To Be the Butterfly

By @Vanilla-Beanuelos
To Be the Butterfly

In the midst of a downpour, Lola and her daughter are offered a chance to get off the streets if they go to Doyle's manor. Lola, of course, takes the offer and sees that things are too good to be true...

Chapter 1

“Spare change? Please…” I spoke out weakly. None of the passersby batted an eye. I sighed and leaned against the brick building. I don’t like begging, but there’s not much I can do.

“Mum? Is it going to rain today?” Blanche asked, making me look up.

I grimace at the sight. If it does, we’ll have to find somewhere to stay. “Let’s not worry about that,” I tell her, looking into her big, hazel eyes. She nods and snuggles into my side.

The crowd begins to dissipate; some people open their umbrellas and quicken their pace. “Mum!” Blanche says. A speck of water lands before us on the cobblestone street, and then another. Soon, raindrops begin to pellet us in a complete downpour. We haven’t had rain in quite some time.

I hear the door of the store we’re leaning against close; either way, they won’t let us in, I’ve tried it before. “Where are we going to go?” My daughter asks, trembling from the cold. She stands up, and so do I.

“Maybe we can find a different shop,” I think aloud, though I’m sure the shop owners won’t let us in. No one here seems to take kind to the homeless. I’m left in thought, trying to remember where we usually go.

Suddenly, the rain stops. Rather, there’s an umbrella above us. I look beside me and saw a ravishing young man. The black and white suit hidden underneath his coat along with his top hat told me that he was part of the upper class. He had a smile on his face. “Oh dear. What is such a beauty like you doing out here in the rain?” he asked.

“O-oh?” I stutter, caught off guard.

“May I ask, what are you doing out here in the rain?” he repeats, his smile never lingering.

I tuck Blanche into my side. “I- erm, we have no place to stay,” I say.

“How unfortunate.” He frowns, placing his hand over his heart. He seems genuinely upset. Perhaps I’ve found my saving grace.

“So- if you would be so kind- could you give us a place to stay? If that’s too much, a meal- or enough money for one- would suffice,” I plead quickly in order to not lose his interest.

He grins once more. “My, fortune must be in your favor!” The gentleman chirps. “I’m on my way to a cafe, and I’d love to have some company. Come- you can explain your situation there.”

“Thank you! Thank you so much!” I say, choking on tears. I can’t believe I lost my composure in front of Blanche.

“Oh, really, it’s nothing at all,” he assures me. For a moment, I felt as if my guardian angel stood before me. It’s like I could see his wings.

I stuck out like a sore thumb in the cafe. Even the servers looked like they had more class than me. It was even stranger that I sat at a table, drenched to the bone and an absolute mess, with a wealthy man. Right next to us, there’s a window. There are bushes full of white flowers. The rain hasn’t let up one bit.

“May I ask your name?” said gentleman inquired. “I realize that we have not properly introduced ourselves.”

“How rude of me!” I gasp “My name is Lola Creak. Nice to meet you”

He smiled even wider. “I am Brewer. Doyle Brewer. Pleased to make your acquaintance,” he responded. The kind man leans to my daughter and questions, “And how about this little princess?”

His words touch me. Most people don’t treat my poor daughter as a person; it’s as if they just pretend she isn’t there. The fact that he even called her “princess” made me pathetically happy. “I’m Blanche! And I turn eight next month!” she said, looking at him with her happiest gaze.

“How lovely. Nice to meet you, Blanche,” he tells her. Doyle turns to me once more. “Now, I don’t mean to pry, but what is the story behind this little family?”

I explain everything. “Well, I used to live with my husband and Blanche in a little house. My husband worked at a factory and was the one who brought money home; I stayed to look after Blanche. However, as with most factories, his work wasn’t very safe…” I pull Blanche closer to me. “Um, he got injured at his job. By the time help arrived, he had already lost too much blood. I was told later that day that he had passed away.” Tears welled up in my eyes, and I did my best to try and rub them away. I had never gotten that far.

“Shh, it’s alright,” Doyle comforts me, taking my hand and placing it on the table. He holds it and rubs it with his thumb.

