Chapter 4

The rain persisted.

Following  a late breakfast, she returned to her room and dropping down on the bed, snuggled beneath the quilt, listening to the rain pattering against the window panes.

When she opened her eyes, the rain was still pattering against the windows and her Mickey Mouse clock showed the time: three-twenty five. Sue was aghast. “I’ve slept most of the day away!”.

Watching from the window, she saw Colin returning from somewhere. He glanced up and she waved, thinking about the early morning activies she had witnessed. Was he involved in something illegal?.

That evening, wearing a long, thick sweater, Sue closed her bedroom door behind her. There was a pleasant floral scent lingering on the stairs.

She strolled back up the hill to the Merryn Star, passing the pretty crooked cottages and the two small shops on the Main Street.

Pushing open the pub door she was overwhelmed by the sudden hush that fell over the crowded room as all turned to stare at her. Sue did not recognise one face.  The talk resumed and she pushed her way through to the bar. The landlord, Charlie Veryan, grinned at her.  His wife, an attractive woman with dark hair and a carefully made up face handed a beer over Sue’s head to a man standing behind her.”

Sue looked about, asking after Tom. Mrs Veryan gestured across the room. “He’s over there”.

Tom Pearce was a tall, spare old man who walked unsteadily due to a lame leg but his craggy face was full of warmth, smiling at her as she slid in beside him. Sue instructed Charlie Veryan to fill Tom’s tankard while he chewed on his pipe. “I’ve lived all me life at Portmerryn.  Family been here for generations, you know. I used to be a fisherman many years ago but now I be a man of leisure”. He grinned, showing uneven teeth. “Got me a live-in housekeeper and cook”, and winked boyishly.

“Mr. Pearce, I’d love to hear about the history of Portmerryn …”  Tom sucked on his pipe. ” I be here most evenings,be glad to tell you what I know, miss. but not tonight. Got to get home for me supper’.

Outside again Sue breathed in the fresh air, glad that the rain had stopped. Staring out across the wall at the sea beyond,  she surrended to an overwhelming loneliness.

Back at the quay her thoughts were of Liam. Watching the lights along the far coastline, and the moon’s reflection on the water’s surface, she hugged the ache within her. He felt close.  The entire village seemed full of him. Yet he was nowhere. Still the very air smelt of his presence.

The bliss of sleep eluded her again and she spent the early hours tossing and turning restlessly.   She was obsessed with thoughts of Liam. He had beaten her, had wanted to kill her and still he filled her mind. Throwing back the bedcovers she went to stand by the window watching the harbour lights. The air was full of a sharp flowery scent and while she listened to the silence outside finally it reached deep inside her and she began to grow drowsy.

The night grew into a torment of horror as she tossed from one nightmare to another. Helplessly she was forced to witness a scene she had seen several times before;

she was drowning, struggling bravely but in vain, against the storm ravaged sea. A brief spot of light flickered on the harbour steps and making one, final desperate effort to live, she threw herself weakly against the oncoming walls of water. She recognised the shadowy outline of a man on the quay steps, a lantern held high in his hand, behind him the dark shape of the Fishermens Rest. The water was closing over her head again as she summoned her breath to scream his name: LYAM! Her strength was fading and the movement of the tide tossed her like some rag doll to the surface. He plunged into the churning waters. She knew she was clinging on to life, waiting for him.  As his hand grasped a handful of her hair dragging her  up out of the water, she slipped away into oblivion.

Sue lay quietly, recognising the bedroom at the Fishermens Rest. After a moment she swung her legs over the edge of the bed. At the window she peered  out at the clear calm of the April night; moonlight and tranquillity. The water in the harbour was still, not violent and churned like in her nightmare. She had dreamt Portmerryn’s harbour before ever seeing it.

It had been the same dream she had dreamt several times before yet for a moment on waking, Sue believed it had really happened; actually happened to her!

Crawling into her bed, she curled up. She was trembling. Finally, as the pink hue of dawn arrived she slept, this time dreamlessly and awoke feeling refreshed.

Skipping breakfast, she stopped off at the grocery store to buy some fruit, calling at the Post Office, which doubled as a General Store and confectioners, to pick up a map of the area. The map depicted many rambles and cliff walks. Carefully noting the particular one she wanted, Sue set out along the Cliff Road leading out of the village. Soon she was trailing the sea climbing to where the yellow gorse was thickest. Glancing back, the harbour lay far below; the Fishermens Rest little more than a dolls house.  Moving on Sue passed bushes of evergreens, following wooden fences, stepping across styles, always looking upwards where the gorse grew dense and yellow.

Seeing the half hidden footpath, she pushed at the broken gate which creaked rustily. With one last tentative glance behind at the far spread vista below, the placid sea moving in over the soft sands, Sue took a bite of the apple and forged on. The sun was high; sky blissfully blue. Her progress was slow tracking the concealed footpath up into the heavy foliage. The path cleared making the climb easier. Looking back over her shoulder she was astonished by the sheer drop behind. If she were to stumble and fall back … In her mind’s eye she pictured a girl’s body bouncing like a rag doll onto the jagged rocks below.

