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Prologue for Volume 1 - Rebecca & the Spiral Staircase - I've been here before.

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Prologue  - How it all starts

Rebecca’s father, James, came home from work and announced to the family he had purchased an old derelict manor house up by the lakes in the north of England. To compound this emotional wrench for everyone, he stated they would move a few days before Christmas.  

Loving her current home, complete with her favourite place the whispering pond, she was more than a little put out.  Often, in the past, she’d escaped the frustration of her father’s Victorian mindset towards the family, finding her solace by this little tree-lined pond at the end of their 2-acre garden.

 She had always been a far from average 21st-century young woman.  Rather than be on her mobile phone, she’d constantly preferred to head off, sketching imaginary worlds.  On her way to the pond, she could often be heard chatting to the bushes, shrubs, old trees and anything else she thought might listen.  And that included the fairies, pixies and elves.  She never expected an answer but was sure they were listening.  Although she knew most people would laugh if they heard her, she didn’t care, unless, of course, it was her father telling her to get into the real world.  Even then, she pretended she didn’t care.  She did of course. 

She was an animated, intrepid young woman with a fearless imagination and views that just didn’t suit the 21st century.  Indeed, her grandmother often referred to her as a “second-timer,” suggesting she’d been here before. 

When she was younger, she never really understood her Gran’s comments.  Now a little older, the idea that she’d actually been here before was a tad beyond even her colourful imagination.  However, she certainly had an unquestionable attraction to anything relating to the 1800 hundreds.

Although a happy individual, the demeaning comments from her father have continued to be a constant thorn.  Mostly because she felt she was unable to speak out. Then there was her maddening 11-year-old brother, Tommy.  He was always saying something derogatory and to compound this, he was forever kicking his damn football at her, referring to her as a “moving target.”  The one aspect of her family life that frustrated her most was her mother, Elizabeth’s passive, inert response to her father’s often indignant attitude towards females. 

She had tried endlessly to chat with her mother, suggesting she should challenge back, especially when he unceremoniously often called her Woman, rather than Elizabeth.  Although she was aware her words were falling on deaf ears, she kept trying only for her mother to always change the subject.  She did, however, empathise with her mother’s passiveness, realising she went from being a career girl to a stay-at-home mum, and somewhere in the process, lost her voice.   All she had ever wanted was for her mother to find her voice.  She was aware her mother and father’s relationship hadn’t always been like this and this was her drive.  The whispering pond offered her the perfect place to escape her frustrations and the thought of losing that place saddened her.  Oddly though, having seen many photos, the new home intrigued her in a way she didn’t fully understand.

When they arrived at the new family home, Rebecca quickly delighted in her new surroundings.  As she entered the front door of the old, slightly eerie manor house for the first time, she was greeted by two Victorian portraits.  One was of an elegant woman, in a beautiful white lace dress.  The name plaque suggested she was perhaps the lady of the manor, Meredith Miller.  The other was of a sultry-looking female dressed in a fancy black number.  To Rebecca’s mind, a somewhat unsavoury character named Millicent Black.  Something in these two paintings kept nudging at Rebecca’s subconscious thoughts and she was sure there was a hidden message pointing towards an unpleasant incident sometime in the past.  There was a large male painting at the head of a sweeping staircase of George Miller, the lord of the manor.  The expression on his face, to Rebecca’s mind again suggested something unsavoury occurred in this house many years ago.  She wasn’t wholly sure why she felt like this but it was there and wouldn’t let go of her inner thoughts.

Rebecca spent the next few days leading up to Christmas helping her mother unpack while trying to avoid Tommy’s twit-like behaviour.  She loved him dearly but boy, could he be annoying. 

After Christmas, she spent a lot of time in her bedroom sitting on the balcony drawing fantasy worlds.  Her imagination was stimulated by the view of a vast lake bordering their 26 acres.  When they first arrived, she suggested to her mum it wasn’t a garden, more like a park and a big one at that.

One day in early spring, again out on her bedroom balcony, enjoying the sun’s early hints of warmer days to come, she spotted an odd-looking old white building down by the water’s edge.  It was just poking its head out from behind a swathe of huge conifers.  She narrowed her eyes, unsure why she hadn’t seen it before.  Following her intuition, as always, she decided to go and investigate.  She didn’t know why but was sure this might be linked in some way to the old portraits and may offer another clue as to what happened here years before.

On the way down to the lake, Rebecca, as was often the case, became distracted and headed off into a dense wooded area adjacent to the main house.  To her delight, this wood was a mix of huge old oaks and ancient yew trees, intermingled with twisting willows and waist-high blackberry bramble.  The delightful array of early spring buds stimulated Rebecca’s mind and oddly added to the intrigue.  It was February, yet there were flowers she’d normally associate with May.  To her mind, it felt mysteriously abandoned and somehow out of sync with the rest of the world.  As the wood neared the water, the tree line changed dramatically and was dominated by huge conifers, casting long spooky shadows.  However, that eerie mood was eased somewhat by the charming smell of pine.

Venturing further into the wood, she made her way along, what to her mind, was a path perhaps used many years before.  Clambering over fallen branches and some scratchy twisting shoots of blackberry bramble, she came across a charming clearing.  To one side was a mass of youthful willows dancing in the gentle breeze.  On the opposite side of this area, which she quickly named the Spry Wood was an ancient fallen oak.  She didn’t know why, but her gut was telling her this place was where she needed to be.  It didn’t hold the same charm as the whispering pond, instead was kind of edgy and oh-so intriguing.  She nodded, thinking, this place is special.

Glancing across at this once proud oak tree and seeing the way the sun nestled upon its twisted branches, she decided it offered a perfect place to sit and enjoy Mother Nature at her best.

Having brought a pad and pencil, as always, she decided to sit on the oak and do some sketching.  As she started, she was sure this was just the kind of place a pixie would live, perfect with the crocuses offering great hiding spots for these little critters.

After a few minutes, she put her pad and pencil down, stood up and stretched her legs.  Turning back, there was no sign of her pencil and reckoned she must have knocked it down as she stood up.  She knelt on the damp moss and started rummaging in the undergrowth.  After searching carefully and now a little frustrated, she noticed a dark, slightly shadowy area under the fallen oak.  Avoiding the decaying leaves and tiny mushrooms, she pushed her outstretched fingers as far as she could.   She was not sure why she was searching so far under the tree because there was no way her pencil would have bounced this far but once again, was following her gut, almost as if she was being led. 

‘Hey, maybe the pixies have hidden my pencil, just as the fairies did my pen in the old house,’ she mumbled and then laughed at herself.  The thing was, her pen had turned up, like new, the day before she moved out.  She had mislaid it two years previously and was certain the fairies had brought it back, knowing she was moving.

Just as she was thinking about her old house, her fingers made contact with something rather odd in shape, perhaps a large key.  Whatever it was, it wasn’t a branch or root, that she knew for sure.  Stretching as far as she could, she wriggled her fingers this way and that.  ‘Oh, do come on,’ she muttered, a little miffed.

No sooner than the words left her mouth, the object surrendered to her call.  Sure enough, albeit dirty, but oddly not rusty, sitting in her palm, the size of her hand was a very odd-looking key.  It had the most elaborate heart-shaped top and an intricate key bit, the likes of which she’d never seen before.  

And so, the story begins…

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