Something in his expression tells me that he wants me to continue. Looking out the window, I see my daughter enraptured in a black butterfly drinking nectar from a white flower. Could butterflies fly in the rain? I don’t know what it was, but I felt like opening up, just like a flower in spring.

“We didn’t have much money to begin with,” I continued, “but I had a lot of hope. I took our savings and came here to London, wishing for a good life. We managed to stay in a little apartment for a bit. However, no one would hire me. They said I looked far too frail for anything. Soon, I wasn’t able to pay rent. That’s how we ended up homeless.”

Doyle looked at me with a sympathetic expression. “I’m awfully sorry,” he said.

“Ah, you needn’t be,” I tell him.

We remain in silence for a short while. The rain seems to have let up a bit. The butterfly moves to a flower right next to the other, though both are the same shade of white.

“To believe someone as beautiful and precious as you two are homeless,” Doyle mumbles, taking his hand from mine and placing it under his chin. “Life truly is unfair.”

“I suppose,” I respond, wondering where his thought will lead us.

“Say, how about I offer you something? As a thanks for accompanying me.” He grins, leaning forward.

“I would hate to abuse your kindness! You’ve already done so much,” I told him, but he chuckled.

“Just hear me out, okay? You can decide whether or not to take up my offer,” he says. With my full attention, Doyle elaborates: “Recently, I’ve run into a conundrum: my mansion is quite understaffed. A majority of the maids have left due to things such as family issues and whatnot. I would heavily appreciate it if you would come work for me.”

I can’t believe my ears. “You’re giving me a job?” I ask.

He nods. “Before you say anything else,” he adds, “I can accommodate your housing needs as well. I’ll give you fair pay, your own rooms, and food. And, yes, I can manage this. You don’t have to worry.”

I was dumbfounded. How could someone so kind exist? “A-are you sure?” I ask, unable to say anything else.

“Of course,” he assures me. “So, what do you think?”

“Even Blanche-”

“Yes, even Blanche.”

And that’s how I got my job as a maid at the Brewer manor.

My first impression of the manor was… strange. First and foremost, it sat deep in the woods, far away from the rest of civilization. It contrasted greatly with the scenery; the plant life that surrounded the manor was so green, bright, and lush, while the black walls looked so dreary and dull. The building seemed as if it loomed over us, watching us with its windows for eyes. Nonetheless, it fits the gothic trend that seems to be going around. The only thing that seemed bright were the hedges with white roses, which were like a fence around his manor.

I was immediately introduced to the others upon arrival. There was Briar (the gardener who was responsible for the marvelous hedges), Mallory (a chef that Doyle claims makes the best French cuisine), and Valdis (Doyle’s very own assistant). All of us, Doyle said, had been homeless; none of them had a child, though.

I was to help clean up the mansion. That seemed fairly easy, but due to the size of the place, it was harder than expected. Thankfully, my load was lightened due to the fact that the right side of the building was off limits. Apparently, the floor there isn’t very stable. He doesn’t want any of us to hurt ourselves. Doyle’s a very considerate person.

One day, as I was cleaning the windows from the outside, a little visitor came around. Blanche was with me, playing in the yard. “Mum! Look!” she suddenly exclaimed. Turning around, I saw a black butterfly perched on her finger.

I smile as she makes her way to me. “Well, would you look at that,” I murmur, watching my daughter’s amazement. “Do you remember the other one?” I ask her, recalling the time we were at the cafe.

“Yes! This one reminds me of him,” Blanche chirps.

I crouch down to her level, looking into those innocent eyes. “Maybe it is the same one,” I suggest. I don’t like butterflies, but since this one showed up when we needed help most, I’ve begun to think that they bring nothing but good.

The petite creature suddenly flaps its dark wings. Normally, I panic when they come towards me; they have never felt very pleasant in my opinion. Once this one landed on the pink sleeve of my dress, however, I couldn’t help but fall in love. Its limbs gently touched my skin, almost like tiny, delicate kisses. I lifted it to look into its eyes, but was cut off by the inquiry: “Taking a break?”

Startled, I turn around. It was none other than Doyle. “Ah!” I jump. “I didn’t see you there, Sir-”

He grins and reminds me, “I told you, you needn’t be so formal. Doyle is much better.” I nod in reply, heart fluttering slightly.

