I dragged Mary to the nursery and we all huddled together on one bed. The little kids pulled covers over their heads. They were acting infantile. They were kids but still — they were profoundly scared.
“It started the night after the very day that mirror was hung” Mary said as the kids whimpered. “Noises. Scrapping. Doors banging. The sound of footsteps pacing. The murmur of voices. And smells. Cigar smoke. Jasmine.”
“Not rose?” I asked.
Mary started. “I don’t think so. Why?” I shrugged. “And sometimes the sounds of a small child.”
“That is new” I said. I have not heard a small child before. “Weasel is back?”
“Not like that. Weasel was always playing with us. This is different. There is a smell now. Not just mildew! Cigar smoke. Jasmine. And more. And it is bad. We can feel it. It is bad!”
“No one smokes in this house! Not cigars! Not anything! That smell is the stale smell of old cigar smoke of the prior renter because the windows are never opened in the drawing room.” I explained. I did not volunteer what I had always sensed in this house because I did not to be accused of filling everyone’s head with my own weirdness. I wanted Mary to volunteer the information herself.
“But every night we can smell cigar smoke from the drawing room! And we hear music. The piano. Mother beat me bloody accusing me of playing the piano but it is not me! I don’t even recognize the music being played! They are songs I don’t recognize! And people talking. Pacing. Moving about. And sometimes we hear a music box.”
“We don’t have a music box.”
“Exactly! And we hear voices. Voices that appear to come from the drawing room! Muffled. But if you open the doors no one is there! And there is a smell like jasmine. A sort of woman’s perfume.”
“Mother does not wear perfume.”
“Exactly! No one does! And there is a sound of a child! Playing!”
“It sounds like a small child. It sounds as if she is playing with her dollies. Cooing. Nonsense words. But occasionally she asks ‘Where is Mommy?’”
“Is this all coming from the drawing room now? Not above us?”
“Yes. Odd that. It used to come from above us. Someplace above us. But now it is always in the drawing room.”
“And how does Mother react to all of this?”
“She is refusing to admit anything is happening! But even she finds excuses to never go in there!”
“I did not see or hear anything.”
“Try going into the drawing room tonight then and see if you are still such a swaggering bully!” Mary hissed.
Dinner was dire as usual. Mother asked me if I read my bible every single day. I lied and said yes. She did not ask me about the school or if I was learning or even if I was happy. She did not even ask me about my latest black eye. She looked wane in her black. I watched the clock. We all watched the clock….tick…tick…tick…tick…..