Here is the first excerpt from the next project I am currently working on. To be honest I could think of no other title that would fit for this story. It will be posted in four segments one each week. The story is in process, and part of a bigger piece of work. Please post any comments you may have and let me know if you enjoyed it and if you think the title fits. Thank you.
The tan stucco turn of the century mansion sat back off the street on an acre of property. A manicured botanical wonderland. Like a silent sentinel, it kept secrets. It had since its construction in 1900. Built by a wealthy Italian to impress his new bride Francesca it was a Victorian masterpiece, located in the Ridgewood Heights section of town. It sat high above overlooking the peaceful charm of the valley below and keeping an ever watchful eye on the skyline of New York City. It watched as the twin towers went up in all their splendor and again in silent horror when they crashed down on 9/11. This majestic house would come to hold the sweetest joys along with the darkest secrets of its owners over the century it had existed. Like a living breathing entity, many swore it had a soul of its own and in a way it did. Some swore Francesca had lingered, watching over those in need.
A young woman walked up the long stairway carefully balancing a breakfast tray on her shoulder as she climbed the steep staircase. Every item on the tray was in the exact location to create the ultimate presentation to the one it was intended for. Passing by the disapproving stares of ancestors that belonged to someone else’s family that hung on the walls, she watched them out of the corner of her eye. They had come with the house when it was purchased by Martin Johnson, her deceased father. She paused as she stuck her tongue out at them and their unspoken disapproval of her.
Approaching the closed solid oak door with its crystal handle, she could hear a deep wheezing coming from the room beyond. It grew in volume with each step she had taken. The sound was like a rake being drawn through dry leaves on the sidewalk on a cold winter day. Sharp and crumbly it grew louder as she entered the room.
Carefully moving across the still darkened room, she set the tray down on a stand beside the bed. Going over to the window, she opened the heavy burgundy drapes that blocked out any and all light. With a quick tug, of the first one and then the other tall drape she flooded the room with soft morning light.
“It’s about fucking time you useless girl!” the voice rasped from the large four poster bed against the far wall.
“I’m sorry, I had to remake your eggs they didn’t come out the way that you like them.” Regina said as she adjusted the tray table and moved it in front of the occupant of the bed. “How are you feeling today? Marishka. “
Regina was tall and slender with short straight blonde hair and blue eyes. She was not what could be called beautiful but had a serenity to her appearance that drew people to her. An innocence that Marishka couldn’t seem to crush.
Sitting up on the bed Marishka glared at her daughter. Her brown curly hair was cut to her shoulders her skin an olive tone belying her mixed birth. A stigma that she had spent years trying to hide. Neither beautiful nor ugly she was sultry, sensuous, and had a way of moving that promised carnal delights. She used her innate sexiness to her full advantage over the years. Her face and body had been maintained, which had given her the appearance of a much younger woman from behind, hiding the crow’s feet and lines of age that had begun to barely show on her face. Yet age and time were the enemies now, taking her power sapping it away little by little announcing middle age.
Looking at Regina, she could only feel hate towards her daughter. The youth, and fair coloring she envied and wanted for herself, the innocence, and spirit that had survived. She despised the child and had considered her an inconvenience, always in the way. Her birth had been an accident, unplanned, one that Marishka’s husband Martin refused to let her end or abort.
“How do you think I am feeling you stupid cow? The damn doctors cant figure out what is wrong with me. Yet I can feel the heaviness in my chest growing worse by the day.” She wheezed, a racking cough began shaking her body. She held a handkerchief up to her face, coughing violently.
Regina kept her face blank, while the fit seized Marishka. To speak unless asked to was unpardonable, to show compassion, a mistake that was used like a weapon against her. She had learned the hard way after her mother had ordered her henchmen and driver to punish her with a willow switch while she had watched. She had taken sadistic delight in her young daughter’s cries of pain. Rubbing her arm she touched the ridges of one of the many scars that had been left on her young body from the many lessons.
Finally gaining control of her cough Marishka went on with her litany.
“All of those doctors. Charlatans just trying to take my money! Thieves every last one of them. I’ve had ex-rays, cat scans, MRI’s yet they find nothing! No one knows what is wrong with me, just a dark mass they say. I feel like a goddamned pin cushion they’ve taken so much of my blood.” She whined in remembered pain. “I’m sick of it, I tell you! I won’t do anymore!” Breathing heavily, she leaned back against the pillows still glaring at Regina while she gasped for air.
What a disappointment she was, Marishka thought, just like her father Martin. Spineless. The only thing he had done right in the end was to kill himself while driving drunk. That is of course after she had cleaned him out in their divorce.
Dying almost before the ink had dried on the papers, he had left her a hefty life insurance policy that she cashed in. Perhaps the best thing he had accomplished as a man, she thought with contempt. Studying Regina, she found it hard to believe that she was her child.
“At least the twit would never know that the money from his death which was to have been held in trust for her had been conveniently transferred into her own accounts.” A passionate interlude with their attorney had been all it had taken to make any paperwork naming Regina as Martins heir disappeared for good.
Marishka had climbed her way to her wealth and prosperity often over the bodies of the women whose husbands she seduced. One husband at a time she had ruthlessly looked for weak men who were easily managed. Men she could seduce and manipulate with her unique skills in bed. Taking pleasure in pretending to be helpless she drew them away from their lives allowing them to live out their darkest fantasies.
Often destroying entire families along the way she had mercilessly used and then discarded each husband. Pushing each until they had died one way, or another. Crawling from the gutters of Paterson she had always had a hunger for power and money, and at 47 that desire still remained strong.
