While Joseph Strunk planted kisses on the foreheads of his family, Kate Winstead lit the last of the candles she had painstakingly placed around the massive sitting room. Rose-hued wood and delicate, yet lush fabrics filled the room. The sight of a hundred flickering open flames amongst it all was both terrifying and beautiful.
The ancient grandfather clock ticked in the corner and seemed to boom louder with each passing second. Decades older than Kate, it not only served as the oldest heirloom in the home, it was also the keeper of the family’s history. She delicately ran her fingers over its intricate carvings, trailing over the detailed faces of Townsley’s past residents. Some expressions carved stoic and focused, others fashioned with eyes and mouths gaped in horror. Suns and moons, water and fire. To an untrained eye the images would appear random, haphazardly placed. But for Kate, each image came together as a reminder of why she was here and what she had to do.
She picked up a worn, centuries-old leather diary off of an ottoman draped and fitted in silk bouclé. Kate had referenced the book when setting the candles and she once again pored over the pages of Edith Galloway Masterson’s diary to check her work. The consequence of even one candle out of place was a price too high to imagine. One that the entire world would have to pay.
Despite the lump in her throat and the irregular pounding in her chest, Kate was satisfied that she had done all she could to prepare for the evening. Now the time had come for her to wait on the final piece to arrive. A piece never to be touched by Galloway hands.
Wandering over to the window, Kate pulled back the lacy curtain. She peered out into the darkness and although it was a bit early, worry set in and crawled uneasily up her spine. The harder she tried to push the questions out of her mind, the stronger they fought for the spotlight. What if the Strunk offspring refused to believe in the old traditions? Or worse, what if the Strunk lineage died out altogether and there was no one left to help complete the task? What if Kate had traveled all of this way only to fail her family? To fail the world?
Then she saw it. The tiniest hint of orange glowing in the distance. She watched as it bobbed its way toward where the driveway met Main Street and sighed with relief as it grew larger and brighter, ascending the hill toward Galloway House.
[Read Part 7 of Galloway House here.]