Welcome to The Muse in the Attic.
For those of you who are not new to this story, you will notice some major edits in the first few chapters. The story remains the same, I just felt it was too expository and wanted to get to the point.
Endless gratitude to alonelily, who grants me her time, in spite of her chronic lack of it. Thanks also to my beech farquars KiyaRaven and miztrezboo, who without their shove, this story would still be a bunch of nonsense floating around in my head.
And now on with the show...
Every End is a New Beginning
I met my husband at University where we were both took the same English Literature lecture. Embry had aspirations to be a novelist, whereas I was more focused on becoming an English teacher.
I had known within the first six months of being in relationship with Embry that he was my future. I had the silly daydreams that girls have about their wedding and their future children. Thankfully in mine though, there was no meringue inspired gown or ugly babies resembling Winston Churchill. No, just a simple no frills, but still lovely, wedding and normal looking babies.
We had married in Seattle while I was studying my Masters in Education. By this time Embry had finished his degree and was set to work on writing his first novel. We knew going into marriage at the young age of twenty-four and twenty-five respectively would not make things easy, but we were in love and had the help of our family and friends if need be. My dad had expressed to me when I began seeing Embry seriously that while he was not looking forward to the day when he would have to hand me over to another man, he couldn't have thought of one more suited to me. Looking back on that, I could only scoff, not that my father was necessarily wrong, but that Embry had played everyone for a fool.
Last year, I got the shock of my life. My husband, the man who I thought was my forever, asked for a divorce. When I recovered from my shock enough to ask why, he simply said he did not love me. I was devastated. He had never shown me anything but affection and told me he loved me often, we had even made love only two nights prior. I asked him to tell me how that was possible. The whole situation seemed absolutely absurd and if I hadn't had a sore ankle from where I nearly tripped over on my way to sit down to hear him try to explain himself, I could have sworn I was stuck in some horrible nightmare. All I could hear was "this cannot be happening" over and over again in my head; it was as if a record was stuck and couldn't change over to the next song.
None of it made sense. Embry had asked me for a divorce as though he was asking me to pass the salt. He sat there looking rather nonchalant causing my anger to only further escalate at his lack of compassion for me and how he was destroying me at that moment. I had given him every part of me; he had never lacked for love and friendship. I knew I wasn't a typical housewife, but Embry had never wanted one. He'd told me on many occasions he loved that I could, when needed, be something of a ball-breaker; that I had a unyielding attitude that almost never failed to get me what I wanted professionally.
Conversely, I knew I was something of pushover when it came to my marriage, or at least I had figured that out that I was after my divorce came through. While studying for my degree I held down a part-time job working in an office answering phones and performing other menial duties. It was tedious, incredibly monotonous and I don't think I would wish it on my worst enemy, but it did put food on the table and helped to pay the rent.
We both disliked living in Seattle and agreed to move back to Forks when I had finished my study. Seattle was a fine place in small doses, I just wasn't meant to live in a bustling metropolis long-term. Looking back, it was apparent that cracks were showing the first year into our marriage.
They say hindsight is 20/20 when given the opportunity to look back on things. It was clear to me now just how much Embry had changed from when we dating. It was put to me by one of my close friends and colleagues, Angela, that maybe he hadn't changed but had been trying to be someone he wasn't all along. The prospect of that scared the crap out of me. If that was true, then I had been deceived from day one. I resigned myself to the likelihood that I'd never know the truth. I wasn't even sure I wanted to know.
I had yet to shed myself of a few belongings of Embry's that he not taken with him when he left. I allowed myself to recall the fateful discovery that he wanted to end our marriage while I waited for him to answer the phone.
"What the fuck Embry? How can you do this? You've never given any me indication whatsoever that you felt this way and all of sudden you just decide it's over and don't even give me chance to do something, anything to make this better."
I could see he was running rebuttals over and over in his mind, but there was no way I was going to let him try to justify his actions. I was in control of this argument and there was no way I was letting up. I had things to get off my chest.
