Chapter 2 – The Attic Room

The four months since signing the documents of sale passed quickly, giving Molly and Will enough time to pack up their house and have it ready for the furniture removals truck. The move would not have much of an effect on Will’s work situation, if anything the new location was closer than where Molly had been living at Paraparumu. However, for Molly, this involved a big change, a necessary one she had felt coming for sometime now. Over the past couple of years she had created a very successful business. Having started working as a waitress at Alice In Wonderland Cafe, she had done tarot readings and massage from the studio apartment above the cafe. Molly had developed quite a following and people travelled to see her from as far as Auckland. She and Annabelle had travelled to Australia and worked at the Mind Body  Spirit Festivals doing readings. However, she had felt in her body the need for a change, being well aware of the effects of the demands on her physical body from doing that amount of massage daily. Despite the complaints from her loyal clients wanting her to stay, Molly was grateful of the change of direction and location. It was Time and she could feel it.  

All so quickly, that day had arrived. It was early August. Watching the truck driving off with the contents of their home, Molly and Will locked the door for the last time, handed the keys in to the owners and thanked them for sharing their cottage with them. They had several hours drive ahead of them and wanted to arrive at the house before the  furniture truck. The drive felt long, and conversation was minimal as excitement preoccupied each of their minds. The long silence made the drive drag out. It seemed to take forever to get there. Molly drifted in and out of sleep as Will drove towards Kohutu Bay. Capturing a glimpse of the harbour as the road wound down to the waters edge, Molly woke and with great excitement they drove through the village of Lockyer to Old Quarry Road. Will paused the car before driving down the treelined driveway. “Are you ready?” He asked Molly, squeezing her hand, he kissed her. Her smile said it all. The furniture removal truck had already arrived and the men were enjoying their morning tea under the shade of the trees before unloading. The weather, somewhat warmer then their first visit, revealed hints of the presence of an early Spring in the overgrown garden. A selection of birds individually voiced their disapproval of being disturbed by the visitors, and a cat ran through the long grass, leaping over the dry stone wall and disappeared across the field where the sheep grazed. As they drove slowly down the tree-lined gravel driveway, Molly noticed how many of the naked trees were now budding. Glimpsing up at the second story as they passed the house, Molly was sure she saw the face of a woman again in the window upstairs. “Where are the stairs?” she thought, not recalling any obvious access to the second story, it had not seemed of any importance when they were last at the house with the real estate agent. She brushed these thoughts aside as they drove around the back of the house to find the furniture removal truck ready to unload. Despite having been up most of the night, their energy was like that of excited  children on Christmas Eve as they unlocked the back door to provide the easiest access for the furniture removal guys to do their job. Going from room to room, Molly threw open all of the curtains and windows, allowing the breeze to move the stale air out of the house.  The front door required a large old ornate brass key to unlock it. The lock having not been turned for such a long time, was more than a little resistant to move, the locking mechanisms needing some lubrication to encourage them. “Can you please get the can of lubricant from the front door in the car?” she called out to Will, who was still out the back of the house unloading the last pieces of luggage from their car.  The lock responded eagerly to the oil. Opening the front door onto the verandah, unaware of the long term resident out there, she disturbed a bird, nesting in the overgrown wisteria. The sudden movement startled both her and the bird, leaving Molly’s heart racing. It flew panic-stricken backwards and forwards until Molly opened the screen door on the verandah, giving it a safe escape, placing the small wooden wedge under it to keep it open. She could hear the chirping of baby birds at the corner of the verandah and resisted the urge to take a look, not wanting to unsettle the mother bird anymore than she had already. Closing the front door would give the bird a little sanctuary whilst they moved the furniture in, she hoped the bird would feel safe enough to return to her chicks.

Several hours later, after the furniture removal guys had gone, Will and Molly sat down to their first cup of tea. Exhausted, they had decided that making the bed was a priority and that cheese, crackers, fruit and a bottle of Merlot would do for dinner. There was no hot water as yet, having to light the wood stove and see if the early model wetback would yield some hot water in the morning. Everything within the house would probably require upgrading, and they wanted to take their time to find the most suitable products to install. It would mean living rough for awhile. Will had already organised searched on-line and found a new AGA enamelled wood stove to replace the old wood-fired range that currently sat with pride of place in the kitchen hearth. The large eat-in kitchen had been traditionally designed as the heart of the house, just the way they liked it. The kitchen spread out across the back of the building with paned windows lining the back wall of the house facing the garden. One door opened into the garden out the back of the house and the other door opened into the bathroom, an enclosed converted portion of the verandah, where there was an antiquated shower over a claw footed bathtub having the only means of running water in that room. Against the wall was an old pink marble topped pine washstand, on top of which was a porcelain jug and bowl with a faded hint of a pink floral design. Pale green tiles provided a splash back below an oval mirror fixed to the wall. In the small roomnext to the bathroom was a seperate toilet, thankfully with a flushing system, and to their delight, it’s original ornately hand painted porcelain bowl and cistern, the brass pull-chain had a wooden knob on the end of it. There was also a long drop (outside toilet) out the back near the barn. The back door in the kitchen led directly down a couple of wooden steps out into the garden. 

