Gillian got to the desk just as the final strokes were typed onto the yellowing parchment…
“Up the stairs, and to the right… the tutu hides a gruesome sight.”
She found it hard to believe a tutu could hide anything gruesome. When she was a little girl, she dreamed of dancing in a ballet, but her father wouldn’t hear of it. He made it very clear that his daughters would have no part in any activity that encouraged them to dance. When they visited museums she would gaze at paintings of dancers as though she were lovestruck. Even now that she was an adult, nothing could make her feel quite as giddy as her annual trip to see The Nutcracker in December.
By now, it was clear that there was no turning back. While this cottage was certainly creepy enough to hide a bent and broken old witch covered with warts, she was hopeful that she would find something a little less predictable…Gillian decided she couldn’t feel comfortable staying in the cottage without knowing what the tutu mentioned by the ghost-writer was hiding. She found a candle on a table near the fireplace, and used matches she found in a drawer to light it. The candle created enough light to help her breathe a little easier, and she set off down the hall to the staircase.
Every step on the staircase seemed to have a voice of its own crying out warnings – squeaks and creaks, groans and moans – until she reached the landing. “Up the stairs and to the right…” she whispered under her breath, hoping no one whispered back. She crept slowly down the hall, looking right and left only long enough to notice the doors to each room were securely shut. She decided it was probably for the best, since she wasn’t sure she wanted to see what was on the other side of them just yet.
Then she saw it; at the end of the hall was a large painting in a gilt frame featuring the beautiful ballerinas she idolized as a girl. She was struck by a sudden memory of a gift she received from her grandmother when she was very young… a locket on a chain, engraved with the image of a dancing girl in a tutu. Her father never let her wear the locket, and over the years she’d forgotten all about it.
But there, shining in the soft glow of her candle on a table beneath the painting, was her locket. There was nothing gruesome about it. In fact, it was lovely. As she picked up the pendant, she noticed the envelope on the table next to it… It was inscribed with her name. Gillian L. Rutledge. But the address was that of the cottage.
She reached out to touch the envelope with a shaking hand and took a deep breath.
The next chapter will be revealed tomorrow on Lucky Mama… follow along, if you dare!