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The House on the Hill
I laughed when I saw the house. It had to be a joke. I turned around and returned home. As soon as I got in, I emailed Ashley: Call back. Too complicated for texting.
Sure enough, she called back. “So?”
“Ash, you got to be kidding me. You want me to stay in that house for the weekend? The roof is in shambles, no windows whatsoever. Well the prior owner did, but what they left of them would not be considered as such. I don’t even know if they have plumbing. Unless you have a million dollars that you can give freely, I am not doing it.”
She laughed. That meant she was up to something, but I didn’t care. She was going to pay me back for this.
“I know something you don’t know.” She laughed.
So you want to play, huh? “Not unless it involves math, history, and how to write that stupid report in English, most likely you don’t. I can sit here and tell you everything about anyone.”
“Oh. Well, then I guess you’re just not interested in joining the Rose Bowl.”
“You want me to play football? Are you crazy? In case you’ve lost your mind, I’m not playing. I am on my way to become a lady. Ladies don’t play football. And unless you’ve already been there, and can prove you were in that house without a doubt, there’s no reason I even need to be.” Give her a minute to think. I’ve known her since kindergarten.
“I’m not talking about sports. I know you would never and you don’t know everything.”
Could I have missed something? Oh wait, she’s not — “You’re talking about the Red Rose Porringer Society. There’s an enormous difference, and only the elite can join. You must be invited in by a fellow member. They would never send any of their members into a place so disgusting. Never in a million centuries.”
She cleared her throat and went silent. I got her. Nobody can beat me for knowing something. A lot of people tried and failed.
“OK. Look. I made a bet with Beth Whatshername. Can you just help me out? Please? Honest. I told her if I could get you to go into that house, she would introduce me to Brian Mayhew. Huh? You know I’ve been after him since school started. Please? Pretty please? I’ll write your history paper for you.”
“Are you talking about that disgusting Beth Anderson? The one that’s always smiling and swings her bleach blonde hair so big it hits everybody standing around her? The one whose mother works for that dime store and whose father is a used-car sales agent? Her?”
“Ashley, I told you about her. She never wears anything in style and any guy worth anything never pays attention to her. She’s getting something extra out of this or she wouldn’t have said that or agreed. Are you that stupid?”
“Well, no. Please?”
I grumbled. If anybody else asked, I would’ve flat out told them no. This was Ashley. We’ve known each other since kindergarten. What choice did I have?
“You better have a slice of triple chocolate mousse tart, a salmon burger with dill cream sauce, truffle fries, and a glass of homemade ginger beer ready and waiting. You have connections, so I am expecting perfection. Along with that, I want one week of salon treatments of my choosing. You hear me or I’m not doing it.”
“It’s a deal. Thanks. You know you’re my sister from another mother. Love ya lots. Toodles.”
A little too easy-peasy. She was up to something. A deal is a deal until otherwise proven. Oh yeah, cover story. Email Ash: When my parents call you, I’m staying at your house for the weekend.
She texted me back: Oh NP Love ya.
This better be worth it. I hated it that she used text language. She was never going to get any better if she didn’t practice, but oh well. Why would I care? She’d got me so confused. I needed to stay focused.
Well, lucky for me, it was simple to sneak out of the house. I wished Mom would think of a better alarm code than her birthday. Please. Everybody knew. As for the super annoying beeps, she turned those off because it interrupted her meditating.
Once out, I took out my cell and turned the alarm back on. OK, I walked to the bus stop and got on the ultra disgusting bus. Ew, I needed to get decontaminated the first chance I had. It was the only way I could guarantee me getting away with this. They would never believe I needed to drive to Ash’s house since she lives right next door.
According to the bit of digging that I did, it turns out it was once owned by a widow who died of a heart attack. It kept getting bought and sold until everybody lost interest in it. Too many rumors about demons or some such nonsense. The city took it after that.
I got out my flashlight and looked at it again. I would never buy this house. Never. It looked too weird with a long roof and super skinny side with a super weird line. Anyway, I had a huge favor to fulfill.
