tagErotic HorrorThe Abyssal Pt. 01

The Abyssal Pt. 01

bysjharlowe©

Preface:

This is a story I've been working on for some time; my re-introduction to writing after some personal things in my life took the craft away from me for a little while. It started with no story, no plot, just the first line, which you'll read if you choose to continue on. The story ran on pretty much balls-to-the-wall from there, and in the meantime I think I've just been a kind of stenographer for something else.

The more the story grows, however, the more I begin to understand that no publisher will ever touch it because of the incest themes, at least not without some heavy cutting and massive re-writes. I have no desire to do that now, so just for kicks I'm presenting to you this story in its most raw and unabridged form.

It's unfinished, pretty much unedited. There will be more on the way because I'm still working it... I have no choice but to finish. I am, after all, the stenographer, and I can't stop working until the voices stop speaking. If you're a writer, you'll understand.

I should warn you up front, you've got some way to go until you get to the 'good parts', which are often a long way in between. If you're looking for a quickie, this ain't it. I won't be offended if you go somewhere else. But if you want to read a—hopefully—rich and entertaining story, give this one a shot. The good stuff is in there, I assure you, but you have to be patient.

Most of all, I thank you for reading. It's been a long time since I've done this, and coming back to it I've realized it's as fun as I remember. If you want, dive into the story and I hope you have some fun too.

--S.J.

I. The Reunited

Chapter 1

'Mother's dead,' was all the familiar voice on the other end of the line said. Violetta waited for more, but only received the static hum of the phone line. Or maybe it was the static hum of her own head. The sentence 'mother's dead' rang hollow in her ear like old news from long ago and far away. Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Thousands killed. Mother's dead. Violetta, who had no news of her own, stayed silent.

'Letti?'

'Don't call me that, please.'

'Sorry.' No apology in that voice. 'Did you hear me?'

'I heard you.'

Violetta had known already. Not necessarily that her mother was dead, but that something was wrong. It had happened the day before, exactly three-forty in the afternoon while Violetta was at work. Her heart quickened, a cold sweat broke out on her skin and a great wide lump had formed in her throat as if she might cry. And then, moments later, a cool wave of relief washed over her. These feelings, seemingly from nowhere, bonds that were strained and weakened but not entirely broken. Mother's dead, and now Violetta knew it was her twin sister, Maddalena, Maddy, who had found her. Maddy who had been caring for a sick old woman hand and foot for years. Shock, sadness, then relief the order of her emotions on that day. Violetta knew it without being told.

'Did you know already?' Maddy asked.

'No. I knew something was wrong, but not that.'

'And you still didn't call.'

'No, I didn't.' Again, no apology. There was little apology between the two sisters anymore, and Violetta supposed they were both accustomed to that. There could be no apology when there was nothing between them at all. No real love, but no particular hate either. Now, things felt decidedly neutral and that may have been more damaging than anything.

'Have you made arrangements yet?' Violetta asked.

'I'll take care of it.'

'I can help with—'

'I'll take care of it.'

'Okay.'

There was another long silence. Years ago, when they were younger, that silence would not have been awkward like it was now. Awkwardness did not exist between twin girls growing up together, the kind of twins who could read each other's minds, finish each other's sentences. Now, growing apart on separate sides of the country, they were no longer twins, but just sisters. Sisters different enough to not even like each other very much.

'Letti?'

Violetta let the nickname slip this time. There was still a place inside her, a small silent place, where she liked it. Small and silent enough to forget the troubled last sentence that contained it, the last time they had seen each other, the last words that spelled out their terminal rift. Letti, if you leave with him, I won't love you anymore. Child-like in their simplicity those words, especially coming from an eighteen-year-old woman. Direct and honest, like they had always been with each other. I won't love you anymore. Violetta remembered the way those words had struck her to the core, flooding her young body with so much disappointment, regret and, most of all, anger. All over a man, a boy really, who was not even around anymore.

'Letti, how's Roger?'

