Chapter 2-

After several minutes of unnerving stillness, Carlotta motioned Leah inside. Hesitantly Leah lifted her small case and stepped in. The closing of the heavy door echoed through the silent house. If it weren't for Marie's shrieking sobs, Leah would be afraid that the two aunts she knew so little about were emotionless beings. As it was Carlotta could stand as still as stone.

Simply ignoring Marie's tears, Carlotta lead the way through the front parlor to the main hall. A staircase was all that really remained of the splendor Hatfield had once been. Though the wood was dusty and the carpet ragged, Leah could still see the grandness the enchanting place had once held. Admiring was a task that Carlotta did not like, so Leah's pace was hurried.

Up the stairs they went, down a long hall, and up to an old door. Carlotta grasped the handle firmly and, though the door stuck a bit, quickly managed to open it. They stepped into a room that hadn't seen the light of day for many years. Just their entrance stirred up the dust and a lone mouse scurried into its hole. Leah shivered at the sight, but Carlotta still seemed incapable of human emotion.

She pointed to the spiraling, wrought iron staircase. "You may sleep up there. If you aren't happy with it, rearrange it as you wish." Without another word she turned and left Leah alone in the dusty room, with the little mouse.

Gently Leah leaned her suitcase against the wall. Then she slipped her hat off and placed it on top. Gathering her courage she placed one small foot on the first step. Hesitantly, she climbed the staircase. It wasn't a large one and it opened directly into the large attic.

This room, she was sure, had lacked human company for a long time. Layers upon layers of dust and grime had settled upon every object that took up occupancy in the spacious room, but still the place was comforting somehow.

The stairs had brought her to the southern corner of the room. To her right a large, four poster bed with a lacy canopy stood guard next to a small cupboard of dark cherry wood. Across the dark floor to the opposite corner of the stairs, were several chests. Some of them were marked in gold letters with names. Leah did not take the time to study them now though; she continued her study of the place that was to be her home.

Large dressers stood side by side and a curtained area hid a small claw-foot tub. A silk dressing screen stood just next to the tub and a soft, white dressing gown was hanging from one corner.

Satisfied that her things would be safe, she hurried back down the steps to get her suitcase. With a quick glance to insure the mouse was still in its own place, Leah hopped off the last step and scurried across the small room. Just as she lifted her hat and case, a loud creak echoed through the hallway. Curious, she glanced out, but no one was to be seen. After assuring herself that it was simply one of those sounds old houses were bound to make, she dashed back up the stairs and into the attic.

…………………………………

The dawn's early light awoke Leah from a fitful night's sleep. After much hesitation the night before, she had simply thrown off the top blanket and slept between the musty sheets. Hopefully her aunts would have something cleaner she could use tonight.

During the night her dreams had been haunted of images of her mother and the creaking of wooden floors.

With a tired sigh, she threw off the yellowed sheets and slipped off the large bed. Her suitcase still lay open on the floor beside the bed. A shiver slipped through her thin form as she knelt on the cold floor.

Most of her clothing was packed in the trunk that had been left behind at the station, but there was one more clean set of clothing. Dark gray stockings, a black skirt, and black sweater were carefully pulled on. Then she folded her nightgown and set it back in the case.

Her black shoes sat together nearby and she quickly pulled them on. After running a brush through her hair she used one of her mother's combs to hold it back from her face. Silently she made her way back down the first floor.

Marie and Carlotta sat at on either end of a small table. Each of them had warm drink in hand and was sipping it slowly.

"Good morning," Leah said as cheerfully as possible as she approached the table.

"Good morning, my dear," Marie greeted jovially. It was hard to believe she had been the sobbing woman the evening before.

In the new light of day, Leah had another chance to study her aunts.

Marie was plump and round in her younger days she had probably been a great beauty, but age and sorrow had caused the youthfulness to fade quickly. Dressed in a blue dress she looked happy and gay.

Carlotta was the opposite in nearly every way. Tall and strikingly slim, she was dressed in a simple black dress. Her prematurely graying hair was pulled back in a simple bun causing her thin face to appear even more severe.

"There are scones and tea for breakfast," Marie's chatter broke into Leah's thoughts.

Leah smiled politely and took a seat in the last chair of the table on either side of her aunts. Hesitantly she took a saucer and cup. Then she selected two scones. Marie graciously offered to pour the tea, an offer Leah accepted with a smile.

After eating in near silence, Leah broached the subject she dreaded. "My trunk is at the station in town, might we go and retrieve it?" she asked hesitantly.

Marie nearly dropped her half-full cup of tea into her lap. Carlotta stood and walked away from the table, out of the room. When she returned she held a small clasp of bills out to Leah. "You may go to town and hire someone to bring the trunk here, or as far as they will venture." Carlotta instructed.

"Thank you, ma'am," Leah replied meekly.


Okay, as usual I was to lazy to reread for errors, so if you spot any please let me know. ;) Hope you enjoy the chapter and please review!