This story is by Christine Marcoux and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Gregory Fairleigh’s anxiety turned to giddiness as his time to avenge the inheritance drew near. Only six more hours. The sound of the distant storm made his heart beat a little faster knowing he would set the gossip mill of the town churning.
He was the last living relation of his gracious descendants who founded Fairleigh Hamlet two centuries previous. Recently, Gregory had taken to isolation in Fairleigh Manor. The townfolk grew concerned as the narrative from the domestics set a tone of madness and obsession. Their concern came from previous generations of sad endings.
In his self quarantined state, Gregory had taken the opportunity to find the truth of some rumors. And find it he did: in a hand written letter dated 1789. The words brought him to his knees. He knew what he had to do. A carefully coordinated plan had been set in motion. Tonight was the anniversary of that fateful letter.
The grandfather clock in the hall had chimed 6.
As he sat surrounded by volumes of history in the library, he kept the door open enough to ease drop on the staff clearing up the dinner. He had an odd request of them but one befitting of an antiquated home: a 1789 six course meal. He dressed in gentleman’s attire suitable for the era and spoke to them in an Olde English dialect. The Fairleigh Mansion staff knew Gregory had immersed himself in his genealogy so indulged him this one last time. Earlier in the week, he had informed his employees that their services would no longer be needed and supplied each with a hefty severance package. Tonight would be their last night.
At 6:45 Gregory heard the sound of the back door creaking, car doors closing and motors scurrying down the lane way towards town. Only the ticking of the clock remained.
When the clock struck seven, Gregory began his rounds of the main floor. First, the east ell that held the kitchen, dining and breakfast rooms. All windows closed and the back door bolted shut.
The clock chimed the quarter hour.
In the main hall, Gregory checked the lock on the ornate wooden door, closed and locked the corridor windows then stood debating with himself on whether to turn on that one light. Just the dim wall sconce from the time of his beloved great great great grandmother, Genevieve. He chuckled to himself, “Ahh, the perfect ambiance!”
He gently turned up the wick, struck a match and lit the lamp one more time. He made sure all the correspondence including the heirloom letter, the research and the inheritance was placed on the round table in the middle of the foyer. If his treatise reached the true lineage then his successor should arrive in the morning.
The clock struck the half hour.
Heading slowly through the west ell, Gregory watched through the windows in the Great Room as the storm rose over the ocean towards him. In the distance he could see the lightening strikes and hear the dull roar of the thunder. He caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror. The dim glow of the evening light created an air of a past life presence. Whose life did he emulate tonight?
He stood watching the storm approach until the clock struck eight.
Hastily, he closed and locked the windows, pulled the curtains across the length of the room and lit the sconces above the mantle of the stone fireplace. The glow surrounded the portrait of his beloved Genevieve, a most beautiful and mysterious woman.
He stepped toward the middle of the great room and bowed to her as if they were at court. His eyes gleaned sadness as his softly spoken words flowed to her portrait,
“My Lady, I acknowledge the depth of your sadness: betrayal is the greatest damage to the heart. Another before you grieved as well. Tonight, I shall endeavor to right the wrong doings of your husband. Tonight, all Fairleigh’s will be acknowledged.”
He had studied every detail of the portrait of Genevieve but at this moment, it seemed to come alive. He imagined her voice to be sweet and loving. A gentle breeze played around his ear as if she was reaching out, thanking him. His feelings of longing to be with her grew.
A crack of lightening clamoured closer to the shore and snapped him back to the reality of the situation. His anger stirred years of his emotions into a frenzy. He would confront the man who caused so much pain and sorrow in one family. So much grief and suffering for generations. He turned and dashed from his beloved Genevieve as to not allow her to feel his rage towards William Fairleigh, his three times great grandfather. He shoved open the door of the family office with great force only to find William staring down at him. And as if on que, the stormed began it’s merciless rage overhead.
“How dare you deceive that precious, beautiful young woman,” he protested to the painting.
“How dare you create a life driven by lies. She did not deserve her fate. You did not deserve her. You let your son, the rightful heir to this disaster of a world, confront your beautiful, innocent young wife! You were a coward. You allowed this disaster to break so many hearts! I am happy that you died a lonely man. ”
The clock pounded nine as a great crack of lightening struck the hillside. The windows of the chambers blew wide open and the wind blasted through the room knocking over pictures and heirlooms! Thunder deafened Gregory’s cries of anguish to his grandfather! The curtains began sagging from the force of the driving rain.
“Tonight, I shall undo the harm you created. Tonight, I shall inherit my heirloom as so many others before me did. Because of you. Because of your deceit and lies! We have indured enough and soon, very soon your progeny shall have what was denied! Your wrongs will be set right!”
Then, silence. No wind, no lightening, no thunder. The windows slowly creaked back to a near closed position and the damaging rain turned to a drizzle.
And in the distance he heard the clock strike ten.
Gregory bounded up the staircase to the third floor. It was time. He needed to reach the roof; the widow’s walk. The storm again gathered it’s strength above the great Mansion on the cliff. Thunder shook the foundation as he stood like a stone statue in defiance of the lightening strikes that threatened the antiquated home of the Fairleigh legacy. He allowed the pounding rain and wind to batter him. In defiance of William Fairleigh, he stood motionless until the storm passed into an ever so soft rain. Just like the night of his Genevieve’s death. Her final letter in 1789 told the truth. Gregory was not the rightful heir. None of Genevieve’s offspring were.
And now, he too stood on that widow’s walk in the rain. Just like her.
As he slowly made his way back inside, drenched and drained, Gregory could hear the grandfather clock strike the half hour.
From the utility closet in the servant’s quarters, Gregory carefully drew out the rope he quietly placed there in the early afternoon.
As the clock chimed the three quarters of the hour, Gregory hung the rope over that same beam, placed the noose around his neck and waited.
And just like his beloved Genevieve in 1789, at the stroke of midnight, Gregory Fairleigh stepped off the rail of the third floor landing…