If I died, Ash was so paying for it. Clouds of dirt swirled around me. I had planned to make a sleeping area on the floor, but from the looks of it, that would not happen. Holey couches and chairs on top of that.
I thought about going upstairs, but they fell apart about halfway up. Then a light turned on. I spun around to the source and a big fire sparked in the fireplace.
A doll stood in the middle of the mantel. A velvet dark green dress with a laced collar and shoes to match. Her brown hair was wavy with a green flower, and a pearl in the middle was clipped on the side. She seemed to smile at me. I closed my eyes and shook my head, and I wasn’t imagining anything.
“Good evening. My name is Louise. Ann named me as if I was her daughter. She cared for me as such. It is a bit late for you to be out and about.”
Did that doll talk to me? I ran around the first floor to search for someone to explain. I didn’t find anyone. “No. It can’t be. You’re so far beyond any pre-programmed doll I’ve seen. This has gotta be a joke.”
She laughed. “Yes, it was me. Be careful. He lurks around in search of victims to bring back to his domain. Do not let him fool you.”
I had no reason to be there, so I tried to leave. All the doors slammed shut at the same time. Either a sudden blast of wind blew through or it was a horror story come to life. The fireplace blew out only to come back to life again. I touched nothing.
“OK. Whoever is playing games, I am done playing. Do you hear me? I do not appreciate this whatsoever.” I walked to the door and it wouldn’t open. “What is this? What do you want? Ashley, I am done playing.”
Music played. Where did it come from? I searched the entire floor and no source of music around.
They didn’t appear all at once. Music started before they even showed themselves. First a violin, second a viola, and the last thing was a cello. Unless I missed my guess, it was a Waltz by Frederic Chopin. Afternoon tea with the Senior Women’s League taught me a lot.
A man took my hand, and we danced around the room which changed. Stone pillars and marble walls, long pea-green velvet curtains draped the windows, and no statues or other decorations.
As we danced, I glanced at the others. There were other women dressed like me. I tried to get somebody’s attention, but they continued to dance as if they noticed nothing.
“Calm down, my sweet little princess,” he said. “Nothing will happen. That I promise you.” He kissed my cheek.
“Uh…” I needed to get my mind working again. I could not look stupid. I refused to appear as such. “I do apologize. I wasn’t invited so I thought the best thing would be to go home. That’s all.”
“You are home. I am Lucien. You?”
Right. Introductions. “I’m Melissa.”
“You wouldn’t happen to be Melissa Auclair?”
“Yes. It seems strange you know who I am.” Rather creepy too.
“A young lady of such refinement would be well known.” He brought my hand up and kissed it. It didn’t feel romantic.
Refinement? “Look, I’m just trying to get home. It’s been a long day.” I also need to have a serious discussion with someone. “If you could point me towards the door, I would greatly appreciate it.” That and you’re giving me the creeps.
“The night is not done yet, my sweet.” He kissed my hand again. “A couple more dances perhaps. Yes? Then something to soothe the savage beast that resides within.”
What was it they said about hitting a man where it hurt? It would be rather obvious but it wasn’t as if anybody was watching.
The end of the song came, at last. I brought my knee up while I had the chance and he didn’t do anything. No reaction. So now what?
“Do you have a problem?”
“Oh, uh, leg cramp.” I smiled as if that was believable. Not.
“Hmm. Perhaps it would be time to freshen up a bit then.” He smiled as he grabbed my hand.
I tried to wiggle out of his grasp but that didn’t work either. He didn’t squeeze my hand but it was tight. We went down a hallway and stopped at a door.
He pointed to it. “Through that door, you will find everything you need. I will be waiting.”
I smiled while I prayed there was a window. I went inside and no window. Out of desperation, I looked for an explosive. No luck there either. About five different brushes, an entire line of Pearl Essence cosmetics, not to mention a man waiting by the door. A bit extreme for a public venue.
I came outside and he held out his hand. He grasped mine again as we returned to the room. “It seems your face has been smeared by someone’s finger. You should have redone yourself while you had the opportunity. You must always represent perfection.”
