I invite you to join me in The Attic…

Introduction

Since she was a small child Molly was able to communicate with what most would refer to as fairies, angels and ghosts. In her early 20’s, she had been one of the youngest Tarot Readers on what she nicknamed the ‘Psychic Circuit’, being involved in the largest alternative Festivals of spiritual and self-development in the major cities around Australia. Whilst on a holiday in Australia with her best friend Annabelle they attended one of these at Darling Harbour in Sydney. They joked about having a reading done, curious to see what someone else would have to say about Molly’s gifts as a clairvoyant. Molly chose someone who was available at that time. Dianna was an older woman and was ready to see her. Molly thought she had a kind face and would be genuine. She sat opposite Dianna at a small table and chairs tucked away in the far corner and watched attentively as she shuffled the cards. It felt odd for her to be sitting on ‘the other side’ of the table, to be receiving a reading.  Dianna stopped mid-shuffle and froze, nodded to someone only seen by her, looked up at Molly intensely. Without a word she stood up and took Molly by the hand, led her through the crowded Readers Room to meet the co-ordinator, Sam. It was that moment which launched Molly’s career as a professional clairvoyant and tarot reader.

Now three years later living in New Zealand with her husband Will, Molly is an author and loves to write stories about the Spirit World, inspired by her experiences as a tarot reader and psychic medium. Will is a graphic design artist, photographer and book illustrator. Whenever the opportunity arises or they are prompted by her Spirit Friends, they go on road trips enjoying the ‘off the track’ older areas of rural villages, collecting ideas for her stories and  inspiration for Will’s art. It was on their wedding anniversary and one of their random road trips they discover an old weatherboard farmhouse for sale, which contains a hidden treasure – an attic room, where once the lady of the house, Grace Forrest, sat to write in the late 1800’s. The house has been waiting to be rediscovered by the right people, at the right time.  The journal writings of Grace Forrest had remained locked away, hidden from the world, unpublished, lost and forgotten by her family. Like many of the Lost Souls Molly was yet to meet. The hand written journal entries and typed manuscript laid untouched all of these years in the drawer of the ornately carved cedar writing bureau hidden in this forgotten room. On moving into the old house, Molly and Will discover a false wall behind which they find a small library room and a set of stairs leading up to The Attic. Someone had gone to great effort to keep this hidden. Why were these so well concealed, and why such secrecy?

Chapter 1The House

Looking down to where her feet should be, all Molly could see was a swirling mist. Ahead of her, through the mist she was able to capture glimpses of what appeared to be an old wooden staircase. Where the stairs led to, was not yet clear, but she felt the urge to find out and could feel herself being drawn towards them. As Molly placed her foot on the bottom step, the mist began to clear, but all that was visible to her were the wooden stairs leading up to a door. She could feel her heart beat increasing as she walked slowly up each of  the steps, the wooden treads creaking softly beneath the weight of her body. Standing at the door, she looked for a handle. The door was of an older panelled style, it had the appearance of a rich red cedar timber with a white porcelain door handle, above this was a matching scratch plate. Beneath the handle was an ornate brass key hole. Reaching out to turn the handle, the door opened easily for her. Curiosity drew her in and she pushed the door open, stepping boldly into the room. Before her was what appeared to be an old attic room, with worn wooden floorboards, a rug in the middle of the room. To her left was an open fireplace in which there was a fire grate and a cast iron kettle. Facing the fireplace were two wing backed arm chairs. Between these was an old sea chest as a coffee table. To her right was an old pine kitchen dresser on which was a beautiful fine china tea set and a matching water jug, cream coloured with pink rose buds. Further to the right of this was a  brass daybed tucked in an alcove behind the door, where the roof slanted downwards. Directly in front of her was a dormer window, beneath which was an antique writing desk and an old oak captain’s chair. The light in the room appeared dim, except for a candle on the window sill which burnt brightly, reflecting in the old rippled glass panes. Molly heard a soft, swishing sound and turned to see a woman  standing by the kitchen dresser, facing away from her. The sound came from the woman’s long skirt sweeping across the wooden floor as she moved. The skirt was of pin-stripped fabric with a bustle and a ruffle at the bottom, and she also wore a white blouse with a high collar, long sleeves, puffed at the top and fitted down her forearms. She turned towards Molly and smiled calmly. But what she saw made Molly stifle a scream, because the woman’s face was a perfect reflection of her own, dark hair swept up into a loose bun, her own turquoise blue eyes stared back at her, as if she were looking into a mirror!

