Content Warning: Abuse of children: emotional (bullying, belittling) and physical (hitting)
Lindom Hall was a cold place; a lonely place; an empty place of stone and echoes. Margaret had her servants, of course, but they hardly counted. She had grown used to the silence, perhaps, but never truly comfortable with it.
Yet now that her son was returned at last to the Hall, she took no solace in the company.
"Mother, please," he said. "It is not so much money to ask for, is it?"
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(exclusive until 29th April 2019)
This story was first drafted for a Hallowe'en story contest in the Codex writers group, based on two story seeds provided by Merc Rustad and Stewart C. Baker: "A spider with legs dipped in wax sits atop yards of black lace" and "In the centre of the mansion, there is a room with windows", respectively. The basic idea was pretty easy given such foundations, and the first draft came out suspiciously easily, but as usually happens with these things I didn't fully realise what I was writing about until two or three drafts in.
As my kids grow up into individuals, with their own challenges and celebrations, I'm increasingly aware of the way I come across as a father, and the ways in which we inevitably repeat the mistakes and successes of our own parents--because what other example do we have to learn from? Some of those lessons are sunk in so deep you don't even realise they're there. Though I'm fortunate in never having known the sort of emotional cruelty shown in the story, there are other aspects of who I am that I struggle to keep in check. It's worth the effort, though; to be honest, I can't think of any effort more important.