Marigold had lived alone in that mansion. She was only sixteen.
A part of me wanted to say something, but another, larger part said it was none of my business. After all, her father was incredibly famous and her mother incredibly infamous, so his death and her leaving was bound to bring attention. If, after all of that, she was still allowed to live alone, who was I to interfere?
Even so, as I dusted and washed and straightened such a great mansion, I often felt something was off.
Of course, there was always something off. Marigold’s mother had left her when she was only a little girl, and with a maid, no less! These are things that happen with men, not women, though I suppose I am generalizing. I’ll admit, I wasn’t with the Strainer family for long. After what happened with you-know-who, Mr. Strainer switched maids often. But when I did come into the picture, while he was still alive, Marigold seemed fine. Happy.
She’d just…talk to herself sometimes. And act like someone was answering her.
It wasn’t my place to say anything. I kept my mouth shut. It’s only talking, after all. Abnormal, but not harmful.
After Mr. Strainer had his stroke is when that changed, I’m afraid.
I rarely got to see Marigold anymore. She often locked herself in her room. She told me I wasn’t allowed to clean it anymore.
The few times I did see her, it was usually when darkness started to fall and she came down for a meal. I would try to keep things pleasant. Try to keep some semblance of normalcy.
She’d ignore me, opting to speak some invisible figure next to her instead.
Now, I realize that her father had only just died at the time and this could be her way of mourning. That’s why I still hadn’t said a word, allowing her to keep talking to her imaginary friend.
Before I continue, can you promise me one thing? Promise you won’t believe me crazy. I swear, I’m not. I know what I saw, what I heard, and I’m certain it’s all real. Perhaps there’s a simple explanation, sure, but real nonetheless.
Do you swear? Alright then.
See…as time went on, I started realizing that maybe her imaginary friend wasn’t so imaginary.
Ridiculous, I know. I mean, she was speaking to absolutely nothing. But just because one sees nothing doesn’t mean nothing is there.
A couple months had passed after Mr. Strainer’s death. Marigold was still depressed, of course, but came out of her room more often. I still wasn’t allowed in there, but I was happy enough to see her face.
She acknowledged me sometimes, nodding a greeting. Rarely, if she was in a better mood, she’d even say “Hello”. But most of her words were for her friend.
One day, I came in to hear the stereo playing. Mr. Strainer always liked having loud music on to either pump himself up for a work out or prepare for a party. This wasn’t his usual hip-hop and R&B music, though. Instead, it was classical, ballroom music.
I peeked into the work out room to find all of the equipment moved to the side. I saw Marigold in there, dancing, waltzing, by herself. I smiled at first, making sure to stay quiet. It was the happiest I had seen her.
But then, she was lifted into the air.
My jaw had dropped. I thought I must have been tired or hungry. Surely, she didn’t just float in the air like that, in such a way that she appeared to be carried.
I continued to watch and saw it happen again and again and again. As if something, or someone, was holding her up, spinning her, and placing her gently down.
It has to be her friend, right? Or perhaps a ghost? Maybe Marigold had had a sixth sense.
But wait, I’m not finished yet.
One night, I had accidentally left my phone in the mansion. I’m not much of a technical person and don’t use my phone too often, so I didn’t realize until eleven o’clock at night. Once I did, though, I rushed back as soon as I could and rang the doorbell.
There was no answer at first. I risked ringing it once more, calling to let Marigold know it was me. If she doesn’t answer, I would just go back home and retrieve it tomorrow.
But then I heard the door unlock.
It didn’t open, but I risked the knob anyhow. I hope this confession doesn’t get me incarcerated. I mean, what else am I supposed to think after I hear such a familiar click?
I open the door and step in. Marigold isn’t there. The house is dark and feels empty. In the dead of night, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were ghosts there.
I called out again, in case Marigold was nearby. I let her know that I had left my phone and that I would quickly look for it and be out of her hair in a second. There was no answer.
I crept around, trying to think of where my phone could be. I usually kept it in my apron pocket to avoid situations like this, but I sometimes take it out while doing wet chores like dishes, to keep it from getting soaked. More likely than not, it would be in the kitchen, so that was where I started.