"For the past four years I have done everything I could to make us happy. We knew going into this at our age that it be would be difficult, but we discussed it and you promised me that we would never let ourselves become lost to the responsibilities of married life. And here you are telling me you're done. Done. Just like that. I get no say. Well you know what, fuck you. I'm not about to let you do this to me and think it's okay!"
I had been yelling so much my throat was parched and I knew I wasn't going to get the answers I needed and deserved unless I calmed down long enough to allow him to speak. He went on to explain his first novel hadn't sold as well as was expected by his publisher and he had been growing increasingly annoyed that I was making more money. Embry, like many men was proud - sometimes to the point of stupidity - and while I could understand his sense of emasculation, his jealousy of my professional success did not justify asking for a divorce, especially when I had no forewarning.
Lost in the memory of the argument, I didn't hear the phone ring out. When I realized, I rang back and left an abrupt message telling him to collect his stuff before I threw it out.
I was proud of myself for not letting him walk all over me like I was doormat. Because I was a naturally quiet person I had a tendency to do just that.
The pain I felt after Embry left me was something of a blessing and a curse. It made it hard to get out of bed some mornings but it also fuelled my love of writing. I took great joy in it. It wasn't something I did professionally, more just a serious hobby.
It held me together after the divorce was finalized, and I came to rely on my notebooks. They held my inner-most thoughts and emotions. Even though I was young, I didn't know how to be alone and I hated that. I always thought of myself as confident and separate from my marriage, but when it came to an end, sometimes it felt as though I was, too.
I didn't socialize much outside of work but I was friendly with my colleagues, Angela and Jasper in particular. We would often eat our lunches together and they were very supportive of me when I told them of my divorce. I had been embarrassed about it, but they helped me see that it was not my fault in any way. They would often invite me out and even though I knew I should go, I just couldn't find the enough desire to.
During the divorce proceedings, we sold our marital home and I moved in with my dad. I couldn't have asked for a more devoted father than Charlie. I knew raising me alone was especially tough, given he had very little in the way of support to help him raise a little girl.
My mother Renee passed away not long after I was born from complications of childbirth. She got to nurse me, I have photos of that.
I knew early on that my mother had passed away shortly after giving birth to me, but it was not until I think I was ten that my dad sat me down and explained in better detail what had happened. It wasn't something he wanted to do, and once he elaborated I could understand why. However, it was necessary for him to tell me at some point. Renee passed away from severe hemorrhaging due to suffering pre-eclampsia during her pregnancy with me.
Renee had tried everything she could to secure my healthy entrance into the world, having been informed it was likely that I would not survive to term. It was always anticipated that I would be the one to not make it rather than my mother. Along with her obstetrician and recommended specialists, she visited psychics, witchdoctors, and palmists all with the hope they could tell her what she wanted to hear; that I would survive and she and my dad could take me home so we could be a happy and healthy family.
Apparently, it was after one ominous visit to a healer down on nearby Quileute reservation that she began having doubts about her own health, doubts she only voiced to Charlie, who persuaded her to not think such thoughts. He believed it to be nothing more than superstition, in spite of his close friendship with Billy, one of the elders.
Charlie didn't believe in superstitions or anything remotely other-worldly. He thought it tantamount to nonsense and never paid it any attention. But when my mother became fixated on it he became convinced that she was playing with fire, and tempting fate in all the wrong ways. He has never gotten past his anger with her for dying. He believed it has something to do with her becoming obsessed with "that superstitious nonsense" as he put it.
Growing up in Forks afforded me the ability to ride over to the manor on weekends or after school. I was always so excited to visit, I could hardly make the wheels on my Malvern Star turn fast enough for the the speed I was attempting to peddle them. The rainbow streamers attached to my handlebars would fly out besides my hands, making me giggle at the furious kaleidoscope. The dense lining of Western Hemlocks beside the road to his house provided both beautiful scenery and a thick green blanket from the sometimes harsh winds.
Granddad lived on the outskirts of town in the most majestic manor my young eyes had ever seen. The house sat on a half acreage of land, surrounded by forestation, with access to a trail that led to a picturesque stream. The manor was by far one of, if not the largest house in the nearby area. It comprised of three stories, the first two made up of living areas and bedrooms, with the third being the attic.
