These last few years have gotten progressively worse. My parents decided to take me out of school; my mother chose to quit her prominent job to homeschool me.
"It's for the best," she says, making me feel even more guilty.
They didn't choose to have a screwed up daughter. What's the point of being pretty if you can't even talk to anyone without going into severe hyperventilation. My family looks at my parents with pity. They have to deal with me. They have to live with me. They have to witness my attacks that interrupt their hectic schedules. Sometimes I wish I could vanish, relieving my parents of the forbidden fruit of a daughter they have to love. Have to...
Recently, my father decided to move to a secluded estate in the prestige neighborhood of Rose Gardens. They figured because it was a gated community, I would feel better about living there. They were hoping my anxiety lessened. I hoped so too.
As soon as we pulled into the narrow, but elegant driveway of our new home, I stared out of the window. It was humongous, too big for a family of three. Not even a family of ten would be sufficient enough to fill the house. I stepped out of the car, remembering the breathing techniques my therapist had introduced to me. My mother wrapped her arm around my shoulder, calming me instantaneously.
"Don't worry, Isabelle. I know you'll love it here," she whispered.
I stared into her hopeful eyes and felt a tinge of treachery as I nodded my head in agreeance. My father walked us into the house, a look of satisfaction stretching over his face as we stared at the beautiful masterpiece that was now our home.
"Michael, this is absolutely beautiful," my mother said.
My father shot her a wink before turning towards me.
"How do you like it, angel? I had an interior designer set everything up especially for you," he said, caressing my hair.
I smiled, innocently.
"I love it, dad," I said.
His eyes brightened as if he had accomplished some impossible feat.
"Good. You should go check out your room," he said, pointing up the stairs.
I nodded before walking up the cherry wood, spiral staircase. Once I made it to the second floor, I walked into multiple rooms, searching for my own. Finally, at the end of the long hallway, I found it. Everything was perfect. The white canopy bed, pastel purple walls, dark wooded floors. I was beyond impressed. It was much bigger than my old room, and it had its own bathroom. I twirled, closing my eyes as I basked in the sunny glow dancing through the opened windows. I heard laughter behind me once I had stopped. I turned to see my mother, smiling as she leaned against my doorway.
"You like it?" she asked.
I couldn't help but grin obnoxiously.
"Good. And, your father knows how much you love gardening, so he kept the rose bushes outside and made some space for you to start your own garden," she said.
Quickly, I ran towards the window, sitting on the sill as I looked into the backyard. Just as my mother had said, rose bushes sat around the perimeter of the land.
"No way," I mouthed, staring at the beautiful hints of red I spotted from afar.
"You should go check it out, Belle," my mother said.
She didn't have to say anything more. I bolted down the stairs, running passed my father who was on his way up. Once outside, strangely I didn't feel tense. I didn't get even the slightest feeling of anxiety. And, once I stood before the beautiful rose bushes, I felt an overwhelming calm I never experienced before.
"Hi," a woman's voice sounded.
Her voice was as smooth as silk, and once I laid eyes on her, my heart raced unexpectedly. She was so beautiful. The fairness of her hair, the smooth appearance of her glowing skin. She was perfect.
"Hi," I stuttered.
She smiled briefly, but it was long enough to leave a permanent imprint on my heart.
"I'm Estelle. What's your name?" she asked.
I paused, realizing I had no idea who the woman standing before me was. My parents didn't mention a gardener or a maid.
"Isabelle. Who are you?" I asked as politely as I could.
She laughed, giggled almost.
"I'm the gardener. I hear you are a gardener as well," she said.
I nodded, staring at the bushes once more.
"You do an amazing job. I wish I was as good as you," I said, touching the pedals of a vivacious rose.
Another giggle escaped her.
"I can teach you everything you need to know," she said, smiling.
I jumped up, excitedly.
"I would love that," I said.
She patted my shoulder, nodding before swiftly looking towards the house. I turned to see my dad approaching.
"Your mom ordered some pizza, angel. Lets go eat before it gets cold," he said, grabbing my hand.
I smiled at Estelle before being led away towards the house.
After dinner, I went into my room. To help deal with my anxiety, my therapist recommended I paint. For years, it has helped me. Nothing is more fulfilling than seeing the end result of something you created. Being anxious all of the time made life difficult. But, whenever I picked up a paint brush, that feeling of helplessness melted away like ice cream on a hot summers day.
Tonight, because she had made me forget my anxieties in the short amount of time we spoke, I decided to paint Estelle. I had never seen someone so beautiful before and I felt this strong urge to capture her in a painting. So I began, lightly stroking the details of the long, fair haired woman that was Estelle. I felt it best to be as realistic as possible, mixing colors to get the perfect combination of white and yellow to recreate her gorgeous highlights. I stood there for hours, making sure everything was as it appeared in person.
I knew there was no way I could finish the painting that night, but I got as much done as I could before it was too late. Once midnight hit, I stepped back, smiling as I stared at the amazing progression of the painting. I wanted so badly to finish it, but my eyes could barely keep open. So I crawled into bed, turned out the lights, and drifted off to sleep.