Molly woke with a start, sitting upright in bed, damp hair clung to her forehead and the sides of her neck, her heart raced. It was just a dream, but it had rattled her. Will, lying next to her stirred, “you ok Babe?” he asked as he reached out to her, patting her thigh reassuringly. 

“Yeah… yeah…” Molly stuttered vaguely, “It was j-j-just a dream…just a dream,” she tried to soothe herself. Picking up her phone from the bedside table, she looked at the time, it read 3.05am. She slid back down under the covers and snuggled up behind Will. It was reassuring to feel his body against hers. He wrapped his arm around behind her, pulling her into his body tightly. Feeling safe again, she fell back asleep.

The alarm woke them both at 7am. Will had planned to take Molly away for a couple of days. The brilliant sunrise revealed a gorgeous Autumn day, and by mid morning the sun had the lingering warmth of an Indian Summer. White wisps of cloud splashed across a rich azure blue sky, as if they had been placed there purposefully by touch of an artist’s paint brush. Driving with the windows down and singing carelessly to the song on the radio, Will and Molly began another of their infamous road trips. She loved these random days and the carefree feeling of her long dark hair blowing in the breeze through the open windows, it added to the sense of freedom that accompanied such trips. Turning off State Highway 1, Will drove down a road which led them to the tiny coastal village of  Lockyer in Kohutu Bay, where he had already booked accommodation for the night. The location was a surprise for Molly, as they were celebrating their first wedding anniversary. Will had not given her any clues as to where they were going. He had only told her the day before and instructed her to simply pack a bag, they were going on a road trip. Such a pretty, picturesque and peaceful spot, the tiny village overlooked a sheltered bay surrounded by steep emerald green hills, on top of which were tall wind breaks created by aged macrocarpa hedges. As they drove into the village there was a small park, the rich green lawns framed by beautiful brightly coloured flowers and a central rose garden surrounding a small water fountain. It was well designed with a playground at the rear  where children and dogs played happily whilst parents chatted beneath the shade of pohutakawa trees (also known as New Zealand Christmas Trees).  Bordering the park were a couple of old boat sheds that had been converted into an art gallery and a craft shop. To Molly it could have been a scene from a painting by Monet.  As they drove further down the road she scanned the shops for somewhere to get a coffee and something to eat. Across the road from  the water’s edge they found a quirky cafe where, being a fine day, people were sitting outside and enjoying their meals in the sun and the beautiful view across the bay. The brightly painted old cottage had been transformed by someones artistic talents into what looked like a scene out of a Dr Seuss book. After parking the car a little way up the road, she and Will walked back towards the cafe, browsing briefly at the other shops. “Oh damn it, I forgot my phone. Wait here Hun”, Molly exclaimed, her hand slipped from Will’s as she ran back to the car. Looking over his shoulder, Will watched her, capturing a delicious moment in time. It was as if Time stood still, just for him. He watched as her tall slender body leaning against the car whilst she checked for messages on her phone – the photographer in him took over. He removed the lens cover from the camera he had slung across his chest. Through the lens he watched her, the camera clicking constantly. It was the way in which she moved that he found her so captivating – elegant, gracefully playful, and so sexy. He watched and snapped each moment. As the wind caught her long, dark curly hair, she brushed it back from her face, revealing the beauty of her facial features. The angle of light highlighted this, her skin of a lightly tanned complexion,  naturally rosy cheeks emphasised by a light sprinkling of playful freckles across the bridge of her cute upturned nose. Dark eyebrows and long lashes framed her turquoise coloured eyes. Her full lips, which curled upwards in the corners gave the expression of her happy nature. Her smile was infectious. And happy she was, pretty much most of the time, seemingly unaffected by the sadness from her past, she portrayed a contentment with life, wise beyond her years. Walking back towards Will, she wagged her finger at him and scolded, “Must you?” Catching up to him, she wrapped her arms around his waist and whispered in his ear teasingly, “Was it worth it?” With a warm fuzzy heart, his smile said it all. 