The footpath ended abruptly in a dense growth of trees and bushes. Pushing  hard, Sue forced her way between the branches which snapped tightly behind her like a brace. Heady perfumes filled her nostrils. Reaching for a solid branch engorged with richleaves and pink blossoms, she  dragged it aside, lifting her head at the same time.

Beyond the abundance of colour and perfumes from the amassed trees and shrubs all stirring gently in the soft breeze, was the most spectacular building – was it a castle? A manor house …

Edging closer Sue noted the sun shining full upon its many windows, the twin towers climbing up towards the peaceful skies, and the turrets and columns gleaming a sparkling white. The main door was of heavy oak, the hinges and locks brass and copper.She knew this without examining further. Just as she knew the young servants  briskly polished the brass trimming early each morning before the family awakened. The mansion was no more then twenty yards ahead while the sound of the sea could be heard lapping at the rocks below.  There was no sound from the house yet Sue was convinced there were people within. Abruptly the sun disappeared, replaced by a distinct chill, the sky suddenly low with clouds, heavy with rain. Stepping back into the thick undergrowth, she lowered her head to avoid the low slung branches and when she looked up again the house had disappeared.

Turning frantically to left and right, pushing aside trees and flowers, she could find no trace of the beautiful house. All that remained was a mass of ruins: columns of corroding brick and granite, some walls almost intact but minus the impressive twin towers, mere shapes of crumbling brick with cut-outs instead of gleaming latticed windows.  Now only a collection of old stones where a moment earlier had stood an elegant mansion in all its ancient splendour basking in her admiration. She had SEEN it.  Yet it was not there now and a ruin proved it had not been a house for centuries.  The ruin stood where moments earlier she had looked upon the magnificence of Rosmerryn Towers..

With heart thumping  she tried to compose her frantic thoughts. Through the trees she could see the ruins. Taking a deep breath, she chided herself sternly: “Sue Graham. You are twenty-nine years old. Stop behaving like a baby. It’s only bricks and mortar”.

So with a determined step she approached the ruins of RosmerrynTowers.

Stepping through the weeds and overgrown grass, Sue neared the outline of what had earlier been the main oak door. Dwarfed by the size of the ruined wall looming above her, she remained calm. Perhaps she had not seen the house. Perhaps it had been just an optical illusion.  Gradually she began to absorb a deep peace from the crumbling stone; she began to feel at one with the ruins.  Lightly running her fingers over the crumbling bricks she moved through into what remained of the Main Hall. The sky filled the space where the roof had once been while the house surrounded her, protecting her. She looked about, knowing with an irrational instinct where the Great Stairway had once swung up to the Minstrels Gallery. Her gaze followed the gallery as if she could see it, pausing at what would have been the first bedroom, then the next but the room at the end of the corridor sent a tremor through her body. It was as if an icy wind wrapped itself about her. Moving further into the ruins she stared fixedly towards the North East Wing, a choking sensation filling her throat.   Turning to leave she faced a broken section of the wall and knew this wall would have led down to the servants hall, to the gardens and out to the cliffs.   Carefully edging closer she wished that more of the old house had remained. It had once been so beautiful.

Beyond the broken wall was nothing except more overgrown weeds and finally the cliffs.

As she walked around the corroding stones, she imagined herself walking through a door into the stables.  When the pain came it was so fierce she cried out, clutching at her chest.  For a moment she was unable to move, then as if an invisible force pushed her, Sue began to run wildly towards the cliff edge. Even as she ran, the wind whipping at her hair, she feared she was about to throw herself from the cliffs yet was powerless to stop. Dropped to her knees sobbing, at the very edge, her heart felt as if it was breaking.

She could not live without him. Sweet Jesus, bring him back to me.

The thought was so clear, it was as if someone had spoken the words aloud.

Lifting  her head, she saw the tiny footpath leading down into the cliffs and without stopping to think  went on down the path, sliding and slipping, stumbling and bouncing on her butt until the end of the path toppled her down onto the sand, onto the tiny beach the villagers of Portmerryn called GOLVA, and which they warned was dangerous.

Still clutching her shoulder bag, trembling violently, she glanced up at the cliffs, trying to reason with herself: she had been a victim of an optical illusion.  The sun in her eyes, the trees and the flowers, had all helped create a vision.  Possibly a vision of a house she had seen somewhere. Now safely back on the ground, the soft sand in her toes, Sue concentrated on that reasoning, blocking out the earlier ‘optical illusion’ of the big green ship at anchor in the harbour on the day she had arrived.  She was also blocking out the “feeling” which had forced her down to the cliff edge.

The water was rising but it was still possible to walk across the tiny inlet to the harbour of Portmerryn.

Scrambling up the side of the quay, ripping her denims and breaking her nails, she found herself the main attraction as a group of villagers stood discussing the afternoon weather until this unlikely creature hurled herself over the quay wall back onto land.  Standing up, she  brushed the sand from her tattered knees, and smiled hesitantly at the faces who gaped in astonishment. With a shrug she explained. “I got caught by the tide”.