I wanted to get out of there and he was worried about my makeup? Men. I shouldn’t have expected anything else.
My cheeks hurt from smiling so much. “It’s fine. Look, the sun is almost up. My parents would be worried sick. You know how parents are?”
“Surely such a mature woman would be more concerned about her appearance. Maybe to appear refined. Dignified.”
Why would I be worried about that? He was irritating. I tried to wiggle free again but he only grasped tighter.
Louise appeared in the doorway except she was lifelike and not a doll. Either somebody slipped me something or I got caught in the worst nightmare.
I couldn’t move us towards her so I tried to motion for her to come over. She must’ve gotten the hint. She danced with a man around us.
“He will challenge you until the rising sun. Always lead with your heart, then with your head.” She disappeared.
I didn’t even have a chance to ask her what she meant by that.
The sun shone through the windows. A cacophony of sound took over from the Waltz. The people around us shed to reveal skeletons that danced around the room.
I looked at Lucien and he grew wings. He had long black hair in a ponytail. He smiled as he swept his hand through the air. Everything disappeared.
Talk about a gorgeous bod. What was I thinking? I needed to get out.
“No no no, darling. You are mine now. You were promised to me by another.”
“You were promised to me by — Ashley.”
So that was it. “Whatever it is, was, whatever, will not be fulfilled. You would have to kill me to keep me here. I’m not staying. Either let me out of here or I swear to you —”
“You were supposed to be mine.” His voice got deeper and he growled. “For I am Lucien.”
Lucien, yeah he said that before. Something about all of this seemed too familiar. Almost as if I heard the story. Couldn’t think of it.
“I am the best of all in all things. You should be at my feet begging to be by my side. Not begging to leave.”
What was it with this guy? He was so… so… that’s it. “You’re Lucien. The demon who steals all things loving and kind.” It took me a while. “Unless someone promises another to you, you can’t take them.” There was something else. I hated it when my brain refused to function.
I had to remember. All those stories during Sunday brunch over and over again. How come I couldn’t? “On top of that, you want me to stay here with you? You’re nothing but a butt ugly teeny weeny little boy. Look at you, I bet you don’t even have a driver’s license, don’t drink, or even had sex yet.”
His face turned tomato red and steam escaped his ears. He screamed and the next thing I knew I was in my room. More like it.
I looked at the time and it was nine o’clock at night. Too early for bed but I was exhausted. I stripped and dropped my head onto my pillow. That was it. He only had from sundown to sunup to lure someone into his domain. Why couldn’t I remember that when it counted?
I got up, avoided the parents, and went over to Ashley’s. If I told her once, I told her a million times to not put the key in the roses. A little too obvious. After a groan, I got into her house and all the way upstairs in her room.
Wall-to-wall pictures and posters of herself in various poses. He said I was vain? Yeah. He never saw this.
I pinched her nose and waited until she woke up. “Oh. Surprised to see me? That I’m still here? That I even still exist in this plane of existence? Huh? You think you could get rid of me that easy? You’re not just a nobody. You’re an idiot. And to think I considered you an equal. You are so pathetic. From this day forward, we are not even.” I turned around to leave.
Ashley rubbed her nose. “He promised me an endless life if I delivered the most beautiful girl I knew. Of course, that had to be you.”
I knew she was desperate, but please. “What do you think I am?” I asked. “Huh? Just forget it. I hope you are so happy with yourself. Oh and don’t be surprised if the entire school knows how you pick your clothes from the second-hand store.”
She opened her mouth wide. “I never. You don’t know what it’s like. Oh, there goes Melissa’s friend. Oh, you’re Melissa’s friend. My name is Ashley Sorrenson.”
“Hmm, well that just proves which one is the better one. Oh and, Brain Mayhew will be mine now. Ta ta.” I blew her a kiss.
She screamed so loud it woke her parents up. I waved to them as I left. I got back home and made myself some breakfast. It was time to think about all of what happened.
Please visit Calliope on her blog: https://calliopenjosstories.home.blog/