The kitchen was quite bare, seemingly all of its furniture previously removed. It had worn polished timber flooring and decorative tiles surrounded the fireplace, together with a large wooden mantle. The sink was made of white porcelain with a wooden draining board either side of it. From the kitchen to the front door was a hallway divided by a carved wooden archway framed with heavy woollen drapes, forming an entrance foyer, a great place to store coats and boots in winter. The ceiling was lined with whitewashed timber and the polished wooden floors continued through from the kitchen. There was a small pressed metal ceiling rose above the hall lamp which had been converted to electricity many, many years ago. The walls were lined with wallpaper of large peonies and roses of pastel pinks and purples with faded green leaves and just a hint of a gold outline. The front of the house faced north-east, purposefully positioned to capture the morning winter sun and channel it down the hallway into the kitchen, also warming the two front rooms. The verandah sheltered the house from the summer sun when it moved at a higher angle.  The polished wooden floorboards in the hallway creaked quietly beneath the weight of her bare feet as she walked towards the front door. Molly noticed that above it was a fanlight with stained glass in the design of a rising sun. Coloured glass panels lined either side of the heavy wooden panelled door. Facing this door, on the right were two large bedrooms side by side, both with French doors opening onto the verandah, a plain fanlight above each one. On the left side of the hallway was a long wall and only one door leading into the lounge room with a bay window which faced onto the front garden, overlooking the remnants of the fountain and circular garden. There was something odd about the wall,  it appeared longer than the actual length of the lounge room, as if the room should be bigger, or that it had another room leading off from it. The wall paper was less faded in this area. Molly guessed that it must have been protected from the sun over the years. But it felt like something was missing. It prompted her to remember the window she had noticed when first approaching the house originally. She wondered quietly to herself, “Where is the access into the attic room?” 

In bed before 9pm too tired to stay up any longer, Molly slept soundly and awoke soon after 5am, as the daylight outlined the old drapes on the French doors in their bedroom. The house was chilly as she tip-toed quietly down the hallway and into the kitchen not wanting to disturb Will, and lit the old wood stove. It was not long before the large kitchen was warm and she could hear the wetback groaning, slowly coming to life. Thankfully there would be warm water, despite it being a colourful shade of rusty red at first. The kettle boiled quickly and tea was made. She sat back on one of the Bentwood chairs at their much-loved old kauri pine table – all so fitting for such a house, and looked around the room with a feeling of satisfaction and appreciation. Then she remembered the attic room. Where was that access? Maybe there was a manhole in the ceiling in one of the rooms? From room to room she wandered, sipping her cup of tea as she scanned the ceilings and walls for some clue. In the lounge Molly discovered a small man hole cut in the timber-lined ceiling. Would that be enough to access the attic room? She would have to wait until Will was awake. Returning to the kitchen she decided to make them both some Vegemite toast for breakfast and take it back to bed… She would have to ignore the urges for exploring a little longer, as she placed the tray of breakfast on the bedside table and snuggled back into bed, placing her cold feet on Will’s, stirring him from a deep sleep.

“Mmm….Morning,” she whispered huskily into his ear, to which he winced, “Are those cold feet really necessary? A hot cup of tea would have been much nicer…”. 

“Ask and it is given!” Molly replied, and reached over to hand him his cup. 

“I guess I can forgive such unruly behaviour without punishment this time,” Will playfully chastised her.

“Or maybe you need some more cold feet?” teased Molly.

 “Whoopsy, mind the tea!” she shrieked as Will rolled over to grab her, skilfully managing to contain the contents of her cup. Sitting up in bed they enjoyed their first breakfast in the cottage. Between mouthfuls, Molly was keen to share her recent observations with him.   

“I think I have uncovered the mystery of the missing access to the attic,” Molly mumbled.

“Oh really? Do tell,” replied Will sleepily.

“Oh come on, show a little enthusiasm Honey!” Molly pouted.

