Living The Reflection

Hazel loved many things. She liked children’s books, old children’s shows, game shows, and going for walks for the enjoyment of the walk. She felt hate was too strong a word for anything really, because hate only hurts oneself. Think about it, she would often tell others, if you hate someone so you ignore them, they move on with their lives while you stagnate in the thought that you are ignoring them. She disliked many things, but what she disliked were exactly the things others around her liked.

Just that morning at work talk was consumed by the latest superhero movie that opened the previous weekend. Hazel disliked superhero movies but she was expected to enjoy the same things as her coworkers, so she faked interest and made sure to know just enough of the plot points to give the appearance that she had seen the movie. In reality, she spent the weekend watching the Teen Titans Go! marathon on Cartoon Network.

Working at a small publishing house came with a lot of perks, but a lot of responsibility to live the reflection if she was going to continue working there. The company published primarily genre fiction for adults so conversations often involved sex with aliens, war, sex anywhere, everywhere, and with everything, drugs, crime, and everything thing else one would never find on PBS Kids. She detested the books they produced, but knew others loved them, so obviously she outwardly loved them as well.

After two years of trying to live the reflection, Hazel gave up pretending. After her funeral, friends and family gathered at her apartment for an informal memorial. No one had been there and everyone was shocked to see the Venetian masks hanging on the wall, cherished teddies sitting on glass shelves next to the blown glass eggs in the curio cabinet. They were shocked when they found the puzzles and children’s books that filled every available closet and bookcase. They were most shocked when Ashley found the file cabinet stuffed with unpublished manuscripts. The company launched a new imprint for children’s books named after one of Hazel’s characters and published every manuscript she wrote. She was too busy living the reflection rather than the original.

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Her Dream House

Okay, so there were two requests for a complete story based on Too Much Of A Good Deal and you all know I will honor most requests. Originally I had planned on maybe a flash fiction but not much more….um, yeah. It’s taken me almost five hours to write this. This version has a different ending than I was personally wanting, but I think it fits the blog better. I warn you this is a long story. Hope you enjoy it!


 

The kids ran around the front yard as we waited for the realtor to show. She was only twenty minutes late, but Josh was already starting to grumble. He had all the patience in the world for the kids, but that left none for anyone outside of family. Mrs. Simms pulled up in her red convertible and checked herself in the mirror before getting out. Josh grumbled louder, but a quick nudge in the ribs took care of that before she could hear him. We didn’t want to lose out on this opportunity and be stuck living with my parents any longer than we have already. I love my parents and they really love Amie and Harry, but I dreamed of having my own home for years.

“Hi,” Mrs. Simms said. “Sorry, I’m late. Hope you weren’t waiting long.”

She could have only been twenty-five at the most, but she had already perfected the world’s best fake smile, which of course made Josh grumble even more.

“Oh, don’t worry, we just got here and the kids have been entertained. Isn’t that right, Josh?”

He had been married to Lori long enough to read her. “Yeah, we’ve just been admiring the outside of the house. Didn’t even notice you were late.”

“Perfect!” She flashed her perfectly bleached teeth that unnaturally reflected the sun into Josh’s eyes.

The house did look perfect…from the outside. Well-manicured lawn and flower lined cobblestone path led the way to the front rose garden and steps up to the porch where Amie and Harry were now swinging on the porch swing. Two bay windows where we could sit and read or the kids could watch the fireflies at night. It was the house of my dreams. That’s what made me stop last week as Amie, Harry, and I were walking back from the park. This street wasn’t on our normal route, but something just pulled me down Fairbanks instead of Adams. We stopped in front of the house, admiring it. That’s when I saw the for-sale sign that had blown over during the weekend’s storm. I didn’t even wait to talk to Josh about it, I just called the realtor and here we are.

Mrs. Simms led us on a walkthrough from basement to attic as the kids ran from room to room declaring that was their room. It was a large house, but only had three bedrooms and I wanted to make sure we had a bedroom for anyone in our family needed it for a night, so the twins would be sharing a room. They’re only four, so they can share for another few years. We had some concerns about the electrical work and plumbing, but the Mrs. Simms assured us they were up-to-date and in code. My father could help with the plumbing and Josh’s dad was an electrician, so we really weren’t that worried, but our concern helped get $1500 knocked off. Peeling paint was another $3000, and the loose banister that could pose a risk to Amie and Harry got another $2000 off. All-in-all we should have been ashamed of ourselves nitpicking the way we did, but the buyer was very eager to sell. That should have been our first red flag, but never in our wildest imaginations did we think we would get a 150-year old Victorian in the best part of town for just $20000.

