Copyright Oggbashan October 2013
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
This is a work of fiction. The events described here are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places or living persons.
I was looking forward to a few weeks with my brother and his wife. I used to visit them at least once a year, whenever I was in the UK. They have a rambling old house in the South Hams of Devon. I needed to rediscover my roots and perhaps put some real ones down somewhere. While I was with them I would be a part of the family. They had their own lives to lead and might be missing for a few days. If they were, I'd fend for myself.
Last year's summer holiday after the car crash in Africa had been the last strain on our marriage. Maria had helped to nurse me after I was discharged from the hospital. My left leg had been the worst damaged, and I now had some metal pins permanently holding it together.
It didn't matter to Maria that the accident had not been my fault and I hadn't been driving. She did what she could for me but my temporary dependence was too much for both of us. We had been drifting apart for years, while maintaining a front for the rest of the world. Our enforced proximity brought things to a head. We went for a weekend break. After the first night alone together Maria flew into one of her increasingly frequent rages. This one was different. We said things to each other that never should be said.
Maria and I agreed to separate. We went to a local African lawyer and made an agreement dividing our property. She would keep the part share in the Safari Park and our other African assets. I would have the London house and our assets in the UK. In theory her share was larger than mine, but mine were possibly more stable, less likely to grow perhaps, but also less risky.
Some people might describe us as wealthy. If we didn't overextend ourselves we could live adequately as self employed people managing our assets. Maria would live better than me on a large African estate with servants and staff. That was possible where she lived, but not for me in England.
Two months ago I had returned to the UK. I had lived in various hotels until the current tenants vacated the London house. I had then employed builders for a couple of months to redecorate and improve the house, adding handrails etc. to help with my temporary disability.
There was now no one, except my brother and his wife, and their home help Janet, left to care whether I lived or died. They didn't compensate for the loss of my wife nor the children we never had.
The taxi driver carried my battered suitcase along the flower-flanked path to the house as I limped beside him leaning on my cane. The medics said I would need to use it for another couple of months and might be nearly as fit as I had been by Christmas or early next year.
"Ian!" Angela flew out of the front door, wrapped her arms around me and kissed me. That was a great welcome. Even if she is my brother's wife and therefore taboo, Angela is a woman I love for who she is.
Alan followed her and gave me a hearty handshake and his arm around my shoulder. I feel like the 'little' brother whenever we met. Alan is ten years older and six inches taller. Angela is four inches taller than me yet I am only a couple of inches short of six foot.
In the doorway stood their 'daily' Janet. She smiled at me. Janet makes me think of clotted cream and pasties. She isn't plump, just gently rounded in the right places on her trim frame. She has the true Devon burr and seems part of the land. Her family have lived locally forever. Janet kissed me as well. She had never kissed me before. I enjoyed that kiss. It seemed to say 'welcome home' in a way that no one else had yet said. It reminded me that Janet is an attractive woman.
I had noticed that before but dismissed the thought. Each time Marie and I had visited we had been fighting each other and trying to hide it from Alan and Angela. We had been so involved with our arguments that I hadn't considered Janet's attractiveness, or our surroundings. Before I had married Marie, Janet had shown me around some of the local countryside while Alan and Angela were busy with their children. I might have considered her as a possible partner, but Janet was married. Our only 'sexual' contact was an occasional hug and a peck on the cheek.
"Ian," said Angela, "We are pleased you arrived when you did. We have to collect Sarah's girls in a few minutes. We should be back in about half an hour. Janet will look after you."
Angela turned to Janet.
"He'll be in the Lavender room. Make him some tea, please."
"The Lavender room? Are you sure that's wise?"
"Of course it is, Janet. The guest bedrooms are being decorated. They've taken longer than planned. We didn't expect the ceilings to be so bad. We thought the painters would be finished before Ian arrived, but they've been working on some outside jobs. The weather has been better than usual. They will take a few more days."
Angela and Alan drove away in different directions. Cecily is twelve and at 'big' school. Phoebe is ten and itching to join her sister.
Janet took my case. I followed her up the stairs towards the attic. I could tell that she wasn't happy.
"What's this about the Lavender room, Janet? Is it damp or something more sinister?"