Her Russian mother and Nigerian father had never understood her single minded desire. Both had been second generation immigrants who had been happy with their lower middle class lifestyle. Always working, struggling to make the ends meet they had never understood her.
Arrogantly she had dismissed their shock at her blatant sexuality. She had evolved into a woman that was a ruthless predator who cared for no one. Toying with the eggs on her plate, she glared at Regina hating the child that she had been unable to crush.
“They still aren’t right you stupid girl. This is a shitty mess you’ve put on my plate. I don’t know how you can call these eggs poached.” Taking a sip of the hot coffee she savored its hot warmth as it opened airways and allowed her to breathe more freely for the time being. Aside from the coffee she only nibbled at the toast taking a couple of small bites before pushing the whole tray away.
“Get this crap out of here! The smell of it is making me sick.” She ordered, waving a hand dismissively before picking up several slips of paper from her nightstand to hand to Regina.
“You can take these down to the pharmacy and wait for them. They are the new medicines Dr. Finklestein has decided I need to take. Maybe you can do that correctly as your attempts at cooking are pathetic.” She sneered slapping the papers into her hand before succumbing to another coughing fit.
In and out her breath wheezed, the sound almost painful to hear. “Take this mess with you, as well.” Deliberately she knocked over the juice glass on the tray, spilling it onto the eggs. The little bitch wouldn't be eating her breakfast she thought with satisfaction.
“You may leave the coffee at least you haven’t ruined that!”
Regina tucked the prescriptions in her pocket and picked up the now ruined tray never speaking when she left the room. Had she been foolish enough to respond, her mother would have flown into a rage as when Regina was younger. Even at twenty-two she was still terrified of her mother’s angry rants.
Leaving, she gratefully pushed the door closed breathing a sigh of relief as she escaped into the hallway. “Bitch,” she said to herself looking down at the destroyed breakfast.
Marishka had always been a hard woman in private only pretending affection when she had been courting one of her new men or trying to present the illusion of the loving mother in public. In private, she was often cruel to her only child never failing to remind her of her many shortcomings or to tell her how plain and pathetic she was. When Regina had stopped reacting to her tirades, and had learned to be silent Marishka had only gotten more enraged. Resorting to having her beaten for the slightest infraction. Regina had been helpless to fight back. Shuddering she pushed the disturbing image from her mind. Never again.
Entering the kitchen, she turned over the tray to their housekeeper Cara, who looked at her with concern. “You OK Reggie?” She asked.
“I’m fine. “Regina answered before walking out the back door. Down the steps and to her left she escaped to a beautifully enclosed courtyard with a small wrought iron bench. Inside the courtyard lay several flowerbeds that held six rosebushes, they were surrounded on two sides by a yew hedge, which worked as a barrier protecting the tender flowers from the harsh winters. This also obstructed the view of anyone who might be out walking the yard.
Regina admired the lovely blooms as she sat down on a bench that had been strategically placed in one corner of the garden. To her back was a thick wall of the yew hedge and in front of her was the back corner of the house. Coming here always made her think of her late father. While he had been alive, Martin had always been her haven from the world. He had protected her from the disapproval of her mother. Each morning he had left a single orchid bloom on her dresser before leaving for the day. After Marishka had divorced him he had arranged for the housekeeper to continue the tradition in his absence, but on his death the flowers had stopped. As had any hope of a normal life that Regina had held on to.
She looked up at the windows of the large enclosed side porch as she thought about the father; she missed desperately. At one point, the sun porch had been filled with beautiful plants ranging from small roses to orchids that her father had grown and propagated on his own. He had been an amateur botanist in his spare time. Enjoying the beautiful variety of trees and flowers that grew on the property. From the lovely grape arbor that divided the back yard in half to the extensive perennial flower beds that surrounded the oversized swimming pool that had been added in the 70’s.
Regina loved every inch of the property and had spent many hours reading in the hidden shaded alcoves all over the yard. One of the ways she escaped when her father was no longer around.
His devotion to Marishka had caused nothing but torment and strife between himself and his family. Pretending to be helpless, she had used her tears to get her way. If that hadn't worked he had always been an easy target for her to seduce.
Deliberately, Marishka had pulled him away from his first wife and three small children. Convincing him that his daughters and ex-wife were only after his money. She carefully laid the seeds of dissension. He had given up everything he had held dear to be with her. Taken in by her lies and sultry ways he fell under her spell. Marishka had gotten pregnant, and life had seemed to settle down. For several short years, it had seemed that she was finally content. That is until she grew bored with him and having a child to care for.
Regina could remember that it was at that point that Marishka had traded up finding another man, Daniel Vandermere to replace her father. Daniel had a bigger bank account and had showered her mother with the gifts and the attention she felt was her due.
Marishka had secretly tormented his estranged wife, with phone calls and images of the perversions he had committed in his attempts at pleasing her. Desperate to hold onto Marishka he had walked out on his marriage of forty years. Heartbroken and shamed his then wife had committed suicide.
Absently Regina looked up to the second floor window that sat above the courtyard. That room was her mother’s office. Or technically Regina’s office now. It had been a nursery for Francesca’s five children. Watching while the curtains moved slightly she was sure that Francesca was watching her. It had been rumored for years that she had loved her home so much that she refused to move on and had lingered watching over its residents. Regina had always taken comfort from the story; it somehow made her feel less alone.
Having been given the responsibility of overseeing her mother’s financial affairs after she became too ill to handle them herself. She had thrown herself into the job sticking to the way she knew she would want things done still trying to please her. She would have to go work on the monthly accounts when she returned from the pharmacy. Checking her watch she realize she needed to go before it got any later. Knowing already she would be expected to bring the paperwork into her mother to allow her to review each document, statement, or bill she had paid.