Authors: L C Lang
By L C Lang
2 a.m. Friday morning
Maggie Connor pulled into the driveway and stopped in front of the garage. She looked at the dark house for a moment. It had been six years since she was last here. At the time, she swore she would never come back, but here she was again. This time, it was out of desperation.
She turned the car off and got out. As she walked towards the front door, she pulled the house key out of her jeans pocket, slid the key into the lock and opened the door. Inside, she flipped the switch and the lights came on. She closed the door behind her. Inside the room, sheets covered the furniture, just as she left it. Going around the room, she pulled the sheets off the furniture, stacking them on the couch.
For the past six years, a local real estate company had been renting out the house, furniture included. There had only been one renter. The woman, who was now eighty-five years old, had left a month ago to live with her daughter in Charleston. A local company cleaned the house and covered the furniture. Even though it had been a month, the house still smelled fresh. Fortunately, the real estate company hadn’t found another renter.
Maggie walked to the kitchen, turned the lights on, and then went to the other side of the room where there was a door to the garage. Inside the garage, she pushed the button to open the door, and then pulled her car in. She closed the garage door and then got her suitcase and three bags of groceries she had picked up at an all-night grocery store out of her car. She put away the groceries and then took her suitcase to the bedroom.
The bed was bare. The dresser held no personal items and the drawers were empty. She sat her purse on the dresser and her suitcase on the floor. Going back out in the hallway, she went to the linen closet and pulled out a set of sheets and pillowcases, and two pillows, then proceeded to make the bed.
A freestanding full-length mirror sat in the corner. Maggie stopped and looked at herself for a moment. She was five seven, but right now she seemed to be slumping. Her face looked haggard and made her look older than her thirty years. Was it just because of the six-hour drive she had just made or the lack of sleep from the last two weeks? Or, was it because of the faces she couldn’t get out of her mind? Her shoulder length dark brown hair was hanging limp, not neatly styled as she usually had it. Her clothes looked sloppy; her eyes dull and lifeless. Maybe she did need this mandatory two weeks off. But, was this where she needed to be?
When it had all come apart last night, she had quickly packed and then left town. She knew she couldn’t stay in her house; she had to go somewhere. At the time, she didn’t know where to go. She had headed east, with no idea where she was going. She didn’t even know why she had headed east. Maybe it was simply because she lived on the east side of town and heading east was the fastest way out of town. After an hour of aimless driving, she finally realized this house was calling to her. It was a calm and quiet place where she could heal. Or, would the memories from here make it worse? Right now, she just didn’t know. Nor did she care. She was sure she had made the right decision.
Maggie suddenly realized how tired she was. Stripping off her clothes, she got into the shower. She stayed underneath the hot spray for a long time trying to ease her tight muscles. When she got out, she dried off, and then walked back into the bedroom.
Suddenly, she remembered she needed to call the real estate office and tell them not to show the house for a while. It was now three o’clock in the morning, so she would just leave them a message. Getting out her cell phone, she turned it on. Since she had shut her cell phone off last night, she had gotten three calls. For now, she ignored them. She dialed the number for the real estate company, and then left a message on their answering machine, explaining she was going to be in the house for a while and not show the house until she was ready to leave. She would let them know when that was. After the call, she turned the phone off again. For now, she didn’t want to talk to anyone. She got the cell phone charger out of her suitcase and plugged the cell phone in. She only wanted the phone for emergency use, which she doubted would happen.
Maggie picked up her purse and then sat down on the bed. Opening her purse, she took out a small bottle and looked at the label. She really didn’t want to take any pills, but she needed sleep, and to forget. Taking one pill out, she put it in her mouth and then went into the bathroom. She used her hand to scoop up water to swallow the pill. Walking back into the bedroom, she got into bed and pulled the sheet over her. It felt cool over her naked body. She closed her eyes. Please let the faces go away, she thought, at least for a while.
Ten hours later, Maggie woke up. She was confused at first when she sat up and realized she wasn’t in her own bedroom. Then she remembered where she was. Outside the bedroom window, the sun was high in the sky. The clock next to her bed told her it was one o’clock in the afternoon. As she got out of bed, she felt sweaty, even though the air conditioner was on and the room was cool. She went into the bathroom and took another shower. Then she dressed in jeans and an oversized white t-shirt.
As she walked into the kitchen, she realized she was famished. What had it been, twenty-four hours since she had last eaten? She hadn’t been hungry when she left Indianapolis last night, but she was now. But, hungry for what? Opening the refrigerator, she looked at the now filled refrigerator. It didn’t take long to decide what she wanted. She took out a pound of hamburger and made a patty out of part of it. Then she got out a cast iron skillet, turned on the burner of the stove and sat the skillet on top. A few moments later, she placed the patty on the now hot skillet. While it was cooking, she wrapped the rest of the hamburger for another time, and then found a spatula.
Five minutes later, her hamburger was ready. She got out a bun, a package of sliced cheese and the condiments out of the refrigerator, then assembled the hamburger, placing it on a small plate. Maggie took her plate and a can of Dr Pepper, walked through the living room, and out onto the enclosed porch. She loved sitting out on the porch. It was so peaceful. It is now the end of August and it was as hot here as when she had left Indianapolis last night. But here, with all the trees surrounding the house, it felt cooler. They were a natural air conditioner.
