Over two tall glasses of sweet tea, I retold her everything that had happened to me at Wellington Estates, including the chimes moving by themselves. Betty tried to tell me it must have been some kind of prank, but I assured her there was no one near the chimes and no wires. I really saw the chimes move. I really heard them. I asked her if she would help bring over boxes and help me put things in storage. I planned to pay the storage company for 12 months rent.
At the end of that time I was sure I would know whether I wanted to stay on at Wellington Estates. Betty and I discussed my options and plans for my future as an artist. But I assured her that the hours would be perfect for me to pursue my painting career and more importantly, being able to display my paintings in local shop windows. She agreed that I could work and make money which was a win-win situation for me.
But I could see there was a certain level of nervousness in her eyes about my living in a house that was haunted. But I told my sister all that I could remember that Mrs. Montgomery had shared with me about Mary.A part of me shared the same sadnessthat Mrs. Montgomery had. Betty and I had lost our mother and father in 1972 in a plane crash. It was to be a wonderful vacation for them in the mountains of Tennessee.
But the newspapers said they had engine problems and hit the side of a mountain. I hugged Betty andwe said goodbye to each other. Finally I was alone and everything began to sink in. I knew I had to drop by Annie's Alterations to be fitted into my maids outfit. I knew I had to pick and choose what I wanted to take and have room for in my new room. Besides clothes and my paints and easels and such, I really didn't need much.
That night I was surprised to find myself drifting off to sleep so easily. Maybe I was just tired from all my running around. Maybe it was contentment that my life washeaded in a more stable direction. Maybe it was the comfort of knowing I wouldn't have to come up with next month’s rent money or have to pay utilities that made me relax. Maybe, just maybe it was my thoughts about Mary that made me seek my dreams of the mansion.
The next day was filled with pins and needles as Ifinished eating breakfast and headed to the alterations place. Once there, Annie, a smiling large red headed woman with happy eyes greeted me at the counter and her kindness was as fresh as springtime rains. She took my measurements andasked me to return on Friday to pick them up, anytime after 10 am.
I thanked her and began making rounds at all the usual stores that discard boxes and was lucky to get the best sizes I needed. I called each of the four largest storage companies and got their prices forsomething close to a12 x 12 room. Then I drove over to the lowest priced one which was Rent-N-Store on Brownsville Blvd. I was showed the storage room and filled out the paperwork, paying twelve months in advance plus deposit.
Next, I picked up my phone when I got back home and called Mrs. Montgomery and let her know Icould be available to work on Friday afternoon. She told me that was fine. Now all that was left for me to do was to slowly pack up all my possessions one at a time and stack the boxes by the door. I let my landlord know I was moving out on Friday, which by pure luck was the last day of the month. I placed other things I planned to take to the mansion against another wall.
Before I knew it, it looked like I was just moving into this apartment. Betty's brother Bill called me as I sat weary in my arm chair and told me Betty had asked him if he could help transport my things to the storage company. He had always been one to help in any way he could.I asked him ifI wouldn't be imposing on him if he could help me any time on Thursday. He laughed and said he would help on any day I needed his help.
Sure enough, Bill was on time Thursday and in one trip with his truck, all my belongings were in the storage room and padlocked. I thanked him and tried to pay him for his time but he pushed the $50 away and smiled as he said "No charge, Emily." To be honest I felt guilty but didn't argue. When I got back home, my place looked so empty. What once was a very cozy little apartment were now bare rooms and bare walls.
Sleep that night didn't come easy for me. I tossed and turned worrying between what was a great opportunity and what could be a big mistake. I'm just that kind of worry wart when it comes to change. I like my life to be predictable. When Friday morning came, I ate my last breakfastsitting on just a chair. I gave away a few things and the rest of the food in my refrigerator to an elderly neighbor I fondly called, "Momma."
She was on Social Security and her pension barely helped to make ends meet. We shed tears not just because we wouldn’t be neighbors anymore but because she really needed everything I gave her. I promised her I would still visit her. Finally, I was driving to Wellington Estates, to my new home, to a room I had never dreamed existed. I was driving to a job I knew I would love and to maybe, just maybe see the spirit of Mary Wellington.
When I arrived, I didn't know where I was to park. I saw a gardener near the gate of the black wrought iron gate and he met him at the gate. I told who I was as he wiped sweat off of his brow and then onto his pants. His tired face broke out into a smile as he introduced himself. and said he was happy to make my acquaintance. He pointed tohis right to a set of tall black gates and told me that was where I would drive in and out of the estate.
He asked me to wait a few minutes for him and he left. When he returned, Jake handed he a remote gate opener. "Now don't ya be pulling up to close to them gates missy, they swing out wide. Keep this here pretty red car of yours back until it opens all the way. Then ya got 25 seconds to scoot in or out before she swings shut! I'm sure I'll be seeing ya again miss." he said with a smile. He tipped his hat to me and returned to trimming a beautiful red rose bush.
I had never before seen such deep red roses with such huge delicate petals in all my life. I drove over to the corner of the fence and aimed the remote to the gate and pressed the button. Slowly it began to open. Just as instructed, I waited until it was all the way open and drove through the gate terrified that it would close on me, but it didn't. In the rear of the estate there were six cars andten striped parking spaces so I just picked one and parked.
