I stared at London through the window of a huge black Bentley. It was night, but the city was still full of life. I saw girls going to partying in high heels and mini-dresses, a group of men outside a pub, and a couple heading home from dinner. At least that’s how I imagined it. I liked the city, the way the old and modern buildings mingled, history flowed from every corner. But still, I wished I wasn’t there.
My brother Tommy was sitting next to me in the back seat and sleeping sweetly. I smiled faintly at the sight of him, for the first time in days, maybe weeks. He’s all I have left. At the thought of it, a tear rolled down my face, which I quickly wiped off. I didn’t want the driver to notice, not that he paid too much attention to us. He was waiting for us at the airport with a sign with our names on it. He told us to follow him, but he hasn’t said a word since. I didn’t even try to find out where he was taking us. I knew who we were going to, but I didn’t know where we were going.
We slowly left town and made our way to a highway. There was a lot less traffic here, so we were moving fast. I began to feel the troubles of the past few days and the long journey. My eyelids felt heavier and heavier, but I forced myself to stay awake. I wanted to see where we were going, but in the dark, it didn’t make much sense. All I could see was the gliding lights on the highway. I stared until these lights almost melted into one, and slowly fell asleep.
All of a sudden, I heard Tommy’s voice calling me by my name.
“Katie, Katie! Look!” He shook my shoulder gently, and when I opened my eyes, he pointed out the window. “It’s a castle!”
I rubbed my eyes with confusion, but then I was greeted by the same sight. The car stopped in front of a huge building right in front of the main entrance. The driver got out and walked to my side, and then he opened the door. I got out cautiously, and there were pebbles under the soles of my shoes. Tommy almost flew out of the vehicle behind me. He immediately headed for the giant black double-winged door, but suddenly he stopped. That’s when he noticed the grey-haired butler standing in front of the door in the dark. Tommy waited for me to get next to him and he took my hand. I was surprised as he was no longer used to doing this at the age of eight. But this told me about his fear. Until that moment, I hadn’t even thought about how the sudden death of our parents might have affected him. I put my arm around his shoulder and whispered in his ear:
“Just follow me and everything will be fine. ”
The butler opened the big, heavy door when we got close to him. The light coming out of the building lit up his face and made it less scary. He was a stocky, old man. He wore dark grey trousers, a light grey vest, a black tie and a white shirt. He put on a long black jacket and he wore white gloves. His face was wrinkled, and despite his mouth was not moving, his eyes smiled at us. As deep as he could, he bowed to us, and spoke in his pleasant, deep voice.
“Welcome to Woodlock Hall. My name is Mr. Bingsley. Please follow me.”
Tommy unfolded from my embrace and looked at me with a grin.
“My name is Mr. Bingsley,” he tried to mimic the butler’s upscale pronunciation. His fear seemed to have vanished, and it filled me with relief. At least I didn’t have to worry about him. For a while.
However, my soul was in tatters. I still didn’t fully understand what had happened, and I was afraid that the grief might break out of me at any time. Of course, that would have been perfectly fine, since I was only sixteen. From my parents’ safe arms, I fell into the precarious stranger, and there was also my brother, who I had to take care of. But I haven’t really cried once since that early summer night when a police officer came by and told us that our parents had lost their lives. That night they celebrated the promotion of my father, who became unwell behind the wheel on the way home and collided with a truck coming from the front. They said they both lost their lives immediately. I remember standing at the door facing the policeman and just staring at him. The man got embarrassed and started talking about not having to worry, we’d be in good hands. That’s when I slammed the door and ran up to my room. I was panting and leaned against the wall and trying to understand what I heard. But no more than a tear came out.
It’s been a month since then, and I was still in the same apathy. Tommy’s cried a few times, and I was hoping that the change in the environment would be good for him. And maybe me, too.
We entered the building in Mr. Bingsley’s footsteps and my jaws literally dropped. It really was a castle. We got to a small lobby with columns in the middle. A red carpet on the floor led to a glassy wooden door. At the base of the columns there were dark brown carved wooden chairs. I found them nice, but I was sure they weren’t very comfortable. There were statues between the columns, but I did not have time to take a closer look at them, because we had already reached the foyer. There was a huge carpet on the floor. It looked pretty old, like all the other furnishings. A green sofa with matching two green armchairs and a coffee table. In the middle there was a giant white fireplace. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. Around the fireplace, the wall was covered with dark wallpaper, which was worn here and there, but still felt quite classy. The walls were lined with paintings, portraits of unknown, long-dead people. The multi-branch candlesticks in the four corners of the hall - in which, of course, not candles were lit, but ordinary bulbs - tried to make the place light, with more or less success. I looked up and I was almost dizzy at the height of the hall. To the right were rows of stone-carved arches that slammed upstairs into smaller arches above the stone railing. I guessed a corridor could run all the way around up there.
