The Monroe Mansion
Late in the afternoon, Don Monroe’s younger brother Ash, his wife Bailey, and their 11-year-old son Hunter, had finally arrived at the Monroe Mansion. The three all looked jaded from the long flight from countryside Tarah Maven as they stood in the front passage inside the mansion with their luggage.
Don hadn’t arrived home from work yet so his mother-in-law, May Maverick, took it upon herself to welcome the family into the house. Rea, Don’s wife, also came to the front passage to see them, but with a different intention in mind.
From the moment Rea saw Ash, she didn’t take her eyes off him. With her kittenish gestures and flirty grinning, it was obvious that she was trying to grab his attention.
Old May was visibly disgusted while Ash, the unfortunate target, looked completely uncomfortable. As for Bailey, she was so ready to slap Rea right then and there.
On previous family gatherings, Bailey and Rea never got along because Rea always had something to say about Bailey’s modest clothes or her laid-back dietary choices or even the way she pronounced certain words.
Even as they stood in the hallway, with May trying to start a conversation, Bailey clearly wasn’t interested in socializing with Rea.
“Let me show you your rooms.” May quickly offered, in an attempt to prevent an altercation between young Bailey and her senseless, 40-something year old daughter, Rea.
Ash chuckled, “No need to show me the way. I still remember where my room is. After all, I grew up in this house.”
“Okay, then, head upstairs while I take Hunter to his room. You can leave your bags here and Malibu, our helper, will bring them upstairs.” May instructed.
Bailey immediately brushed past Rea and went upstairs, with Ash following behind her. May gave Rea a really long, disapproving stare.
“What?” Rea saucily questioned, rolling her eyes.
May watched with distaste as her daughter rudely flipped her blonde hair over her shoulder and sauntered away.
The elderly lady then turned her attention to Hunter who was patiently waiting for her to take him to his room.
She led Hunter up the stairs and through a series of confusing hallways, making sure to point out which places he was not to go but dear, little Hunter had gotten too excited about exploring the grand house to listen.
They ended up at the end of a dim hallway that had three doors that all looked alike. May opened one of them and they entered to a brightly colored room.
“Wow!” Hunter marveled at the dainty room with its multicolored walls and star-pattern curtains.
A huge star-shaped mirror, framed with little bulbs, hung above two dressers. On top of the dressers were music awards and a stack of CDs.
Right away, Hunter knew that the room must have belonged to Alma Monroe, his 23-year-old cousin. Alma had always been the ‘musical one’ in the family.
Perhaps, the most obvious indication of who the room belonged to was the large poster on the wall of Alma wearing a blue wig, holding a microphone.
“This is your room from now on.” May abruptly informed him.
“But isn’t this Alma’s room? Gran, where is Alma?” Hunter questioned, taking his eyes off the peculiar poster of his cousin.
May was oddly uncomfortable with the questions.
“Alma is… She’s around.” May uneasily replied to Hunter. “Why don’t you go ahead and unpack. I’ll be in my room, which is just next door, so knock there when you’re done unpacking.”
“Hmm… Okay.” Hunter replied as May left. He was sure Gran was hiding something and he was curious to find out what.
Hunter didn’t bother with his luggage. He was too excited about the mansion to do boring, old unpacking. Besides, he could unpack at any time. He was there to stay so there was no rush.
The mansion was full of long hallways and interesting corners that Hunter hadn’t seen in his brief visits to the mansion with his parents and so, he left his luggage by the bed and went to explore the mansion.
By opening every door and peeking out wide windows, Hunter easily found his way around.
At the far end of a hallway, Hunter found a home gym. From wall to wall, everything in the gym looked brand new, except for a wooden staircase positioned at the back.
“Another floor?” Hunter wondered. He wanted to know right away so he climbed up the old staircase.
Upstairs, there was nothing but an empty, stony room with another staircase leading up. It was dark and the windows were too dusty to let much sun in but Hunter wasn’t scared at all.
He was about to go up the next set of stairs when he heard a loud cough come from above.
Petrified, Hunter hastily headed for the stairs down but stopped when he heard sniffling coming from above.
“Hello?” He called out. There was no response. In fact, it was even quieter than before.
Deciding to take a brave chance, Hunter went up the stairs. To his surprise, he found a nice little room with an acoustic guitar in one corner. There was a wall full of posters of some pop star and in front of it, a single bed on which his beloved cousin Alma sat.
“Alma!” Hunter cheered as he jumped onto the bed beside her and hugged her tight.
“Hey there, Hunter. You came to visit me?” Alma asked weakly as she embraced her cousin, her long, blonde, tresses covering his face.
“Visiting? No, better. I’m going to be living here from now on with my mom and dad.” Hunter proudly announced. “But Granny said that I’ll be staying in your room. Is that okay with you?”
“Yes, it’s okay. I don’t live down there anymore.” Alma told him.
“Why not? Don’t you like your room? Are you afraid of the monsters under the bed? Is that why you live up here? My mom told me that monsters can’t climb stairs.” Hunter informed Alma in all seriousness.
Alma laughed to tears, realizing that Bailey probably told him that to get him to sleep at night.
“Of course, Hunter, that’s why.” She said between giggles, wiping away a tear.
“Alma, will you come out to play with me tomorrow? Please?” Hunter pleaded, winking like he usually did when he wanted something.
“I can’t leave this place, Hunter.” Alma gloomily replied, “But I promise that we’ll have lots of fun whenever you visit me up here, as long as you don’t tell anyone that I’m here, okay? Promise me?”
