Characters: Kitty (the narrator), Karen (the girl telling the story) Sandy (the Vicar).
| Karen began cutting up her food and did not say very much for a few moments. The aroma of tomato mixed with herbs and spices rather took our minds off her story. Sandy suggested another bottle of wine and I had lost the will to refuse, so many drinks I had had already.|
‘When I entered the room,’ continued Karen, ‘the first thing I noticed was the dust. So many years of neglect. I read in a book that once a room becomes dirty it just stays like that and doesn’t get any worse. That, of course, is not true. No one had been up there in years. In spite of that it was bright, as light was coming in through a window in the ceiling and although the glass was filthy, covered with what looked like bird droppings, I could see everything. There was a light switch but the bulb had burnt out long ago.’
‘There was a high window on the far side, and under this window there was a desk. A very old fashioned bureau with a kind of shutter over the desk. There were several little drawers above and below the desk. I walked towards it and then there was a loud bang. I turned and saw the trap door had slammed behind me. I was startled but didn’t attach any importance to it.’
She had finished her food, but drank some more wine; perhaps to fortify herself for what she was going to tell us. Sandy continued eating, following the narrative with obvious interest, but somehow detached.
‘I looked again at the bureau. Something was different, the room had become gloomier, and I realised that clouds must have covered the sun. I looked at the window in the ceiling, the bird droppings had disappeared, and the glass was clean. The room had changed its appearance.’
‘You must have entered a time warp,’ interrupted the vicar.
The waiter arrived to clear away the plates and take orders for dessert. Sandy perused the menu with enthusiasm. I was not interested in eating any more and neither did it seem was Karen.
‘Yes, that’s what you said the last time I told you,’ replied Karen at last. ‘Perhaps I had travelled in time or had merely seen something from long ago. There was a form sitting at the desk and I realised as I looked that it was a woman. She was dressed in colourful clothes and I thought she might be wearing a Sari or something Indian. She was writing, the desk was open and she didn’t seem to notice I was there.’
‘And then,’ she continued, ‘they began to whisper. All around me. “She’seen her,” they said. “ What’s she writing?” came another voice. “She’s writing her will,” said a voice. And then other things I couldn’t understand. In a different language.’
‘The woman turned around and seemed to look at me, but I realised she was looking through me at something behind me. Instinctively I looked round. Not only was there no one behind me but the room had returned to its original untidy mess. And the woman had disappeared, the window was dirty again. I walked to the trap door, pulled it open and stumbled down the ladder, and down to the kitchen where my mum and my sister were.’
The waiter brought Sandy’s dessert and coffee for Karen and me. I picked up my teaspoon and as I took some sugar glanced up at the window where I noticed a small apple tree.
‘Tell me, Karen. If you look out the window at that tree, you may see a woman standing next to the tree. Is that the woman you saw in the attic room?’
Karen turned towards the window.
‘Yes,’ she said, ‘And you can see her, too.’
The vicar stopped eating for a moment to glance in the same direction. In a split second the woman and the tree had faded away.
‘I can’t see anything, not even a tree,’ laughed the vicar good-naturedly. ‘I’m going to have a coffee. Shall I order more coffee for you two? And maybe you might want to join me in Italian brandy. They do a very nice one here.’