So while I didn’t even come close to the 50,000 words necessary to win NaNoWriMo, I did come up with close to 10,000. I am continuing to work on the story, but here is what I accomplished during NaNoWriMo. When I get another large chunk, I will share!
The experience that led me to where I am is not for the faint of heart. It is not something that in a horror movie would make you scream and cover your face, but if you were to step into my shoes and relive it, you would be forever changed. The dark would bring new meaning, as would being awake. My entire life, ghosts, the supernatural, the paranormal, and anything odd, has worked its way into my life. Wandering cemeteries anytime I visit a new place, along with many favorites from childhood are part of my life. I don’t think this is just something that I have searched out but something that has searched me out as well.
The beginning was five years ago. I rented a house that was on the market, a rambling old farmhouse, and I fell in love with it the moment I saw it; it wouldn’t take more than a month of living there for me to decide to make an offer on the house and another month for me to own it. It felt like it was calling my name. Come to find out later, it just might have been.
When I finally cracked open the door and climbed the attic steps, I knew what had called me to the house. The stairs creaked and groaned as I tip toed up them, sagging just a little bit under my weight. The bulb at the top of the stairs was blown; only a trickle of light was guiding me up the stairs. A central fixture held a weak glow that cast shadows into every corner. I could barely make out the chests and trunks. The shelves were full of trinkets and more boxes. There is a lone window at one end with a wing-back chair in front of it with a floor lamp next to it, waiting for me. The other end of the attic holds a door and a room I am not yet ready to go in to, although I am unsure why. I carried a flashlight with me, and swept it over the floors and objects and walked over to open the window. I made a promise that I would be right back, and went to find a new light bulb for the overhead and for the lamp.
There was more dust in the attic than in the whole rest of the house.
“The attic is going to take forever to clean,” I mused, “but it will be so worth it when I finally do. I can just see myself spending lots of time up here.”
I ran down the stairs with a skip in my step, coming to a screaming halt at the landing on the second floor. I stifled a scream. Someone was walking down the stairs and turned and walked towards the kitchen. I then remembered that the plumber was due to stop by to check out the upstairs bathroom as the toilet wouldn’t flush and the shower wasn’t working. He must have just come on in when I didn’t answer. The door isn’t looked and that is how small towns seem to work. After all, the landlord is the one who called him; I won’t own the place for another 3 weeks; probably told him to just walk in.
“Hello,” I called after him.
Silence. There was nothing but my own voice echoing through the house. I continued on down the stairs into the kitchen myself.
“Hello, is anybody there?” I called again.
No answer. Perhaps he had already headed outside.
I picked up my pace, hoping to catch him before he left. When I rounded the corner into the kitchen and looked out the door, I didn’t see any vehicles. I turned; perhaps he has already started to pull away. Maybe I can catch him out the front door.
When I got to the front door, there was no one there either, and no sign of a vehicle anywhere down the driveway. Feeling a bit creeped out, I made my way back to the kitchen. I wanted to get back to the attic, but was sure I had seen someone walking down the stairs. I turned on the burner under my kettle, deciding that some tea would be good. I grabbed the light bulbs from the cupboard above the refrigerator and set them on the table. I knew I had a few minutes before the water was hot, so snatching up my flashlight, I started peeking into each of the rooms, shinning the light into corners and under the furniture. Sure no one was in the house with me; I walked back into the kitchen. I must be imagining things.
I grabbed my mug from this morning, a large handmade clay mug of purples and greens. I tossed the old teabag in the compost bowl and fished around in the tea box for something good.
“I have too many types of tea,” I muttered aloud, selecting a fruity zinger. I knew this one would be good hot as well as room temperature if I got too absorbed in exploring the attic.
I didn’t give another thought to what I thought was a man walking down the stairs. There obviously wasn’t one there.