Speaking of fluttering, the black butterfly flew from me and straight to the gentleman. It hovered around or by him, but never landed. It was strange, and Blanche couldn’t help but be fascinated. “I take it that this princess adores them?” Doyle questioned.

“Absolutely,” I reply. “They’re her favorite.”

He hums in acknowledgment before slipping his hand onto the side of my face. “And how about the queen?” he says.

In my confusion, I lie. “Y-yes,” I speak, nuzzling into his touch.

We stay silent for a bit before he mumbles, “You’re so magnificent. Skin as delicate as petals. How can someone be so gorgeous?” Blood rushed to my cheeks.

The moment is ruined when we hear a shriek. Briar had entered the scene with fear in her eyes, and the butterfly was already planted on her forehead. Blanche giggled and said, “I thought you were a gardener! Shouldn’t you like bugs?”

I smile a bit; I haven’t heard her giggle in quite some time. “Your daughter means a lot to you, doesn’t she?” Doyle asked.

“Yes. She’s all I have,” I admit, my eyes not wandering from my child.

Still, the gentleman lightly takes hold of my sleeve, saying, “Pink is lovely on you.” He then walked into the manor through those large, wooden doors.

I felt the place he touched, and I couldn’t help but fall in love.

Autumn reached our safe haven, and with it came some abrupt changes.

I was wiping the windows once more. Blanche was with me as usual, but something felt off. I then realized that I was the only one in the garden. With the amount of leaves building up in the yard, she should be showing up more often.

The clutter of garden supplies sounded to my left, and from the side of the building emerged Valdis. “What are you doing?” I ask.

“You didn’t hear?” He replied with another question.

Right on time, Mallory opened the window (which was the one in the kitchen). She stuck her head out and teased, “I thought assistants didn’t do garden work.”

With a harrumph, Valdis explained, “Well, Briar has left. Until a new replacement comes, I’m to fill in for her.”

“Briar left? Why?” Blanche inquired.

“She’s found better work elsewhere,” the assistant told us with a shrug.

Mallory and I exchanged odd looks, looking straight into each other’s eyes. “Why was she looking for work in the first place?” the chef continued to pester. “Nowadays, jobs aren’t as giving as this one.”

“Perhaps it had better pay?” I pitch in.

“Don’t ask me. That’s all I was told,” Valdis elaborated, giving us an equally confused stare.

“Ah, are you surprised by Briar’s departure?” Doyle said, startling all of us. He always comes out of nowhere! “I am as well; she told me very suddenly,” he added.

Right on cue, the black butterfly settles in the middle of Mallory’s chest. All of us marvel at the sight except said chef. “Geeze. She didn’t even tell us anything,” she pouted.

That is true. I never really talked to her; if I did, it was a greeting or a good-bye. Then again, we always looked at one another. We had an unspoken connection through our eyes, which were both blue, coincidentally. We talked using those rather than our mouths. I still wished I conversed with her more, though.

“Then again, she did seem to be a bit stressed before,” Mallory spoke, still trying to crack down on the case. That was also true. Now that I recall, in the past week her eyes seemed to be tinted with a hint of delirium.

“Well, life moves on,” Valdis said, thus ending our discussion. No one brought it up anymore, but I could tell we were all still curious.

That night, however, I was woken up by my door creaking open. I assumed that it was Blanche. She started to get nightmares more often, and sometimes she would come in my room to sleep with me. I sat up, groggily calling out, “You had another nightmare, love?” What had opened the door was not my daughter.

A lady that was pure blue stood in the door frame. A knife stuck out of her forehead, blood dripping like nectar. She gazed around the room before staring at me. My heart beat quickly and my breathing became shallow as I gazed into those eyes. It took a while before something in me clicked as she said, “Wrong room.” She then drifted down the hall.

That was Briar. There was no doubt about it. I swear it was her! She had the same eyes! But- at the same time- it wasn’t her. It was… a ghost? Am I going mad? Did something happen at her new job? Why was that knife…

Thoughts made my head spin. In the midst of my dizziness, I jolted out of bed. I ran down the hall in the opposite direction of Briar. I stopped outside of a door and opened it. Inside, Blanche was still in bed. She sat up, rubbing her eyes, and asked, “Mum? What are you doing here?”