Mr. Bingsley turned right and we crossed under the arches. Meanwhile, Tommy gave a voice to his amazement.
“Wow! See, Katie? I told you it was a real castle! ”
I tried to stop him from making noise, but he didn’t care about my admonition. For some reason, I felt like we were intruders, plus it was late at night, so I would have been happy if my brother had been quiet. All I could hope for was that when we met the lady of the house, he’d keep his mouth shut.
Behind the arches, a wide, solid wooden staircase led upstairs. The steps were also covered with red carpet. Three women stood at the bottom of the stairs. One older and two younger. The older woman’s hair was already turning grey and it was in a tight bun. She wore a simple black dress with a silver chain around her neck with keys on it. The two younger women also wore black dresses, but they were also wearing white aprons and white coifs. Just like in the movies. The old woman looked at us sternly, almost contemptuously, and then spoke.
“My name is Mrs. Bingsley, ” she began, and I secretly glanced at Mr. Bingsley. Somehow I couldn’t imagine the two of them living in a happy marriage.
“This is Isabella and Emily. ” she continued strictly. “They’re going to be your maids. With your requests, please contact them and with your questions please contact me. But I hope there will be as few questions as possible. I am a very busy woman, there are a lot to do in a house this big. I therefore do not deal with unnecessary and stupid questions. Think carefully before you ask these questions. Breakfast at 7:00 a.m. The Honorable Countess does not like it when someone is late and it is not appropriate to be late. Isabella, Emily, escort them up to their rooms. ”
Mrs. Bingsley nodded to the two girls who walked up the stairs, and we followed them. Tommy looked at me with his eyebrows raised, and I shrugged my shoulder, indicating that I didn’t understand what was happening either.
When we got upstairs, we got to a circular corridor, what I saw from the foyer. The girl, named Isabella, smiled and took Tommy by the hand and walked with him to the left. Tommy looked back in despair. I wanted to run after him and run away with him, but I knew I wouldn’t have solved anything with it, so I just nodded encouragingly to him. The next thing I know, he and the maid turn a corner and disappear from my sight. Sudden emptiness and loneliness broke over me, everything around me was stranger.
“Don’t worry, miss. He’s going to be fine,” said Emily. She was slightly shorter than me and very thin. She had blond hair and lovely blue eyes.
“Come on, I’ll show you your room,” she said, walking to the right, and I followed her. We went to the other side of the circular corridor and stopped in front of a tall white door. Emily opened the door and let me in. Slowly, hesitantly, I entered, as if I was afraid of some kind of monster lurking in there, and the next thing I know, my jaws dropped again. The room was so big that the entire ground floor of our old house could fit in it. The lamps flooded the place with a friendly light. In the middle was a huge four-poster bed, in front of it a nice bench with a white cover and gold accents. Opposite the bed were two huge windows with light blue curtains, and between the windows by the wall was an antique dressing table. At the other end of the room there was a fireplace, with doors opening on each side. One led to the bathroom, the other to the dressing room.
Emily came into the room behind me and made the bed for me. I was still standing still because I had no idea how I should have behaved.
“Can I ask you a question?” I asked suddenly.
“Of course, miss.”
“Is the Countess a nice person? ”
Emily paused for a moment then continued what she was doing.
“No worse than the other nobles,” she replied, but I was not at all comforted by her answer.” “I’m sure she’ll be nice to you” she continued, then steered the conversation in a different direction. “Would you like a bath?”
“Yes, that would be nice,” I replied, trying to put a smile on my face. I didn’t really want a bath, I would have preferred to just fall into bed, but I didn’t want the maid to think bad about me. I thought that’s how they were used to do it here. After a long trip, there was a relaxing bath.
Emily rushed into the bathroom, and after a few seconds, I heard the water running. I went into the bathroom afterwards. There were white tiles everywhere. To the left is a bathtub on golden legs, opposite a shower stall, and on the right is the toilet and sink, above which hung a large gold-framed mirror.
“This is where you’ll find a towel,” Emily pointed to a narrow cupboard next to the tub. “Soap, shower gel by the tub, toothbrush and toothpaste by the sink. I’ll get you a nightgown so you can sleep in it. Have a nice night.”After she said goodbye, she left the bathroom and closed the door. I was finally on my own. I undressed and got in the tub. The water was pleasantly warm, I felt relaxed almost immediately. I tried to turn my brain off, I didn’t want to think, but it didn’t go on for more than a few minutes. Insidiously, the memories crept back into my brain and left no peace. I washed myself quickly and got out of the tub. I wrapped a towel around me, went back to the bedroom, and as I was, laid face down on the bed. Not long after, I fell asleep.