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Silence. Our world is in absolute darkness. IN THE DARKNESS: Around the edges light begins to invade, breaking the darkness. It is not white light but shades of blue and it moves like water - flowing and rippling as it engulfs the black. More light continues to flow into the darkness, it seems random and uncontrolled, but more and more we can see that the darkness is contouring to taking a form. The sounds of crashing waves intrude on the silence and it becomes clear that we are under water and that the blue light is nothing more than the sun's reflection over a body of water. EXT. UNDER WATER - AFTERNOON We DESCEND further and now the shape has taken from. It is the disturbing sight of a WOMAN'S BODY floating limp with the current under the water. We cannot see her face clearly. The sounds of the ocean deep are drowned out by the sound of a young woman's voice- GRETCHEN (V.O.) I am dead now. I know this and I accept it. If there is a God, might there also be a devil? And if so at which table shall I be seated? For in this life I have done good deeds...and bad. CLOSE ON A GOLDEN HEART-SHAPED PENDANT That floats freely around her neck, chained to her by a fine necklace. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) All of this caused by a book - a journal. It should have been nothing to anyone but to me, it's owner. But I was to learn that even this simple diary would become of great significance in the lives of others, and also to my very own. We stay with the floating body in silence for a moment longer before- FADE OUT: Once again we are in darkness. SUDDENLY, a single flame ignites out of nowhere and banishes the darkness. It quivers for a moment and then begins to burn strongly. From the burning reflection on glass we can see that the flame is incased in a gas-lantern. The lantern is placed carefully on a solid wooden platform. Light gives way to- INT. A BEDROOM - NIGHT The wooden platform is in fact a large oak desk. An ink well and several pens lay scattered across the counter. A jewelry box, an array of perfume bottles of all shapes and sizes sit amongst the tools of this writer. This is the desk of a lady, one of considerable wealth. A BEAUTIFUL JOURNAL One with a leather cover is laid carefully onto the counter. The cover is opened to reveal pages and pages of diary entries. The daily experiences of this person, her dreams, ambitions, sights, tastes and loves are all listed with dates. Raw emotion spelled out in ink. A PEN DIPS INTO THE INK And begins to write on a fresh page. The words flow easily - a word becomes a sentence, a sentence into a paragraph. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (a diary entry) Dear diary, it has been less than a week since the funeral of my late husband and although the mourning period has only just begun, my mother has already begun the search for my new husband-to-be. CUT TO: INT. A BATHROOM - HUSBAND'S HOUSE - DAY A tub sits to one side of this elegant bathroom. Two locked double doors sit only metres from the tub. CLOSE ON THE SIDE OF THIS TUB where the frantic sounds of knocking, 'jiggling' of the two locked doors and calls to "open up" and "let us in" from the other side may be heard. GRETCHEN (V.O.) You see, I was only married six months before the unfortunate accident involving my husband's wrists and a knife which resulted in his premature departure from this earth. A BLOODY ARM falls limp before us. A deep gash along an artery allows blood to gush onto the tiles below. A knife 'clangs' onto the floor beside the pooling blood. RETURN TO: INT. A BEDROOM - CONTINUOUS The pen continues to write over the page. GRETCHEN (V.O.) And of course the reasons were financial. Some bad decisions here and there, over spending and of course extravagant living lead to his bankruptcy. In turn his debts were passed onto to me, his widow, which of course is what this was all about. We see our writer for the first time in the reflection from her mirror-set. She has an angelic face with striking emerald eyes, long locks of blonde hair that hang over her shoulders and perfect skin. She is GRETCHEN. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) My late husband was not the only man who could spend more than the pocket allowed. My father suffered the same ailment. Our family's fortune was all but depleted and of course neither my mother nor I knew of this until the day we had a visit from the bank. My father had hid his debts well, until now. So it was up to me, their only daughter, to remarry and save the family from humiliation and to keep them accustom to the life they were used to. There is a knock at the door and the sound of the handle turning. Gretchen ceases writing and turns her head to the doorway to see- HER MOTHER, JACQUELINE. Standing in the light. She looks to be dressed for a party. JACQUELINE It's past five my dear, the guests are arriving. She walks by Gretchen and over to the curtains. With a quick tug they fly open, allowing the setting sun to blast light into the dark room. Gretchen squints in pain and hides her face behind her hand. GRETCHEN I was just finishing up here, mother. JACQUELINE Well don't be too long, you know how important tonight is- GRETCHEN (sigh) How could I possibly forget- Jacqueline continues as if her daughter had never spoken. JACQUELINE And it is best to get off to a good and early start. GRETCHEN You remind me so frequently. Jacqueline inspects her daughter's appearance by walking around her like a General would a soldier. JACQUELINE There are many eligible men out there tonight - all eagerly waiting to meet you. All you have to do is choose - I made sure all the 'suitable' ones were invited. GRETCHEN And by 'suitable', I assume you mean wealthy? JACQUELINE Is there another kind of 'suitable'? But don't you concern yourself with that, I had them all inspected thoroughly before the invitations were sent out. GRETCHEN (sigh) I do not doubt it. Jacqueline stops her inspection and looks to her daughter. JACQUELINE It is important for you to be at your best tonight. It is most urgent that you act... (pause to think) 'Suitable' for these men. Your family needs you. Both of the men in our lives have left us on the financial brink and we must save our livelihood. If not for you, then for your- GRETCHEN (interrupts) Our? I'm sure when it boils down to it, you mean your? In a sudden outburst, Jacqueline slaps her across the face but is instantly sorry and hold's Gretchen's face the way a mother would when her child has been hurt. JACQUELINE (holding back mock tears) See what this has done to me? Would you like to see your mother working as a seamstress, a wash girl... (pause, horror) or a maid? Would you? To have our belongings sold at auction, our friends - what would they say? Would you like your mother to be a laughing stock? Gretchen shakes her head - defeated. GRETCHEN No, mother. Jacqueline begins to adjust her daughter's dress with her hands. Just fiddling around the shoulders, a futile attempt to act like a real mother. JACQUELINE Do you understand how hard it was to find these men? You should count yourself lucky that you are still young. If you were older... She doesn't need to finish, her daughter is convinced. JACQUELINE (CONT'D) I'm glad we've had this little talk. So I will see you downstairs shortly? Gretchen nods softly, unable to look her mother in the eyes. JACQUELINE (CONT'D) Good. She kisses her daughter on the forehead and leaves. EXT. MANSION GROUNDS - EVENING Couples, all dressed in their finest evening attire stride along a pathway towards the illuminated mansion. Flaming torches line both sides this path. The party has begun... INT. BALLROOM - EVENING A small orchestra entertains the guests. Couples dance in the centre of the ballroom, each trying to outdo one another whilst the remaining guests engage in conversation on the outer rim of the ballroom. Gretchen enters the ballroom through the main archway with the other guests. She scans the room, but cannot recognize any of the faces. Awkwardly she moves through the crowd in search of her mother. The ballroom is bulging with guests and so every step by Gretchen is planned carefully, it looks like ballet blended with her need not to touch/bump another living soul in the room - especially the many 'suitors' that all stare at her with wanting eyes. Many of them are as old, if not older than her own father. GRETCHEN (V.O.) Dear diary, welcome to the grand bazaar and instead of wares the item up for bartering is me. Gretchen spots her mother, who is talking to a suitor - MR. MACDOUGAL. He is old enough to be her father, thinning hair and red cheeks - obviously from over drinking. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) And the person doing the selling is none other than my own mother. Gretchen approaches the pair, but MacDougal spots her first. Jacqueline turns and greets her daughter, taking her hands in hers. JACQUELINE Gretchen Dear She takes Gretchen by the shoulders and insistently pushes her towards MacDougal. JACQUELINE (CONT'D) Gretchen this is Mr. MacDougal, one of the richest beef barons in Scotland. Gretchen smiles politely. MACDOUGAL (extremely broad accent) Good evening milady, a pleasure to make your acquaintance. Gretchen stares. Blinks. What did he just say? Jacqueline sense a problem- JACQUELINE My daughter is very shy and isn't very talkative. MACDOUGAL (broad accent, mixed with a laugh) Well now, the perfect wife. Gretchen merely stares, still unable to understand his jabbering. JACQUELINE (intervening) Well .. perhaps you would both care to dance. MacDougal offers his hand and Gretchen reluctantly accepts it and they both move, arms linked, to the dance floor with the other couples. The orchestra strikes up a new tune and the couples begin to waltz. GRETCHEN (V.O.) What kind of world accepted dancing as a form of courting? Gretchen spins, blocking our view of MacDougal and when they turn we discover she has a new partner, another suitor. A FAT LANDLORD. FAT LANDLORD I've always maintained that men should stick to male activities such as hunting and women to their own. Do you enjoy sewing? GRETCHEN (V.O.) I would rather stick needles in my spine, bathe in acid and drink poison... GRETCHEN (CONT'D) (with a fake smile) Oh yes! They spin again, the suitor is blocked and upon returning Gretchen is dancing with another SUITOR. He doesn't speak English and mutters away, assuming she speaks his language. Gretchen can do nothing but lose herself in her own mind, ignoring his banter. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) Will he ever stop talking? He hasn't stopped for a breath since this dance begun - that was five minutes ago. Gretchen the begins to notice things about him, like the small piece of celery stuck on his front tooth. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) Is that celery? They spin and once again she is dancing with another SUITOR. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) I must have danced that entire night. I had fat ones... Gretchen spins and is dancing with a FAT SUITOR- GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) Thin ones... She spins and is dancing with a VERY THIN SUITOR- GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) Giants... On the dance floor, Jacqueline introduces Gretchen to a EXTREMELY TALL SUITOR. She stares for a moment at his chest, as that is where her own eyes meet him. She tilts her head back and stares upwards, attempting to find which comes first - heaven or his head. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) And leprechauns. Gretchen now dances with a very SHORT MAN. His bald head barely reaches her chest. She dancing awkwardly and burns with embarrassment. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) I even danced with people from every nationality and every color. IN FLASH CUTS we watch as Gretchen dances with men of every color. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) and even a woman. Gretchen is now dancing with a woman. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) No wait- She stops dancing - the woman vanishes. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) No I didn't. Time has passed...Gretchen has finished dancing and stands alone by a long table. To one side of her lies glasses and glasses of champagne whilst the other side remains empty. With the orchestra blocking out the words, we watch *IN TIME LAPSE* as Jacqueline continuously brings over VARIOUS SUITORS at what appears to be every moment, but in fact is over the whole night. They come and go very quickly, after brief conversations. As the suitors are continuously introduced, Gretchen takes a glass of champagne and drinks it whilst she talks. As they come and go we watch the PILE OF EMPTY GLASSES begin mount up on the empty section of the table as the FULL PILE begins to diminish in number. FROM ACROSS THE ROOM, A HANDSOME FACE watches Gretchen with his dark consuming eyes. He is in a small group of men and has been engaged in conversation with them, but now only gazes at her. He is JONATHAN ASHBY. For a split moment, Gretchen's eyes lock with his - this only makes his eyes want her more. SUDDENLY, their stare is broken by Jacqueline, who introduces Gretchen to another SUITOR. Ashby stops a passing waiter and points Gretchen out to him. A few words are exchanged between the two and before Ashby released the him, he plants several coins inside the waiter's palm. EXT. MANSION GROUNDS - EARLY MORNING The flaming torches that once lit the way to the mansion are slowly, one by one, being extinguished by the servants. The smouldering smoke wafts into the grey skies above. INT. A BEDROOM - EARLY MORNING Gretchen lies spread out over her sheets - she is exhausted. GRETCHEN (V.O.) To my discontent not a single suitor at that party suited my tastes. But that was irrelevant wasn't it? I was the one to be married and in the end I would not even have a say... INT. SITTING ROOM - NEXT AFTERNOON A LETTER Is unfolded and sits in Gretchen's hands. She sits on the edge of a sofa with Jacqueline beside her and OTHER LADIES sitting patiently on other seats about the room. All are having afternoon tea. She finishes reading the letter and flops her arms down, everyone waits eagerly for her reaction. She is clearly uninterested. JACQUELINE Well...? GRETCHEN Well what, mother? Who is this Mister Ashby, do I know him? JACQUELINE Does it matter? GRETCHEN Well if he is to be my husband I would at least like to know something...anything about him. JACQUELINE I know something about him. He is rich. Very rich. I heard he bought the Lancaster's old place, double what they paid for it and didn't bat and eye. GRETCHEN Oh mother. JACQUELINE You may oh mother me but I do have your interests at heart. He can look after you, security is the most important thing. THIN LADY She's right, you know? Everyone turns to her. She is a rake, dressed in fine clothes and has a 'bitch-ness' about her. THIN LADY (CONT'D) Even if you do not love your husband, at least love his money. Enjoy yourself. The woman sitting next to her, a VERY WELL-OFF WOMAN nods her head as she swallows her tea. WELL-OFF WOMAN I certainly did. THIN LADY As did I. Everyone giggles - everyone but Gretchen who remains deadpan. GRETCHEN (V.O.) They were right. Even if I did accept his proposal, I was only accepting it because we needed his money. Look at me saying 'if', I knew that my mother's persuading would eventually lead to 'when'... DISSOLVE TO: EXT. COUNTRYSIDE - DAY A carriage pulled by four horses moves through the English countryside. INT. CARRIAGE - CONTINUOUS Gretchen, now dressed more plainly in a black dress and her hair wrapped up in a bun, sits along inside the carriage, gazing out at the passing scenery. She is silent and from her blank eyes we can see she is lost in her thoughts. GRETCHEN'S JOURNAL Lies buried between her arms. GRETCHEN (V.O.) I was sent to join this man, Mister Ashby at his home in the north of England. I knew nothing of my husband to-be only that he had lost his own wife months earlier. This was all I knew - I didn't even have a picture. EXT. FRONT GATES - ASHBY ESTATE - LATER The carriage moves parallel with a large stone wall. INT. CARRIAGE - CONTINUOUS Gretchen watches curiously as the wall disappears and the entrance to the huge property is revealed. TWO HUGE IRON GATES Tower above the fence. They are black and cold, representing what is to come. Beyond the gates we can see a pathway leading up to the mansion in the distance. The gates reflect onto Gretchen's eyes as she stares in awe and wonders to herself what kind of man would hide himself behind thick stone and iron. EXT. CARRIAGE - CONTINUOUS The carriage comes to a complete stop. The horses dance around for a moment before coming to rest. The DRIVER jumps down from the cab and strolls through the 'sloshing' mud towards the back, where Gretchen's belongings are strapped in. Gretchen pokes her head through the window and watches as the Driver places her belongings by the gate. GRETCHEN Why have we stopped? Is something the matter? DRIVER No, Miss. I have specific orders not to go beyond these gates. GRETCHEN By whom? DRIVER The owner's, Mister Ashby's. He was most insistent, mentioned it several times and made me repeat it to make sure I understood. GRETCHEN Well, what am I supposed to do? The Driver stops, removes his hat and scratches his head for a moment. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) Is he thinking or has he got lice? DRIVER Walk, I suppose. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (deadpan) Lice. DRIVER I'm sorry, Miss but orders is orders. If I take you further I could lose my job and then who would provide for my kids- GRETCHEN (gives up) Okay okay okay Gretchen opens the door and carefully climbs out of the carriage. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) I suppose the air would do me some good. She straps a bonnet over her pulled-back hair and moves over to her bags, taking them all in hand. EXT. FRONT GATES - ASHBY ESTATE - CONTINUOUS Gretchen moves towards the towering gates. With a mighty heave, she forces one of the gates open and steps through. EXT. PATHWAY - ASHBY ESTATE - CONTINUOUS Large oak trees border the sandy pathway and continue with it all the way to the mansion in the distance. The oaks are tightly packed together and with their large over hanging branches meeting in the centre, a tunnel is formed. Gretchen slowly moves down the pathway, towards the mansion. EXT. MANSION GROUNDS - DAY CLOSE ON THE STONE FACE OF A BOY Who's face is crumbling due to lack of care and echoes the dreariness of this place. We BLUR OUT the boy's face and can see Gretchen emerge from the pathway and the protection of the oaks. The stone boy is in fact part of a massive FOUNTAIN that is decaying with age and overgrown with moss. Behind the fountain lay the MANSION. It too is beginning to decay with lack of attention. The stone walls are beginning to crack and the wooden window sills are in desperate need of a coat of paint. The inside of the mansion is left only to the imagination as heavy drapes block all eyes from prying where they are obviously unwanted. GRETCHEN (V.O.) Dear diary, I have arrived to my new home, only to find a once great manor having been left to ruin and to slowly decay with the passing of the days. CLOSE ON GRETCHEN'S FACE As she curiously gazes over the mansion. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) I am left with a strange curiosity at why a man, especially one as wealthy as this Mister Ashby, would let his home go to such ruin? INT. A ROOM - MANSION - SAME TIME SOMEONE'S POV Watches Gretchen from the safety of the darkness. This person watches as Gretchen gazes over the house once more and then disappears out of sight. The drape falls back into place and instantly we are in DARKNESS. INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - MOMENTS LATER Absolute silence. A dark foyer. We MOVE down a set of stairs and through the foyer towards the front doors. With grey stone walls, thick stale air and no movement this place could be easily confused with that of a crypt. SUDDENLY, light pours into the room and a shadow grows over the grey stone floor as Gretchen enters. GRETCHEN Hello? Her voice echoes until silence returns. She strolls into the centre. We SPIRAL around her as she takes in the new surroundings. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) Hello? Her voice echoes until silence returns. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) (louder) Is there anyone home? Silence. A GRAND STAIRCASE Lies before her. It splits at the centre landing, creating another two sets of stairs that lead one left and one right. However, this is not what she is staring at. TWO GRANDFATHER CLOCKS lay at the base of the steps. One on either side. They both are exactly alike but there is something strange about them, neither tick. They show '11:45am'. She takes from one of her bags a POCKET WATCH and flips it open and reads the time. '5:31pm'. She closes the lid, never taking her eyes from the clocks. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) How strange. Something catches Gretchen's attention. She stares for a moment and then begins to climb the staircase. A HUGE PORTRAIT Hangs on the landing. The staircase leads directly to it. It depicts a BEAUTIFUL WOMAN with long blonde hair, a gorgeous smile and bares a likeness to Gretchen. A HEART SHAPE PENDANT hangs around her neck. Out of the silence a PIANO can be heard. She takes her eyes from the captivating portrait and begins to follow the mournful sound. CUT TO: INT. A ROOM - MANSION - SAME TIME CLOSE ON A MAN'S HANDS As they play the ivory and black keys of a piano. He plays very well. RETURN TO: INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - SAME TIME Gretchen cautiously walks up this corridor, still searching for the origin of the piano's song. CUT TO: INT. A ROOM - MANSION - SAME TIME The hands move over the keys, he plays with a great passion and is determined not to make a mistake - always hitting the keys with precision. RETURN TO: INT. A CORRIDOR - MANSION - SAME TIME Another corridor. Gretchen approaches a doorway where flickering light emerges from an ajar door. She places her hand against it and pushes it open. INT. A ROOM - MANSION - CONTINUOUS Gretchen enters the room, where easily a hundred flickering candles, positioned all over the room burn. They are of all shapes and sizes, puddles of wax having pooled and hardened giving us the impression that they have been burning possibly all night - perhaps many nights. She moves through the room silently, awed and terrified at the same time. This place is something out of a ghost story. A four post bed with silk sheets. Elegant furniture. A hand painted ceiling to rival that of Sistine Chapel - The room would be beautiful if light could enter, but it is reminiscent of the rest of the mansion, morbid and deprived. Gretchen stops directly in front of a fireplace. ANOTHER PORTRAIT Of the beautiful woman hangs over it. The same heart shape pendant around her neck. SOMEONE'S POV watches Gretchen from behind as she gazes over the portrait. CLOSE ON GRETCHEN- VOICE (O.S.) Who are you? His voice booms in the silence. Gretchen, startled, turns around to see ASHBY standing behind her - in an adjoining room. GRETCHEN You startled me. ASHBY (stepping forward) And you didn't answer my question. He moves closer and closer until he is almost on top of her. A frightened Gretchen babbles- GRETCHEN I'm your...well I am....from the....I'm Gretchen... Against the fireplace. She cannot retreat any further. ASHBY Oh... (insincere) Forgive me. You look somewhat different since the last time I saw you. (pause) I wasn't expecting you for another few days. GRETCHEN We had a good run. It took no time at all really. There is a long silence and it seems as if Ashby is trying to stare her down. Gretchen tries to fight back, but his powerful stare is no match for hers and she has to look away. She locks eyes on his piano in the adjoining room. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) You play very well. Ashby doesn't respond. She mistakes his silence for confusion. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) The piano. Ashby slightly turns his head towards the adjoining room, but stops. Is there some hidden pain? GRETCHEN (CONT'D) I never learned. Perhaps you could teach me some time. Gretchen smiles weakly, in an attempt to lighten the mood. It fails. ASHBY You must be exhausted after your trip. I'll show you to your room. He turns and leaves. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - LATER A dark silent room. SUDDENLY, the double-doors fly open and Ashby marches in with Gretchen following quickly from behind. Gretchen scans the room quickly. A simple bed, writing desk, a crumbling wardrobe, a chest of drawers that is in desperate need of a coat of varnish and an old red leather chair that sits in the middle of nowhere. The room lacks the elegance of the others, but maintains the cold and dreariness of the mansion. ASHBY A bed...chest of drawers...wardrobe...and a desk if you so require one. He points out the features as if he was a real-estate agent. ASHBY (CONT'D) Did you bring any belongings with you? GRETCHEN They're downstairs. ASHBY I'll have my man bring them up for you. He tends to the duties of this house. I sometimes may have other people as required, but he is the only servant I keep on full-time. He caters to all my needs and in future, to yours. GRETCHEN Thank you. He opens his mouth to speak, but cannot - he nods, smiles weakly and leaves without another word. The door close behind him. Gretchen frowns to herself as she takes another look at her new room... and new life. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) Welcome home, Gretchen. There is a knock at the door. A MAN enters the room carrying Gretchen's belongings. His hair is longer than that of Ashby's, his clothes far less elegant and he is at least ten years older. He is DANE, the lone servant. DANTE Where can i put these? GRETCHEN Just there would be fine, thank you. Dante drops the cases roughly. DANTE Do you need anything else? GRETCHEN No, I don't believe so. He turns to leave- GRETCHEN (CONT'D) Wait! Dante stops and turns. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) I do have something. She moves over to her bed and retrieves a sealed LETTER. She hands it to him. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) Please, could you have this delivered to my former address. Dante takes a quick look over it and tucks it away in his vest pocket. DANTE Anything else? GRETCHEN No, thank you. Dante turns to leave when- GRETCHEN (CONT'D) What is your name? He turns, but continues to walk. DANTE (pause) Dante, Miss. Gretchen smiles. GRETCHEN Thank you (pause) Dante. INT. DINING HALL - MANSION - EVENING A long rectangular table sits in the centre of this Gothic styled dining hall. A huge fire place lies off to one side. Gretchen and Ashby sit at opposite ends of the table and eat their supper in silence. She constantly looks up from her meal, a puzzled expression over her face as she looks over a strange sight. A PLACE IS RESERVED For another guest. It lies adjacent to Ashby at the other end of the table. GRETCHEN Is someone going to be joining us? He looks up from his meal. ASHBY No. Silence. Gretchen's eyes wonder around the room and come to rest on another PORTRAIT of the beautiful lady hanging above the fireplace. GRETCHEN (finally) Who's the woman in all of the paintings? Ashby stops in mid mouthful as if she has said something shocking. After a breif pause he continues to chew and finally answers. ASHBY My wife, Liz- (stops himself) Elizabeth. GRETCHEN Oh. ASHBY I'm sure your mother told you. GRETCHEN She did. (pause) How did she die? ASHBY She... (painful pause) She just died. GRETCHEN I'm sorry. She was very beautiful. ASHBY Yes she is. Gretchen gives him a look, noting his use of is instead of was. FOOTSTEPS break the new silence and Dante enters, a thick full length coat under his arm. DANTE The carriage has arrived. Ashby finishes his mouthful and stands. Gretchen looks to both men, confused. GRETCHEN Carriage? ASHBY Yes. I have an appointment to keep with a a business associate which I cannot miss. Dante helps Ashby on with his coat. ASHBY (CONT'D) I will be back tomorrow at some point. Dante will attend to you if you require him. Everything in this house is at your disposal. GRETCHEN Thank- ASHBY (interrupts) But I must stress one thing. I keep all my doors unlocked but one. It remains locked at all times, do I make myself clear? GRETCHEN Yes, quite clear. ASHBY Good. Ashby strides out of the room with Dante in tow. From a BIRD's EYE VIEW we can see how insignificant Gretchen is in this hall... and how alone. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - NIGHT Gretchen folds the last of her night shirts and places them into the derelict set of drawers. She returns to the bed, where the rest of her clothing has been laid out and awaits to be put away. Taking a dress in her hands, she moves over to the wardrobe and opens the doors. GRETCHEN'S POV An empty wardrobe - no hangers. Gretchen pouts and rolls her eyes back slightly, 'typical'. She looks down to see several hangers lying tangled together on the base of the wardrobe. Crouching down, she picks them up, ready to pull them apart when a PHOTOGRAPH drops out and falls face down on the floor. She stares at it for a moment then places the tangled hangers down on the ground and picks up the photograph. She turns it over and examines it. A photograph of ELIZABETH sits in her fingertips. She looks very unhappy, greatly different from the smiling portraits we have already seen. Gretchen stands and whilst continuing to look over the photograph moves over to her bed. She retrieves her journal from the pillow and places the photograph inside for safe keeping. She returns to unpacking. CUT TO: INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - LATER Gretchen is looking directly at us, a stern expression over her face. She is thinking hard about something, but what? Finally, a smile appears over her face- With a mighty heave she pulls on a cord and the huge drapes fly open, allowing moonlight to spill through the windows and into her room. Gretchen falls onto her bed and with a smile bathes in the moonlight. After a moment, she turns her head and spots her journal lying beside her. CUT TO: INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - LATER Gretchen is now sitting in the old leather chair, her legs tucked under her as she writes in her journal. GRETCHEN (V.O.) Was tonight going to be the stencil for the rest of my life? Was I to spend the rest of my years in this dreary house, with a husband that would never speak more than a few cold words to me? She pauses writing and gazes through the window into the dark outside world. A single light shines in the distance - this is DANTE'S COTTAGE. Exhausted, Gretchen nuzzles her head against the back of the chair. Before she knows it she has fallen into a deep sleep, the journal still resting on her lap. CLOSE ON THE JOURNAL As Gretchen's fingers begin to relax the journal begins to slowly slip out of her grasp, sliding closer and closer towards the edge of her knees. In SLOW MOTION we watch as her fingers completely relax and the journal slides off her knees. It falls to the ground with a thunderous 'thud', spilling many pages open, allowing the photograph to escape and slip under the chair. Gretchen jumps in fright and looks about the room, only to find the journal lying at her feet. She leans over and retrieves it. Her lips move close to the burning candle and with a quick puff, the flame is extinguished, smoke wafting into the air. She stands and with a stretch, she slowly makes her way to the bed. FROM UNDER THE CHAIR We watch as she slips between the sheets before FOCUSING on the forgotten photograph. FADE OUT: EXT. ASHBY ESTATE - NEXT MORNING The sun rises high into the sky for the beginning of a new day. Flowers are blossoming and the trees glow in the morning dew - we could be in Eden. We LOWER through the oak branches and come to rest on the pathway. A BEAUTIFUL FLOWER has beaten the odds and grown out of the sand. SUDDENLY, a set of HOOVES thunder over us and a CARRIAGE WHEEL tramples the beautiful flower - reminding us that we are not in Eden after all. CUT TO: INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - SAME TIME Gretchen moves down the empty corridor. She is learning her way around her new home. CUT TO: INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - MOMENTS LATER Ashby throws the double-doors open and hurries through the foyer. As he approaches the staircase he looks to the grandfather clocks and more importantly to their times, "11:45am". He retrieves his own pocket watch and flips open the lid, "11:40am". Only five minutes until they align. He climbs the stairs, skipping every second step. INT. SECOND FLOOR LANDING - MANSION - CONTINUOUS Gretchen walks to the end of the corridor and approaches the staircase. She notices Ashby, but before she can call out to him he turns into another corridor. He never saw her. Curiously, she follows. INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - CONTINUOUS Ashby strides down the corridor. Gretchen's face peers around the corner and watches as he stops at the end of the corridor, before two LOCKED DOORS. He removes a CHAIN from around his neck. Attached to the chain is a KEY. He inserts it into the lock, opens the door and enters. The door closes behind him and the sound of him re-locking it can be heard as Gretchen cautiously approaches. Knowing full well that she may have to move swiftly at anytime, Gretchen reluctantly crouches down onto her knees and peers through the keyhole. LOCK'S POV Shows Gretchen's pupil constrict and dilate as she looks around the room. GRETCHEN'S POV We cannot see much at all. The corner of a bed, other furniture, a rug on the floor and a set of drapes covering up the windows. Ashby's voice can also be heard. It is very faint and mumbled, Gretchen searches as much of the room as she can but cannot see him anywhere. Puzzled, Gretchen pulls away from the lock and SUDDENLY the faint mumbling has transformed into SHOUTING. Ashby's footsteps move towards the door. Gretchen falls back in fright and quickly looks about for an escape. She jumps to her feet, opens an adjacent door and closes it behind herself JUST AS the other door opens and Ashby storms out. INT. ADJACENT ROOM - MANSION - CONTINUOUS Gretchen has herself pushed hard against the back of the door, holding her breath as she doesn't want to draw Ashby's attention to this room. She can hear Ashby's ranting... ASHBY (O.S.) DON'T YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT IT OR I WILL PUT YOU BACK WHERE I FOUND YOU! The door is slammed shut and locked. His footsteps, thundering at first, slowly begin to fade away as he disappears down the corridor. Gretchen can breathe again. She turns and opens the door. INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - CONTINUOUS Gretchen peers into the corridor. Empty. She moves out of the safety of the room and closes the door gently. VOICE (O.S.) You shouldn't be here. A startled Gretchen turns to see Dante standing at the other end of the corridor. He holds a platter of breakfast and tea, destined for Ashby. GRETCHEN (stumbling) I wasn't...I was...just... DANTE I am just warning you for your own sake. Gretchen cannot help but smile at his dramatization. GRETCHEN Warning me? Dante doesn't return the smile. DANTE I don't mean anything by it, Miss. GRETCHEN What's in that room? DANTE Please, some things are better left unsaid. I don't know what's in that room and I don't want to know. You should do the same. GRETCHEN A secret? How dramatic. We can all keep secrets. DANTE He doesn't like secrets. (pause) Of any type. GRETCHEN He likes to keep them, apparently. DANTE I'm just telling you miss, so you never tell me in time to come that I didn't. Without another word Dante continues down another corridor, leaving Gretchen somewhat confused. MOVE TO: EXT. HILLSIDE - DAY With the mansion tucked away in the background, Gretchen reaches the summit of this grassy windswept hillside. She looks about at the beautiful countryside and then to the dreary mansion that stains the landscape. With a frown, she turns away from the mansion and descends into the meadows below. EXT. MEADOWS - DAY Various shots from all angles show Gretchen walking alone in the huge green meadows. An ARIEL SHOT shows Gretchen moving towards a set of cliffs that border the meadows and a beach. EXT. BEACH - DAY Gale force winds have swept up the ocean. Waves crash with enormous ferocity onto the beach, saturating more and more dry sand with every blow. Gretchen is alone for miles as she walks alone the beach. It is a very calming sight. In the distance Gretchen spots someone in the distance. An EASEL is set up in front of him and it is clear that he is painting the stormy sea. It is Dante. His hair and clothes flap wildly in the winds, however he seems unconcerned. Gretchen waves but he cannot see her. She is about to continue over to him when a CRASH of thunder causes her to abandon her idea and decide to return to the mansion. EXT. SKY - DAY The clouds rumble and lightning begins to flash all around as the storm grows. EXT. GARDENS - ASHBY ESTATE - DAY Gretchen runs through the garden, trying to dodge the ever growing puddles as more and more rain begins to fall. Completely saturated, Gretchen stops running and slowly moves to a walk and finally stands in her own tracks. She looks about herself, nothing but trees, flowers and hedges. She is lost. EXT. CEMETERY - ASHBY ESTATE - MOMENTS LATER Crypts. Tombstones. Plaques. Gretchen arrives at the family cemetery. A rusted iron fence surrounds the graves. Unlike the mansion the tombs are in pristine condition. Gretchen is hesitant about going in. There is another CRASH of thunder, Gretchen cowers, quickly and clumsily she unlatches the gate and enters the cemetery. She hides moves over to one of the crypts, allowing its oversized roof to protect her from the storm. Gretchen rubs her shoulders vigorously as in the wind her damp dress is making her very cold. Her hair hangs tangled and flat from rain and her face has gone pale white, her lips turning blue. She slides down the wall of the crypt, tucking her arms around her legs as she helplessly awaits the end of the storm. EXT. CRYPT - LATER Gretchen looks up to the sky, the storm is still overhead, thunder blasting the sky and lightning igniting the darkness. As she is looking up at the storm, the name "Ashby" catches her attention. She turns her head more and moves herself away from the wall so she can get a better look. Inscribed along the wall are all of the Ashby family to be buried inside the crypt. HAROLD STEVEN ASHBY JULIA ANN ASHBY WILSON STEVEN ASHBY MARY MARGARET ASHBY JAMES FREDERICK ASHBY GEORGIA JANE ASHBY JAMES ALISTAIR ASHBY CAROLINE FRANCINE ASHBY But at the end of the list, a female has been scratched out. Gretchen stands. She looks closer and moves her finger over the scratched out name. Most of the name is unrecognizable but it is clear as she moves her fingers over the original etching and from the few surviving letters it spells out the name 'Elizabeth'. Gretchen stands back, confused and somewhat curious. She turns and a RAT scampers over her foot. With a scream she unbalances and falls backwards, knocking her head on the concrete floor of the crypt. BLACK: In the darkness we can here the sound of a cloth sloshing around in water. The excess water is squeezed away until the dribbling stops. CLOSE ON AN EYELID As it barely blinks open and as quickly closes. EYES POV Shows a very BLURRED IMAGE. The eye blinks again and the image begins to sharpen. A FIGURE is sitting before us. INT. A ROOM - DANTE'S COTTAGE - EVENING Gretchen lays semi-conscious in a bed. The color in her face has returned and her hair has dried. Dante holds a washcloth in one hand and with the other lifts her up slightly so he can clean the gash on the back of her head. Gretchen moans in agony. Dante continues to carefully dab the wound and wash the blood into the bowl. GRETCHEN (mumbled and slow) Where am I? DANTE You're in my home. Do you remember what happened? Gretchen shakes her head weakly. GRETCHEN No. DANTE I found you unconscious in the cemetery. It was only luck that lead me to you, I had to check a fence and the quickest route happened to be through the cemetery, otherwise I may not have found you when I did. Dante squeezes the water out of the cloth once more and then turns to Gretchen. Her eyes are now completely open. DANTE (CONT'D) It was too far to the house, so I brought you here. I hope you don't mind? GRETCHEN No. DANTE Can you sit up at all? Gretchen tries to sit up but cannot. Dante helps her up and begins to dab the wound once more. GRETCHEN How long...? DANTE A couple of hours. GRETCHEN Oh. Gretchen suddenly notices that she is naked underneath the bed sheets. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) Oh my god. She tries to scramble out of bed but in pain she falls back. DANTE What? What? GRETCHEN Where are my clothes? DANTE Drying. They were saturated. If I hadn't have got you warm and dry quickly you could have died of a chill. Gretchen only stares, stunned, embarrassed - just to name a few of the emotions swimming around in her head at the thought of Dante seeing her naked. DANTE (CONT'D) I didn't do anything- GRETCHEN I didn't say you did. DANTE (with a smile) You were thinking it. (pause) I didn't look. It took me some time to undress you for that reason. I may not be a gentleman, but I do have my honour. Gretchen finally nods, accepting the reason. DANTE (CONT'D) I'm sorry. GRETCHEN It's okay. An awkward silence. Dante stands. DANTE You should drink something. He disappears out of the doorway. Gretchen looks around the room. It is very basic but clean. The entire room is lined with PAINTINGS. Canvases of all sizes and widths are stacked and scattered all over the floor. Gretchen slowly sits up, wrapping the sheet around her body as she continues to look over all of the paintings. Paintings of meadows, beaches, trees, sunsets and the ocean are some of the many scenes he has captured. Dante moves into the doorway, a glass of water in his hand. DANTE (CONT'D) Here you go. He hands Gretchen the glass and she smiles to him. GRETCHEN Thank you. She sips on it while looking over the paintings. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) You painted all these? Dante smiles with pride, DANTE Yes, every one. GRETCHEN They are amazing. DANTE My father made me my first brush when i was a boy. I remember it completely, in every detail. We didn't have a lot of money, most of it had to go into farm equipment. But when he took the brush and palette from behind his back and handed it to me I was so happy... (sorrowful pause) He died that month. I always thought it funny how the happiest time of my life was the same time of one of my saddest... GRETCHEN I'm sorry. Dante shakes his head with a smile. DANTE It's okay. The paintings remind me of him. It keeps him alive. Gretchen smiles, she puts her hand to her head. The throbbing pain has returned. Dante grabs her and helps her to lie down. DANTE (CONT'D) Just lie here and rest. The swelling will go down soon and then I'll take you home. Gretchen nods softly. Dante takes the washcloth and dips it in the water and squeezes out the residue before placing it on her forehead. GRETCHEN Can I ask you something? DANTE Yes. GRETCHEN In the cemetery, at Elizabeth's grave I noticed her name scratched out. Why? DANTE You weren't at Elizabeth's grave. GRETCHEN (confused) What? Yes I was I found her name. Dante dabs her forehead. DANTE You won't find her there. Gretchen looks at him curiously. DANTE (CONT'D) They moved her body just after the funeral. GRETCHEN Where? DANTE Why are you so interested? Stay with Gretchen's face as we- MOVE TO: EXT. A MEADOW - NEXT DAY LOOKING UP from the grass we watch as Gretchen, now recovered from the day before and dressed in a new dress walks towards us. She is staring at us. DANTE (V.O.) If you must know. You will find her beyond the river, bordering the estate in the furthest meadow from the house. A CRUMBLING PLAQUE Sits alone in this meadow. It reads "Here lies Elizabeth Jane Ashby. Rest In Peace". Unlike the family cemetery this plaque has been unkept or cared for and left to rot in the weather. A FRESHLY PICKED ROSE lies at the base of this plaque. FADE OUT: INT. DINING ROOM - MANSION - EVENING A familiar setting, Gretchen and Ashby eating supper at different ends of the table. Once again a place has been reserved for a person that may never show up. The silence is deafening. Gretchen continuously looks up to Ashby, desperately wanting to break the ice and talk. GRETCHEN (finally) I was out for a walk today. Ashby looks up, ASHBY Pardon? GRETCHEN I was out for a walk today. ASHBY (disinterested) Oh? GRETCHEN I found Elizabeth's grave. Ashby pauses eating for a moment and then resumes. ASHBY I see. GRETCHEN I was curious, why was she buried there and not with the rest of your family. ASHBY It was so wished. GRETCHEN I just found it strange. It is also very unkept, unlike the other graves in your family's cemetery which are perfect- Ashby drops his knife and forks on his plate and stares angrily at Gretchen - immediately she stops speaking. ASHBY Perhaps you should not pry into things you do not and could not possibly understand. GRETCHEN I was just- ASHBY (interrupts) Curious? Yes I know. Remember the proverb? GRETCHEN Curiosity ASHBY (finishes the sentence) Killed the cat. Now leave it alone. Ashby gives Gretchen one last cold stare before returning to his meal. CLOSE ON GRETCHEN GRETCHEN (V.O.) Days past like years. The silence was deafening...maddening. BEGIN MONTAGE: INT. A ROOM - MANSION - DAY CLOSE ON ASHBY'S HANDS As they move over the keys of his piano. He is playing a beautiful but sad tune. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - ANOTHER NIGHT Gretchen lies in her empty bed, alone in the dark. Left to live in her own thoughts. GRETCHEN (V.O.) Ashby's reclusive ways were beginning to effect me in a way I never expected. INT. A ROOM - MANSION - CONTINUOUS Ashby continues to play his piano, the same beautiful song. GRETCHEN (V.O.) In way I never imagined. INT. DINING ROOM - MANSION - ANOTHER EVENING Gretchen dines alone in the huge dining room. Ashby is out. She sits at the table, having barely touched her meal. Her eyes have lost the youthfulness they once had, the fire that once filled her spirit is beginning to die. GRETCHEN (V.O.) It was breaking my spirit. I was becoming like him. INT. A ROOM - MANSION - CONTINUOUS We SLOWLY begin to PULL AWAY from Ashby and his piano as he continues to play. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - ANOTHER DAY CLOSE ON GRETCHEN Her face has become pale and black bags lie thickly under her eyes. She is no longer the woman we knew earlier. Gretchen pulls the drapes down, blocking out the light. GRETCHEN (V.O.) I begun to fear the light and hid from it. Light I associated with color, brightness and happiness. (beat) There was no happiness in this house. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - LATER Gretchen sits in her chair, not facing the window but in the centre of her room. Sitting alone and in the dark as she has let the candles burn out. GRETCHEN (V.O.) You suddenly lose things to say when you have only yourself to talk to. INT. VARIOUS PLACES - MANSION - DAY The corridors, dining room, foyer, various rooms are all empty and silent. The house remains barely used. Ashby spends his days out and alone, leaving his fiancee alone with her diminishing spirit. INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - DAY We SLOWLY move towards the double doors hearing the mumbling of an argument, the first sign of life. It is Ashby, still hiding away in his locked room. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - DAY Gretchen sits with her back to us in the middle of her room. We SLOWLY ROTATE around the chair, as we move about her we can see that she sits and just stares at nothing. She doesn't even blink. We ROTATE AWAY from her and move towards a bureau next to the bed. CLOSE ON THE BUREAU Where Gretchen's journal lay unused. It's once beautiful and shining covers has been left uncared for and collecting a thick layer of dust. GRETCHEN (V.O.) Even my beloved journal began to rot away in this house. INT. A ROOM - MANSION - CONTINUOUS We SLOWLY move further and further away from Ashby as he concludes the tune on his piano. END MONTAGE: INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - DAY It is the day of Gretchen's and Ashby's wedding. LEGEND: "Many months later..." Gretchen stands in the centre of her room facing three mirrors as a SEAMSTRESS, pins throughout her lips, adjusts the dress to fit Gretchen's body. SEAMSTRESS You are a very lucky woman. This gown was fashioned in Rome, made by some of the best... Without even looking at her, Gretchen interrupts - having now inherited Ashby's 'charm'. Her tone bitter. GRETCHEN Was it hers? She spits out 'hers' as if it were poison. The Seamstress looks up, not quite understanding. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) It was hers, wasn't it? She nods sadly. But Gretchen isn't looking. She's looking at herself in the mirrors, hating the dress with all her being. SEAMSTRESS It's still a beautiful dress. A long silence. GRETCHEN (V.O.) It was never my dress. Nothing was mine unless it was hers first. There is a knock at the door just as it opens. Ashby enters with a small velvet box in his hand. SEAMSTRESS Now Mister Ashby you know you shouldn't be in here. ASHBY Yes I know, but I have something for my wife-to-be. A gift. Gretchen looks at the box in Ashby's hand. A surprised look comes over her face, he's being somewhat warm to her. Ashby offers it to her, she hesitantly accepts it. She opens the box to see- A HEART-SHAPED PENDANT Beautifully arranged in the box. Her eyes almost well with tears. GRETCHEN (V.O.) Finally may he be the man I've hoped for? GRETCHEN (CONT'D) It's beautiful. Ashby takes the pendant out of the box and holds the necklace by the ends as he moves behind Gretchen. He places it around her neck and clips it together. He moves to her ear. ASHBY (whispers) For a beautiful woman. He presses his lips to her neck and kisses it. She shivers with a sudden surge. They both look at one another through the reflection of the mirrors. The Seamstress looks at the couple with a smile. SEAMSTRESS Awww I thought I'd never see you this happy again, Mister Ashby. Ashby turns his cold stare to the Seamstress and smiles pensively. He returns his gaze to Gretchen. ASHBY You look beautiful in that gown. You are made to wear it. GRETCHEN Thank you. ASHBY But I do have one suggestion. (pause) If you don't mind. Gretchen doesn't reply. He takes that as she doesn't mind. ASHBY (CONT'D) I wonder if you could possible wear your hair...down. You wore it down at the party and it took my breath away. Gretchen slowly moves her hands behind to the back of her hair and pulls out the pins. Ashby watches her do this with hidden desire - however his eyes cannot hide it. Finally her hair falls down and Ashby moves his fingers through it, enjoying every strand. He turns to the Seamstress. ASHBY (CONT'D) You know how I want it. The Seamstress nods with a frown. Ashby turns to Gretchen once more. GRETCHEN I should go. After all it is bad luck to see your fiancee before the ceremony. Ashby leaves, giving the Seamstress one last cold glance as he passes by her. The Seamstress moves over to Gretchen. SEAMSTRESS Come on dear, I'll help you with your hair. INT. CHAPEL - DAY Gretchen and Ashby stand before a PRIEST with only two other guests filling the rows and rows of pews in this chapel. The Seamstress and Dante. We are towards the end of the ceremony. PRIEST Do you, Jonathan Robert Ashby take Gretchen Mary Davidson to be your lawfully wedded wife. Do you swear to protect her, honour her and love her in sickness and in health as long as you both shall live? Ashby turns to his bride. ASHBY I do. PRIEST And do you, Gretchen Mary Davidson take Jonathan Robert Ashby to be your lawfully wedded husband. Do you swear to protect him, honour him and love him in sickness and in health as long as you both shall live? GRETCHEN I do. PRIEST Then with the power vested in me in this house of the Lord I pronounce you husband and wife. (pause) You may now kiss the bride. Ashby turns to Gretchen and lifts the veil to reveal her beautiful face. He looks her over and then kisses her. MOVE TO: INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - NIGHT MASSES OF CANDLES Surround the bedroom like walls of fire. Gretchen, dressed in a white nightgown, stands in the centre of the room. Her heart thumps nervously and she fiddles with her fingers as she awaits her husband to come for her. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - LATER Tired of waiting, Gretchen is now sitting in her chair by the window writing in her journal. GRETCHEN (V.O.) Dear diary. I know it has been months since my last entry but I am left with nowhere to turn. It is my wedding night and thus far I have spent it alone. (pause for a sigh) I know where my husband is. CUT TO: INT. A ROOM - MANSION - SAME TIME We PULL AWAY from Ashby as he plays his piano. He plays with a passion not yet seen in him, his tune is neither sad nor happy. It is something else...confusion. GRETCHEN (V.O.) He will be playing his piano... We back away further until we have moved through the locked doors and into the- INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - CONTINUOUS We BACK AWAY down the corridor, away from the locked doors. GRETCHEN (V.O.) ...from behind locked doors, hiding from his life and from me. RETURN TO: INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - CONTINUOUS Gretchen finishes writing and leans her head against the back of the chair. GRETCHEN (sighs mournfully) Why must he hide from me? Why must we live in such solitude? So many secrets, so many questions lie unearthed in this place. So many that fester at my very being... The pen slides off the journal and onto the floor. Gretchen leans over and searches for it, but cannot locate it. She climbs off the chair and crouches down on the floor, ducking her head under. After a moment of searching she takes hold of the pen... and something else, the photograph. Months of dust and dirt have caked over the image and distorted it somewhat. Gretchen wipes the dust away with her fingers, rubbing hard until the image sharpens. It is indeed the photograph of the sad, Elizabeth. Gretchen stares at it for a moment, her face twists in deep thought - there is something about the photograph...something she cannot pick out. SUDDENLY, she realizes what it is. She hurries over to the three large mirrors and gazes upon her own reflection. THE PHOTOGRAPH Shows Elizabeth with a sad expression over her face. Her beautiful hair hangs over her shoulders and a Gold heart-shaped pendent lies around her neck. THE REFLECTION Shows Gretchen with the same hair style as Elizabeth and the exact same pendant around her neck. They now look so similar it is frightening. Ashby is trying to turn her into Elizabeth. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) Oh My God. The door creeks open and Gretchen whisks herself around to see Ashby step into the room. BEHIND HER BACK Gretchen conceals the photograph by dropping it onto the floor behind her legs. She keeps her eyes glued on Ashby so his eyes cannot wonder. ASHBY (aching with desire) You look beautiful tonight. I was right about you keeping your hair down. Gretchen manages only a weak smile. Ashby moves closer to her, his breathing becomes deeper whilst his eyes glide over every contour of her body. He pulls her close and begins to kiss her. He is a rough lover and Gretchen has little choice but to go along with it. She is frightened of him. FROM BEHIND We watch as Ashby glides his hands up and down her arms before he rips her nightgown down revealing her naked body. ASHBY'S EYES Burn even more with desire as he gazes upon her. He grips her back tightly as his face disappears into her chest, Gretchen tilts her head back slightly - not wanting to see what he is doing. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - MOMENTS LATER Gretchen is underneath Ashby. She clutches onto his back in pain as he pounds away. SOUNDS of agony escape her mouth but Ashby ignores them and considers them sounds of pleasure. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - LATER From a BIRD'S EYE VIEW we look down on Gretchen who now lies in the bed alone. The sheets are ruffled and scattered over the mattress. She just stares back up at us with a look of despair over her face. We SLOWLY DESCEND towards her face as she speaks. GRETCHEN (V.O.) And every night that followed was the same. He would come into my room at night, have his way and then leave me to die every night, alone. I wanted more than this. I I wanted desperately for him to love me and to make love to me. In his mind I knew he made love to her. I was just the object of his obsession, not the object of his affection. CLOSE ON GRETCHEN'S FACE As a solitary tear rolls out of the corner of her eye and down the side of her face. INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - DAY Gretchen sits alone at the foot of the staircase. A book lay in her hands, she is trying desperately to read it but cannot concentrate long enough. Her mind is elsewhere, engrossed in the questions and secrets of the house. Dante walks out from a second floor corridor. A tray of used cutlery and dirty dishes lay in his arms. DANTE What are you doing out here all alone? GRETCHEN Sitting. DANTE Yes, I noticed. Interesting book? GRETCHEN I don't know, I can't pluck up the motivation to read it. DANTE Perhaps you should go outside, it is a lovely day- GRETCHEN (interrupts) I don't want to. DANTE Suit yourself. He steps around her and is about to continue on- GRETCHEN Dante. He stops and turns. DANTE Yes, Miss? GRETCHEN Why isn't Elizabeth's grave with the others? Jonathan said it was her wish, but I don't believe him. DANTE Opening old wounds will not help you or him, miss. It will only make things worse for you. Gretchen is choking back tears, but the more she pleads the more she begins to cry. GRETCHEN I don't care. I need to know, Dante. I need to know everything about what happened here. I feel as if this is all driving me insane. Dante places the tray down on the floor and plants himself beside Gretchen. He wraps his arms around her and she cries into his shoulder. DANTE What would you like to know? GRETCHEN (between tears) Everything..everything... DANTE Okay. The CAMERA turns away from the staircase and comes to rest at the front doors. DANTE (V.O.) (CONT'D) I was not always the only servant to this house. There was another, Samuel... BEGIN FLASH BACK: INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - AFTERNOON The doors open and TWO MEN walk through the foyer, each carrying a bundle of firewood in their arms. One of the men is a YOUNGER DANTE and the other is SAMUEL, a 20 year old man with striking features. DANTE It usually takes around five trips to fill the fireplace in the dining room and a single trip for every other fire place. However, that isn't the case for the one in Mr. Ashby's chambers, it takes two trips. SAMUEL (unsure) Okay. DANTE Don't worry, you'll learn all this soon enough. SAMUEL I hope so. I can't afford to lose this job so soon after getting it. They move past the staircase, which is of course empty, and step through the archway. DANTE (V.O.) He was a good worker and I instructed him in the ways to which the house was to be run. EXT. MANSION GROUNDS - ASHBY ESTATE - DAY A thick piece of wood is positioned on a block. Within moments the sharp blade of an axe strikes down hard and splits it in half. Dante takes the two split pieces and throws them into a pile, whilst Samuel takes another thick piece and positions it on the block. With a sharp blow they too are cut in half. Samuel stops for a moment and wipes the sweat from his brow. Both men are filthy from a hard day's work, but it only makes Samuel more appealing, not so for Dante. Both men stop to glance at a CARRIAGE that thunders up the pathway and comes to a stop before the mansion. The DRIVER jumps down from the cab and opens the carriage door. A YOUNGER ASHBY is first out, he turns, holds his hand out and waits- A DELICATE HAND Takes his softly in hers. He helps a WOMAN out of the carriage, we cannot see her face. Dante wipes his hands clean on his vest and slaps Samuel on the shoulder- DANTE Come on. They move over to the carriage. DANTE (CONT'D) Welcome back, Mister Ashby. Ashby turns and smiles. ASHBY Thank you, Dante. (pause) How is my new worker getting on? SAMUEL Fine, sir. ASHBY I'm glad to hear it. I'd like you both to meet my fiancee, Elizabeth. Elizabeth turns to them, revealing her face for the first time. She is absolutely stunning. Samuel's breath is taken away, he is in love. DANTE A pleasure to meet the woman who would take our master's heart. Elizabeth smiles. ELIZABETH The pleasure was all mine, I assure you. She turns to Samuel. They are both instantly attracted to one another, but Elizabeth hides it much better than Samuel does. ELIZABETH (CONT'D) And you are? SAMUEL Samuel, Miss. ELIZABETH Samuel. She smiles. He smiles. Dante watches them both closely. DANTE (V.O.) From the beginning I can see the makings of a tragedy. INT. KITCHEN - MANSION - NIGHT saucepans on the stove are simmering away. The counter is lined with fresh vegetables and fruit, all at various stages of preparations. Dante is slicing carrots into a large pot, whilst Samuel sits by the counter munching away on an apple. SAMUEL She is beautiful isn't she? DANTE Who? SAMUEL Elizabeth, of course. DANTE Oh. She's quite fetching. SAMUEL Fetching? No, she's much more than that. She's