I gave a lopsided smile. “Nothing. Just making sure you were okay,” I told her.

Blanche seemed to notice my shortness of breath. Before I could leave, my daughter commanded, “Mum. Sleep with me.”

I sigh and lay down next to her. Despite the fact that the bed wasn’t made for two people, I felt cozy. There was no place I would rather be at that moment. I grin at her. “You had a nightmare?” I ask, but she shakes her head.

“No, but it looked like you did,” she explained. She closed her eyes and resumed her sleep. Being right next to her calmed me down a great deal. Following her deep breaths, I was able to fall into tranquility once more. I don’t know what I would do without her.

There was still no gardener. Doyle’s work grew heavier, meaning that Valdis had more tasks as well. Soon, there was no one to take care of the hedges and the falling leaves. The white roses slowly began to shrivel and wilt. It seemed that the only thing that could revive them was the black butterfly, and he wasn’t doing the best job.

Along with the deteriorating scenery came a change in Mallory’s behavior. I would come by the kitchen window to clean, and if I peered inside, I could see Mallory mumble to herself repeatedly. She would either fumble with the blue ribbons that tied her black hair into braids or chop vegetables nervously (even when she didn’t need to cook). Either way, she always glanced at the door, as if she were expecting something.

If I was busy with work, Mallory would offer to look after Blanche. When I went to take my daughter off her hands, I always stopped to have a chat with her. Through this, I saw the distortions in her manner.

The last time we talked, for instance, I walked in to see her and my daughter making tea. “Here, darling. Pour in the water. My hands are a tad bit too shaky,” Mallory instructed.

“Hello,” I greeted, the door creaking open.

The chef jumped at the sound. “M-miss Creak! How are you today?” she says, hiding her nerves.

“Fine. Are you alright?” I ask, concerned as to why she’s been so jittery lately.

“Oh- yes, yes! Just… haven’t been getting much sleep as of late,” she stammers. I noticed her glossed over eyes and the dark bags underneath them.

“I take that Blanche didn’t cause you too much trouble?” I look at my daughter, who’s drinking some tea. Mallory took her into town since she had to run some errands.

“Of course not!” She grinned, petting Blanche’s head. “She even helped me find what I was looking for.”

Said child looked up from her cup and added, “Miss Mallory says that valerian tea helps you sleep! Do you think it can help with nightmares, too?”

“I hope so,” I say. I look up at the window and see a familiar shade of blue. The ghost of Briar is rubbing a rose on the hedge in her hands, staring deep into my soul. She didn’t blink at all. Her eyes contain an unattainable sorrow. The rose crumbles in her hands.

Frightened, I look to my left to see if Mallory has noticed as well. The chef is furiously downing her tea, Blanche looking at her in confusion. “Miss Mallory?-”

“Ah, th-that tea is e-exquisite!” she stuttered. My mouth is left slack jawed, but I close it once I remember my daughter is right beside me.

The chef looks at me. Unadulterated fear lies within her eyes, and I can tell that mine look the same. She saw Briar. “M-miss Creak! W-would you like some-!”

“Y-yes! Gladly!” I cut her off, already pouring myself a cup. A bit spills, but I don’t clean it up. I chug the tea just like Mallory; it doesn’t help my tightening throat.

A slight tug on my dress lures me back to reality. “Are you okay, Mum?” Blanche asks.

Before I can answer, someone from behind says, “That’s what I was about to ask.”

Mallory and I both jolt, turning to see none other than Doyle. “I-it’s nothing, Sir Brewer!” lies Mallory.

Doyle’s smile never falters. “Are you sure? You two look as though you’ve seen a ghost!” He lightly teases.

Blanche looks up at him with her big, pure eyes. “Doyle! Would you like some tea?” She asks.

“Sure, princess,” the gentleman replies. As my little one pours his tea, he points at my chest. “Excuse me, but it seems that you’ve spilled some tea.”

I look down. Right above my heart, the tea stained the pink fabric, making it seem as if it were red. “Oh! I hadn’t even noticed,” I admit sheepishly, my face deepening in color. Ah, why must I make myself look like a fool in front of him?