I awoke to the sound of singing. I looked over at my clock which read 5 a.m. I got out of bed, hurrying to my open window. Outside, by the rose bushes, stood Estelle. She was singing to the roses. Though it was 5 a.m. and I had just been awaken prematurely, I smiled. Her dedication to the liveliness of those rose bushes only made me even more curious of her teachings. I had to fight with everything in me not to join her outside, asking her of her secrets. But, it was too early. Though it was summer break, I couldn't risk waking my parents. So I climbed right back into bed, dozing off once more as the calm of Estelle's singing filled the air.
The next morning, I was interrupted once more but this time by the sound of shouting. I hurried towards the noise, stopping near the steps as the explosive arguments erupted.
"Don't you ever come here again!" I heard my father yell.
Suddenly a man came into view. He peered up at me as my father pushed him towards the door.
"Don't go near that woman, child! Don't go near her!" he yelled.
The way he looked at me sent chills down my spine.
"Next time you come here I will call the authorities!" my father yelled before closing the door on the crazed man.
Quickly, my mother ran towards me, caressing my face in her hands as she looked into my eyes.
"Are you okay, Belle?" she asked.
I nodded, ignoring the fact that my heart was beating so uncontrollably I was light headed. My father joined us, patting my head.
"Don't worry, angel. If he comes by here again the police will handle him," he said.
I nodded, breathing slowly to regain composure.
"I'm fine," I said.
Both my mom and dad smiled before looking at each other with worrisome expressions.
"Breakfast is ready, angel. Go help yourself," my father said, breaking the silence.
Something in his eyes told me to go into the kitchen so him and my mother could talk. I did exactly what his eyes demanded and hurried off towards the kitchen.
On the counter, were bounties of my favorite foods: Scrambled eggs, blueberry pancakes, turkey bacon, and overdone hash browns. Hastily, I grabbed a plate and filled it with an excess of each. Then I sat down, stuffing my mouth with eggs as I listened carefully to the whispers in the hall. I could hear bits and pieces of their conversation, but not enough to come to a conclusion. I knew they didn't want to worry me, but I couldn't help but feel a little left out. Clueless even.
"Isabelle," I heard someone say from behind the French-doored patio.
I turned in my chair to see Estelle. She smiled before signaling me to follow her. Instinctively, I stood up, opening the door.
"I don't think my parents want me out there right now," I said.
She shook her head.
"That crazy man is gone. Don't worry. I'll protect you," she said, holding out her hand.
I looked back, making sure my parents were still talking before taking her hand. Once outside, the warmth of the sun beat down on us. The feeling of warmth even with Estelle's cold hand in mine felt liberating.
"Did you hear me singing last night?" Estelle asked.
I smiled, guiltily.
"Yeah, it was beautiful. I heard that helps with plants. It calms them and makes them grow," I said.
She nodded before ending our walk.
"They are very much alive just like you and me. They need people who are generous and willing to give them their all," she said.
Her words were almost poetic as she spoke.
"I will give them my all," I said, caressing a dying pedal.
Estelle lowered herself, staring deeply within my eyes. The grey of her irises almost seemed magnetic. The only thing was, yesterday I could have sworn her eyes were electric blue.
"Good. Very good," she said, standing upright.
"Isabelle! Come back inside!" my mother yelled from behind me.
I turned, waving her off.
"I have to go," I said, sadly.
Estelle stared intently upon my mother before realizing I had spoken.
"See you later," she said.
Before running towards my mother, I shined an apologetic smile in Estelle's direction.
"You didn't ask to go outside, Isabelle. Your father and I almost had a heart attack," she said.
My father walked into the kitchen with his arms folded.
"Belle, I don't want you out there alone, alright?" he said.
I turned quickly, looking out of the patio window only to see Estelle gone.
"I was with the gardener, Estelle," I said.
My mother looked at my father, who looked back at her with a puzzled expression.
"Sweety, we don't have a gardener," my mother spoke.
My dad rushed towards the patio window.
"Has someone been out there, Isabelle?" he asked.
"Her name is Estelle. She's really nice," I said, looking back and forth between my parents.
They seemed afraid. Worried.
"Mary, call the police," my father said.
My mother hurriedly grabbed her cellphone.
"No, dad she's nice. She hasn't done anything wrong," I said.
My mom began speaking into the phone.
"She's lying to you. She isn't our gardener, Isabelle. She broke the law by trespassing on our property and talking to my child," he said.
I looked down at my hands as my vision began to blur. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't see. Everything was so cloudy. Then everything went black.
I awoke in my bedroom, my doctor standing close by.
"Isabelle," she said, caressing my arm.
I looked around, noticing my mom beside her.
"What happened?" I asked.
Dr. Felix smiled, weakly.
"You passed out, dear," she whispered.
Outside of my door, I could hear my father talking to someone.
