I Was Scared

Entry by: JC

1st January 2015
I was Scared

I wasn't scared when Brett joined us up for a weekend of abseiling even though I'd never done it before. Brett's daredevil streak was what had attracted me to him in the first place. When he bought me a skydiving session for my birthday I hid my shiver and laughed, saying, 'How wonderful!' to show I was as fearless as he.

After the episode with my parents I'd spent my teenage years being scared. By my twenties I was sick of it. I'm strong, I told myself. What happened to them won't happen to me. I won't let it!

But when the letter came I blanched.

'What's up, Babe?' Brett was stretched out on the sofa flipping through travel brochures. 'You look like you've seen a ghost.'

Did I detect a hint of derision in his voice?

'No ghost,' I said, returning the stained parchment to its envelope and flicking the lot towards the wastepaper bin. It boomeranged in a neat circle and hit his foot. I dived for it but Brett was quicker.

'Transylvania?' He stared at the stamp. 'Who do you know in Transylvania?'

He didn't wait for an answer but pulled out the yellowed page. My mouth went dry as he scanned the spidery writing, smoothed out the ancient creases. When he looked up his eyes were sparkling.

'A castle? Bugger me, Diana, you've inherited a whole bloody castle!'

I forced out a laugh. 'As if. It's just a joke - a scam - one of those Nigerian cons.'

He looked at the letter again. Rubbed the thick parchment between fingers and thumb and frowned. 'The legal stuff looks kosher and I don't see any spelling mistakes.'

'So it's a good con. Come on, Brett. Throw it away and let's get on with our travel plans. I like the look of that Kathmandu hike. It would be good training for the Everest climb we want to do next year.'

He seemed hardly to hear me. 'This clause at the end,' he said, pulling out his phone to check the date. I closed my eyes.

'Seven days! You only have seven days to claim your inheritance. After that the whole lot reverts to the Romanian government.'

Once Brett gets excited about something there's no putting him off. All through the flight I kept telling myself I was doing the right thing - that I was no longer a frightened young teenager. I was stronger than my parents. I swallowed. This was my big test - the ultimate test. Was I ready for it?

Everyone said you should face your demons. I'd abseiled and skydived and reveled in finding my inner strength - a strength I'd always been afraid I didn't have. Now there was one last thing to do - prove to myself I'd gotten clean. 'I can do this. I'm not scared,' I kept muttering under my breath.

Beside me Brett was chuckling and babbling. 'This is pure Hollywood! Spend one night in the castle and it's yours. Maybe we can turn it into a B & B afterwards. No, too much like hard work. We should probably just sit back and make a mint renting it out to movie makers.'

The lawyer's office was situated on the outskirts of the town. Its gloomy rooms made me shudder but Brett was all triumph as I signed the paperwork.

'I told you this was legit! You now own an eighteenth century castle.'

'Not quite,' said the lawyer, a toad-like man called Oleander with jet-black hair. 'There is the matter of spending a night. I myself must attend to ensure everything is done correctly.'

'Piece of cake,' said Brett. 'We've brought our own camping gear.'

At Oleander's smile a little voice in my head said, it's not too late to pull out. Just say you've changed your mind.

Brett exploded the thought. 'We'll buy some food and head straight up. It'll be cold platters but you're welcome to join us for dinner if you like, Mr Oleander.'

The lawyer bowed obsequiously. 'You are most kind. Shall we say eight at the castle?'

We hired a car and shopped for the celebratory feast... and candles.

'We only need to illuminate one room, Babe.'

'Can't have too much light.' Darkness still made me tremble. Darkness... and other things.

It had gone sunset when we arrived but Brett whistled in appreciation. Even in silhouette the ancient castle met his expectations. We set up in the dining room, which was much as I remembered it - maybe with a little more dust.

'Wow, authentic or what?' Brett swept his sleeve across the mahogany table and starting setting out bottles of wine and platters of cheese, sausage and pickled seafood.

By the time Oleander arrived I'd lit so many candles the room was brighter than day. The toad-like creature winced as he entered but Brett, walking to greet him with a glass of wine, failed to notice.

'Who left this place to Diana?' he asked, handing over the beautiful crystal goblet he'd been thrilled to find with dozens of others in the sideboard. 'The names in the document were unfamiliar.'

Oleander's brows lifted and he looked over to me. Instead of replying he sipped at the ruby wine and then strolled alongside the mantelpiece blowing out my line of candles. 'That's a little better don't you think?'

'I prefer a bright room,' I said. 'Please don't extinguish any more.' I was finding it hard to suppress my shivers. Whatever had made me think I'd be strong enough to face my demons? No point in kidding myself. I was scared.

Brett was frowning, seemingly annoyed that his question hadn't been answered, when they entered. They'd chosen traditional gear - the man in a tuxedo and cape, the woman in a long, black silk evening gown. My heart wrenched as I stared at them and I failed to notice Oleander snuffing out another line of candles.

'Who are you?' Brett demanded, more indignant than dismayed. He turned to Oleander. 'Are these additional witnesses?'

The couple moved towards me. 'No. Stay where you are,' I cried, dodging to the table and stuffing a piece of bread into my mouth. It tasted like dust. I'd worked so hard to learn to love food again and now...

'We knew you'd come back,' said the man - my father. This is your inheritance after all.' Only four candles remained lit on the table and Oleander was bending to blow one out.

'Stop that,' I screamed, a nameless yearning stirring within me.

'You want more light?' He pulled open the curtains and I gasped at the shock of the full moon.

Brett walked over and put a protective arm around my waist. The smell of him broke the last of my control. There are some addictions you just can't kick.

I smiled and for the first time he looked scared.