The Scarlet Lounge certainly lived up to the sophistication that its name had implied. As soon as Ramsley opened the door, Sarah gasped, staring in amazed silence at the splendor that lay before her. The room was decked in every shade of red, from the crimson drapery around the windows, to the maroon throw pillows that perched against the bed's whimsically carved headboard. All of this was tastefully accented with a beautiful black marble that encircled the large fireplace, and spiraled up toward the high reaching ceilings in impressive columns of stone. Sarah walked into the space and slowly spun around, taking in every bit of elegance and charm that the room seemed to be carved from. Finishing her turn she faced Ramsley who stood waiting in the doorway. There was a look of delighted wonderment that seemed to radiate from her, a feeling so euphoric that it threatened to make her cry if she had tried to find the words to explain it.
For a moment she simply stood there, unable to voice the amazement that had consumed her. So Ramsley spoke first.
"I trust that this is all to your liking madam?" Sarah slowly shook her head.
"That doesn't even come close to describing it. I
I don't deserve luxury such as this, I don't know who does." Gently she ran her hand over the gold threaded detail of a table cloth that shimmered beside her. Everything here had its details, not one item in the room was left plain, and somehow, all these pieces, in their own unique magnificence, came together in a very calm and complete whole. It was in itself a work of artistry.
"This room has great significance to the mansion, Miss Evers, it was the second most admired by Master Gracey when it was built, and received his special attention and care. I'm sure he will be pleased to hear that you share his admiration." Sarah pulled her eyes away from the splendor and looked at Ramsley.
"You mean the original Master Gracey." she said.
"You said when Master Gracey built it. That was his grandfather, yes?" Ramsley did not respond for a moment, staring at her with that blank expression that he seemed doomed to forever carry. Sarah almost thought that he hadn't heard her until he finally spoke again.
"Of course." He said simply before entering the room and leaving that part of the conversation behind. Walking slowly over to a large wardrobe in the corner, he opened it, revealing a whole other room that lay hidden beyond its walls, and reaching inside removed a single red robe from one of the hangers. This he offered to Sarah.
"There is a grate above the fireplace where you may hang your clothes to dry. Will you be needing anything else?" She folded the robe carefully over her arm, feeling the soft material beneath her hand.
"No thank you, Ramsley," she said, admiring the fabric, "I think I'll be just fine."
"Very good, Madam. I will be off then to see to other things. If you need me, just pull that rope in the corner." Sarah looked to where he was pointing and nodded.
"Thank you, I will." He nodded and turned to go, closing the door behind him as he went. Sarah stood there for a moment, consumed in wonder and admiration. Finally she sighed. If only Jim could see this.
She thought of her husband as she carefully removed her wet clothes, replacing them with the warm embrace of the robe as she wrapped it around her small frame. She wanted him here with her, to share in admiring its beauty, but she couldn't help but wonder if he would see it as she did. Would he appreciate it for what it was, this gorgeous room that defied the progression of time and prospered in its forgotten charm, or would he simply see it for what it could be, and try to change what was already perfected? That was something that differed between them, Jim was always trying to change things. He insisted that change was progress, while Sarah had always had a fondness for referring to the past. She admired the classic charm of how things used to be, and in a way things like that almost felt more familiar to her, more comfortable.
Going to hang her clothes by the fire, she was struck by a sudden thought. This fire, which was quite sizeable, had been lit in the room before she got there. That was odd. Her staying here was unexpected, they hadn't known there would be need for such accommodations. So why had it been already prepared?
Now feeling slightly puzzled, Sarah looked around the room once again, this time with more of a skeptical eye. She noticed too that the bed had been turned down, and that a fresh pitcher of ice water had been placed expectantly on the night stand. Sarah walked over to it cautiously. Slowly, she ran her finger through the condensation that had accumulated across its glassy surface. Looking at the water that glistened against her dark skin, she suddenly felt a shiver run over her body. Something didn't feel right, and the more she thought of it the more her mood from before began to sink away.