One of my fondest memories being the ride I would make up the driveway. It was not a particularly long driveway, so I could see him waiting for me on the porch once I arrived at the gate. I think he was lonely a lot of time, because when I got there he would smile so large it looked as though his weary face couldn't contain the joy it held. On my regular weekend visits he would take me inside and we'd sit in the sun room out by the backyard where he would read me the most amazing stories. I had always been an avid reader, but it was something I had to enjoy alone because Charlie was a simple man, with simple pleasures. Books were not something he found to be of much use to him personally, but he always encouraged my interests nonetheless. So, when Caius introduced me to classics like Anna Karenina and Of Mice and Men I was instantly enamored. He also fostered my writing. I often found I was more inspired at the manor than anywhere else. Looking back, I think it was the peaceful surroundings there that motivated my writing poetry. It was always so quiet and I never had any difficulty finding something to write about – a problem I always encountered anywhere else.
Granddad liked to find different ways to entertain me on my visits. Sometimes he would let me take reign of the kitchen and make him afternoon tea. I always made his favorites: scones and gingerbread men. He would sometimes offer his help, but in the end I had to shoo him away before the room ended up looking like a flour bomb had gone off in it. He really had no aptitude for cooking at all which was one of the things I loved most about him. I was sure he had some difficulty at times appearing jovial around me. I knew he carried a great deal of sadness with him and, at times, I think my presence was bittersweet but he was always happy to have me there, more than ready to indulge me with silly games and other fun activities; anything to make me laugh and bring some life back to him.
One of his favorite things was to tell me stories, not from my favorite books, but make-believe; fantasy and ghost stories in particular. He would often perch me on his knee and tell me tales about the people who use to live there. His favorite one was about a captain who he claimed built the house. He told me that the entire family of sons, daughters and their children lived there, but after the captain passed away, the matriarch was so bereft so couldn't live without her husband. And so, she moved herself into the attic where she never emerged from again, eventually passing away from a broken heart. He loved to tell me how you could sometimes hear her rocking chair creaking on the old uneven floorboards and, sometimes on a cloudy night, you could see her walking along with widow's walk waiting for her husband to return. I never believed any of the stories he told me, but they were so imaginative that I never forgot them and while they would scare me, they intrigued me nonetheless.
When I spoke to my father of the interesting tales granddad told me he would say it all a bunch of baloney and to pay it no heed. He told me that my over-imaginative granddad was just making up stories to thrill me.
When I arrived one morning at my granddad's I found the front door open and a little note stuck to it telling me to come up to attic. I was instantly afraid, so much so I had to hang onto the bannister to keep me upright. This was very strange behavior for my granddad because he knew how much I didn't like surprises. On many occasions he tried to playfully surprise me, but every time ended up with me in tears. It was because of this that I couldn't understand what he was up to.
As I tentatively approached the stairwell to the attic, I took my time to gather my thoughts. I was sure whatever reason my granddad wanted me up there for was perfectly safe and logical. He probably just needed my help in bringing something down. I continued slowly taking one step at a time, trying in vain to control the hammering of my nervous heart. I held onto the bannister as if my life depended on it. I didn't think even my walk down the aisle took me as long as this one did.
Reaching the final few steps I called out to granddad but heard nothing. Calling again, I heard a creaking sound, and with my heart in my throat I entered the room but couldn't immediately see him as there was very little natural light in the room - the only artificial light had to be turned on by a cord hanging from the ceiling that I couldn't reach. I called out to granddad again and this time I finally heard him call back to me. Not fully expecting him to answer, I screamed and in turn frightened him, causing him to lose his balance and fall over. Running over to where he was, I helped him up and he was immediately apologetic having forgotten in one of his now frequently occurring memory lapses how terrified I was of this room. He held me, giving me as much comfort in his gentle embrace as he could. When I finally calmed down he put me back on the floor and told me he wanted to show me something very important to him.