This a sudden and—Violetta believed—deliberate shot to her heart. Did Maddy know, or was this simply a case of bad timing? Somewhere deep inside, from the place where that fragile bond still existed, Violetta knew it was not bad timing, though maybe not quite deliberate. The same way Violetta knew something had been wrong a day before Maddy had called, not exactly what, just something.

'Roger's gone, Maddy. He left.'

'I'm sorry.' The words were reluctant, but there was no hint of condescension in them. If there had been, Violetta might have lost it, despite the nothingness between the two of them. She might have screamed at her sister just for the sake of screaming at someone. She had not even screamed at Roger when he left.

'Letti?'

'What.'

'Are you coming home?'

This question, so unexpected, struck Violetta in a different way from the last one. It raised in her a feeling she could not quite identify, but something altogether familiar. Something from a long time ago when she was young and love seemed easy. Before she learned it wasn't; before she learned that love forces you to make difficult choices. Turn your back on one and take the other. Risk losing something without being guaranteed anything in return. Violetta had taken that bet and come up empty handed.

At once, Violetta resented her sister for being the one to force that decision upon her, yet at the same time she resented herself for being the one to force that same decision upon Maddy in return. Still, the resentment was better than nothing. It reminded her that she could still feel something for her sister, as well as for herself. It made her decision easier.

'Yes, I'm coming there.' She could not force herself, all these years later, to call it home.

* * *


Violetta purchased a round trip ticket to the airport in Manchester and back to LAX, a rigid three days in between. She rented a car to drive the rest of the way to the New Hampshire seacoast. She stopped first at a convenience store in town to purchase aspirin for the throbbing headache she had developed on the flight. Then she stopped at a motel to reserve a room for the night. Not that there would not be room for her at the old house, which was by all standards a mansion, she just did not think she could stay there. Not in the room she had shared with Maddy as a child, not in any of the rooms. Too many shared memories in those rooms, too many opportunities for regret. Being forty-two years old and recently divorced, Violetta did not think she had any more room for regret, and she would not invite it if she could possibly avoid it.

It was almost noon when Violetta got lost in the now mostly unfamiliar town of Portside, the tiny harbor town in which she had grown up. The streets running through quiet suburban neighborhoods, then entering and dividing through the downtown area. She had forgotten how lovely the town was, years ago a bustling port city, now an elegant gathering of artisans and merchants and young professionals of all types.

She remembered long walks through the city, the kind of city two beautiful young girls could walk through even in the dead of night without fear of harassment or attack. Those girls, careless and happy, perhaps happier than they would ever be in their lives, Violetta and Maddalena, the twins everyone in town knew, not because of their rich family but because of who they were together. At first two girls who could skip and sing in almost startling tandem, the epitome of adorable. As they grew a bit older, and perhaps a bit bolder, they became known as the two leggy, dark-haired beauties, turning heads with something rivaling pure radiance. It was the kind of beauty that transcended the simple fact that there were two of them, and still flourished because of it. They had been simply two young women who were impossible to ignore. Two young women who perhaps were not entirely aware of their stunning beauty. If any two girls deserved to be proud and conceited, it was they. But they had not been.

Violetta, slowly becoming familiar again with her old neighborhood, found herself smiling at this memory. She had not smiled in a long time.

* * *


She found the narrow highway that ran along the coast and followed it south, watching seaside cottages give way to a wealthier neighborhood of ocean front estates. Here the houses became few and far between as yards turned into fields and fields turned into rolling acres of land. She began to consider the possibility that she might miss the turn for her mother's house when a sign by the side of the road made her stop the car. She pulled over, stepped out of the car. The sign, an elegant hand-carved wooden marker, advertised a bed and breakfast ahead on the left.

'What the hell?'

Eastman Inn, Bed & Breakfast. Est. 1990.

Violetta stared at this sign for a long time, not believing—or not wanting to believe—that her childhood home had been turned into a bed and breakfast. The thought of who knew how many strangers coming and going at will through her old home...

Her eyes drifted to the small placard hanging below the sign.

Proven Hauntings since 2004.

