“Creepy.” Sister animatedly shakes her shoulders, then rolls it through her body, giving a visible shudder.
“What is?” Mom asks.
“That house,” Bubba points toward a house they were walking by.
“That house with the pretty garden? How are all those colorful flowers creepy?” She glanced out of the corner of her eye. She had already noticed the repaired, refinished screened porch, the rebuilt stairs, and the peferctly kept garden that ran around the house.
“They’re a front,” Sister says matter of factly.
“Everybody says it’s haunted,” Bubba added.
“Who’s everybody and what do they say?” she turned her whole head and looked for just a moment toward the house.
Sister threw her arms in front of her and took a few straight legged steps, “They say the dead wander at night.” She quickly turned, screamed, and grabbed her brother.
Bubba screamed in return. “That’s not fair! Don’t do that!”
Sister laughed, “You’re such an easy target.”
Mom relaxed slightly thinking her daughter was just being a goofball and ruffled her son’s hair. “You are kind an easy target.”
“But seriously, Mom. All the kids talk about it. They don’t hang out with the kids that live there. They all seem to believe something is wrong there.” Sister explained.
“How old aare their kids?”
“Like 5 and 7 maybe.”
“Well kids your age wouldn’t hang out with them anyway so how do they know?”
“You know kids talk. Anyways, last night they told stories.”
“Every neighborhood has a haunted house story. What’s it here?”
“Well the first person who lived there went crazy I guess. Her husband died and a few months later they put her in an insane asylum.”
“Hardly a ghosy story.”
“Yeah, hardly,” Bubba agreed.
“The next husband killed himself. The one after that killed his wife and kids. The next family left after 6 months. When they tried to sell it, they found a dead homeless man in the loft. Then the next family got robbed twice. The second time someone was shot and killed. Then the police shot off the leg of the next owner whole he was standing right here in the driveway.”
Her breath caught in her throat. The temperature felt like it rose 10 degrees. Her stomach knotted. She knew she had to ground herself and display a cheerful, easy-going attitude for the kids. “Wow. That is quite the list of problems. I’m sure some are exaggerated and others are made up.”
“It’s not. It’s in the news. We can look up all the stories at the library. Can we go find out what really happened?”
Her words were caught in her throat. She didn’t know what to say.
“Axel said you were there. You can tell us the stories,” Bubba stated.
Her feet turned to lead. She stopped walking. Her head spun. She couldn’t think of words or actions. She replayed that night over and over in her head.
“Mom!” Sister was calling her. “Mom! Are you okay?”
She slowly made her way from her deep memories toward her daughter’s voice. She shook her head. “Heat. I think I’m too hot. We need to go back to the house.”
“Mom, can you walk?”
“What? Yes. I’m fine. Just a bit over-heated. Let’s head back.”
She realized for the first time that someday she would have to tell her daughter about the time she watched her friend get shot in that driveway, just down the street from her mother’s house. Today would not be that day. She didn’t think she could stomach it.