Grabbing a trash bag, a thrift store box, dust rags, and some new all natural, environmentally friendly spray cleaner, I made my way back up stairs. After the first swipe with the dust rag, I was trudging back down the stairs after the vacuum cleaner and a bandanna.
“I am never cutting my hair like this again,” I said in a frustrated voice as I tied the bandanna on my head pull the hair out of my face and off of my neck. With long straight fine hair, and a lot of it, it doesn’t take much for the static to attack it and poof it bigger than I ever though possible. I have had layers before, but I let the stylist convince me that razor cutting my hair would be a good thing. Boy was that a mistake. All it does is fly away and poof bigger than it used to.
Finding an outlet, shockingly enough, I started to vacuum. The floors, bookshelves, chests, trunks, windowsills, nothing escaped its sucking wrath. Then came the rags and the spray cleaner, and an hour later, the place was fairly clean. I knew as I emptied shelves, everything would get a thorough cleaning.
Starting in the closest corner to the left of the stairs, I began pulling things away from the walls. The first few cardboard boxes were filled with children’s toys; nothing that was of any value. The toys were pretty old, but not old enough to be collectors, that and they were pretty well worn. I carted them downstairs to the front porch to await a trip to the thrift store. The next few boxes that I came across were filled with clothing; again, nothing special, just old clothes. I was starting to feel a bit bummed out as I had been hoping to find stuff that was really old, that would tell a story, or really cool. So far nothing fit the bill. It was frustrating to have gone through so many boxes already. I had to keep reminding myself that at least I was getting rid of things and that they were in good enough shape that someone else could use them. The bookcase to the left of the window was filled with boxes, all containing more of the same.
I decided it was time to take a break and sat down in the old wing-back, feeling it envelope me. I breathed deep, wrapped my hands around the now lukewarm cup of tea, and closed my eyes. I envisioned a mother walking up to the attic with a box in her arms, stashing it up here. The clothing in the box was no longer fitting her child, her round belly showing another on the way, saving the clothes for the new one. She disappeared down the stairs, only to reappear with another box, perhaps this one filled with toys. A smile curved on my lips, the care that people took for things, the ability to reuse and share.
Footsteps sounded across the floor and my eyes flew open.
“Who’s there,” I demanded.
I received no response and deemed it must not have been a daydream I was enjoying, but an actual dream and had fallen asleep.
I yawned, stood up, stretching like a cat. I noticed that the sun had dropped down into view, meaning only a few more hours of daylight. I swapped out the light bulb next to the chair and turned it on. I wanted to get as much done while there was still sunlight at possible. I swapped out the bulb in the overhead light as well, knowing I would rather be able to turn it on when the sun dipped below the horizon than have to try to deal with changing it then.
The bookcase to the right of the chair was filled with books. The majority of them were classics I noted, with some books on poetry, and then a bunch of books that appeared to only be a few years old.
“Looks like someone used this space to read and left the books behind, as the previous reader had done before them,” I said aloud to myself.
Giddy now, I was getting into stuff that interested me. I won’t have to buy a book for a while. As many of these are good rereads and others I haven’t read or even heard of.
Something blurs by the window, catching my eye.
“I think I might be losing my mind,” I huff.
Setting down the handful of books, I peer out the window and smile.
“Drew,” I squeal, racing down the stairs. I fly out the front door, nearly bowling Drew over in my excitement.
“Ezekiel Andrew Savage! What on earth are you doing here? How did you find the place? I thought you were still out west? When did you get back?” I couldn’t stop.
“Good to see you too, Vita Mae Bartlett,” he said with a chuckle. “Are you going to stop long enough to let me answer a question or two?”
I blushed. He always had this effect on me.
“What am I doing here? Well now, that should be pretty easy. I came to see you. I found the place by calling your Momma. I’ll answer the rest and more in a little bit. Do you think it would be too much to ask me inside? These bags are heavy and I need to make use of your facilities.”