“Maybe after a Cup of Enthusiasm – some coffee might help.” Will hinted. Molly agreed and ventured back out to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee and stoke the fire, keeping the wetback up to temperature for the shower she was really looking forward to having. But first – the attic room was beckoning her. After coffee, Will got the ladder and a head torch and ventured up into the manhole. Disappointedly he returned down the ladder after poking his head through the hole and taking a good look inside the roof cavity.

“False alarm, it is just an empty cavity space, although it did look like there is the  underside of a staircase.” Now, his interest aroused, he jumped down the ladder,  tapping the wall feeling for some change in the structure, for any hints. His curiosity unsatisfied, he continued down the hallway. “This wall sounds more hollow than the others, which is odd, and there is a different shade of colour in the wallpaper. Almost feels like there should be a door here in this section of the wall” he said as he continued tapping along the wall outside of the lounge room. “The timber architraves are slightly different along here. Maybe this bit has been added in. But why would they put a wall along here? Actually it feels like there should be another room about… here, as the length of this wall and the one in the lounge room don’t add up. And there are dormer windows….there must be a room upstairs.”

“That’s what I thought too. Yes, yes!,” agreed Molly.

“Time for the tools!” exclaimed Will. “But first….ahhh, that shower we have all been waiting for!” And he chased Molly down the hall to the kitchen and into the bathroom. The water pressure was that of an old house with old pipes, but the hot water was very welcomed.

Dressed and ready to explore, Will had fetched the hammer from the one of the packing boxes in the shed and leaned back against the wall in the hallway, contemplating what to do. Molly ran her hand over the wall feeling the panelling beneath the wallpaper and found that there was a join covered by a thin strip of timber running from floor to ceiling, and she could now see where the skirting boards had been joined too. Her eyes lit up as Will ran a knife down the edge of the trim, cutting the wallpaper and jimmied off the timber strip giving them a clear indication that indeed a wall had been added in. They paused for a moment, contemplating whether to dismantle the timber wall or not. It seemed a shame to damage the beautiful wallpaper. The front door lock clicked, and the breeze pushed the heavy door open, continuing down the hallway, scurrying in with it a flurry of old dried autumn leaves. Molly smiled and nodded at Will, as he felt along the join between the two joining walls and began lifting off the timber lining boards, one at a time. Part way up the wall it became obvious that there is no wall lining on the inside of this structure. Squatting down to see inside, Molly found a dark space filled with what appeared to be the outline of furniture! Grabbing the head torch, she lit the space with the single beam of light and revealed that indeed there was furniture stacked to the ceiling! She ran to the shed out the back to find another hammer and helped Will remove the boards a little quicker. Working together, in a short time they have a large pile of dusty lining boards and strips of wallpaper in the hallway, revealing a crude timber framework. They were able to squeeze between the timbers and into the small room. Excited by their find, they had forgotten about the staircase, which remained hidden behind a large cedar wardrobe, purposefully placed at the bottom of it. Stunned by their discovery, Will stuttered, “Wh-what are we going to do with all of this?” To which Molly replied excitedly, “The spare room!” 

They removed the remaining timbers and skirting board,  and piece by piece slid the furniture on a floor rug down the hall and into the spare room, thankful that it was still empty. Between squeals of delight accompanied heavy grunting as they realised what treasures they were discovering, they moved the furniture down the hallway. The biggest piece, a large cedar wardrobe, was the last remaining to be moved. Too heavy for Molly to help Will lift, they dragged it across the floor on the rug and left it against the wall of bookshelves, revealing the bottom of the staircase. Catching her breath, the scene before them left both of them spellbound. Sitting on the floor with mouths gaping open in surprise, Molly stood transfixed at the bottom of the stairs. A cloud of dust particles danced in the dim light creating a veil that reached down to them through the partially opened door, emanating from the window in The Attic. Will was about to run up the stairs and Molly grabbed his arm. “Wait!” she whispered sharply, and the urgency in her voice stopped Will in his tracks. “What?” he asked, unsure of the change in Molly’s behaviour. 

“Ssh! I thought I saw someone up there, actually, I am sure of it!” she whispered to him.

“Honey, that’s not possible!” Will exclaimed, adding, “this is the only access, no one could possibly be up there”.

“Please, can we wait?” Molly pleaded. “I just feel we need to be respectful, you know, to the old lady of the house…” she looked shyly at him. 

“Oh o-kaay,” he drawled, reining in his excitement. He remembered Molly’s overactive mind when it came to ghosts and spirits, but also that she has a very good psychic antenna.