The lighting outside struck again and Sarah pulled her robe closer around her. This is silly, she told herself, how could they have known this would happen. they can't control the weather. It's no one's fault that the river flooded. But the way Mr. Gracey had talked about the phone not working
Sarah ran over to the fireplace and grabbed her purse. Digging through it she found her phone and quickly flipped it open, dialing her husband's number. It rang but the call dropped several times. Sarah was starting to feel anxious, her guilt from before not helping with her steadily decreasing mood. She walked to the window and tried again. Nothing. She stood on the bed and held the phone to the ceiling. Nothing still.
"Damn it! C'mon Jim, help me find you." Sarah went over the fire place and sat down in one of the plush red chairs, staring at her phone and watching the small signal icon blink irritably in the corner of her screen. Sarah closed her eyes, and brought the phone to her lips. I'm sorry I didn't tell you, Jim. I'm really sorry.
Suddenly the phone vibrated. Sarah's eyes shot open as it did, her hands shaking as she quickly flipped it open and pressed it to her ear.
"Jim! Is that you?"
"Sarah! Thank god I finally got through. Oh honey, are you ok? Where are you?" Jim's voice was fuzzy and distant, but it reached out to her and warmed her heart. Sarah put her hand over her chest a wave of relief washing over her.
"Yes, Darling I'm fine. Oh, Jim, I'm so glad I reached you. I'm sorry, yes I'm, I'm with a client actually, a Mr. Gracey out in the bayou area. It was only supposed to be a quick appointment, but the weather changed on me, and then my phone lost service. Now I'm stranded here. I'm so sorry, and I feel terrible that I didn't tell you."
"It's fine, sweetheart, I'm just glad I could finally reach you. I got home from the Marcus appointment, and when you weren't there, I got worried. Why didn't you leave a note?" Sarah looked down at her lap, playing with the ties of her robe as her guilt started to cloud over her again.
"It was just supposed to be a quick visit. Settle some initial business before dinner and then be back before you got home." Sarah sighed then, "
I know it feels like I went behind your back, Jim, and I guess
I was just upset about last night." Jim was silent on the other line. Just as he had feared, this was because of his own selfishness and disregard for his wife. He hated to admit it but he knew it was true. He had been rather distant lately. Jim was hitting himself mentally, how could he be so stupid?
"Sarah, this is my fault. I missed our anniversary, and I feel terrible for it
. You have every right to be upset."
"It's ok Jim. I'm just glad I could talk to you tonight. It would have killed me worrying about you all evening in this big old house." Jim laughed then,
"You worrying about me? Sarah, you're a saint
But hey, so it's a big place? I found the address for it and instantly knew that we struck gold with this one." Sarah leaned back in her chair and looked around the room again.
"I don't think big even comes close to describing this place. Oh Jim, it's simply amazing. It's just dripping with that old elegant charm, you should see the room I'm staying in."
"Well you won't be staying there for long, I'm on my way to get you, and I should be there in half an hour or so." Sarah smiled then, the comfort of knowing her husband was coming for her warming her once again.
"Thank you Jim. This place is beautiful, but it's kind of creepy. I wouldn't be surprised if it were haunted."
"We'll just leave that part out of the description, if it is. Ghosts don't really sell a property. Oh hey, did you count the bathrooms? You should do that, honey, run around and count all the bathrooms before I come and get you." Sarah shook her head. There it was again. Now that Jim's worry for her was gone, he was instantly back in Evers and Evers mode.
"We'll count them later. Or better yet I'll just ask Master Gracey, save me the trouble of all that running."
"Who's master Gracey?" Jim asked, but his question wasn't heard; the static on the other end consuming her husband's words and making it impossible for Sarah to hear him.
"Jim? Are you there? I didn't catch that." But her questions were only met with the faint mumbling of her husband as he slipped further and further away.
