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When He Loves You

by Hanan Farag 10 months ago in Short Story
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Her world changed in one summer, at 13

When He Loves You
Photo by Stephen Hickman on Unsplash

“I think you are going to like it here. There are so many historical attractions we can visit and all the fish we can eat since we are located right by the water.”

Sure grandma was excited, but I wasn’t, mostly because we have been sitting in this hot car for five hours. I can’t see myself spending the whole summer with her in North Carolina. I wanted to stay in Virginia, hang out with friends, and maybe even go to the pool and hit the mall. But mom insisted I visit my grandmother, since she isn’t getting any younger. We drove past a sign that read, Welcome to Edenton. Eden? Yeah right, tell that to the beads of sweat running down my back; it feels more like hell to me.

“We are almost there Bethany. I can’t believe it has been a year already since the house has been fixed up. My great great grandfather had lived in that house you know” she said matter of factly.

“I know grandma. It has got to be the fifth time you have told me since you got the place” I reminded her.

“I’m sorry sweetie. Sometimes, with my old age, I forget things. I was thirteen just like you once, so I know how frustrating grandparents can be. Just wait till you are my age; you would be lucky if you could remember your own name” she snickered.

I rolled my eyes. “I would be lucky if I were to survive this trip” I mumbled.

“What was that?” she asked still recovering from her laughter.

“I said this heat is making me hungry.”

“Don’t worry about a thing sweet pea. I sent your aunt to the store earlier, so she should have lunch ready by the time we get there” she said reassuringly.

When we pulled into the driveway I immediately stammered out of the car and wanted to show the ground my appreciation by planting a couple of kisses its way. Grandma helped me with my things and we walked the dirt path towards the house. The yard was huge but had no personality; there were barely any trees around and no flowers in sight.

“Welcome to the Hayes Plantation” she exclaimed as we approached closer to her home.

I looked up at the small mansion in awe; I have never seen anything like it before. The structure reminded me of a sophisticated doll house. I examined every red brick and every white window shutter. The door was framed with two white columns that screamed Roman Empire and was accessorized with a golden knocker.

“Gorgeous, isn’t it? It is of the Federal and Georgian style; prevalent in its time period.”

“And what period might that be?” I asked

“The 17th and 18th century” she stated.

Wow, impressive how it is still standing. I looked from the house to my grandmother who was fumbling with the keys. No wonder she enjoys this place so much, it resembles her in so many ways.

“Everything about the house is pretty much the same on the outside, but the inside had been tweaked a little; there were minor damages because of the vacancy. But for the most part it looks the same as it did when it was first built in 1817” she explained as she gave me a tour of the place.

Aunt Jackie became a tourist with me and observed everything. She glanced at the paintings on the wall up and down as if it were her first time seeing them.

“How come you are here? You know everything there is to know about this house already” I said.

“This place is so amazing, I never get tired of relearning about it” she said never taking her eyes off of the paintings. “And besides, your granny is thinking about turning it into her own professional tourist attraction, so I want to make sure she doesn’t leave out any information as a way to help her practice” she continued.

“Quiet down in the peanut gallery please. As I was saying, this is Samuel Johnston, the original owner of this plantation” grandma said as she pointed to the man in the portrait with the powdered wig and blue petticoat.

She continued to say that he was the governor of North Carolina in 1789 and resigned in 1793. She also mentioned something about a judge, but I was too distracted by the man in the painting next to his to know what she said. There was something about the look in his eyes that didn’t seem so pleasant.

“Ah, I see you have met Franklin Williams” grandma said turning her attention to the painting I was staring at.

“What’s his deal” I asked without taking my eyes off of him.

“He was the stepson of Mr. Johnston. Franklin took over the plantation after his death” she explained.

“Did he always look like someone crapped in his porridge” I asked.

Aunt Jackie and grandma looked at each other and then erupted into synchronized laughter.

“He was known for being a little grumpy from time to time” grandma replied, while wiping the tears from her eyes.

I think a “little grumpy” is an understatement. I couldn’t help but continue to glare at Franklin. His shady eyes and his black apparel reminded me of the crooked man on neighborhood watch signs. For all I know he could have been a thief or a murderer.

I flipped from channel to channel; there was a wide selection of news stations and static. Why don’t they have satellite TV?

“Sorry dear, I don’t watch much TV. There are some books in my room if you would like to take a gander at them” grandma yelled from the kitchen.

I made my way to the main staircase and started climbing. As I walked through the long hallway, I heard a thud come from my right. I turned around and noticed an opened door with another set of stairs. That’s funny. I don’t remember grandma taking us through here. These stairs must lead to the attic; there are probably some interesting things in there that I can entertain myself with. I walked up the stairs and felt each step creak under my feet. There was a wooden door at the top; it was boarded up with planks of wood, nails, latches, and locks. As I raised my hand to turn the door knob, it began to jiggle on its own. I jumped back and almost fell down the stairs, but caught myself on the hand rail.

“What are you doing Bethany?”

I turned around and saw my aunt at the bottom of the steps. She looked up at me with one eyebrow raised. I walked down the stairs, which sounded more silent this time on a count of my heart was pounding louder in comparison.

“Didn’t your grandma tell you not to go near the attic” she asked.

