By P.S. Gifford
As soon as we both saw the old wooden hand painted sign proclaiming the hotel’s name as The Ivy Inn we knew it was going to be the perfect place to stay, and we set off from the main road and along the long gravel driveway. Earlier that morning we had spontaneously decided to take a mini vacation, just the two of us. After quickly throwing a few things together, we dropped our daughter Rebecca off at my wife’s sister and set out to drive along the coastline, down from southern California up to northern part of the state. We had no idea of where we were going to stay, but we somehow knew instinctively that we would find the right place, a hotel that had an old-fashioned charm to it. And, as we looked at the Inn, our intuition was proved right. The Inn itself appeared to be lost in time- which was perfect for the two of us have always had a compelling fascination with everything to do with the Victorian era.
We pulled our vintage jaguar E-Type up in front of the building still gazing in wonderment at it; we parked the car and got out. With excitement we grabbed our overnight bags and energetically clambered up the short flight of wooden steps that led to the charming front entrance. We were both taken aback at how authentic to the period the place appeared; seemingly not a single detail had been overlooked.
As we entered we were greeted by a distinguished older gentleman. It was hard to determine just how old he was possibly in his early forties- although his eyes appeared somehow much older. Once more the man, saying true to the Victorian theme, was dressed the part. He could have been a quirky character from one of Dickens’s books I considered.
“Welcome folks I am delighted that you have found us!” He spoke softly offering us a welcoming warm smile. We signed the guest book, and I went to pull my wallet from my pocket.
“No need for any identification, you can settle up later,” as he spoke he grabbed a brass key from under the old-fashioned counter.
“Follow that staircase to the third floor, you will find two rooms, yours is number nine, in the front of the property. I know that you will fully appreciate the exquisite views the room offers. I consider them some of the finest in the world. I have a distinct feeling that it will be absolutely perfect for you, and you might never want to leave again.”
He handed us the key, and after thanking him, we made our way up the creaky old staircase.
Moments later we found ourselves in the grandest bedroom I have ever been in. There was a mahogany four poster bed, with a lush red velvet comforter on top. There was even a vintage grandfather’s clock, something that I had always wanted, which appeared to be in perfect condition. By the side of the bed sat a wicker chair, with a teddy bear perched in it. That made me smile fondly as the bear was remarkably similar to one that I owned as a young child. As I examined the room in more detail I found it curious that there was not a single sign of the twentieth century. I was rather pleased that there were no electrical devices to be found to spoil the affect. But I was rather surprised that there weren’t even any sockets. There were two gas lamps in the room, as well as about half a dozen candles. Opposite the bed was a fireplace, already filled with wood, and ready to be lit. Even the shower was of the long outdated hand pump variety. On the vanity table, in front of an oblong mirror, there was a bright bouquet of peach roses- my wife’s favorite.
As she looked about smiling with glee she spoke the precise thing I was thinking.
“This place is beyond my wildest dreams…”
The view, despite the splendor of the room, was undoubtedly the room’s finest feature. We idly peered out of the window, affectionately holding hands as a couple of love struck teenagers might. As we stood there, relishing the moment, we greedily absorbed the beauty of the unsoiled Northern Californian coast. It was a perfect clear breezy October morning and the ocean crashed with a ferocious splendor onto the jagged rocks.
The magnificence of it all had a strange affect on me, at that moment I felt more loved than I ever had done before. I grasped my wife’s hand even tighter.
“This is going to be a weekend to remember!” I whispered softly into her ear and then I gently guided her back into the room.
An hour later we hastily remade the bed, giggling like we did when we first met. It had literally been years since we had done that. We decided exploring the immediate area would be a splendid way of filling the afternoon, and increase our appetite for dinner.
As we made our way back down the stairs we became aware that the Inn was conspicuously quiet. Back in the foyer we once more encountered our mysterious, yet most hospitable, innkeeper.
He caught my inquisitive gaze.
“Are there anymore guests staying here?” I asked casually.
He paused for a few moments as if trying to contemplate on the appropriate response.
“You will meet the other residents here later,” he replied with a curious wink of the eye.
As we set off into the brisk, invigorating October afternoon the innkeeper’s comments rattled in my head. There was something out of sorts about both the property and inn keeper, yet I could not quite put my finger on it.
We strolled unhurriedly towards the rocks and then leisurely made our way down a path to the oceans edge.
It was then we heard it-a gentle ethereal crying. My wife and I stared at each other as if we could not quite believe what we were hearing. Surely it was nothing more than the blustering wind. We listened intently and heard the sound again, more vividly this time. It was definitely the cry of a young child. We desperately began to search all about us, but with no success. We found it impossible to detect where the sound emanated from, it was as if the cry was coming from every conceivable direction in chorus. All at once the thought of our young daughter Rebecca came to our minds simultaneously.
“Rebecca!” We cried in unison and we frantically raced back to the Inn convinced beyond reason that this was some mystical warning that she had been injured.
When we arrived back to the lobby breathless and still acutely full of panic for our daughter’s well being, there was no sign of the innkeeper. Remembering that I had my cell phone on me I rumbled through my pockets, but alas I could not find it. I double checked, still without success and reasoned that I must have dropped it. I frantically searched for any sign of a land line but there wasn’t one to be found. All at once, as quickly as it had arrived, our panic over our daughter dissipated and was replaced with an extraordinary sense of well being. We smiled at each other and quietly made our way back up the staircase. Once we were back in our room we once more peered out at the glorious view and we seemed to find ourselves strangely at peace, without a care in the world. Surely it had to have been the wind that we heard. Certainly there was no-one crying as we would have found them. Of course our daughter was safe and sound, and it was just our keen imaginations playing tricks.
A short while later there was a sharp tapping on the door. I opened it to discover the odd innkeeper standing there holding a large silver tray with sandwiches, a generous slice of chocolate cake, two glasses of ice tea, and the evening’s newspaper.
“I imagined that you might enjoy your supper in your room tonight,” he said in an unemotional calm voice.
“Most kind of you, thanks,” I said as I took the platter and placed it on the table in the room. As I turned back to ask him one of the thousand questions, which were now fervently racing through my mind, I discovered, to my surprise, he was gone. I went over to the staircase, yet he was not to be seen. I was about to go down the stairs in search of him when I heard my wife cry out for me.
I immediately raced back into the room to discover her trembling with the local newspaper in her hand.
“Listen to this headline,” she said with a trembling tone. “A young couple today on a romantic weekend get away we’re killed early this afternoon in a horrific car crash along the coast. The couple had driven up from southern California. Police arrived on the scene, directly where the old Ivy inn stood before it burnt down thirty years ago, to discover their 1963 red jaguar completely smashed…”