He’s still grinning, but Doyle cocks his head to the side. “Are you sure you’re fine?” he asks.

“Yes!” I squeak, making him chuckle. I look out the window. The black butterfly has replaced Briar, feasting upon a white rose.

“Well, if you don’t feel well, you can always come to me,” he offers. I don’t even have to look at him to tell that he’s still smiling. Suddenly, he leans close to me. His mouth is right next to my ear. He whispers, “Pink is lovely, but I feel that red would suit you much better.” Doyle left the kitchen after delivering those final words.

They played over in my head. Throughout the whole day, I thought of them. Red would suit you much better. I even took them with me to bed. I tossed and turn, loss in the sea of blankets. The words echoed across the waves. Red would suit you much better.

Whatever the reason was, I couldn’t fall asleep, though the scare I had earlier left me brutally exhausted. In a desperate search for relief, I made my way to the kitchen.

I opened the door, my eyes avoiding the window. Everything was going fine. I heated up some water and looked for the valerian tea. The color red hazed my mind. I got a tea cup and was about to pour the tea in when I heard something scratch the window. In my foolish delirium, I looked up and met eyes with Briar again. Her frightened gaze made me gasp and drop the tea pot, its shards spreading on the floor. I couldn’t look away. I felt that she was trying to tell me something. I was almost going to go and open the window when a shout stopped me in my tracks. “Lola!” it called.

“M-Mallory!” I choke on tears. I can’t handle this. The door creaks open, and in comes another spirit.

It’s as electric of a blue as Briar, but this one’s distinguishing feature is the braids dangling by the side of its head. It sobbed and wailed, clutching it chest. I stared in disbelief. “Mallory?” I whisper.

The ghost looks up at me, a frenzied look in her eyes. “Lola!” She sobs. Mallory won’t stop saying my name. “Lola! Lola!”

“Lola!”

I’m suddenly awake. I sit right up and notice I’m on the kitchen floor amongst the shattered bits of tea pot. At my side is Valdis, a concerned look in his eyes. “Finally! I almost thought you were dead!” the assistant exclaimed.

“What…?” I mumbled. “Where is…”

“Huh? Where’s what?” Valdis asks, giving me his full attention.

“Nevermind,” I say. “What are you doing?”

“I was about to ask you the same,” he said.

“I couldn’t sleep. So I wanted to make tea, but… I fainted?” I explain. At least I wasn’t lying.

“What are we all doing in the kitchen so late?” Again, Doyle has snuck up on us.

“Well, I came here to investigate some noise and found Miss Creak passed out on the floor,” confessed Valdis.

Doyle pulls a slight frown before asking, “Oh, dear. Are you feeling alright?”

“Are you getting nightmares, too?” Valdis questions.

“Y-yes,” I lie. “I guess they’re all making me a bit paranoid.”

Doyle sighs, adding a sympathetic smile. “Valdis, you should get back to bed. I’ll take care of Lola,” he instructed. Thus, the gentleman and I were alone.

“Sorry about your tea pot,” I muttered, sheepishly glancing at the floor.

“It’s alright,” he said. He helped me to my feet. It was then that I realized my pink nightgown was red and soggy with tea. “Get changed and head back to sleep. I’ll clean up,” he demanded.

“B-but…” I begin to say something, but I can’t get the rest of the words out. The door where Mallory stood intimidates me.

Another sigh comes from Doyle. “Paranoia has you right in its clutches, doesn’t it?” He says aloud. Before I can do anything else, he pulls me in close. I cling to him immediately; this might be the closest I’ll ever get to him. “There, there,” he gently whispers. “If you would like, you can sleep with me.”

His bold offer catches me off guard. “What?” Is all I can say.

“Maybe you’d feel safer falling asleep next to a friend,” he suggests. “How does that sound?”

“It sounds lovely!” I reply quickly, not wanting him to retract his words.

He grins, and I can see his wings again. He holds my hand, using the same technique as he did in the cafe. “Grand. Wait for me in your room, okay?”

I nod. Suddenly, the door doesn’t matter. I slip right past it and head to my room.

The next day, we received the news that Mallory has left due to family issues.