"Who's dad talking to?" I asked.
My mom sat beside me, pushing my hair away from my face.
"A police officer. Don't worry about that okay, Belle," she said.
I lifted my head from the pillow and stared at the painting across the room.
"That's her, mom. That's Estelle," I said, pointing at the portrait.
Though it wasn't finished, the picture was now shockingly eerie. Estelle's eyes were definitely blue when I painted them the day before. My mother stood up, calling my father into the room. He, accompanied by an officer, entered my room in a panic.
"What?" he asked, staring at me and my mother with widened eyes.
"That's the woman Isabelle saw," my mother said, pointing at the painting.
The officer walked over to the picture, analyzing it.
"You don't mind if we take this painting and make copies do you?" he questioned.
"No," I said, quickly.
The officer nodded before picking up the painting and walking out of my room. My dad followed.
"I don't want you anywhere near that rose bush right now, Isabelle. I mean it," she said.
I nodded before she walked away with Dr. Felix.
Once I was sure they were gone, I slowly stood out of bed, walking towards the window. The sun was setting on the horizon, but instead of acknowledging its beauty, I stared at the rose bushes. Estelle was nowhere in sight, and yet, goosebumps ascended up my spine.
"Who was she?" I thought, creeping myself out even further.
Then, I remembered what the lunatic this morning had said.
"Don't go near that woman, child! Don't go near her!"
His words repeated over and over again in my head like a broken record. Could he had been warning me? Could he had been talking about Estelle?
Quickly, I grabbed my laptop. There had to be a reason he mentioned this to us. Maybe this has happened before. So I put my fingers to work, searching for anything that may have been related to our house before finding exactly what I was looking for. Dating back at least a hundred years, were countless missing persons reports. Two things struck me as odd. Every single missing person in each case was a girl. A young girl... And, the most recent case, was a few months ago.
The latest owners of our house had a daughter and a son. As I read the reports, many other links began to appear on my search engine. I clicked through most of them, trying to find out exactly what had happened to the girl, but only found reports of her parents. Her mother, Lisa Landry, was committed to a psychiatric ward after her daughter's disappearance. Reportedly, she was suffering from severe depression, and on multiple occasions tried to kill herself. Her father, Kevin Landry, sold the house because he was reportedly 'uncomfortable' living in it any longer. Her brother, Justin Landry, told reporters that his sister didn't, "just run away." His reports were bone chilling. He recalled his sister talking about a beautiful woman in the rose garden.
Immediately, I began to feel light headed. I clicked off of the link, taking a deep breath as my heart pumped wildly. Estelle. Estelle did this. Estelle had to have done this. That man... he tried to warn me.
The next day, I awoke later than usual. I walked downstairs to see my mom preparing to leave.
"Isabelle, honey, I have to make a quick store run, okay? I won't be gone long," my mother said.
I nodded, crossing my arms before she kissed my forehead before leaving.
As usual, I could smell the breakfast in the air, and I made my way towards it instinctively. I prepared a plate, making sure to take way more than I knew I could eat. Before sitting, I stared out of the patio window, making sure Estelle was not peeking in at me. I took the seat facing the patio just to be safe before I began eating.
Once I had finished, the doorbell rung. Quickly, I made my way towards the front door. When I opened it, the man before me held up a piece of paper.
"This woman. This is the woman I told you to stay away from," he said.
I stared at him with frightened eyes.
"You don't have to worry about me hurting you, girl. This woman will hurt you so bad you will pray that the devil himself got to you before she could," he explained.
I began to close the door on the man.
"Please, just listen. If you see her, run. You have to believe me when I say she is evil, pure evil, and she will take you someplace you won't ever come back from," he said.
Quickly, I slammed the door.
Terrified, I began to hyperventilate as he beat on the door relentlessly.
"Run, girl! Run!" he shouted from behind the door as he continued to beat against it.
In a panic, I starting to run up the stairs. Until... I heard singing. I paused at the top of the staircase, listening closely as I followed the melody. Estelle. She was singing the same song she did that morning when she disturbed my sleep.
"How did she get in my house?" I thought to myself.
But, my own thoughts turned on me as I calculated the countless opportunities she could have had to get in. A part of me wanted to stop walking. A part of me screamed aloud how foolish I was for continuing towards the strange woman. But, I had to talk to her. I had to understand.
"My flowers. You are my life," she sang as I gradually pushed open my bedroom door.
Almost immediately, the singing stopped as I stood behind her. I chose not to step closer. I chose to remain within the doorway in case I had to bail...
The atmosphere surrounding us was dark, evil, and menacing. I stood there, staring at the bald spots in the back of her head accompanied by gray strands. Her hair was no longer vivacious, and her once golden locks resembled the remnants of the hair left behind on a withering old woman.
"What are you doing here?" I asked, stuttering.
Slowly, she turned towards me. The face staring back at me was not the face I had painted previously. No, this face was indescribable. The face of your darkest nightmares.
Written by GreyOwl