This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Secrets on the Walls
Golden light slipped through the Palladian window and spilled onto the floor, bathing the grand piano in its warm glow. Pasty keys jingled a soft, heavenly tune as ten fingers waltzed down the old instrument. Sophie, a young girl of merely ten, was composing music like a professional. Her eyes were lidded and her small lips formed a crescent.
Sophie’s face was calm; there was no evidence of tension while she played. The room was hers and she tamed it well, providing a peaceful ambiance. The sun adorned her petite figure in a halo of light and made the pearls on her necklace glisten. Her smile also appeared to glow as she continued to compose her lighthearted music.
Her older sister, Suzette was standing at her side, watching with a soft smile. The sisters—despite being three years apart—were identical. Both shared the same curly, auburn hair and light green eyes. Normally, they wore matching dresses accompanied by large, extravagant bows around their waists. The only distinct feature was their hair styles: Sophie always kept her hair short--just below her ears--while Suzette’s long curls were tied with a ribbon. Even in sleep, considering the intense nightmares that plagued them when they slept apart, the girls were inseparable. But today, Sophie wanted to play something solo.
Sophie wasn’t just playing for her sister. She was also playing for her grandfather, Lord Montgomery, who was sitting motionlessly in a wooden wheelchair right next to the window. His clothes—despite his status as a nobleman—were wrinkled and worn-out, along with the skin under his tired, glazed eyes. His hands clutched the armrest and his sleeves shrank back, revealing more of his creased, pale skin. His lips were slightly parted, as if he wanted to say something, but he couldn’t.
Lord Montgomery’s weary eyes weren’t concentrated on his granddaughter’s composition, but instead, his vacant gaze was fixed on the field just outside the window. The vast, empty meadow had a few flowers perched amongst the tall grass, but there was nothing more. It was just a field that went on and on, trailing over to the horizon where the sun was sinking into the golden clouds.
Lord Montgomery had always stayed in that position. No one knew exactly why. He could still twitch a couple fingers and blink, but that was the extent of his movement. The elderly man's figure appeared smaller in that wheelchair, as if he was shrinking into it. It was hard for his remaining family to see him in that state. They all tried to convince each other that he would return to his normal, cheerful ways soon enough. But that was a year ago. And from the way he stared constantly out of the window, with a deep sense of longing that he could not vocalize, his family began to lose hope.
Sophie soon finished her composition and Suzette congratulated her sister’s short-lived performance by clapping.
“That was beautiful, Soph,” Suzette said, clasping her hands together just below her chin.
“Thank you,” Sophie laughed and took a playful bow. She then spun on her heel and skipped over to their grandfather.
“Did you like that, grandpa?” Sophie asked, securing her small hands over her grandfather’s wrinkled ones. Lord Montgomery’s fingers jolted at first, but eventually intertwined with Sophie’s in a quiet embrace. Sophie smiled softly and gave her grandfather a quick peck on the cheek before skipping back to her sister.
“He liked it!” Sophie announced, joining hands with Suzette as they twirled around the massive room.
Suddenly, a shrill, bloodcurdling scream stopped them cold in their short moment of rare happiness. Ms. Plumlee, the scrawny, elderly housekeeper with a crooked nose, scrambled into the room with eyes as large as saucers. Her trembling legs could barely support her; it looked like she could collapse at any moment.
“My Lord and Ladies,” Ms. Plumlee’s lips quivered as she fought to choke out the words.
“The Mistress . . . the Mistress! She’s . . . she’s dead! Murdered! Someone murdered the Mistress! Oh God!” her legs gave in and she dropped to her knees, heaving while large tears poured from her eyes.
The sisters’ eyes widened in disbelief, but as always, Lord Montgomery retained his blank, unmoving expression at the window.
“W-what do you mean?” Suzette was the first to speak, rushing over to Ms. Plumlee with Sophie's petite hand clenched within her own. Their eyes were brimming with tears they weren’t able to fight back.
“Murdered . . . she was murdered!” Ms. Plumlee cried out, grabbing her head and releasing a dreadful howl.
Sophie rushed out of the room and Suzette chased after, leaving the housekeeper and their oblivious grandfather. Lord Montgomery’s fingers only twitched, but that was it. The girls hurried up the stairs, struggling to catch their breath while they climbed and pushed themselves forward. They then flew down the hall, which appeared longer than it usually was, until they finally reached the bedchamber. The two froze, staring into the darkness that leaked out from the room. Their bodies stiffened when their ears were met with a terminal silence. Suzette gave her sister's hand a light squeeze before their feet eased into the room.
There were no windows in the chamber so the girls had to rely on the light from the small candle within the room. The light trailed over to the bed and the girls could distinguish their grandmother’s motionless body lying above the sheets. Suzette approached first, tiptoeing to her grandmother’s bedside with Sophie right behind.
“Grandma?” Suzette asked in a choked whisper. She lent out her other hand and gasped at the cold touch of her grandmother’s face. Denying the fact that their grandmother was gone, Suzette started shaking the old woman's shoulder and asked:
“Grandma? Grandma, please wake up,” Suzette begged, continuing to shake her. But her eyes were closed and her features were calm, like she was only sleeping. There was no sign of a pulse. But still, Ms. Plumlee must have gotten it wrong; there was no way this peaceful death could have been a murder.
Suzette pulled her hand from her grandmother, despite that she wanted to try and try again to wake her up. Suzette’s thought process stopped and she didn’t know how to react. Sophie was in the same mindset, and she too wanted to call her grandmother’s name. But no sound left her lips.
The sisters' eyes then trailed to Lady Montgomery’s left hand. There was a silver goblet curled in her loose fingers, containing remnants of the red wine that had stained the sheets. It was then that Ms. Plumlee's observation became clear: Lady Montgomery had been poisoned.
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