Unraveling Affairs by Joshua Shepherd

Eleanor Grey arose from her peaceful sleep and eloquently began moving about her homely cottage to ready herself for the day ahead. She had waited many long weeks for this elating day to arrive in her life. November 21. The date’s newfound connotation brought a beaming smile to her face, for it was the day that her engagement to a young and charming sir Henry Mason would be announced at a dinner inside the Mason’s extravagant home. Just two years prior she had met Henry and started as the new maid for the Mason’s at just twenty years old. And now by her twenty-third birthday she would be the newest Mrs. Mason, in charge of the household alongside her loving partner, who would be just twenty himself here shortly.

She burst through her front door, layered to protect herself from the excruciating cold day outside. As she headed to work, she had to quicken her pace as a slight rain began to surface. As Eleanor made her way up the red brick path to the vastly expansive Mason estate, she began to feel a sickness inside her stomach she had not felt since before Henry had proposed to her, a sickness stemming from nervousness. For until now during the short engagement she had, for reasons she could not presently gather, forgotten about the severe class divide between her and Henry. Henry was of great wealth and some of the highest prominence a family could have, while Eleanor was the lowly maid of his family’s estate. Pondering these things, she entered the eerily quiet home and crept through the main foyer. Though the silence was not unusual in the tense household, only occupied by less than ten, she didn’t hear the low murmur of any Masons going about a morning routine.


“Mrs. Mason?” Eleanor called as she headed into the bedroom.


The room was empty. A terrible mess had been created in the room from some sort of row apparently, and many items were scattered all around. Eleanor quietly paced into the bathroom and let out a terrible shriek as she bolted out of the room and bounded back downstairs. Lying back in the bathroom was Mrs. Mason. Surrounded by a large pool of blood, she lied with her throat slit open, still dressed in the evening dress she wore the night before.

As the first pair of policemen arrived in the home, Eleanor was sitting motionlessly on the red carpeted stairs in the entry foyer. Nancy, the Mason’s longtime nanny, was trying her best console the petrified young Eleanor before she had to go and speak with the police. Nancy seemed oddly calm to Eleanor given the circumstances.
“This woman just lost someone she has known and lived every day around for years, and she is so calm and composed. Maybe if she had stumbled upon the body as I had, she would be in a state similar to mine. Or perhaps she does not spill as many emotions,” Eleanor pondered.


Sure enough, however, once the body was removed from the house, Nancy and the butler began calmly going about their regular business until it was their turn to speak with the police. It seemed to Eleanor the only possibly sane people in the house who may be grieving were Sir Mason and Henry, simply because she had not seen either of them yet this morning. Her mood quickly dropped from suspicious to depressingly terrified however as Nancy came out from giving her statement with the police, and Henry was being taken into the dining room for questioning under the assumption he would confess then and there and close the case of the murder of his mother.


Eleanor was bewildered that anyone could think Henry could possibly kill, or even harm anyone, especially his own mother. The Henry she always knew was the gentlest and most kind-hearted man she had ever met. She thought back to that first day they met, two years prior in the summer of 1887. Eleanor had just been hired by the Mason’s in her first position ever taken, her first day being that of Henry’s eighteenth birthday party, which was to be held that night in the home. Many large and powerful names in business were set to attend as the evening seemed to double as a meet and greet setup by Henry’s parents to thrust him into the high society world of theirs. In the end, Henry spent the evening with Eleanor inside his small study space, discussing life, literature, and the great unknown world as the party rambled on outside the walls. Over the next years the two grew very close and began a secret relationship. They had fallen in love.


In being let into this side of Henry’s life, Eleanor began to see the large amounts of abuse Henry took from his parents as they regarded him as living a “wasted peasant life, stuck in words that do not matter one bit outside his own mind.” Neither of the Mason parents saw any other way of life besides a money-grabbing, high class lifestyle. Henry often had to engage in arguments with his parents that would sometimes last deep into the night.


Nancy told Eleanor that last night had been one of those nights, as her eyes darted everywhere except directly to Eleanor’s face. Eleanor wondered if Nancy had also mentioned to the police the source of many of these family arguments: her affair with Mr. Mason. It was not known by any outside the house, but the affair had gone on for almost nine years. Henry believed Nancy was hired for this sole purpose. Henry had told Eleanor it was always the same old story; the two would be caught, and Mrs. Mason would retaliate with whatever young stable boy or apprentice she could find. Large arguments would ensue, dragging Henry in as well, then all would hastily be hushed and forgotten. These usually occurred every couple of months, though as of recent the arguments were nearly every other day.


