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Six months passed since our elopement. Missing my family, I sent a letter to my sister and brother about my whereabouts and my new life. I wrote to them saying that I would really wish to see them and asked them to visit me. A reply came saying the entire family would come.
I was a bit nervous, for it had been months since we have communicated.
I have forgotten to mention that Bluebeard gave me two things under my custody on the day after our wedding. One of them was a tiny pewter key, which I wore around my neck on a silver chain. The other was a black lacquered comb. He told me that both of these belonged to his mother. The key he told me opens a certain door in the mansion, which was never to be opened.
I rose up early the morning I planned to announce my family’s visit. With Bluebeard’s comb in my hair and his key around my neck, I wore my favourite dress and met him in the dining room.
“I was wondering, my lord,” I inquired, “If it is well with you that I have my family over while you are on your trip. I will keep the place in order as you wish it,” I promised.
Bluebeard looked up from a book he was reading. “That would be good for you, my sweet.” He smiled. “Do invite them over. Though regretfully I will not be here to greet them, I trust that everything will be as I requested in my absence.”
“Of course,” I said with a bow.
“You look very lovely, my pet.” He complimented, “That black comb brings out the chocolate highlights of your hair.”
“Thank-you, my lord,” I said with a smile.
The next day, after my husband left for his merchant trip, I stayed home and met my family as planned. My brother and sister were happy to see me, but I sensed a rift had developed between us.
“Mother could not leave with us, but sends her love and greetings to you.” Toki told me.
I nodded. I did not have the courage to face Mother yet, for I have married Blue Bear against my family’s wishes.
I gave my brother and sister a tour of the place, introducing them to the servants and showing them to the rooms they would be staying.
“So, are you happy, dear sister?” Toki asked.
“Yes, of course!” I laughed, perhaps a bit nervously. Was I trying to hide something?
Ling only watched with a distant look on her face. She was not her communicative self that day.
“Are you tired from your trip, Ling?” I asked.
She blankly nodded.
“Well, I could use some rest myself.” Toki announced. “How about a nap until supper?”
Ling nodded again – a single nod this time.
“Well, that settles it then.” And so I let my brother and sister rest as I sent a request for the meal to be prepared.
An hour later, Toki and Ling sat at the grand dining room with me over a wonderful meal our cook had prepared for us.
Ling signed to me asking where Bluebeard was.
“He’s on one of his merchant trips.” I explained.
Ling signed some more swiftly, mentioning about Bluebeard’s business – something about ruining other people’s businesses in order to succeed his.
I was shocked. “How dare you say that about my husband!”
Ling signed some more saying that there were rumours of his former marriages and mistresses that were from well-respected prosperous families that drifted to their village. She explained that there was even a story about a talented young woman who was married to Bluebeard only to be never to be heard again.
I was furious. “My husband is not the sort of man you think! He is – kind and gentle! He would never do anything that would be of such scandal!” Yet, somewhere at the back of my mind a flicker of an image of his violent rage came and went.
My sister snorted. Ling was rather blunt and harsh when it came to bringing her point across, but I knew she was not a liar.
“Now, now, Mitsy. Let’s just forget about that for now and enjoy our meal. Ling apologize to Mitsy.” Toki suggested.
Ling immediately stood with a swift sign of “excuse me” she left the table.
What followed after my sister’s sudden retirement to bed were gentle words from my brother, telling me not to be bothered by my sister’s comments.
Despite the shaky start, the rest of the visit went pleasantly. We made some meals together. The servants enjoyed the presence of my brother and sister. They complimented me that I was lucky to have such family members.
Once we had tea in the garden. The garden was large and beautifully kept. As we strolled amongst the roses, Ling pointed to the key around my neck.
“Oh, this?” I held it up for her to see. “I was told that it belonged to Bluebeard’s mother. I was told that it opens a particular door in this mansion, but I don’t know where that is. ”
After that it began to pour, and the matter with the key was forgotten.