beautiful, no, she's beyond that - an angel. DANTE Don't get any ideas my young apprentice. Samuel only looks up from his apple, he doesn't speak. INT. DINING ROOM - MANSION - NIGHT The dining room table is beautifully set with the most expensive china and cutlery money can buy, with candelabras that stretch the length of the table. However, this all goes unnoticed as the two lovers sit together, Ashby in his usual seat and Elizabeth in the UNUSED SEAT, talking and giggling as they polish off another bottle of wine. DANTE (V.O.) Mister Ashby was infatuated with Elizabeth. He loved every moment they spent together, he loved her voice, her scent, her smile - everything. Dante and Samuel enter, each carrying a plate of supper. SUDDENLY, the two lovers are conservative and sit quietly at the table, politely thanking their chefs. ASHBY It looks delicious. Samuel places a plate before Elizabeth and they both share an intimate stare. ELIZABETH Thank you, Samuel. He smiles. SAMUEL My pleasure. Dante and Samuel leave together, DANTE (whispers) You play with fire. INT. CHAPEL - DAY A PRIEST stands before the happy couple. The chapel is filled with guests, including Dante and Samuel. Throughout the ceremony, Samuel cannot take his eyes from Elizabeth and she cannot take hers from him. Dante watches them both, uneasily. DANTE (V.O.) I thought once the ceremony had taken place Samuel would seen that he couldn't have her and give up his obsession. (pause) It didn't. INT. ASHBY'S BEDROOM - MANSION - NIGHT We MOVE THROUGH the bedroom, slowly past the bed where we can hear the sounds of Ashby and Elizabeth making love. The sheets bump with their moving bodies. We CONTINUE through the room, towards the door, where a PAIR OF EYES watch them. INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - CONTINUOUS In the darkness Samuel watches the pair. His face and eyes burn with a great jealousy. Elizabeth turns her head to the ajar door and their eyes lock on one another. She smiles seductively - this only torments Samuel more. From behind, Dante takes Samuel by the shoulder and throws him across the corridor. He takes him by the shirt, his eyes almost bulging out his head- DANTE (a strong whisper) What are you doing?!? You cannot have her, you must get over it! Samuel pulls himself free, SAMUEL Why? Why must I? I love her and she loves me. DANTE You don't even know her! SAMUEL I don't care! Samuel storms away. INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - ANOTHER DAY Samuel and Elizabeth, hand in hand, run through the corridor, smiles over their faces. DANTE (V.O.) He wanted her and I knew she wanted him. Their passion for one another grew as the days passed. Samuel pulls her to him and they kiss passionately. She pulls away, teasing him, smiles and kisses him back. Elizabeth presses her finger to her lips. She takes his hand and walks him into the next room. The door locks. DANTE (V.O.) (CONT'D) You cannot stop the inevitable. Dante steps out from the darkness, he sighs and shakes his head before continuing on with his duties. INT. ASHBY'S BEDROOM - DAY/MAIN FOYER - DAY INTERCUT: Elizabeth lays spread out over the bed, Samuel on top of her, pushing into her. DANTE (V.O.) And Mister Ashby never knew. He was so blind to the truth, that the affair went on for more than two years. They would meet secretly every day, and I did nothing to prevent it. Ashby walks through the front doors and into the foyer, a freshly plucked rose in his hand, a smile on his face. DANTE (V.O.) (CONT'D) But one day, I decided too... Dante greets him. In silence they walk, Ashby's smile turns to a frown. He rushes up the stairs. Elizabeth grips the sheets tighter between her fingers, her body stretches, her eyes close, she is in ecstasy- SUDDENLY, the doors are thrown open. Elizabeth and Samuel scramble around the sheets, trying to hide themselves. Ashby storms in, he looks over the two of them. Tears stream down his angered face. The rose is crushed, blood trickling out of his fist from the self-inflicted wound he hasn't even noticed. INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - CONTINUOUS Dante stands against the wall, desperately trying to decide if he has done the wrong thing. CLOSE ON DANTE'S FACE Is it ages. We are taken out of the flashback. END FLASH BACK: INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION -CONTINUOUS A tear rolls down Dante's cheek. DANTE To this day I wonder if I did the right thing. What right did I have to decide if it was love they shared? If it was love, then I should be damned for what I did. GRETCHEN What happened next? DANTE Mister Ashby was a destroyed man, the woman that he was infatuated with, the woman he loved had betrayed him, but the worst thing was that he still loved her as much as he did the day he met her. (pause) He terminated Samuel's employment and sent him away- BEGIN FLASH BACK: INT. ASHBY'S BEDROOM - MANSION - DAY Tears roll down Elizabeth's face as she watches Samuel slowly wonder up the pathway, out of her life forever. DANTE (V.O.) ...in the hope that this would save his marriage and most of all so that he could Elizabeth for himself. Elizabeth slinks sadly to the bed, climbs onto it and cuddles herself up into a tight ball. She produces a vile, that has been concealed in her palm, removes the lid and swallows the poison. DANTE (V.O.) (CONT'D) Elizabeth was so heart broken with Samuel's absence that rather than face another day without him she took her own life. Elizabeth lies still on the bed. Dead. END FLASH BACK: INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - CONTINUOUS Dante wipes his face dry and pulls himself out of those memories. DANTE And that brings us to now. Nothing was ever the same after her death, he was never the same. GRETCHEN Why didn't he say anything? DANTE He doesn't like to speak about it. He exists in a world where it never happened. He turns to her. DANTE (CONT'D) You've seen him. You've seen this place. He's changed nothing since her death, the house has gone to ruin, all the clocks have been broken - all in his futile attempt to stop time. He turns away again, thinking out loud. DANTE (CONT'D) I thought once you came into his life that he would give up this ridiculous existence. But it's only made him worse. (pause) He's quite mad, you know? Gretchen frowns. DANTE (CONT'D) He hides it well. We all have our secrets. Gretchen attempts a weak smile. GRETCHEN (V.O.) Dante was right. We all have our secrets. Even I... INT. DINING ROOM - MANSION - EVENING Gretchen and Ashby sit still at opposite ends of the table even though they are now married. They eat in silence. ASHBY I will be away for the next few months. GRETCHEN Oh? ASHBY I have business in Newcastle then I must to check over my various businesses in London before sailing to Marsailles to purchase some land that has just come onto the market. Silence. GRETCHEN When do you leave? ASHBY Tomorrow. An associate will collect me in the morning. Silence, they continue to eat. EXT. MANSION GROUNDS - NEXT MORNING A carriage sits outside the mansion. A DRIVER opens the door and Ashby steps inside. Within moments the carriage rolls away. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - SAME TIME Gretchen watches from her window. A smile appears over her face as the carriage disappears into the distance. EXT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM WINDOW - MANSION - CONTINUOUS Gretchen's drapes fly open and light once again pours into her room. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - CONTINUOUS She ties the drapes so that as much light can penetrate the room as possible. GRETCHEN (V.O.) This house had been the cradle to so much deceit, secrets and sadness. That was Elizabeth's legacy - not mine. If my husband wanted to live in the past, to prefer 'existence' over 'life' - then so be it. (pause) I wanted happiness, I choose life... Gretchen sits at her desk, in front of a mirror. She begins to place her hair up once more. She smiles to herself. An idea. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) So I set about bringing some happiness into my world... INT. VARIOUS PLACES - MANSION - DAY Gretchen moves through various corridors and rooms throughout the mansion, opening all the drapes and windows, allowing sunlight to lighten even the darkest corners and a breeze to remove the stagnate 'crypt' like air. Her smiles become bigger and more beautiful every time a drape is ripped open and light is allowed to enter. Her youthfulness and the Gretchen we remember is beginning to return. INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - DAY Gretchen moves the hands of the Grandfather clocks so that they match her pocket watch. With a few slight adjustments the clocks begin to tick once more. EXT. MANSION GROUNDS - DAY From ON HIGH we watch as MANY STRONG MEN, all craftsman and labourers, all carrying the tools of their chosen trade, walk along the pathway and through the front doors, into the mansion. We FOLLOW them inside, walking as one of them. INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - CONTINUOUS The foyer opens up to us, where MANY MORE MEN are busily working around the house. They paint, mend, hammer, sew - in an attempt to bring the house back to its former glory. We PASS THROUGH the foyer and move into the- SITTING ROOM Where more work is being done. Nails and a desperately needed coat of varnish are added to the floorboards. Walls are painted. Furniture is being mended and new fabrics replacing the old. New curtains are being sewed and the old ones removed. We exit through a double doors that lead outside. EXT. MANSION - CONTINUOUS Window sills are given a fresh coat of paint. The garden beds are dug up, as old growth is removed and new seedlings and added. Gretchen and a FOREMAN stand well back from the house, explaining (sometimes with large hand gestures) what still needs to be achieved. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION Gretchen sits by her desk, adding the final touches to a letter. She seals it and hands it to Dante. DANTE Same address? GRETCHEN Yes please. He leaves. INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - DAY The craftsmen slowly vanish from the foyer as their tasks end until- INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - NIGHT Everyone has now vanished. The foyer is almost unrecognizable, restored to it's beautiful, and state it was always meant to be. We PASS THROUGH the foyer and into the dining room. INT. DINING ROOM - MANSION - CONTINUOUS Gretchen sits alone at her end of the table. GRETCHEN (V.O.) But the night still brought with it loneliness. She throws down her knife and fork and leaves the table. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) No one wants to be alone. INT. DANTE'S COTTAGE - NIGHT Gretchen steps along the tiny stone path that leads to Dante's cliff side cottage. The cottage itself is relatively small, but has something the huge mansion does not have - warmth and a homely feeling. She approaches the front door and is about to knock when from inside there is a roar of laughter and the muffled sounds of talking. She hesitates knocking and curiously strolls around to the back of the cottage. INT. BEDROOM - DANTE'S COTTAGE - MOMENTS LATER Gretchen's head peers cautiously through the carbon stained windows. EXT. DANTE'S COTTAGE - CONTINUOUS GRETCHEN'S POV Reveals Dante painting the portrait of a NUDE WOMAN. She lies draped over his bed, posing for him. Dante himself sits on a stool in the corner of the room behind an easel. His weapons - a palette and numerous brushes. INT. BEDROOM - DANTE'S COTTAGE - CONTINUOUS Gretchen gasps in horror. Dante's eyes dart to the window - but there is nothing. MODEL What? DANTE Nothing. It's nothing. EXT. DANTE'S COTTAGE - CONTINUOUS Gretchen has herself plastered against the wall, holding her breath. After a moment, having assured herself that Dante isn't aware of her presence, she relaxes and begins to breathe once more. Another moment passes. She cannot help but take another look. INT. BEDROOM - DANTE'S COTTAGE - CONTINUOUS Dante continues to paint the model and Gretchen watches from the safety of the darkness. SUDDENLY, he stops and disappears from the room. MODEL Where are you going? DANTE I need some more paint. I'll be right back. The Model quickly gets tired of waiting and shuffles to the edge of the bed. Gretchen watches the model with great curiosity, gazing over her naked back. She seems so comfortable and it amazes the conservative Gretchen. EXT. DANTE'S COTTAGE - CONTINUOUS Gretchen is very focused, her eyes never blink. VOICE (O.S.) And what are you doing back here? She spins around to see Dante standing before her, cleaning his paint stained hands with a filthy cloth. Gretchen burns red in embarrassment. GRETCHEN Nothing, I was just looking for you, if you must know. DANTE (with a smile) Oh really? You could have simply knocked. GRETCHEN I was about too...I mean...I wasn't looking if that is what you were implying. DANTE I hadn't said anything. GRETCHEN You were thinking it. Dante smiles. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) I was going to invite you for tea, but it seems you are busy. DANTE I thought you said you weren't looking. Caught out. Gretchen's face is now bright red. DANTE (CONT'D) I would love to pain you some time. He waits a long moment, determined to embarras her further- DANTE (CONT'D) Tastefully of course. Gretchen attempts to walk past him, GRETCHEN I don't think so. He grabs her arm. DANTE Are you sure? Gretchen gives him a filthy stare. Her embarrassment is turning to anger. GRETCHEN Quite sure. I wouldn't let you paint me if you were the last painter on this earth and my life depended on the fact that you did paint me. DANTE Well luckily for both of us it does not. Gretchen remains silent. DANTE (CONT'D) My dear Gretchen, you wouldn't be blushing, would you? GRETCHEN The wind is cold on my cheeks. And now if you will excuse me. Dante releases her. DANTE My offer is always open. He watches as she storms into the night. He cannot help but smile to himself as he returns to his cottage. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - NIGHT Gretchen sits behind a mirror-set brushing her hair. With every hard stroke she seems to vent some anger from her earlier embarrassment. THROUGH THE MIRROR We can see the door open and Dante cautiously enters. GRETCHEN Weren't you taught to knock before entering a ladies quarters? I could be indecent. DANTE Well - Are you? GRETCHEN Well - no, but that isn't the point is it? I could have been and you would have seen it all. DANTE That isn't a particularly unpleasant thought. She swings around in her chair and gives Dante a look. GRETCHEN You are very sure of yourself aren't you? DANTE No not really. I had to drink a quarter a bottle of whiskey before I managed to muster up the courage to come up here. Gretchen stands. Her night shirt hangs almost off one shoulder as the front remains virtually unbuttoned. Dante is aroused by what he sees. Any man would. GRETCHEN Oh? And why did you come up here? DANTE (stumbles) Well...I came up to...apologize for..well before...earlier I mean...the embarrassment I caused you. Gretchen smiles and moves closer to him, walking in a very seductive fashion. Her skin begins to shine in the candle light. Dante begins to blush. GRETCHEN (with a smile) My dear Dante, do you blush? DANTE (smiles) No, it's just the cold..wind on my cheeks. Gretchen pushes herself close to him, moving her fingers up his chest and then under his chin. GRETCHEN No, I think it's more than that. With little effort she brings his lips so close to hers, so much so that he can taste her breath. Dante is putty in her hands. Without kissing him she moves her lips to his ear. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) (whispers) Do you like this? DANTE (seduced) Yes. GRETCHEN Do you want more? DANTE Yes. Gretchen smiles, pulls away from him and backs up. GRETCHEN I don't think so. Dante is puzzled. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) You aren't the only one who can play mind games. (pause) Now get out. Dante is humiliated, his face turns red in anger. DANTE I was wrong, you and Ashby are well suited for each other. You both love to see me suffer. Gretchen's victory smile instantly turns to a snarl. GRETCHEN Get out! Get out you illiterate... (trying to find a word) Bastard. Dante is ready to explode. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) GET OUT NOW! Without any thought she takes hold of the first thing she can find - the journal. The pages fly open as it hurtles across the room before hitting him flat in the chest. Dante takes a few steps back. He is humiliated, hurt and ready to explode but without another word he leaves. Gretchen storms over to her desk and takes a long series of deep breaths. She opens the top drawer and is about to place her brush inside, when she catches sight of ELIZABETH'S PHOTOGRAPH GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) Was I turning into her?...sex games...playing with people's minds....controlling lives.... With a sudden burst of rage, she rips the drawer open and hurls it across the room with a PIERCING SCREAM. It thumps along the floor spilling everything all over it. She collapses onto her knees and begins to cry. EXT. BEACH - EARLY MORNING Storm clouds roll across the sky. Gale force winds sweep across the sea. Waves rise up and smash the beach with a great fury and crash across the rocky cliffs. CLOSE ON A PAINTBRUSH As it glides softly over a half-finished painting. It dabs and sweeps and waves begin to form on the canvas. The brush dips into the palette and mixes shades of grey, white and blue together until it just right and then it is added to the painting. With the sea gradually creeping up on the dry dunes, Dante's Easel is barely amongst dry sand. But he is virtually unaware. CLOSE ON DANTE His eyes don't blink and they don't move from the canvas. He is focused on his painting and nothing more. GRETCHEN Strolls along the beach so close to the crashing waves that the tide almost wets her feet. A bonnet covers her face and hair from the winds. GRETCHEN'S POV Shows Dante painting further down the beach, his easel dug firmly into the sands. He has not noticed her. Finally she walks up beside him, watching him paint, not wanting to interrupt. CLOSE ON DANTE Who has noticed Gretchen's presence but ignores it. He continues to paint in silence. GRETCHEN (finally) It is beautiful. A long silence. DANTE Is that what you came all the way down here to say? GRETCHEN No. DANTE Then what is it you want, Mrs. Ashby? GRETCHEN You don't need to call me that. DANTE I would apologize but you might throw another book at me. Gretchen smiles warmly. GRETCHEN As you can see I'm totally defenceless. Dante looks up from his canvas for the first time. However, he continues to mix colors on the palette while he stares into her eyes. DANTE I wouldn't believe that for a second, but, you still haven't told me what you want. He returns his focus to the painting. GRETCHEN I wanted to apologize for last night. I didn't mean what I said. You were right, I was embarrassed and I took it out on you. So, I'm sorry. DANTE No, it's okay. You were right- He looks to Gretchen. DANTE (CONT'D) I am illiterate. Gretchen doesn't know what to say. She smiles politely and looks away. DANTE (CONT'D) It's okay. I've found other ways to compensate. I can't write or read words, but I can create much more with my painting. For the longest time, Gretchen hasn't taken her eyes away from Dante, regardless of him looking at her. The crashing waves fill the silence. GRETCHEN (finally) I could teach you. (pause) I could teach you to read. Dante stops painting and looks into her eyes. Is he thinking or agitated that she suggested help? GRETCHEN (CONT'D) If you wanted. (pause) Of course you wouldn't. I'm sorry I suggested it. It was wrong of me- DANTE (interrupts) I'd love to. They both smile to one another. Could this be the start of something? DANTE (CONT'D) We should get moving, the storm's closing in. Gretchen steps back as Dante packs up his easel. With the painting under one arm and the easel slung over his shoulder, Dante begins to walk down the beach with Gretchen by his side. Dante looks to the sky, the storm is closing fast. DANTE (CONT'D) You won't make it home before the storm hits. GRETCHEN What do you suggest? DANTE You can stay with me until it's over. There's no use in catching a chill when you don't need to. That is, if you want to? GRETCHEN I'd be delighted. It would be nice to have company for a change. Jonathan spends his days locked away in that room or playing the same tunes over and over again on his piano. He never talks to me, he won't even acknowledge me most of the time. Dante gives her a look as they walk. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) Do I ask too much? DANTE No. GRETCHEN Sometimes I feel that I am. I know he loved Elizabeth and I understand it. But all I want is a husband, one that will at least treat me like his wife. (pause) Sometimes I think he's trying to turn me into her. DANTE Into Elizabeth? GRETCHEN Yes. Just some things he does... DANTE What things? GRETCHEN He likes me to wear my hair up, he even had Janice put my hair like hers. The wedding dress... even this pendant... it all was hers. I just think he wants me to be her...maybe I'm just paranoid. (pause) The only time he ever really looks at me is when I have my hair down, wearing the clothes she once wore. It terrifies me...the look he gets in his eyes. Gretchen turns to Dante as they walk - he isn't looking at her and she wonders to herself is he is even listening. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) I'm sorry, I must be boring you with all this talk of- DANTE (interrupting) You're not boring me. (pause) He was very much in love with her, even if she was not with him. His eyes would never wain from her. He could have easily thrown her out of the home when he found out about her infidelity, but he didn't. I don't know of you or I could know a love that strong... one so blind. Gretchen gives him a look. DANTE (CONT'D) Maybe not. I don't know. Only he would know the answers. GRETCHEN You must have thought quite a lot about this. DANTE I've had a long time to think. (pause) A very long time. Stay with Dante. INT. DANTE'S COTTAGE - EVENING TWO GLASSES Sit side by side, obscuring our view of the world. A red liquid is poured into the glasses. Dante takes both glasses and turns around to a rustic hand-made table. Gretchen sits at the end gazing over the paintings that grace the walls. There are so many that some are stacked together on the floor or leaning against the wall. Dante steps carefully around to Gretchen, not wanting to knock any of the paintings. DANTE I'm sorry, it's usually just me and my paintings and not much room for guests. GRETCHEN No, it's fine. Dante hands her the glass and she accepts it gratefully. DANTE It's all I had. Like I said I don't- GRETCHEN (interrupts) Usually keep company, I know. He smiles weakly, a little embarrassed of his home. He watches her as she continues to look over the paintings. Without even acknowledging the glass she takes a mouthful of the wine. She chokes and almost spits it back out. DANTE (laughs) I should have warned you. It packs a wallop. Gretchen smiles as she delicately attempts to wipe the wine from her chin. GRETCHEN It certainly does that. Dante takes a towel from the table and hands it to her. DANTE I get it from an decrepid old French soldier in town. Once you get used to it, you can't get enough of it. GRETCHEN It's not what I'm used to, but it's... (with a smile) ...Different. DANTE (laughs) It's terrible stuff, but I'd hate to disappoint the old man now, he looks forward to my Saturday visits. There's a lesson in this for you, never lie to a decrepid old Frenchman who sells wine in a market. GRETCHEN You forgot soldier. Dante smiles. DANTE Them too. Gretchen takes a small sip of the wine and returns her gaze to the paintings. GRETCHEN Is it hard? DANTE Excuse me? GRETCHEN Painting. Is it hard to learn? DANTE I don't really know. It depends on the person. GRETCHEN Well...take me for example. Could I learn? DANTE If I could learn then I'm sure you could. (pause) Given the right teacher. All you really need to remember is that you have to paint what you see, not what you think you see. Also try to capture the image in your mind, examine every single feature individually- Dante stands and takes a painting from the floor. An ocean scene. DANTE (CONT'D) For example. Could you try to imagine painting this? The sea is always moving and how can anyone paint something that's moving? Well you can't. Just look and take a mental photograph of what you want to paint and then slowly construct it. Firstly you need to do the background...the sky...the sea....and the beach. Then slowly add it's features, like the texture you want, the waves and the tone of color. Since you can't do everything at once, you should concentrate on everything step by step. Gretchen is stares dumbfounded. An information overload. DANTE (CONT'D) Okay. Would you like to learn? Because I could teach you if you want to learn? Me, learn to paint? (shakes her head) I could never...well I couldn't possibly do... She looks at the painting, at it's beauty, trying to imagine her painting such a thing. GRETCHEN Could I really learn to do something like that? DANTE In time, yes. Gretchen looks over the painting and smiles. GRETCHEN I would love too. BEGIN MONTAGE: INT. BEDROOM - DANTE'S COTTAGE - NIGHT A fresh canvas is set up on an easel. Gretchen and Dante share a stool, pushed very close against one another. His hand is wrapped around hers as he guides her to paint. GRETCHEN (V.O.) And our arrangement was made. I would teach him to read and write and in return, he would teach me to paint. CLOSE ON THEIR HANDS As they paint. His grasp is very light and delicate on her hand, but firm enough to guide her painting. EASEL'S POV Shows how close Gretchen and Dante really are. Their faces are but centimeters apart. His breathing blows past her ear, it is hard for her to concentrate. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - ANOTHER DAY A PEN MOVES OVER A FRESH PAGE As Dante slowly and clumsily copies out the alphabet. His grip on the pen is tight and awkward, much like a small child's would be. Gretchen sits by his side, watching as he writes. INT. BEDROOM - DANTE'S COTTAGE - ANOTHER NIGHT Gretchen paints freely without Dante's aide. He stands behind her, his hand stroking his chin whilst watching her brush strokes. He takes the brush from her hand and corrects a mistake. An agitated Gretchen takes the brush back and corrects the corrected mistake. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - DAY Dante continues to write awkwardly, his face strains with concentration. He makes a mistake and in anger, tosses the pen across the room. Gretchen moves her chair closer to him and takes out another pen and places it in his hand. Dante takes that pen and tosses it away. Without a word she takes out ANOTHER pen and places it in his hand - he smiles - She covers her hand over his and guides him to write more fluently. INT. BEDROOM - DANTE'S COTTAGE - NIGHT Gretchen paces around the bedroom, combining colors on a palette. Dante enters the room, sipping a mug of tea. After finally creating the color she wants, Gretchen dabs it gently onto the painting. However, she doesn't like it and attempts to scribble it out - this only makes it worse. Furiously, she scribbles over the canvas with the brush. Dante moves to her side. She turns to him. He smiles and shrugs - without a hesitation she drops her paint brush in his mug of tea and storms away. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - DAY Dante now writes fluently by himself, progressing to words. Words soon become sentences and sentences become paragraphs as he becomes more literate. FROM A BIRD'S EYE VIEW We watch as pages full of writing begins to pile high on the table. The pages soon give way to a book, then that book is left on the table and replaced with another and then another until books begin to stack over the desk. Dante is reading. Gretchen paces around the desk, listening carefully to her student as he reads aloud. We SLOWLY MOVE OUT of the window- EXT. MANSION WINDOW - CONTINUOUS Through the window we watch Dante reading and writing with Gretchen sitting close by his side, guiding her student. Seasons begin to change. Leaves fall from the trees outside as Summer gives way to Autumn. Snow lines the window sills and flakes fall from the sky as Autumn gives way to Winter. Finally the snow disappears and is replaced by the growth of Spring. END MONTAGE: EXT. MANSION GROUNDS - AFTERNOON A CARRIAGE thunders up the pathway towards the mansion. Ashby has returned after his many months of absence. EXT. MANSION - AFTERNOON The carriage door opens. Ashby steps out and his eyes scan over his home. It has changed considerably since he left. INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - MOMENTS LATER Ashby storms through the front doors and into the foyer. He gazes over the make-over, his face stone cold. He is most displeased. He moves between the clocks and begins to climb the staircase but SUDDENLY stops in his tracks. Tick. Tick. He turns. Tick. Tuck. He slowly walks back down the staircase and turns the to Grandfather clocks. Tick. Tick. They have been repaired. His face is ready to explode. He SCREAMS and with a great fury he pulls both grandfather clocks over, letting them smash the floor. The glass shatters, wood splits and cogs spin across the floor. INT. BEDROOM - DANTE'S COTTAGE - NIGHT Gretchen sits behind the easel, painting. Dante sits on the bed reading a book. A BRUSH dabs on the final touches to a painting. An EYE moves off the painting and looks to its muse. A VASE OF FLOWERS That sits on a stand in the corner of the room. We DESCEND from on high to view the whole painting. It is beautiful. Gretchen smiles with pride and places the brush down on the palette. GRETCHEN I'm done. Dante looks up from his book. He wriggles off the bed and moves behind her, carefully examines the painting. Gretchen looks up to see Dante's expression. It is expressionless. Very much an art critic. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) Well...? Gretchen begins to worry, her beaming pride begins to fade from her face - he must hate it. DANTE It's wonderful. DANTE'S POV - LOOKING DOWN ON HER Gretchen smiles with a happy noise. DANTE (CONT'D) God, you're beautiful. Gretchen's smile slightly fades, unable to determine her feelings to the remark. She turns her gaze to the painting. GRETCHEN (stammers) Well...It's late I should really be going... Dante places his hands on her shoulders. Gretchen freezes. DANTE You don't have too. Gretchen stands and moves around Dante. GRETCHEN I need to go. Gretchen pushes past and leaves through the door. Dante bows his head. The back door slams closed and the sound of footsteps disappear into the night. INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - LATER Gretchen opens the front door and closes it behind her. She walks through the foyer and begins to slow, shivers are sent up her spine when she notices the smashed remains of the two clocks. GRETCHEN (frightened) Oh no. A VOICE (O.S.) Oh yes. ASHBY steps out of the darkness. ASHBY ...do you know what I found when I arrived home this afternoon? He continues towards her, only making Gretchen more uncomfortable. GRETCHEN I just thought this place could use a new coat of paint here and there...to brighten it up...change things....for the better, I mean. Ashby steps around her, nodding his head as if he's accepted her reason. ASHBY I see....you thought.... Gretchen begins to relax a little. ASHBY (CONT'D) (screams) YOU DO NOT THINK! A shiver shoots up her spine. Her eyes shut tightly. He slaps her hard across the face, sending her sliding along the floor. ASHBY (CONT'D) This is my home. You are my wife. You do not change things that are not yours to change. He storms over and grabs her hair in his fist. He drags his crying wife over to the clocks. He flips her over and holds her face between his hands - making her stare at the clocks. ASHBY (CONT'D) Do you see this? She is too terrified to reply. He tightens his grip and jerks her head. ASHBY (CONT'D) DO YOU SEE IT? GRETCHEN ...yes... ASHBY These have been like this since my wife died. You had no right to touch them. No right. (pause) Don't you ever EVER touch anything in this home again. (snarls) Do I make myself clear? He almost spits 'clear' into her face. GRETCHEN Yes..yes...yes... He releases her. Gretchen huddles into a ball, tears streaming down her face. ASHBY Where were you today? GRETCHEN ...With Dante...painting...he taught me... ASHBY He taught you? The two of you alone...for months... GRETCHEN (pleading) Nothing happened...I swear it. I swear it to you... He leans over and rips the back of her dress with his powerful arms, exposing her naked back. Ashby looks down on her with absolutely no remorse as he begins to unbuckle his belt. ASHBY You're independent ways are becoming very tiresome. You will learn to act as you are supposed to. You will learn to be my wife. (pause) It is time to teach you a lesson. One you won't forget so easily. The CAMERA shifts away as Ashby begins to lash Gretchen's naked back. Her screams of pain are piercing. From the candle light illuminating the staircase, we bare witness to the lashings through their shadows. After countless lashings, Ashby tosses his belt across the floor. CLOSE ON HIS FACE Exhausted from the beating. Sweat beads over his scarlet face as he sucks air into his lungs. ASHBY (CONT'D) Go upstairs and change. I would like to have supper with my wife before I retire for the evening. He turns and walks into the dining room. We stay with Gretchen. Her beautiful, porcelain white back is now swollen and bloody from the lashings. CLOSE ON GRETCHEN'S FACE - STAIR'S POV Her eyes remain open and do not blink. Dried tears channel their way over her cheeks like tiny rivers. Her cheek has swollen purple from Ashby's slap. She dare not cry. She dare not make a move - incase he returns. INT. DINING ROOM - MANSION - LATER Gretchen and Ashby eat in silence. Her face mars a swollen cheek still, even with her attempts to mask it with makeup. ASHBY (finally) What happened to your hair? Gretchen looks up from her meal. ASHBY (CONT'D) It's up. I thought you liked to wear it down. GRETCHEN No, you liked me to wear it down. ASHBY It's the same thing. GRETCHEN (softly) No it's not. Ashby throws his knife and fork down, his nostrils flare. Gretchen jumps in fright. VOICE (O.S.) I'm not interrupting anything am I? Ashby turns to see Dante standing in the doorway, a painting under his arm. ASHBY Yes, what do you want? Dante walks in and places the painting against a chair, next to Gretchen. DANTE Mrs. Ashby left her painting behind. I finished framing it and thought she might like to have it. GRETCHEN (quietly) Thank you. He notices the swelling. DANTE What happened to your cheek? GRETCHEN Nothing. ASHBY Are you finished? Dante turns to Gretchen. Her eyes are terrified, she nods for him to leave. DANTE (hesitant) Yes. ASHBY Then leave us. Dante hesitates further. He doesn't want to leave her with this tyrant- ASHBY (CONT'D) (stands angrily) NOW! Gretchen jumps. Dante turns and leaves. Ashby carefully dabs his mouth with the napkin and then strolls around the table towards Gretchen. She watches him uncomfortably. He stops, takes the painting in his hands and while walking behind her, examines it. ASHBY (CONT'D) (quietly) I don't want you going over there anymore. GRETCHEN Why? SUDDENLY, a furious Ashby smashes the framed painting on the table, sending candelabras and plates crashing onto the floor. ASHBY (screams) BECAUSE I FORBID IT. Gretchen shuts her eyes in terror. He takes the wreckage of the painting and tosses it into the roaring fire. It erupts immediately and burns brightly. CLOSE ON THE FIRE As the painting begins to breakdown. It folds and twists in the heat as it slowly burns away. From a BIRD'S EYE VIEW We watch Ashby storm out of the dining room, leaving Gretchen alone at the table. She slumps over the table. CLOSE ON GRETCHEN'S FACE Her face lay with one cheek resting on the table as she watches her painting burn away. Her eyes once again appear dead. CLOSE ON HER EYE As the roaring fireplace is reflected. Her destroyed face slowly transforms to anger. INT. STAIRCASE - MANSION - MOMENTS LATER Ashby climbs the steps. The anger still painted over his face. Gretchen emerges behind him at the base of the staircase. GRETCHEN And I am your wife. Ashby stops in his tracks and slowly turns to her. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) You said, you were my husband. (pause) And I am your wife and you treat me like some sort of slave - not even that. You don't talk to me, you don't respect me, all you do is hide away in your locked room, ignoring the world and ignoring me. He begins to step down the stairs to her. ASHBY Stop it. GRETCHEN No I will not stop. You have all the windows closed up, the drapes pulled across, blocking out the world. What are you hiding from? ASHBY (angrier) Stop it now. GRETCHEN Are you trying to mould me into someone I am not? I can't be her. I'm not her. I am me. Ashby looks pale and ill. His head begins to spin. ASHBY Stop it! GRETCHEN I've tried to live with you like this, but I can't. I need you, I need love - I need life. And when I find something I'm happy with and enjoy, you take it away from me. You expect me to be a hermit like you, but I won't - I can't be like you! He grabs her by the shoulders with a firm grasp. ASHBY STOP IT ELIZABETH! An eerie silence only broken by their heavy breathing. ASHBY (CONT'D) (quickly corrected) I mean Gretchen... Gretchen. She steps back, disgusted with him. Ashby is embarrassed, he doesn't know what to do or say. He opens his mouth several times to speak, but cannot find the right words. ASHBY (CONT'D) (finally) You will stay under this roof where I can watch you. You will stay away from Dante...If I have to lock you in, I will. He turns and continues to climb the steps, leaving his stunned wife at the foot of the staircase. INT. DANTE'S COTTAGE - DAY Dante sits at his table alone. His fingers tap impatiently on the counter. Finally he takes out his pocket watch and checks the time, we can assume he's been checking it regularly. He stands and opens the door. He holds his body wide outside and scans the countryside - but cannot see her anywhere. Realizing the futility of it, he closes the door softly. FADE OUT: INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - DAY Dante carries a breakfast tray down the corridor but is stopped at Gretchen's door by Ashby. ASHBY I will take it from here. He takes the tray from Dante's hands and opens the door. We catch a glimpse of Gretchen as she tries to find Dante through Ashby's body. ASHBY (CONT'D) I'm sure you have other chores to attend to. He smiles to Dante and closes the door in his face. The sun shines brightly in the sky. Ashby and Gretchen sit awkwardly at a small wrought-iron outdoor setting, consisting of a table and two chairs. Beautiful garden surrounds them as they have their morning tea. Gretchen looks up from her book. A small smile appears over Ashby's face. He lifts the cup to his lips, but his eyes remain elsewhere. DANTE Prunes the hedge in the background, but in direct view of Ashby. He looks up at every second moment to gaze at the couple. He is in pain. Ashby tips his cup to Dante with a smile. GRETCHEN What are you looking at? ASHBY Nothing important. Gretchen turns to see Dante pruning the hedge. He looks up to her. They gaze at each other for a moment before Gretchen turns back to Ashby. ASHBY (CONT'D) Good girl. Gretchen and Ashby sit finishing their supper. Dante enters and begins to collect Ashby's finished plate and cutlery. ASHBY (CONT'D) Thank you, Dante. He walks down to the other end of the table. CLOSE ON AN TWO ENVELOPES That Gretchen places under her plate. Dante collects the plate and feels the envelopes underneath. They both exchange a glance before he disappears out of the room. INT. KITCHEN - MANSION - MOMENTS LATER Dante hurries into the kitchen and drops the plates on the counter. He gazes at both envelopes, one has his name printed on the front. The other is blank. He rips his open. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (from the letter) Meet me by the rocks. Midnight. Tonight. (pause) P.S. You know what to do with the other letter. He lowers the letter, a smile appears over his face. INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - BEFORE MIDNIGHT Gretchen, covered in a warm cloak and hood, softly, closes the door to her bedroom. She looks both ways down the corridor and hurries out of sight. EXT. THE ROCKS - BEACH - MIDNIGHT A full moon shines in the sky. Waves drift almost silently as there is no virtually wind. Dante stands on the rocky ledge by the beach. He is dressed warmly with a painting under his arm. The hooded Gretchen approaches from the darkness. He turns to her. DANTE I didn't know if you'd come. Gretchen smiles softly and her eyes become fixed on the painting under his arm. DANTE (CONT'D) I have this for you. (pause) A gift. He offers it forward and Gretchen takes it. She turns it over and a PORTRAIT of herself is revealed. GRETCHEN (stunned) It's beautiful. (pause) But how? DANTE I did it from memory. It was selfish, I needed you and this was, I felt, the closest I could have to you. GRETCHEN I - I don't know what to say. DANTE You don't need to say anything. They both stare at one another. Finally they move closer to one another and they share a kiss. DANTE (CONT'D) Why did you call me here? Gretchen is lost in Dante's eyes. GRETCHEN (pause) I've forgotten. There is a silence. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) I want you to paint me - paint me like your models. Dante finally nods. DANTE Okay. INT. BEDROOM - DANTE'S COTTAGE - NIGHT A fresh canvas is placed onto the easel. A palette is washed and wiped dry. Paint dollops are squeezed out and smeared on the palette. A glass jar containing a variety of brushes is set down on the floor. Dante looks over his work station, trying to decide if he is missing something. The floorboards creek. Dante looks up to see- A PAIR OF NAKED LEGS Standing in the doorway. He looks up the thighs and over the rest of Gretchen. She wears nothing more than one of his nightshirts and stands awkwardly and shyly in the doorway. Dante has to literally gulp at the sight. She has never looked more beautiful - or innocent. DANTE Ready? She is so nervous that she cannot reply. She nods. DANTE (CONT'D) (stammering nervously) Okay...umm....just...when you're ready, just take off the shirt and hop onto the ... The ummm...bed. Gretchen walks past him and stands by the bed. Eventually she begins to slowly unbutton each individual button on the nightshirt - perhaps just in case she wants to back out. When she is finished, the nightshirt hangs off her shoulders exposing a long triangle of porcelain white flesh from her neck down to her naval. GRETCHEN How do you want me? DANTE Just ... On... On the bed. Gretchen slides the nightshirt off her shoulders and it drops to her ankles. She moves onto the bed and lies down. Her chest heaves up and down nervously. Dante directs her position. DANTE (CONT'D) Now put your arm up there...no no...further...yep that's it, over your stomach ... Yep perfect. (pause) Can I ask one more thing? She nods. Dante moves around the bed and looks down on her. Gretchen's breathing intensifiers as he leans over. His hands disappear behind her head and he unties her hair, allowing it to flow freely over the sheets. DANTE (CONT'D) You shouldn't hide this. You and I both know who you are. Gretchen's eyes are consumed in Dante's and for a second their relationship could go further, but, Dante sits up and moves back to his easel. CLOSE ON THE PALETTE As Dante begins to mix his colors. Finally he dabs his brush in the newly created color and applies it to the fresh canvas. Dante is concentrating extremely hard as he paints. His eyes are locked firmly on the canvas, only moving to gaze upon his muse. As his strokes become finer we can see the features of the bedroom emerging. He mixes in a new set of colors on the palette and begins to apply them to the painting. CLOSE ON DANTE'S EYES As they look over his muse. CLOSE ON PAINT STROKES That begin to create Gretchen's naked body. Gretchen's breathing begins to relax as she becomes more comfortable with her own body. More color is added to the forming body. The last touches are added. With a fine brush he finishes the shading around her body and sharpens the small features such as he lips, eyes, nipples and fingers. Dante sits back. DANTE (CONT'D) It's done. She takes a sheet from the bed, wraps it around herself and walks around the easel to see her portrait. Dante stands and lets her gaze over the full portrait. Her mouth widens in astonishment. THE PORTRAIT Is beautiful. Gretchen can hardly believe her eyes. GRETCHEN I don't know what to say. It's- DANTE Beautiful... (pause) Like you. Gretchen turns to him, but cannot look into his eyes. GRETCHEN Do you really think I'm beautiful? DANTE Yes. I have also thought so. The first time I saw you I was taken by you. There is a long silence as they gaze into one another's eyes. Finally Gretchen is the one to act as she presses her lips to his. Dante's hands glide over her face and down, over her shoulders and finally around her waist as he draws her closer. DISSOLVE TO: Dante lies above Gretchen, their faces so close, almost teasing each other by not kissing. They stare continuously into each other's eyes. Gradually and very slowly Dante moves in and out of her. Their breathing begins to intensify. Gretchen tilts her head back in pleasure and Dante ceases the opportunity and kisses under her chin and along her neck. DISSOLVE TO: From ON HIGH we can see that nothing covers or separates thew two lovers as they embrace. Gretchen stretches her arms far above her head as she arches her back. Dante holds his arms under her back and draws her pelvis closer to him. They seem perfectly matched, knowing what each other wants. She closes her eyes and exhales deeply as Dante continues to pleasure her. DISSOLVE TO: CLOSE ON HER HANDS That are stretched back on the bed. Her fingers clench and stretch to their furthest most point, allowing the pleasure to fill her completely. DISSOLVE TO: Dante's face becomes more and more flushed as the moments pass. Ever so soft noises begin to escape Gretchen's mouth. Her breathing intensifies further, her chest heaves deeper as oxygen is sucked into her lungs. DISSOLVE TO: Dante now lies under Gretchen. His arms are wrapped tightly around her back. Their mouths begin to separate as Gretchen begins to gently tilt her body upwards and rock back and forth on Dante. His hands slide off her back and slide along her sides. They move under her ribs and slowly push upwards until he cups her breasts in his palms. CLOSE ON GRETCHEN'S FACE Her hair sweeps back as she tilts her head toward the ceiling. Her eyes softly close as she releases a long and deep exhale. CLOSE ON DANTE'S FACE His eyes close as he lets out a series to deep breaths. CLOSE ON GRETCHEN'S FACE She tilts her head and looks down to her lover. Her hair hangs over her ears and sticks to her sweating face. The rocks back and forth on him. Her head tilts back once more as she climaxes. Tears stream out of the sides of her closed eyes and roll down her face. DISSOLVE TO: We ASCEND to see the lovers wrapped up in one another like a human knot. They stare into each other's eyes with a relaxed smile. FADE OUT: INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - SAME TIME Ashby moves slowly through the dark, empty room and over to the bed. He sits down on it and feel the covers, he knows it has been not slept in. He stands and moves over to the window. In the distance he can see the lights on in Dante's cottage. He thinks for a moment. His eyes turn from the window. He stops and stares. GRETCHEN'S JOURNAL Lies on the bureau beside the bed. FADE OUT: EXT. GARDENS - DAY Ashby and Gretchen both sit at the outdoor setting. He reads a newspaper whilst she sits quietly reading a novel. She peers over the book to notice Dante standing behind the hedge, staring back at her. GRETCHEN I'm going for a walk. She stands, Ashby gives her only a slight glance as she walks away. EXT. STABLES - MOMENTS LATER Gretchen walks around the corner, searching for her beloved but he has vanished. SUDDENLY, a HAND grabs her by hers and pulls her into the stable. INT. STABLES - CONTINUOUS Dante pulls her close to him with a long passionate kiss. She pulls away from him with a childish giggle, but she cannot resist him and she returns his kiss. They move into one of the vacant holds and fall onto the hay lined ground, still kissing. Almost like animals they begin to remove their undergarments, just enough so that they can make love without undressing. We PULL OUT of the stable with the sounds of ruffling hay and of love making disturbing the silence. We STAY in the stables, looking out through the open doors into the rest of the estate. ASHBY strolls past the open doors and stops. He hears their love making in one of the holds and without anymore than slight raise of the eyebrows he continues past. CUT TO: INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - DAY An empty corridor. SUDDENLY, Gretchen and Dante, hand-in-hand bolt through the corridor and come to a sliding stop by her bedroom door. She giggles as he pushes her to the wall and begins to kiss her. Still in the long kiss, she fondles blindly for the door handle. Finally she grasps it, opens the door and they both disappear into the room. The door closes and locks. AT THE END OF THE CORRIDOR- Ashby appears. He carries with him a silver tray, a glass of milk sits on it. He silently slinks away. CUT TO: INT. DINING ROOM - MANSION - DAY Dante sits in a chair. He seems to be alone. His breathing intensifies for a moment followed by a sigh. GRETCHEN Rises from between his legs, her face aglow, a smile appears over both their faces. We LEAVE the dining room and into the main foyer. INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - CONTINUOUS We ASCEND up the staircase to Ashby. He stands by the balcony, directly above the archway to the dining room. His fingers continuously tap in a series from his pinky to his index finger on the balcony ledge. CUT TO: EXT. BEACH - DAY Footprints in the sand lead to Gretchen and Dante making love on the beach. They are totally naked with their clothes scattered around them. We ASCEND to realize that we are looking through SOMEONE'S POV. EXT. CLIFF'S ABOVE - CONTINUOUS Ashby stands on the edge of the cliffs looking down on them. He is rugged up warmly with his hands buried deep in his pockets. His face is emotionless, neither sad or angry. He turns and walks away from the cliff. CUT TO: INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - SAME TIME We MOVE over the dusty bureau. A rectangle patch is not dusty, but very clean. Something has been lying there. Something has been removed very recently. The journal. RETURN TO: EXT. CLIFF'S ABOVE - CONTINUOUS Ashby continues to walk away from the cliffs. CLOSE ON GRETCHEN'S JOURNAL That is now clasped in one of his hands. A smile appears over his face. FADE OUT: EXT. MANSION GROUNDS - DAY Dante busily attaches a wagon to a set of horses. Ashby and Gretchen emerge from the mansion. LEGEND: " Weeks later..." ASHBY Dante. Dante buckles the last strap and turns to Ashby. ASHBY (CONT'D) Dante, I want you to take Gretchen into town with you today. Dante stares, stunned. DANTE To town? ASHBY Yes. I think it would be good for her to get out in the open. She can help you select everything we need for the kitchen and perhaps some new decor for the house. I think it's time for a change. A woman's input around here could be beneficial to us all. Dante turns to Gretchen, she is just as stunned as he. ASHBY (CONT'D) Unless you have some reservation? DANTE No, none. ASHBY Good, then it's settled. Ashby smiles but Gretchen and Dante seem uneasy. ASHBY (CONT'D) You two better get going or it will be dark by the time you return. DANTE I'll help you up. Come on. Dante helps Gretchen onto the wagon then he strolls around to the other side and hops on. ASHBY Keep her safe, Dante. DANTE I will. He whips the horses and they wagon is away. They do a U-turn and begin down the pathway. Gretchen looks to her husband, he has not moved from his spot. His arms are folded behind his back and an arrogant, almost frightening smile shows on his face. EXT. FRONT GATES - ASHBY ESTATE - LATER The carriage pulls out of the front gates and onto the sandy road. EXT. WAGON - DAY They sit in silence. Gretchen's face has turned pale and ill in appearance. She continuously looks to Dante, wondering if he is feeling just as sick. He remains unchanged. GRETCHEN How can you sit there so relaxed? He turns to her. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) He knows. I know he knows. DANTE He doesn't know. GRETCHEN It's easy for you, you're not married to him. There's something wrong with all this. Something's wrong, very wrong, I know it. DANTE Perhaps he's finally woken up? Gretchen shakes her head. GRETCHEN No - not him. He's planning something. I could see it in his eyes. He wants us out of the house. Surely you can see all this? DANTE Do you want me to take you home? GRETCHEN No, whatever it is it's already set in motion. We'll have to wait for it to unfold. EXT. A ROAD - DAY A OLD DRIFTER walks along the side of a road bordering the Ashby Estate. His clothes are filthy and ragged, a matted beard hangs from his face and a folded cloth carrying his few belongings is slung over his shoulder. A CARRIAGE rushes past him, forcing him onto the saturated grass. He looks into the carriage window and eyes its occupant, but we cannot him/her. He waves his fist at the Driver angrily. It slows down and pulls into the FRONT GATES of the Ashby Estate. EXT. WAGON - DAY Gretchen removes a severely creased envelope from a a pocket and offers it to Dante. DANTE Same address? GRETCHEN Yes. He accepts it and buries it in one of his own pockets. DANTE How many of them have I delivered? GRETCHEN That is the seventy seventh. One per week. DANTE They must be important, for you to keep such a tally. Gretchen remains silent. DANTE (CONT'D) I know I shouldn't pry but- GRETCHEN Then don't. It is best for all if you don't. EXT. MARKET PLACE - TOWN - LATER Market stalls line the town centre with loud owners selling their wares. Food, clothing, pots and pans, linen and farming equipment - everything someone could want can be found somewhere in the array of tables. Dante and Gretchen walk through the stalls, sampling fruit and other items that are needed. Finally they reach the stall of PIERRE, the old french soldier. Bottles of all shapes and sizes sit on the counter, all containing various blends of whiskey, wine and champagne. Dante cannot help but smile at him. He is lounged back in an old rickety chair with a bottle of something in one hand and a book in another. He seems to be asleep under his old military cap. DANTE Pierre. He doesn't stir a muscle. DANTE (CONT'D) (louder) PIERRE Pierre jumps in fright, his book flies into the air and he splashes his own face with the bottle. He looks about him and then looks up to see Dante, he frowns. PIERRE (strong french accent) Oh it is you. I thought it was someone important. He takes a cloth and begins to wipe his face. DANTE Sorry to disappoint. PIERRE Well with you here every week I'm becoming used to it. They both stare silently at each other for a moment. Smiles appear and they laugh. They have probably played this game many times over. DANTE Pierre, this is Gretchen. Gretchen Pierre. GRETCHEN How do you do? He removes his hat with an overly exaggerated bow and takes her hand in his and kisses it. PIERRE (kissing her hand) Mon Cherie. A pleasure to meet someone of such beauty. GRETCHEN Thank you. PIERRE My pleasure, my little cherry blossom. Gretchen gives Dante a look. DANTE Been sampling the wares again? PIERRE Merely a drop. Dante nods, disbelieving him. DANTE Aha. PIERRE Why am I explaining myself to you, boy? Can I get you anything or are you going to bore me into an early grave? DANTE Just the usual, Pierre. Gretchen has grown bored with the banter and wonders off to the next stall. She sniffs the fruit and feels the firmness of the apples. TWO MEN are talking near her. She can't help but listen in to their conversation. One of the men is the DRIFTER. DRIFTER And it shot right through me, as if I wasn't there. MAN What did you do? DRIFTER What could I do? I had to jump into the grass. I should've gone back to that house and given the driver something to think about. MAN You should get some boys together and go down there. Where did he go to? DRIFTER I don't know, it was a few miles out that way...huge iron gates..large wall surrounding... MAN That's the Ashby Estate. Gretchen turns to the men. GRETCHEN Excuse me. MAN Yes miss. GRETCHEN I couldn't help but over hear you mentioning the Ashby's. MAN That's right, miss. He was almost run over by a carriage that turned in there. GRETCHEN Carriage? DRIFTER Yes miss. It was in a hurry, I can't imagine why- GRETCHEN (interrupts) Did you happen to see who was in it? DRIFTER Yes miss. GRETCHEN Who? CUT TO: Gretchen grabs Dante by the arm. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) We have to get back now. DANTE What? Why? Gretchen is already trying to drag him away. GRETCHEN Just come on! Dante can see the anguish in her eyes. DANTE (nods) Okay. He grabs the bottles from Pierre and they rush away. CUT TO: EXT. FRONT GATES - ASHBY ESTATE - LATER The wagon rushes through the front gates at a phenomenal speed. EXT. MANSION GROUNDS - DAY Before the wagon has come to a stop, Gretchen has jumped out and is rushing through the front doors. INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - CONTINUOUS From ON HIGH we watch Gretchen hurry through the foyer and up the staircase. INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - CONTINUOUS Gretchen slides around the corner, trips on her dress and almost falls onto her knees. But this does not stop her, she quickly jumps up and hurries to her bedroom. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - CONTINUOUS The doors fly open and Gretchen rushes in. ASHBY Turns from the window, a smile appears over his face. ASHBY Gretchen. Welcome. I was just catching up on some reading. He holds up her diary. ASHBY (CONT'D) It was quite an interesting read too. I learned a few things. He begins to slowly walk around the room. ASHBY (CONT'D) You and Dante, a few things about me that quite frankly hurt- He moves to her. He places his finger on her lips- ASHBY (CONT'D) These lips were meant for me, not for him. He steps around her, so close that his breath makes her shiver. Tears begin to roll down her cheek. ASHBY (CONT'D) These breasts- Her grabs her breast, ASHBY (CONT'D) These hips He places his hands on her hips, and almost like a perfect lover moves them over her stomach. ASHBY (CONT'D) (whispers into her ear) Were mine. He pulls away from her- ASHBY (CONT'D) But, in the end you chose to give them to a mere servant, rather than to your husband. I saved you and your family from financial ruin and this is how you repay me? Infidelity. (pause) I never kept a diary. I was always concerned that someone, someday might read it and discover my secrets. A crush, stolen money- (he points to her) A secret lover... He sits down on the sofa, directly next to SEBASTIAN, her 6 year old son. He is terrified. He places his arm firmly around Sebastian's shoulder and smiles. ASHBY (CONT'D) Your son. Yes, I found out about your little secret. The son you hid from me. He never takes his cold stare from her. Gretchen has become very ill looking - her one love is now in the hands of her enemy. ASHBY (CONT'D) We've been talking. He's a smart little boy. I always wanted a son, you know? My father and his father were both great story tellers. They would each sit me down and tell me stories of great adventure, intrigue, mystery and secrecy. So, I have been sharing stories with our Sebastian here. He gently strokes Sebastian's hair, still never taking his eyes from Gretchen. ASHBY (CONT'D) My favorite, was the story of a wealthy gentleman who took it upon himself to save a woman and her family from financial ruin. He married this woman that he saved and he thought they would live happily ever after. However, the woman was not what she appeared. All of the time they were together she was lying to her husband. Hurt is welling up in Ashby's eyes. ASHBY (CONT'D) Out late nights, sneaking around in the night, whispering secrets in the dark and hiding things from the man who loved her. He draws Sebastian closer- ASHBY (CONT'D) And do you know what happened to that woman when he was found out? Sebastian shakes his head. Ashby locks eyes with Gretchen- ASHBY (CONT'D) Perhaps your mother knows the answer? Do you know, mother dear? Gretchen cannot speak, she is beside herself with fear. ASHBY (CONT'D) Well I know. He gave her an ultimatum: "Give up your cheating ways and live as the wife you are expected to be, you naughty girl, or I shall strike down that which is dearest to you" and do you know what she did? (pause) The naughty girl did as she was ordered and she never saw the other man again. EXT. MANSION GROUNDS - NEXT DAY Dante is packing up his wagon, putting the last of his belongings on board. He looks up to Gretchen's window. She looks down at him, tears in her eyes. Sebastian stands beside her - she has chosen her life. Dante attempts a smile - it fails. He climbs onto the wagon, whips the horse and it begins to move down the pathway. He looks back but Gretchen and her son begin to blur as the distance between them grows. He turns around and whips his horse harder, he wants to leave quickly. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - DAY Gretchen wipes her eyes with a handkerchief. The doors open. Gretchen turns. Ashby and the new servant, MRS. ECCELSTON, a plump woman in her fifties, enter. ASHBY My love, this is Mrs. Eccelston Gretchen stares at her coldly. ASHBY (CONT'D) If you require anything she will attend to your and our future needs. Mrs. Eccelston smiles at Sebastian, she bends down to him MRS. ECCELSTON My, what a lovely boy you have- Gretchen pushes herself between Mrs. Eccelston and Sebastian. GRETCHEN Don't touch him. Mrs. Eccelston rises, a puzzled look over her face as she wonders what she did to offend her. ASHBY Well, we'll press on Mrs. Eccelston. I'll show you to your quarters. He follows her to the door and turns to Gretchen. ASHBY (CONT'D) (sneers) Be good. The doors close. Gretchen rushes to the window. She looks out for her love, but he is long gone. SEBASTIAN What's wrong, mother? Gretchen wipes the tears from her face. GRETCHEN Nothing, Sebastian. Nothing. EXT. STABLES - DAY Hand in hand, Gretchen and Sebastian follow Ashby into the stables and over to a pony. ASHBY Every boy should have be able to ride. He takes Sebastian's hand, forcing Gretchen to relinquish her son as he draws him closer to the pony. SEBASTIAN Is he mine? Ashby bends down beside him, ASHBY Yes he is. A gift from me- (pokes him gently in the ribs) To you. Sebastian glides his hand along the pony's mane. No boy is happier than this one. SEBASTIAN Can I ride him, can I? Ashby looks up to Gretchen with a smile. ASHBY Of course you can. He lifts Sebastian up and places him on the pony's back. Ashby takes the reigns in his hand and walks past Gretchen without a second glance. SEBASTIAN SEBASTIAN (CONT'D) (happy) Look mother, I'm riding. Gretchen manages only a weak smile. Ashby leads the pony out of the stables. Gretchen remains behind, watching her son disappear with him. GRETCHEN (V.O.) I knew what he was doing. He was attempting to take Sebastian away from me. He wanted me to suffer and what better way than taking away the thing most precious. Ashby takes Sebastian's hand to help him balance on the horse. CLOSE ON THE TWO HOLDING HANDS: FATHER AND SON. Beat. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) He would buy my son's love. INT. DINING ROOM - MANSION - EVENING Gretchen and Sebastian sit to one end of the table while Ashby sits in his usual chair at the other end. A place is still reserved for the guest that never arrives. Gretchen is distracted from her supper by Sebastian, who plays with his vegetables. GRETCHEN Sebastian, stop it. SEBASTIAN But I hate carrots. GRETCHEN They're good for you. SEBASTIAN I don't care. ASHBY If the boy doesn't like them, he doesn't have to eat them. Gretchen ignores him. GRETCHEN You need to eat your vegetables, Sebastian. If you don't you won't grow up big and strong. SEBASTIAN (childish) But I don't want them. ASHBY Leave them, they can go to the pigs. SEBASTIAN I'm finished, can I go play, mother? GRETCHEN It's late, Sebastian. SEBASTIAN Please. ASHBY Oh let the boy go. Stop mothering him, he needs adventure in his life. (to Sebastian) Go and play Sebastian smiles to him and quickly disappears without his mother's approval. Gretchen looks to Ashby- GRETCHEN (V.O.) He tried to undermine my authority at every turn, pit mother against son until in the end he would look the more desirable parent. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - NEXT DAY Gretchen stands alone in her bedroom. From her window she watches Ashby and Sebastian set off together for a day of hunting. They ride side-by-side and both seem to enjoy each other's company, as their laughter can be heard even from here. GRETCHEN (V.O.) And in the end he won. Sebastian didn't even ask my permission to do things anymore. He spent most of his waking hours with him, a bond forged through my own infidelity. (pause) There was only one thing left to do. INT. KITCHEN - MANSION - LATER Gretchen walks softly into the empty kitchen. She moves to a drawer and opens it. CLOSE ON THE OPEN DRAWER A series of knives lay inside. She takes hold of the largest and sharpest knife and gazes upon her sad reflection. She turns her arm over and places the knife on her wrist. Her eyes close, a single tear dribbles down her cheek as she slashes. The knife is instantly ripped from her hand and tossed across the kitchen. Her eyes open. ASHBY Dressed in his riding uniform, stands over her. He slaps her hard and knocks her to the ground. She hits it hard and struggles to move. Ashby's eyes burn in anger as he stands over her. ASHBY Don't you ever do that again! Never, do you hear me? NEVER. He rubs his forehead in thought. ASHBY (CONT'D) If you succeed in taking your own life, then I will take your son's. Do I make myself clear? He storms out of the kitchen just as Mrs. Eccelston enters. ASHBY (CONT'D) Clean her up. He leaves. Mrs. Eccelston rushes in and helps Gretchen up. MRS. ECCELSTON Are you all right, dear? GRETCHEN I'm all right. A small cut bleeds across her forehead. MRS. ECCELSTON Oh my lord, you're bleeding. Mrs. Eccelston takes a cloth and holds it tight to her head. MRS. ECCELSTON (CONT'D) What happened? GRETCHEN (pause) I tripped. MRS. ECCELSTON Oh, you really should be more careful, Miss. These floors can become quite slippery. Come on we'll get you fixed up. Mrs. Eccelston helps Gretchen out of the kitchen. EXT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - LATER A WASHCLOTH is placed in a bowl of water and sloshed around for a moment. Mrs. Eccelston takes the cloth, folds it and dabs it on Gretchen's wound. Her face ceases in pain. MRS. ECCELSTON That's quite a bump you have there, miss. It may take a few days for the swelling to die down. Gretchen nods softly. MRS. ECCELSTON (CONT'D) (finally) I know I haven't been here long and that I may not be fully aware of all that goes on around this house, but... (pause) May I ask you something? GRETCHEN Okay. MRS. ECCELSTON Well, I was dusting the paintings the day before last... BEGIN FLASH BACK: INT. CORRIDOR - DAY Mrs. Eccelston dusts the paintings whilst humming a tune to herself. MRS. ECCELSTON (V.O.) ...usually it is uneventful The muffled sound of love making can be heard. Mrs. Eccelston, as nosey as she is, begins to follow the sound. MRS. ECCELSTON (V.O.) (CONT'D) But I could hear them. Finally she approaches the TWO DOUBLE DOORS that lead into the locked room. She places her ear against the door, the sounds are louder. They are definitely coming from inside. Mrs. Eccelston looks about herself, is there anyone watching her? MRS. ECCELSTON (CONT'D) I don't know why I did it miss, I guess curiosity got the better of me. She bends down and peers through the key hole. KEYHOLE POV Shows the corner of the bed, Ashby is on top of a WOMAN WITH BLONDE HAIR. He is making passionate love to her. We cannot see her face. MRS. ECCELSTON (V.O.) (CONT'D) And I saw them. GRETCHEN (V.O.) Saw who? Who did you see? ASHBY (in pleasure) Oh Elizabeth. END FLASH BACK: INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - CONTINUOUS Gretchen is now sitting up in bed, very curious in what Mrs. Eccelston has to say. MRS. ECCELSTON I saw the master, Mister Ashby with another woman. I didn't know her, but he called out her name...Elizabeth. Gretchen sits lost in her thoughts. MRS. ECCELSTON (CONT'D) Have I done wrong miss? I agonized over telling you for the longest of times. She snaps out of her trance. GRETCHEN Oh yes, sorry, you have done well Mrs. Eccelston. (pause) Tell me, does he ever eat in there. Mrs Eccelston thinks for a moment. She nods. MRS. ECCELSTON At least three times a day. He has instructed me to leave food at the door and leave. When I return there's nothing but empty dishes. The doors fly open and Sebastian comes running in - Ashby follows closely behind. MRS. ECCELSTON (CONT'D) I'll call back later to see how you are getting alone. Gretchen smiles to her. Mrs. Eccelston stands and turns, MRS. ECCELSTON (CONT'D) Mister Ashby ASHBY Mrs. Eccelston She hastily leaves. Sebastian jumps onto the bed and they both embrace tightly. ASHBY (CONT'D) He wanted to see his mother. SEBASTIAN Are you all right? Gretchen cannot take her eyes from Ashby whilst in the embrace with her son. Her eyes burn with hatred towards him. GRETCHEN I'm fine. SEBASTIAN What happened? GRETCHEN I fell. Ashby touches Sebastian on the shoulder and instantly he pulls away his mother's embrace. ASHBY We should be going, I wouldn't want to see Mrs. Eccelston's meal go to waste. SEBASTIAN (smiles to ashby) Okay papa. Gretchen locks eyes with Ashby. Papa? Ashby leans over and presses his lips to Gretchen's forehead, causing her agonizing pain. He pushes his lips harder on her wound. Gretchen's face ceases in agony and then relaxes as he pulls away. ASHBY Rest up well and remember what we discussed earlier. He turns and leads Sebastian out of the room. Gretchen sits in the silence for a moment. She then retrieves her diary from the bureau. She opens the diary and tares out a blank page and begins to write on it. INT. DINING ROOM - MANSION - EVENING Ashby tucks a napkin into his collar as a STEAMING BOWL of soup is placed before him. Mrs. Eccelston places another before Sebastian. ASHBY Please check on my wife before you retire, Mrs. Eccelston. MRS. ECCELSTON Yes, Mister Ashby. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - MOMENTS LATER A DOLLOP of WAX Is poured over a white envelope, sealing it. The door opens and Mrs. Eccelston pops through. MRS. ECCELSTON Can I get you anything, Miss? GRETCHEN Yes. She offers the envelope forward and Mrs. Eccelston accepts it. She reads the label, "Dante". GRETCHEN (CONT'D) Please deliver this. EXT. DANTE'S COTTAGE - NIGHT With the letter in her hand, Mrs. Eccelston cautiously approaches Dante's front door. She knocks several times and stands back - awaiting an answer. The door opens. Dante stands before her. DANTE Can I help you? MRS. ECCELSTON Are you Dante? DANTE Yes. Mrs. Eccelston offers him the envelope. Dante stares at it for a moment. He then eagerly rips it from her hand as if it were some kind of treasured possession. Without any further hesitation he tares the seal open and scans over the letter. His face drops upon finishing. MRS. ECCELSTON What? What is it? Dante scans the letter once more. He then gives Mrs. Eccelston a look - confusion. EXT. MEADOW - ASHBY ESTATE - MIDNIGHT A thick blanket of mist has rolled up from the sea and engulfs everything in its wake. The once lush green meadows lay buried under the white sea of fog, with only the mounds and trees sticking out like small islands. GRETCHEN Stands alone in the meadow. The thick fog swims around her ankles like a flowing stream. She is wrapped warmly in a thick shawl and coat, a GLOWING LANTERN extends from her hand to supply light in the darkness. It is bitterly cold and it hurts her to breath. In the distance a FAINT GLOWING emerges out of the darkness. It comes closer and closer until the light reveals DANTE, a lantern in one hand and a SHOVEL in another. GRETCHEN I'm glad you came. I was almost sure you wouldn't. Dante stabs his shovel into the ground. DANTE I almost didn't. (pause) What is this? Why are we here? My first letter from you in almost two months and it is nothing more than an order for me to meet you here. No 'love from' - nothing... GRETCHEN (interrupts) The new servant, Mrs. Eccelston, saw Ashby and another woman in the locked room - they were making love. DANTE Not this again... GRETCHEN He called out her name. Elizabeth. Dante glares. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) Don't you see - she's still alive. Jonathan knew that Samuel would always want her back, that some day he might return for her. So what better way to get rid of Samuel forever than to say Elizabeth had died. Dante remains silent. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) He faked her death so he could keep her for himself. Christ, he even has Mrs. Eccelston bring her food. Three meals a day. She's a prisoner in that room! DANTE This is ridiculous. I know she is dead. I was at the funeral. It was my job to dig the grave. My job to bury her. She is dead. GRETCHEN Can you be certain? Can you honestly be that certain? Did you see the body before you buried her? Dante sighs. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) I know this sounds ridiculous. I've been thinking about it for hours and hours. But... (pause) It would explain everything. It would explain the mysterious woman that Mrs. Eccelston saw. The more I think about it the more plausible it sounds. Dante is not convinced and Gretchen knows it. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) I have to know. If she's in there then fine. If not...If she is not buried here, if she is alive...shouldn't we do something about it? (pause) I need to know. I have to... Dante sighs deeply. DANTE Okay. He retrieves his shovel, steps over to the grave and begins to dig up the dirt surrounding the plaque. Gretchen bends down and takes ANOTHER SHOVEL from under the blanket of fog and help Dante exhume the grave. FROM ON HIGH we watch as the couple dig deeper into the ground. Mounds of soil begin to build up around them. The sound of the digging shovels is eerie in the silence. Finally with a CLUNK Dante stops digging. GRETCHEN What? DANTE I've hit something. Dante gets onto his knees and wipes away the remaining soil to reveal part of the ROTTING COFFIN. DANTE (CONT'D) Get out. Gretchen climbs out of the grave and stands over it whilst Dante awkwardly positions his legs around the base as he tries to pry the lid open. With a mighty heave, the nails buckle and the coffin lid flies open. COFFIN'S POV Shows Dante and Gretchen staring silently down into us. DANTE (CONT'D) Oh my god. DANTE'S POV Reveals an empty coffin. BLACK: GRETCHEN (V.O.) I needed to get into that locked room. I needed to find Elizabeth and free her from Ashby's clutches. (pause) The only flaw in my plan. I needed the key. I knew what I must do... INT. ASHBY'S BEDROOM - MANSION - NIGHT We LOWER into Ashby's bed. He sleeps restlessly. FROM BEHIND the LACE NETTING we watch as the door opens without a sound and a FEMALE SILHOUETTE enters. She makes her way around to the bed and looks down on the sleeping Ashby. She lifts the netting and climbs into the bed. ASHBY Elizabeth? His eyes remained closed and his speech slurred. He is neither awake or completely asleep. For the first time we see who the silhouette belongs too. It is Gretchen. She pulls the sheets down just enough that she can sit astride him and then begins to gently move back and forth on him. Still very much 'out to it' Ashby tries to touch his beloved but Gretchen gently holds his arms on the bed. He begins to relax and Gretchen can move her arms freely. She moves her hands over his chest - fondling the key. He arches his back in pleasure. THEN- INT. ASHBY'S BEDROOM - MANSION - MORNING Ashby wakes in fright. He sits up. His breathing is rapid and he is soaked in sweat. He fiddles for a moment and finally locates his key. It's exactly where he left it - around his neck. He begins to calm down. INT. DANTE'S COTTAGE - MORNING AN EXTREMELY HOT FIRE Burns over the stove. A small crucible is taken out of the fire with a set of tongs and moves across and gently liquid metal is poured into a MOULD. The MOULD has an uncanny resemblance to Ashby's key. After a moment of being allowed to cool, DANTE takes the mould with the set of tongs and dumps it into a bucket of water. Steam pours out of the bucket and finally dissipates. Dante places his hand inside and removes the mould. He opens it up, takes out the freshly made key and hands it to GRETCHEN. INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - DAY Ashby and Sebastian are walking down the staircase. A shotgun sits over Ashby's shoulder. Gretchen walks through the front door. His eyes lock onto hers. ASHBY And where have you been? GRETCHEN In the garden. It was such a lovely day and I didn't want to waste it indoors. SEBASTIAN (excited) We're going hunting. GRETCHEN Oh are you? ASHBY Yes, we're meeting the Harringston's in a few minutes and travelling to their estate. Sebastian should have some sport in his life and what better than a day of hunting foxes, geese and anything else that moves. GRETCHEN You're not going to let him use the gun are you? ASHBY No. SEBASTIAN Aww but you promised. ASHBY Yes..well...we should get going. Come Sebastian. Without another word they walk through Gretchen and towards the front door. CLOSE ON GRETCHEN'S HAND As it reaches into her pocket and retrieves the DUPLICATE KEY. ASHBY (CONT'D) Freeze. Gretchen freezes in fright. She slowly turns to face him- CLOSE ON GRETCHEN'S HAND As it tries to conceal the key behind her back. Ashby has the shotgun sighted on her. She holds her breath. With a smile he lowers his rifle, ASHBY (CONT'D) We'll be back sometime this afternoon. He turns and leaves. The door closes and Gretchen takes several quick breaths, sucking air into her oxygen starved lungs. The ordeal is over. She turns and hurries up the staircase. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - DAY The doors open and Gretchen races in. She moves across to the window and watches as the two hunters walk down the pathway and out of sight. She turns from the window and leaves her room. INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - DAY Gretchen hurries along the corridor and arrives at the two locked doors. She inserts the key into the lock and turns it. Unlocked. She pushes the doors open and enters. CUT TO: EXT. FRONT GATES - ASHBY ESTATE - SAME TIME Ashby and Sebastian stroll through the front gates and over a CARRIAGE that waits for them. The DRIVER is busily mending one of the wheels, whilst OLD HARRINGTON 'supervises'. ASHBY Problem? OLD HARRINGTON Bloody wheels. Nothing is as strong as it used to be. Twenty years ago we never had these types of problems. SEBASTIAN We're still going hunting, right? OLD HARRINGTON Not unless we can get this wheel repaired. We may have to reschedule - tomorrow perhaps? ASHBY Of course. RETURN TO: INT. LOCKED ROOM - MANSION - SAME TIME It is a bedroom. The grandest room of this house. Beautiful furniture. Exquisite paintings. This room is fit for royalty but is missing one key point - Elizabeth. Gretchen moves around the room, scanning over these various features. GRETCHEN Hello? ... Elizabeth? No reply. Silence. She comes to closed drapes, the same that cover all the windows of the house. Gretchen turns and scans the room again - nothing. She sighs with disappointment and with that leans against the drapes to think. However, her hand finds nothing sold back there and her whole body falls over and is sucked behind the drapes. CUT TO: INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - SAME TIME The front door open and Ashby strolls through. He continues through the foyer and up the stairs. RETURN TO: INT. SECRET ROOM - CONTINUOUS Pitch black. Gretchen lies flat on the floor. After a moment of lying there she begins to feel her way around the floor. Her hand touches something solid, a WOODEN LEG, possibly to a table or bed. She feels her way up the leg and stands up. There is a small amount of light in the form of a rectangle coming from the end of the room. A covered window. Gretchen slowly and cautiously feels her way over to the window. WINDOW POV The drapes slide open and light rushes in. Gretchen turns from the window to see on the table is- THE BODY OF ELIZABETH Lying inside a beautiful glass coffin. Gretchen screams in fright. CUT TO: INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - SAME TIME Ashby moves through the corridor, closing in on the locked doors. RETURN TO: INT. SECRET ROOM - SAME TIME Sleeping beauty. She has not rotted at all. Her skin has remained porcelain white. She could be easily confused as being fast asleep rather than dead. Gretchen shakes, her hands cover her face, unable to comprehend what is happening. GRETCHEN Oh my God. CUT TO: INT. LOCKED ROOM - MANSION - SAME TIME The doors open and Ashby enters. RETURN TO: INT. SECRET ROOM - SAME TIME Gretchen looks up. She has heard the doors open and close. INT. LOCKED ROOM / SECRET ROOM - CONTINUOUS (INTERCUT) Ashby approaches the drapes. DRAPES' POV They rush open and Ashby is staring at us. ASHBY'S POV Reveals the secret room. Empty. No sign of Gretchen at all. He moves straight over to the glass coffin- ASHBY'S LEGS Stride past a sofa to reveal GRETCHEN hiding underneath it. Her whole body is pressed against the floor as she tries not to breath and more importantly - remain unnoticed. Ashby glides his finger tips over the coffin's surface as if they were touching his wife and not glass. ASHBY I am here my love. I heard you call and I have come. You spoke to me in my dreams