Behind the gates at Everley the garden languished in the moonlight. “Come this way” said Donovan, holding out his hand. Elise took it, reluctantly. She was uncertain of Donovan.
On paper he seemed perfect for her. In looks as well. But there was something about him that she couldn’t put her finger on. He was courteous, always a gentleman.
He still believed in things like opening doors for her and he felt her opinions were important.
After the disaster of her last relationship, she had to admit that she’d been flattered by the attention. She couldn’t say when things had changed but something wasn’t right.
He’d asked her to his family home for the weekend. He felt their relationship was at the point that he’d like to introduce her to his family.
Elise had expected a classic country house but Donovan’s family home was closer to Wuthering Heights than the quiet retreat she’d been picturing.
They’d arrived that afternoon. She’d been fine really until they drove through the wrought iron gates. And since then her uneasiness had only grown.
His parents were gone when they’d arrived but Donovan assured her they’d be back in time for dinner.
And now, having seen the house, she revised her preconception of his parents from country types to gothic romantics.
Elise studied Donovan as he led her through the darkened garden. The temperature was cooling rapidly and a thin frost had begun to form on some of the statuary.
He was handsome in the moonlight. He had those dark, somewhat Victorian looks that had always appealed to her. Her hand felt warm in his and she was, for the moment, comforted.
“You have a lot of beautiful sculptures here,” she said.
“Yes, it is very well represented,” he replied. She wondered just how long the home had been in the family and pictured generations adding to the garden.
It had been spectacular in the daylight and she had to admit that it had a certain charm in the moonlight as well. “Just over here,” Donovan said. “We’re almost there.”
They came round a bend where hedges formed an entrance to another section of the garden.
And as they stooped under a trellis where wisteria trailed lazily Elise thought what a pretty location it would be for a wedding. Inwardly she rolled her eyes at herself.
Which was he, a soon-to-be-ex or marriage material? As she pushed the wisteria aside she was met by a fairy garden alive with night blooming flowers.
The air was scented with them and Elise forgot her misgivings. “It’s magical,” she whispered. “It’s my favourite part of the garden,” said Donovan.
“My brother Tom and I used to come out here and tell ghost stories when we were younger.”
“How perfect,” Elise breathed. She bent to smell each flower. Some she recognized, some not but they were all creamy blossoms of white and she couldn’t help but be enchanted.
She picked a tiny cluster of white star-shaped flowers and tucked it behind her ear. “There. Now I look the part of the fairy princess,” she said smiling. “Indeed you do,” Donovan replied.
He cupped her cheek in his hand. “You are different than other girls aren’t you Elise?”
“I don’t know,” she laughed. “I suppose it depends on the context but I am exceedingly romantic.” She walked on ahead of him trailing her hand through the foliage as she went.
When they reached the house his parents were waiting. They were not as sinister as Elise believed they would be. Just a normal couple in their late 50’s living in a mansion.
They sat down to a lovely meal but by the time dessert was served Elise began to feel decidedly unwell.
“I’m so sorry,” she said putting a hand to her forehead, “I don’t know what’s come over me. I think it might be best for me to lie down. But thank you so much for the lovely supper.”
“Of course, my dear, I’m so sorry,” said Donovan’s mother with genuine concern. “Please don’t be sorry,” said Elise. “I’m sure I’ve just had too much of your excellent cooking.”
She followed Donovan up the winding staircase clutching the railing for support as her stomach clamped down on itself with sharpened fangs of agony.
“Should I phone for mother’s doctor,” asked Donovan. Elise shook her head. “I think I’ll be ok if I can just lie down.”
But after an hour when the pain had not subsided in the least she gave in. “Please, if you could phone the doctor,” she said, sweat beading on her upper lip.
“I feel like something is really wrong.” She groaned as another spasm of pain ripped through her stomach and turned over onto her side.
When the doctor arrived Donovan was waiting for him in the foyer. He led the doctor upstairs and not a word was exchanged between them.
The doctor sat on the edge of the bed and picked up the patient’s wrist. He looked down at his watch and pulled out a pen and a pad of forms from his bag. ‘Time of death’, he wrote, ’11:45’.
“Really Donovan, this has got to stop,” the doctor said.
“I know uncle but I find it so hard to resist. Besides I have the perfect spot picked out for a new statue. She’ll look lovely beside the Jasmine, don’t you agree? “