“Follow me,” I blushed again, “I’ll show you to the bathroom, then I’ll give you a tour, then we can sit and chat, and then…”
I stopped talking; standing at the top of the stairs was a man.
“Do you…” I trailed off again, as the man was no longer there.
“Bathroom? Everything else can wait,” Drew pleaded with me, setting his bags down in the entryway.
I laughed and started down the hallway. I pointed to the bathroom and turned right into the kitchen. I pulled out the coffee and the stove-top percolator. I filled it with water and was just adding the coffee as Drew walked in and sat down.
“I got back from the Pacific Northwest yesterday; I think that finishes all the questions you already asked. Close your mouth, it’s my turn, you can ask more in a minute,” Drew cut me off.
“When did you rent this place?” Drew asked.
“Well, I got a job at the high school teaching, so I found this place and moved in a little over a month ago.”
“Do you like it?”
“The job or the house,” I laughed. “I love the job. The last day of school was last Wednesday. Originally I was going to start in the fall as a new teacher, but they called me up a little over a month ago asking me if I would like to start early as a substitute. Mrs. Smith, the English teacher, had gotten into a pretty bad car accident and couldn’t complete the school year.”
“And the house?”
“I fell in love with the house the moment I laid eyes on it. It has taken a lot of hard work to get it looking like this. It was a disaster when I moved in. The shutters were once black, the house white, the swing hung proud, chairs for resting on the porch. Now the house is peeling, the shutters are salt and pepper, the swing is half hung, and the porch is starting to sag. Out back there was once a garden in the picket fenced area, now it is filled with chest high weeds. The barn is in the best shape of all. There was no rot, no leaks, and the floors are solid. For a long time after the house had been abandoned the barn was still used to house animals and equipment right up until it was sold to me.
There was dust everywhere. It didn’t seem to matter where I looked, I couldn’t escape it. The floor was covered, the cabinets, the left behind furniture. When I moved in, I took over the downstairs, with the plan to clean and work on one room at a time. I didn’t have furniture beyond a futon and a dresser. This worked out well as the majority of the house came furnished, and when I bought the place they sold it to me as is, furniture and all. They said they had no use for it. I started working on one room at a time. The first room that I tackled was the living room. I vacuumed the entire room, including the mantle, windows, walls, and fireplace. The mopping and the window washing, wood polishing, and before long the room was sparkly and shiny. The floors were refinished, the wallpaper was removed and the walls painted. Slowly it was turned into a lush and inviting sitting room. I worked my way room by room, finishing off the bathroom, kitchen, dining room, and turning what was once the formal living room turned junk collector into an office/library space. Dark and cozy, the room is centered around a fireplace.
The place looks like a million bucks after a little elbow grease and paint. The furniture was almost all antique; those that weren’t would be shortly. Even the appliances seemed to be antique but worked perfectly. There were 4 bedrooms up stairs, a full bath, and finally an attic. It took a solid month of cleaning and painting to get the rooms put together. Why I felt I needed this much space was beyond me, but I love the house.
Just as I was finishing with the cleaning and painting, I got in touch with the Realtor who handled the rental and asked if they would be interested in selling to me. It took some negotiations and we settled on a price that was higher than I really wanted but not as high as I was willing to go. The barn and all 80 acres were part of the package, although they did not include the tractor and the animals as part of the deal. I can’t wait to turn part of the barn into a chicken coop, and raise a few animals. The garden still needs to get weeded and tilled. Once I do that, I will get it planted, but it’s a bit late in the season to get a lot of things started.”
“So,” Drew prompted me.
“Are you going to give me a tour? Show me where I can put my bags,” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.
“Oh, yes!” I jumped up, beckoning him to follow, “the tour is the easy part. Let’s show you outside while there is still sunlight.”
What on earth am I going to do about sleeping arrangements? I am so torn between him sharing a room with me and putting him in his own room. He put it right in my hands by asking me to show him where to put his bags. But what if he doesn’t want to share a room? What if everything I was feeling before he left wasn’t reciprocated?