Their attention was drawn to the enticing delicious smells of freshly made coffee and home baked cakes, muffins and pies, providing the best advertising for the little cafe. Molly spotted a small black and white cat sitting at one of the tables outside. The possibility of a kitty cuddle was always an added bonus. Will went inside to order coffee and something to eat whilst Molly sat down next to the cat, (who was always keen for a cuddle) and looked back along the row of shops, taking in the quaintness of this little picturesque seaside village. Amongst the shops was a small general store providing essentials as it has done for the past 100 years. Next door to this was a petrol station, and a takeaways advertising that they make the ‘Best Fish and Chips in New Zealand’. Beyond this was a very impressive two storey 

weatherboard house built in 1886 surrounded by manicured gardens where tables and chairs sat nestled amongst an assortment of azaleas and gardenias, beneath the shade of a pohutakawa tree.  Now a seafood restaurant, it was originally ‘The Tearooms’. Across the road from this was the old hotel, offering meals and accommodation.  Looking north down the road leading out of the village, to the right, up on the hillside was a small  timber school building dating back to the  early 1800’s, the original community hall next door provided a place for the local playgroup and a renovated old barn had been converted into another art gallery specialising in locally carved Pounamu (New Zealand Greenstone, Jade), and beautiful flax weavings. Out the front of the shop stood large stone carvings made from Oamaru limestone.

As they enjoying a coffee and a cat cuddle whilst sitting out the front of the Cafe taking in their surroundings, they noticed a group of people gather excitedly at the waters edge. They were observing a pod of dolphins playing in the water. Molly sat back in her chair, watching in delight as Will ran across the road to get some photo’s. She loved being able to watch him from a distance. His tall, trim, muscular body moved with ease. She loved to drink in these moments, it was like eating dessert – his olive complexion and hazel eyes which twinkled from amber, to green, to blue framed by his dark eyebrows and thick lashes. His hair stylishly cut short underneath with a long top that flopped to one side, playfully concealed his eyes whenever he looked downwards at her, made her heart skip. Across the bridge of his curved nose was a smattering of freckles. Oh god, she could eat him, but not now. She’ll just savour the moment for later. Excitedly, he skipped back across the road and sat next to Molly at the table, eager to share the photos with her. 

With the dolphins moved on and brunch having satisfied their appetite for now, Will and Molly decided to go exploring. They were to  stay overnight in a local holiday bach (cottage) and were hoping to stay on a little longer if it were available for the following two nights. Flipping ‘Destiny’ (the name they gave an old 20c coin Molly kept in the console between the front seats in the car), to see whether to go north or south, they let the ‘heads or tails’ of the coin decide. ‘Destiny’ landed with heads up and they drove north along the waterfront, on a sealed road which took them past the school and out of town, winding along the waters edge. The road was bordered by water on the left hand side with steep, lush green hills, dotted with sheep on the right. Just a few kilometres out of town, off to the right was another road which headed inland winding up amongst the hills, taking them further into the countryside. The road was unsealed but well maintained.  It was fun to drive randomly down back roads and enjoy the old houses and barns – the hidden gems, the sleepy, forgotten places they would find. 