All at once she wanted to laugh and be sick at the same time. Had things fallen so low here? To turn the old family home into a bed and breakfast, and worse to use such a ridiculous gimmick as a haunting to advertise it? And why turn the family home into a business when the family fortune was beyond imagination? Violetta knew this could only be Maddalena's work, busy-bee little Maddy who always had to have her hands in something.

Violetta breathed a disgusted sigh, then climbed back into her car. She turned into the drive indicated by the sign and followed the small avenue that ran beneath the canopy of reaching trees. She was relieved to see that the woods surrounding the estate were just as dense as when she was young, in her current state of mind expecting it all to be cleared away and replaced with the Eastman Strip Mall or some other Maddalena Eastman business venture.

Soon the avenue opened into a wide open green field, across which Violetta could see the roof of the family house. The family B&B. Whatever. The yards were just as lush and green as she remembered them, and she was glad Maddy had at least taken the time to have them well manicured. As she approached the house, she could not help but notice the smaller yard that had once held a large swing set was now paved over and converted to a parking lot for a dozen or so cars, now occupied by only a few.

The house was as she remembered it, two stories spread out over many thousands of square feet. Sturdy early twentieth century beachside design, with shaded wooden porches winding around the house. The porches now held many handmade rockers, presumably for guests to sit outside. The house, though still beautiful, looked more like an establishment now than a home. At least not the home Violetta had known.

She parked in the small parking lot and got out of the car. She was struck immediately by the smell of the ocean, something she had missed during her years living in Los Angeles. Even standing on the beach there, it was difficult to smell ocean air as fresh as this. She breathed deep, then listened for the lapping of the seawater against the rocky outcropping behind the house, finding it still as melodious as ever.

She took her purse from the car but left everything else, expecting to return to the motel later that night, not knowing she would not be returning anywhere but her old home. Not for a long time.

Chapter 2

Violetta avoided the house for the time being, not quite ready to step back in after so long. She wandered through the yard around the house, wanting to take a good look at the ocean. The house stood out on a small peninsula named Saint's Point by her great-grandfather who had first settled on the land over a century ago.

Her eyes scanned the blue-green horizon, then slipped back to the yard, where she noticed a young man sitting on a small stool before a French-style painter's easel. When he caught sight of her, he waved.

'Miss Eastman!'

He put his brushes down, then stood and approached her, a large grin spread on his face. He was handsome, his skin slightly darkened by the tan of an artist who spends most of his time outside, and his brown eyes held the kind of intensity of an artist who sees much and misses little. He held his hand out to her.

'Miss Eastman, I never got a chance to thank you. You were absolutely right about this place, I've gotten more work done here than—'

'I'm not Miss Eastman.' It felt like a lie, but legally Violetta had not been an Eastman for more than a decade.

The artist's brow furrowed. 'I'm sorry?'

It had been over twenty years since Violetta had been mistaken for her sister, and out of the blue like this filled her with impatience and annoyance.

'I'm not Miss Eastman. That's my sister.'

The young man seemed to study her face for a moment, then his eyes filled with something like embarrassment.

'I'm very sorry,' he said. 'You look just like—'

'Yes, I'm aware of what I look like, thank you.' The words came out much more blunt than she had intended, but she made no apologies.

'Yeah, well... I'm sorry to bother you.'

'Mm-hmm.'

'I'm very sorry for your loss.'

'Thank you.'

His eyes scanned her face again with that artist's intensity. She did not much like being studied like that.

'On second thought, I guess you don't look too much like her. Just from a distance.'

The young man turned and walked back to his easel, glancing back at her quickly as if she were a dog that might follow and snap at his heels. She felt slightly guilty about the way his shoulders sagged, but she supposed it did not matter. He would not have been the first person she had shot down over the course of her life, and would not be the last.

As she walked back to the house, she could feel his eyes on her the entire time.