“No she didn’t. It’s not like I can go in there anyways, it’s locked. And why can’t I? You hiding a dead body in there” I asked with a smile to try and hide my reaction to what I just encountered.

With an unamused facial expression she replied, “Just don’t go near it again, okay”

“Yes ma’am” I answered.

With that she disappeared down the hallway and into one of the bedrooms. I wonder what that was all about. What is in that room?

A bearded, thin, brown man lay motionless up against a wall. Shackles and chains bounded his wrists and ankles together. His head hung low and his eyes closed shut. He wore a white colonial shirt stained in red and tan pants with no shoes on his feet. His sunken head rocked from side to side as he moaned. His head moved faster and faster until it suddenly halted to a stop. He slowly looked up to reveal white eyes lacking pupils and irises.

My eyes snapped open and scanned the room. I sit up in bed to realize it was only a dream. It must be late considering the room isn’t lit up with sunshine. I turned my head to look at the clock on the bedside table that read 4:30. I laid back down and buried my face in the covers. My mouth felt unusually dry. I threw the covers off of my body and swung my legs to the floor to acquire my slippers. I maneuvered my way out of the dark room and walked down the hallway. The sound of chains scraping across the floor stopped me in my tracks. I turned my head to recognize the doorway that led to the attic. I took a deep breath and proceeded to the kitchen for a glass of water.

“What do you know about your great great grandfather?”

Grandma looked at me with a surprised look on her face. She stared at the apple she was cutting and dropped the knife on the plate. She looked at me with an expression I couldn’t read.

“I wanna show you something” she said.

She led me outside and around the back of the house. We walked to a small cemetery that had about ten head stones. She pointed to the smallest one that read, Gordan. There was no date of birth or death; it just had a name on it.

“Gordan was your great great great grandfather’s last name. Ironically, his first name was Samuel.The family doesn’t know much about him except that he was a slave here. I’m not even sure if he died here.”

“What makes you say that grandma? His grave is right there” I said.

She stared at the headstone with the same blank expression she had in the kitchen. She fiddled with the ring on her finger and sighed.

“Because when I had a couple of men come to dig up the grave, so that he would be reburied with the rest of the family in Georgia, they claimed there was no body in there. I went to see for myself and they were right; there was not one bone underground.”

“Grandma?”

“Yes dear” she answered.

“What’s in the attic” I asked.

She stopped playing with her ring, looked at me and answered, “I’m not sure.”

I stood at the bottom of the staircase and peered up at the attic door. Hammer in hand; I slowly walked up the stairs. Not only did the stairs creak again, but I heard a similar sound coming from the door. Goosebumps started to form on my arms from a small draft that was present. As I got closer to the top, the secured door began to open on its own followed by the sound of groaning and heavy breathing. The small draft became a strong wind current and I was lifted off of the stairs. I began to scream as I realized that I was being carried into the attic; once I was inside, the door slammed shut.

I looked around the room to see that it was empty except for the man sitting against the wall in shackles, like in my dream. He looked up at me with sickness in his eyes until the door to the attic opened and a white little girl who appeared around 7 or 8 came in with a tray of food.

“Hurry up and eat this Mr. Gordan before my father finds out” the girl said.

“Oh bless you sweet child!” the shackled man said with joy in his voice as the girl began to feed him what looked like bread and meat.

“What are you doing” A man standing at the attic door yelled.

I stared at the man and saw that he resembled the crooked man on the painting. He knocked the tray out of the girl’s hand and grabbed her arm.

“I told you never to come in here! Get out!” He screamed at the girl as she ran out the room.

“Mr. Williams, Sir, she didn’t mean no harm. She was only giving me--”

The prisoned man’s words were interrupted by a blow he received across the face; I stood up. Franklin undid the belt on his pants and beat him five times in a row. Great great great grandad. I watched as my flesh and blood fell to the floor.

“Stop!” I wailed as tears began to run down my cheeks.

But the evil man wouldn’t listen, wouldn’t even turn around. He just continued to beat until twenty strikes later he became tired and stopped. I dropped to my knees when I saw the red soil his white shirt where he was hit; he gaped at me with death in his eyes.

“That will teach you not to touch what doesn’t belong to you” Franklin said as he walked out of the room and slammed the door behind him.

My great great great grandfather continued to stare at me. His mouth began to move like he was trying to tell me something, but I was never good at reading lips. I jumped from the sound of the construction work on the door. Franklin must be boarding up the room.

“Bethany! What are you doing in here and how did you get in here” my grandmother asked.

She looked at me with concern when she realized that I had been crying. She cupped her hands around my face and wiped the tears from my eyes with her thumbs.

“I know what happened to Samuel Gordan” I said to her with a sniffle.

“He was murdered wasn’t he? By Franklin Williams” she answered.

“How did you know” I asked.

“I just had a feeling” she replied.

I looked over at the skeleton still shackled to the wall. Grandma followed my gaze and also discovered his body. She sighed, “I have some people to call”

“Why me” I asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Why did he want me to know specifically” I asked.

“That’s what happens when someone loves you” Aunt Jackie answered from the attic doorway.

Grandma and I looked at each other then Aunt Jackie with confusion. What does she know that we don’t?

Short Story

About the author

Hanan Farag

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