Unexpectedly, they came to the end of the road. As Will pulled over to turn the car around, something in the long grass caught his eye. The ‘For Sale’ sign was more than a little tatty, faded in colour, and lopsided. The grassy verge surrounding it was long and unkept, having not been mown for quite some time. The gardens were overgrown, almost obscuring the house completely from the road. The house looked as if it had not been occupied for many years, but it beckoned to them, almost desperate for their attention. Molly and Will sat in the car intrigued by the strong pull they were both feeling. Content with the house they were renting, they were not intentionally looking for somewhere else to live, although they had had the occasional discussion on this topic, of what kind of property they would like to buy and knew that it would be an unusual type of house. Staring out the car window they could sense something alluring, inviting them in, beckoning them. Or maybe it was someone rather than something…  Curious to know more, Molly got out of the car to read the telephone number from the faded sign and rang the real estate to enquire a little further. Hidden behind the sign covered by the long overgrown grass, were the remnants of an old picket fence, with a name plate barely readable, the paint of the lettering faded and pealing. Pulling the grass away from it Molly was able to read the sign …

~ The   Muse ~

 More than a little curious now, Molly phoned the number on the sign.

“Good morning Coastal Realty, Sammantha speaking, how may I help you?”

“Good morning Sammantha, my name is Molly, my husband and I would like to enquire about a property at the end of….where are we Will? Umm…. Old Quarry Road.”

“On Old Quarry Road? Oh I’m not familiar with that one. Let me just check the listings on the computer….hmmm….Oh yes, that property,” she said almost under her breath, then continued, “It has been on the market for so long I had almost forgotten about it. A deceased estate, the family were stuck over contesting of the old woman’s Will for years, finally agreed to put it on the market awhile back. It is a bit of a handyman’s dream and needs lots of….ummm… ‘imagination’,” Sammantha exaggerated the last word, indirectly implying that the house was rundown, and not of any interest to her.

“Can we take a look around, we are parked out the front of the house just now and it doesn’t look like anyone is living there?” Molly enquired.

“Yes I believe the house is vacant. Oh sure, but please take care, from the notes here about the property the gardens are a little over grown. Let me know if you would like to take a look inside. I will be free later this afternoon, say …around 3pm?”

“Ok, we’ll take a look around the outside first and be in touch. Thanks Sammantha”.

“Let me know what you think. Bye.” The agent replied, hurrying to end the conversation, her disinterest obvious.

Their attention was immediately drawn back to the house. Outside the car, the filtered sunlight shone through the canopy of a variety of trees, a mixture of native and exotics, some of their leaves having already turned the gorgeous shades of Autumn. Amongst the long grass were the stems of jonquils, snowdrops and daffodils yet to bud, adding to the enticing magic of the property. It felt so alive. The long tree-lined driveway wove around to a rustic picket fence which embraced the front garden. The old wooden gate slightly ajar, hung off one hinge, open enough for them to access the front entrance to the house. The paved garden path was barely visible through the overgrowth and there were glimpses of a stone edge and flagged paving stones. It led them up to the front door, around an old fountain which must have been the central piece to what was once a magnificent sculptured garden.  An rustic screen door was slightly ajar opening onto the veranda, which wrapped around the house towards the back. Above the verandah railing had been enclosed with timber lattice panels. Woven in-between the lattice was an ancient wisteria,  it’s trunk looked like it had become a part of the veranda post, creating a natural lattice of interwoven vines naked of leaves. They caught glimpses of glass panelled French doors which provided several accesses into the house, plus a substantial wooden front entrance door with coloured lead light glass panels. The paint was very old and peeling, the house appeared to be in need of more than a little love and attention. Like excited children they looked in through the gaps in-between verandah posts, and the lattice, catching only brief hints of the house, through the overgrown  wisteria vines. It was difficult to see much past the screen door, it felt like the house was teasing them, enticing them. Suddenly something banged loudly overhead, making them both jump and laugh. Molly grabbed Will, short of breath and her heart racing from both the surprise and the potential of what may have caused it. Laughing nervously, looking upwards, they realised with delight that there was a second floor! There was a shutter on the outside of the attic window which was gently swinging in the breeze, having slammed sharply, just once, enough to get their attention. Was that a woman’s face Molly saw through the window, or just her writer’s imagination wishing for a story? The house did not feel empty at all, despite no one having lived there for many, many years. To them it felt warm and welcoming.

