The Man in The Mansion

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Strange Rooms

Edmund knocked softly on Ava’s door before entering to see her sleeping.

“Ms. Ava.” He called as he set her newly cleaned clothes on the dresser. She didn’t respond.

“Ms. Ava, it’s morning. Breakfast is ready and your clothes are on the dresser. I washed them for you.” He told her. The only response he got was a grunt from her.

“You may leave after breakfast, if you wish, but I would not forgive myself if you left on an empty stomach.” He said, earning another grunt. “There is also a fresh pot of coffee if you’d like some.”

Ava sat up, half -asleep, after hearing the mention of coffee. She heard a soft chuckle come from Edmund before the door to her room closed. She slung her legs off the bed and rubbed the sleep from her eyes before getting ready.

Downstairs, Edmund poured 3 cups of coffee and added the usual amount of milk and sugar to two of them, one for him, and the other for Jo. If she doesn’t get her morning coffee, she may literally destroy someone or something. He’d finish making Ava’s cup when he found out how she liked her coffee. He walked upstairs and scooped Jo out of bed before sitting her in a chair and placing her coffee in front of her.

“Good morning, Jo. Did you sleep well?” he asked as he began to make everyone a plate of food. She murmured a soft “yes” before hugging her coffee and taking a sip.

Katie skipped into the kitchen with her brothers behind her. The boys bid a tired “good morning” to their father and took their seats next to their equally tired sister. Katie, on the other hand, was the only morning person in the house. She placed Mr. Hoppington, her stuffed rabbit, in his chair and began to help her father set the table for breakfast.

~

After getting dressed and making sure she didn’t look like she’d just come back from the dead, Ava joined the others downstairs.

“Good morning, Ms. Ava. How do you like your coffee?” Edmund asked.

“Uh, I can make it.” Ava offered. She wasn’t so sure she trusted this man seeing as he had practically kidnapped her for the night. He may have this nonchalant, gentlemanly exterior but he could actually be a creepy freak that brings people into his home and sacrifices them to some divine entity that grants him and his children eternal power or some shit. He nodded and went to pull Katie’s chair out for her.

Ava made her coffee and went to sit down but before she could touch the chair, Edmund pulled it for her. She slowly nodded at him in thanks and sat down. After everyone was sitting down, Edmund passed out plates and sat down at the head of the table. Ava glanced over at Katie’s stuffed bunny and smirked, Edmund had made a small plate of food for the toy. Even if he was a creepy freak that sacrificed people to his god, he was one hell of a dad.

Everyone began to eat and even though Ava didn’t trust this guy whatsoever, she was hungry, and the food looked like it came straight out of an anime. When Ava took a bite, she felt like Gordon Ramsey himself made it for her; even if it were poisoned, she wouldn’t be mad. She may have been being a bit over dramatic, but the food was a hell of a lot better than anything she’d had.

“Did you sleep well, Ms. Ava?” Edmund asked, breaking Ava out of her food trance.

“Yeah, I slept fine.” she said before taking a sip of her coffee. In truth, she slept better than she had in a long time. Her bed wasn’t too comfortable, and she didn’t get a decent amount of sleep very often and when she did, she didn’t want to actually get out of bed to meet the basic requirements that a human being needed to meet in order to survive.

“I meant to ask you all yesterday; how did training go? I noticed you finished early again, Katie” he asked directing his attention to the kids.

“Yeah, do you think you could give me something difficult tomorrow, daddy?” she asked hopeful.

“I suppose I could figure something out, how did everyone else do?”

“Same as usual for me, Dad. Jo, on the other hand- “

“Shut up, Danny!” Jo interrupted as she shoved Danny.

“Jo, is that why you have a bandage on your nose?” Edmund asked. Jo grumbled a yes and sunk into her chair.

“Jo, what have I told you about speeding through the courses?” he said sternly.

“I can’t help it, dad! Speed is key!!”

“Being quick does not mean you need to be careless, Jo. Would you like me to lower the difficulty for you?”

“No! I like the course; I’ll work on slowing down.” She sighed.

“I finished early, not as early as Katie but still early!” the littlest boy proudly said to his father.

“That’s wonderful. Good job.” Edmund said, seemingly proud. Ava was beyond confused. Training? Courses? She wanted to ask, but she didn’t know if she was allowed to. Katie looked up at Ava and gasped.

“I’m so sorry, how rude of us, we never introduced ourselves to the guest.” She told the others.

“Hey, speak for yourself, I introduced myself to her, yesterday.” Danny said sipping his coffee.

