Alexis woke cloaked in darkness. Her eyes burned with the pressure of staring so deliberately. Wondering what time it was, she waited for her eyes to adjust. Finally, the silvery outline of light around the window became visible. Making a mental note to tell Tricia to leave the top layer of drapery open for future nights, she swung her feet out of bed. The soles of her feet found the top of her slippers, and slid inside the soft comfort. She stood, feeling along the bed to the velvety bench at the bed’s foot. The delicate fabric of her chiffon housecoat presented itself to her searching fingers.
She returned along the bed to the window and pulled open the thick, heavy drapes, allowing the shallow glint of moonlight to enter. Parting the sheer layers, she saw the storm had passed, leaving glimmering jewels of moisture on the landscape. In the distance, a pack of wolves rallied across the hills to the orchard. Once they were out of sight, her eyes found the rose garden. How many games of hide and seek had she and Gabe played there?
To the right, movement in the shadows caught her attention. Seeing nothing, she assumed it a cat out prowling, and turned from the window. At the door, a shadowy figure stood. Her heart quavered, freezing her to the spot as she watched with dismay, waiting for the specter to leave. It outstretched its hands to her. Alexis wanted to scream, but could not force a sound from her throat. Clamping her eyes shut, she shook her head, waiting for an icy embrace that did not come.
Looking through half closed eyes, she saw that it no longer blocked her from leaving the room. She wanted to rush from the room, alerting the sleepers about the uninvited visitor. Then she remembered the reaction she received during her account of Tricia’s transformation, and decided they would think she had gone completely insane. Opening the door quietly, she peered into the hallway lit with small lights near the floor, then stepped out of her room. As quietly as she opened it, she closed the door behind her.
The eyes of the young boy in a portrait with his dogs stared at her from across the hallway. In the dim light, his features were shadowy, but the shiny lacquer that glossed the painting made his eyes seem real and observing. Shaking of the thought that the boy watched her, she slowly made her way to the staircase, looking at the other portraits and landscapes hung on the walls. Each brushstroke brought an onslaught of memories. Wooden pedestals held urns and vases generations old. None of which held a speck of dust. Before stepping onto the first stair, she glanced over her shoulder, and shivered. Her eyes traced back along the landing to the hallway angling away from her. She shook her head, and started down.
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