Things remembered
by P.S.Gifford
forum: Things remembered
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Things remembered


        This was her fourth day of cross-country driving. She had no idea where she was heading, and she did not care, as long as it was away from him. Having cleared out forty-seven hundred dollars from his bank account, she piled a few things into her old '66 Mustang and set out.

        "Where the Hell am I, anyway?" she wondered aloud. "Kansas, perhaps? What difference does it make, anyway?" She considered as she examined the hand written sign. Something about it drew her in. Pulling into the long driveway, she could not help but wonder at how it would have looked in its prime, perhaps in the 1920s. Despite being well weathered and tattered, signs of its former glory were
abundant. Fine marble lions sat guarding the front, chipped and faded, yet still hanging on to some of their dignity.

        Methodically, she parked her red pony car and slowly walked up to the front door. She examined the double mahogany doors for a moment, captivated by the carvings. Looking for the doorbell, she finally spied a tassel just off the side of the door. Having remembered this from a movie once, she tugged firmly upon the end and was instantly rewarded with the magical tinkling of bells. Mary was quite taken aback; she had never actually heard real bells used on a door before.

        It took a couple of minutes before the door opened. Standing there, she began to contemplate her life. At twenty-two, she appeared to be quickly spiralling down the road to destruction. She had never even known her real parents, having grown up in a series of foster homes; the older she got, the less welcoming each home got. Finally, at the age of eighteen, she had been thrust, ill prepared, into the world alone. That was when she had met Chad, at an all night truck stop where she was a waitress. He had seemed like her knight in shining armor on a great white stallion at first. Soon enough, she realized
that he was just a fat, lazy, leathered slob on top of a purple Harley… The last few years had been full of abuse. She had even found herself pregnant at one point. Happiness seemed to gleam in the distance, yet this, too, was taken from her, having a miscarriage just four months along.

        Finally, she had enough.

        She quit her job at the café. No more dirty truckers were going to lay their hands on her. Then, more importantly, as Chad slept, hung over from a night of Jack Daniels, she left him. She chuckled to herself. "Just wait until the rent check bounces and he discovers all the money is gone…"

        The panic that he might come looking for her was starting to build. Before it could fully manifest itself, the door suddenly opened.

        She found herself staring straight into the eyes of an elderly gentleman, dressed in a fine black suit. His gray headed hair was well trimmed, and despite the obvious age and condition of the suit, this still gave him a dignified, almost imposing look.

        "Good morning, miss?" the man asked, his voice dignified, strong, with the vaguest hint of an English accent.

        Mary regained her composure. "Yes, I am here about the estate sale…"

        The gentleman grinned broadly, and instantly, Mary felt a feeling of warm affection.

        "Very good, miss, come on in… Yes, this way. We have been expecting you!"

        This last phrase caught Mary off guard. "Expecting me?" she considered. "Surely they have me confused with someone else."

        Mary was led through a beautiful hallway and into a grand parlor. The man was silent but smiling as he showed her to a seat.

        "The lady of the house shall be with you shortly, to show you what you desire to see. May I offer you a cup of tea?" he asked.

        "Yes, please," she said as she realized who the man was. 'He must be a butler, a real life butler.'

        With a curt nod, the butler stepped through a side door. Mary sat for a moment admiring the beauty and grace of the room. Tall ceilings, intricate carvings and a sense of grandeur that is lost in all but the oldest homes. As a child, she could only dream of living in a house like this. Moments later, he reappeared with a fine silver tray. Setting the tray down, he poured Mary's tea and straightened
himself up.

        "Please help yourself to the biscuits, miss," he said.

        Mary sipped her tea, trying to behave as she had seen people act in movies or television. Gently sipping and managing to keep her pinky up, she finally began to relax. Setting the cup down, she had a sudden feeling of lethargy; all the excitement of the last few days was beginning to catch up with her. Just as she felt herself starting to fall asleep, she became aware of a woman's voice, shaky yet with poise.

        "Ah good - there you are, my dear." Mary's eyes immediately popped open. In front of her was a gray haired woman, dressed in a long flowing red gown, approaching slowly towards her with the aid of a delicately carved wooden walking stick.

        Mary suddenly felt wide awake, and she rose quickly at the approach of the woman. The old lady's smile deepened and her wrinkles were even more acutely revealed, showing the true sign of her age. There was something hauntingly beautiful and familiar about the face. 'She looks so familiar,' Mary thought.

