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Authors: Erika Robuck

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BOOK: Receive Me Falling
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It wasn’t until her uncomfortable embrace in the
governor’s office that she had felt remorse for her role in pardoning him.
 
She thought of the day she’d seen Mindy Newcomb
at Quiet Waters Park
 
playing with her
daughter, Lucy—a sturdy five-year-old, buoyant with energy.
 
Lucy was chattering away as Mindy pushed her
on the swings. Mindy looked frail and tired, but attempted a feeble smile for
her daughter.
  
This struck Meg as
pitiful, and caused a knot to form in her stomach that still hadn’t worked
itself out.
 

“Shit!”
 

Meg’s ankle twisted into a mud-baked groove in the
ground, and it took her several yards of limping to walk off the pain.
 

And suddenly, there it was.
 

Set at the end of a long, overgrown drive, laden
with vines and plants, half-shadowed in the mid-morning sun stood Eden.
 
Meg felt the weight of that great, skeletal,
abandoned, plantation home settle over her as she stepped into its shadow.
 

Meg recalled a passage she had read the night
before from Poe’s
Fall of the House of
Usher
.
 
Looking upon the house gave
the narrator “a sense of insufferable gloom…the vacant eye-like windows.”

           
Meg searched through her bag until
she came across her photograph of Eden.
 
Though the photograph was old, not much had
changed since it was taken.
 
Slightly
more plant growth pervaded the ancient place, but it was mostly preserved.
 
This, in itself, was astounding considering
the history of hurricanes and earthquakes on the island.

           
After snapping several photographs
of the front of the house, Meg approached the stairs leading to the front door.
She checked each of the stairs before putting her full weight on them, but
found them to be sturdy.
 
Naturally, the
front door was stuck, but a hard push opened it, releasing the stink of mildew,
rotting wood, animal droppings, and that familiar musty smell that emanates
from anything old.
 
Meg waited for the
creatures and birds who had taken residence in the abandoned house to scurry
away before crossing into the foyer.
 

           
Even through years of neglect and
filth, it was easy to see that Eden
had once been a spectacular house. The two-story foyer opened to a massive
staircase straight ahead, which led up to the second floor.
 
High-ceilinged rooms—a parlor, library,
dining room, billiard room, and sitting room encircled the foyer.
 
A dark passage off the dining room led to a
kitchen which, though attached to the house, was set far enough to the rear of
the plantation to keep the cooking smells and heat from the stone ovens
contained.
 

           
Meg was surprised at the amount of
furniture, wall hangings, and décor still inside of the home.
 
Someone must have either left the house in a
great hurry many years ago, or intended on returning and never did.
 
Of course, it was all damp, half-eaten, and
completely unusable to anyone but small rodents, but still a marvel to see in
such a condition.
 
The Historical Society
would salivate if they knew the level of preservation.

           
Meg shot picture after picture,
thankful she brought a new memory card for her digital camera.
 
As Meg made her way into the parlor to begin
a room by room catalogue of the house, she began to think of the monetary
possibilities of selling the house and land.
 
Would the Nevis Historical Society be able to give her fair market value
for the property, or would an outside investor be the best option?
 
If she sold the property to a developer a
grand hotel could be built, with the house as an historical site that could be
restored and used for tours.

           
As she thought and walked slowly
through the parlor, Meg found herself in front of a piano whose legs looked as
if they were moments away from collapsing under the burden of the
instrument.
 
The bench had already given
out, and rested heavily on the floor.
 
The spine of a music book peeking from under the bench caught Meg’s eye.

Beethoven’s
“Moonlight Sonata
.”
 

Her years of piano training as a child came
rushing back to her as she thought of the somber sounds of the piece in her
head.
 
A sudden chill seized Meg.

           
That
was the piece played last night.
 

           
Suddenly aware of how dark the house
had become, Meg felt a sudden urge to leave.
 
She carefully lifted the bench to remove the music book, and stood in a
hurry to exit the house.
 
As she rose, a
small pamphlet fell from the pages inside the book.
 
It was yellowed and very brittle.
 
A note was scribbled in old-fashioned script
and almost illegibly on the inside cover:

 

Miss Dall,
 

You
should find this writing most interesting, as Mr. Alexander Hamilton was one of
yours, that is, a Nevisan.
 

Yours,

James
Silwell.

 

           
Meg turned the pages, scanning its
contents as she went. The pamphlet provided a biography of Alexander Hamilton
and catalogued his efforts as an officer of the New York Manumission
Society.
 