I walked up to the rear door and knocked.It was Savannah who opened the door andsaid, "Now Emily, you're one of us now, so ya don't have to be knocking. Just walk right in like ya own the place." she giggled andher giggling made me laugh as well. She leaned around me and told me I had a beautiful car. "You see that old beat up gray thing next to your carEmily?" she asked. I told her yes. "Well, that's my car."Once again we laughed.
"Boy yougot that car packed don't you? I've got time to help you get settled in if you don't mind?" Savannah asked. I told her only if she wouldn't get in trouble with Mrs. Montgomery. Between the two of us, we had all the things I had brought with me in my new room. It was as if I had stepped back into time, I swear. The room was a mess now, cluttered up and all, but I was done. Savannah looked a bit tired as well, but she tried not to show it as she said she had to be off.
We hugged and I thanked her and she was gone. Now it was just me, alone in this beautiful room complete with my own fireplace. I wondered if it still worked. I looked at my watch and saw that it was after 10 am and I got back into my car, stopped by Annie's shop and picked up my maid’s outfits and returned to what was now, my new home. I was as nervous as a new bride trying on her gown for the first time as I slipped into the maid outfit. As I stood back and looked into the mirror Iwas in awe.
I picked up my hair brush and began to brush my hair and before I knew anything, I could have passed for a maid back in the 1800's. I wondered how old the design was for this outfit. Could this be what every maid had worn since 1860? It wasn't time for me to begin my orientation yet, but I could feel my nervousness building by the moment. None the less, I made my way through the mansions hallways and down the staircase all by myself for the first time.
When I reached the main floor, I stopped and for a moment stood beside the beautiful black grand piano beside an antique mirror. That was when I heard footsteps and as I turned, I saw Savannah and she stopped in her tracks when she saw me. “Emily, you look absolutely beautiful in that outfit, I really mean it. Mrs. Montgomery will be so surprised and so will everyone else. Annie fitted you perfectly." she told me and I watched her smile.
Oh my God! Please tell me that Mary gave you that rose Emily?" she said anxiously. I smiled and shook my head yes as my tears fell upon the rose. "I’ve spoken to Mary Mrs. Montgomery. I know why she’s stayed in this house all these years." I said. Before I could begin to speak, Mrs. Montgomery was urgently pleading for me to tell her. "She's been waiting all these years lingering and hoping that one day, she’d hear you say you forgave her for taking her life." I said.
At that moment, we both needed a hug desperately and we met each other half way across the room. I don't know whose tears fell uponeach other more, hers or mine. For the longest time Mrs. Montgomery cried and sobbed and shook. Finally she took a deep breath and tried to turn away, saying, "Look at me, I'm crying like a baby." as she began to laugh. But I was very quick to tell her, "A mother's love for her daughter is never without tears."
When she had returned to her desk and wiped her eyes with a monogrammed white handkerchief, she looked up at me with hopeful eyes. "Where can I find my daughter Emily? We have so much to say to each other, especially me?" Mrs. Montgomery asked. I told her I had asked Mary to wait for her in Mary's bedroom. Wasting no time, Mrs. Montgomery stood up and picked up thepicture of Mary that sat closest to her on her desk. As she headed for the door, she stopped and whispered in a kind voice, "I’ll never forget what you’ve done for me."
I walked over and touched her shoulder and told her I understood. Then I smiled my best smile and told her to hurry because her daughter was waiting." Before I left the office, I could hear the hurried footsteps of a mother, hoping to see her daughter. I didn't follow Mrs. Montgomery upstairs. This was a moment to be shared between just the two of them. But I will put down to paper what Mrs. Montgomery told me afterwards. “I knocked on my daughter's bedroom door and opened it and stepped inside, closing it softly behind me.
My eyes searched her room anxiously, but I didn't see my daughter. So I sat upon her bed with the framed photograph in both my hands as I began to cry. "I'm so sorry Mary for not saying that I had forgiven you on that terrible day. Maybe in all my grief I thought I had or meant too, but it’s you who I ask to forgive me." she said in tears. Suddenly the part of the bed next tome began to compress and whenI turned,I saw Mary sitting next tome andwe both hugged.
We hugged each other so tightly, I forgot for just a moment that she was no longer alive. As we leaned away from each other she raised a finger to my eyes and pleaded for me not to cry. But a mother's heart needed to cry a river of tears that day. I told Mary she was absolutely beautiful and how I wished I could have seen her so much sooner than now. "I forgave you the day I found you Mary, I’ve forgiven you every day my heart has beat. A mother's love will forgivea daughter for anything.
I know Scott's death broke your heart. But I will always love you Mary and I will cherish every moment, every memory we’ve shared."Those loving words were all my daughter needed to hear before the window behind her turned into the whitest of pure light. Mary looked at me with happiness and sadness as she told me that it was her time to say goodbye." We hugged each other as if we would never let go, but we both knew we had too.
But before she headed toward the light, she handed me a red rose and asked me to keep it for the rest of my days, to remember her by and I promised her I would. I watched her turn and walk into the light as she whispered lovingly, "Bye bye momma, I love you." and the white light had taken her home. She was finally at peace and so was I. That day was closure for a mother and a daughter. I personally took down all the chimes I had placed throughout my house, one tear drop of happiness at a time.”
©2007 Raymond Cook (All rights reserved)