We signed that day and were offered the house right then and there. Life moved so fast that day neither Josh nor I had a moment to really sit down and think about what we were doing. I would give anything to be able to take that day back. We didn’t have much to move and having two sets of families and close to a dozen friends dropping everything to come help meant we were all moved in by dinner. We treated the kids to McDonalds on our last trip to the house.

“Alight,” Josh said. “Who wanted the cheeseburger Happy Meal?”

“Me, Daddy,” Amie said, raising her hand. A year in preschool had definitely prepared her for Kindergarten in the fall.

“And who wanted the chicken nugget Happy Meal?”

“Here,” Harry said.

Josh and I looked at each other and chuckled silently as we thought about the calls from principals informing us our son was in trouble for this or that. With the kids set and digging in, Josh and I sat down and found our dinner. Just as I was starting to enjoy my grilled chicken sandwich, a loud crash shook the hanging light over the table making all of us jump.

“Wha wa ha?” Josh asked through a mouthful of Big Mac.

How was I supposed to know? I was scared to death and trying to keep both my heart and stomach where they belonged. All I managed was a shrug.

“You go look,” I said, finally remembering how to swallow.

Josh sighed, but knew I was not about to go upstairs and investigate. You never know if an axe murderer is upstairs waiting for the lady of the house. Besides, Josh was a former Marine who could handle anything life threw at him. He went upstairs and I stayed in the kitchen listening to his footsteps move from room to room. After a few minutes he came back down to finish his dinner.

“Some books fell,” he said, digging back into his Big Mac.

My gut told me that wasn’t it, but I ignored it. This was my dream. My husband, children, and I finally in our own home where I could have a sewing room for my business and watch my children grow up like I did. I should have listened to my gut. I should have grabbed my children and Josh and ran. We should have run as far away as we could, but, instead, I finished my grilled chicken sandwich and spent the evening playing with Amie and Harry while Josh finished getting the bedrooms ready for his family.

They would paint later that summer before the kids start school, so the plain walls were fine. Josh hung a few pictures of Arthur and Buster over Amie’s bed and Minecraft over Harry’s bed. My Little Pony bedding for Amie and Minecraft for Harry. It looked like home when I brought the twins up for bed. Josh and I told them a bedtime story, checked the closet and under the beds for monsters, and plugged in their night sky nightlight. Josh and I sat holding hands for a few minutes watching the stars circle the room as the kids fell asleep. It had been such a busy day and it was starting to catch up to us.

“Check this out,” Josh said as we left the twins’ room. “I found this when I was up here earlier.”

He led me to the closet in our bedroom. “Yeah, it’s a closet.”

“No. Well, yeah, it is a closet, but take a closer look.” He pointed to the back wall behind the clothes that our friends and family had hung up for us.

“Um…it’s a wall. Oh my heck! Is that a door?” I looked at him grinning like a Cheshire cat and knew he had already seen what was on the other side of the door.

I slapped his arm and pouted which made him laugh. I loved his laugh. He was muscular and still chiseled from his time in the military, but his laugh turned him into a giant teddy bear. My teddy bear. He didn’t have to stay with me. He didn’t have to live with someone who jumps at little noises and is still terrified when the lights go out, but he did and I loved him even more for it.

Reaching for the door handle was like putting my hand through jello. Something didn’t want my hand to go near the door, but I forced it anyway. The handle was an old brass knob that looked like it belonged on a kitchen drawer that scratched the wall as I lifted it. With a small push the door opened and musty air escaped whatever was behind my new closet.

“Let me show you,” Josh said, taking control of the situation and urging me inside as he turned on a flashlight. “It’s really cool in there.”

I have to admit, it was really cool, he wasn’t lying about that. It must have been a nursery at one time because there was a brass crib and old stroller. When I say it was an old stroller, I mean it looked like it came out of an old Victorian photograph. There was a dresser with baby clothes still in it, a chest, and a wooden writing desk.

“Why would they leave all this stuff here?” I wondered out loud. “This doesn’t look like it’s been touched for over a century.”

“Dunno,” Josh said. “But come look at these.”