The day finally came when my brother and sister would leave. I bid them a safe journey and returned to my role as mistress of the mansion. It was then my curiosity piqued me. What door does my key open?
Part of me warned it was better not to get involved in affairs that were not my own. However, curiosity won in the end. I decided to start with the main entrance to the mansion, then worked my way around the place and outwards to the edge of the property.
Though the key was made strong, it was too small for most of the doors. I tried our bedroom, the guest rooms, even the hall closet and wardrobes. Then I came to a cellar located beneath the western wing. The cellar door was old, with rusted hinges and iron bolts. It was hidden from view, behind an old tapestry. I asked myself if I really wanted to do this. With the key clutched in my hand, I put it into the lock. The key entered and turned with a click fitting the keyhole perfectly. I opened the door and screamed.
The room was dark heavily draped with old velvet curtains that forgot their original colour. At the back of the room staring back at me was an old skeletal looking thing, dressed in a black moth eaten dress. In her hand, for it was a woman, was a portrait of a man that looked much like my husband. On the corpse’s shoulders draped a shawl made of the cloth I had woven. But what mortified me more were the urns displayed beside that female corpse. Each urn had a name and a portrait of a woman on it. Each woman was different, but I knew that they were the missing women that Ling had told me about.
I ran, horrified by what I saw, out through the back entrance, all the way to the edge of our property. My throat was sore by then from all the screaming, but I knew. I knew that I had been married to a monster all this time and refused to admit it. I found myself weeping for those women in that awful room, for me who brought my own misfortune; all because I refused to listen the advice of my loved ones. I wept and wept and wept – until I could weep no more. Then I sensed someone there. I looked up and gasped. It was Patron.
“Mitsy,” Patron reached out towards me.
“Don’t touch me!” I wept. “Oh, please don’t touch me, Patron.”
But he knelt down beside me and held me. I wept some more.
“Toki and Ling sent me for you,” he explained.
“I can’t!” I sobbed. “I can’t go back home. Not like this. I’m soiled. I – I am bound to that monster. We swore an oath that we will be together until death. Even if I were able to leave, he would find me and – and kill me.”
Patron looked at me. “Show me what it is you are talking about.”
I looked up.
“I have seen you run from that mansion screaming. I am here with you. Show me what it was that you saw.”
I shook my head. “I can’t do that. I’m sorry, but that I cannot.”
“What are you afraid of? I will protect you.” He looked at me with those fathering eyes.
I gave in, but my hands still shook. “Very well, but it’s definitely not pretty.” I warned him.
It felt like a long way as I lead him back to the mansion. I led him through the back entrance and to the cellar door. Fortunately, it appeared no one else had discovered it yet.
I kept my back turned and pointed to the room.
Patron looked at me, his eyes filled with tears.
“Oh, Mitsy,” he said sadly.
“I know. I’m terribly sorry that this had come to this for me.” I heard myself say. “I should have listened to Ling and everyone else. I should have realized –” I broke down crying again.
Patron put his arms around me and wept with me. When we finished weeping, I finally found the strength to close the door and locked it.
“You cannot stay here, child,” he told me. “You must leave.”
I glanced at the door, now hidden by the tapestry. “I don’t know where to go, Patron. My family won’t want me. I lost contact with my friends. I – I can’t –” Tears began to fill my eyes once again. “I can’t let them see me like this. I have changed. I know I have. I know I am not the Mitsy I once was.”
He wiped my tears and told me, “Listen, no matter what happens, you are still the Mitsy that I knew and have given the talent for weaving.”
“Where can I go?” I asked quietly.
“When will Bluebeard return?”
“Not for another two months.”
“This is what you will do. Leave this mansion. Tell the servants that you are going to visit a friend. There is an elderly woman and her son who lives near the border. Stay with them, until Bluebeard returns. I will arrange help by then.” Patron explained.
And so, it was arranged. I left the mansion as instructed and went to stay with the elderly woman and her son.