Eleanor had pondered these things as she had made her way through most of the day until she heard a commotion upstairs. She curiously crept up the stairs to find several policemen dumbfounded, standing over Mr. Mason’s body. His throat has been slit only moments before someone had come up to inform him that he was next to be questioned by the police. No weapon had been found in either case yet. As the death quickly piled up, it seemed people began to sprawl into every nook and cranny of the house.

*


The sun had set as the police scrambled to gather people all over the house and keep them contained. Their attempts were in vain as most people were not easily found. Among those were Eleanor and Henry, who had retreated to Henry’s hidden study to compose themselves.


“Do you think they are going to pin these vile acts on you, my love?” Eleanor asked, frightened.


“They would never be able to do such a thing,” Henry quickly replied. “Such a thing, trying to go against my character and everything I have always stood for, it would never be plausible. This is of the harshest and cruelest days my love, but these acts will be cut short soon, and we shall live our lives in happiness together afterward, though we have lost two dear members of the family today.”

Henry’s assuredness and calm atmosphere always reassured Eleanor, even on the harshest of days.


Outside the study, the butler gave a small insight as to who he may have seen heading towards Mr. Mason’s room shortly before the body was found. The police concurred that one of their men had seen a lady in the uniform described heading up the stairs as they headed back down after summoning Mr. Mason. Eleanor and Henry had quietly returned to the back of the crowd to hear this when something caught Eleanor’s eye below the balcony on the first floor. She quickly ran towards the sunroom as Henry began to gather the police to follow behind just a few moments after. The police and Henry burst into the sunroom to find one of the Nanny’s uniform shirts wadded up on the floor, covered in blood, as the side door leading out to the garden sat ajar.

Everyone began to piece together who surely committed these heinous crimes, and a clear motive was tied together by Henry as well. Nancy seemed ready to move full time into the extravagant lifestyle that went along with being Mrs. Mason, and one simple move could make that happen in her head; killing the current Mrs. Mason. However, Mr. Mason must not have taken kindly to Nancy putting matters in her own hands and executing them without his permission, as he had stated many times before she would never be anything more than his mistress, and their affair would never leave the walls of his house. She most likely killed him quickly as he was heading down to tell the police what he had found out.


Henry’s eyes then quickly enlarged with fear as he realized Eleanor was alone in the garden with that bastard killer now. They all quickly ran through the garden to find both women lying on the ground, and Henry began to tear up. Upon hearing people coming however, Eleanor struggled to look up and seemed very relieved to have other people out here to now help her. As Eleanor explained what had happened in her self-defense killing of Nancy, Henry was relieved he had not lost the person that he truly loved in all this absurd madness. Eleanor had won.

*


Through the rest of her long and prosperous life as Mrs. Mason, Eleanor never forgot the events that took place that grave day, which completely changed her life and conscience in ways she never would have expected. The events had actually begun the day before with Eleanor though, late the night before up in Mrs. Mason’s bedroom. Eleanor had finished cleaning the evening tea tray for Mrs. Mason when her excitement could not be contained any longer. She burst with the news to Mrs. Mason that her and Henry were engaged and to be married soon.


Eleanor wondered if she could possibly get help in softening Mr. Mason up to the idea so the conversation would go smoother the next day, but Mrs. Mason was not pleased in the least. She became irate, stating Eleanor would never take the name of Mrs. Henry Mason as long as she lived, and Henry came into what became a large and heated argument like none had ever taken place in the Mason family before. The end of which resulted in Mrs. Mason firing Eleanor on the spot and promising Henry he would be on the next ship to work as a peasant in the new country across the ocean. After this, Mrs. Mason triumphantly retired to her bathroom, and Henry walked Eleanor to the front door, saying they would work everything out the next day.

Eleanor was tired of the fear instilled by Henry’s controlling parental figures, and so she went back up and crept into the bathroom, kitchen knife in hand, and promptly ended Mrs. Mason’s nonsense right there. She left everything in place and headed home, knowing she would be the first to stumble upon the body the next morning, and formed a plan to end this once and for all.

She knew Mr. Mason would most likely have the same attitude towards the engagement or worse, and so she decided to take him out of the picture as well, knowing she could easily frame Nancy for all of it. Eleanor was quite easily in the clear after dressing in one of Nancy’s uniforms to kill Mr. Mason, then promptly leaving it by the washroom with a note that said “You will be discovered.” Around the same moment Nancy found the note, she heard everyone talking about her upstairs, and so she panicked and bolted into the garden, where Eleanor silenced her, claimed self-defense, and finished her plan quickly and without any issue. This all quickly freed her and Henry to take over the Mason estate and live the life they wanted together and be able to love each other without boundaries. The most diabolical love story lived and died within her soul. None of that mattered though, for she got the gentle, lovely ending with Henry she always dreamed of. A perfect life.

Yes, Eleanor had won.

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