Walking around the side of the house they discovered remnants of more well designed gardens, the pathway winding between an orchard of huge old rambling fruit trees. Beyond these was a large chicken pen. The wooden hen house had an external lid which lifted up to reveal nesting boxes. The timber was well weathered but still sound, only a few boards had come loose. The iron sheets on the roof would need replacing as would the wire netting, but all in all the structure was sound. Around the back of the chicken pen were some outbuildings and the treasure of all treasures – an old barn! In the bottom of the barn were a pair of stables with split doors, a large open area where two full sized doors swung outwards. Between the  stable doors inside was a rustic wooden ladder which lead up to the hay loft, a mezzanine floor with two small doors that opened outwards. On the outside of these doors was a weathered beam, it’s rusty pulley still in place, and a tattered piece of rope swayed in the breeze. It would once have been used to lift the bales and sacks of grain into the loft for storage. The land which accompanied the house was quite a large level section, maybe 2-3 acres, once having had extensively maintained vegetable gardens. Over time the outlying portions of the property, the grazing land, must have been subdivided and sold off to cover the costs of council rates and death taxes, enabling the house to remain in the family all of these years. Sheep grazed peacefully, only slightly unsettled by their presence, raising their heads curiously before returning to the more important task of eating. The original section of land was divided by old dry stone walls, which were only just visible amongst the long grass, in the areas where the sheep were unable to reach. The property was far enough out of town to not yet have been affected by the recent subdivisions of farm land for the new housing estates, as yet not caught the attention of property developers. Wanting to know just how much land came with the house, and to see inside, Molly decided to give Sammantha a call and organise for her to meet them there. It would be several hours before the real estate agent could get to the property, so they decided to leave the car and go for a walk down the track at the end of the road. 

Having packed a picnic lunch earlier, they headed off into the bush. The track provided easy access and appeared to be well used by dog walkers and mountain bike riders. Onwards they walked deeper into the bush, enjoying the abundance of birdsong, native trees and plants, and the occasional bunny. The path opened onto a clearing that led up to an abandoned quarry. There were remnants of old buildings and vehicles, telltales signs of productive days now passed. The quarry would have to wait for further exploration some other time. Sitting on the old concrete blocks in a clearing near one of the derelict buildings, Molly and Will shared lunch, taking in the peaceful environment and indulging in imaginations of days gone by. A Piwakawaka (Native fantail) made its presence felt, flitting amongst their feet, bringing their awareness back to the present moment, reminding them of the need to return to the house now.

Whilst sitting in the car waiting for Sammantha, Will did a little investigating on his cell phone for any information about the property, past or present. There was nothing available on the history of the house, no traces, no links on local history or family history sites, nothing on the council records. Although Sammantha was not the most informative sales person, she did love a bit of gossip, and had done a little local ‘research’ herself before meeting with the couple at the property. What she was able to tell them about ‘The Muse’ was that it had become the subject of an unresolved family dispute. The passing of the eldest relative, Charlotte James, the niece of the original owner Grace Forrest, just short of her 100th birthday during the early 1990’s had frozen assets because of the unresolved nature of Mrs Forrest’s death. Eventually the property was released by legal agreement, which then enabled the remaining family to do something proactive about the disposal of this undesirable property. After the settlement of yet another long, drawn-out court case for other relatives contesting Charlotte James’ Will, it could now be sold. The property had been handed down from Grace’s sister Meg, (Charlotte’s mother) who had not allowed anyone to enter into or even consider the sale of the property. Growing up with the stories and superstitions from her mother, Charlotte, who had lived all of her adult life overseas, had not ever been inside the house since her Aunt Grace had died,  having never actually lived in it. She only had vague memories of visiting her. Some said that Charlotte’s mother had been exceptionally fond of her sister, the old lady Grace Forrest and kept it untouched in memory of her. And some said that she had locked away all evidence of Grace’s mysterious disappearance and presumed death. Others said she acted out of guilt. The house remained in its original condition, untouched since it was first vacated at the time of Grace’s passing, in 1902. 

