Another sun had risen in Middleville, East France, and I’ve been stuck in this tiny village for 13 years now. My name is Charlotte, and I’m now officially 13 years old. My dad is a politician, and is hardly ever home. My mother is a flight attendant, and is currently somewhere across the Pacific Ocean. So for now, I’ve gone to live with my grandma.
After getting ready for school, I sat by the huge blue window that I loved to gaze out, before glancing over to the mysterious painting on the far wall. It was my favourite painting in the whole house. It was of a girl with a brown bob cut, looking out to the ocean. There was something about the painting that almost whispered to you to keep looking at it. There was only one more painting of this mysterious girl in the house. It was the same girl, but she was about 10 years older. She had long, brown hair in this painting, and was sitting on a wooden swing. But it was her eyes that caught you. They were grey and cloudy, and the looked desperately sad. The way that she was painted, it almost looked like she was pleading for something.
“Charlotte! Breakfast!” yelled her grandma, breaking her out of her trance. She would have to save thinking about the girl in the window for another time.
“Happy birthday, Charlotte!” exclaimed her grandmother, handing her a small, wrapped box from across the table. “Before you open it, I have to explain its context.”
“I understand you have seen the painting of the girl in the window.”
“Oh yes,” I replied. “It’s my favourite one.”
“Well, that girl’s name is Bridgette, and she is your great, great grandmother. When she was about 10 years old, the first world war began and her father went to go fight for France. Every day, Bridgette would look out the window, waiting for her dad to come home. But he never did. She refused to accept that he was gone. For years, she waited by the window. When Bridgette was older, she fell in love, and later got married. She had a daughter when the second world war started and her husband had to fight in the war. Her sister went as a nurse. So Bridgette went back to her old habits by waiting by the window. She became distant in her daughter’s life, as she waited for her sister and husband. Her sister came back, but her husband did not. Bridgette never quite recovered from that. She lived to an old age, but she was always looking out of the window, waiting for two people who would never come home. You know that this house was a hotel in the 1950s, don’t you Charlotte?”
“Yes,” I whispered, still confused about what I’d just heard.
“Well, people who stayed in that room said that at 3:06 am, they saw a ghost of a girl with short, brown hair looking out the window. The word got around, and that is why the hotel closed. When I was a little girl, I went into that room at 3:06 am. And sure enough, there was Bridgette. I asked her what would get her to stop looking out the window and she gave a clue. I tried to figure out this clue myself, but to this day I have no idea what it means. I have seen how captivated you have become by this painting, so I thought I could leave the mystery for you to solve. Go on, open your present!”
I carefully tore open the turquoise wrapping paper. Inside was a heart-shaped locket. I opened the locket and inside a message was inscribed.
“‘Tout est dans la peinture’, or in English, ‘It is all in the painting’. It is up to you to solve Bridgette’s clue now. Now go, otherwise you will be late for school!”
I quickly put the locket on around my neck, then hurried onto school. I had a mystery to solve, and I was the only one who could solve it!
My mind was hardly in school that day, as I was too focused on solving Bridgette’s clue. I raced home, desperate to see the painting. I hurried along to my bedroom. But, despite many hours looking at the painting, I had nothing. I looked for secret messages, codes and any clue to what the locket could mean. But, then it struck me. I went straight to the living room, where I looked at the painting of an older Bridgette. I searched the painting then, bam! Wedged between the two wooden boards of the swing she was sitting on, Bridgette had her fingers on a piece of paper poking out of the boards.
I ran out to the swing outside, which was now sitting abandoned on the shed floor. I ripped open the boards, and there was a piece of cream paper! I opened the paper, and inside was a letter to Bridgette from her dad. There was also a small picture of him. The letter was sent during the times of WWI, and Bridgette clearly wasn’t going to go away until she had it returned to her. Now all I had to do was wait.
“Hello Bridgette,” I said. It was approximately 3:06 am, and I had been waiting all night for her to come, and sure enough, she did. I walked over to the ghost by the window. “My name is Charlotte and I’m your great, great granddaughter. I solved your clue.” I held out the photo and letter. Bridgette turned around and her sad eyes turned happy.
“Hello, Charlotte. Please give me the locket.”
I handed her the locket, and she carefully put the photo of her father in the locket, closed it and put it around her neck.
“Thank you very much. You have solved my mystery, and what is mine has been returned to me. I can now rest in peace. For this, you shall be rewarded. You will live a long life, and unlike mine, it will be filled with joy and happiness.”
With that, Bridgette smiled at me and for a second, my skin glowed a bright gold, like her skin did. Then Bridgette disappeared. I had solved a mystery, spoken with a ghost, learnt about my family and had gotten a wish. In short, I had a pretty good birthday!
Story by Niamh Trainor
(Written as part of Expressions Media’s Express Yourself school holiday creative writing workshop.)
Visual stimulus for story: Young Woman at a Window by Salvador Dali (1925)