Hotel St. Pancras in London 1935
Piano notes could be heard on this late sultry evening in July of 1935 as the elderly couple sat on the burgundy-velvet love seat in the grand lobby of the Pancras Hotel . A gentleman artist was performing for a near non existent crowd. The wedding party of yesterday had partied and left, returning home to the countryside.
Apparently, Gracie and John Smith couldn’t depart as yet. Their grandson, Johnnie, was all that was left now as his sister was betrothed to her American sweetheart, would honeymoon in Paris, then move to the farm in the states. Johnnie and his sister lost their parents back when he was one from an auto accident. Her groom was a farmer from the middle of America. It would be a long while, if ever, when they’d be reunited. Little Johnnie didn’t know of this, only that he received many hugs yesterday and he swore his sister had tears in her eyes. He decided that’s what happiness and “love” bring, lots of wet faces and sobs.
He, Johnnie, looked around the lonely lobby and wandered from sofa to sofa, scouring the place for some form of life. Brown eyes lofted to the staircase and back at his grandma and grandpa. They sat while minds floated to the music played by the piano man as they remembered one tune after another. The gentleman lobbyist or attendant from the front desk assured them the music would last two more hours maybe more.
“What should I do?” He whispered to himself as he sat dressed in a suit with bow-tie. He looked for other faces, but there were none, et all. He must find his adventure. He quietly walked up to his family. “I have to pee.”
John Smith smiled upon the boy and looked to the hallway behind the front desk. “Right over there, Johnnie. You can go by yourself.”
Johnnie smiled. His adventure would now begin. He looked back and saw his grandparents talking, laughing, and drinking as they nodded to the piano man. Johnnie sped up his movements on the first set of stairs to escape their view. He looked up. And up. He was going to find something. His hand smoothed over the wooden banister and it glided like a sailing ship he’d seen come into port two days ago. Grandma Gracie told him, “I believe it comes from special trees in the woods, very strong ones.” He wondered if he’d ever seen the trees in the woods before, that ended up as a wooden banister.
After this contemplation and feeling like he’d discovered gold while on board a big wooden ship, he then for no apparent reason whatsoever, skipped steps. Johnnie took large lunges stretching his inner groin muscles a bit much. He thought he heard his pants rip apart at the seams. He laughed and kept going up. He skipped a floor. Why not? The notes of tunes, classic in rendition, penetrated the opening but not as loud.
He put his hand over the gold fleur-de-lis patterns on the wall. He knew what they were, grandma told him, but he couldn’t remember what they symbolized. He calculated he’d made it to the 3rd floor. He decided to run the hallway very fast from one end to the other. Halfway down he hit the floor when a door opened and a woman came out, yelling, “I don’t ever want to see you again!”
Johnnie stopped. Startled and a bit scared he resumed the upright position.
She looked at him, sized him a good stare.
She was sad, or was it mad he questioned?
“What are you doing you little scoundrel?”
Johnnies eyebrows rose and then lowered. He replied, “Why nothing. Better yet, what’s the matter with you?”
“Nothing and everything,” she laughed.
“Caren,” she said sweetly.
“Johnnie, at your service madwoman.” He offered his hand and they shook to their new acquaintance.
“Pleased to meet you this fine evening.”
“Likewise.” She iterated. “I’ve got an hour to let off some steam before I return to slumber for the night. You?”
“Oh, maybe that long, too.”
“There’s two things I’ve wanted to do here with another adventurer and have never been able to do it, least not since I was a kid.”
“How old are you?”
“Seven. Does it matter?” He answered cockily.
“Old enough, I suppose. Can you balance?” she asked.
He stepped on one foot, closed his eyes and held his arms out.
“Good. Do you scare easily?”
He squinted, looked at her, then thought of the serene but tedious scene in the lobby. “No way.”
“Ready for some action, then?”
Caren took off for the 4th floor rather quickly. She skipped steps, too. He liked her already.
Once at the top, she whispered in his ear what they were going to do and when finished they must hurriedly, so as not to get caught, exit back up to the 5th and 6th floors. She would show him the special rooms in the towers.
Boy was this his lucky night! Brown eyes followed her every word. She said, “First though the real fun begins.”
He joined her.
She climbed upon the banister made of special trees. He followed. The unlikely pair lay on their abdomens and flew down and around the curves. Smiles widened and light laughs followed down the passage way. Johnnie pretended he was flying, only backwards. She helped him to stay balanced. He got the giggles and couldn’t stop.
