The Caretaker of Cavendish Manor
The mirror tells no lies
The mirror showed a reflection that wasn't my own. She had the same brown hair, same blackheads, same tired eyes looking back at me, but somehow I knew she was a fake. It was in the expression on her face, as if she was keeping a secret. I scoffed at her, spraying the antique mirror with some cleaning solution and wiping it with a cloth. The rest of the parlor’s furnishings were shrouded in dust covers. I thought it best to keep them covered and only use what was necessary.
I had come to the Cavendish estate to be caretaker. The job title struck me as funny. I’d taken care of people for many years as a wife, mother, and a nurse. It would be much easier taking care of inanimate objects that don’t eat or shit or complain. After my nervous breakdown, this job promised to be the easiest way to get by while continuing my recovery.
The place was also gorgeous, a Victorian manor house on the Isle of Wight. It seemed auspicious that the owner would invite someone of my lowly status to take care of such a grand estate, especially since there was already a very dedicated groundskeeper. There was little left for me to do, but to dust and clean up after myself. I’d also make the occasional call for a plumber when the ancient pipes backed up or sprang a leak.
I didn’t believe in ghost stories, so each of the noises I heard could easily be explained by the house’s aging infrastructure. I admit, I liked the solitude. The house had no Wifi connection, so I caught up on my reading in the garden filled with roses and ivy, the fragrance in the warm summer sun lifting my spirits with every inhale.
Here I could pretend to be a woman of leisure. I took baths in the clawfoot tub, a glass of wine in my hand. I’d linger until my toes were pruney or I started to nod off. I had to be careful. It would have been a shame to pass out drunk, slip under the bubbles, and drown.
The place was perfect and there was not a soul for miles. I could go to bed and wake up at any hour. After taking over the master bedroom, I was spoiled by the king sized four poster canopy bed with the finest Egyptian cotton sheets and down feather pillows. This was the life I wanted and now it was mine, in a way.
But the fact that I was alone in this big house became a blessing and a curse. I began to notice strange happenings, like my rain boots inexplicably caked in mud and things found in different locations then where I’d left them. Was I being visited? The idea was quite unsettling.
Supplies were getting low and it occurred to me that I would have to venture into town to pick up a few things. I got dressed and had a look at myself as I passed the mirror in the hallway. Again I caught a glimpse of the imposter. Her face was flushed, a bit of perspiration on her forehead where mine was dry. She wore the same cream colored blouse and I noticed a small dark stain on the collar. Strange, I thought I’d just cleaned that mirror. I wiped it again and the stain disappeared.
My journey into town would have to be quick. I didn’t want to stray too long from the estate. I popped into one of the shops and began filling my basket with the essentials: milk, eggs, biscuits, cleaning solutions, and more wine, of course. I was rounding the corner to snag some tea when I felt their eyes on me. It was an elderly couple. They were staring and whispering back and forth. My face got red hot.
“What are you two staring at?” I hissed. They made me so uncomfortable, I had to leave. I threw some money to the cashier and sprinted out the door with my things.
I went back to the house straight away and drew a bath. After a stressful encounter like that, I needed to relax. I turned the faucet to fill the tub and the old pipes just moaned. No water came out, but to my horror, a dark red liquid started bubbling up from the drain. It was an unholy sight, thick and rotten, but most of all it smelled like death.
I tried to stop it up, but it was rushing in so fast there wasn’t much I could do. After several minutes of cursing and struggling, I was finally able to close the drain and stop the flow, but the tub was two thirds full of the stuff and my sleeves were covered in filth up to the elbows.
My bath was ruined and with no water coming out of the tap, there was no way to effectively rinse myself off. I turned to the bathroom mirror to clean myself up the best I could. I took off my blouse and chucked it into the sink. My doppelganger was laughing at me. I was offended at first, but her laughter was so infectious and the situation was so ridiculous, I found myself laughing along with her. I laughed until my sides hurt and tears came out of my eyes. I laughed until every trace of anxiety I felt from that couple in town just melted away. It was a catharsis, a rebirth.
I was feeling so good, I strolled out to the garden with some shears and began collecting a bouquet of roses to celebrate my newfound mental clarity. My bouquet was nearly complete when I felt a tap on my shoulder.
“Excuse me, Miss?”
I turned to find an elderly man standing at attention. It was the groundskeeper and he looked every bit the part in his knee high rubber galoshes and tweed cap.
“Miss Cavendish? Why, it’s been years. I haven’t seen you since you were wee high.” He gestured with his hand. “Rest of the family on holiday then?”
In that instant I knew what had to be done.
It was obvious he wouldn’t fit in the septic tank with the others, so I dug a shallow grave beneath the rose bushes which seemed befitting of a groundskeeper and honestly, what could be better fertilizer?
About the Creator
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Original narrative & well developed characters
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Niche topic & fresh perspectives
Zero grammar & spelling mistakes
On-point and relevant
Writing reflected the title & theme
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Oh you DIDN'T! 😮
The story was readable and somewhat scary. It was well written. The loneliness of the story character in the mansion was well described. Congratulations. I hope to read more stories from you. If you like, read my story.:)
You do a great job building atmosphere. Also loved the twist. So that’s why there’s a funny smell bubbling up from the pipes…great work!
Beyond interesting. I had to go back & reread the beginning to pick up on some of the foreshadowing you offered. Well done & congrats!
Oh no the heroine is the killer😱 Congratulations 🍾🎉🎈 on top story
Awesome ! Great build on tension and finished with a bang. Congratulations on the Top Story honor. 🥇🥇🥇🥇🥰
What an unsettling piece. I love how the tension tightened with every little incident. Well done and congratulations on your Top Story 😄
Fabulous!!! Congrats on Top Story too!!!
Ah, this one got under my skin. Creepy! Really well done, Leslie! And Congratulations on Top Story🎉
Enjoy the story , very creative
Wow! I was pulled right in, this was so entertaining! That twist 😍 awesome job, and congrats on Top Story!! 😊
Whoaaaa, I did not see that coming! That was so brilliant! Loved your plot twist!
very interesting and could read my story I know what you did
HeyHey Good Writing ✨❤️Congratulations on your Top Story🎉🎉
What a great twist! Congratulations on your Top Story!
Congrats on the top story! Well deserved. I loved how dark it is, with a little humor woven into the ending. Great work!
Oh, my! That was a great twist! I hope you win!!
I was immediately pulled into this story, but the ending confused me… was the family actually her family?
Well crafted and thought out. The story flowed smoothly, always leaving the reader with little hints. Congratulations
I love the slightly humorous ending! Congrats
Fantastic story. congrats.
Your story made me switch between a mirror image of a familiar mirror character and an unexpected ending with a groundskeeper. It's a really great story.
Congrats on the top story. Very well done.
Congratulations on your Top Story. So good!