Authors: J. Joseph Wright
J. Joseph Wright
Text copyright 2012 by J. Joseph Wright
Cover copyright 2012 by Krystle Wright
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
I want the world to read
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“It’s the deal of a lifetime,” Linda Daggett feigned a glance at her watch. Didn’t want to be too eager.
, honey,” Angie did a twirl in the spacious gourmet kitchen. Then she trotted into the family room to join her husband and the realtor by the giant hearth. “An amazing deal…on an amazing house.”
Brian exhaled through his nose. “I don’t know. Such a long drive to work for you. You think you can handle it?”
She mimicked his breathing pattern. “For this place? For this price?” From the stone and wood floors, to the high tray ceilings, to the asymmetrical lines, the place just felt like a natural fit to her.
Linda sensed the conversation needed a kickstart. “Over five thousand square feet. Six bed, three and a half bath. Wraparound decks. Ornate craftsmanship throughout. And the master occupies the entire third floor,” she wagged her head as if the sheer luxury should have bowled them over. “Folks in Vernonia call it the Castle.”
Brian’s skepticism rose to the surface. “But the asking price—it’s about a third of what it’s worth…what’s the catch?”
Linda filled her lungs. Showtime. “The home is owned by the bank here in town, Mountain View Bank.”
“So, it’s a foreclosure?” Brian asked.
“Exactly. The bank has a few interested parties—”
“Great,” Brian’s hopes dashed out the giant bay window and into the forest below. “A bidding war.”
“I’m afraid so, sweetheart,” Linda maintained eye contact. Best way to pass off a lie.
“I want this place,” Angie put her foot down, literally. After six months, the house hunting had become like waiting for Godot. She was done. “It’s so beautiful, honey. I really feel good here. It’s a place where we can make a new start.”
“There’s still hope,” Linda teased the line, dangling the bait just in front of the fish’s mouth. “It’s all about the offer we give them, and I think giving them a substantial down payment might get us the house.”
“What kind of down payment are you talking about?” Brian squeezed his fists.
“Thirty percent!” he nearly lost it. “That’s-that’s—”
“It’s a hundred thousand,” Linda raised her brow and smiled sympathetically.
“We can do it,” Angie said, more confident than ever.
“If we do, we’ll be wiped out,” Brian’s stomach fluttered at the thought. “Five years of savings—gone.”
She countered, “I’m not worried. Brian, I’m serious. I have this feeling. I get a…tingle when I walk through this house.”
“Tingle?” he tried to keep from sounding patronizing.
“Yeah,” she stared at him with her serious face. He knew her serious face. “Tingle,” she closed her eyes and accepted the warm embrace she’d felt from the very moment she’d stepped into the home. For the first time in almost a year, she stopped thinking about that terrible, terrible event…if only for a moment. “I’m telling you, Brian. This is the place. This is home. I can feel it,” she rubbed her belly lightly.
Brian couldn’t fight. All he wanted was to see his wife happy again. “Well,” he gave Linda a defeated look. “I guess we’re all in.”
“Wonderful,” Linda smiled, but not too smugly. “We’ll go back to my office and start the paperwork right away, yes?”
She led them to the wraparound porch, and when she paused to lock the door, an orange and white, longhair tabby purred at her feet. It ran straight for Angie and rubbed on her bare ankles. Angie felt tingles again.
“And who might you be?” she was surprised the cat let her pick it up. She held it against her chest and looked it in the eyes. Golden eyes.
“She, uh…comes with the house,” Linda chuckled. “Free of charge.”
“She’s beautiful,” Angie put the tabby back on the porch and it recommenced its amorous attack on her ankles. “We’ll take her. We’ll take it all.”
Brian’s back loathed moving, and took every opportunity to tell him about it. That wasn’t the biggest of his worries. For some reason, inexplicable to him, his right wrist decided to catch fire. Intense burning. Pain beyond description. He dropped his end of the hide-a-bed—the heavy end, by the way—straight on his big toe. The subsequent bellyaching precipitated a beer, a grilled cheese sandwich from his wife, and a thirty minute break. After a scuffed shin, a pinched thumb, and about ten thousand curse words, they managed, just him and Angie, to get the entire four-piece sectional into the family room.
“This is so great,” Angie wiped the glow from her brow.
“You know,” he melted into the couch. “For someone who’s lived in about a hundred different places as a kid, you’d think you’d hate moving.”
“Normally, yeah, I would,” she admitted. “But it’s just…I don’t know. It’s this place. I can’t describe how at home I feel here.”
She looked at him for a moment, dredging her mind for the words. “I just can’t, okay?” She picked up a heavy Farberware box and lugged it into the parlor. Brian soothed his aching shoulder and watched his wife’s ass.
“Mmm-mmm,” he grinned. She turned and gave him a little smirk.
“I thought you were tired?” she taunted.
tired,” his smile spread the width of his face. She could only chuckle.
In the kitchen, well out of sight of her husband, she caught a gust of warm, late-summer wind. When she noticed all the windows were closed, the warm feeling turned to chills. Another blast of air, like something touching her on the shoulder, and a rapid shadow falling across the pantry gave her a quick start. She stood back a step and ran into a stack of dinner plates. With an earsplitting crash, they announced their demise, shards of ceramic strewn about the floor.
She heard a scream, then realized it was her. A second later, Brian was right behind her.
