Authors: Barbara Watkins
Doors that open and shut by themselves… the soft touch on your shoulder as if to get your attention… only to turn around to find no one there… the sound of footsteps on an empty flight of stairs… the quiet whisper in your ear waking you from a deep sleep, only to realize you’re alone in the pervading silence. Most of us have encountered at least one of these unexplainable events if we were truthful. Nevertheless, we look toward scientific explanations to explain away our fear. I know I did! The old saying… ‘Seeing is believing’ is not always the case. We all know what you see is not always what it appears to be. Most of us believe in life after death. Most believe the body is a shell that holds the soul and upon death, our souls are released. However, where does the soul take rest? This is where it gets confusing. According to what religion you have been brought up to believe there are various opinions. I had always believed that when you die your soul went to heaven or hell, no in between. The events that would later happen would make me reevaluate what I had come to believe.
The autumn leaves were beginning to fall and cool crisp air replaced the choking grip of a sweltering summer. For several years, my husband and I had looked for just the right house out in the country. Since before Katie was born, my husband and I harbored dreams of leaving the city, but circumstances never allowed us to explore such possibilities. My husband Jim and I grew up in the country, and wanted the same environment of small town living for our children. We wanted to find a house with plenty of land so that I could have the garden I had always wanted, and he could build his own workshop. My husband was a top sales representative for a well-known furniture outlet, but his desire was to create his own line of furniture. We had scrimped and saved enough money to finally make the move, and being pregnant with our second child was just the incentive we needed.
Our realtor showed us various lovely homes, that while beautiful and spacious still missed that special something. While Jim was still at work I decided to load Katie in the car and go look. I drove up and down quite a few roads when I noticed a house in the distance. I could not explain it, but something drew me closer, and sparked my imagination. I followed the road that turned off Hwy Z to road marker 332 for about a mile, and then fate presented me with a sight to lift my flagging spirits. The most beautiful two story Victorian home I had ever seen sat there, as if just waiting for me to stumble across it. It reminded me of a scene from right out of Gone with the Wind. The second floor had a beautiful terrace that overlooked the property. There was not another house as far as the eye could see. It appeared to be vacant, as suggested by its dark, broken windows. Beautiful as it appeared, a fresh coat of paint would do it no harm, and the landscape overgrown with weeds and wiry vegetation. Despite its flaws, it sparked something deep within me. I felt like it was calling my name. I could not wait to get home and tell Jim.
The next day we got in touch with our realtor and I described the location and the house. She knew the property well. The house had been built in 1865 and was formally owned by the Masterson family. It had been kept in the family and passed down for years. George Masterson once farmed the hundred acres that surrounded the house back in the 1800s. One of the last living relatives, a descendent of Mr. and Mrs. Masterson now owned the property. James Masterson lived in New York and by all accounts was desperate to sell. He tired of the burden and expense required to maintain the old house. To my pleasure, Jim took one look at it and fell in love with it, and although we knew it would be a lot of work, we were excited to make it our own. The realtor started the necessary paperwork right away and our dream inched closer to reality, or so we thought.
The movers met us there bright and early and we started the tedious task of deciding what box went in which room. Jim helped the movers bring in the furniture and I began to unpack.
Katie, our daughter, was an average five year old with more energy than she knew what to do with, and could barely control her obvious excitement. The move, an amazing adventure to a child of that age, had her hurtling around the house in explorer mode. After rummaging through a few of our boxes, I found some her favorite toys and focused her attention on them. With four bedrooms to choose from upstairs, I decided to give her the closest room to ours. While Katie played with her dolls, I thought I would start on our bedroom. I tired easily these days, being eight months pregnant, but I did not have much longer to go. My hormones had raged all during this pregnancy, far worse than last time, and I could get overly emotional at the slightest provocation. We had been at it all day and I soon felt ready to call it a night.
I put a nightlight by Katie’s bed. After reading her a nighttime story, Jim and I kissed her goodnight. Not long after that, I peeked around the corner into our bedroom and found Jim fast sleep. Lighting some candles in the bathroom and starting a hot bath I prepared to relax. The bubbles had never felt so good. The hot water relaxed every part of my body. Then I heard Katie scream, “Mommy, where are you? Why did you leave me?” She sounded so frightened and scared. In my own panicked state, getting out of the tub seemed to take forever. She just kept screaming the same words repeatedly. I could not understand why Jim had not calmed her down. Surely, her screams had woken him? Almost breaking my neck, I finally reached her room. There she lay quiet and still. I was sure she must have had a nightmare. Jim must have been sleeping very sound not to hear her screams, I thought.
The next morning I woke up early so I could prepare breakfast in our new home. Jim was running late for work and only had time to grab a bite and run. The smell of maple syrup caught Katie’s attention as she came running into the kitchen.
“Mommy… mommy is you fixing pancakes? I love pancakes,” she said.
What she asked next gave me cold chills.
“Mommy did you hear that little girl crying last night?”
“Maybe you were just having a nightmare, baby.”
“No mommy I seen her out my window. She was looking in at me.”
