I wrapped my arms around his waist, resting my head against his leather-clad back as he rode his motorbike along the vegetation lined stretch of road. Gargantuan trees towered above us, forming an almost archway that provided only a slight shelter from the icy downpour. I remembered years ago travelling through a similar area back in town with my Sunday school on our way to the camp-site, for the annual retreat…back when things were simple. I tried to dismiss this thought as soon as it arrived. Thankfully the falling droplets masked my own tears that were running down my cheeks, and I shut my eyes tightly to prevent further emotional exposure. I wasn't ready to look back yet.
"Nearly there babe, then we can get nice and cosy." he called over his shoulder to me. A lump in my throat stopped me from answering so I just gave his torso a quick squeeze in affirmation. I tried to smile to myself and recapture the excitement I felt earlier but every muscle in my face seemed to stiffen at the prospect. Stop it Kristina, I told myself, what's wrong with you? This is what you've been waiting for.
As we drove along, the road started twisting and turning, every meander sending a jolt of apprehension through my gut. The darkness seemed to accentuate the spindly outstretched fingers of the surrounding trees, shadows flickering over my face and distorting my vision.
After what felt like a millennium, we came to a halt and the low rumbling of the bike was cut off. He swung his leg over and stood to prop the bike up before putting his hands on my waist and helping me to my feet. My hair felt frizzy from where the wind had blown it about as a result of riding without a helmet, but I felt surprisingly unfazed by the potential danger that had come with it.
He grabbed his backpack and flashed a lopsided smile at me, making butterflies rush through my stomach.
"Come on then," he murmured, taking me by the hand and leading me through the rusted iron gate and down a pebbled path; my eyes lifted to a colossal manor house, draped in ivy and moss, standing before us in its sophisticated grandeur. Pale moonlight bathed the magnificent structure with shimmering silver, and my breath caught in my throat for a moment.
As we approached, the apparent glory of the house seemed to diminish slightly at the sight of several smashed windows and fallen roof tiles; shadows created bizarre shapes and outlines that overcame the initial awe I felt upon arrival and replaced it with a chill of trepidation that ran all the way down my spine. Biting my lip, I quickened my pace to keep close to him.
We clambered up the worn down stone steps before finding ourselves in front of the imposing front door and under the shelter of the roofing above; silence overcame us as we both gazed up at it, feeling its gaze fall heavily back down upon us in return. The burgundy paint had faded and chipped over the years, cobwebs lined the frame, and the once gleaming golden knocker had become dull and scratched. But this in no way lessened the respect that the building seemed to demand, and another wave of uneasiness swept over me as it loomed above us.
All of a sudden, he knelt down and began scrambling around inside his backpack. A flash of metal caught my eye.
“Brody?” I murmured. He continued rummaging through his bag and gave me no response. “Brody, I don't know if we should be here... there's a reason no one comes here anymore.” I said in a louder voice.
“Don't worry about it, babe. If it wasn't safe, they would've cordoned it off wouldn't they?” he replied in an off-hand tone. “And anyhow, my parents would have a fit if I brought a girl home, even a pretty and innocent one like you. If you're scared, I'll just have to hold you closer to me.” Brody said, turning his head to flash a smile and a wink at me. I managed a small smile back before he returned to his searching.
At last he straightened up and held up what looked like a hair slide with a look of triumph on his shadowed features. Stepping closer to the door and ignoring the muddy dust that now coated the lower portion of his jeans, Brody twiddled the pin in the lock for what seemed like an eternity before there was a sudden click, and he pushed open the door and a dusty darkness poured out over us. Our eyes met and taking my hand once more, we stepped over the threshold.