I had passed the first night in the house on the beautiful old Colonial style couch, covered with an old military jacket that I had always loved. I had slept dreamless beneath the dim golden glow of an old hurricane lamp.
The morning had come all too soon. Dull and gray, the glow was still enough to intrude upon the stillness and force me to slowly crawl from off the couch.
Although I had already decided that the home was much too large for my girlfriend Keiko and myself. It was my intention to stay there until I could interest a realtor in the place.
We had been friend's for many years and supported one another through several failed relationship's. In the end we had fallen deeply in love. Often we had both wondered why we had never considered being together before?
She had always said that she feared we might lose what we already had. But, it had only grown stronger over time.
We had been engaged almost five years. Neither of us pushing the actual marriage as things seemed comfortable just as they were. But, we did have the committment!
Keiko had been hesitant about my staying in the place at first. She had never felt comfortable around my sister and for personal reasons, became very concerned about the whole idea.
I looked around at the lavish furniture and thick layer of dust. It would need some work, but nothing that we couldn’t easily manage ourselves. I would have to be cautious though...
Placing a hand to the middle of my breast, I felt along the ridged scar of my heart bypass surgery. It was almost two years now since the heart attack that had almost ended everything.
I had a new lease on life, but would have to be careful with pushing my limitations. Keiko had her reasons to be worried. But I had promised to take it slow and easy until she arrived.
After a shower and change of clothes, I took my heart medication and busied myself with grocery shopping and all necessary cleaning supplies.
It felt so strange to have such financial liberty. No debt's or concerns about bills. I could only bless and thank Veronica within silent prayer....
In truth, I had more regret than words could ever hope to express, but had never been able to properly express things where she was concerned. Somehow, it had always came out wrong or become twisted? Whether by my own doing or her endless suspicion of all people, I would never truly know or ever understand?
It was a dull, bitter cold and rainy afternoon as I began cleaning on the third story. I spent the entire day and evening dusting, vacuuming, sweeping, mopping and sanitizing everything.
Long after dark and light-headed, I realized after completing the third story that it was time for my evening medication and something light for supper.
I had a sense of true accomplishment as moving all the supplies down to the second floor, I turned the lights out behind me.
It was during my descent that I thought to have noticed a movement in the darkness behind me. Was it just some shadow in the corner of my eye?
Turning to look back, I silently paused while gazing into the darkness. It was moment's like this that I could only blame myself for having an overactive imagination and having watched an endless stream of horror films.
Above all else, I had always had the greatest love of haunted houses and ghost stories.
Rubbing at my face within a chill that now followed to where I stood, I felt something of a twisted smirk pull at my lips. I would have to be careful that I did not allow my own imagination to carry me off.
It had happened quite often as a boy. Once, while wandering the immense memorial garden of Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, I had paused near the old Eaton family mausoleum.
It was a warm summer night and during the slow passing of dusk. I looked upon the large stone structure, the lions of whom so vigilantly guarded the entrance and suddenly, thought to have become aware of another presence?
My heart had leapt into my throat and as my eyes had searched the growing darkness all about me, assumed to have no longer been alone in that silent place of the dead.
Terrified beyond my wits, I had run from that place! My imagination devising and expanding upon the story of which I intended to tell my mother! But the shame of lies and having frightened myself had soon changed that as returning home, never uttered a single word about it.
There had been several such events. So many in fact, that I had learned better nerve than most and to always question things rather than simply panic.
As mother had always said; often there are rational explanations, if one has the mind to consider.
Our mother had been always been a positive and strong woman. Though small of body, she had been stout of heart and possessed true courage of conviction. I bless her memory each day for having given us the education, love and support that had brought us safely through so much.
Through her many years of hard work she had always attended to us but never to her own health or needs. Sadly, it was due to this that we had lost her suddenly because of health complications. She had been my best friend and I missed her more than words could ever hope to express...
Dinner was simple and according to my diet, broiled chicken, wild rice and green beans. I had learned to accept this new lifestyle change, which in any event was still better than the alternative.
The day had taken more out of me than I had realized and after doing up the dinner dishes, I retired to the main floor living room.
Unlike the pale blue decor of the second floor or cream and white shades of the third, the main floor was all done in wine colors, amber lighting and gold trim.
From the gorgeous crushed velvet curtains to the lavish furniture it all had a sense of old Vienna and being of European descent, appealed to me within so many ways.
Antiques had always warmed my heart. Having been surrounded by such things all of my life they offered a familiar sense of comfort, home-coming.
Lighting a fire within the hearth, I slumped into the comfortable old chair, sinking down and feeling rather at peace.
Reaching for my evening tea, which sat upon the table beside the chair, I breathed deeply, sipping at the hot soothing liquid and gazing into the flames.
Where had the years gone? It seemed a lifetime ago, the last time that I had heard the laughter and loving voices of family and close friends. Sadly, I could only blame myself as losing all track of time, rarely called anyone that did not endlessly pursue me. I had become reclusive....
A sudden noise, the tea spilled in my lap as leaping from the chair, I spun toward the ringing phone!
Within moments I had dashed across the room and into the kitchen, pulling the receiver from the wall unit, answered,
"Hello?" I swallowed hard, attempting to catch my breath.
"Andrew, sweetheart, are you alright?" It was the soft voice of my dear fiancé Keiko, calling from a business trip in Los Angeles.
Working as a fashion photographer she often attended conferences and meeting with project coordinators. Usually I would travel with her, but circumstances being what they were, we currently existed by phone calls alone.
