Well, here it is April, and still no word on a new agent. I’m still trying, because I still like my book! I’m posting Chapter 12–tell me what you think! I’d love some feedback, either in comments on here or on my facebook wall! Thanks!
I have decided that she is more interested when I show her less of my theatrics. It makes her want me more. Her plaintive “how are you?” and her fumbling at the painting just entice me even more. I will have her now.
All the way down the hill, I think about things I hadn’t noticed before. For instance, the way the mountains just loom around the edges of this valley we’re in. I think they block out half the light. I hadn’t realized that before. It’s so oppressive somehow.
Plus, something has brought to my mind an old Agatha Christie book I’d read as a teen. By the Pricking of My Thumbs, or something like that. In it, I just remember the old woman is the murderer in the end. The innocent, hunched up old woman. I remember being totally shocked with that twist, because I’d never seen it coming.
I’m starting to wonder if I’m living an Agatha Christie book here. All these ghostly sightings happen when Dollie’s conveniently not around. Well, even if she’s around, she’s mysteriously not looking. And she’s so limber for her age. Maybe she’s sneaking around doing all these things. After all, she’d have the key to the china cabinet, right? I can’t explain the man in the mirror–maybe it was a disguise? The blood on the steps she maybe put there quickly if she saw me coming up? But the painting–how could that be? Or maybe she’d painted them herself, and she actually has two paintings.
My mind is whirring with the possiblities. But why would she want to do that? Maybe she’s just maniacally crazy, like the old woman in the book. Maybe she hates me for some reason. Maybe she just gets a kick out of luring “cleaning women” into her house and then freaking them out.
I’m almost to the bus stop. I can see Phoebe, around the little bend, sitting on the low stone wall. She is looking up at the mountains with a big smile.
She turns as I come into view. “Mother!” she shouts, and runs toward me, unintentionally head-butting me. “Look what I did!” She pulls a construction paper picture out of her backpack. It looks like a big log cabin with three people standing in front of it.
“Oh, it’s Mother, Daddy, and you, right?”
She looks surprised. “Oh, it’s actually Miss Dollie and Daddy and me, Mother. Remember when she came over to make me not be alone?”
I get mad. What on earth right does she have to take such an interest in Phoebe’s life, anyway? Maybe she’s plotting to steal her from me or something. Maybe she can see us with binoculars right now from her house on the hill.
“That’s great,” I say, and determine to always be there for Phoebe at that bus stop. “Want to walk in the woods?”
“Yay, Mother!” She throws her backpack to the ground and races off. I pick it up and put it on my back, following her as quickly as I can. I have to get to the bottom of this thing. I need to know if the ghost is real.
I decide that the best way to do this is to call in an expert of some kind. I’m sure even if I did conduct an amateur séance in Dollie’s bathroom, it wouldn’t have the same effect as someone trained in that kind of thing.
Later that night, after Phoebe and I eat, I start absently washing up the dishes. I’d cooked a chicken in the oven during the day–it’s one thing I’m pretty good at. As I reach into the sink and pull out the big carving knife, I start to feel like someone is watching me. Is he home already? I turn quickly. There stands Dollie, with a wicked smirk on her face. She turns and runs at top speed into the living room, where Phoebe is doing homework. I grip the knife and run out after her, screaming like a banshee.
Once I get in there, all I see is a horrified Phoebe, cowering behind the coffee table. She is looking at me the way a daughter should never have to look at her mother–with complete terror.
I walk back into the kitchen and dry the knife and put it in the drawer. Then I walk back out into the living room. What on earth should I tell her?
“Mother was sort of having a nightscare, Phoebe,” I say. “I wasn’t yelling at you.”
She sits up a bit higher behind the table. “Why did you have that big knife, Mother?”
“I thought someone was in the house, going to hurt us,” I awkwardly explain.
“Okay,” she says, and stays behind the table.
“Okay,” I say, and go back into the kitchen.
That night Phoebe wants him to put her to bed, not surprisingly. I hope she doesn’t tell him why.
He comes into the room when I’m checking for local psychics online. I try to quickly pull up my home page instead. But he comes straight to the computer and looks at the screen.
“What on earth is this?” he asks. His eyes are blazing.
“I’m just trying to figure something out,” I say.
“Figure out why you’re running around scaring your five-year-old to death with a butcher knife, maybe? And why do you need a psychic?”
“There is a lot going on up at Dollie’s house that I can’t explain,” I say.
“What does that have to do with what happened in our kitchen? And a psychic?” he asks.
“Well, I’ve been seeing some ghostly things. At least, I think they are. That house has supposedly been haunted for a long time, you know. And I’m just wanting to get to the bottom of it.”
“What sort of things?” he asks.
I have no idea where to begin. So I lie. It’s easier. “Oh, just objects moving around, that kind of thing. It bugs me when I’m cleaning.”
“Did you tell Dollie?”
“Um, I’ve sort of asked her but she doesn’t know anything about it, she says.”
“So you’re looking for a psychic?”
“Good night, Aurora. You don’t have any idea what you’re messing with. When I was growing up, we stayed as far from that sort of thing as we could.”
“’That sort of thing?’” I ask. “What sorts of things did you see growing up?”
“Well, not really much. But my mom always told us to avoid it.”
“Your mom,” I say, injecting a bit of scorn. “She doesn’t know anything about that. She’s been in church all her life.”
“And so was I,” he says bitterly. “We need to find a church here, Aurora. Maybe that’s why you’re seeing all this weird stuff.”
“What, you think I’m crazy?” I say. I stand and pull myself to my full height, which is a bit taller than he is. I also brush my hand through my hair, a move I know he cannot ignore.
“No, of course not,” he says. His eyes seem lighter now. “I’m just worried about you, that’s all. I don’t know what’s going on with us, Aurora. Maybe we need to find a counselor, not a psychic.”
I let that one pass. I decide it’s time for a bath, and brush past him to get my pajamas.
“I mean it, Aurora,” he says quietly. Then, louder, he says, “I’m going to look for one.”
“I suppose your mommy told you we need one, right?” I say, glaring.
“This has nothing to do with my mom, Aurora. Why do you hate her so much? Didn’t she do a good enough job raising me for your liking?”
I cannot talk to him when he gets like this. I grab my things and head for the bathroom, flipping on my double row of vanity lights. It is as bright as sunshine in here. And I’ll just pretend my life is, too.
–copyright Heather Day Gilbert–January 2009–all rights reserved