** New Readers to this challenge: This is a serialized, continuous work. Please start with the first piece, Abysmally Yours. The AtoZ Blog Challenge began April 1st; ends April 30th. Thank you.
The Abysmal Dollhouse
Madelaine stood, transfixed, in front of the elaborate dollhouse. She had given scant acknowledgement to the store girl, breezing past her greeting. She was here only to waste time until lunch: she had been bored with the shops she passed by. This place caught her eye. First it was the sun reflecting off the window. No signage. No attempt to draw her in. Challenge, and accepted.
But now, taking off her Panthere de Cartier sunglasses, Madelaine wiped at her moisture falling, threatening to run down her face. The mascara stained her fingers. Closing her eyes, she took in ten precise breaths and slowly let them go, rouged mouth pursed. Placing her sunglasses back on, Madelaine opened her eyes, then her purse, found a moisture pad, and cleaned off her fingers. With the snap of her purse, she fixated on the replica in front of her.
Banff Springs Hotel. Stone facade, it’s many floors filled with windows. These were surrounded by artisan crafted trimming. She studied it from a variety of angles, finally settling onto the tower. Painter tower, named so for the architect who designed the remodeling of the main part of the hotel, with the addition of this tower…and which information she could not have cared less about, but for the droning of the hotel’s sales pitch. The information, now, was branded in her memory.
The Shopkeeper had kept her silence, watching the young woman’s intensity. Quietly, she walked over, reached across with a subdued “excuse me,” unlatched and opened the tower’s facepiece. She went back, retrieved her duster, and busied herself around the perimeter of the shoppe.
Madeline thought she heard the girl whisper “Hush,” but with no one else in the place, she felt she must be mistaken. She knew it was not directed towards her.
The Painter Tower had been built with the idea of hosting events and galas. Two glass encased ballrooms sat floors from each other near the top; the mountains looming around the site were a view to behold under any condition. Yet, that night, she had thought they were more than magnificent, the clear star-laden sky and shining moon felt magical. She felt it fit the way it should, for her, on her wedding night.
The bridal party’s room was on the floors beneath. Madelaine moved figures around, furniture, doors that noiselessly opened or closed. It was all so precise, so accurate. She felt tears welling again, but she tamped them down. Hard.
There. The Bride’s Suite. Expertly fitted. Full-length mirrors. Lighted vanities for hair and make-up. Wardrobe racks. Screens. Superbly crafted furniture that was, beyond expectation, comfortable. Including the settee. Including the champagne.
Madelaine walked over the to wardrobe rack. Her gown was still in its plastic sheath. She took off the covering, deposited her sunglasses on the closest vanity surface, and ran her fingers along the material of her gown: a Sophia Tolli, its sleeveless misty tulle, beaded lace, plunging neckline, and a scalloped lace hem. The pearl buttons down the lace back were exquisite.
Bringing it over to the mirrors, Madelaine held it up and fell in love with the dress all over again. She had to try it on.
She was down to her underwear, reaching around to unhook her bra when she heard the door behind her open. She froze. “No, no…not again,” she whispered to herself. Yet, the actions began their deja vu on steroids.
He came behind her, running his hands up and down her arms, her chest, nuzzling at her long neck, brushing her long auburn hair out of the way. She melted into his kisses, his caresses. Turning around to face him, she completed unhooking her bra and let it, and the dress, fall to the floor.
They made their way to the settee, leaving a trail of his clothes, her thong, along the way. Things progressed as they had before: just before she climaxed, the door to the suite was kicked in. Her fiancee was there, gun in hand, fury in his eyes. He glared daggers at his best friend, the woman he had loved, and after only a moment barreled into the room.
A shot was fired. Madelaine ran, snatching up the man’s shirt off the floor. She ran, the noise of the fighting propelled her. Another gunshot echoed, the noise amplified in the empty hallway, the staircase she fled up towards the ballroom.
She was winded, scared out of her being, but she had enough sense to try to find a place to hide. The lights in the room were off, but the star and moonlight lit up the room in a stark searchlight. Patches of shadows broke up the natural glow; she dove for the largest area in shadow. The far corner.
Madelaine smelled the smoke as it wafted up the main staircase. Her fiancee had started the fire in the Bridal Suite after he killed her sometimes lover. He had raced up the steps to find her, pointing the gun at her, threatening to kill her, then him. She, clad only in a shirt, had rushed him in her fear and anger at what he had done…what she had done. She pushed him, hard. Clutching her arm, they both tumbled down the staircase towards the growing blaze below.
But he had broken his neck, and she escaped down the second stairway down the hall. She gave no reason why two bodies, why the gunshots, how the fire began. Everyone consoled her, but they knew. They knew. Many let her know by their distance, their silence.
This time, though, hiding in the shadow, her fiancee did not appear at the top of the stairs, did not overwhelm in the doorway to the ballroom. The fire crept in his place, the room getting smokier and hotter. Madelaine began to cough. She stood, watching the flames leap up the stairs in the short distance, traveling along furniture, material, walls, ceiling, carpeting. The way she had originally survived was a furnace, now.
Madelaine began coughing deeper, more painfully. She was just leaving the once shadowed corner when a pair of hands grabbed her from behind. She yelped as the fingers dug into her arms, her breasts. Hot air ran up and down her neck, onto her shoulders, and she was forcibly turned around, the shirt torn off and tossed to the floor.
The Unfolding Doll held her with the inferno of the ballroom surrounding them. The doll, with her dark ringlet hair, button eyes, stitched linen hands, arms, and legs; behind Madelaine’s back, if she would have been in front of the three-way bridal mirror, would have seen the long, sharp blade that was reflecting the dancing flames of the room.
Madeline, tear-streaked face, coughing lungs, was guided around the ballroom dance floor by the Unfolding Doll. Try as she might, and she had little left inside of her, Madelaine could not break free of the doll’s leading steps.
She realized, as the slicing pain that she began to feel in her back, this…this was their first dance.
And it was her last.
The AtoZ Blog Challenge
During the month of April, 2018, the challenge requires that we write 26 posts, starting with the letter A on April 1st (yes, it’s not an April Fool’s Day joke) and ending with Z on Monday, April 30th. A week or so later, there will be a reflection post that will wrap up this experience, for me as well as my readers.
*I’ve decided to reblog past Abysmal Dollhouse stories on Sundays since we’re not required to write those days. The reblog will not correspond to any specific letter. Just thought you might enjoy some of the previous entries that I’m fond of.
The Banff Springs Hotel can be found in Alberta, Canada. There are a few stories of ghost attributed to the location, but the one that caught my imagination was the Bride on Fire, who can sometimes be found in the ballroom, dancing. From that, I came up with the above. This is a work of fiction, and I took fiction writing liberties with all of it but the ghost rumor: I have no idea if there was a fire in the Painter Tower, I have no clue where the ballroom, bridal suite(s), or anything else is in the place. As to the Bride on Fire, this is as good a reason as any for her story.
Until she tells me otherwise during our dance.