Until my master showed up.
I didn't think much of him at first. He was blustery and didn't seem to be at all cut out for the hard work in store for him to bring me to my fullest potential.
I learned quickly that he wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty and he prevailed despite my initial misgivings of his character. First impressions can be wrong after all.
Despite the odds, he took a beautiful, young wife who became my mistress. With her servants to make me run as I was supposed to on the inside.
She was the one who brought me to life. Gave me breath. Made me a home.
I wouldn't say she filled me with love, though that was there, too, in various forms.
No, not that my master was ever aware of it. He was too proud to even entertain the thought that he might have been someone's last choice.
Though no one but myself and one other would know such a thing.
All qualities my mistress exemplified.
Eventually I grew.
Blood, sweat, tears, and, yes love, made me into a beautiful structure. One the surrounding land I watched over could count on to be there day after day. Standing tall and proud among the livestock and crops that flourished.
I loved the babies the best.
Three beautiful girls had my halls overflowing with lace and frills. Giggles and laughter. Some tears, for even girls fall and scrape knees.
Then came the boys.
Sadly, I never got to see them grow into the men they should have become. Forever a part of the land far sooner than any human should have to join it.
Ashes to ashes.
My master and mistress put on a good front, but neither quite recovered from the deaths of the boys. No more babies came.
The girls grew as children do. Each so different yet an underlying sameness to them that would allow me to identify them anywhere.
Friendships formed for old and young alike. Balls and barbeques. Lavish dinners and parties.
I never had it so good.
How far we'd come, my master and I.
Hushed conversations in the privacy of dimly lit rooms were the only hint I had of what was to come. My master and mistress were, for once, glad they had no sons to join the Cause.
Though neither ever said so.
I knew, though, felt it in the air around my walls. Heard it in their wordless prayers each night.
I shouldn't have been affected.
The world I knew came crashing down around me.
Gone were the people. The good ones anyway.
My master turned to a bottle more and more.
My mistress had much work to do, helping and assisting others as she did. So much so she took ill herself.
The oldest of her children came home too late. I could feel her devastation upon discovering her mother gone, a body devoid of life or spirit the only thing remaining.
Crushed. I felt her heart grow heavy, weary.
With her, though, she brought new blood.
I knew with her return things would be okay. That spark wasn't completely gone from her as it was her sisters. They, I thought, were going to join their mother.
Things weren't easy. Nothing ever is that requires hard work and perseverance. Like her father who patiently built me to the greatness I became before the war she wasn't afraid of getting her hands dirty either.
Things got more difficult before they ever got better, but she had a drive that the other two were missing.
If I could have given them sustenance I would have. I was unable. I was at least able to shelter them from the elements.
I didn't offer much help keeping those with ill-will on their minds at bay.
My new mistress, though, she accomplished what I could not.
It was not the first life lost within my walls. It was the most violent I'd seen.
My mistress, her sisters, and their family were safe, though. That was all that mattered.
Dingy walls and floors. Furnishings that my late mistress would weep at seeing the condition of. The finery of before gone, stolen or burned.
She went away again.
With this departure came bad blood. A rift. I knew then she'd probably never return and I wondered as to my plight.
My new mistress was gone, and the one now in charge just didn't care for me in the same way. I was a duty, an obligation to her. Nothing more.
Eventually, though, I was being loved again. Fought and cared for. The life was coming back, though never quite the same as before the war. Things had changed.
My master, now beside his wife and sons that preceded him, would have been proud at her efforts. He was proud of me, this home he'd made out of land that no one else wanted.
Physically I was as good as new, but something was missing. The love and faith that made me more than a roof to keep the elements out was lacking. It just wasn't in the sister to care for me in that way. Jealousy and a seething hatred didn't help.
The children took over and their children after them. The cycle continued.
Eventually, though, life in the city was enticing. Farming the land wasn't exciting or as profitable. My land went unplanted, my walls and halls silent from lack of use. Wars came, taking the men away, the women had to work. I was left for smaller, more modern homes that were more affordable to keep up.
Today, I'm a ghost. A shell. Nothing left but weeds and dust. Occasionally a homeless person will find shelter in me for a night or two, but they never stay. I'm back to where I began, alone and unwanted, little more than a large shack hinting at the grandeur I once stood for.
The stories I could tell, though.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com