Meg was interested to learn
that Hamilton was born on Nevis,
and his early observations and experiences that exposed him to the slave system
(though he never personally owned slaves) helped form his abhorrence of
it.
 

           
The second half of the pamphlet
provided a brief biography of Benjamin Franklin and his involvement in the
abolitionist movement.
 
In 1789, Franklin became president
of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society and worked to make meaningful transitions
to freedom for slaves.
 
He advocated
education, training and support for free men and women, noting that simply
freeing droves of people and sending them on their way did little to help their
situations.

           
Meg was interested to read an
excerpt from a letter to George Washington from General Lafayette:

 

           
Now, my dear General, that you are going to
enjoy some ease and quiet, permit me to propose a plan to which might become
greatly beneficial to the Black Part of Mankind.
 
Let us unite in purchasing a small estate where
we may try the experiment to free the Negroes, and use them only as
tenants—such an example as yours might render it a general practice, and if we
succeed in America, I will cheerfully devote a part of my time to render the
method fashionable in the West Indies.
 
If it be a wild scheme, I had rather be mad that way, than to be thought
wise on the other tack.

 

           
Suddenly, a shell fragment flew
through the window, missing Meg’s face by inches.
 
She ran to the window to locate the
perpetrator, and nearly scared a boy of about twelve to death.

           
“Are you a ghost?” he asked.

           
“No, are you?”

           
The boy laughed.
 
His white teeth flashed in the sun against
his black skin.
    

           
“I’m Hamilton”

           
“Like Alexander?”

           
“Yes.
 
Who are you?”

           
“Meg.”

           
“You know that place is haunted.”

           
Meg smiled and rolled her eyes.
 
“I’ve heard.”

           
Hamilton ran his toes over the shells.
 
His feet were bare.
 
He wore tan shorts and no shirt.
 
He was slender in frame, but appeared robust,
active, and strong.
 
His confident
demeanor was one that adults warmed to and children would follow.
 
He had a kind and familiar way of
speaking—one that instantly made others feel at ease.
 

           
A distant rumble of thunder caused
Meg to place the music book and pamphlet in her bag and leave the house.
 
She pulled the door closed behind her and walked
down the stairs to join Hamilton.

           
“Do you often come here to vandalize
the house?” teased Meg as they started wondering along the drive.

           
“Not usually, but I thought I saw a
ghost in the window.”

           
“So you threw a shell at it?”

           
“A silly choice of weapon, I
know.
 
But it was all I could come up
with.”

           
They turned off the drive onto an
overgrown path that led around the west side of the house.

           
“So where do you live?” asked Meg.

           
“Just up the road.
 
My dad says I shouldn’t play here—it’s
trespassing.
 
But I like to spend time in
the lagoon.
 
I don’t think the owners
have ever been here before, anyway.”

           
“I’m here now.”

           
Hamilton looked worried and stopped walking.

           
“Don’t worry, I don’t mind you
playing here—as long as you stay away from the ghosts, that is.”

           
Hamilton smiled.

           
“Why did you wait so long to come
here?” he asked.

           
Meg couldn’t explain why she felt so
comfortable talking to this young stranger, but for some reason it felt
natural.

           
“I didn’t even know I owned it until
a few days ago,” she said.
 
“My parents
recently died, and I was their only child.
 
I found an old picture of the plantation home in my father’s office,
along with some documents relating to things I’ve inherited.
 
I guess I’ve come here to decide what to do
with the land, and my life.”

           
“I’m sorry about your parents.
 
I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

           
Meg looked at Hamilton.
 
He seemed so grown up.
 
In some
ways she felt like she was speaking to another adult, yet his candor and
openness were typical of a child.

           
“Me too.”

           
The wind which had been building,
called attention to the approaching storm.
 

           
“I’d better get going,” said Hamilton.
 
“You should too, if you don’t want to get
caught in the storm.
 
They are quick and
fierce in the Islands.”

           
“Thanks.
 
It was good to meet you.
 
Feel free to play in the lagoon anytime.”

           
Hamilton smiled and disappeared down the
path.
 
Meg watched after him, and then
made her way back along the drive.

 

 

Half-way
to the villa the downpour began.
 
It came
from out of nowhere and caught Meg off-guard.
 
She tucked her bag up her shirt to protect her findings and ran the rest
of the way back to the villa.
 

BOOK: Receive Me Falling
8.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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