“I promise!” Hunter enthused.
“Then we have a deal.” Alma said as she squeezed him into another hug.
“Yay!” Hunter cheered.
“I’m going to go explore the rest of the house. Bye-bye Alma!” Hunter joyfully said before he jumped off the bed and ran off.
In the evening, Don arrived home from work. As part of his usual routine, Don headed straight to the home office from the moment he got into the house. On his way to the home office, he saw his younger brother in a hallway upstairs and was struck with immense emotion.
It was like the two brothers had never been apart. They bear-hugged and then started chatting as if they were just picking up from an old conversation.
“How are Hunter and Bailey?” Don asked.
“Hunter is alright. He’s probably running around somewhere, tiring out May. Bailey is a little cranky these days.” Ash playfully told him.
“Any reason why?” Don asked.
“Yeah, I think it’s those homemade hair products she keeps making.” Ash said, leaning in closer to Don, “I think they’re seeping into her brain and making her crazy.”
Don laughed heartily, “When you’ve been married that long, you go a little stir-crazy that way.”
Ash went on to talk about how the neighborhood has changed since he left over a decade ago. Soon enough, Rea showed up to join the conversation as if she were listening all along.
“I could show you around the neighborhood.” Rea proposed.
“No, thank you.” Ash replied a little irritated, “I think I can find my around just fine.”
“A tour of the house, maybe? We’ve done a lot of renovations.” Rea pitched, not giving up so easily.’
“Rea, I grew up in this house. Even if you painted everything red, I would still know where to find everything.”
“Okay, then, we could—”
“Rea, just go do something else, somewhere else.” Don coldly interrupted.
Rea wordlessly stared at him. Both brothers remained silent until Rea got the hint that she wasn’t wanted there. She went into her room and shut the door behind her.
“What is she still doing around here after what she did to you? She betrayed you!” Ash blurted out in anger.
“She didn’t do anything.” Don defended, “It was just a misunderstanding.”
“If that was true then what’s with all the tension around here?”
“I just don’t know if I can trust her. That’s all.” Don replied.
Years ago, there was a rumor in the tabloids that Rea spent a week at a resort with one of Don’s business clients, Marvin Donnefeild. The truth was that Rea went on holiday alone (because Don was too busy to come along) and Rea just happened to be in the same holiday location as Marvin Donnefeild.
It was Don who dispelled the rumor to save their reputation by lying that he was with her the whole time but really, Don only did that for their reputation. He had his doubts as well and his relationship with Rea changed for the worse.
“Gosh, Don, it’s that pride of yours again that’s going to keep you from your happiness.” Ash complained.
“You always say that.” Don laughed.
“And you never listen.” Ash teased in response. They both had a good laugh and concluded their conversation reminiscing the many times that Ash complained about Don’s pride.
Afterwards, Don went to his home office. He sat at his desk, which was laden with books he had already read, cover to cover, and took his tablet out of one of the drawers and began reading some work emails.
Decades ago, Don started his business, Guard Tech, with a college friend known as Fayzee Peppa. Together, they built a company that became known all over the country for its high quality sound equipment.
There were a number of unread emails in Don’s inbox but Don always opened Fayzee’s emails first.
Fayzee had sent Don a lengthy email, confirming a deal with a major artist. Don smiled proudly, knowing that his company had hit yet another milestone. He planned to celebrate with a glass of red and a good book in the office.
Out of the blue, Rea barged into the home office and immediately began arguing with Don.
“Don! Why did you do that to me in front of Ash? Don’t you realize how horrible you made me feel?” Rea yelled at Don, who groaned in annoyance at the sound of her voice.
“Ugh… Not right now, Rea. We can argue some other time. I’m busy.” Don lied as he buried his face in his hands, wishing that she would just disappear.
“That’s what you always say!” Rea retaliated as she walked across the room until she was face-to-face with Don at the desk, “You just don’t talk to me anymore, like I did something to you.”
Don calmly got out of his chair, “Rea, leave, before I say something I regret.”
“I don’t care!” Rea went on, “Just say something. How are we ever going to work through our issues if all you ever do is keep your mouth shut whenever you’re upset with me? I’m sick of it. I’ve been patient with you but now I’ve had enough. You will talk to me.”
Rea kept ranting on while Don didn’t have much to say. In the heat of the moment, neither of them saw Hunter come into the office.
“Aunt Rea?” Hunter called out.
Rea yelled, “Get the heck out!”
It was only when Hunter began to cry that Rea realized that she had done a terrible thing.
The next moment, Bailey and Ash came running into the office and saw their son in tears. As Bailey knelt down to comfort Hunter, she asked him why he was crying and, between sobs, he uttered, “Aunt Rea”.
Rea rushed over to try and calm down the little boy but Bailey stood up and shoved her away.
“Hey! You better stay away from my son.” Bailey warned, “And my husband.”
“Bailey!” Ash raised his voice, frightening everyone, “Get our son away from this woman.”
Bailey quickly nudged Hunter out of the room. All the while, Ash didn’t say a word to Rea. The long, dirty stare he gave her said it all as he left the office, slamming the door in her face.
“Aren’t you going to say anything?” Rea angrily asked Don, who had gone back to his desk.
Don continued reading the rest of the email Fayzee had sent him, completely ignoring her.
Defeated, Rea stormed out of the office. Her mother was patiently waiting in the hallway outside.
“Oh, Rea… Whatever has she done now?” May sarcastically said.
Now Rea was really infuriated. She brushed past May, headed out the house and to her car. The night had just begun so she headed to the one person that would always understand her.