Since it was just me and Valdis left to do all the work, our life at the manor has gotten far more busy. I still cleaned, but now I prepared meals. Valdis would occasionally go outside to groom the hedges, but it didn’t seem worth the effort. After all, it was winter now; all of those beautiful white roses would die soon.

Despite my tight schedule, Doyle still insists on pestering me. Ever since the night we slept in the same bed, we’ve gotten awfully close. He’ll come up from behind and drape himself on me, making me laugh. Even better, sometimes he’ll peck my cheek and call me his “little rose”. It sounds pathetic, but I couldn’t be happier. I’ve even started wearing red.

However, ever since that night, the amount of spirits I see has drastically increased. It’s not just Briar or Mallory. I don’t even know who they belong to; they just appear. It’s still a bit frightening, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. I have to if I want to keep living with Doyle.

Valdis has replaced Mallory’s role as a babysitter. My little Blanche seems to have fun with him. Since he’s the only other worker here now, I’ve begun to talk with him very much. Each time I do, I get to see his magnificent eyes. Vladis has mastered expressing things with his eyes to the point where he can give me a few looks before I burst out in laughter. I can easily say that he’s the worker I’ve gotten along the best with. I am slightly worried, though. He seems to be exhibiting a change in behavior similar to Mallory.

I trust him immensely. That trust, however, was tested the day Doyle left. He had important business to take care of in a city next to us, but it was so far away that he wouldn’t be here till the day after he was gone. I had finished up all of my duties for the day and was on my way to pay Blanche’s room a visit. However, Valdis had different plans.

“Lola!” He called out, earning my attention. The assistant held my wrist “I need to talk to you.”

The urgency in his eyes made me uneasy. “Can you please wait for a bit? I need to go check on Blanche-”

“No!” He shouted, startling me. Valdis took a deep breath. “I mean, it’s really important. I can’t wait any longer.”

I nodded, and he lead me to his room. He told me to take a seat on his bed while he kept glancing behind him. “What is it?” I ask, his fidgety movement further unsettling me.

He quickly sits beside me. “You’ve seen them, too? The ghosts,” he asks, keeping his voice to a whisper.

“Yes…” I reply, not sure where his question will lead us.

“So it’s not just me! Why haven’t you said anything?” He groans, rubbing his face. “Okay, let me ask you something else: have you seen Briar and Mallory? As ghosts?”

I take a sharp intake of air. “I don’t want to talk about it,” I say, trying to weasel myself out of this conversation. I don’t like to picture them wandering the halls.

“You have!” Valdis exclaims. “Lola, doesn’t that bother-”

“Will you be quiet?” I say, gripping onto my red dress. “I already said I don’t want-”

“Lola, listen to me!” Valdis tells me. I look at him. He continues. “Doesn’t it bother you? They’re supposed to be gone-”

“Th-they are gone,” I mutter, increasing my grasp on the red fabric.

“But they’re not! They’re right here! They’re ghosts!” He reasons. “Why do you think they’re ghosts?”

I had never thought about that. Actually, I had never wanted to think about it. Ghosts, as far as I’m sure, tend to haunt by the places they’ve been killed. Yet, if they’ve been killed here, then how were they killed? Surely it had to be a very quiet death. I’ve never heard anything out of the ordinary here. The thing that frightened me the most, however, was the fact that there might be a murderer among us.

“Have you noticed anything about Mister Brewer?” asked Valdis.

I gulped. “N-no. Have you?”

The assistant tells me, “Well, since you can see the ghosts, too, I’m pretty sure he can. Yet he doesn’t react at all. They keep coming and coming, and I’m sure he knows. It’s like… he’s used to them.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” I say. I think I know what Valdis is trying to get at.

He sighs. “Listen, I’ve been here a great deal longer than you,” he begins. “It’s actually been about a year since I came here. All of these ghosts that I’ve started seeing- a lot of them are people I used to work with. Not- not only that, but they’re all people that Mister Brewer has claimed quit from their positions. Yet they’re still here.”

I heard a soft pitter patter of raindrops on the roof. “What are you trying to say?” I ask, clenching my red dress till my knuckles went white.

“I’m saying that Mister Brewer might be the one behind all this,” Valdis suggests.