“Earth to Vita,” Drew nudged my shoulder. I hadn’t heard a word he said. I was too busy musing about what to do with him.
“I’m sorry, what were you saying?” I said sheepishly.
“I was commenting on how far out this place is, and how perfectly you it is.”
“It isn’t that far out, it’s only 15 minutes to town. There is space to live, space to breathe. This place feels like my forever home. Somewhere I can settle and begin a life that is involved with the community, and thinking about creating a family of my own.” I started to sound like a sap, but if I couldn’t be that way around Drew, who could I be that way around.
“Wow, its ok. I was just commenting on how far out this place was. It isn’t a bad thing,” Drew turned to wink at me, “lots of privacy.”
Looks like I know where I am telling him to put his bags, I think with a sigh. Drew looked at me and raised his eyebrow. I laughed.
“Come on, let me show you around. We are losing the sun fast,” I said, not really wanting to believe how late it was getting.
We walked past the garden plot; it looked awful. It was one of the last things on my to-do list and I hadn’t gotten to it yet. I pointed out a small building, just a bit larger than a shed. That was where the lawnmower, weed whacker, gardening tools, and such were. I hadn’t done much in there either. It was close to the garden, the back of it pushed up against the forest that made up the majority of the property.
“Guess how many acres,” I asked Drew.
“Well, it looks like the house and the barn, the lawn and the garden, all take up about three to three and a half acres, plus some woods, I’m guessing with the looks of the barn, there is at least one if not two fields, so maybe 40 acres?”
“Close, 80 acres, “I said with a laugh, “there are 3 fields, a marshy pond, and the rest is forest. Oh and you were right on with the yard.”
“Drew, did you have any trouble finding the house? This place is pretty far off the beaten path,” I ask.
“Well, it wasn’t easy that’s for sure. It took me about 3 tries before I stopped in town and asked for directions with landmarks,” Drew responded.
“You stopped to ask for directions? I’m so shocked,” surprise in my voice, a smile curving on my lips.
“Ha ha, yes I asked for directions, otherwise I would never have found the place. Speaking of which, how did you find this place?”
“Oh, well, it all started with accepting the job offer. I asked if there were any places to rent in town and that I was looking to move to town towards the end of July. They told me that they would keep on the look out for a place and would let me know if any came up. When they called to ask if I could start early, they told me that this old house was up for rent. I figured why not, it’s a bit big, but it was in my price range, close enough to town but not in the thick of it, and, well, I fell in love with it. Wild dogs couldn’t have kept me away.”
Drew was looking at me with a slightly odd expression. No, he was looking through me.
“Drew, what are you looking at,” I asked.
“Nothing, I’m tired, my eyes must be playing tricks on me,” he said with a start.
I reached over and touched his hand and he flinched.
“Sorry,” he said, “I’m a little jumpy, too much caffeine must be.”
“That’s alright. Why don’t I give you a quick tour of the house, put your bags away, and while I fix some dinner for us, you can take a nap or a shower and I’ll call you when it’s ready.”
“That sounds like a plan,” Drew said with some relief.
I looked out the window; there was barely a hint of light left to the sky. I started down the hall to where Drew had left his bags when he got here. I grabbed the smallest one, and with a grin motioned for him to follow.
“Oh, like that’s fair,” Drew smirked at me, grabbing his large duffel, backpack, and a canvas tote bag.
“Hey, at least I am taking one, but if you really want to be fair, I’ll give it back,” I say with a grin. Turning, I start up the stairs.
“This here is the staircase, it takes us from the first floor to the second floor,” I say in my best teacher voice, “at the top here is the landing.” I wait for Drew to finish the last few steps. “This room on the left here is the Maple Room; it overlooks the large maple that you see from the front porch.”
Drew nodded and grunted. He was still hefting his bags. I moved on to the next room.
“This is the garden room,” I start.
