The morbid tale of one family's betrayal and revenge
"Grandma." Six year old Lottie said, sliding onto her grandmother's lap. "Do you have any brothers and sisters?" Grandma Marcie glanced across the room at her daughter. Twenty five year old Nessa saw the fear in her mother's eyes, as she flinched and turned her head away from the child. Lottie stared up at her with wide, innocent eyes.
"Come on Lottie." Nessa held out her arms for the child. "Time for bed. I'll be up in five minutes. Pick out a bedtime story." Lottie ran off upstairs.
"Mom?" Nessa asked. "What's wrong? Why did you go like that when Lottie asked you a question?" Marcie said nothing, so Nessa continued. "You could have really scared her... she's only young."
"Why don't you go with the child? Put her to bed. I'm going to finish my book, then there's a good documentary on about the rhinocerous beetle..."
"You hate insects. Mom?" Nessa sighed. "You're my mother, and yet I know so little about you. Please share something with me?" Marcie, with a resigned look, gave in to her daughter.
"Come here Vanessa." Marcie patted the sofa beside her. "It's time you knew." As Ness sat down, Marcie drew in her breath sharply, and tried to find the words to begin. "When I was younger," she said "I had three sisters. Harriet, Helen and Samantha. Or Sammy, as we all called her. I was the youngest. Then Helen, then Harriet and Sammy, who were twins. We were all a year apart."
"What fun, having three sisters, especially so close in age." Nessa smiled. "You must have had wonderful times?"
"You would think so. But I'm afraid that wasn't the case, my dear."
"The twins would constantly gang up on Helen. She was different. Whilst we were all blonde, with blue eyes, Helen had rich black hair, and her eyes were a startling green. We all took after mother- but Helen took after father. And that was a terrible thing. Harriet and Sammy would call Helen a witch. Helen was an outsider in her own home." Marcie paused, sighing, and took note of the interested look on Nessa's face. She continued. "I used to stay out of the twins' way. They were cruel and spiteful, but in mother's eyes they could do nothing wrong. Helen would quite often be reduced to tears. But I would rarely offer her comfort, because I was so scared of Sammy and Harriet turning on me. They even accused Helen of being insane, and said she should have been locked away. That bit hurt her the most, and you'll shortly understand why."
"How awful! But mom... why was it so bad that Helen took after your dad?"
"Your father was at war for several years of his earlier life. In his later years, whilst my sisters and I were growing up he lived on the top floor of this house, in a locked room. As you know, the door to the staircase leading up there is still locked, so that nobody can reach that floor. Our father was locked in because he was slowly going mad. You understand that things were very different around here in those days. There were no homes my father could have gone to."
"You're talking about Grandpa Joe? The man you have told me so much about?"
"Yes, dear. I'm afraid I am. Sometimes in the night, we could hear my father calling out for people- none of whom were there. Mostly, he was calling out for his dead friends, from the war. My guess is, that seeing dead people in the trenches day in, day out must have done something permanent to his sanity. I must have been about seven when he was locked away upstairs. His two brothers agreed with my mother- their sister in law- that is was for father's own good, as well as ours. Even if we had been able to find him a home to live in, there is no way my mother would have been able to afford it, not with four young daughters to care for as well." She paused. "At the time, my mother didn't even have a job. Most women then didn't. It was only after father was locked up that mother had to go to work." Marcie paused, to look at her daughter. "Is this all to much for you dear? Shall I stop?"
"No, mom. Please carry on. You've passed the worst bit, about your father being locked up now, right?" The old lady looked gravely at Nessa.
"Darling, what's coming next is far, far worse than anything else you will ever have heard. It's made even worse by the fact that you and I both know it to be true, and it happened right here, in this very house." Shocked, Nessa motioned for her mother to continue anyway. She did. "Harriet and Sammy used to take father food every day. Just quickly unlock the door, and throw it in, before slamming it again. Nobody had the courage to even look my father in the eye. Sammy claimed that once she had, and he looked evil. You know, the old glowing eyes story. I didn't know whether or not to believe her, but back then, I didn't know what to believe about anything. Soon enough though, they stopped taking him food."
"Why?" Nessa sounded confused. "Were they too scared? Or did they just forget about him?"
"They couldn't take him anything because they were... no longer around." Marcie stood up, suddenly, making her daughter jump. "I think that's enough for now. I'll tell you the rest some other time. Maybe I'll just go to bed now. It's getting late, and I'm tired."