One floor, two floor, and third floor complete!
She laughed with him and tried to shush both of them. No one heard them as there was no one present to over hear the light excitement of new pals.
“Remember, the last banister you must ride on your back and bottom, being very careful to not fall off. You can do it. Then run right back up to the fourth floor and I’ll show you the special towers on five and six.”
Little Johnnie was so energized. He knew he couldn’t stop. He realized she waited to the last stairs for the funnest part of all. And a good thing as one would not want to fall four floors down. No way.
Right before he let go he heard the church choir from yesterday in the cathedral where the wedding took place. He was ready to let himself fly. Caren let him go first and he nearly fell off a good many times. The piano man looked up and smiled at them. Little Johnnie fell right at the end when he tried to dismount. He took a tumble and the piano man paused his keys; Gracie and John looked at him when he stopped at mid song.
Quickly, he recovered and banged hard on his ivory music box. He threw his hands in the air, stood, and bowed. Stunned, the couple clapped. He asked them what favorite tune they might like to hear next? All the while he let the adventurers escape to higher heights.
Caren and little Johnnie breathlessly flew back up while leaving giggles in ascension to the fifth floor. At the end of the fourth floor they found the passageway through a special door hidden by library books.
“How do you know this?”
“Johnnie, this is my father’s hotel!”
“Seriously?” He smiled. His adventure was more than he could have dreamed. His sister was gone and now, tonight, he had a new play mate. He’d follow her anywhere.
Inside the tower, he took notice there were not any dragons, prisoners, or ghosts as one might suspect or be told. Just a bird on the ledge perched against the city backdrop when Caren opened the iron laden door. The pair walked out into the night with heavy fog surrounding the balcony and stood together: high up, safe, and exhilarated from earlier spent energy, acting foolish and daring.
“You’re not mad anymore,” he said.
“No, I’m not. You see if ever you become bored or mad, find something daring, fun and exciting to do. Go on a small adventure.”
“I had so much fun. Someday, we’ll do it again, you and me, okay?” he asked.
“Sure, I’d like that.”
He smiled. She didn’t tell him that her father was closing the hotel next week. She not dare ruin the moment as they looked out upon London in the fog above the Pancras hotel and railway.
By Caroline Clemens
Digital Photo Credit to Lemanshots WordPress
I love all my blogs, all three of them. This ivorytide.com I like to think of as far-a-way places, you know ivory sand beaches, coastlines, and then keys on the piano to play and lift our spirits with musical notes. I also like that it isn’t so defined, there’s room for dimension and growth. But I’m human and cannot manage all I have to do and do it well.
You see there was a knock on the door this morning and it woke me from my dream. By the time I got out of bed, put on a robe and skirted to the door I realized my mind was already making my to-do list. Wow. That’s a knockout punch when your brain is ahead of you. Go figure. Yikes.
My creativity is spilling onto the table and I cannot wipe it up. Therefore, I must prioritize. This little cutie will play the music for you whilst (I always wanted to use that English term) I run away on summer break. You have to go back in time just a bit when life moved a little slower. There ya go, I knew that you knew what I’m talking about.
Big Bands, and singers like Louis B. Armstrong, Sara Vaughn, Frank Sinatra, and numerous others. You remember that sound that was playing back in the day when the window was open in the summertime and the album was scratched just a bit by the worn out needle. But you listened because that’s all there was and the company which sat before you.
I have to recreate this feeling because the setting no longer exists. It died many years ago! As much as I want it back, I’ll never have it. Therefore, I’ve begun writing stories, stories of nostalgia to regain that love I felt years ago.
My draft of Chocolate for Lilly will be queried out to a few more people. She’s a precious one and I’d like to write more of those. Historical fiction is a challenge, yet I spent many a day with old timers. They are some fun folks. Really. Believe me. Maybe I’ll get a ‘lucky strike’ on that story.
“I’m coming. Coming.” But when I get to the door no one is there. Figures. Geez, who got me out a bed so early on my day off? The sun is blinding and the flag is swaying gently. What a day!
I look on the brick-paved covered front porch and a bird goes into the birdhouse I painted and set out there just for them. Sweet. Nice. Then I look down and see a box of chocolates.
This day is getting better by the minute. No one is there. Who would have left these? Is it my birthday, Mother’s Day, or graduation? I like to think I have an admirer, so let’s leave it at that. I can’t wait for later tonight. Maybe I’ll get lucky.
