The Old Mill House
Copyright © Cassandra Parker 2015 All rights reserved.
The right of Cassandra Parker to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 First published as part of an anthology e-Book by FM Burgett using Kindle Digital Publishing US Kindle Edition. Second publication as part of an anthology paperback by FM Burgett using CreateSpace. Third publication as an e-Book Short Read by Cassandra Parker US Edition
Parker, Cassandra (2016-06-24). The Old Mill House. Cassandra Parker. Third edition.
The Old Mill House is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
To Jennifer Reginato for her awesome editing and to Kim Williams for alpha reading this e-book short read numerous times.
To Russell Thatcher for his encouragement to finish this story.
The Old Mill House
Loneliness rolling in like fog on a mountain top is how I remember Coppers Mill, North Carolina. My hometown is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and every evening the fog gently blankets the streets. When morning comes the mist raises slowly leaving dew laden grasses, trees, and flowers.
Daddy always said you know the measure of a man not by what he does, but by what he doesn’t do. A gentleman would never take a girl to bed, but a scoundrel would the first chance he got. Just like a proper lady would never be seen with a rough hewn man but a whore wouldn’t care about such niceties.
So, the question is, what would a ghost do? I don’t have an answer to that question; however, I can tell you even ghosts get lonely for companionship.
I don’t know how I died. Try as I might I simply can not bring forth any memories of that moment in time.
I remember the sun was setting low over the horizon. I can smell the fresh scent of grass after a rain storm and hear the slippery clop of horse hooves on cobblestone. I see the fog rolling in from the mountains and I can hear the steady tread of footsteps coming from behind me.
I remember how my heart pounded as I hurried down the street toward the safety of my home. I am afraid but I have no memory of what scared me. The unseen man behind me or something heard yet unseen and unknown; some primeval horror from beyond?
The next thing I remember is being in this ether world cloaked in white mist and completely alone. No one is here to tell me what I should do, or where to go.
I am completely alone and I have no idea how long I have been here. It could be minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, or eons. Time seems irrelevant here. Only the loneliness seeps in.
I always tried to live life as a proper daughter and as such I never got to experience the love of a man in marriage. What I wouldn’t give to have twenty years with someone who loved me unconditionally.
If I could just have that experience and dispel this lonely existence for twenty years I would gladly spend the rest of eternity in this void I have come to call purgatory. At least I would have the memories of a life well lived instead of this regret eating at what remains of my soul.
Would you really? The voice slithered out of the ether and hung in the air like a threat.
My heart pounded. This was the first time anyone had spoken to me since I arrived countless eons ago. “Who are you?”
“Never, mind that, Abigail. Just answer my question. You never know what might transpire.”
I looked around trying to find my visitor. “Where are you?”
“Would it really help if you could see me, Abigail?”
“Yes, I think it would.”
“Very well, so be it.”
Slowly a form materialized in front of me. He was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen with flowing sandy brown hair and grey eyes. How could this man grant me my desire?
“What are you?” I whispered.
“I think that would be obvious. I’m Gabriel keeper of the gates. Do you really want twenty years of life in the present in exchange for eternity in purgatory? Think carefully child before you answer. Once granted, the wish can not be undone.”
“Yes, I would like that very much.”
“Be certain this is your wish. Once granted, I can not undo it. An eternity in purgatory can be excruciatingly painful and boring with all the nothingness surrounding you.”
I closed my eyes and thought seriously about my request. I still wanted to experience a lifetime of love. “Yes, I am sure of it.”
“So be it.” Gabriel faded from sight.
At first nothing happened. Then slowly this place of foggy nothingness dimmed and a soft light took hold. I watched in fascination and fear as the light grew brighter and sounds drifted in. So many sounds I was unfamiliar with.
What are those strange metallic beasts roaming the streets? And people, so many people walked along the sidewalks. I saw my home and rushed toward it.
The river was close by and I sat on the rock. The very same rock I used to sit on and watch the people of the town going about their daily lives.
Cooper’s Mill was the kind of sleepy town Norman Rockwell paintings were comprised of with church steeples peaking over steep roads, and pines intermingling to look out over the lush valley. Tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina, it had remained virtually unchanged.
Horses and buggies had eventually given way to cars and trucks. Gas lanterns had been replaced by timed electric lights. Storefront porches disappeared, overcome by concrete sidewalks.
