Here we go! Not sure how many more I’m going to post, but you know I love you all for reading and staying with me!
I am not happy with her absence. I fill the days with rearranging things. I think about throwing them, but that is pointless. She’s not here. Maybe I scared her too badly. I need to tempt her back into the house.
After the last couple of days, I feel I have to get out of my house. I decide to do some more research at the library. I put on my cream V-neck sweater, an orange scarf, and some khakis. I’m always shocked I can wear orange with my hair, but somehow it works. I actually take the time to wash and straighten it before I put on my makeup, too.
At the library, the grand puba librarian is not there. It is a mere minion, and she is very timid and quiet. She signs me up for a library card so that I can use the computers. She makes some small talk, then I notice a charm on her necklace.
“How pretty,” I say. “Where did you find that?”
She looks embarrassed. “It’s actually for my religion,” she says.
“Do you go to a church around here?” I ask. He has been asking about churches, since he grew up Baptist and can’t bear to be away for long.
“Not a church,” she says, and looks up sort of guiltily. “I’m Wiccan.”
“Oh,” I say, and visions of a goth party I got invited to in the city flood into my head. She looks nothing like a goth. I don’t see any black on her.
“It’s basically paganism,” she explains. “Women, really. The power of women, the power of nature, you know.”
“Really?” I say again. I cannot fathom where in this little town of West Virginia the Wiccans meet.
As if she reads my mind, she says, “It’s sort of an independent religion, but we get together for new moons and other holidays.” She says “holidays,” but I gather she’s saying “holy days.”
“There are a lot of woods around here,” she says, more quietly. “We really have to meet in nature to get the full power of it all.” She looks at me again, taking in the scarf, the nice outfit, and the makeup. I must look like a possible pagan. “You can call me anytime at this number,” she says, and presses a business card into my hand. It looks like the card for a psychic, with a giant eyeball surrounded by a crystal ball in the middle. I almost lose it right there. A Wiccan pagan in the woods of Wood Knob, with a kitschy business card! “Melody Spears,” her name reads. I wonder if it’s an assumed name, for business purposes.
“Thank you,” I say, as seriously as possible.
As I get online at the library, I think about telling him I found a Wiccan church for us! Something tells me that business card would not make him laugh, though.
I look up séances again. I wonder if Melody Spears ever conducts séances in any pagan ceremonies. I wonder if she could make a house call to the purple house. I wonder if I am going mad, with all these kooky thoughts.
I feel someone looking at me from behind. I figure it’s Melody, so I ignore it. Awhile later, as I read about the ins and outs of séances for amateurs, I peek out of my peripheral vision and see Rick, just gawking at me.
I hastily turn around, but it’s too late. He walks over, body odor reaching me before he does. I actually feel embarrassed for anyone to think we are in any way connected.
“Hello there, ma‘am,” he says with a half grin. “You still wonderin’ about that purple house?”
“Not so much,” I lie, without turning from the computer.
“I got something I forgot to tell ye,” he says.
“Okay,” I say quietly. “Go ahead.”
“Well, one time my wife went up to meet the new owner–that was when Miss Dollie moved in.”
It takes a minute for it to sink in that Rick actually has a wife.
“She was going to take one of her ramp casseroles. Those will melt in your mouth, yes sirree.”
Ramps? What on earth are ramps?
“Anyway, she went up toward the evening. I parked down by the lake and watched her walk all the way up them steps. The woods looked totally still, not a bit of wind in them. Well, my wife come back down and she said, ‘Rick, I saw a haint,’ just as plain as you please. ‘What?’ I said, because I saw her go all the way up and back. ‘There in that tree out front,’ she said. ‘I felt the wind pick up something fierce and then I saw a black man hanging in that tree with his head all goggly.’ Yes, she said all goggly, just like that. Now, what do you make of that?” he says, and gets closer to me. His eyes look a bit more crossed as he tries to focus on me.
“Um, I guess that would fit in with the stories,” I say.
“You better believe it,” he says triumphantly, and strides back over to his table.
The smell of Rick is so overpowering that I really have to logout and go outside. I whisper goodbye to Melody, minding my library etiquette. Once I get out, I actually wish I were a smoker so I could rid my lungs of the awful smell. It seems to linger around me.
