Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for intermediate learners. The name of the story is House of Secrets. This is chapter three of four. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Secrets3. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Secrets3. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
So I will start by reviewing what happened in the last two chapters.
So Xu, Elisabeth and Steve all live together in Rosa’s house. Xu is the artistic creative one, Elisabeth loves theatre and acting, and Steve loves creepy, morbid things like skulls and magic. He likes doing seances.
In the last chapter, Xu cleared out the attic in Rosa’s house and found Steve’s identical twin brother, Stefan. When Rosa found out about Stefan, she was very angry, and to pay her back, Steve told her he would do a seance. He would call back the ghost of a dead relative for her to speak to.
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
Wax. When you burn a candle it gets wax everywhere. So, candles are made of wax. Wax can be white, sometimes it’s red. It can be lots of colours. Some people like to play with candles and put the wax on their fingers and then the wax dries and you peel it off. I’m definitely not one of those people myself. I don’t enjoy playing with wax at all. It’s definitely only for children and adults should not do it, so I don’t do it. No way. Mm-mm.
Chant. A chant is when you repeat something. It’s not quite singing but there is a rhythm. For example, Buddhists chant sutras, or Christians might chant prayers. In films with supernatural things like witches and psychics, it’s very common to have a chant in a made-up language.
If you light a candle, we can say it comes alight. So “alight” is spelt A-L-I-G-H-T.
If you feel your hair stand on end, it means you are in a very scary situation. You are so scared that the hairs on your arms and legs are standing up.
A roar is the sound a lion makes. [roaring sound]. But we also use it for things like fire. When you light a fire and it goes [roar], that’s a roar.
When someone’s voice cracks it means it suddenly goes very high-pitched. [cracking voice] Like this. That’s a cracking voice. So it happens to a lot of boys when they hit puberty.
Inheritance. When your parents die, hopefully they will leave you an inheritance. It may be money, it may be belongings, or it may be a house. You inherit these things.
The will is the document where people write what their inheritance for other people is going to be. So you decide in your will what you are going to do with all of your belongings when you die.
Finally, flicker. Flicker means a light turning on and off. So if a light is broken it might flicker, turn on and off, very quickly. We also use it for candles. When a candle moves in the wind and grows stronger and weaker it is flickering.
OK, so remember you can find a full transcript of this episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Secrets3. Also on the website you can click “CLASSES” at the top and book a private online class with me. I would love to teach you.
OK, so listen and enjoy!
House of Secrets Chapter 3
Steve hadn’t been joking. There was a circle of thick candles on the floor, and a table had been placed in the middle, with expensive cloth on top. Elisabeth was impressed. She’d been in professional productions with far worse sets than this.
The first thing Rosa said when she came in the room was, ‘I hope you’re going to clean up all this wax when you’re done, Steven.’
‘Ah, cleanup isn’t part of the service,’ he said, and then he saw Rosa’s expression, and quickly added, ‘Of course, I’ll make an exception for you.’
‘What are those?’ Xu said, pointing at the table.
Elisabeth saw that there was a plate on top, covered with some small, white bones.
‘We’re not going to touch those, are we?’ Elisabeth said.
‘No,’ said Steve, ‘I was just eating some KFC before you all arrived.’ He cleared away the plate. In its place he put a black candle. ‘Now, we all need to sit down and hold hands.’
Rosa looked particularly unwilling to do this. Elisabeth noted that her hands were dry and cracked.
‘So, Rosa, who is it you want to contact?’ said Steve.
‘My father. I have a question for him.’
She said it as if she was sending a parcel at the post office. Elisabeth wondered if it ran in the family. They would soon find out.
‘OK, let me just do the messy part.’ Steve pulled a knife out of his pocket.
‘What on Earth are you doing?’ said Rosa, squeezing Elisabeth’s hand very tight.
‘We need to offer some blood. What, did you think it was that easy? Now, everyone repeat after me: Lalei namus hor, nibbus bobli dor.’
‘What does that mean?’ Xu said.
‘Nothing. It just adds to the atmosphere. Keep chanting.’
They chanted the words and Steve waved his hand over the candle. It came alight, and in a quick movement, he sliced his finger, dropping blood onto the fire.
A breeze passed through the room, and Elisabeth felt her hairs stand on end.
‘Don’t let go of each other’s hands,’ Steve whispered.
He looked different. His eyes were glassy, and he stared into the candle.
‘Spirits of the beyond, we ask for your help. Send us the father of the woman who sits across from me.’