I laugh. I’m not sure why, but I laugh and laugh and laugh until my stomach hurts. It does a good job of disturbing my friend. “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” I tell him after my laughing fit.

“Lola, I’m serious,” Valdis asserts.

“No, no. You’re joking,” I say, hilarity still in my head.

“Are you okay?” He asks.

“It’s not true!” The red dress feels fine in-between my fingers. The rain begins to pour down harder.

“Oh, dear,” begins Valdis. “You’ve gone mad.”

I gasp. “How dare you!” I exclaim. “If anyone’s gone mad, it’s you!”

“Lola, please-”

“Doyle’s a wonderful man!” I argue, picking at my red sleeves. “After all he’s done for you- give you a job, a home, warm meals- after all that, you still think he’s a murderer!” Thunder booms outside.

“Lola, he’s going to hurt you!”

“Excuse you!” I say. “Doyle loves me. He’d never lay a finger on me.”

“C-can you say the same about Blanche?” The assistant asks. Clearly, he was trying to push my buttons. I see the sky flash pure white.

“Oh, stop it!” I declare. Red with anger, I get up and make for the door. “Goodbye, Valdis.” He tries to call out to me, but I had already shut the door.

Waiting in the hall outside Valdis’ room was none other than my daughter. “Are you alright, Mum? I thought I heard you yelling,” Blanche questioned.

I sigh; just the sight of her calms me down. I comb my fingers through her hair, assuring her that it was nothing. I walked with her to her own room.

Disaster had struck the manor in the span of a week.

As usual, I had left Blanche in Valdis’ care. Valdis asked me if he could take my daughter with him into town for errands, and I complied. During the day, it began to rain. Doyle and I reasoned that the two wouldn’t be here till much later, so we waited. And waited. And waited. It was getting late, and I grew uneasy. Doyle told me that since the rain hadn’t let up, they might have found a hotel or something of the like to take refuge in. I had a bad feeling, so Doyle told me he’d go into town and find them. I fell asleep on Blanche’s bed.

My sleep that night was full of nightmares. Actually, it was just one, yet it kept repeating. Blanche was one of those spirits, and she stood at the edge of her bed, looming over me. She just kept crying and crying, saying, “Mummy! It hurts! It hurts!” Nothing more happened than that, but the fact that I couldn’t even help her just tore my heart apart.

I woke up, still feeling anxious and miserable. I went to the main entrance to find Doyle barely returning from his search. The absence of people by his side told me that it had been a failure. I begged him to go into town again, and he agreed without putting up a front. After getting some rest, he set off again.

I was sitting by a window in the main entrance, looking out in hopes of seeing all three of their figures come into view, especially Blanche. All there was, though, was the same butterfly clinging to the only white rose left on the dead hedges.

I began to lose hope. Blanche had always been by my side since she was born; this was the longest amount of time she had been away from me. I stood up to return to Blanche’s room, but then I saw something.

Walking up the path leading to our house was a blue smudge. It made its way to the manor. I grimaced when I realized I had seen that blue before. Something bad has happened.

The ghost of Valdis phased through the door, leaving me in pain. His mouth had been sewn shut, but he still had his eyes. They told me to follow him. I was too in despair to get up. “And Blanche?” I ask feebly. His pitiful gaze made me bawl. Despite my state, the spirit guided me down the hall and to the second floor.

He led me into Doyle’s study. Every now and then, I would come in here to clean. However, it always seemed to remain a mess. Books, papers, and pens were sprawled everywhere. Valdis went next to the desk and pointed at something. When I went beside him, I noticed it was a thick journal. Open it, his eyes told me.

The inside was horrid. There were pages and pages filled to the brim with intense descriptions of bodies, both alive and dead, and pictures of corpses. I began to reached a bookmarked area when I stumbled upon the heading “Valdis”. Underneath it was a detailed description of said assistant’s body, which ended with “I’ve never inspected a male corpse before. His body is in mint condition; killing him will be enthralling.”

I looked at Valdis, absolutely mortified. He simply stared at me, as if to say “Well. This is the reality.” I flipped a few pages more and landed on a heading that made my head spin. “Lola”.