The house is a ranch style house, located on the top of a hill, in an area of many hills. Trees surrounded the house. The grass in the backyard goes back thirty feet. Maggie remembered the day her father had cut down a thirty-foot wide area of trees. He wanted a view of the next hill. You didn’t dare go any further than the end of the yard though. Beyond the yard was an eight hundred foot graduated drop down to a creek below. The rest of the area was trees. Trees, all the way down to the creek and back up again, from the three hundred foot long driveway to the entire area surrounding the house. This made the area peaceful and quiet.
Maggie was sixteen years old when she had moved here with her parents. Having grown up in New York City, she wasn’t in the least bit happy when she had to move here. To get even, she was mad at her parents for a month. However, over time, she had come to love the place as much as her parents had.
During the time she was mad at her parents, she had decided to see what was at the bottom of the hill. Going down wasn’t too bad. She had trees to hold onto almost all the way down. Going up the other hill was another story. When he finally got back to the house, she found her parents had seen her go down. For fifteen minutes, she had to endure the anger of her father over what she had done. He had cautioned her over and over how dangerous it might be; the animals might have been in the woods, two and four-legged.
Now, all these years later, she laughed as she remembered the escapade. It had been fun.
Maggie looked out again at the other hill. The top of the hill had leveled out over time, making it sort of a plateau. To the south, just out of her view, was the local airport. Planes rarely came in; at least she didn’t remember many. Still, the layout of the land made it a perfect place for the airport.
Directly across the ravine was a two-story house. It was located a quarter mile north of the airport and was at the end of the only road that went by the airport. They began building the house the same year her family moved here. It took eight months to build the house. Near the beginning of the construction, the contractor took out a wide span of trees, which allowed her to watch the whole construction. She even sneaked over there one Sunday afternoon so she could see what the front of the house looked like. The back was bland looking, but not the front.
The house was in the Georgian style. The roof was steep. A curved portico was over the front door, with a thick column on each side of the porch. The porch light had black metallic scrollwork and hung near the top of the porch, giving a sense of warmth at the front door. The rest of the house was brick. She had looked inside the windows and found that the right side consisted of a dining area, with a kitchen behind it. The left side of the house was a living room. On the left side of the house was a fifteen-foot extension where Maggie assumed the office was located. Most of the bedrooms were upstairs, but she wasn’t sure how many there were. There were two windows downstairs in the back of the house, so that must have been where the owner’s bedrooms were.
After completion, the landscaper expanded the opening into the trees to make it a hundred feet wide. It went to the edge of the ridge and then he sheared the tops of another forty feet worth of trees going down the hill. The idea was so the customers staying in the backside bedrooms would have a view of the hills that surrounded the house, including a clear view of her house.
When the house was completed, it became a bed and breakfast. The owners thought it was a good location.
They were wrong.
The business closed and they moved out within two years after they opened. Now the house stood empty.
Maggie shook her head. She wasn’t here to see what was going on across on the other hill. She was here to rest and heal and now her sandwich was getting colder. It was time to eat and maybe it was time to turn on her cell phone again. Maybe.
She began eating and then looked again at the house on the other hill. A thought struck her. For a house that has been empty for ten years, it still looked to be in good condition. Then she saw it.
The light was on over the back door.
NINE O’CLOCK FRIDAY MORNING
Settling himself in his seat in the cockpit, Captain John Murphy went through his final check. His first officer had already done the aircraft walk around, reporting he had seen no problems with the exterior of the plane. He turned on the switch for the electrical and control panel. The computer system booted up and he shared the duties of programming the computer, calculating the weight and balance of the plane.
When they were ready to go, Captain Murphy looked out the window and took a deep breath. The passengers were now loaded and the luggage carts were moving away from the plane. And now the walkway was pulling back. He started up the engines. Looking out the front window, a man from the ground crew was standing in front of the plane. He was signaling him it was time to go. He signaled the man back. While he watched, a pushback tractor hooked up to the plane. Upon the crewman’s signal, the plane began slowly backing up, backing away from the terminal. Then came the turn.
A few moments later, with the aid of the ground crew, the plane was now turned and headed away from the terminal. Captain Murphy pulled the throttle and fired up the engines, then looked out the side window and saluted the ground crew man. He saluted back. Then he slowly began taxiing towards the runway.
DAC 3351, ready for takeoff,” Pete reported to the tower as they approached the end of the line.
DAC 3351, L zero 9, line up and wait,” the tower responded.
L zero 9, line up and wait, DAC 3351,on Pete answered.
Are you ready?” Captain Murphy asked, looking to his right.
Yes, John. I can’t wait to get home.”
John nodded. He couldn’t either. Pete Collins was his first officer. He was thirty-two years old, five foot eight, sandy brown hair and very personable. He was married with two of the cutest little girls, aged four and three, that John had ever seen. He couldn’t blame him for wanting to go home, but he was going to miss him. They had flown together a lot over the years and had many good talks during those flights. The beginning of today’s flight had been quiet. They both knew what was going to happen. He just hoped they would stay in contact with each other.