“Let me guess, it overlooks the garden right?” Drew asks.
“You’re so smart,” I exclaim. I point to the door to the bathroom, “and yes, you go to the bathroom in their, shower too.”
“Which one of those two rooms belongs to you?” Drew asks in exasperation.
“The last room down there is the Singer Room, no there is no singer housed in there,” I say with a laugh, “it gets that name because there is an old singer sewing machine in there that was turned into a side table.”
“Ah, then this is your room,” Drew says as he opens the door, “what do you call this one?” He walks in as I flick on the light.
“This is the Four Seasons room,” I say with a smile, “I have a set of prints by Sabra Fields that show the four seasons in here.”
I motion for Drew to set his bags on the floor. I step back into the hall, pulling out a drawer on the chest between the two bedrooms. I grab a towel and a washcloth, turning around and passing them to Drew.
“I’ll be downstairs making dinner. Make yourself at home, I’ll come get you when dinner is ready,” I said as I walked down the hallway towards the stairs.
In the kitchen, I take a deep breath. Randomly I look in the cupboards, trying to figure out just what to do for dinner. It needs to be something fairly easy, tasty, and impressive. I want Drew to be impressed by my cooking.
“Calm down, think about what you have on hand, and what you can do with the ingredients, you can do this,” I tell myself.
In the refrigerator I find two chicken breasts, an eggplant, a couple of zucchini, and a parsnip. I also see that I have half a box of chicken stock. An idea begins to form in my head. I check the counter, and see that I still have a few tomatoes, an onion, and some garlic. Finally, I grab can of crushed tomatoes and the box of couscous out of the cupboard.
The chicken gets cubed, salt and peppered and tossed into a hot Dutch oven with some olive oil. Once browned, the chicken is removed and the onion gets tossed in, cooking until soft. Then into the pot goes the garlic for just a minute before adding the rest of the veggies. Everything is sprinkled with salt and pepper, some clove, cinnamon, and turmeric. Back in goes the chicken, tossing everything to coat. The rest of the stock, the crushed tomatoes, and as they begin to simmer, I transfer the Dutch oven to the oven. It will cook and simmer for at least an hour, thickening and intensifying the flavors. The couscous is measured, along with the water, and set aside to cook just before serving.
I remember that the lights are still on in the attic, and figure I can go up and shut them off just before waking Drew for dinner.
Humming to myself, I clean up my dinner prep dishes. I glance at the clock, noting that dinner has only been in the oven for a mere 10 minutes. Standing up, I grab my new cookbook, my notebook, and walk into the sitting room. A fire would feel so good right about now, and bend to build a small one. It isn’t a cold night, but there is a chill to the air, a dampness, that needs to be chased off.
It doesn’t take long before the fire is crackling and I am starting to smell the stew coming together in the oven. All I need is a glass of red wine to make this perfect; I’ll have to remember to put that on my shopping list. I jot down the details of the dinner that is in the oven, and then open the cookbook to a random page. Banana quick bread; sounds perfect. I add to the page the ingredients necessary to make the bread, and then decide that I also want to make some cranberry orange bread. Not exactly in season, but then again, neither is banana bread. I need to stop splurging and stick to the items that are grown locally, especially since this is the time of year to get them nice and fresh.
“Farmers Market,” I announce, “that is what I will do tomorrow.” I start writing a list of all the items that I can pick up at the farmers market and what I can do to preserve them for winter. Green beans can be frozen and pickled; the peaches can be canned and made into jam. I am drooling thinking about all the possibilities.
“Hey good looking,” Drew says, startling me, “dinner is starting to smell amazing. What are we having?”
“Not sure,” I respond, “it’s got chicken and some veggies and we’ll eat it over couscous. I hope it’s good.” I pick up my notes and the book, setting them on the side table, motioning for Drew to come sit next to me. “Dinner won’t be ready or at least another 15 minutes, let’s enjoy the fire, and you can tell me what made you decide to come looking for me.”