He raised his finger and pointed it at Rosa, who looked as pale as milk. For several seconds, nothing happened, and then the candle roared. The light grew, gave off smoke, and curled into the shape of a man’s face.
Rosa leant forward, and almost let go of Elisabeth and Xu’s hands, but they pulled her back just in time.
He was an old, bald man, with a thick moustache. He looked like he’d fought in the war, but Elisabeth wasn’t sure which war that would be.
‘I’ve missed you,’ Rosa said, her voice cracking.
The ghost did not respond. He simply stared at her and smiled.
‘Don’t you have anything to say?’
The ghost kept smiling, but did not speak. I guess you have to pay extra for that, Elisabeth thought. She glanced at Steve, but he was still staring at the candle, not moving an inch.
‘I have to ask you something,’ Rosa said, ignoring the fact that he wouldn’t actually be able to respond. ‘You left me an inheritance. A very generous inheritance, I must say. I adore this house, and I’ve kept it just how you wanted. But there’s something I never found.’ She glanced at the rest of them, and then continued, ‘A painting of me. It wasn’t in the will, but I thought it would be here, somewhere. I know it was very old, but I just wondered… if you knew what happened to it.’
The ghost stopped smiling, and turned to Xu. Elisabeth noted that Xu looked terrified. She was shivering, and her eyes were wider than dinner plates.
‘Ignore this child, Father,’ Rosa said with annoyance. ‘Tell me. What happened to the inheritance? At least give me a sign!’
The ghost simply nodded at Xu.
Rosa snarled at her. ‘What does he mean? What on Earth could he want with you?’
‘What? Spit it out!’
‘He’s my grandfather!’
A silence fell upon the room. The only sound was the flickering of the candle. Everyone was staring at Xu. The ghost of Rosa’s father—of Xu’s grandfather—smiled again.
‘We never heard much from him,’ Xu continued. ‘I mean, my father was just an… accident. With another woman. He sent us money, but we never saw him.’
‘No. I don’t believe it.’ Rosa’s eyes were filling with tears. ‘My father would never do such a thing. How dare you!’
She let go of Xu and Elisabeth’s hands and the candle went out. The ghost disappeared, and the whole room fell into darkness. Still, Elisabeth didn’t need to see to understand that Rosa had jumped onto Xu. Xu screamed. Elisabeth reached over and pulled Rosa off her.
‘I’ll kill you, you pretty little thing! You stole my inheritance!’
‘I’m sorry! I’m sorry!’
‘Get off her!’ Elisabeth roared.
She managed to pull Rosa free, and held her arms behind her.
‘Xu, go and turn on the light.’
Xu, still crying, got up and did so. They all turned quiet as they saw Steve. He was lying on the floor, unconscious.
‘He told us not to let go of each other,’ Xu muttered.
She knelt down and shook him, and slowly he woke up.
‘Ugh, what did I tell you all?’ He rubbed his face. ‘You could’ve killed me.’
‘I will kill you!’ screamed Rosa. ‘You cheated me! That wasn’t my father. It couldn’t have been. And why wasn’t he able to talk? This was all a trick! You just want to laugh at me and take my money!’ She turned back to Xu, remembering who her anger was really directed at. ‘Where is it? Where is the money?’
Elisabeth had to wrap her arms around Rosa’s chest to stop her from biting Xu’s head off. ‘I thought it was a painting you wanted?’
Rosa froze in her grip. ‘Uh, yes. The painting. Where is the painting?’
Xu looked at her doubtfully. ‘It’s in my bedroom. I must have gotten it by accident. It was sent years ago, and I never knew who from. I just guessed—’
‘You had a painting of me in your bedroom this WHOLE time and you never told me?! It was obviously mine!’
Xu bit her lip. ‘I didn’t know it was you. You look… very different.’
Rosa snorted. ‘I look just as young as I did then. Now, Elisabeth, if you would kindly let me go, I’d like to go and reclaim my inheritance.’
‘Promise you won’t hurt her,’ Elisabeth said.
‘Yes, yes. I won’t put a finger on her. For now.’
She whispered the last part under her breath, but Elisabeth decided that was good enough, and let her go. True enough, Rosa did not attack Xu, but merely stood up and glared at her. The tension in the air seemed to loosen a little.
‘Of course,’ said Elisabeth, ‘that’s not the only picture of you that Xu’s got…’
They all turned to stare at her. Elisabeth covered her mouth.
‘Er, forget I said anything! Let’s go and see this painting.’
She ran out the room before they could question her further.
END OF CHAPTER THREE
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