Here comes the rain again
Once they got inside the house again, the girls met Betsy, another one of the family’s servants, who had been busy running around and closing all the windows, for she was expecting bad weather too. “Now you want to come in,” she sighed, quiet but annoyed, because the girls had brought dirt from the garden with them, which only resulted in more work for her. Annabelle did not care for her words, she never did.
“Where is Alice?” she asked instead, when she neither saw nor heard the girl. Betsy shook on her head, and went to the kitchen to close more windows. Annabelle then turned to Simone, who stood quietly on her left side. Simone shook loosely on her shoulders, because she knew just as little as Annabelle. A sigh was heard from Annabelle when she lifted her wide dress and started to walk up the broad staircase in front of them. The stairs creaked unusually high, which made Simone take hold of the white banisters immediately.
“Alice,” Annabelle said, with a calm and steady voice as they stood on the top floor, and Simone suddenly remembered the long forgotten days of childhood, when Annabelle and her had played hide and seek there. In front of them was a wide corridor, with several white doors along the sides. The door frames were neatly decorated in white, something that made each of the doors look like paintings.
Simone felt the nostalgia bubble up within her, for she missed the little girl she had played with, a small child, mischievous and free. She remembered how much fun they had had together, a time long before the violence and blood had stained North America, colored the country red. It was a long time ago now, she thought silently, and shook gently on her head. She wished suddenly that they could play as before, that they could play hide and seek behind the doors, play until all problems and wars were long gone and forgotten.
“What a silly little girl,” Annabelle cursed, when she decided to go to the right, towards Alice’s bedroom. Simone was a little disappointed, but forced herself to put away the memories until later. Some other time, she thought hopefully, and followed Annabelle to the room that belonged to Alice.
The beautiful room was big, bigger than the one Simone had. That was not particularly surprising at all, when you thought about it, because Simone was nothing but a maid after all. The large windows looked out over the family farm, which looked like a painting with the old oaks, the endless meadow and the mirror lake, just as calm and quiet as ever, even if the gray sky looked like it soon would explode. The sun had a few pale December rays that glimpsed between the thick, gloomy clouds before it disappeared.
Suddenly, Simone noticed that it had started to rain. Small, quiet raindrops patted against the window and made everything on the outside look diffuse and blurry. Annabelle let her eyes search from wall to wall. She could not help but notice that the room was just as neat and clean as it had been when Alice first got it. The marble floor was shining white, and somewhat slippery, and the room smelled of lavender and vervain. The bed was neatly made, and unlike Annabelle’s room, no dresses were thrown over it.
The room was hidden in an obscure afternoon darkness - the only thing that lit it up was the white candle that stood on the carved mahogany table beside the bed. Alice herself was sitting curled up on a wooden chair next to the window while reading a book. Alice had not noticed the girls yet and the air in the room was thick and filled with a repulsive atmosphere. Annabelle went quiet and quick up to the girl.
“Hi,” she whispered with a gentle pat on the girl’s shoulder. Alice winced, closed the book and turned up her head. Not even a second later, they heard a loud rumbling from the sky, followed closely by a bright flash. Soon the sky rumbled worse than ever. Simone jumped, scared, and Alice could not stop the chilling screams that the weather caused her to do. Annabelle was calm, with a bitter look on her face, and shushed for the girls to be quiet.
Alice rose and placed her book on the bed, while Simone stepped closer to the window to see if she could see where the lightning had struck. The rain had increased, and now you could hear the rattle from when the drops hit the window. It sounded so loud, that Simone thought for a second that the window would break. The storm gave her bad premonitions, which she took very seriously, because for her, those premonitions constantly bore a meaning.
“Try to sleep now, little princess,” Annabelle murmured, while she let a cool hand strike alongside Katherine’s soft cheek. Katherine was Annabelle’s little sister, her only, and she loved her more than life itself. A faint sobbing could be heard from the little girl, and Annabelle lifted the child from its bed. Katherine smelled new and Annabelle placed a small kiss on the child’s forehead. Katherine was afraid of the dark, and it did not help that there was a raging storm outside. Annabelle rocked the girl slowly in her arms as she was humming an old lullaby. “Do you want me to sing for you?” She asked, and smiled a faint smile. Katherine nodded sleepily, and Annabelle started singing:
On the beautiful flower meadow
Far beyond anything you call danger
A little girl is fast asleep
Calmed by the birds sweet singing
She will not wake up
Before the sun takes back the sky
Katherine smiled weakly, for this was her favorite song. Annabelle took one of her dark curls and twirled around her finger, before she continued.
Here you are safe
Until the morning sun shines
And pansies come to life
My darling, do not be afraid
For I will always be here
Like the roses and the daisies
Believe me when I say I love you
Annabelle fell silent and let the eternal rattle of rain against the window be the only sound. Katherine slept peacefully in her arms and Annabelle kissed her gently, so that she would not wake up, on the warm cheek. “Sleep well, Katherine,” Annabelle murmured as quietly as she could before she put down the girl in the bed and then started walking back to her own. But when she was about to go over the threshold, she stopped and turned to her little sister. “I love you, little princess,” she whispered into the darkness, and then turned around to go.
When Annabelle returned to her own bed, she could not fall asleep herself. She understood that it was late, most likely midnight, and that she really needed to sleep. She tried to sing herself to sleep, as she had done with Katherine, but it obviously did not work. Instead, she listened to all the unusual noises, but the only sound she could hear was the kitchen clock’s incessant ticking, the rain pattering against the window and the wind that grabbed the house and created haunting sounds. Annabelle soon gave up her game, when she thought she heard footsteps from downstairs. She tried to shake off the thoughts that someone was walking around down there, but that was not so easy.
Finally, she had had enough and threw off her blanket, rose and walked over to the large bookshelf. As darkness had everything hidden, she could not see the books, just feel the outlines. At first she thought of just taking a random book, but went back to the bed instead, to find a candle and some matches to light it with. She found both almost at once, and lit the candle eagerly. Soon a clear flame lit up the room, and Annabelle went back to the bookshelf. She chose between two books, but finally she chose one of Dean’s old ones. He had gotten it from father, who also had read it. It had been their father’s first book in english, and Annabelle remembered how proud he said he was over it, though at first he barely understood a word.
Annabelle remembered how engrossed also Dean had become of the book, even though she hardly knew what it was about. Poems, was all she knew, poems about life and its mysteries. The dark, hard truth. She hesitated a little, because she did not know how her mother would react to her reading such a book; a book meant for men. But when the thought of her mother appeared, she shrugged on her shoulders and returned to the warm bed, for she was still a little angry with her mother.
With a deep breath Annabelle opened the book. The candle that Annabelle had placed on the bedside table cast flickering shadows on the yellow pages, and made it look like the letters danced. On the book’s cover was the name Dean Johnson written with careful letters and below, the name of their father. When she saw this, Annabelle whispered a silent prayer for both her older brothers and her father. Then she began to read. It was a long time ago since she had read something, and she was curious. The words caught her at once, and time stopped. She did not hear the rattle from the rain anymore; the eternal ticking of the kitchen Clock had gone silent. There only existed a book and a girl. She felt sleep come for her, but stubbornly shook her body to keep it away and continue reading. It worked for a moment, but soon sleep came more often and more violently. After a while her eyelids became so heavy, that she had to give in to the dreams.