He shown the flashlight on a stack of old photographs on the desk. My curiosity got the better of me and grew excited as I flipped through the pictures. First of a young woman about thirteen standing in front of our new house. Well, I guess it must have been her house then, so a young girl standing in front of her house. Then one of her and a couple that I assumed were her parents. Here comes one a few years later and she is in a wedding dress standing next to an older man.

“I certainly hope that’s not her husband,” I said, wrinkling up my nose. “He looks old enough to be her grandfather.”

Josh shrugged.

Yep, that’s her husband. Poor dear. I am so glad I was not born back then. As I flipped through the photographs she aged but became much sadder as her smile faded until there was no emotion at all. There were also no children in any of the photographs. The last one in the stack showed a woman about thirty in a black dress.

“I wonder if she ever remarried,” I said, looking around for Josh.

“Don’t think so,” he said.

“Why have a nursery then?”

It was as if the room was listening to us and wanted its story told. A small scratching noise drew our attention to a knothole in a floorboard. Josh leaned down and began putting his finger in to see if there was anything in under it, as I started my spider dance envisioning his finger poking straight through a nest of black widows or recluse spiders. He just laughed and stuck it in.

“There’s something in here.”

“Get your finger out! It’s probably a rat or something.”

He ignored me as usual and lifted the floorboard. He shown his flashlight in the hole and retrieved a small diary.

“Let’s look at it in bed,” I said. “This place is giving me the creeps.”

“Sure.”

I rushed out of the room as he lingered to have one last look around before joining me in bed. Safe and sound in my favorite sheets and handmade pillow, I snatched the diary from him before he could finish climbing into bed. I wanted to know what happened to that young girl and why she married such an old man. I soon found out.

“Her name was Adelia Jasper,” I said while reading. “She was twelve when she married that old bugger! A grown man of fifty married a twelve-year-old! What was wrong with him!”

I was slapping Josh as if he could really do anything about something that happened over a hundred years earlier. He was used to this though and just laughed. I continued reading.

“She married him after her parents died. Poor thing. I guess that was her only option. Became pregnant a year later but lost that child really early. Then another one, and another. Good lord, that poor girl!”

I started crying as I read her diary. I couldn’t tell Josh everything that was in it. At the time of the last entry, she was only twenty-six and had suffered six miscarriages. Her last one she thought was going to live which is why they built the nursery. She gave birth at home to a baby boy who appeared healthy and strong but when the local priest came to bless the baby the following week he ended up giving him his last rites. She buried him in the family cemetery next to her parents. I couldn’t do anything but lay on Josh and cry for her. I lost one baby before I had the twins so I knew a little about how she felt, but six? That would have killed me.

“We need to find out more about her?” I said between sobs.

“Uh huh.” Josh was already dozing off. Once a Marine, always a Marine and able to sleep anywhere at any time.

“Typical.”

I scooted over to my side of the bed and hugged the pillow my mother made me. I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I remember was being jolted awake by Amie’s screams of mortal terror. This was not her normal scream. Something or someone was harming my daughter. Josh was already at the door before I even rolled over to wake him. He was at the twins’ door before I made it to ours and he was screaming before I made it out to the hallway. I had never heard Josh scream before in the ten years we had been married. I had never known him to be afraid of anything. My blood turned cold and I was terrified. I wanted to run down the stairs and out the door, but those were my children in there and my screaming husband. I swallowed my fear and sprinted to their door, throwing on the light switch only to see my son’s arm disappear into the shadow that was slowly moving from the corner of the room toward my daughter.

Mom mode took over and I leaped over Josh who was kneeling on the floor weeping grabbed Amie and flung her out the door into the hallway. Poor child landed with a crying thud on the floor.

“Josh! Move!” I screamed, pushing and shoving him toward the door. “Amie needs you!”

That got his attention and he grabbed my hand and picked up Amie as we started heading downstairs. The shadow was not about to let us leave though. It grabbed Josh by the hair and he fell to the ground. I caught Amie just before she would have taken another hard landing. Between her screams, my screams, and Josh’s screams the house seemed to be erupting in pure hatred toward us. The shadow solidified revealing its true self.

“Why are you doing this Adelia? Where is my son?” I shouted. “HARRY! HARRY! WHERE ARE YOU?”

Adelia laughed. “He took them from me. I take them from you.”