“Twenty years,” he sighed, shaking his head, scarcely aware of the cars rushing past. Twenty years all gone because of stupidity. Closing his eyes as though shutting out the world he could recall perfectly the day he had met Abigail. Lost in reverie he let the shovel slip from numb fingers to rest at his feet.
There had been a blue sky with nary a cloud in sight, a soft breeze brought delightful scents of pine, dirt, and water as he stood looking down at the little town nestled between the two rivers. The crystal clear water gurgled happily over smooth rocks on their journey south.
She sat on a rock watching the water lazily make its way south. She wore her blonde hair in a French twist. In her left hand was a crochet hook. Her right hand kept the lap blanket from flapping as she added rows.
He could hear her softly humming a delightful little tune as she worked the yarn into a lovely piece of art. Her fingers deftly guided the hook and smoothed the blanket as she went.
The bonnet she wore only added a timeless quality to her long flowing dress, almost as though she belonged to a different era. It was a though she stepped directly from the 1880’s into the present.
“Hello,” he greeted as he squatted down. “It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?”
She nodded and glanced up at him. Her eyes were the softest blue he had ever seen. Long lashes emphasized their large oval shape. “Hello,” she smiled. “Are you lost?”
“Lost?” He laughed. “No. I don’t think so. This is my place. I just bought it.”
She frowned, “I think you must be mistaken. This is my home.
This is 18 Old Mill House Road, is it not?”
“Then I have the right place.” He knelt down and slowly lowered himself to the ground. “I’m Peter Gordon.”
“Abigail Cooper,” she looked back down at her hand work. “I don’t understand. How can you own my home?”
Peter looked at her and felt his heart softening. “Maybe there is a mix up somewhere. I tell you what; you can stay here as long as needed.”
“I was thinking about taking in a boarder to help with the bills,” she said as she swiped at a tear seeping from the corner of her eye. “My parents passed recently,” she explained.
“I’m so sorry.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a tissue; offering it to her.
“Thank you,” she sniffed. “This is an odd handkerchief.”
Here and there he could see smoke drifting from chimneys as the people of Cooper’s Mill returned home at the end of day.
Cooper’s Mill radiated outward from a central square. In the center of the town square stood a gazebo where the musicians stood. He could faintly hear the drifting sounds of the quartet as they played song after song. Red and white roses lined the gazebo and were joined by discreet signs advising people not to pick the flowers. Not quite half a block, at the far end of the square, stood a large bronze statue of the Charles Cooper, town founder. Placed in front of the statue was a short history of the illustrious Cooper and a wood sign, courtesy of the local Kiwanis, welcoming visitors to town.
East and west of the square housed Dan’s barbershop, Cooper’s Mill grocery, and Post Office, the courthouse, Annalee’s Cafe, and a Fox theater. The children of Cooper’s Mill attended classes in a one-room schoolhouse two blocks southeast of the square.
From his perch above the town he could see all the roads dipping and winding and merging into Main Street, even the street leading to the mill intersected. On the far side of the town he could see where logs had jammed below the bridge. But it was the old mill house that had caught his attention.
It was a ramshackle two-story building. It appeared to spawn corners and angles with every turn of the head as it sprawled toward the river, ending in a giant wheel that lifted water into the air and tossed it back to the ground with great paddles. The paint had long ago peeled from its planks leaving only gray, weathered wood. The windows gave the impression of dark eyes peering at passersby through heavy lids of blue.
With a little work the house could be restored to its former beauty. It was meant to be a graceful turn of the century home.
“It’s always difficult to lose a family member.” He knelt beside her. “It’s even worse to have to sell the family home.”
“My home was not sold,” she sniffed. “I still live here, do I not?” She folded her hand work and placed in back into the basket at her feet.
Gordon looked long and hard at her. How could he toss her out during her grieving? “Yes, I suppose you do.” He looked around. “I take it your ancestors founded this town?”
“My father did, Charles Cooper,” she replied straightening her shoulders.
“Oh boy,” he thought. “Your father is Charles Cooper?”
“Yes,” she nodded vigorously.
“I see,” he mumbled. “And he’s the grandson of the town founder?”
“No, he founded Coopers Mill.”
“Abigail, I mean Miss Cooper that Charles Cooper died over a hundred years ago in 1885.”
“Impossible. It is only 1883, silly,” she giggled.
“It’s 2015. Look around you Abigail, does this town look like 1883?”