Sore and battered, Sue needed a stiff drink but the Peverells were out.  Stretching out on the bed she thought over her experience up at the ruins.  Had the sudden decision to leave Liam unhinged her mind? Was she experiencing some form of a breakdown?  Sue remembered a friend of Liam’s who had suffered a mental breakdown and had claimed to have been in touch with Elvis Presley – even insisted he had gone to Graceland, the home of Elvis, one night.  He said Elvis had come to guide him and they had travelled there flying through the night together – simply holding hands!

Was this happening to her. Was she losing her mind?

Whilst dwelling on these fears she became aware of sounds coming from the store room. But she knew she was alone in the building. Opening her door carefully, she peered out, listening. A man’s laughter. Someone was in there! Moving carefully, she edged towards the Store Room. Tentatively turning the handle she stepped into the darkened room.  As her eyes grew accustomed to the darkness she saw the outline of a bed pushed against the wall beneath the window. A figure was lounging back against the pillow. The shadows moved; he turned to stare straight at her. Sue immediately recognised his sardonic grin and the whiteness of his teeth as he leaned closer, reaching for her. A scream froze in her throat as she backed up against the door, her fingers groping for the light switch. Her heart pounded wildly as the flare of the light bulb flooded the room.

Only a table, piled high with clean laundry stood by the window. Visibly shaken Sue staggered back further, away from the table which had just been a bed.  “I am definitely losing my mind”, still aware of the subtle lavender perfume Velda used for her linens.

That evening at the Merryn Star she squeezed in beside Tom Pearce and without preamble asked him about the ruins and the stories of hauntings. The old man chuckled.  “You been nosing about, have ye, me handsone?”.

“I was up there this afternoon”, she admitted reluctantly. “And the Peverells told me some folk believe the ruins are haunted”. He was staring at her intensely. “Did you like it up there?”.

“It was breathtaking”. Sue decided that was no lie. “But when I strolled through the ruins it felt a bit spooky.  Velda said there’s a ghost.  Is there?”

“Of course”.  Tom nodded.

“You’ve seen it!”

Sue’s astonishment made him smile “Most likely all the village seen her some time or another.  Mostly on bad nights, when the winds are screaming and the sea be wild. That’s when she stands on them cliffs and watches”.

Sue felt her skin begin to crawl again. “Who does?”.

“The Lady, of course.  She wears a long cloak.  It flaps about in the wind, and her hair – why, it be like ripened corn itself, all tossed and turned in the rain.  The Lady stands up there – watching and waiting

“But Tom …” began Sue startled “You can’t believe that”. By now a small group had gathered about them and one man grinned at her.     “Ol’ Tom, he do believe it”. The others nodded good naturedly, used to the old man’s ravings. Tom smiled blandly, his aged eyes on the girl beside him.       “and it be the truth too”.

“But who is she?”.

“She be the Lady of the Manor, that who she be”. Tom was nodding to himself. “She be the Lady Carenza”. Sue’s smile shone “Carenza.  What a beautiful name”.

“And she be beautiful”. Tom added, puffing on his pipe. “But that be all a long time ago. More than two hundred years since. There be no more Rosmerryn nowadays.”

Sue was remembering the gate where Dave had found her that first afternoon.  The Rosmerryn Estate.

“Why does the Lady watch from the cliffs?”

Turning  in his chair, the old man eyed Sue strangely. “Only herself knows the answer to that. There be many stories but who knows the true one.”  Sue was thoughtful. “Tom, did any of your ancestors in those days know the Rosmerryns.?” His dark eyes stared hard into Sue’s green gaze. “The Pearce family they be always tenants of the Rosmerryns, miss. Why, t’is said that one of ’em worked for the Lady Carenza, herself, staying with her right up until the end”. Sue smiled brilliantly. “Just imagine all the stories he could have told us. If only he had written it all down.”

Tom squinted, his aged eyes glinting. “P’haps someone did.”

That night Sue relived her nightmare.  She was drowning while Liam watched from the harbour steps.

Waking in a cold sweat, she lay quietly in the double bed as the room’s temperature dropped until she was forced to jump out of bed to close the window. The big ship was outlined against the night sky.  She had not heard them unloading this time.  Usually their voices and the sharp thud of the packing cases on the stone ground penetrated her sleep.  She watched the big green ship with a feeling close to affection. At the same time something niggled at the back of her mind. Suddenly, feeling someone close behind her, she spun around. The room was empty. Nervously, her gaze slid up to the cliffs but there was no figure in a long cloak standing up there.  Switching on the light, Sue sat on the edge of her bed thinking seriously about ghosts. Even as her thoughts steadied she knew she would not speak them aloud. The villagers might humour Tom Pearce because of his age but what they think of her?. Lying still, she spoke into the darkness. “Who is it? What do you want?” .As if in reply the window slammed shut. Jerking upright she peered through the darkness. She had closed the window a few moments earlier. She was sure she had. Then her courage failed her and she grabbed the light switch.

The rest of the night passed peacefully and she slept – with the light on, but before she slept, and while thinking about the ship outside, she recalled Colin Peverell’s words:

You wont find a green ship around here. Its a Portmerryn superstition”

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