“Well, I’d like to apologize on behalf of the rest of us. My name is Katie.” She said to Ava. If she wasn’t sitting in a chair, Ava was fairly sure she would’ve curtsied.

“My name is Benjamin, but you can call me Ben if you’d like.” Little Ben said with a shy smile. He was precious and it took everything in her power not to hug him.

“The name’s Jo.” Jo said holding up a peace sign before going back to her food.

“My name is Ava, it’s nice to meet you.” She said smiling at the kids. Ava had always loved being around kids. She used to babysit her neighbors’ kids when she was still in school. She never wanted to be a teacher, but she did enjoy the thought of having her own kids someday.

After breakfast, she helped clean up because if her mother found out that she didn’t help clean up after she was invited to eat in someone’s home, she would’ve smacked the shit out of her. Ava smiled at the thought, as much as she hated getting in trouble, she loved when her mother got ma but only for the simple reason that her mother’s chubby cheeks would puff up and she’d turn as red as the tomatoes she grew.

“Please Ms. Ava, leave the cleaning to me, you’re a guest in my home after all” Edmund said taking the dishes from her and bringing them to the sink. Before Ava could take them back, she felt a tug on her shirt. She turned around to see Katie giving her the biggest puppy dog eyes she had ever seen.

“Are you coming to my tea party, Ms. Ava?” She asked. Ava wanted to walk out the door; she wanted to go home and go back to her usual routine, but the look Katie was giving her was making her second guess herself.

“I would love to, sweetheart, but I don’t think this outfit is appropriate for a tea party.” She said, in attempt to say no without actually saying no.

“Oh, well do you have any dresses at your house??” Katie asked.

“I don’t really have the money to buy dresses as pretty as yours, hon.” Ava told her. It wasn’t a lie; she couldn’t really afford to buy clothes that she couldn’t wear to work. She practically lived from paycheck to paycheck.

“We could go dress shopping if you’d like. Would you mind, daddy?” she asked Edmund.

“I wouldn’t mind. Ms. Ava, would you like me to take you to the store?” Edmund asked as he put the last of the dishes away.

“No, it’s fine. I can’t really afford to go shopping for clothes at the moment, anyways.” Ava declined as politely as she could.

“I do not expect you to pay, Ms. Ava. I am offering to pay since it is my daughter’s tea party you will be attending.” Edmund said. Ava hated when people bought her stuff and on any other day, she would’ve said no and went home, but she couldn’t handle seeing the hurt in those big blue eyes if she refused. She looked at Katie to see her staring up at her with hopeful eyes.

“I really don’t want to trouble you with having to buy something for me.” Ava said, politely. This was the last thing she could try. She wasn’t saying no to this child, but she didn’t want this random dude buying her shit that she wouldn’t be able to pay him back for.

“Nonsense, it’d be no trouble at all.” He said. Dammit, this guy is way too nice.

“So, would you like to go dress shopping with me, Ms. Ava?” Katie asked, bouncing with excitement. If Ava said no at this point, she’d just look like an asshole. Besides, after the tea party, she could just go home and never have to deal with this situation ever again.

“Alright, I suppose it wouldn’t hurt- “Before Ava could finish her statement, Katie squealed with excitement.

“Now remember Katie, training first.” Edmund said before Katie could run out the front door.

“Oh yeah, I have to do training first and then we can go shopping, okay, Ms. Ava??” Katie said before running upstairs.

The kids all lined up at the strange doors that Ava saw last night and once they were all at a door they went to unlocking or opening the doors. Ava watched with curiosity as they opened the doors as if it were nothing.

Danny pulled a key out of his pocket and unlocked the door with ease before going inside.

Jo pushed open the stone door with ease and Ava saw her take off running before the door slammed shut behind her.

Ben stood there for a moment before the blank door opened on its own. He slowly stepped in and the door shut behind him.

Lastly, Katie unlocked and solved every puzzle on the door within a few seconds. She waved at Ava before skipping into the room and shutting the door.

Ava couldn’t believe her eyes. When she tried opening the doors last night, none of them would budge. The key and the puzzles made sense, but the stone door and the blank door should’ve opened when she pushed on them. Ava knew she wasn’t too strong, but she wasn’t weak either.

“The children should be out of training in a few hours at most. I will be in my study if you need anything. I also must apologize for my rudeness last night; I should’ve given you something to sleep in last night. I do hope my dress shirt was sufficient.” Edmund said as he went to walk towards the stairs.

“Oh uh, yeah. I slept fine; you didn’t have to give me anything. Can I ask about the rooms they just went in?” Ava asked not taking her eyes off the rooms.