Drew blushed. It wasn’t something that I had ever seen him do.
“Well, do you want the short version or the long version,” he asked.
“Start with the short, and then over dinner and after you can fill in all the missing details making it a long story.” This was not the answer he was looking for, as he blushed an even deeper shade of red.
“I wanted to see you,” he said simply, even though I knew there was nothing simple about him showing up here.
“Fair enough; let’s go get a fire started in the living room, actually, you can get the fire going, I’ll watch,” I say laughing. “It’s not cold enough to need a real big fire, just something to take the damp out of the air.”
“You just want to see me bent over, so you can admire my ass,” Drew smirked at me.
“But of course,” I smiled.
Watching Drew make the fire was a site. The newspaper was crumbled and layered with twigs and tinder, then lit. He didn’t squat down but managed to stick his butt into the air, swinging it back and forth. Once the tinder caught, he added a few bigger pieces.
“Once those catch, I’ll throw one big one on, and that should be plenty, we don’t want to get driven out by the heat.”
“Perfect. Why don’t you clean off the coffee table, and put on some music,” I said, gesturing to the wall to the left of the fireplace.
Meanwhile, I got up, and went into the kitchen. I pulled two pasta bowls and forks out, setting them beside the stove. I found two red wine glasses, and pull out a bottle of Erath, my favorite Pinot.
“Drew, come grab a table cloth and napkins for the coffee table would you,” I called, pulling out a small cream colored cloth with a pattern woven into the fabric and two chocolate brown napkins.
“Want me to put the wine, glasses, and forks out too?” Drew asks.
“Sure, shall I serve up and come in?”
“Sounds good to me,” Drew responds walking out the door.
In the other room, Drew sets the glasses and forks, wine and napkins on the mantle. Turning, he snaps out the cloth, laying it over the coffee table. Looking at the sofa and the fire, he pulls the coffee table just a little bit closer to the fireplace, turning it sideways so we could both enjoy the fire. He laid down the napkins, placed the forks on them, set the wine glasses down and opened the wine to breath for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, I turn the water on for the couscous, adding a pinch of salt and a touch of turmeric, and pull the stew out of the oven. Within minutes the water is boiling and I pour in the couscous, giving it a stir and placing the lid on. I turn the gas off under the stove. Taking a moment to wipe down the counters is all I need for the couscous to be ready. I fluff the couscous with a fork and add a decent mound to the bottom of each bowl. I ladled two large spoonfuls of the fragrant stew over the couscous in each bowl. It smells heavenly and I hope it tastes as good.
Over dinner the conversation wondered back and forth between the weather, the Red Sox, and what I want to plant in my garden. After dinner, when the dishes are done, leftovers put away, and the living room is put back to order, we settled into the couch, one on each end, facing each other with a glass of wine in hand.
“So Drew, you owe me that long story now.”
“It seems I do,” Drew sighed.
“Why don’t I tell a short one first, but then, it’s your turn, no turning back, nothing else to hide behind.”
“When I took the job and moved here, I felt like I was running, like I was hiding. I couldn’t figure out who I was and what I wanted. It turns out that I wasn’t running and hiding, but running and finding where I belonged. I wasn’t happy when I was at home, or what used to be my home. It wasn’t until I got here that I realized it wasn’t about me finding myself to go back, but finding myself to live where I was happy. I can go home to visit whenever I want, I can have people here to visit whenever they want, but this is my own. When Allen died, a part of me died too; it took me a while to realize that I could still live without him. That if I didn’t live, then perhaps the pain wouldn’t be so great, but then I remembered the pain I was in and thought about the pain it would inflict on everyone close to me. I had to live, I had to carry on his memory, and make my life count. This might not be his home, this might not be my home town, but it is my home.”
“Okay,” Drew said with a look of pain and remembrance on his face.
