They all went down below the curved narrow stairs leading to the basement. It was lighted with electric, white fluorescent lights now, but during the past times, that part of the mansion only glows when there were torches burning.
The staffs call it ‘basement’ but it was more than that. It actually was a dungeon, servicing the worst of rule breakers and slaves during its time.
Side by side sticking like a panda, the gang meticulously observed the area. Three years ago, it was publicly open for all who wanted to have a taste of fear inside the Since Mansion, but now, it was closed in order to preserve its history and all the antique possessions relocated in there.
Lianne, even though being strong-willed as she was, couldn’t handle the sight of the dungeon. It was not for ladies like them to see.
There was a gloomy, heart wrenching aura they couldn’t describe; maybe because of the fact that the dungeon was used by the original owner, a king, to actually dismember, torture, and slaughter those who challenge him.
But for Lianne, it was more personal. It hunted her with reasons unknown to her. Every area seemed too unsettling for her, but a certain chamber in the center of the dungeon had her most troubled.
It had gray concrete walls with spider webs all over the ceiling, and there was a single red fur-cushioned chair positioned at the center with exquisitely carved edges almost like it was made for a royalty.
But royalty? Surely, it wasn’t for that purpose.
“Even that chair is adorable I wouldn’t want to sit on it if I’m imprisoned in this kind of place!” Rachel protested, eyeing the said object with disdain.
“I’m sorry ladies. I know this place isn’t right for you, but I thought you’d be fascinated about the diamond-gold antiques preserved in the far corner side of this dungeon especially the painting I told you about, ” the co-owner reasoned knowing they were having goosebumps.
“DIAMONDS?!” Jen and Alona together shouted. “Yes! YES! We want to see the diamonds!”
“I’m sure you do, ” Lianne stated with a little cheeky smile, exactly knowing her friends’ favorite.
Madame Brenda knew about the mansion’s history-tree, but not the original owners. It was unbelievable for her however seeing Lianne for the first time. She thought that it was possible that Lianne might be a direct descendant of who the person was in the painting.
At the farthest corner of the basement, there was a wide, seven foot high, mahogany door. After waiting in anticipation as the door was unlocked, Jen and Alona guided their own selves to the bejeweled statues while Madame Brenda directly led Lianne to where the painting was placed.
It was laid on top a dusty square desk. The co-owner carefully pulled the white sheet covering it to reveal the creation, then it was like time stood still. Lianne was agape, standing like a stone as she stared at the thirty-two inch dull painting.
“Wow… Is that real?” Rachel asked.
Madame Brenda nodded. “One of a kind. Although the color is slightly fading, it is still a splendid masterpiece.” She looked at Lianne ever so subtly, observing her expression. “It’s amazing how they both look the same right? Except for the light brown color of the lady’s hair, Lianne would really look like a direct clone of her. This painting, by carbon dating, dates back in the early century. That’s why it’s rather out of the ordinary to see both of them alike. Well, if you’re going to ask if I believe in reincarnation, I do now!” Madame Brenda explained enthusiastically, consequently releasing the French-accent in her words.
The painting showed a lady that looked like Lianne. Their features were perfectly the same. The color of the eyes. The symmetrical shape of their faces. The curve of her lips. Everything was the same, save the color of Lianne’s hair which was a shade darker.
The lady was sitting on a chair holding a bouquet of assorted flowers resting on her lap. Her eyes expressed delight and contentment, of love and devotion. She was wearing an emerald necklace and a flower-printed silk gown with a white rose adorning her left ear.
She was indeed beautiful and the painting itself was a marvel to behold, but what Lianne noticed the most was a more astonishing person standing at the lady’s back.
“Who is the man standing at her back Madame?” Lianne curiously asked wanting to know his name.
“Oh! He is really a gallant, fine-looking, gorgeous, sexy...” Jen immediately butted in but her words were cut off.
“Yah, yah, yah. We know what you mean Jen! You always say that to almost every man, ” Rachel complained while looking at her having dreamy eyes.
“Oh yes!” Madame Brenda remarked. “I was supposed to ask you if he is a familiar face Lianne. I just assume though because with you, I mean, with that lady that looks like you in the painting with him, maybe you might have some idea who this princely man is.” Clearly, there was hope in her eyes.
The man in the old painting did also bear a complete resemblance to the mysterious man Lianne encountered in the library and in her apartment. He was wearing regal clothes suitable only for a prince and proudly standing at the lady’s back with his left hand resting on her right shoulder.
Lianne felt an urge to answer and reveal her discovery about him, but it would really sound more unusual if they would know all the details of their more or less intimate meeting.
She lowered her head and locked her hands tightly together and just said in the end, “I’m...I’m sorry. It’s impossible that I would know him, Madame Brenda.”
Madame Brenda saw something in the way Lianne acted, but didn’t force her questions anymore.
“I see, ” she replied. “I actually don’t know their names honestly even though I have stayed here for quite some time. The real owner of this mansion is unknown but the Sireix Government claims that this is a historic place with a magnitude of worth. That’s why this is a world heritage site in the first place.”
She smiled at them, tilted her head up and clasped her hands. “Well now, I’m sure you all still have activities to do. Let’s leave this place shall we?”
The gang nodded in unison, including Lianne, but yes, deep in her heart, she would have wanted to ask if she can take the painting with her.
POV: Lianne Dievin
I looked at his piercing eyes again. That time in my apartment, I couldn’t clearly see the color of his eyes because it was dark but now I can actually make out the shade of brown and green in it. It was so dubiously sad, so mystifying, so enthralling. I couldn’t seem to take my gaze off him. I know it was wrong to lie to my friends, especially to Jen, but this was different! I have to solve this on my own because this truly has been driving me crazy.
I turned my head at the right to see Jen beside me. I didn’t notice that she was already at my side. She gave me a sweet smile and touched my shoulder as if reassuring me. It was obvious however to see that I was preoccupied with something. She may not know every detail about my dilemma but she understood me well. That’s why I like that serious side of her.
That night I wasn’t able to sleep well. I kept thinking about the painting and tried as much as I could to piece together what might be clues to who my mysterious man was.
I do not know much about my family tree really. I have been an orphan since my parents died when I was six years old.
My Aunt Marge wasn’t able to tell me about my family’s ancestors either. I grew up living with her not knowing even my grandparents. I think that’s how I got so independent, not like Jen who was kind of spoiled and a bit cheeky, but a good good cheeky kind of way.
Although it was just hours ago since we exited the so-called ‘basement’, but I do want to head back to see it again. However, surely, it’s now locked and Madame Brenda has the key. I wouldn’t want to borrow it from her; that would be embarrassing. She might suspect it, especially after what I said to her that time that I didn’t know who the man in the painting was.
After a few minutes of trying to get back to sleep, I heard a knock at the sala door. It was already one in the morning. Who would actually bother me at this late hour? I thought maybe Jen. She was after all craving to know about what really happened last night in the garden and probably seek some answers about my more-than-necessary attention about the man in the painting.
After wearing my cotton robe, I went to the living room and opened the main door. I saw no one in the front, but I did find a small white envelope on the carpet floor with my name written at the back.
“Again?” I thought to myself. I think he is giving me more words to ponder on. More questions than answers that’s for sure.
I closed the main door and sat on the wide sofa facing the warm-lit fireplace. I’m still getting accustomed to being in this room. What did I do to deserve this kind of place anyway?
When I opened the envelope, I found a rusty old key and I thought to myself, this could be the key or at least a duplicate from Madame Brenda’s key to the storage room in the basement.
But, who gave this to me? That’s certainly the big question.