* * *


Violetta could feel her mood growing more and more sour by the minute. Driving through town had been okay, good actually, but being back in her old house was pushing the limits. Luckily, there was Nancy whose unconfined joy stopped Violetta from turning tail and leaving altogether. When Violetta stepped into the foyer, the large black woman was emerging from the kitchen. She stopped when she saw Violetta standing in the door. Her mouth opened in a wide 'oh' of surprise, then it closed again in a thin line.

'I'll be damned,' she said. 'Be damned if I don't see a little girl I knew right here and now. Violetta.' And with that she began to sing in almost perfect and melodious soprano, Sempre Libera from Guiseppe Verdi's La Traviata. Violetta's face flushed red and she broke into a smile.

'You still have the voice, Nancy.'

'I still have everything, little girl. You come here now and give me a hug.'

Violetta did. She thought Nancy might crush her, but the big woman released her before her body could give out. Nancy had been working for her family for decades, starting when Violetta and her sister were just little girls. She had become less like an employee and more like a family member—a lavishly paid family member in any case. Violetta's father had been no slouch when it came to compensating Nancy for all she did, and the tradition continued even after he died. Nancy probably could have retired by now.

Violetta thought she looked older, but not quite old for a woman who must have been in her sixties by now. Her dark-skinned face was creased with laugh lines, the kind of lines that indicated a person who has lived a life full of joy and unrequited happiness. She remembered Nancy's easy, almost permanent smile, her penchant for singing loudly whenever the mood struck her, her pure love for every member of the Eastman family, even Violetta and Maddy's brooding mother, Rachel.

'Goin' on twenty years now, is it, Letti?'

'I suppose so.'

'You're a woman now.' Nancy examined her for a minute, picking at her long dark hair, checking her limbs like she was some kind of doll, just like she used to do when Violetta was a little girl. 'Still a skinny little thing. Eastman girls always come out lanky.'

'Thank you, Nancy,' Violetta said, feeling more like a little girl than ever.

'You see your sister?'

'Not yet. Is she here?'

'No, she's at the funeral home, closing up the morning viewing. She'll be there all day, I reckon. You going this evening?'

'I guess so.'

Nancy looked at her with a grim expression. 'I don't know what the hell got into you girls. Make you leave this house the way you did. Twenty years is a shameful long time, Letti. Don't even say goodbye to ol' Nancy, times I thought I'd never see you alive again. Do you know what that's like? I took care of you girls all my life, I love both of you like you were my very own, maybe—God rest her—more than your own momma. And my heart was broken the day you didn't come back here, and broke a little more every day you didn't come back.'

Violetta swallowed hard. She had never taken Nancy into account, and she supposed that had been her problem for a long time. She had not taken anything into account. She had simply done whatever she wanted, whatever felt right at the time. Sempre libera. Always free. Had her father been aware of her fate when he named her after the heroine of his favorite opera, or had he cursed her with it? Violetta Valery had broken many hearts and died young. The former Violetta Eastman was still alive and well, but the broken hearts were accounted for, one of them before her now.

'I'm sorry, Nancy, I—'

'Oh shit, girl, I don't want no apologies, just another hug.' She held out her big arms and Violetta submitted to her grip again. When Nancy released her, she had regained some of her composure.

'So glad you're back, Miss Violetta. So very glad. You staying long?'

'Just a couple of days. I can't be away from L.A. for too long.'

'Oh, all you California folks always running around, so busy. You'll remember what the quiet life is like after a couple of days here. Maybe you might learn to love it again.'

Violetta did not think so. She needed the noise and the chaos to keep her own mind from becoming too loud. She thought even a couple of days here in the quiet northeast might send her over the deep end. Perhaps it had started to already. Even in the joy of seeing Nancy again, Violetta felt dizzy and overworked, as if she were struggling with every muscle to hang on. Her conversation with the artist had certainly proven that; even his off-handed and very innocent mistake had thrown her into a tizzy. Still, she decided not to come down on herself too hard over her behavior; she was, after all, on the down side of a painful divorce, and no one could expect her personality to be at its shiniest.

'Well, in any case, Letti, let me get your bags upstairs and—'

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