By Caroline Clemens
Thinkstock Image Credit
Thanks for stopping by my blog today. Hope you enjoyed my story. I’ll post it on Chuck Wendig’s comments. Thanks Chuck. He’s the prompter, the motivator!
PS. My blog has gone off to dream in blog heaven for awhile this summer. Be back later.
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I remember it all so well …
Short Scary Story
My grandma sent me to the basement to retrieve the three missing costumes. She was cleaning up after her annual Halloween party and I’d been dropped off to help her out.
After I gave her tea and toast in bed for her headache, she told me to check the back room in the basement for the missing items.
“Okay, no problem grandma. Anything else?” I questioned.
“Yes, there is. Turn on my CD player and put on that wonderful opera singer. You can turn it up loud, too! Thanks, honey,” she replied.
I did as complied. It seemed as I left the room the sun was setting; I waved goodbye, not sure why. She smiled and began her quirky hand movements flowing with the music.
“Old people,” I muttered to myself. They’ve seen it all. I’d get her to tell me a story tonight when I bring her dinner to her at eight. She ate late on weekends, she told me, as it reminded her of the good old days.
You see Grandma had had a slight stroke, nothing serious, she just needed TLC my mother the nurse told me. TLC stood for tender loving care.
I walked the long hall headed for the steps and out of the corner of my eye, I swear I caught a glimpse of a ghost just above the light. That didn’t scare me but I did take a second look after I blinked. I hadn’t even been scared of the costumes last night at the party, or trick or treating to the houses. I was seven now and pretty much a big guy.
Her music faded as I opened the basement door and entered the passage below to her dungeon, I mean very old house. My nose smelled something foreign, probably old clothes of Grandpas, who’d been dead five years now. I pulled the chain for the light at the bottom of the stairs. Broke. Great, I thought. I’d have to walk in the dark to the backroom. I’m a big guy I told myself a couple more times.
My body shivered when the cricket let out its joy tune. My hands now felt like I had rubbed lotion on them, and when I swallowed three cotton balls coated my throat. Geez, I thought as my eyebrows curled up with the pull of my forehead. I felt for the door and hoped the light wasn’t broken inside the back room. Darn those cousins who played back here last night and left their costumes for me to get. Next time I saw them they owed me a favor.
My hand, with no blood supply, turned the nob while the hairs on my forearm stood in the attendance line at a foreign military school I’d never been to. It opened. Good. Why didn’t I bring a flashlight? I thought. Shut up! Just get the costumes.
I walked slowly in the dark and lost my footing. I heard the door slam shut as I fell to the cold slab of basement cement.
Later on …
The back of my head hurt but when I opened my eyes there she was staring at me.
Was she a good witch or a bad witch? Her eyes glowed green and she wore black with orange and green striped leggings, and then she came for me rustling along on her broom. I blinked.
Was I dreaming? No. I saw her. She turned and howled, and she lost her pointed hat as she swooped back over me. That’s when I saw him … Dracula walking my way. Man, I need to bust out of here, I thought.
I couldn’t move. I must be pinned down. Wait. Someone help me.
Scream for grandma, I decided. “Grandma,” I screamed but it was all breath, not a sound.
I heard a noise as Dracula made his way over to me. I blinked my wet eyeballs but he was still coming for me. I turned to see where the noise was coming from when my eyes became glued to a vision I’d seen on television. Grandma told me not to watch the Zombie show. Oh no _______.
At this point I fainted. I’m sure I did.
When I woke the vampire was looking over me licking his lips, smiling. They were glowing red and dripping the hot juice right on me. My neck hurt, I couldn’t touch it. I still couldn’t move.
Who would save me from this terrible nightmare? Except I wasn’t dreaming. It was real. I said a quick prayer for any angel that might be in my presence. I sure hoped the zombie went for the vampire and then the two of them got knocked over by the witch. Evil or good, she just might be my hero.
Just then the door opened, and someone said, “Here he is!”
“Oh, honey are you okay?” asked my mom.
“No, I’m not!” I yelled back.
“Your head is bleeding,” she said as she flashed a light upon me. “And it’s all over your neck!” She exclaimed.
My heart skipped a beat and tried to jump from my chest like a frog.
“What?” I asked. “Mom, get me outta here.” I stood up and ran from the room towards the steps. Mom said be careful of the spider web at the top. She flashed the light on the staircase.
I replied, “A little old spider doesn’t scare me mom. Nope, never.”
By Caroline Clemens
Photos by GrimReaperGifs and me.