"Jim! Hello?! I'm losing you sweetheart." She paused. "Ok, well I'll see you when you get here. I'll be waiting by the front door so I can be sure to hear you!" Sarah shouted into the phone, hoping he would hear her. After another moment of undeterminable static she sighed and closed it, ending the call.
She hated losing him like that, but at least she knew he was on his way. This meant having to find her charming host and informing that his hospitality would no longer be needed.
Sarah took her clothes from the fireplace and quickly redressed, glad to see that they had dried considerably from before. Walking over to the wardrobe to hang up her robe, she opened the large wooden doors and gapped in wonder at what it held. The hidden closet went back deep into the wall and concealed rows and rows of eccentric dresses. An eclectic rainbow of Victorian style gowns hung perfectly on display, pieces that seemed to be worth a fortune by their intricate design and complexities.
Slowly Sarah stepped inside and examined a few of them. The soft fabric felt worn between her fingers as she held up the heavy hem, seeming to have received lots of use by whoever its previous owner had been.
Again this caused Sarah to wonder. Mr. Gracey has said that he had been alone in this house for years, so who would have had need for all of these? No one, she assumed. It's not like people these days have any use for dresses like these, though it was a shame since they were so beautiful. The person who owned them must have been around when Gracey's grandfather first built the mansion, she thought, for they seem to fit that time period
but why keep them here like this? Unprotected and unused. It's almost like they're waiting for someone.
Sarah's hand shied away as felt the sticky cling of cobwebs that lightly covered most of the fabric. What a shame, that they would be left this way, falling apart, and so forgotten.
Sarah turned to place her hanger on the rack, and pushed aside a few dresses to make some room for the robe. When she did, she revealed another item, different from the rest, and one that oddly caught her attention as it glistened in the distant candle light of the room beyond. Looking at it, something came over her. Sarah discarded the robe and reached out for the dress. It was made of a smooth golden material that looked as if it would crinkle under her touch but instead dipped and flowed through her hands like water. The delicate ruffles cascading down its side mimicked the thick flow of melted gold. How beautiful it was, and how
strangely familiar it almost seemed.
Lifting it from the hanger she walked out into the room and stopping before a long mirror held the garment up to her body, holding the golden fabric close against her abdomen. In her shimmering reflection, she was lost, the world around the image on the mirror blurring away as only this beautiful woman, who Sarah only saw part of herself in, stared back at her. There was something different about the face that shared her gaze. It was her own, but somehow it wasn't. Sarah stared into her eyes, mesmerized by what she saw. There was knowledge there, a certain light that only came from one who had seen the world from the beginning, and had watched with ancient patience as it changed and grew around them, leaving them behind, forgotten and abandoned by time ever-changing. These weren't her eyes.
A sudden rush came over her that caused Sarah to stumble backward, dropping the dress as she put her hand to head, gasping as clouded images flashed into her mind. For a split second she saw blurry figures moving in a synchronized dance spinning and twirling themselves into darkness. They quickly vanished, fading into a fog that clouded her sight like tunnel vision.
Sarah, found the back of a chair and held on to it with shaking arms as her sight slowly returned to her. She breathed heavily, trying to comprehend what had just happened. But as she tried to remember what she had seen, the image, and the odd dizzy spell that accompanied it, faded from her memory.
She blinked and looked back at the mirror, seeing only the confused expression of Sarah Evers gazing back at her. Unable to express the odd lingering sense of déjà vu that hovered around her, and too afraid to try, Sarah pushed away from the mirror and the golden dress that lay before it. This was all too familiar, and that was what frightened her most of all.
Grabbing her pink jacket and her purse, Sarah quickly fled the room, not knowing where she was headed, but also not caring. She had to find Mr. Gracey, if anything so she wouldn't have to be alone with the memory of whatever it was that just happened to her back there. She just needed to forget it, push it out of her mind, though she highly doubted that she'd be able too. Still, the thought of Mr. Gracey was a comfort to her rattled nerves. And so she ran on, determined to find safety within the company of her host, and leave the haunting memories of the Scarlet Lounge far behind her.