"I don't think they'd like me to tell you, Ian, but I think I should. Come down to the kitchen. I'll make you a cup of tea and then I'll tell you."
She put my suitcase on the bed and left. I hung my two suits and my now redundant uniform in the curtained alcove. I looked around the room. Apart from the uneven floorboards, the walls that weren't straight, the tilted window it looked perfectly normal. For a room in Alan and Angela's house it was normal. The walls and ceiling were plain white. There was no lavender colour anywhere so why was it called the Lavender room? It looked out over the back garden to the sea in the far distance. No lavender out there. The only lavender flanked the front path.
The kitchen was as I remembered it. This was Janet's domain. The washed stone flagged floor, the scrubbed pine table, the gleaming Aga, all looked timeless. The kettle was just beginning to whistle as I sat on a wheel back chair by the table. I felt happy here. It wasn't my home but this kitchen was as closer to a home than anything I had left.
"So, Janet, what is the mystery of the Lavender room? You had better tell me soon. They'll be back shortly."
"No they won't. They always underestimate how long it takes to collect the girls. Even today they'll stand around and chat. They have to take them home to Sarah. They'll talk to her and admire the new baby. I don't expect them for an hour from now.
"I think you are stalling, Janet. What about the Lavender room?"
Janet poured the tea and sat down at the table. She looked serious.
"Alan and Angela think I'm a silly old fool," she started.
"Old isn't true, Janet. I don't think you are silly or a fool either."
"Thank you, Ian. You have always listened to me as if what I said was important."
"And why wouldn't it be?"
"Never mind. About the Lavender room. I know it is haunted..."
"By whom or what?" I asked.
"By one of my ancestors. Well, not exactly an ancestor, because she didn't have children, but she was the sister of the man who was one of my ancestors. Dorcas died before she had children."
"Who was Dorcas?" I asked.
"Dorcas was one of the maids. She was twenty-three. Her first intended husband had been a fisherman lost at sea. She was going out with Josh, one of the farm workers."
"Josh was caught smuggling, not for the first time. He was trying to get enough money to marry and set up home with Dorcas. He was offered a choice. Either he would be prosecuted and convicted or he could enlist in the Army. It was the time of the Crimean War. He knew that he faced a long jail term so he chose to enlist. He came to tell Dorcas. She told him that she was pregnant. They spent the night together and Josh left just before dawn, joining his regiment at Plymouth. He promised to come back before he sailed but couldn't because as a reluctant recruit he wasn't allowed out of barracks for the first three months. Before he could visit Dorcas his regiment was on the ship which left within hours. He never knew that Dorcas committed suicide by drowning herself as soon as she knew he had gone. He was killed at Inkerman."
"A sad story but not uncommon. I suppose she lived in the Lavender room?"
"Yes. It is called the Lavender room because Dorcas used lavender as a perfume. She kept dried lavender heads among her few clothes and used lavender water on herself. The lavender plants are still lining the front path."
"Janet. This is interesting but what about the haunting?"
"Josh told her he would return before he sailed. They hoped to get the vicar to marry them before he left for the Crimea. When he didn't visit before sailing Dorcas knew that she would have the baby before Josh came back. She couldn't face the disgrace. She went to the point to watch his ship depart and then threw herself into the sea. Although she could swim, she couldn't while wearing all the clothes a Victorian woman wore at that time. The Vicar and the Coroner at the inquest took the charitable view that she slipped, and her death was an accident. All the locals knew that it wasn't.
It is said that Dorcas' ghost is still waiting for Josh. Most of the time the Lavender room is perfectly normal. But when a man stays there..."
"I'm not Josh."
"Dorcas doesn't know that."
I decided that this story was just one of those traditions that still live in the countryside. I'd let Janet warn me of the dangers and ignore them. I couldn't see that the ghost of a maid was likely to frighten me.
"OK," I said. "Assume Dorcas thinks I'm Jonas. What happens to men who stay in that room?"
"It is serious, Ian, not a joke." Janet had detected the sarcasm in my voice.
"Then you had better tell me the worst, Janet, so that I'm prepared."
Janet looked at me as if unsure whether I really wanted to know. She sighed, sipped her tea, and said:
"First there is a smell of lavender in the room. Then Dorcas climbs into bed with the man..." Janet paused.