I looked at this odd stranger and followed his gaze toward the street. The town did look busy and very different. There were the metallic beasts roaming the town with people riding inside them. They kind of resembled the carriages I was used to but where were the horses? And the noise was almost unbearable.
“How can this be?” I cried out. “Everything looks different.” Then I remembered the being and the emptiness I had come to call Purgatory. Could I have really spent a hundred thirty years in the nothingness?
“Are you an Angel?” Peter asked. “Come down from the heavens to save me from myself?”
“What do you mean?” I cried out, I could feel the vapors about to come upon me.
“About two months ago, I tried to kill myself.” Peter held out his arms. There were ragged slashes across his wrists. “I wished for an angel to save me.”
“I’m not an angel.”
“Well, you aren’t a ghost either. I can’t see through you, and ghosts are not solid flesh, so you must be an angel sent to save me.”
“My good sir, I believe you are addled.”
“Not me,” he smiled. “After I got out of the hospital, something drew me here, to Coopers Mill. I think you were calling to me. After my stint in the hospital I came to believe in the metaphysical or the spiritual world.”
&I did spend a lot of time surrounded by nothingness and wished for another chance.” Why was I telling this stranger my inner most thoughts I didn’t know. I just felt drawn to him.
“I found this house, your house and bought it. I used to be an architect. I can restore this house to glory.”
“What’s an architect?” I stared in horror at his wrists. The redness was fading but I could still see where the skin was slightly puckered from being stitched closed.
“A builder. I want to rebuild this house. I bet you’d like that too. We can fix it up and make it like new.”
“Yes,” I nodded slowly. “I’d like that.”
“Great. We can share the house and fix it up.”
“It would not be appropriate for a single lady to live in the same house as a man she barely met.”
“You said you were thinking about taking in boarders.”
“Yes, things were financially difficult after my parents passed.
Okay, so I will rent a room from you. And we will fix up this old house.”
The next couple of years passed by quickly and the house was returned to it’s full charm. With help from Peter, Abigail became integrated into modern society. They enjoyed dinners out every Tuesday. Fridays they went dancing. Evenings at home were spent reading, talking or watching classic movies such as The Lake House, or Father Knows Best.
It was here that he had gotten to know her, courted her, and finally asked her to marry him. And it was in front of this very house where they had privately exchanged their wedding vows after deciding the piece of paper, clergy and big wedding were unnecessary. The only thing they needed was their love. They settled into a quiet routine of companionship and laughter.
To him, their home was beautiful. Filled with love and flowers, and an old fashioned quaintness best described as 1880-1950s era with a wrap around screened in porch with a swing and a rocking chair.
All through the two decades he had lived there the house transformed from ramshackle to elegance. Inside it was full of beauty mainly due to his lovely lady.
“Abigail,” the voice drifted into my sleep.
“Hmm Peter?” I stretched languorously.
“It is Gabriel.”
“Gabriel?” I gasped and sat up. I looked at Peter sleeping beside me. Gabriel stood beyond Peter watching me.
“It is time.”
“No!” I cried, had it been twenty years already? “Can I have just a few more days to tell Peter goodbye?”
“I can only give you a couple of minutes, Abigail. A bargain is a bargain.”
I sighed and leaned over Peter. I wrapped my arms around him and whispered, “Goodbye my love.”
Turning, I faced Gabriel with tears in my eyes. “I am not ready, but I honor my promises.”
Gabriel pointed to the light spreading from the corner of the room. “Enter,” he beckoned. As he followed behind her, he dropped a note on her side of the bed.
Peter rolled over and swept his arm over Abigail’s side of the bed. Not finding her there, he sat up in a panic. “Abby?” He spied the note and grabbed it, thinking she had gone shopping.
He unfurled the note and read with growing horror and disbelief.
Go to the northwest corner of the basement. Remove the wall and you will find her remains there. Franklin Gordon bricked her up in 1885 when she refused his hand in marriage.
Peter closed his eyes. All his life he had heard stories about his twice great uncle killing people and now it came to pass that he had even killed his love.
The cemetery lay opposite the school and the Church. The tombstones tilted crazily but the lawn and hedges were kept trimmed. It was here that she would finally be buried, would have been interred years ago had people known she was dead.
Nostalgic , intriguing and captivating
This is an awesome story.
The Old Mill House
Wow, didn't see the end coming, nice