Love Letters From Stefano: Flash Fiction by cam
Wayne waited outside one of the oldest houses in the city. A deep rumble in the distance made him glad he had his umbrella. The tour was scheduled for noon, and he hoped they would be inside before the the storm hit.
At 11:50, the rain started. Wayne opened his umbrella and noticed a woman and little girl behind him who didn’t have one of their own.
“There’s room enough for three under my umbrella,” he said to the woman and the blonde haired girl about ten of age.
“My name is Ella, and this is my daughter, Melody." They joined wayne under the black dome
“I’m Wayne. It’s nice to meet you.”
Melody hugged her mom and buried her face in the fabric of her blouse. “Mom, I don’t wanna go inside. This place feels creepy.”
Wayne had considered this tour for years and felt a compulsion to go inside whenever he passed by the house. Now that he was here, he knew exactly what Melody meant by creepy. He wasn't sure he wanted to go into the house either.
Inside, the tour guide described the main room, the chandelier, the bookcases. A young woman entered, her arms loaded with folded laundry. Was she one of those people who dressed up in period clothes and acted as if they were living pieces of history?
A man with a grimace on his face approached the woman. He grabbed one of the garments, held it up and mouthed words which Wayne could not hear. The man tossed the garment aside and swatted the clothes out of the woman’s arms. He slapped her face with the back of his hand. She recoiled, but kept her head bowed.
Wayne wanted to intervene, but no one else seemed to have noticed the event. Something pressed against his side. He looked down and Melody was leaning against him, hiding her face.
“I’m sorry,” said Ella. “She’s usually shy around men she doesn’t know.”
“It’s ok. If this makes her feel more secure in this house, let’s let her be.”
In the kitchen, the guide talked about wood cook stoves and ice boxes. The young woman who had been carrying laundry stood over the stove stirring a pot. Steam rose into the air and drifted to where Wayne stood, but he could not smell what was boiling in the pot. Melody took a few steps toward the woman.
“The housekeeper’s name was Clarice,” said the tour guide. “She was an Italian immigrant who lived in one of the guest rooms and performed all of the chores. It was recorded that she was a beautiful woman.”
The tour moved on, and Wayne glanced back at Clarice. The same man who had slapped her, now stood behind her. He reached around and grabbed her breasts in his hands. Clarice stopped stirring and waited. Wayne looked at the faces of the others in the group, but no one noticed what was going on a few feet away. No one except Melody.
A canopy bed took up the center of the master bedroom. A dresser with a chair in front and a mirror rising up against the wall was bare except for a hairbrush and a handheld mirror.
Clarice entered and pulled the blankets off the bed. The tour guests listened to the history of the canopy bed that was a gift from a wealthy friend of the family back in England.
The man who had groped Clarice in the kitchen, slipped into the room and approached her from behind. He shoved her forward onto the bed, face down. Her mouth opened in a silent scream as he lifted the folds of her dress and unbuckled his trousers.
“Make him stop.” Melody’s voice quivered.
A movement in the doorway caught Wayne’s attention. He spun around and saw a young man holding a rifle. The man on top of Clarice struggled to the floor. He turned to face the intruder and a musket ball slammed into his chest. Clarice ran to the young man, and they embraced.
Wayne was sweating, not from the heat and humidity but from the emotion he felt for Clarice. A small hand slipped into his and squeezed his fingers. He gently squeezed back.
Outside, rain fell on a lawn with a tall oak at its center. The busy street was gone. Wayne stared at the oak. A rope was looped over a thick branch with one end tied to the trunk of another tree. The other end had been fashioned into a noose that encircled the neck of the young man who had shot Clarice’s employer and attacker. A crowd sat on the ground and watched the dead man, but those on the tour never gave the scene a single look.
“I remember now,” said Melody.
Wayne stooped and looked into the girl’s eyes. “What do you remember?”
“Everything. I was Clarice.”
“But Melody, how….”
“Look.” Melody pointed across the lawn. “She’s sitting beside the others.”
“Yes, I see her,” said Wayne.
“Can we go over? I wanna to show you something.” Melody took Wayne’s hand. Ella followed close behind, but did not interfere.
Wayne and Melody stood behind Clarice. She cradled sheets of paper in her lap and held one in her hand. Her mouth moved as she read, but they heard no sound.
“Love letters,” said Melody. “From Stefano. He’s the man hanging from the tree branch. We were gonna get married.”
Wayne bent low and looked over Clarice’s shoulder, his face inches from hers. Tears flowed so that he could barely make out the words….
My dearest Clarice…..
When he finished, he turned to Melody and she came closer.
“Yes, love letters from Stefano,” said Wayne.
“From you,” said Melody.
“My dearest Clarice. I remember now.”