        "My dear girl, I am Mrs. Sullivan. We have been expecting you for so long… Both of you." As she spoke, she was now at the foot of the chaise lounge where Mary has been resting and looked deeply into her eyes.

        "Both of us?" Mary responded, almost as if overcome by a trance. "I just came about the estate sale," she continued, feebly trying to fight a strange feeling that suddenly seemed to be wedging in her throat.

        "Ah yes, the estate sale… Naturally!" A frail liver spotted hand was presented to Mary, who gingerly grasped it. Mary was led through a larger, grander double door, and on into a dining area. Before her was a mahogany table of at least fifteen feet, and a dozen hand carved matching chairs perfectly positioned about it. However, that was not what truly captivated Mary's imagination, as upon the table, carefully positioned upon black velvet, lay several pieces of exquisite jewelry. The woman released her grasp upon Mary's hand and led her over to take a closer look.

        "Beautiful, aren't they?" Mrs. Sullivan cooed. "My husband presented them to me shortly after we met, when he proposed, so many, many moons ago. It was love at first sight, you know."

        Mary allowed her eyes to examine the ring. It was lying on black velvet and its diamond sparkled majestically at her.

        "My husband sadly has just passed away… My Johnny, after all these years, has finally been taken from me." A tear slipped from her eye, and she did not try to stop it, and she allowed it to trickle slowly down her cheek.

        Mary was taken aback.

        "But surely… You can't sell it!" she whispered.

        The woman smiled… "It has served me well, and now it must continue to unite another pair of lovers."

        Mary suddenly felt herself yawning again, and Mrs. Sullivan looked at her affectionately. "You look as if you haven't slept in days," she said, smiling. "I suspect that you have no place to go… Am I right?"

        Mary caught herself nodding and suddenly beginning to feel very tranquil and comfortable.

        "Then you must rest, my dear!" Mrs. Sullivan proclaimed. "You can rest now, if you like. You will understand more in the morning. Paul, if you please," she called to the butler, who appeared immediately.

        "Yes, Ma'am?" he asked.

        "Please show young Mary to the guest room; she is rather exhausted after her travels and would do well with a rest," she said.

        Paul gave a short bow and extended his arm. "Please, miss, if you will follow me."

        Mary contently allowed herself to be led upstairs to a glorious bed chamber, despite it still only being late afternoon; Mary now felt the overpowering urge to sleep. She stepped into the beautiful chamber and marveled at it. Even though the red curtains were faded, the silk rugs dull, there was still an almost magical air of classic old world elegance. Mary eyed the oversized bed, piled high with silk pillows, longingly. Mrs. Sullivan stepped into the room and smiled.

        "I hope this room is appropriate, my dear," she said as she motioned for Paul to leave.

        "It's beautiful, Ma'am," Mary replied.

        "Now, if you like, there are some bedclothes here. It is hardly suitable to sleep in your day clothes," the old woman said. She opened an armoire and lifted out a long and beautifully embroidered nightgown. "Is this suitable?" she asked.

        Mary stared at the stunning nightdress. 'I've never owned anything that beautiful, much less a nightdress.' she thought. Smiling at the woman, Mary blushed slightly. "It's quite gorgeous, yes, thank you."

        Mrs. Sullivan walked across the room and stopped at the door. "Rest well, my dear, rest easily," she said before closing the door.

        Mary quickly undressed and slipped into the gown, luxuriating at its fine elegance. The need to sleep seemed overwhelming now, and as Mary eased herself onto the bed, she heard the magical ringing of the door bells again. Out in the hallway, she vaguely heard Paul speaking.

        "It would appear our second guest has arrived, Ma'am. I shall attend to him immediately."

* * *

        Mary slept for fourteen hours. She opened her eyes just as the morning sun started to penetrate the curtains, bathing the room in a glorious hue. As Mary lay there, she felt strangely and totally at peace. She studied the curtains with curiosity; she had remembered them as faded, but now she thought she must have been mistaken, as they appeared vibrant now.

        Just then, there was a gentle tap on the door.

        "Breakfast is served, miss," said Paul.

        "Just one moment!" Mary chirped as she climbed out of the bed. Her bare feet felt wonderful on the soft plush rugs. Noticing a robe hanging by the wardrobe, she stepped over and quickly put it on.

        "Come in!" she said confidently.

        'I could get used to this!' She thought.

        The door gradually swung open, and instead of seeing the aged Paul, she was greeted by a much younger man. The resemblance was uncanny, and Mary wondered if this was Paul's son or perhaps grandson.