What Molly and Will were yet to discover later through a very alternative source was that Grace and her husband, Captain Callum Forrest, an Irish sea captain, migrated to New Zealand in 1865. The Captain died at sea in 1880, leaving Grace without any children and only the company of her housekeeper Lucy and gardener Patrick, whom had worked for them on their estate in Ireland. The brother and sister had accompanied the Captain and his wife on the journey from Ireland in the hope of a better life here in New Zealand. Despite their lifestyle being one of hardship in Ireland, Captain Forrest was considered to be a well-to-do gentleman, and they were able to create a comfortable life quickly in their new home country.  His seafaring career was purely out of his pleasure for travel, adventure and his love for the wild nature of the open seas. But his first love was always Grace and provided well for her in his last Will and Testament, allowing her to maintain the house, the housekeeper and the gardener. The gardens had been plentiful and provided all Grace required to live comfortably and to take care of Lucy and her younger brother Patrick. Following Callum’s death she had passed her days pottering in the garden, tending to her chickens, and daydreaming out the window of her attic room, longing for the return of her beloved husband. Holding onto the one thing that remained familiar to her, she had written numerous letters to Callum, all of which had never been sent and remained in the top draw of the writing bureau, together with her journal. One day, whilst resting on the daybed in the attic room, Callum did return to take her Home and she quietly slipped into the World Between Worlds with him, leaving no trace of her physical body.

Will’s attempts to track any history about the property on-line were all inconclusive. Intrigue and mystery surrounded the house, as there were no written records of either the purchase of the land or any date referring to the construction of the house. It was like it had just appeared, or had been transported there, which was not an uncommon practice. The house was of a unique design, a combination of the cultures Callum had experienced in his travels, quite different to the typically English architecture of other houses in the area built at that time. There were no council records for the construction of the house or even a gravesite for either Grace or her husband, possibly because Callum had died at sea. It was like Grace Forrest had just vanished. Her death or rather disappearance had created many colourful local stories. However, despite an extensive search of the area, her body was never found and there was no accountable reason for her disappearance. Or that of her housekeeper and gardener.  The only family Grace had in New Zealand was her younger sister Meg, her husband Richard and their five children, who had also migrated there several years following Grace. Meg’s youngest daughter Charlotte, was particularly fond of Grace, but because of the families fear and superstition around Grace Forrest’s beliefs, spiritual practices, and subsequent disappearance, Meg had forbidden anyone access to the inside the property. Once her beloved Aunt had passed over, Charlotte felt no reason to remain in New Zealand and migrated back to Ireland, having not wanted to leave there as a child. Grace had left the house to her sister Meg in her Will, and she in turn to Charlotte. The mystery that surrounded the disappearance of Grace fuelled by the superstitious rumours of her having held seances and spiritualist gatherings meant that the family had kept the upstairs room locked away untouched, at Meg’s insistence. Immediately following Grace’s disappearance, she had all of the household furniture placed in the area at the bottom of the stairs known as The Library, and had a false wall constructed, concealing the contents of the room and the access to the upstairs attic, which remained as Grace had left it, for more than 100 years. When Charlotte had inherited the property, she had no desire or intention to return to live in New Zealand. However, she also had no wanted to sell the property, and it quickly became hidden from memory. Although the gardens were overgrown, and the house appeared to be in need of repairs, it remained sound in structure. The magic within the house was being kept alive because in her spirit form, Grace continued to visit The Attic so familiar to her, protecting the secret held within its walls and waiting for the right people at the right time….

This is how the house was when Molly and Will discovered it for sale on their road trip. A time capsule. Not even the real estate had been granted legal access to the inside of the house until recently, making the marketing and sale of the property somewhat difficult, hence it still being on the market that day. But there was more to the delays  than the seemingly difficult circumstances surrounding the sale of this house. It was all being perfectly orchestrated by an unseen entity. 

Who was Grace Forrest? 

The decision to purchase the property was made after their meeting with Sammantha the real estate agent later that day, a deposit being paid to secure the sale. The preceding transactions went smoothly, the family keen be rid of this burden and Molly and Will just as keen, or maybe even a little more so, to move in  and begin the renovation of this mysterious cottage that contained so many treasures, yet to be uncovered.

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