downstairs. A soft melancholy tune resonated throughout the house, and there was no mistaking that it was real. It sounded like someone was playing a violin.
Lucy pulled away from him and said: “Listen, can you hear that?”
Anton tried to pull her back towards him again, but she was too distracted.
“Listen, can’t you hear it?”
“Hear what?” he said in a sensual voice, his only concern being to stimulate her passions.
“That music,” she hissed, pulling away from him altogether to sit up.
Anton didn’t seem to know what was happening. One minute he was enjoying a seductive moment – or two, and the next he was sitting alone on the bed. He was perplexed as he’d stared blankly ahead and watched Lucy’s naked body disappear out of the door. She had scrambled out of bed and was listening from the landing.
“Anton, come on, you’ll be able to hear it from here,” she called to him in a low voice.
He crawled of the bed and reluctantly joined her on the landing. He couldn’t hear a thing. In fact everything seemed peaceful and quiet, and he wondered why they were both shivering out there in the cold.
“Come on Luce,” he pleaded seductively as he nibbled her ear. “I can make much better music than someone outside passing in their car.”
But she pushed him away. “Listen,” she insisted. “You must be able to hear that. And it’s not outside, it’s in the house!”
“I can’t hear anything,” he said, as he pulled himself together with a jolt. “All I can hear is you rabbiting on about something and nothing. What does it matter if someone’s playing music outside anyway? Maybe someone’s having a party – so what!”
“A party – in Judge Fields, this dead hole, you must be joking! They wouldn’t know a party here if it hit them in the face.” She was at it again and had just ruined what she had begun, but she couldn’t stop herself.
Anton looked at her in exasperation, his erotic notions having now gone completely out of his head and out of his system altogether. She had put a stop to that good and proper. He rushed into the bedroom, grabbed his dressing gown and bounded downstairs. He searched the hall and sitting room, and moved around the house slamming doors on his way. The music by now had stopped, so Lucy knew she was well and truly in deep trouble.
She followed sheepishly down the stairs, not sure if she could face him or not. He was right of course the music had probably been coming from someone’s car, maybe someone visiting a neighbour. She’d really put her foot in it now, and she doubted her ability to resurrect any further urges from Anton of a passionate night together. She’d blown it and she knew it.
He marched back into the sitting room where Lucy was waiting with a guilty expression on her face. She had boiled the kettle in an attempt to pacify him with a brew. He didn’t say a word, which only acted to make Lucy look, and feel, more embarrassed and shamefaced. She wished she could crawl under the table without him noticing. But he noticed.
“You’ve got a serious mental problem, do you know that?” he bellowed.
His stormy outburst came out of the blue and made her jump.
Lucy looked at him dumbstruck. There was no way she was standing for
“And you are just a male chauvinistic …” she was struggling for words.
“Just listen to yourself babbling – you can’t even finish a sentence can you? That’s all you seem to do these days – babble, babble, babble. You’re driving me insane! If I listen to you much longer I’ll be following in the footsteps of whatever mad hatters lived here in the past.”
He was fuming and she had never seen him quite like that before. She gawped at him, her mouth open and her thoughts racing. She was absolutely flabbergasted. Where did this guy come from? Had she met him before somewhere? Was he an imposter? And where was her lovely, docile Anton? She voiced her thoughts loud and clear.
“I don’t know who you are anymore. You’re not the person I met – far from it – you’re just an imbecile, a madman who can’t see what’s right under your nose.” She’d never yelled before and her voice was beginning to croak.
“I suggest you take a good look at yourself before you start throwing slurs at anyone else. Anyway, I’ve had enough of all this, you’re just a complete nutter, you should be locked away.”
Lucy marched right up to him, and tilted her chin so she could scream in his face.
“Now you listen to me. You’re the most selfish, self-centred sod I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet. Whether you like it or not, this house is haunted. Just because you haven’t seen anything, or heard anything, means absolutely nothing. You’ve been wearing blinkers ever since you first set eyes on this place. I HAVE seen what’s occupying this place, and we’ve invaded their sanctuary and they don’t like it!”
She suddenly realised she’d caused a crick in her neck through tilting her head back so far and screaming out loud. It was his fault of course; why did he have to be six foot and four inches tall when she was only five foot two? She had to massage the back of her neck before she could continue, which only acted to give him more time and space to jump back in whilst she was temporarily disarmed.
“Well you clearly don’t like this house, so it might be a better idea if you go back to the flat. I’m sure there won’t have been a queue of people waiting to take a poxy little ‘pied-a-terre’ – because that’s all it was, a glorified bed-sit! Little places suit little people.”
It was getting nasty.
“How dare you?” Lucy spat at him. “And you’d better remember that this house is part mine as well as yours and I could force a sale.” He didn’t like that and it rendered him speechless.
At that point they both clammed up. Neither of them knew quite what they were fighting over, or how it had all begun and why on earth it had got so out of control. Anton was suddenly scratching his head, and he seemed confused as if he’d just wakened up from a trance. He suddenly remembered that Lucy had interrupted a crucial moment in bed with her insane ramblings and he felt rightfully peeved; but he would never have normally reacted in such a manner. He felt ashamed and guilty and couldn’t understand what was going on. Could he be wrong? Could she have seen or heard something? But he answered his own question:
No, she couldn’t have, after all he would have seen or heard it too
. His head was being invaded by a sudden attack of numerous thoughts, as he toiled and laboured to work it all out.