What on earth? Now there’s a wandering black ghost as well? I could care less about that. I haven’t seen him. I decide I need to get back to the house on some kind of pretense. What if my ghost has been active? I realize I’m calling him that now, “my ghost.”
I get in the car and roll the window down, even though it’s pretty brisk out. I pop in a CD of his and some song comes on about how I’m drowning in a flood or something. I shut that off.
I park at the bottom again and decide to really look at the pond. It is a murky green colour, sort of frog green. I can’t see any fish or anything in there, but no lily pads or weeds either. Just thick greenish water. The day is sunny, but the water is still opaque.
I walk out on the dock. I lean over to look in. Surprisingly, I can see my red hair reflected like a halo around my head. But my face is sort of warbly. I squat to look closer. It is not my face. It’s the woman in the painting. She is not smiling.
I turn quickly and book it from the pond up to the stairs. I go up the left set of stairs, as fast as I can. What is her problem? Why am I seeing her? It bugs me. I need to look at that painting again.
I get to the door and ring the bell, not even bothering to look in the glass. For all I care, there’s a whole zoo walking on the ceiling.
Dollie answers at once. She is dressed up, in a burgundy dress with some stylish heels–they seem way too high for an old woman who has to walk down a hill. She has a purse tucked under her arm.
“Oh, dear, I was just going into town,” she says. “I need to meet with my lawyer. I’ve switched life insurance,” she explains.
Okay. “I was thinking about dusting some today so I could just clean the bathrooms tomorrow,” I say.
“Yes, yes, go right ahead,” she says distractedly. Apparently she forgot my little fainting debacle the last time.
“Just lock up when you’re done,” she says. “I’ll give you my extra key. You may as well keep it, since the last cleaning girl won’t be coming back.”
She fishes around in her fashionable brown clutch and pulls out a rustic looking key. “You have to turn it completely around two times,” she says. “I really need to get a new one made sometime.”
“Thank you,” I say. “I’ll get to work.”
“Yes, I imagine you need to get home to meet your Phoebe from the bus,” she says cheerily. I had forgotten that, actually.
“Bye,” I say to her back, as she heads out the door.
I can’t resist peeking out the skinny window to see her walking down all those steps in her heels. How on earth does she do it?
It seems she does it just fine. If I just saw her from the back, I could swear she was only in her 40s. She must work out, somehow.
I go straight to the bathroom and grab some dustcloths. I think about starting in the dining room, wondering if I’ll see him in the mirror again. But I’m strongly drawn to the room on the right, with the pictures. This time I decide to find a flashlight first, then figure out where the light switch is.
I search all around the kitchen and living room, with no luck for a flashlight. Not even in the pantry. I decide to go upstairs for a look.
The stairs are very narrow and very steep. I hit my shin a couple times on the metal strip running along the outside of each one. There seems to be only one bathroom up here, and two bedrooms.
One bedroom is entirely pink. I think it must be Dollie’s. It happens to be filled with dolls. She must collect those fancy porcelain ones. They are all in two china cabinets. They must be worth something, because the cabinets actually have little padlocks on them.
I look over by the bed, and debate checking in the nightstand. I feel like a horrible snoop, but I really need that flashlight. I pull open the drawer, and am shocked to see a big black handgun, just sitting there! Right next to it is a tiny flashlight. I pick it up very carefully, like I’m playing Phoebe’s “Operation” game.
I quickly turn to head downstairs. I’m curious about the other room, though–must be the guest bedroom she keeps for her elusive sister’s visits. I decide to just peep in the cracked door.
I open it and see a lovely dark four-poster bed, with curtains around it. It has the loveliest ruffly white bedspread I‘ve ever seen, and I’m really not the ruffly type.
Suddenly, I hear a crash from Dollie’s room. It sounds like glass breaking. Blast, did I knock something on the way out?
I run back in. There, in the middle of the floor, lying faceup, is one of the dolls from inside a cabinet. Her unnaturally bright red hair is all over her cracked face. And there, on the floor, looking right at me, is an eyeball from that doll’s head. I could swear it follows me as I go over to pick up the white piece nearby. I quick grab the eye and put all the stuff on her bed. She’s just going to have to fix it herself.
copyright Heather Day Gilbert–January 2009–all rights reserved