The Skeleton in the Ridingson’s Closet

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      Priya Winstead was quite the over achiever, from juggling her day job as an English tutor to analyzing FBI cold cases in her past time, and baking pumpkin bread in the dead of night, she tried to do it all. This particular evening was no different, the aroma of bread in the oven enveloped her modern loft while lesson plans were on her laptop and files of pictures and evidence were scattered over her dining table all while the lovely autumn zephyr blew the warm toned leaves around in the sunset. Priya was due to take a post as a private tutor on the small but mysterious Island of Pockintow where she would aid the heiress of the Ridingson Manor, Vanelope Ridingson. She finally decided to call it a day, stuffed a heap of clothes in her suitcase, crammed a few files in her backpack, shoved as much pumpkin bread in her mouth, and then hit the hay. 

      The flight was not pleasant to say the least, with the cold air seeping through the metal canister she was flying in paired with the horrible turbulence, Priya was glad that she was alive and now on solid ground. The ride to the manor was far more enjoyable since she was able to catch up on a few old cases. The kidnapping of Felicia Henderson was a revered case of a missing woman; she had no friends, no family, and all that was left of her was a missing charm bracelet and a note that mentioned she adorned herself in green bandanas. The most interesting part of the case was that Felicia was from Pockintow, and she tutored some of the Ridingson heirs as well! 

        When she finally arrived at the manor, she was astounded by the majesticness it radiated. The leaves crackled underneath her boot as she explored the grounds when suddenly a head of curly blonde hair popped out of thin air! Vanelope formally introduced herself and led her to her quarters for her stay. Vanelope discussed the architecture, culture, and talked about her family in such a splendid manner; Priya knew that they would become fast friends. The two things that stuck out like a sore thumb were the grand silver clock in the family room, and the bright yellow door that contrasted the old lived in theme of the manor. Although Vanelope was quite transparent and polite, her one demand was that Priya should never approach the locked yellow door, but did curiosity kill the cat? Priya lived for true crime, so she was in for a bout of adventure.

       After a quiet dinner, the girls retired to their respective rooms to rest, but Priya decided it was finally time to explore. She grabbed her phone to use as a flashlight and quietly tiptoed down to the mysterious door, careful not to make a sound. The door was locked, of course, but the keyhole acted as leeway. Priya peeked inside to find a muddled mess of green, dust, cobwebs, and old mahogany furniture, but a twinkle in the room was what set her off. Priya quietly sauntered back to her room, falling asleep to thoughts of shiny things, yellow doors, and writing plans, she was a tutor after all! 
Breakfast the next day was a rather new experience since she finally got to meet the only other Ridingson present at the manor, Grandma Louise, and Louise, a schizophrenic, was baffled by Priya to say the least. She kept whispering “Felicia” whenever she saw Priya, and that made Priya feel unsettled. The lessons that followed were wonderful. Priya and Vanelople were like two peas in a pod and were able to get started on Vanelope’s studies right away. Nearly five hours rapidly passed, before they closed their session and called it a day. Vanelope had apparently begun this new diet, but she invited Priya to lounge in the family room for a late lunch. While Vanelope was fixing a plate, Priya walked around the room admiring the decor when she ended up back at the clock she was so mesmerized with yesterday. She analyzed the ornate lines, and when she noticed a swirl that was out of place, upon closer inspection she found that it was a key, but to what? Vanelope and Priya further conversed while Priya feasted on the finest stilton cheese and fresh rye crackers, and the duo left for their bedrooms once again, though Priya loved indulging in daily quests. 

       She tiptoed down the hallways once again, her phone camera in tow and a Swiss army knife kit in her other hand, but this time she headed to the family room. She cautiously whipped out the pliers in the set and gracefully snipped out the key looking piece. Then, she ran as quietly as she could to the yellow door, losing her mind with nerves. She inserted the key and it popped open with a click. Priya would never get over the scene that was in front of her as she entered the room. 
      Dirty sheets were littered everywhere, while dust collected on the rotting mahogany furnishings. Cobwebs hung from ceiling to ceilings, like stretched gum, and the room reeked of burnt goods. Priya slowly approached a bed in the corner when shivers went up her spine and she broke out into a cold sweat. The bed housed a disfigured corpse of bones all wrapped in green fabric, not any random fabric but a bandana. Priya knew what was going on and frantically ran out the door when she tripped on something sharp. She stopped to nurse her aching foot to find that she stepped on a charm bracelet; then everything fell into place like a puzzle had been solved. The cold case, the kidnapping, the bandana, the bracelet, and Louise's delirious chants from breakfast, she had accidentally stumbled upon the dead body of Felicia Henderson.

      Like a kettle, Priya zipped back into her room, bulldozing anything and everything back into her suitcase; she was no longer safe. She ran out of the manor like Cinderella from the ball when the lights turned on everywhere. Bright red lights started flashing, sirens went off, and the front gate began closing. The heavens must have been looking down upon her because she managed to slip through the gaps and run or rather hobble to the nearest police station through the chilly autumn night air. By the time she gathered all the officers to follow her back to the estate, all was nearly gone. The towers aflame, the manor matched the hues of the changing leaves that the estate was surrounded in. As soon as the fire died down, everyone went in to investigate but nothing was found. Priya glumly made her way back to the gates to give her statement to the police when she stepped on something pointy. An intense sense of deja vu hit her like a bus, and she bent down to pick up a charm bracelet from beneath her boot. The Ridingsons were erased from the world, and the name Felicia was never uttered again. 



Darshita Rakam – 11th grade

Darshita is hardworking, dedicated, and best of all, self-motived. Her sincerity towards her work is commendable. She always ruminates on her assigned task, and then uses a combination of intense thinking and writing to compose her stories, essays, and poems. Her handwriting is a joy to read!