He had suspected from the beginning that she wasn’t going to settle in Juniper, She had made that clear from the outset by her body language and the little things she’d said. But he knew what was best, and had decided she would come round to it in the end. It was probably her imagination working overtime whilst he was away. He knew she’d be nervous at being alone, but they needed the money and therefore the chance to work away on a big job was an opportunity not to be missed. He hadn’t told her that he’d volunteered of course, because she wouldn’t have stood for that. He sighed deeply, flopped down in the old rocker, and stared at the burning embers in the grate; his heart was deeply troubled and his mind confused.
Lucy, meanwhile, had simmered down somewhat. She went into the scullery and made the brew that she’d started on earlier and brought in two mugs. She put one down on the fireplace for Anton, whilst she sat in the chair opposite. She felt much better for having exhausted herself with her tantrum and maybe Anton did too. They had probably been spending too much time working on the house and not having time for anything else, because it was completely out of character for them both. They’d never had a row before, and the situation had clearly brought out the worst in them. She’d never behaved like that in her life. Could the house and its inhabitants be poisoning her mind against Anton, so much so that her unpredictable behaviour pattern would eventually cause the ruin of them both?
They remained silent as they drank their tea. Lucy felt shamefaced and concerned as she looked at Anton and saw the seriousness in his face. The untimely argument may have scarred their relationship for ever, and Lucy did not want to consider the consequences. She knew deep in her heart that the house was to blame. Anton had changed personality because of it, nothing would convince her otherwise. No matter how much she repeatedly justified his reactions by blaming her own behaviour, she always returned to the notion that someone, or something, in the house was driving them apart. Granted, she may have made a mistake about the music she’d heard. She hadn’t considered it coming from outside before, mainly because it was so dead in Judge Fields that if a pin dropped outside she’d be able to hear it. But nothing could alter the fact that the house was haunted.
“I’ve got an idea,” Lucy said without flinching. “If you agree to remove that door upstairs which has been sealed up, and if there is nothing in there to throw a light on what I’ve seen or heard, I will agree that you’re right and I’ll make an appointment to see a psychiatrist.” If she hoped to pacify him with that sudden display of submission she was wrong, and anyway he probably wasn’t daft enough to believe her. He didn’t answer he was just too deep in thought.
Lucy took the gamble and without warning threw the whole experience at him which she’d encountered.
“Well you’re not likely to believe this, but I saw a small boy outside that sealed door and as I approached him he vanished through it.” She didn’t know what had suddenly come over her. She had just behaved like a ventriloquist’s dummy – the words had just spilled out before she could stop them. She waited expectantly for some reaction, almost certain that he would blow a fuse; but he remained subdued.
“I also threw that old rocker in the skip outside whilst you were away, and when I came home from work it was back in the house – and I sure as hell didn’t put it there. What’s more, I also went upstairs to the top floor rooms and I saw a film being projected on a screen showing a family in the grounds of Juniper when it was a grand house. What’s more, the boy in the film was the one who disappeared through that closed door.” It had all come out so fast that she could hardly catch her breath and she wasn’t sure where her nerve had come from. But there it was, the deed was done, and she felt better for it. She’d finally got it all off her chest, and now it was up to him.
He certainly reacted this time though and turned his head to her in amazement. He knew how scared she’d been from the outset, when she’d refused to go up to the top floor even with him by her side. He gawped at her, a look of incredulity on his face. Now he knew for absolutely definite that she had a major problem, she was at it again! She had definitely gone stark-raving-bonkers! Ever since they’d moved into Juniper she’d been out of control, and now without a shadow of a doubt she was beyond all hope. He jumped out of the rocker with the words still ringing in his ears that she’d thrown it in the skip; there were certain things in life that were unforgivable, and that was one of them.
“Right,” he sneered. “Prove it all to me! Because if what you say is true, it should all be just the same up there now as what you say it was when you supposedly went up yourself.”
Lucy didn’t move. She wasn’t intending going back up there, if that’s what he was thinking.
But he grabbed her by the arm and dragged her out of her seat. She twisted her arm determinedly out of his grip and sat back down, holding onto the chair firmly and remaining poker-faced as if in a mummified state. He tried to pull her up again, but she managed to stay put as some unknown strength seemed to have invaded her body.
“Well that proves it then. You never went up there did you? You’re lying – you wouldn’t have had the guts,” he scoffed.
“Well if you’re so sure you’re right, then prove it by pulling down that door to see what’s hidden behind it. Of course if you’re too scared to, then admit it,” Lucy gloated, still clinging firmly onto the chair. “In fact that’s your problem isn’t it – you’re afraid a ghost will jump out at you.” Those few magic words seemed to do the trick.
Anton disappeared from the room, and after rummaging in his tool box in the hall he dashed upstairs. Within seconds he was hammering down the door. Lucy ran into the hall and looked up at the landing to see what was happening. She didn’t exactly mean he should smash the door to bits, but that’s what he was doing. She continued to watch him as he vented his anger on it. Within minutes he had smashed his way through. He tossed the hammer on the floor and walked inside – he stopped and gazed in awe.
He had exposed a large bedroom with one tall shuttered window to the front, and a smaller one to the side. Anton walked over and grappled with the shutters in an attempt to open them. It was difficult because they had stuck with age, and decades of undisturbed dust caught him off guard as it blasted his face. He looked around the room and was overwhelmed at what he saw. On one shaded wall hung a magnificent framed portrait of a young boy with blonde hair and blue eyes. There was a softness in his eyes which was vaguely familiar, but he quickly dismissed that from his thoughts as he was drawn to the beauty of the image. Although the face of the boy was very young, a high degree of intelligence seemed to ooze from his features, and there was an expression of superiority which the artist had also clearly captured. Anton looked for a signature and spotted one in the bottom corner which read:
Anton also noticed as he moved around, that the boy’s eyes seemed to follow him – a rare talent for any portrait artist to achieve, and he was captivated.