“Katie that’s impossible, remember no one lives close for miles.” I gave Katie her plate of pancakes and changed the subject. After breakfast, Katie wanted to take her dolls outside and play. It was a beautiful day. The sun shone bright in contrast to the autumn nip in the air, as winter tauntingly revealed how close it lay. I bundled Katie up and told her to stay close to the back door while she played. I fixed myself a cup of coffee, and started sorting through our important papers. I picked up our contract to the house just to look at it one more time. Mr. and Mrs. Jim and Barbara Delarose; it felt so exciting to finally own our first home. While going through the box, I came across some baby pictures of Katie. Looking at her precious pictures I could not help but wonder what he would look like. Would he be born with a head full of dark hair like Katie? I continuously referred to the baby as if I knew what sex it was, but Jim and I opted to wait until the baby was born. I wondered if he would have the same temperament as our daughter Katie. She had always been a somewhat mild-mannered child. She enjoyed just playing alone with her dolls. Jim often voiced his concern. He felt maybe she was a little too shy, but I did not worry too much. I knew things would change when she started school. It was obvious; she had inherited Jim’s beautiful blue eyes and dark hair, and my shy disposition. I had many nicknames in school due to my bright auburn hair and full lips. Little did I know later that would be considered sexy.
Just as I was about to pour myself another cup of coffee, I heard Katie talking outside the back door. She often did that when playing with her dolls. As I listened closer, I heard something that sent chills up my spine. Another little voice said, “Your mommy will leave you too!” I turned around and looked out the back door, only to find Katie playing alone. I called to her to come inside.
“Whom were you talking to?”
“The little girl I told you about mama. She said her name was Laura. She’s sad. She said her mama and daddy left her alone along time ago. I told her she could play with my dolls whenever she wanted, and that she could live with us. That’s okay, isn’t it mommy?”
Not knowing what to expect next, I tried to put on a face to cover my fear and said, “Sure, baby. Why don’t you ask her to come inside for a snack?”
“She had to go, but she said she would come back later and play with me.”
I was sure I must have been mistaken. I could not have possibly heard another voice. All I heard was Katie talking to her dolls. At least, that is what I kept telling myself. Anything else just did not make sense. Katie had never been one to make up such a story. Extremely concerned, I decided to play along with her story for now, and discuss it later with Jim when he returned home from work.
I knew Jim would be out late. He worked hard, trying to make as many contacts as he could. Starting up a furniture business and trying to sell his ideas for a new line of furniture would not be an easy task. However, we were optimistic and I had always believed in my husband’s talents. Right before Katie was born, he surprised me by designing and making all of the furniture for the nursery. The day he surprised me with it he said, “Barbara, I wanted to make something special for the baby, something that would last for all time, like the love between us.” I knew then I had found my soul mate.
Darkness threatened to close in around the house, as the hour hand on the clock crept upwards; I started preparing a bath for Katie and helped her into the tub. I wanted to surprise her with some hot chocolate, so I went down to the kitchen to pour her a cup. I stopped suddenly as my body shuddered, and gazed at the wide open door out into the cold dark night.
Wide open? How?
My mind worked but could think of no way it could have occurred by chance or accident. I was even more frightened to find the hot chocolate I’d prepared minutes earlier on the stove had already been poured into two of my cups. It appeared as though it had just been poured. I immediately shut and locked the door and continued trying to make sense of it all.
Could I have left the door open earlier? Had
already filled the cups and had just forgot?
I shook my head and hurried back up the stairs to check on Katie. Then to my horror Katie asked, “Mommy you won’t be mad if I ruin your surprise… will ya?”
“What surprise, Katie?”
“Laura told me you made me some hot chocolate. Can she have some too?”
“Katie are you talking about your make believe friend?”
“No mommy. Remember, she was here earlier playing with me.”
I took a deep breath and tried to look like I was in control.
“Sure she can, baby. Where is she? I’ll take her a cup.”
“She’s waiting for us in my bedroom,” Katie said without hesitating.
I wasn’t sure what to do next. I kept telling myself this is just an innocent child’s game, but everything in my body was telling me it was something more.
I wrapped the towel around Katie and we started slowly towards her room. With each step I took towards Katie’s room, my mind took me back to when I was a little girl after watching a scary movie. I remembered the fear; not wanting to go into my room, fearing the unknown. I felt it again, no longer the small bunched up fear of childhood, but the full grown fear that clutched at my shoulders and weighted me down. Nevertheless, as an adult, intelligent woman, the rational side of my mind screamed that did not believe in ghost and goblins. The screams of rationality faded into the distance, as I stepped back in time to my earlier self.
Holding Katie tight I reached for the doorknob and pushed her bedroom door open. With one quick glance around the room, everything appeared normal until… I reached for Katie’s pajamas, I always left them folded on her nightstand, next to her favorite baby doll, sat two cups of hot chocolate, one full, and one partially empty. Before I could say a word Katie turned to me and said, “Mama I bet Laura is hiding, let’s see if we can find her.”
She walked over to the closet and started to open the door. A loud knock clattered on the door downstairs. I felt myself jump at that sharp sound, then felt a peculiar sensation I could not place.
How much more excitement could I take?
Once again, I grabbed Katie’s hand tight. I cautiously made my way towards the staircase. Then, in a loud voice I recognized, Jim yelled, “Barbara, honey, I forgot my key. Come and unlock the door.”
I felt a rush of relief come over my body. Maybe he could make sense of all this craziness.
“Barbara, honey, you look flushed. Are you feeling all right?”
I told him I was feeling quite tired and would really appreciate it if he would tuck Katie into bed. Once again, I would brave going into the kitchen. I did not know what to expect anymore. On the stove lay the empty pan I had earlier used to prepare the hot chocolate. The cups were no longer there. I did not have to wonder where they were,
but how did they get there?
Had I been so
tired that I had forgotten filling them and taking them upstairs?
I was tired but not that tired, yet I could find no other explanation. I had to talk to my husband. I needed someone to tell me that I was not going crazy.