Reading it was like a fever dream. Apparently my body was “perfection”. He said my pale skin was beautiful; it’d be easy to see all the blood run down. My black hair was the best; he finds hair really attractive and, unlike skin, hates when it get stained. The thing that bothered me the most was his reason for liking my blue eyes. He said, and I quote: “In my opinion, they’re the clearest kind of eyes. You can see the pure fear and delirium within them so clearly.” Right next to my page, I could see that he even did one for Blanche. I was too horrified to read it.

Valdis began to walk out of the room, and I followed him. He led me to somewhere I had never been before: the manor’s right side.

The right of the building was closed off by a slender, wooden door. It didn’t seem like you needed much strength to knock it down, but no one had ever had the guts to try. Valdis went through the wall, and in time I heard a click. The door opened and revealed an empty room. The floor had given out; a majority of the debris lay down on the first floor. The spirit pointed in front of me and helped me notice the ladder. I climbed down and Valdis moved to the center of the room. He pointed below him. It’s right here, his eyes said. You just have to dig.

I followed his path and bent down. I shoved the rubble for a bit and saw a gleam come from underneath. I looked up only to find that Valdis wasn’t there anymore. I was alone.

The rubble gave way and and revealed a hatch with a metal handle. My heart pounded. What could be underneath? With a squeal of the hinges, the hatch opened. Another ladder lead to the basement, and thus I descended.

The basement seemed like a secret dungeon. Lit candles were on the wall; candle stands were put in the places where the light didn’t reach. There were chains with cuff on the wall. A plethora of trunks and cases filled the room. Hesitantly, I opened one. It was filled with scalpels, some clean and some bloody. I quickly shut it. I can’t help but tremble.

Then I realized the long, metal table at the end. It’s covered with a bloody tarp. I take deep breaths and make my way towards it. I’m scared to uncover it, but the bump in it roused my suspicions. I grip my red dress hand and lifted the tarp with the other.

It was horrible.

My baby, my joy, my princess, my little flower… was dead. Her mutilated body lay in the nude right before me. There was a large dent on the side of her head. She had been dismembered, and one arm had been peeled of all its skin. Her bottom jaw was torn off, and the tongue was separated from that. A deep incision went from her throat to her navel. Her organs were visible; some were even taken out. She looked at me with vacant eyes.

The sight made me scream. Tears escaped my eyes and I fell to the floor. Who could have done such a thing? She was all I had! I think of the journal in Doyle’s study. Valdis was right.

I took note of the bloody shovel next to the table. This must be why her head is dented. I grab it and feel something well up within me.

That’s why I stood in the yard until sundown, waiting for Doyle. I gaze at the only white rose that’s survived the winter thus far. The black butterfly entered the scene again, but he simply hovered, never landing.

“My little rose, what are you doing in the garden?” Doyle’s voice shouted behind me. “It’s too cold.” I wouldn’t let his words sway me. He’s my daughter’s murderer, after all.

I still faced the hedge, ignoring him. I held the shovel closer to me. I’m not letting this opportunity get away. My right hand pinched the red fabric of my dress. “I’m sorry, Lola, but I still couldn’t find-”

I swung the shovel full force, luckily hitting him right on the left of his head. Doyle toppled over. I couldn’t tell if he was alive or not, and my thirst grew larger. I repeatedly pummeled him with my tool, shouting at the top of my lungs. To think that I loved this necrophiliac.

Even when I drew blood, I kept going. My shouts began to morph into giggles, then cackles, then full on maniacal laughter. I only stopped when my stomach began to hurt. The blood has stained my dress, making it seem more of a deep crimson.

I leaned on my shovel, surveying my work. His face was hardly recognizable. He body was limp and helpless on the floor. I was high on adrenaline. Is murder this good?

The butterfly landed on the corpse. The white rose’s petals were stained. I grin.

It turns out that I’m no better than him.

I walk into town, sticking out of the dull scenery with my crimson dress.

I feel a light sprinkle of raindrops. They all begin to pelt down. I grin even wider than I already was as I open my umbrella. This is the perfect weather to find the weakest of victims.

I walk down a familiar street. By a familiar building is a familiar scene: a homeless woman struggling to find shelter.

Chin up. Warm smile. Lovely eyes. And here I go.

“Oh dear. What is such a beauty like you doing out here in the rain?”

The End

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