"Mom, sit down." Nessa sighed, feeling like the parent. "It's only eight o'clock. Whatever you have to say can't be that bad, can it?"
"Darling, if only you knew."
"Then tell me! PLEASE mom?" Nessa begged, and Marcie saw the pleading look in her daughter's eyes, as well as hearing it in her voice.
"Well... alright. But I did warn you. I didn't want you to know all this, I wanted to protect you. This family has a dark past that nobody knows about. Now that your Aunt Helen has passed away, only I hold the secret- and I had rather hoped to take it to the grave with me." She went on. "Helen made friends with a young Christian girl in her class. She became quite religious. Now the twins' bullying didn't seem to bother her anymore. She would just smile sweetly and walk on by. But for some reason, she lost her faith. I don't know how or why, but I am certain that my other two sisters had a big part to play in it. I was scared- terrified, in fact. It was like living with a ticking time bomb. You could slice the bad atmosphere with a knife. But nothing could have prepared me for what Helen did."
"What did she do?" Nessa almost whispered.
"I'm just getting to that bit. Please be patient. It was, I believe, a Thursday night. That's right, because my mother was working late at the factory. I was lying on my bed, reading a Shakespeare book for school. Then I heard shots ring out, like gunfire. I knew it was coming from the house, there was no mistaking that. I leapt off my bed and ran downstairs, and lying on the living room floor, were two obviuosly dead bodies. Sammy and Harriet. Cowering in the corner was Helen, with one of father's old air rifles at her feet."
"She... she killed her own sisters?" Nessa's face turned as white as a sheet.
"Shall I continue?" In spite of herself, Nessa wanted her mother to carry on.
"Helen was shaking all over, so much she could barely move. There was an hour left before our mother was due home, so we had to think quite quickly. Although, most of the thinking was down to me, because Helen was in no fit state to do anything for herself. So first of all, I helped her into the kitchen, and made us both a cup of hot cocoa. With lots of sugar, of course. Our next problem was what to do with the bodies- sorry for being so blunt, dear." Marcie let off a small, tinkling laugh, which sent a chill down Nessa's spine.
"I knew the perfect place where we could... dispose... of Harriet and Sammy. They were the only two who ever went to visit father. It was clear that the only place where we could hide them was on the top floor of the house. Father's floor, where mother would never go. When Helen and I unlocked the door, we were originally just going to deposit the bodies at the bottom of the stairs inside. But we knew that it was too risky to do that. We had to carefully manoeuvre them to the top of the stairs, and around the corner where they would be completely out of sight to someone standing at the bottom of the staircase. When mother got home, we didn't know what to do. We hid upstairs for two hours trying to think of a story. In the end, we had to tell her the truth- making it sound like an accident of course, though I'm sure mother knew better. She took her own life that night. After that, our Aunt Laura moved in with us. I don't know if she knew the full story or not, but if she did she never spoke of it. She was a cold woman, never showed us any affection. She rarely spoke to us about anything at all, actually. Helen and I were both in our early twenties when Aunt Laura died from a brain haemorrhage in her sleep. At that point, Helen had to get out of the house. She had experienced so much death and she couldn't take it anymore. She moved to Australia, and as you know, she died just last year from old age. I remained here, got married, had you... well, you already know the rest. And that's the story." Nessa nodded, horrified on the inside, but outside trying to pretend that it was all just fine.
"So mom, how could you bear to still live here all these years?" Nessa shook her head, fighting to understand, almost wishing she knew nothing.
"I feel comfortable here. Settled. This is where my family lived, though a fair few died here too. I suppose staying here is the only way I can still feel close to all of them. I expect you just think I'm crazy."
"No mom, I guess that makes sense. I'm sure I'd feel the same, given the circumstances." Nessa lied, just wanting to grab her young daughter and run from the house she had lived in all her life.
"You put the kettle on. I think this is an occasion which calls for a strong cup of coffee."
"Ok, mom." Relieved, Nessa stood and went into the kitchen.
"I'm just popping upstairs, dear. To check on Lottie." Marcie walked up the stairs, but she didn't stop at Lottie's door. she carried on, until she reached the door leading upstairs. Up to where her father lived. She took off her necklace. On it, was a small key. She unlocked the door, and walked up the stairs. She pushed open the door to the room her father always used to sit. Three pairs of hands pulled her in.
"Welcome home, Marcie!"