I’m posting chapter 7, which is where things really start to heat up! I really appreciate all you “fans” out there, and hope this will help get the book published soon. I’ve thought about self-publishing, but really want to reach as many people as possible. Here we go!
I think I am getting a bit out of control. I can’t stop thinking about her lovely body, her vibrant hair, and those nice long fingers she has. I find myself wanting to do violent things to something or someone. I have to see her. Where is she?
Phoebe is all set for her first day of kindergarten. He took some photos of her with our new digital camera. At least she’ll look really put together. I put her in her cutest blue Gap dress and little striped tights and her new mary janes I got online. That dress really makes her hair look almost white, it’s so blonde. She has her new Hannah Montana lunchbox stuffed into the hot pink backpack we actually did find at Big Kmart.
“Bye, Mother,” she says. She reaches up for a hug. I give her one, and kiss the top of her head. “Now do what your teacher says, Phoebe. None of that biting or kicking you used to do.”
He shoots me a glance. He’s walking her to the bus stop at the end of our road. “Bye, Aurora.”
“Goodbye, all! Have a great day!”
I feel a bit giddy, because I’m sure I’m onto something with the ghost’s obsession with me. I can hardly wait to get up to the big house.
As soon as they disappear from sight, I get dressed in my oldest Tommy jeans, and a green turtleneck sweater that has a tiny rip near the collar. It used to be my favorite, since the forest green looks great against my red hair. I do wonder if Dollie has all her own cleaning stuff, since I have no idea what I’d need up there.
I head out through the woods at a brisk pace. That treadmill really keeps me in shape, I have to say. I feel I could run for miles. Maybe I just had too much cappuccino. He always makes me a mug in the morning.
I get past all the hay bales and start the trudge up the stairs. Someone should pull all the dead grass, or weed-eat it or whatever you do to it. Then the moss would actually look pretty cool. I feel a little breeze picking up as I get to the treeline. Weird how the weather can change around here. It’s actually a pretty sunny day for once. But once I get in the trees, it gets pretty shadowy.
I stop and think about checking out the pond. I just walked past it last time, didn’t really stop and look around. It had a little dock and a few ducks, I think. I remember what Raunchy Rick said about the body floating on it, and wonder if he and his friend were doing dope or something. And what was that his mom had said? It sounded like she’d seen the same ghost I have.
I’ve been so deep in thought I don’t realize I’ve gotten onto the path going around the back of the house. I don’t realize it until I look at a step and almost slip on the blood all over it.
I cannot bring myself to touch it. I look up–sure enough, there’s the back of the house. The windowless turrets, the little patio Dollie has. A scraggly leafless tree. This was where the sympathizer got shot. But I’m a Yankee! Why would someone be mad at me?
I look back down. There is nothing there. I check all the steps around. Just some leaves. Maybe they just looked like blood. Maybe I’m getting too freaked out here.
I power-walk up the rest of the steps and knock a bit too loudly on Dollie’s door. I think this would open into her kitchen.
It takes awhile, but she finally opens the door. She looks a bit shocked to see me standing on her patio.
“Oh, it’s you! What is your name again, dear?” She seems a bit discombobulated this morning. Her hair is not as blue and looks a bit dingy. She is actually wearing sweatpants and a sweatshirt that has some kind of stain on the front. Maybe I’m here too early?
“I’m sorry, Dollie. It’s Aurora. Aurora Himmel.” I take a breath. She waits.
“I was coming to help clean your house? Today Phoebe went to school.”
“Oh, yes, your Phoebe.”
She still stands. I wonder if she’ll invite me in.
“I’m sorry if it’s too early…” I look at my watch–it’s 10:17. I would think an old woman would be up at this time for sure.
“Oh, not too early, not too early,” she says. “I was just on the phone with my sister…”
I’m beginning to wonder if this mysterious sister actually exists. She never says her name, anyway.
“Well, come on in,” she says, and opens the door wider for me. I follow her into the kitchen. It’s chilly, like she hasn’t had the heat on in here.
“The cleaning supplies are all under the bathroom sink downstairs,” she says. “It’s just a tiny door off the hall. I’ll be needing you to clean the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms, and dust the dining room, the big left and right round rooms, and the parlor. Then maybe later on in the week I’ll have you get some groceries, if you don’t mind.”
I think about asking about pay, but wonder if that’s too tacky. Maybe she thought I was volunteering to help out.
“I’ll pay you what I was paying my other cleaning lady,” she continues, as if she reads my mind. “It’s $20 a week.”
Woah. Suddenly I’m thinking I understand why she left.
“Thank you, that would be great,” I lie. I guess we don’t really need the money anyway. Though it would be nice to be reimbursed for something I hate doing so much.
“Okay, then. Well, I need to call my sister back,” she says, and heads up the stairs.
I’m still pretty shaken by seeing the blood, but decide it’s my imagination. Everything seems ominous these days to me.
I go into the pint-sized bathroom, which has a toilet practically on top of the sink. It is decorated with various sizes of Home Interiors brass fans. There is also a fan sewn onto a Kleenex-box on the top of the toilet. Even the soap dish is shaped like a fan.
Underneath the sink is a surprisingly large bucket, filled with bathroom cleaners and disposable dust cloths. I also find a pair of latex gloves, but I’m allergic to latex. I figure one old woman can’t make that many potty germs, and decide to get to work.
Two hours later, I’m heading toward the picture room. It took awhile to figure how to dust around all Dollie’s pictures. I didn’t see any glass cleaner, so I figured she wanted me to use the dust cloths for them. They smeared, so I had to stop doing that. I eventually decided to dust the tops and get what I could reach underneath.
I still haven’t seen or heard from Dollie. I’m getting hungry and a bit light-headed. I think I took too many Tylenol for my cramps.
I stick the bucket back under the sink and grab the dust cloths. I’ll have to pick up more of these at the grocery store.
I twist the metal knob and wait for the creak. Then I stick my hand into the darkness and feel for the light switch. Then I start to feel cold air whooshing toward me. There cannot be a draft from this room–it’s practically airtight. I decide to pull back and find a broom. Maybe I can hit the switch with it, instead of feeling around the plaster walls.
I close the door behind me and the cold air stops. Weird.
I search Dollie’s kitchen for a broom. I check behind the door, in her pantry, and finally, on the patio. Sure enough, there’s a pretty worn-down broom out there. I grab it and head back to the room. Something propels me to get that room dusted today.
I turn the creaky knob, and stick the broom in. Almost as soon as the door cracks open, cold air rushes out. Sort of like the room is letting out its breath. I stab at the walls with the broom, and hit something. It has to be a painting, since it moved. I try again. This time, my broom gets pulled, hard. I get pulled in with it.
Next thing I know, I feel someone stroking my hair. It’s just what my husband would do to wake me up. I must’ve passed out. Maybe I’m at the hospital. I try to open my eyes, but it’s dark anyway. Completely dark. I probably have tunnel vision, which I always get before I faint. I’ve only fainted twice in my life, once when they cut into me for Phoebe’s C-section, and once when I was on a crash cleansing diet.
Then I hear a voice. It is low. I can feel it vibrate almost inside my body. It is male, and it is nearby.
“I know who you are,” it says. And I faint again.
copyright Heather Day Gilbert–January 2009–all rights reserved