        The butler placed the tray on her nightstand. "Hot tea and fresh biscuits and honey with fresh fruit, miss, and the morning's newspaper," he said.

        "Thank you!" She beamed at him, and he bowed politely.

        "You are expected in the drawing room in one hour, please, miss!" he said before turning and leaving Mary alone again.

        Mary eagerly tasted the sweet milky tea and once more examined the room. How could she have been so mistaken last night; surely her lack of sleep had been playing tricks. The room was glorious, and everything looked so new. It was then she picked up the newspaper…

        "Macarthur accepts Japanese surrender"

        She was startled and then looked at the newspaper date. September 2nd, 1945. She stood up and looked once more at the room.

        "This has to be some sort of joke!" she tried to convince herself. But deep down, she strangely knew the truth. She was not afraid; instead, she simply finished her breakfast, showered and dressed.

* * *

        Forty-five minutes later she was walking down the elegant stairway and into the hallway. It was a sunny and bright autumn morning, and she felt more relaxed than she could ever remember. The house looked magnificent as she walked along the hallway. She paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and opened the drawing room door.

        Paul was there, and he gave a knowing smile to her.

        "Take a seat, please, miss. All shall be apparent very soon," he said as he pointed to a large green leather chair. Mary sat on it and looked at the butler, who just smiled peacefully back at her. Suddenly there were footsteps coming down the stairway, and she listened intently as they came to the outside of the door. As the door finally swung open, Mary gasped. In the doorway was the most handsome and distinguished young man she had ever seen. He, too, looked puzzled. He was smartly dressed in beautifully cut tan linen pants and a partially unbuttoned white shirt. He met Mary's gaze, and the two spent a few moments lost in each other.

        "Introductions are in order, I suspect," the butler said. "Mary Wilmington, allow me to introduce Jonathon Sullivan. He too arrived here last night."

        Jonathon gently grasped Mary's hand.

        "I should leave you two alone!" Paul said, looking rather satisfied. Turning, he left the drawing room and closed the door behind him.

        There was a moment of silence before Mary started to speak. She felt herself saying far more than she had intended. She told this stranger about her birth, her life, her bad choices and finally, how she ended up here. As she finished, she felt surprisingly unconcerned at baring so much of herself. Jonathon merely smiled and began telling his story. He too had been lost, alone, and was running away. There had been a car accident, and his girlfriend had died. It hadn't been his fault, but he felt totally at blame. The months since the accident had been cruel. His own internal blame was driving him towards destruction.

        The opportunity for a short rest and the chance to see the estate sale had grown into several days of joyful wandering around the estate. The pair had grown in their fondness towards each other; they had accepted their second chance without questioning. Whatever force had managed to bring two strangers together many years before they were born they could not understand, yet it was magical.

        Mary had been sitting in the garden sipping her afternoon tea, and Jonathan had walked out to join her. He said no words, but he kneeled on the damp grass and smiled at her.

        Then he pulled a ring from his pocket. Mary recognized the ring in an instant; it was the very ring that she had seen days before.

        "I know we have just met, and I know that this is probably not real. Yet I do know that we were destined to be together for all eternity. Mary, will you marry me?"

        "YES!" Mary practically screamed.

        The pair had slid unnoticed into the place of Mister and Mrs. Sullivan. They had their friends, their associations, and their clubs. Most of all, they had their lifestyle. The magic, the strangeness that had happened seemed natural, cosmic in its origin. Soon enough, it seemed to both of them that their previous lives in the modern world were little more than a dream they had once shared. Many years later, the new Mrs. Sullivan made a large donation to an orphanage. One little girl in particular would be raised in a loving and caring home. Mister Sullivan made a donation to a far away town, much to the mayor's surprise. He paid for a traffic light to be installed at a particularly dangerous intersection. The local residents praised this distant benefactor because they all believed it was only a matter of time until someone was killed there.

        One morning, Mary awoke to discover that her beloved Jonathan had died in his sleep. She knew that the time had come to move on. Smiling, she decided that an estate sale might just attract the right

        She methodically took off her diamond ring and placed it on a black velvet cloth in the drawing room. Paul, now older and more faded, made her favorite cup of tea, as she hand wrote a sign.

        It was an hour later when the doorbell rang.

        And as the butler walked slowly to the door, Mrs. Sullivan smiled as she heard him speak.

        "Welcome, miss. We have been expecting you…"

The end.



copyright 2006 P.S.Gifford.

P.S.Gifford has been published in all sorts of odd places. Most recently he can be read in,,,,,,,, and

He has a website which is, oddly enough, called