“Now, your turn,” I said, “we can talk after you tell your story.”
“It all started in sixth grade,” Drew started.
“What! Sixth grade?”
“You said it yourself; we can talk after I tell my story.”
“So, as I said, it all started in sixth grade. I remember when I first noticed you, sitting in English class, glasses hanging off of your nose, hair up in a bun with a pencil, and your nose in a book. You were taping a pen off of your notebook. The feeling took me in the belly harder and faster than I anything I had ever felt or have yet to feel again. I didn’t know what it meant, but it scared me. I tried to steer clear of you but was always watching you out of the corner of my eye when I could. Things kept up this way into junior high when you and Allen started dating and I felt safe to come back into view.”
“You know, I never knew you and Allen were brothers until I dated him,” I commented.
“The summer before freshman year, I realized what the feeling was that hit me the first time I saw you. By that time, it was too late, and I wasn’t going to step in. There were many reasons why I didn’t, you were dating my brother, and I couldn’t hurt him. Then there was the realization that the desire and pull to you was so strong, I didn’t want to do anything that would risk my chances should they become available in the future. So I did the next best thing, I became your friend, one of your best friends. I felt safe this way. All through high school we were inseparable.”
“Along with your flavor of the month,” I smirk.
“Yes, along with whatever girl was on my arm. Graduation came and went, and you went off to the University of Maine, studying English. Allen was at home, going to Vermont Tech, studying Architecture. You guys were only able to see each other on vacations and on holidays, and I thought that maybe things weren’t going well, that someday I would get my chance. February break the two of you were fighting, I wasn’t sure you would make it to April break. April break came and you were still together and seemed to be getting back to the way you were. There was laughing and palling around, and of course, there I was with the latest fling, and the four of us were inseparable again.”
“I remember that break, you were awful moody.”
“I was moody; things were looking up with you and Allen. The semester ended, you moved home, and things were right back to the way they were. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy that you and Allen were happy, but I wasn’t happy for myself. Then we were all getting ready for the 4th of July camping trip, laughing and goofing around when Allen got hit by the drunk driver. It was one of the worst days of my life. Things went by in a blur, I remember holding your hand at the funeral, then it was our birthday, I had never spent it without Allen. We always blew our candles out together, just like when we were little. After that first birthday without him, I took off. I traveled, took jobs when I needed them. I felt incredibly guilty, that I wasn’t the one hit; that I survived. It was eating me up, knowing that I had been moping around because he had you and I didn’t. It was more than I could handle. A full year passed before I came home again, I pulled into town the day before the anniversary of his death. I visited his grave with Mom and Dad and Bampa and Mimi, stuck around until our birthday in August, and took off the next day. I never saw you; it wasn’t until later that I was told you became absorbed in your studies, working to graduate a year early. I spent that second year traveling and working hoping to see you when I got home for the visit to the cemetery. You would have just graduated and would be off looking for work. I figured enough time had passed; I couldn’t help but wonder how you were, if you still held the same pull over me, if there was a chance for something to grow between us. I called up your Mom, asked where you were and how I could find you. She gave me the address, told me it would be good for you to see me. It took me a day to get up the nerve to get in the car and drive out this way; I got lost a few times which is why I got here so late. And here I am.”
Drew completely took the wind out of my sails. I took a few slow, deep, calming breaths. My heart felt like it was trying to jump into my throat. Even though we are sharing the couch, I stand up and move closer, it feels easier and more deliberate than scooting, and sit down right next him. My arms slide around his shoulders, and I pull him into hug.
“I am really glad that came to find me,” I whisper, feeling his arm wrap around my shoulders. I shiver at what feels like his hand sliding up my back, only to realize that I have his other arm pinned between us. I freeze.
“What’s wrong,” Drew asks, concerned.
“I thought I felt something slide up my back,” I tell him, gently pulling away. I look at the clock realizing how late it has gotten to be. “I think I am letting my mind play tricks on me. I think I wanted to feel your hand slide up my back and when I realized you couldn’t, it disappointed me.”
