The pale light trailing down the hall illuminated the closed door to her right. Bailey stopped outside the wooden barrier, darkened and scored with age, and pressed her ear to its hard surface. Nothing unusual reached her above the rattle of the wind. Likely the smoke she detected had floated upstairs from the living room hearth. If a bum had stolen into the house and taken up residence in here—a wildly unlikely premise—she shouldn’t seek him out alone. Worse—if a ghost lurked within, she didn’t want to come upon this unearthly specter by herself. Or at all. She shivered from more than the frigid air, but didn’t turn back.
It might well be that the figure and light she’d seen earlier were simply the fabrications of her overactive mind. Supposedly no one had stayed in here for decades, presumably because it wasn’t needed. Ella gave the room an occasional dusting then shut the door. Any spillover of company slept elsewhere, including the two spare bedrooms downstairs.
Still, Bailey wondered. She had to peek inside this room. Go, if you’re going, she urged herself, before she lost her nerve.
Anticipating furniture covered in dimly seen sheets, an icy chill like the inside of a mausoleum, and no signs of life except possibly a vaporous figure, she gave the brass knob a twist and opened the door. She stood stock-still. The room crackled to life like the fire burning in the hearth across the stretch of carpet right in front of her.
If she’d come here during the day would all be as she’d expected? Was she dreaming now, because seated before the fire in one of two leather armchairs was a young man, and not just any man. He resembled Edward Burke from the photograph in the dining room. Brown hair with a tendency to wave had grown back from the short military cut she’d seen beneath the cap he wore in the picture.
Instead of the Marine uniform from World War One, he was dressed in a rust-brown velveteen robe with a shawl collar worked in a multicolored print, the sort of robe gentlemen wore in pictures she’d seen of early Twentieth Century fashion. The plush cloth covered him nearly to his ankles. His stocking feet were shod in slippers of the same hue and propped on a padded footstool.
He glanced up from the book he held in long, slender fingers. His chestnut brows rose in a quizzical arch then drew together above narrowing brown eyes. “Did no one ever instruct you to knock before entering a gentleman’s bedchamber?”
***This scene was inspired by a dream I had…which led to my writing the story.
*Old Virginia family home place pictured above.
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