“What! What is it?” he scanned the broken dishes. “What happened?”
“I-I saw something…felt it, too,” she struggled with what she’d just experienced.
“What? A mouse? Do we need to bring that cat inside?” he checked along the baseboards for signs of rodents—droppings, nests, dead ones.
“No it—” her fear, once the initial shock subsided, gave way to curiosity. “Something’s here,” she stared into space. Brian was too preoccupied to notice her semi-hypnotic state. His focus remained fixed on an area between the stove and a cabinet, where his worst worries were affirmed.
“Something’s here, all right,” he crouched and investigated further.
“You don’t understand. Something’s here. Something wonderful and mysterious and…it’s welcoming us here, Brian. It’s telling us this is our home now,” she broke from her trance and found his eyes. “This house, it wants us to be here. It wants to be our home. Forever.”
“Well, if we’re gonna be here
long, we’ve gotta do something about this,” he showed her the evidence—a stiff, gray carcass—which he dangled by its twisted tail.
“Gross!” she threw up her hands and backed away so fast she banged against the fridge. “Brian! Stop it!”
“What?” he tossed the dried-up old husk in the plastic bag headed for the dump. “It’s dead. It won’t hurt you.”
“Have you been listening to a word I’ve been saying?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah.”
“What did I just say, then.”
“You said that mouse was gross.”
“You said, uh…”
“I knew it!” she strode out of the kitchen in a huff. He abandoned his charade and followed her, jumping over the disaster on the floor, and catching up with her in the parlor.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he giggled. “I heard you.”
“What did I say, then?” she decided to give him one more chance, and he didn’t disappoint. He pulled her close and gave her one of those reassuring looks he had a way of giving.
“I know, honey,” his eyes captivated her. “You love this place,” he glanced about. “You get a…vibe,” he chuckled, and so did she. “I get it, and I’m happy you’re happy,” she felt a tear welling up in her eye. He saw it, and felt one in his.
“I’m not afraid anymore,” she touched her tummy. “I want to try again.”
He kissed her before she could breathe, and it made her feel dizzy for a moment. So dizzy, she thought the buzzing was in her head. Turned out the doorbell had a short, and it made a coarse ring to express its displeasure.
He looked at her inquisitively. “Expecting someone?” She shook her head ‘no.’
In the dining room, the window gave him an angled view of the porch. A guy, a kid really, with the biggest bouquet he’d ever seen. Sunflowers and tulips and purple alstroemeria.
“Flowers!” Angie couldn’t get the front doors opened fast enough. The stunning sight further solidified her feeling of acceptance in this new place. She grabbed the assortment of gorgeous blooms, said thank you to the delivery kid, and ran to put them in the vase she’d gotten as a wedding gift from her aunt.
“Thanks?” the kid glared at Brian. “That’s all I get? Because, I gotta say, I was hoping for a nice tip on this one. You
realize how hard it is to find this place from Beaverton, right? Even with GPS, it’s a damn Sudoku puzzle.”
Brian apologized and set him on his way with a twenty. The kid liked his tip. Brian found his wife in the kitchen again, doting over the new delivery.
“They’re so beautiful, aren’t they?”
“What’s the card say?”
She hadn’t looked yet, and when she did, her heart sank. She knew what was coming.
“What?” Brian took the card from her and his heart sank, too.
Congratulations on the new house! Sounds like a GREAT place…good job and best of luck!
Your old friend,
Her stomach tied into knots. She heard him breathing, saw him clenching his teeth under his cheeks, felt the rage, however misplaced, radiating from him like body heat.
sending us flowers for?”
She swallowed and tried not to let his sudden dark turn bother her. “He’s just being nice. People do that, you know? Send presents when you move into a new house…it’s called a housewarming gift.”
“I know what it’s called, but why him? How does he even know we got a new house? I thought he left the firm.”
“He did…but then he came back.”
“What! When? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I was going to. He just came back Monday,” she didn’t have to come up with excuses, though, to Brian, that was exactly what it looked like. “We’ve both been so busy lately, it slipped my mind, that’s all.”
“That’s all, huh?” he clenched his gut, driving the nerves from there to the rest of his extremities. “You sure there’s nothing else?”
Angie couldn’t have been more sincere. She meant what she said, even if he believed not a word of it. “Baby, that was a long time ago. Before you and I ever met,” he looked away, and she cupped his cheeks between both palms and compelled him to meet her gaze again. “I love you, Brian. You, and only you. There’s no reason for you to doubt that.”
He wanted to believe her. Only one problem. All he pictured when he looked at his wife right then was someone else, another man, his hands on her skin, a soft moan from her reddened lips, her skirt ripped to the waist.
Brian stepped away hastily, the kitchen becoming a funhouse mirror for a brief moment. He had to lean against the wall for support.
“Sweetie, what’s wrong!” she was quick to help him, alarmed at his near collapse. Any of a number of causes flashed in her head, and, being a former nursing assistant, she took it seriously. “Tell me, what’s wrong?”
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” he recovered almost instantly, embarrassed for the awkward lapse. “Just promise me there’s nothing going on between you two, okay? I know how guys are.”
“Brian,” she said. “How many times do I have to tell you? There’s no one else, okay?” she positioned her face in front of his averted stare and their eyes met once more. “Okay?”
He stiffened his lower lip into a halfhearted smile. “Okay.”