“Oh, really? I can make that a reality if you want me to,” Drew smiles.
“I will definitely take you up on that,” I stand, taking Drew’s hand and walk upstairs. “Don’t go thinking you’re going to get lucky Mister, I am exhausted and just want to sleep.”
Drew looked at me slightly dejected and started to walk down the hall to one of the other rooms. I reached out and grabbed his hand.
“I didn’t say I didn’t want you to sleep with me. I’ll feel much better if you are curled up behind me.”
“Better than a separate bed,” Drew sighs.
I change into my ratty t-shirt and boxers, giving Drew a sly look.
“Those pajamas are classic,” he says.
“Why thank you, I just need to brush my teeth and I’ll be right in.”
The bathroom is cold and I dance back and forth while brushing my teeth. A towel is crumpled up on the floor, so I bend to pick it up; as I am standing back up, I notice Drew standing behind me.
“Hey, I’m almost done, than you can have the bathroom,” I say.
By the time I finish standing up and turn around, he is gone. Must not have wanted to wait; I wash my face, pull my hair back into a ponytail, and walk back to the bedroom.
“Didn’t want to wait while I finished in the bathroom?” I ask.
“What are you talking about, I’ve been right here” Drew said.
“You didn’t walk into the bathroom and turn around and leave?”
Drew looked at me funny.
“I thought I saw someone standing behind me,” I could feel my cheeks heat, beginning to feel really foolish.
“Come to bed. I’m guessing its nerves and stress, we touched on some pretty heavy stuff downstairs,” Drew said reaching out his hand.
I placed mine hand into his, and allowed him to pull me into bed. In one smooth motion, I felt my body turn, facing the outside edge of the bed. Drew pulled me backwards, enveloping me. His arm relaxed around my waist as his breath slowed; it wasn’t long before Drew was fast asleep.
There had been someone standing there, I was positive of it. Then again, if there had been, and it wasn’t Drew, who was it. As my eyelids began to droop, I decided that Drew must have been right. There was no one standing there, it was in my imagination.
The grass is cool and wet beneath my feet. The sun is just starting to rise as I pad across the yard towards the barn. Something that sounded an awful lot like a scream woke me. Not wanting to disturb Drew, I had grabbed the gun, slipped downstairs, and out the door. Now that I was approaching the barn, I wasn’t so sure that had been a good idea. I pulled my shoulders back, raised the gun and called out. No response. Keeping the gun raised, I opened the door. There was nothing but darkness; reaching into the dark, I felt for the light switch, and couldn’t find it. I knew it was there, but I couldn’t find it.
A noise to the left of me had my head whipping in that direction, standing in front of me was a very tall man. Sandy blonde hair, maybe 6 feet tall, dressed in a long sleeve white shirt and dark brown pants. His feet were bare. He held a scythe in one hand, a rag in the other. I raised the gun.
“Don’t come any closer,” I say to the man.
My words don’t seem to phase him as he takes one step, and then another. I can see his teeth in his bared grin.
“I’ll shoot, one more step and I’ll shoot,” my voice is shaky. It doesn’t seem to stop him or even slow him down. I aim at his chest, knowing at this range I can’t miss. The impact of the shot knocks me backwards.
Just when I expect to land hard on the ground, I sit up panting. Just a bad dream I think, but then, why did it feel so real, and every detail matched here.
Drew rolls over, waking up, “Everything ok?”
“I think so, just a bad dream.”
“Wanna tell me about it?”
I give him the short version, his arms tightening around me. “What do you think it means?”
“I don’t know. It took place here, and you didn’t recognize the man?”
“Yes, it was here, and no I don’t. I don’t know much about the place to be honest.”
“Let’s go back to bed. Tomorrow, when we are rested, we can talk some more.”
I burrow deeper into the covers, fighting sleep.