“Let’s look at our new treasures,” she said, distracting him from the staircase. Taking him by the arm and leading him out of the room,  looking over her shoulder and up the stairs, hoping to see something move up there, to confirm what she thought she had seen.  Disappointed, she turned her attention to all of the furniture in the spare room. There was everything a well-equipped turn-of-the-century house would have had…chiffonier, chaise lounge, brass bed, dressing table, kitchen dresser, blanket box, kitchen table, a stack of Bentwood chairs….the list went on and on. All in original condition, what a gift! They spent the rest of the day unpacking their own belongings, making the house feel a little more like their own. The interior actually did not need much work, having been locked up for so long with the curtains drawn, the sunlight had no access to the surfaces. However, the drapes would have to be replaced. Tired and satisfied at the end of the day, they collapsed into bed. Will slept without moving, but Molly was restless, her mind overactive with thoughts of what might be going on in The Attic room. Her dreams were vivid, glimpses of times passed, people she did not know wearing clothes unfamiliar to her. She felt like the silent audience of a play from a time now forgotten. Eventually she fell into a deep sleep. Bright sunlight woke her, together with a cup of tea from Will.

“Morning!” He greeted her cheerfully. “What a great sleep!”

“For some!” Molly groaned.

The day ahead was busy with clearing the timbers out of the hallway and into storage in the barn and more unpacking. The house was quickly starting to feel like home. Will had decided to wait for some extra help before moving the wardrobe into their bedroom. That would give Molly time to give it a good clean and waxing. She loved that kind of work and was excited about cleaning up all the pieces of furniture in the spare room. The chaise lounge would provide a good extra bed in the lounge room, and was in remarkably good condition, even the upholstery had held together quite well. Surprisingly, neither mice or borers had not found this treasure trove. Keeping focussed on the jobs at hand did not stop Molly’s mind from fantasising about the ‘lady upstairs’. Maybe tomorrow, she would have the time to go up there. She had asked Will not to explore The Attic room, not before her. She wanted to sit quietly in the room, to meditate and listen, and say hello to Grace Forrest.

The next morning they woke to the sound of heavy rain, and yes, that dreaded sound of dripping from somewhere inside of the house. As most old houses do, there was a leak when it rained heavily. Running from room to room, they discover it was in the kitchen, thankfully only requiring one bucket. Will examined the location of the leak, “It looks like the problem is where the sheets of roofing iron meet between that of the house and what was the verandah, probably where the kitchen had been extended a long time ago. The original kitchen would have been built on the back of the house and over time, it would have been altered to enable direct access from under the main roof. Repairing this can wait for another day, it’s not a major problem.” Both of them needing a break from unpacking, Will had decided that he would catch up on some work on-line, leaving Molly to do what she felt was necessary up the stairs.

Standing at the bottom of the stairs, Molly paused and caught herself holding her breath as her hand clutched the knob on the balustrade. She contemplated how no one had been up into The Attic since Grace had died. For reasons yet to be revealed, the room had been closed off from the world. The morning sunlight shone through the small attic window. Years of dust was now being disturbed, the particles danced and spiralled upwards seemingly brought to life by movement of the air. But it was more than that. The dust fairies appeared like glittering sparkles, suspended in mid air giving the unseen energies residing in the room subtle shape and form.  Already, even before climbing the stairs, there was a sense of magic. Molly could feel this and took her time, feeling the smooth timbers of the railing with her hands and the aged wooden treads beneath her bare feet, she counted the steps as she walked up the stairs…

One…two…three..four….five….six….seven….eight…..nine…..ten……eleven. Pausing at the top of the stairs, she noticed that the door had been held open by an old flat iron from the wood stove. For a moment it took her breath away, the deja vu rippled through her body, more than just a vague memory. The room had such a sense of familiarity…  Then she looked around the room and took her time to take in the details. It was quite spacious. Covering part of the wooden floor was a handmade rag rug in shades of pink, green, burgundy and white. It was faded in one spot only where the moment of direct sunlight was able to reach it over the years. To the left was a fireplace in alignment with the one in the lounge room directly below. The mantle was made of honey-coloured Kauri pine, a simple decorative design carved in the wood either side of the fireplace. Inside of it was a caste iron grill and a kettle. In front of the fire was an old sea chest which sat between two wing-backed arm chairs, upholstered in a rich deep dusky pink brocade. To the right side of the room was a cupboard, a small pine kitchen dresser on which was a tea set for 8 – cups, saucers, cake plates, milk jug, sugar bowl, tea pot and a large porcelain water pitcher. They were of a matching design, cream with tiny pink rosebuds. In the alcove behind the door was a caste iron and brass daybed, the caste iron bed posts painted a pale milk-wash blue, and there were small porcelain sections hand-painted with pale pink and blue flowers. On the bed was a throw made of fine lace backed with calico and a tasselled fringe. Above it hung a mosquito net made of muslin bordered with lace to match the throw. Directly in front of her, beneath the attic window, was a writing bureau. Also made of kauri, it was beautifully carved and glowed like warm honey in the sunlight. She imagined that these pieces may have been new furniture for Grace Forrest. There was also an old, oak captains chair, the seat and arms of which were well worn. On the wall, to the right of the kitchen dresser, was an unusual painting in a large, ornate gold gilded frame. Simple in design, it consisted of a pair of white feathered wings with a small gold halo above them. They looked like Angel Wings! From the ceiling hung a small chandelier, with partially burnt candles still in place. Molly stood in the middle of the room, not believing her eyes, her heart racing and the energy in her hands hot and buzzing. There it was again! That feeling of deja vu, there was a strong sense of familiarity she could not yet find words for, more than just a hunch. Goosebumps raced up her arms and across her scalp, making her hair prickle. Shaking it off, she looked around the room again.   