"And?" I asked, "this does sound interesting."
"Dorcas makes love. After several hours she seems to realise that he isn't Josh. She tries to kill him with even more energetic sex. If she isn't satisfied with his performance she drowns herself -- again, with realistic and grisly sound effects. The man is exhausted. Dorcas is an enthusiastic lover. The next morning the man usually needs assistance to get up and the room is strongly scented with lavender. One night is enough for most men. During the First World War a sergeant was here recovering from a gas attack. He was found dead."
"With a smile on his face?"
"You are incorrigible, Ian!" Janet protested. "Yes. He was smiling."
"Then I don't think I have much to fear from Dorcas. Apart from my leg I'm very fit. I know that an active woman can wear any man out but at the moment I'd welcome such an encounter. I have a year or so's abstinence to make up for."
"What about Maria?" Janet asked.
"What about Maria?" I repeated. "We haven't been in face to face contact for months. I suppose we will divorce when we have been apart long enough. In the UK it's three years isn't it? I don't know and I'm haven't bothered to find out. Marie said that she would make enquiries in Africa to see whether it would be easier there. I don't have a lover hidden away waiting for me, or anyone who cares about me. "
"That is sad, Ian."
"Yes, Janet, it is. Once we meant something to each other but we grew apart and the accident broke the fragile tie that was left. Now there is nothing. I need to start again. So does she."
Janet said nothing as she refilled my cup. She shook her head as if trying to remove something unpleasant.
"Be careful, Ian," she said at last. "Alan and Angela love you. I wouldn't want them hurt by your unhappiness. You are an easy target for a man-hunting woman and there are enough of them around here. Watch out for mantraps."
I laughed. The idea of me being pursued by women broke my sombre mood.
"The only mantrap I see around here is you, Janet. I could do far worse than court my sister-in-law's daily."
"Don't say things like that unless you mean them, Ian. Did you know that I am single again?"
"No! What happened?"
"He found a younger version in Plymouth. He left me three years ago. My divorce became final a few months ago."
"I'm sorry, Janet. He was a fool not to realise what he had."
I hobbled round the table to her, put my arms around her, and kissed the top of her head.
Alan and Angela returned with Sarah and the granddaughters, Cecily and Phoebe. Sarah said that the granddaughters wanted to see Great-Uncle Ian. I doubted that. Cecily and Phoebe rushed off to see Janet. I heard them rampaging around the house as we drank coffee. They did pop their heads around the door to give their aged relative a suspiciously jammy peck on the cheek but then they were off to run around the house again.
Sarah and the girls left shortly before dinner. All four of us sat down for the meal. Janet explained that she had sometimes stayed with Alan and Angela while her house was being finally decorated. She and her husband had sold the old large house and split the proceeds. Janet had a nearly renovated house that had been extended from an old cottage. Her husband had bought a terraced house in Plymouth.
After dinner we sat around drinking. I drank far too much of Alan's deceptively smooth old Port. When I reeled upstairs at the end of the evening Alan had to prop me up. After a quick wash I fell into the bed naked and passed out.
I stirred. I was still half-asleep dreaming of making love to Janet. She was slightly soft and cuddly and our love-making was slow and sensuous, unlike the frenzied energetic coupling that had been the norm with Maria.
What had woken me was someone climbing into bed alongside me. An arm reached across and stroked my chest. There was a strong scent of lavender.
"Dorcas?" I asked.
"Yes, Josh, who else would I be?"
Her Devon burr was much stronger than Janet's but she sounded similar. I could easily believe she was one of Janet's relations. Dorcas was heavier built and skin on her hands felt slightly rougher as they wandered over my chest.
Dorcas slid between me and the mattress.
"Come on, Josh," she purred, "Show me what a man can do."
I kissed her. Her mouth opened and her tongue slid into mine. I could feel the bump of her pregnancy, not yet large enough to impede lovemaking, but too large to hide.
Dorcas' arms wrapped around me. She pulled me up so that my erection was brushing against her pussy's hairs. She wriggled against me, spreading her legs as I began to enter her. Her hands grabbed my hips and pulled. I gasped as I slid deep into her.