We walked over to a chest, one I'd never seen before, and I was instantly curious why something so beautiful was being kept hidden away in the attic. It was quite large and covered in the most remarkable carvings that seemed to be thematic; as if telling a story. He explained to me that he and my grandmother found the chest here when they moved in. They both loved it and tried to move it downstairs but it was so heavy they gave up. On closer inspection they later discovered the chest was literally immovable, having been somehow permanently attached to the floorboards.
I asked granddad if I could open it and he immediately told me no. He practically yelled at me, though he apologized straight after, realizing that I would naturally be curious. He explained to me that for as long as he had lived there he had never once opened it. When he found it after moving in he discovered some papers lying atop the chest forbidding anyone from opening it. He told me that he tried to open it, disregarding the letter thinking it was from a previous owner who simply couldn't remove the chest and didn't want anyone snooping through their belongings until they found a way to collect it. He, however, did go onto say that no-one ever did come for it. Granddad told me he made many attempts over the years to open it again but was never able to, saying it was as though it had been fused shut for all of time. He told me that he had never been able to find the owners, or any information about where the chest came from or who made it. He wanted me to know of its existence in the hope maybe I could one day find out more of its history.
I told my dad, hoping he knew something of it, but he said he'd never heard of it and that maybe granddad was telling one of his fanciful stories again. When I insisted he wasn't and I had actually seen it with my own two eyes he was curious but told me it was probably nothing important. He told me that even though it may have been pretty and quite possibly an antique, that it was better left alone, especially if it belonged to someone else. I made him promise me that he would do all he could in his position as a police chief to track down the owners or some information on it, and even though he told me he would, I couldn't help but think he was trying to mollify me, knowing in all likelihood he couldn't do anything.
After granddad showed it to me the first time, I never did see it again. And, being terrified of the room it was in I put the chest out of my mind for a long time after that. I had no reason to think that it wouldn't there any more because granddad would've told me. Also, with it being seemingly impossible to move I couldn't see how something like that could be removed without a great deal of trouble being caused.
As much as I wanted to discern that it remained where I last saw it, I knew I had to find a way to overcome my intense fear of the attic. Just this simple thought was almost as terrifying as the room itself. Therapists say the best way to overcome a fear is to face it head-on but I just couldn't, not without having a crippling anxiety attack.
When granddad passed away a few months ago, he bequeathed to me his manor. I had known for many years that that was his intent - he told me when I was quite young, probably too young, and at the time I couldn't understand or appreciate the gravity of his decision, but I have never forgotten the day he told me. I'd not long arrived on a Saturday morning to find him sitting in a far corner of the sitting room. It was not a room he frequented, at least not that I knew of. I was immediately concerned but knew if I rushed in I'd likely startle him. Taking a deep breath to steady myself I knocked on the wall panel beside the door jamb to alert him to my presence. When he looked up I saw a look on his face that I had never seen... he was deathly pale and he looked exhausted.
I walked over to him and he patted his knee, his cue for me to take a seat there, something I would normally have done without hesitation. However, with him looking so broken I just couldn't so I took a seat on the floor as close to him as I could. He gave me a look of understanding but belying that I saw resignation haunting his eyes. When he spoke there was something in his voice that worried me. He went on to tell me that he had made plans to leave the manor to me when he was no longer with us. He explained that neither he nor my grandmother wanted to see the house sold off to someone who may not appreciate it as much as he knew I would one day.
I couldn't wait to move into my new house. It needed some work, which I had been slowly doing while staying with Charlie. I gave the exterior a fresh coat of paint and I had been spending my weekends there working in the garden. It was such a relaxing place to be. I knew I was going to love living there. It was sure to have such a vibrant history and the thought of researching it made me smile, thinking about who had lived there prior to my granddad. I just knew that some amazing things had to have happened there.
I'd had a recent burst of inspiration since I began renovations. I was not sure what it was about the house that left me feeling rejuvenated when I wrote, but it was something I hoped to harness and maybe, just maybe, the nagging voice at the back of my mind telling me to publish my words could be sated.
My divorce had nearly broken me but I had a strong feeling that life was about to present me with a welcome change. The new house would be the turning point for me. I was ready to move on.
If you enjoyed this chapter or have any thoughts to share with me please review. Thank you for reading.