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  • Writer's pictureArlette Ferber

What happened to Claire?

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

I'm Claire.

I was born somewhere in the early 1900s , I don't remember exactly when, because it was so long ago. It was in Quebec. To the east of the Townships, close to the U.S. border. A small village with three churches, a waterfall in the river and a mill with a water wheel.

Why am I telling you this? I want to tell my own story because you're not going to believe the person who's experienced it. I speak English, I mention it here because that seems to be important here in the village. My life is a bit boring these days. That used to be different. We were a big family where something was always happening, both good and less good things. I was the youngest. We all slept in one room and I was in bed with my oldest sister. Nice and warm, because there was only a wood-burning stove in the living room. My father and my brothers worked on a farm in the village. Long days of hard physical work and low pay. My oldest sister helped in the household, because my mother was poorly and couldn't do much anymore. I was able to sew nicely, so I did the adjustments at home. All the work clothes were held together with patches and stitching because there was no money to buy new ones. I also had to wear my sister's old dresses and I was actually very ashamed of that. It was what it was and complaining was not appreciated and they already thought of me as difficult and too smart. Because I was quite pretty, my parents hoped I would get married soon and leave the house. One mouth less to feed.

To make some money, I did adjustment work and made dresses for the richer ladies around. There weren't that many, but they were all very fashionable. Of course these ladies didn't come to us, that would have been inappropriate. I left in the morning and stayed there all day if necessary. If I was lucky there was a sewing room where no one bothered me and in the afternoon I got a bowl of soup in the kitchen. Those days I lived another life and quietly felt a little happier. If there was some tissue left, I could sometimes take it with me and could make a blouse or a skirt for myself with all the leftovers. That was great.

On the way to one of my ladies I came across a big dog that I never noticed before. I was friends with the dogs from the village, but I didn't know this one. As I used to, I talked to him and tried to gently pet him. I wish I hadn't! He bit me in the leg and I collapsed in pain. He got out of his way quickly, and there I was screaming for help until a passer-by found me and helped me to get home. There I was planted on a chair next to the stove and while my mother cleaning the wound I got an ear full because who was so stupid to pet strange dogs. It hurt like hell, I tried to be tough, but it didn't work out. Every once in a while, I would fall asleep and wake up from a twine of pain. I sat in that chair for days until I was too weak to sit up. There had been some kind of doctor who brought an ointment. My sister was very sweet and took care of me, my mother was mainly still especially angry. After about ten days I woke up from my feverish dreams because I had muscle cramps all over my body. Headaches, vomiting and nausea alternated and I had less and less energy. Other than that, I can't remember much because I slipped further and further away into the world of rabies.

When I woke up, my leg was healed and a blissful feeling dominated my initial relief. I moved around the house, but no one was watching me. I seemed invisible. There were no more chores, and I watched my sister do everything alone. I went to see my ladies, but they didn't seem to see me either. There were no more patches of tissue and no bowls of soup. I never saw that dog again, but the other dogs were still wagging their tails happily when I get close. It wasn't until my mother died that it dawned on me that I wasn't alive anymore. I was going to be 17 forever. Everything just went on without me. My father died, my sister and my brothers got married, and the house and I were left alone. It was quiet, but also deliciously quiet. I enjoyed myself. Walking in the village and spying on the people. Scare the hell out of the priest by knocking over stuff in the church. I was able to sneak into the neighbours' houses and slam the doors. It was very funny how people reacted to that. Soon there were stories that our house had become haunted. It was empty for a long time and I was fine with that.

Until the day a man came with a key that made the lock crunch and the door squeak open. I quickly wanted to chase that intruder and pulled open my bag of tricks. Doors slammed, the light went on and off by itself, it got icy cold and then suddenly warm again. Quietly he walked from room to room and was humming contentedly. He wasn't impressed by my. And on that one visit, things changed. Furniture was being dragged in, the stove was on again and it was a bustle of coming and going. They all seemed very happy, but I was far from it. What were those people doing in my house and how could I get rid of them? They thought it was funny that unexplained things were happening. I retreated into a corner in the hallway, where I had a good overview and I could keep an eye on everything.

Apparently my awareness of time had changed, because the children grew up far too fast, mother and father died shortly after each other and then the house was empty again. Freedom! I was able to get back to business.

I could have foreseen it wasn't going to last. Far too soon another family came with young children and a DOG. And it was the latter that was a problem. No matter how I tried, we didn't make peace. When I was in the same room he kept growling and squeaking at me and of course no one understood what was going on with him. And that just kept going on and on, most of the time he was kicked out the door to stop the noise. I started to hate that dog, he disturbed me even more than the people. Luckily, I noticed they only came every now and then, for a few days at the time. Maybe they had another house somewhere? Were they that rich? They were very different from the people I used to know.

Apparently they weren't that rich, because one day in the winter a moving van appeared. There was furniture lugging and there was a man and a woman, a cat and no less than TWO large black dogs. They looked like they were in love with my house. New curtains appeared, the stove burned again and in spring there were flowers everywhere. The dogs were busy chasing each other and the cat. I retrieved into the guest room to have some peace, but those stupid animals always lay on my bed to nap. I did what I could to annoy them, but they weren't impressed. They would run around the house and I couldn't really find peace.

After trying everything, I decided to change tactics. The dogs apparently belonged to the woman, so she had to take care of it for me. From experience I knew that night time was the best time to impress people. In their bedroom, the previous owners had left a picture of their dog. In the middle of the night I stood in the doorway of the bedroom, pulled my white cap and apron straight and waited. She quickly woke up and looked at me. I threw the picture frame on the floor, the glass broke. As clear as I could, I said, I DON'T LIKE DOGS! Instead of being frightened she asked who I was and I answered I was Claire and that I lived here. She was surprised I guess, but not afraid or impressed. The next morning at breakfast there was a lot of talk about me. All kinds of theories were made up and even a search in the museum archives did not help to solve the mystery. Claire was not found, but she did exist. That recognition felt wonderful. A person had listened to me.

They didn't stay that long, and now it's quiet again in the house.

If she tells you this story, you know now that it really happened and that Claire exists.

Copyright © Arlette Ferber. All rights reserved.

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