"You can do better than that, Josh," Dorcas said. "I'll help."
Her legs wrapped around me and clamped against me. I was deeper into Dorcas than I had ever been in Maria. Dorcas and I pounded together harder and harder. My injured leg was throbbing with pain but the sexual excitement transcended it. The pain gradually subsided as the sensation of violent penetration and passive engulfment by a passionate woman overrode everything but our exhilaration. When I was almost on the point of emission Dorcas held back, relaxing her grip until the point of crisis passed, clamping hard again as soon as the near orgasm had gone.
She emitted faint yells and squeals as she reached her peak time and time again. The noise of our love-making probably couldn't be heard in the rest of the house, because Dorcas' excited responses were consciously muted.
I don't know how long that first coupling took. Once Dorcas allowed me to cum into her I slumped across her body, exhausted. My leg had become a dull ache. I rolled away. Dorcas followed, resting her head on my shoulder with a hand close, too close, to my worn out manhood.
I think I must have slept for some time. I woke to find Dorcas' hand stroking me to stiffness again. While she was still holding the important part of me, her face hovered over mine before kissing me long and hard.
This time she rode me. My hands sought her breasts, squeezed, stroked and caressed as her movements became more and more frenzied. It seemed as if she wanted to push me right through the mattress when she pounded downwards. The scent of lavender was even stronger as our bodies became heated.
Dorcas arched her back with a final squeal and shuddered. Her lower lips clamped hard around my stiff member, which was now too sore to ejaculate.
"You didn't cum, Josh," she said accusingly as she relaxed.
"I couldn't," I replied. "I'm too sore."
"Too sore? Not man enough, more like. You need to be all man for me, Josh."
"I'm not Josh," I dared to say.
"Not Josh? Where is he?"
"I'm sorry, Dorcas. He's dead. He died a long time ago. So did you."
"I'm dead? Then how can I do this?"
Her pussy clamped hard around my sore member.
"Ow! I don't know. But please be gentle..."
"But I like making love, often..."
"And apparently you can, but you're a ghost."
"A ghost who can feel you, and you can feel me?"
"I certainly can, Dorcas. You are wonderfully solid."
"If you aren't Josh, who are you?"
"I'm Ian, and I'm very pleased to meet you, Dorcas."
"If you are so pleased, Ian, why have you stopped?"
"Because I'm worn out and sore. I hadn't made love for months and..."
Dorcas' lips silenced me. She kissed me. As she did, her body squeezed again. Despite the soreness I felt an erection start to return.
"That's better. Hold on."
Dorcas pounded me again and again until I couldn't hold back. My whole being was centred on my erection that spurted deep into her. I slumped back.
"That's it? You're done?" Dorcas asked.
"For tonight? Probably yes. I'd need a rest before I could respond again."
"That isn't really good enough. You aren't up to Josh's stamina. He could make love all night long... Well perhaps not all night but more than you have."
"How old was Josh?"
"How old? Twenty-five I think. I'm twenty-three."
"That's the difference, Dorcas. I'm over forty."
"Over forty, Ian? That's really old."
"I feel it."
"Very well, Ian. I'll let you rest tonight, but I want more tomorrow night."
Dorcas asked me about how long it had been since Jonas died, what life was like now, and about me. We chatted for about a quarter of an hour. At the time it didn't seem odd to be talking to a ghost. Her warm, lavender-scented body was pressed against mine and felt wholly real.
Eventually I admitted that I was worn out. Dorcas kissed me.
"Sleep now," she said.
Dorcas snuggled against my shoulder. Her erect nipples dug into my chest. I was soon asleep.
When I woke up it was daylight. The bed showed the impression of Dorcas and there was still a very strong scent of lavender. If I hadn't felt so much pain, I could have believed it was a dream.
I found it difficult to get out of bed. My injured leg was stiff and sore. It took me a long time to wash and dress, hobbling around with my cane. I came down the stairs very slowly. There was no one around but there were noises from the kitchen. I went in.
"Hello Ian," Janet said. "Ready for breakfast? The others are on the school run..."
She turned to look at me as she spoke the last few words. She pulled out a chair beside the kitchen table.
"Sit down!" she ordered. "You look dreadful. What's wrong?"