“Oh, certainly. Those are the children’s training rooms. I made them so the children had places to strengthen their abilities and skills. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to my work.” He explained with a bow before heading upstairs.

Ava didn’t understand but she wasn’t going to push the subject any further. He’s already gone upstairs, and she didn’t want to bother him. Instead, she decided to investigate the house, starting with the doors the kids went in. She walked up the stairs and went up to the door that Jo went in. She pushed on it again, with hope that it would actually open this time but to her disappointment, it didn’t budge. She silently swore and stepped back. She thought that maybe there was a latch behind the door that opened when Jo was in front of the door, or maybe she had some sort of controller that lifted the latch. There had to be some sort of latch or lever behind the door that lifted to open it; there was no way that Jo could push open a heavy stone door by herself.

She moved onto Ben’s door. He hadn’t touched the door when it opened, it just…. opened and he went inside. He may have done something when she was still talking to Katie but as far as she knew, the door opened on its own. There may be something similar to Jo’s door, but Ben hadn’t even touched the door and Jo at least pushed hers. She pushed on the door, but it didn’t open. Ava couldn’t even hear what was going on inside; she wondered if maybe they were school rooms where each child could learn at their own pace. It was a good idea, but it would’ve been better if the kids had someone to help them seeing as the google isn’t always a particularly good teacher.

She glanced over at Katie’s door. She’d watched Katie unlock the door with ease, which didn’t make any sense. Ava had graduated with A’s and B’s but when she’d tried to unlock the door, it gave her a headache. While the toddler took a few seconds to solve everything and open the door. Ava looked at the puzzles to see if maybe they were simpler than she’d thought.

“I wouldn’t do that, Ms. Ava. You’re going to give yourself a headache; those puzzles took me days to accurately make.” Edmund said, making Ava yelp and fall over.

“Geez, let a girl know you’re in the room before appearing next to her like that!” she said as she attempted to recover from the scare.

“My apologies, I did not mean to scare you. I was merely trying to help you; I wouldn’t want you getting a migraine.” He apologized as he offered his hand to her.

“Thanks, are they that hard?” She asked after she took his hand and he helped her up. He nodded and began to walk downstairs as she followed. She sat down at the table while he went to the counter.

“Those puzzles are specifically made for Katie. It takes me hours to solve them while it takes her mere seconds as you witnessed. Katie is much different from other children; she has superior intellect for her age.” He said as he poured himself another cup of coffee.

“I know she’s young but how old is she exactly?” Ava asked as she glanced over at the door. He gestured in an offer to make her a cup of coffee; she shook her head.

“Katie will be 4 this July” he said as continued to make his drink.

“She’s 3?!” Ava couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Edmund was right when he said she was much different than the other kids, but solving those kinds of puzzles at 3 years old? It was damn near impossible.

“Indeed, she’s a very bright young lady and I’m very proud to call her my daughter.” Edmund explained as he sat down across from her. He may have a stoic expression, but his eyes were clearly filled with pride while he talked about his little girl.

“So, they’re all yours? You’re not just watching them?”

“Yes, they are all my children. I took Danny and Jo into my care a year ago and though it hasn’t been a full year since I took Ben and Katie in, it certainly has felt like a long time.” He said after a moment of thought. Ava was slightly surprised; it usually takes a while for older kids like Jo or Danny to call their adoptive parents “Mom” or “Dad”. Then again, despite his monotone voice and nonchalant exterior, he seemed like a very kind man. Ava still didn’t trust him, but her distrust in him didn’t mean that she thought he was a cruel person. She simply just did not trust the man who borderline kidnapped her. This wasn’t some messed up story where the girl falls in love with her kidnapper, she had class and she wasn’t an idiot.

“You take care of them by yourself? No partner or anything?” she asked.

“Indeed, I don’t have or ever had a wife. It was just me until the children came into my life.” He said, taking a sip of his coffee.

“Alone in this big ass house? You didn’t get lonely??” She asked. Ava would’ve gone insane; she hated being alone. She would always leave the T.V on or have music playing in the background so it wouldn’t be so quiet all the time.

“Well, of course I did, but that didn’t bother me too much. My schedule back then consisted primarily of work, terribly unhealthy but I didn’t care.” he said staring into his mug. “After I found Danny and Jo, I realized I needed to fix that. I’d be a horrible father if I didn’t fit my children into my schedule. A few months later, I found Katie and Ben. Now they take up most of my time, and I’m perfectly fine with that.”

Ava smiled as he talked fondly of his children. Edmund was different from the other parents she’d met, who only talk about the accomplishments that their kids have made. He looked proud of just having them as his children. She still didn’t trust him, but she couldn’t help but admire him.

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