"Sorry sweetheart, I should have called you--," I slapped a hand to my brow, saying,
"I was so busy getting moved into the new place and sorting things out that I just got lost in it all."
"You think you’re lost now?" She laughed, saying,
"Just wait until I get my hands on you, mister!"
"I'm looking forward to that--," I chuckled, putting my tea cup down on the long kitchen counter and taking a seat at the table, asked,
"How much longer are you going to be in L.A?"
"Well--the clowns responsible for the next shoot can't seem to organize this one?" There was hesitation in her voice. A sound that I knew all too well as she added,
"I might still be a week on this one?"
I knew how hard being apart was on both of us. So did what I had always done. Teased her relentlessly, saying,
"Oh, good! That means that I won't have to send the dancing girls away yet!"
"Funny guy." She growled with a little laugh, saying,
"If I catch you near any other women? When I get done with you--you will never need another woman as long as you live."
Her voice though sweet as any angel's bore certain threat within warning. She was of Japanese descent. Dark haired, tall, athletic and sensual, though quite capable of putting me in my place. That sweet smile and those large, deep brown eyes conceiled a temper that few would want to provoke!
"That's what I love about you Keiko--no beating around the bush." I laughed, tapping a finger on the table in thought and saying,
"Dear, I've been thinking? Maybe we should just sell this place and get a little condo. You know, something cozy enough for just the two of us."
"Remember that last used car that you bought, without me? We said that we would never decide on anything over the phone again--," She sighed deeply, saying,
"Let’s discuss that when I get home, okay?"
"Fair enough sweetheart!" I felt a strange chill creeping along my spine. Glancing over my shoulder and into the living room as a shadow suddenly sped past the open doorway! Frightened, I simply stood and stared, peering from side to side, unable to determine the source?
"Dear--you there?" She called into the phone after several moments of silence, awakening me from a strange spell.
"Oh, yes darling--I'm just really tired, long day." Clearing my throat, I nervously turned to gaze back into the living room, tensing as the lamp suddenly went out! Nothing but the firelight dancing upon the walls and ceiling within the darkness.
Old bulb's--it must have just died after so many years of use? Simple enough...
"Andrew--," Her voice becoming stern as she asked,
"You would tell me if something were wrong--right?"
"Everything is just fine dear." I tried to reassure her, saying,
"I just had an old bulb die on me and got a little jumpy in the dark."
"This coming from the man who watches every and any horror film that he can find? Now you know why I said that we need a break from television." She laughed.
Indeed, she had grounded me wherein watching television was concerned. We had agreed that we would live for one year without our beautiful, fifty five inch, Smart TV with three hundred watt, theater, surround sound.
The theory being that it would bring us even closer together and inspire the creative flow within us! Good Lord, I missed that damn television!
"I know sweetheart, it's all about personal communication, bringing us closer together, inspiring our artistic sides--," Before I could continue rambling on she cut me off, saying,
"I can tell by your tone that this isn't making you very happy."
Looking over my shoulder and into the far corner of the kitchen where the TV and surround system stood, still boxed, I swallowed hard and said,
"Oh come on now dear--it's fine. It really was a good idea. I'm feeling a lot more creative now and well---God I miss you!"
"You're such a bad liar." She laughed,
"I miss you so very much too dear. You sound beat? You're not over-doing it again, are you? You know that you're supposed to be taking it easy. You have to be careful with your heart."
"I know it sweetheart!" I stayed focused on that dark, open doorway, saying
"Give me a call tomorrow and let me know how you're doing, honey. I'm going to just putter around here, get things cleaned up a little. Nothing serious."
"Alright dear--," She already sounded concerned, hesitating before saying,
"You be careful, you're my whole world."
"You're mine too, darling." Sighing deeply I looked away from the darkness. I missed her so very much, especially now. Rubbing at my eyes, I spoke quietly, saying,
"Sweet dreams and see you soon, I love you, so very much. Be careful out there."
"I love you too--," She fell silent, then said,
"And Andrew? I will be home soon. Photo shoot or no photo shoot."
"Alright my love, take care. See you soon." I bade her farewell, never saying good-bye was our promise. We only ever said, see you soon within parting.
"See you soon, my love." She blew several kisses before hanging up.
I sat there for several moments, listening to telephone's hum and gazing into the dark living room. It's just a burned out bulb and nothing more...
I forced myself to hang up the phone and retrieving a new bulb from a kitchen cabinet, slowly made my way into the open doorway, peering inside.
Absolute stillness. You could have heard a pin drop within the deep shadows The numerous figurines and ornately carved antiques caught within the fire's light, cast ghastly and twisted shadows which danced demonically throughout the room.
The coals suddenly crackled, startling me and causing the bulb to fall from my trembling hand, shattering upon the tiled floor!
"Stop it!" I shouted at myself, slapping a hand against the wall and cursing under my breath, said,
"See! This is what happens with no TV! It's just too dark, too quiet and let's the imagination run wild!"
The moment having passed, I straightened up and looked around. Within a few moments, I had tidied up the broken fragments and marched into the living room, changing the bulb in the old lamp.
Switching it on, I stood there for several moments, pondering the calming golden glow of the old lamp. Admiring the shimmering reflections within the long and hanging lead crystals that adorned its base.
"You need some rest old man--," I slowly rubbed at my eyes, returning to my chair before the hearth and muttering, said,
"You’re starting to let everything get to you."
It wasn't just being alone in this large, old and unfamiliar place. But the fact that I was now alone with my own worst enemy. My conscience and imagination....