At first, I didn’t see it. I searched all over the counters and tables, with the lights on, mind you, and I couldn’t find it anywhere.
I turned to take my search to the living room when I heard a small clatter.
I turn back and there it was. My phone. On a counter I just deemed empty not even a moment before.
I took the phone and called out to Marigold, but I knew it couldn’t have been her. I had turned too quickly; it would have been impossible for her to get out of the way so fast.
I suppose that’s when I finally resigned that the house didn’t just contain me and Marigold after all.
Yes, I still didn’t say anything. What’s a harmless spirit going to do? After all, it seemed to be making Marigold feel better.
In fact, I even started speaking to it myself. When I left, I would say to the air, “I’m not forgetting anything, am I?” And if I was, I would hear the lightest of a clatter and whatever I was forgetting would be somewhere behind me. Table, floor, wherever the spirit could sneak it.
Even now, after what happened, I don’t think the spirit evil. It was such a good little helper.
The day it happened, Marigold had been in one of her bad moods, locked herself in her room again. I was used to it by now. I had wanted to do laundry that day and started putting clothes out on the line. The Strainers didn’t own a dryer; they were an eco-friendly type of family. Always recycling and saving on water and food.
Anyhow, a surprise thunderstorm came that day. I rushed outside to get the clothes off the line as fast as I can only to find them, not only off the line, but folded and put neatly in piles on the kitchen counter.
More miracles like that happened that day. I’d leave a task for a second and come back to see it finished. It certainly made my job easier. It got to the point where I could actually leave early.
I asked if I forgot anything, confirmed that I didn’t, and as I tried to leave out the door, I felt as if something grabbed my arm. Like it had wanted me to stay.
And I did, for a while. After the little spirit had helped me so much, who was I to refuse a request. I wandered around the house, doing any little cleaning I could so that if Marigold came out, she didn’t think it strange that I was here doing nothing.
Eventually, it came my usual time to leave. I have young children and had to get back to them. But again, as I reached the front door, I felt that pressure on my arm, as if something was grabbing it.
A part of me wish I listened, but another part thinks that it wouldn’t have mattered. Maybe I would have died too.
It doesn’t seem right that it was Marigold who started the fire. Like I said, I think she was starting to get better. But it can’t be the spirit either. They knew it was going to happen. They were trying to keep it from happening. I’m sure of it.
I suppose that’s my story. I’m afraid it’s mostly ghost drivel. I apologize if it’s not useful.
Hm? No, I’m afraid I didn’t pay much attention to what Marigold had said to her friend. It seemed personal. I heard her father’s name mentioned some. Her mother’s name mentioned lots. But no more than that.
No, never. Though she was young, I was still an employee. She told me to stay out of her room, so I did.
Is that so? How frightening!
I suppose we won’t know the truth anyhow. A beautiful mansion, burnt to a crisp.
I hope the spirit is alright, at least. If it turns out it was Marigold’s imaginary friend, do you suppose they are dead as well?
Is that true?
So then there’s hope yet!
And here I…my goodness!
Thank you so much. Will that be all that you need from me?
Very well. It’s been a pleasure speaking with you.
Will you let me know if you find anything? Especially if you find Marigold, dead or alive.
I will be taking my leave now.
I found this story in my Scrivener files and figured “why not just throw it up here?” A lot of details are unclear. I’m not even sure what was said to the maid at the end (maybe that Marigold’s body hadn’t been found and is possibly alive?). But I’m 99% certain that this is based off The Screaming Skull by F. Marion Crawford and a Sims 3 game I had played. Inspiration can be found in the strangest places.
I have no plans to expand on this as of yet, but I DO actually like the idea of a maid chronicling strange events of a rich teenager and her spirit friend. Maybe in the future when I don’t already have quite so many projects (this will never happen).
Also, sorry for grammar and spelling mistakes! I know I have some tense issues, but I opted not to edit this one. For some stories, I think it’s nice to leave them unedited and put ’em up as is~