“The dust is not too bad considering the amount of time this room has been left untouched”, she thought. She pulled back the captain’s chair and sat in front of the bureau, and gently stroked the smooth polished surface with both of her hands. Again she caught herself holding her breath. Smiling, she shrugged her shoulders and relaxed back into the chair. Opening the bureau she found a cedar writing slope, a white porcelain ink pot, a jar of ink, a beautifully crafted quill pen, it’s handle made of whale bone, decorated with small pieces of colourful paua shell, and some parchment paper. Beneath the writing slope was a leather insert on the desktop, well preserved having been locked safely away inside the bureau. Under this was a drawer with an Art Nouveau style copper handle. She pushed back the chair and gently slide the drawer open. Having been a tarot reader and now researching and writing about the Spirit World as her new career, nothing much rattled Molly. But, inside this desk was something that was about to challenge everything she had ever experienced or written about before, or even believed possible.

There were several things inside the drawer. The first that caught her eye was a bundle of envelopes made of the finest quality paper and tied neatly with a red satin ribbon. Beneath this was a large pile of hand written and typed papers, a leather-bound journal and a wax sealing kit. She held the bundle of envelopes, hesitating. They felt personal and she looked around the room expecting the old lady to be standing  by her shoulder. Molly felt she needed permission to read these. She began to imagine what this lady may have looked like, of how she would have done her hair, what kind of dress she may have worn. Did she sit here and write in her bare feet, like Molly likes to…. 

Will’s voice brought her back to the present moment, “Still alive up there?” he called playfully from the bottom of the stairs. “Can I come up?”

“Hmmm?…..Sure Honey, sorry I was lost in a daydream,” she replied vaguely.

“Oooh, I can sense another story coming,” he chided, standing behind her and rubbing her shoulders. “Your muscles are tense, must be all of that lifting with the move”. 

“Mmmm…that feels sooo good….don’t stop,” said Molly, feeling her body melt with his touch. He continued to massage her shoulders gently as he looked briefly around the room. “This will make a really cool office for you, Molly. I’m jealous!” he pouted playfully and bent down kissing her neck, his lips finding hers and they got lost in a moment only lovers understand. “Lets go back to bed,” he whispered in her ear. What a brilliant idea, it was perfect timing for a Doona Day, as Molly loved to call them. A day when everything else can wait, and only enjoyable things are done in the bed…writing, reading, eating, drinking tea or wine and making love. Closing the drawer, she patted the top of the desk fondly, thinking in her mind, “I’ll see you tomorrow. Look forward to meeting you Grace Forrest,” and she stood up to meet Will’s embrace, his arms wrapped around her, and pulled her body tightly into his. “See, nothing spooky up here Honey,” she reassured him. “Ah but we are yet to meet the ghost of the late Mrs Grace Forrest….woooo-hoooo,” he teased as he chased her down the stairs and into the bedroom,  pulling the door to the attic shut behind him. He felt a little unsettled about that room. Catching up with Molly, in one swift movement he tackled her at the base of the bed, playfully pushing her over on her back and pinned her arms down above her head, straddling her. Breathlessly she giggled, giving in without any hesitation, and he pulled the duvet over their heads, closing out the world for the day.

Upstairs in The Attic, something stirred. There was magic in the air. The sparkling sunlit dust particles began to swirl, spiralling, creating a form, taking on the shape of a woman’s body. The body belonged to Grace Forrest who chuckled as she dusted down her dress and attempted to straighten her somewhat dishevelled hair. She laughed quietly at herself, “Well, my dear, it has been awhile. Time to tidy up a bit, our long awaited guests have arrived!”

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