Words by Bryan H. Wiratno

The old quaint building sat behind a new sporting apparel store, effectively hiding from plain sight. Its ivy-covered white stone walls were virtually invisible to a passerby – if one did not know what he was looking for. Perhaps that was for the better, as most of the manor’s clients preferred the public to remain unaware of this hidden gem in an otherwise plastic city. An immortal beating heart in the face of ever-changing facades. 


Benjamin would probably never have stumbled upon Borsires Manor if he were not a stranger in a new city. But he figured that if he could just wander around with no plan, he could experience the community to its fullest. So, now holding in his bag a pair of new tennis shoes he did not remember ever needing, Benjamin found himself with the option of either going out front into the wide pavements he walked in from or the shoddy beaten path just lying some odd steps from the back. And in perfect Frostbitten cliche, he took the road less travelled. 


There he saw it, a little rundown manor, in a rather good condition all things considered, for it is rare that one can see such an ancient building, with a trimmed lawn fenced by a healthy grove of trees, with perfect mounds of fallen leaves under their many branches, and polished marble floors on the patio where a well-fashioned lady, probably around her forties by Benjamin’s uncannily accurate estimate, along with a younger girl, perhaps her teenage daughter, were enjoying what seemed to be sandwich and tea while chatting casually. On the other side of the manor, he could see a heavy young man talking to a far older man who reminded Benjamin somehow of a British aristocrat. They were both carrying badminton racquets. He then saw the teenage girl waving at him and if a pretty girl waves at you, you come to her. Obviously. 


The older lady spoke first, “You must be new here.” 


“I am, Ma’am. Just arrived here four days ago.” 


“That’s exciting,” the girl said, nodding so much that she looked like a bobblehead. 


“I suppose it is. What exactly is this place?” 


“Just an old house for people to come and unwind themselves. Come sit down, boy, drink that tea you’re holding and have some of this splendid sandwich Indra just made for us.” 


Without even realizing how Benjamin looked down to find a teacup already in his hand. He noticed too that the girl was grinning especially impishly when he looked back at her. 


“So, is this like a Grand Budapest Hotel for rich people or something?” 


“Oh, definitely not,” the girl shook her head, “everyone’s welcome here as long as they follow the rules. Great-grandpapa and great-grandmama were still very poor when they first found the Manor.” 


“What are these rules you mention?” 


“The main ones are simple: clean up after your own mess, don’t fight with other guests, keep everything family-friendly, and Jerome’s words are final.” 




“Jerome Kane is the butler of the Manor, he’s the one running everything here. You’ll find him easily with his pencil moustache and snow-white mane.” 


Benjamin realized that she was talking about the aristocratic-looking fellow. “Is he the owner?” 


“He is! People don’t believe me when I say he’s the owner, but I know so,” the girl pouted. 


“You have to stop listening to the rumours here, darling. Jerome says he’s simply running this for his master, a Mr. Robbins if I’m not mistaken.” 


“But we never see Mr. Robbins! He’s probably just making it up to hide his wealth. Tom said he’s getting close to finding proof that Jerome and Mr. Robbins are the same person.” 


“Whatever you say, honey, whatever you say. Anyway, when Jerome says something, you have two choices and two choices only: you either obey it or you leave.” 


“You can also use the rooms to stay in when you need to, but Jerome only allows people to stay up to three nights and the price changes on his whim.” 


“That’s really convenient.” 


“Jerome’s word is final,” chanted the girl. 


The older lady just gave her a disapproving look and poured herself another cup of tea. “There is one unofficial rule you will have to follow through if you do decide to come back here.” 


“And that is?” 


“Try not to tell outsiders about the manor. The regulars get upset if word comes out about us.” 


“If this is unofficial, why should anyone follow it then?” Benjamin retorted. 


“Consider it a small token of courtesy, for providing the estate. If curious souls were to stumble here by accident, as in your case, they would either learn to appreciate the manor or forget about it. Both perfectly desirable outcomes. But if word were to come out, the common people would flock here to taint this untouched sanctuary of ours.” 


It was a weird sentiment for Benjamin, almost to the point of snobbishness. He was always taught that when something is shared it does not mean that there is less of it for somebody, it just means more for everybody. 


“Sweetheart, why don’t you take our guest here for a walk around the property?” 


Hearing this instruction from the older lady, the girl quickly jumped up with another toothy grin and started walking towards a small door by the side. 


“I know Borsires Manor and its rules might seem weird now, but take the chance, Benjamin, you might just find it interesting.” 

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