and whispered into my heart. My love for you has never died, even if you did. I have always loved you, ever since the first moment that my eyes met yours at that party, do you remember? He smiles with the good memory. ASHBY (CONT'D) I can remember everything about it. I remember how you wore your hair, down - as always. Your dress was of lilac, I even remember the every words you spoke to me that night. (pause) I remember the day I asked you to marry me. You had hurt your knee after tripping on an up grown root. It began to rain and even though you were in agony, we managed to find refuge under the oaks by that small stream. With you unable to walk, both of us drenched through to our skin, our hair all- (pause) You never looked more beautiful. It was then I produced the ring and asked you to marry me. And you said, yes. Yes. I was so happy and then- He stops. His smile fades. ASHBY (CONT'D) And then I brought you here. I had to work more back then, I wanted to secure our future. If I knew that my work would jeopardize us, I would not have done it. I would have quit for you. I would have done anything for you. (pause) I knew Dante meant nothing to you and that it was my neglect of you that caused your eyes to stray. I understand this now. I understand it was me - my fault. Gretchen hears the name 'Dante' and has a sudden realization. FLASHCUT of Elizabeth's Plaque. A rose is placed over it. Dante stands over the grave. ASHBY (CONT'D) But you granted me a second chance and I thank you. It was destiny that brought us together again. She is like you in every way, even made your 'mistake', but with time and influence I will make her you and we may be together once more. Ashby's mood changes rapidly once more. A displaced sadness. ASHBY (CONT'D) (breaks down) I feel so lost without you Elizabeth. I need you as you need me. Without you I am incomplete, an unfinished work. Please forgive me my love, forgive me for all my wrong doings...I didn't mean to hurt you...but you hurt me first... He begins to stroll around, fluctuating emotions of sadness and anger. ASHBY (CONT'D) Do you know what they said in town? Their tongues would flap so often they would distort the truth. They said you died from a broken heart, but I knew better. I knew the truth. FLASHCUT of Ashby slipping something into one of two glasses of wine. Poison. He takes both glasses out into another room and offers the poisoned one to Elizabeth. He raises his glass to her and they both drink. ASHBY (CONT'D) You didn't die of a broken heart. You destroyed our love, you broke the unbreakable bond and you paid the price for your infidelity. His anger returns to an emotional sadness. ASHBY (CONT'D) Did you think I wanted this Elizabeth? I gave you my love, I gave you my money, my home and my trust - I gave you everything. (pause) You are still everything to me. I want you back so much....I never wanted to harm you....I had to...you had to pay the for what you did. Like the dog that bites it's master's hand, you had to pay. (pause) Our love will go on...it will...it always will He stops, as if waiting for her to speak. He begins to break down again, desperately wanting her to reply. ASHBY (CONT'D) Please speak to me Elizabeth....please...please please please....just a word...please...anything....just say something....I need you. His face slumps over the coffin. His fingers gently caressing the glass. Tears roll down his cheek, off his face and trickle down the glass. CLOSE ON THE TEARDROP As it continues to trickle down the glass and falls silently off the coffin and falls SPLAT, onto the floor. We BLUR OUT the tear drop to see Gretchen still lying silently under the sofa. ASHBY (O.S.) (CONT'D) Would you like me to play our song, Elizabeth? Would you like that? Silent. Of course she cannot reply. ASHBY (CONT'D) I will play it for you, I know you would want me to. He presses his lips to the glass- ASHBY (CONT'D) Good night, my love. He turns and hurries out of the room. A moment passes. Gretchen slides herself out from under the sofa and stands. Her hand roughly wipes the tears from her cheeks and then leaves. UNDER THE SOFA We can see the duplicate key has been dropped and left behind. EXT. BEACH - AFTERNOON A canvas is set up before Dante as he paints the wild ocean. He is so consumed with his work that he has not noticed the figure dressed in black approaching him. It is Gretchen. His eyes turn from the painting. His love has returned. He runs for her with opens arms and finally sweeps her up in a loving hug. His smile reaches from ear to ear with happiness but as he lowers her, Dante realizes that she is not smiling, her expression is cold as ice. DANTE What's the matter? Gretchen pulls away from him, she can barely look at him. GRETCHEN Is it true? Every spat out like poison. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) There is no Samuel is there? There never was. DANTE What? GRETCHEN I heard it from his own lips. It was you, wasn't it? You had the affair with Elizabeth. Silence. Dante is guilty - and he cannot help but look it. His eyes cannot look much further up than the ground, he feels very small. He opens his mouth several times to speak - he cannot. DANTE (sighs) Yes. GRETCHEN Why did you lie to me? He remains silent. However, he doesn't have to. Gretchen has finally clicked. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) Oh my god, I was your revenge against him wasn't I? He took Elizabeth away from you and so you took me away from Ashby. How could I be so foolish to think that you loved me. DANTE (grabs her) But I do love you. Gretchen forces her freedom from his grasp. GRETCHEN Do you? I gave you my mind, my body and most of all my love but the whole time I was nothing more than a pawn in your revenge. I loved you, trusted you and then you betrayed me. Gretchen laughs weakly at her life. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) Tell me. Did you ever love me? DANTE I do love you. GRETCHEN (pause) The story you told me on the staircase that day, it wasn't true was it? Dante shakes his head, 'no'. GRETCHEN (CONT'D) How can I believe you when you say you love me? Everything you ever told me was a lie. He places his hands on her cheeks and holds her face close to this. The desperation on his face is growing. Gretchen is in tears. DANTE I'm not lying now. And you were right, in the beginning I was consumed with only thoughts on revenge against him. Through his own jealously he had taken from me the only thing I had ever cared about. (pause) I thought I may never get the chance to repay him\'85 (pause) Until you came along. However, the more time I spent with you the more I can to realize how much you meant to me. GRETCHEN And do you expect me to believe you after all these lies? DANTE (firmly) Yes. (pause) You can't understand how it hurt when she died and how long I have waited for the chance to repay him. We were planning to run away together, Elizabeth and I. To run away from him and never return. All she wanted was freedom from him and I promised that I would give it to her. So when she died, I was devastated. Devastated that I could not deliver what I had promised. I had failed her. So I swore that I would avenge her and not fail her again. It fuelled me, it has fuelled me ever since - that is until I met you. (pause) You opened my eyes to a world I thought I could never know again. And if there was a way to show you how much you mean to me, I would. Gretchen places her hands on his and slowly lowers them from her face. Finally, she looks into his eyes. GRETCHEN (long pause) It maybe too late for us Dante, but perhaps you can still fulfil your promise to her. CUT TO: INT. SEBASTIAN'S ROOM - MANSION - NIGHT Sebastian lay in his bed fast asleep. A PAIR OF HANDS, belonging to Gretchen, move gently over his cheeks and then tuck his sheets in a little tighter. She sits on the edge of the bed, watching her angelic son sleep soundly - not a worry in the world. She leans over and presses her lips to his forehead. GRETCHEN I promise you, I will not let you grow up to be like him. I will set you free, I will set us all free. (pause) Good night Sebastian. INT. ASHBY'S BEDROOM - MANSION - NIGHT Ashby sits by his piano. His fingers strike the keys perfectly. Elizabeth's song. He is so consumed in the music that he has not noticed Gretchen standing in the doorway, dressed in only her nightgown. She presses the door and it opens with a long 'creek'. Instantly Ashby ceases playing and swings around on his stool. ASHBY This would be the first night in our marriage that you have sought me out. GRETCHEN Can't a wife seek out her husband? ASHBY Yes, but it is very unlike you. What is it you want? She steps into the room, accepting his crude invitation. GRETCHEN The same thing you want. ASHBY And that is? She moves closer to him, so much so that her stomach is level with his face. His breathing becomes more intense, his eyes look up to hers. Slowly she unbuttons her nightgown and lets it drop to her ankles, exposing her naked body to him. He places his hands around her sides and pulls her stomach to his lips and begins to kiss it. FROM BEHIND we watch Ashby slide off his chair and onto his knees, his face between her legs. Her head tilts back in mock pleasure. CLOSE ON HER FACE To reveal that she is staring into space, ignoring his touch and is completely uninterested in him. MOVE TO: IN THE BED, Gretchen sits astride Ashby, slowly moving on him. His eyes are closed, enjoying the pleasure while it lasts. Her eyes are wide open and locked on the KEY CHAIN around his neck. FADE OUT: FADE IN: INT. SECRET ROOM - MANSION - LATER THAT NIGHT CLOSE ON ELIZABETH As she lies ever still - a sleeping beauty. Gretchen stands over her. Watching her. From around her own neck she removes the GOLD HEART-SHAPED PENDANT and ties it around Elizabeth's. GRETCHEN I return to you, your heart. I will set you free and finally may you rest in peace. This is my gift to you. FADE OUT: INT. ASHBY'S BEDROOM - MANSION - NEXT MORNING An eye lid. It blinks open once and then quickly shut tight. Ashby's eyes take another few moment to adjust to the morning light before they remain open. He rolls over in the bed, expecting to find his wife beside him. Nothing. Empty sheets. He sits up and scans the room, but she is nowhere to be found. To help wake himself up he slides his hand over his eyes and rubs his face - he notices something. He feels for his key chain, but it is gone. His eyes blaze with fury. He tosses the sheets off himself and leaps out of the bed. Clumsily he slips into a pair of slacks and throws on a pair of boots. His night shirt hangs out as he hurries out of the room. INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - CONTINUOUS He strides down the corridor. His strides become longer and quicker. They slowly become a run as he begins to realize something is definitely wrong. INT. LOCKED ROOM - MANSION - MOMENTS LATER THE TWO LOCKED DOORS Lie wide open as Ashby runs into the room. He quickly moves over to the curtains and with a rough swing of his arms they are open. INT. SECRET ROOM - MANSION - CONTINUOUS He steps inside. There is nothing but an empty table. The glass coffin containing Elizabeth has vanished. Ashby screams in fury and above all else - anguish. INT. SEBASTIAN'S ROOM - MANSION - MOMENTS LATER The doors open and once again Ashby hurries inside. Empty. INT. GRETCHEN'S BEDROOM - MANSION - MOMENTS LATER The doors fly open and Ashby storms in. He looks about. Empty. INT. CORRIDOR - MANSION - MOMENTS LATER Ashby strides down the corridor, his face twisted. He pushes open another set of doors and steps into- INT. ASHBY'S BEDROOM - MANSION - CONTINUOUS Once inside he moves straight to his desk and opens up the top drawer. He retrieves something from inside. A PISTOL. He holds it close to him and for a moment he strokes the barrel with his fingers. His eyes burn for revenge, he wants nothing more than his beloved back and will do anything to achieve it. He storms out of the room. INT. MAIN FOYER - MANSION - MOMENTS LATER FROM ON HIGH, We watch Ashby run down the staircase and through the foyer to the front doors. EXT. MANSION GROUNDS - CONTINUOUS Ashby scans his property - there is no one to be found. The grounds outside are saturated from a storm the night before. The ground has turned to mud. WAGON TRACKS away from the front doors. Ashby leaps onto the muddy ground and begins to follow the tracks. EXT. TRACKS - DAY Ashby continues with the tracks but finally comes to a standstill. He knows where they lead - the beach. He looks to one side, a meadow leads into a small forest - it is a short cut to the beach. He turns and runs through the meadow towards the forest. EXT. FOREST - DAY Ashby bolts through the forest. Tears pour down his cheeks as he tries to push himself harder and faster. He jumps logs and dodges branches and ferns of all shapes and sizes. A SHARP TREE BRANCH Slices his cheek as he bolts past it. Blood oozes out of the wound, but Ashby hasn't even noticed. His hair has become matted and sticks to his face. Cuts graze his face and arms from the sharp branches and twigs- but all the pain, all the anguish he feels inside only makes him more determined to run faster. ASHBY'S EYES Are overflowing with tears, fresh and dry. The desperation in his eyes tell us that he will relentlessly continue his pursuit. EXT. BEACH - DAY Ashby emerges over some dunes. He is exhausted and starved of oxygen. His clothes are saturated and blood oozes from his various wounds. He stops and scans the beach. The tracks go further up the beach and finally come to rest before a halted WAGON. Gretchen stands alone by the outgoing tide, staring out to sea. Gretchen turns to see Ashby running towards her. She isn't surprised to see him, on the contrary she has been expecting him. He notices the glass coffin sitting in the sand. It's lid is open and saltwater rushes in and out of its body. He aims his pistol at her- ASHBY (yells) Where is she? His voice is toned down by the strong winds and the crashing waves. GRETCHEN Where she belongs. Free. Ashby turns to the sea and notices a small make-shift raft floating over the waves. Elizabeth's body lies on top of it. ASHBY (spitting anger) Why would you do this? GRETCHEN Look at what you have become and all because of jealousy. You have destroyed the lives of all around you - including yours. (pause) Let her go, Jonathan. Let all you're hate, jealously, revenge - let it all go. Let her go, just let her go. It's over. Let her go and let her be in peace. Ashby's eyes close. A tear rolls down his cheek. They open once more. His hate still burns within. ASHBY (screams) NEVER! I WILL NEVER LET HER GO. SHE'S MINE... He dashes away from Gretchen. He runs with even more desperation along the wet sand and dives into the surf. As he begins to swim- ASHBY (CONT'D) (continuous) I'm coming Elizabeth.... I'm coming....wait for me... EXT. SEA - CONTINUOUS Ashby, already exhausted, struggles to catch up with the raft. The waves force continuously crash over him and he is forced to swim with all his energy. Saltwater flows into his mouth as he gasps for air. ASHBY I'm coming...ELIZABETH...WAIT! He is almost there. Almost out of energy. His strokes are weak and he struggles to keep himself above the water level. Water splashes hard in and out of his mouth as he sucks desperately needed oxygen into his lungs. EXT. RAFT - CONTINUOUS Ashby takes hold of the raft and tries to pull himself on board. But the raft is not able to support both of them and it topples over - sending Elizabeth's body into the deep. He treads water for a moment, continuously spinning around and around desperately seeking his love. Waves continue to crash over him but he doesn't care. ASHBY ELIZABETH!!?!?!? He calls to her again and again, screaming her name - but she is gone. He takes a deep breath and dives under the water for her. RETURN TO: EXT. UNDER WATER - CONTINUOUS (BEGINNING) The woman's body floats lifelessly in the sea. CLOSE ON THE PENDANT That lay around her neck. CLOSE ON HER FACE And for the first time we can recognize her as Elizabeth. SUDDENLY, the calm waters are broken by the desperate strokes of Ashby. He is out of air but is consumed with reaching his beloved. CLOSE ON THEIR HANDS That lay only inches apart. With his last once of strength and consciousness Ashby takes hold of Elizabeth's hand and grips tightly. IN THE SILENCE, We watch their pair as they float with the current out into the ocean. GRETCHEN (V.O.) I sometimes wonder to myself when I am alone in the darkness of the night whether I too could find a love that strong. INT. BEACH - AFTERNOON Gretchen stands alone on the beach. THROUGH US, Sebastian runs towards his mother. She turns to him and welcomes him into her open arms in a warm embrace. GRETCHEN (V.O.) ...a bond that could never be broken in neither in life or death. Sebastian holds out his hand and Gretchen accepts the gift. Her JOURNAL. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) I also think about my journal and how easily recording our thoughts can lead to the unveiling of our deepest and darkest secrets. As a back door into our minds, can we afford to keep such things in any other place but our thoughts? Gretchen swings the journal and watches as it floats high into the sky and finally plummets into the ocean. She turns and notices DANTE standing along in the distance. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) I sometimes think about Dante. Maybe if he had have asked I would have gone back to him. But he didn't... Dante smiles. Gretchen returns the gesture. He then turns and begins to walk away... GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) Our love had been tarnished beyond repair by the secrets of that house. I think we both knew this and that in the end we both preferred to remember the memories of an idealistic life together that could have been....but now, would never be. EXT. SCHOOL HOUSE - ANOTHER MORNING A tiny white weatherboard school house sits amongst a lush lawn and a small, but blossoming garden. A picket fence surrounds. GRETCHEN (V.O.) Three years have passed since that afternoon on the beach and a lot has happened. (pause) I opened this school for children so that they may come and learn to read and write. A BELL begins to ring. We ROTATE around the schoolhouse until we are at it's front. Gretchen, a year older, stands by the entrance, pulling down on a rope that rings the bell. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) And it is doing quite well. I may even have to expand. SMALL CHILDREN, all between the ages of six to twelve come running through the front gates, up the lawn and into the school building. They all greet their headmaster as they pass, and Gretchen in turn returns their greeting. INT. SCHOOL HOUSE - MOMENTS LATER The children sits behind desks in neat rows. They listen and watch attentively as Gretchen writes the alphabet on the blackboard. They copy it onto their smaller blackboards. GRETCHEN (V.O.) Have I found love, do you ask? There is a knock. Gretchen ceases scribbling on the black board and along with the children turn to the back of the room. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) Well there is this one gentleman... A YOUNG MAN stands silently at the back of the room. His hat is nervously buried in his hands. He smiles shyly at Gretchen, who returns his smile. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) He isn't rich or is he a painter. He's a writer. He is neither Ashby or Dante, he is something different, but I have grown very fond of him. The children snigger to themselves quietly. Gretchen dismisses the children. They pile out of the room, almost bowling over the Young Man. Empty. They are now alone. The Young Man walks forward, his foot trips on a desk and he stumbles before falling against another desk. Gretchen smiles, wanting to burst out laughing. He is deeply embarrassed. He dusts himself down and smiles. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) Is he the one? Gretchen moves over to him and kisses him on the cheek, running her fingers down his face. He offers his hand to her and she accepts it with a smile. Together they walk out of the schoolhouse. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) Maybe. EXT. UNDER WATER - AFTERNOON Ashby and Elizabeth drift hand-in-hand across the ocean... GRETCHEN (V.O.) I am dead now. The world I faced those three years ago is now nothing but a memory - it is gone. (pause) I have started again...begun a fresh life...I have been reborn... Silence. GRETCHEN (V.O.) (CONT'D) Yes, I think about all this and more when I am alone in the darkness of the night... FADE OUT BLACK: }
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