Josh lay writhing in pain on the floor under her grasp. “Get out,” he whispered.

I couldn’t. Where was Harry? How do you fight a ghost? Josh was usually the one the jump in and save the day, but now he needed me to be the superhero.

“You can’t have them, Adelia!”

Her cackling rattled the house.

She started dragging Josh back to the twins’ room. I had to think fast. “Fight Josh! Fight for Harry! You can’t have them Adelia!”

My Marine took over as Josh’s hand reached up and grabbed Adelia by the wrist while I grabbed his legs. In one crunch he flung Adelia over his shoulder and she crashed right into me. Stunned because I was certainly not expecting that, I lay on the ground with a very heavy ghost laying on top of me as Josh jumped to his feet. He grabbed Amie and threw her in the hallway closet. Poor girl was so traumatized by what was going on all her brain thought to do was breath.

“We have to get Harry,” Josh said kicking Adelia off me. Well, his foot passed right through her, but she was distracted enough to let me get up.

We ran in to the twins’ room and started yelling for Harry. I could hear his sobs echo in the walls. “The nursery!”

Adelia now stood laughing hysterically between us and Harry. The last place you want to be is between a former Marine and his child. I could fell the anger rising in Josh. An anger I had never felt before. It made it almost pity Adelia. If she had been alive at least. He ran like an enraged bull down the hall but passed right through her and slammed into the wall taking out a slab of drywall. As he lay unconscious on the floor it was now up to me to save my family.

“I know what it’s like to lose a child, Adelia, but this isn’t the way to get one.”

I thought I would try the compassionate approach first, but she just laughed even harder. There was something wrong with this woman, and I don’t mean that just because she’s dead. She was off her rocker. I remembered something our family priest told me long ago when I was afraid of ghosts in my parent’s house.

“Call on Michael for help,” Father Isley said. “He commands the Lord’s army and will help in your greatest time of need.”

I closed my eyes and did something I had not done for a long time. I prayed. I prayed for guidance. I prayed for strength. I prayed for Harry and Josh and Amie. I prayed for help.

Suddenly I felt warm and resolved. She was not going to have my family! I marched up to her cackling face and flung my fist through it. “Move, woman!” I shouted as the black mist formed her face once again.

I strode right past the confused look on her face, kicked in the nursery door, and found my Harry tied in the crib. Adelia tried grabbing me, tripping me, pushing me, hitting me, but nothing was going to stand in my way of getting to Harry.

Doors though out the house opened and slammed shut on their own as Adelia’s rage overflowed.

“Close your eyes, baby,” I said as I untied Harry and carried him in my arms past Adelia.

Josh was coming to as I walked back into the hall. “Amie! Come out sweetie!” I called.

Amie ran into Josh’s waiting arms and together we walked out of the house. Adelia’s rage and reach could not extend past her jail, which meant we were not safe, but the house was not. Minutes after leaving the house, it exploded in a fireball. We just stood there crying and watching it burn. Our neighbors called 9-1-1 and offered to let us in but we wanted to see her destroyed.

We returned to my parent’s house that night, but we were not the same people. Amie is now claustrophobic and Harry is terrified of making people angry. Josh’s once beautiful auburn hair is gray where Adelia held it. Even I am not the same person. I returned to church the following Sunday and thanked Father Isley for telling me about Michael.

I told him everything that happened in that house. At first, I expected him to laugh at me or think I was off my rocker, but he didn’t. He knew more about the house than we did. He was called nearly twenty years earlier to bless that house after a young couple moved in. He sensed something was terribly wrong then, but did what he was asked. He also told the couple to call on him whenever they needed help. They called after her first miscarriage for personal guidance. They called after her third miscarriage to help understand why God would do such a thing. She called after her husband committed suicide in the basement.

“That house looked good on the outside but was a house of pure evil,” Father Isley said, patting my hand. “Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.”

Later that evening we heard from the insurance company who denied our claim because Mrs. Simms had not filed the transfer of ownership papers yet. The realty company called to inform us that Mrs. Simms was no longer with the company and asked if we would consider taking our check back plus thirty thousand dollars if we agree to not sue them for not disclosing the history of the house.

The money was nice and allowed us to buy our condo, but if I could go back and change that day I would. No amount of money could ever bring back the joy in our children’s faces or the innocence we shared during that last McDonalds meal.

The End