“Wow. That’s quite a house. Are you sure you want to live here, Lex?”
Alex ignored Vanessa’s question and stepped out of the car to admire the historic manner she’d inherited. She had known about the house her grandfather owned but refused to live in. He’d been a feeble man in life and a place of this grandeur was not something he could maintain, though he had the money for it. Often, she had asked about the manner. His answers were ever vague or mumbled. This was her first time seeing it in person.
“Lex?” Vanessa asked getting out of the car’s passenger side. “Are you listening to me?”
“I will when you say something worth listening to,” Alex replied with a jesting wink.
Vanessa frowned. “Hurtful.”
“Come on. I want to see what it looks like on the inside.”
“This is a bad idea. Or do you care nothing for the rumours?”
Alex began the climb up the path from the driveway to the front door. It was overgrown with vines and other weeds, but the flowerbeds along either side looked promising. Though they would require a lot of work, they were still in great shape. A few flowers poked out from the encroaching grasses, adding splashes of colour. “They’re just rumours,” she said bending down to stroke the petals of a Tigerlily growing proudly on its own. “But that reminds me. We should go check out the grave.”
“Heck yeah! A woman died here mysteriously back who-knows-when, her spirit is said to haunt the manner, and you think I won’t be afraid?”
Alex stood up and glanced at her friend in amusement. “You watch too many horror shows.” Though she didn’t disbelieve in the supernatural, she also didn’t put much stock in rumours. “Lots of places built in the era this house was erected are claimed to be haunted. It adds intrigue. When it comes down to it, they’re just stories, Nessa.”
Vanessa crossed her arms over her chest, her narrow face taking on a familiar defiant look. There was a stubbornness in her bright blue eyes. “Why do you think your grandfather refused to live here?”
“Because he had a heart condition that made him unable to take care of it,” Alex said in equal stubbornness. “The walk from the car to the door alone would have killed him.”
“Then why didn’t he sell it?”
“I don’t know,” she admitted with a carefree shrug. “Maybe he wanted it to stay in the family. You know. Inheritance and all that.”
Vanessa didn’t seem convinced.
“Despite what you say, I know you want to see the inside of this place.”
A slow smiled crept up Vanessa’s face. “I’ve never been inside a mansion before.”
“Mansion? Girl, you exaggerate,” Alex laughed.
“Look at it, Lex!” Vanessa said flinging her arms wide as though to demonstrate its enormity. “This house has at least eight bathrooms in it, guaranteed. That makes it a mansion. Plus, look at the grounds. Normal houses don’t have grounds. They have yards. Maybe. If they’re outside the city.”
Vanessa rolled her eyes. “Make fun all you want. This house is, like, twenty times bigger than the one I grew up in.”
“Was that a yes to going inside?”
“Well, I’m not going to let you go in alone. Especially if it’s haunted like the rumours say.”
Alex placed an arm around her friend’s shoulders. “Because you’re going to protect me?”
“Come on. I’ve been dying to explore this place since I found that old photograph in my grandfather’s jacket pocket.”
“Did you have to use dying just now?”
Alex pulled the key from her purse and climbed the steps to the porch. It was a little bit rundown from lack of use, and it required a new coat of paint, but the boards were still solid under her feet. The detailing on the railing was remarkable, and she stopped to admire this. “Wow. This is incredible.”
“You’ve certainly got your work cut out for you if you want to restore this place. When was the contractor going to come?”
“Tomorrow,” Alex said returning to the goal of getting inside. The lock was rusted. A few wiggles and the latch opened with a loud click. “I guess some new doorknobs are in order. I’ll put that on the to-do list.”
Vanessa pulled out her phone.
“What are you doing?”
She looked at her confused. “I’m making you a to-do list.”
“You’re so anal.”
“It’s called being organized,” Vanessa corrected with a huff.
Alex laughed and pushed the heavy door open. It swung inward with a groan, the hinges squeaking painfully.
“Hinge lubricant,” Vanessa said as she added it to the list.
“Girl, look up from your phone for a second and look at this!” Alex said stepping into the house. Though everything was covered in a thick layer of dust, the beauty of the house could not be masked. Every aspect of the grand entrance and the rooms she could see beyond was elegant. It was like travelling back to a decidedly classier time.
To either side of the entrance were sitting rooms with large fireplaces and furniture cloaked in white sheets. As she walked further in, she saw that the main hall opened into a circular space. A massive staircase encircled the whole thing leading to a balcony that marked the second floor. Statues placed sporadically along the walls stared at her with empty eyes, and an ornamental grandfather clock stood impressively next to the opening of the hall’s continuation.
“It’s grand, isn’t it?” Alex said.
“It’s creepy,” Vanessa said.
“Oh, come on. This place is incredible!”
“It is beautiful,” Vanessa agreed grudgingly. She hugged herself and shivered. “Is it just me, or does the heat of summer not penetrate? It’s freezing in here.”
“That’s because you’re all skin and bones,” Alex said. “If you had a little meat on you, like this,” she said dancing a little jig to emphasize her curvy figure, “you wouldn’t always be so cold.”
“Just because you’re bootylicious, doesn’t mean you need to rub it in my face,” Vanessa said with a playful pout.
Alex continued her dance, showing off her Latino heritage until Vanessa joined in. Though her friend wasn’t the greatest dancer, they salsa-ed their way to the next room, which happened to be the kitchen.
“Maybe I should stick to the edible salsa,” Vanessa said out of breath. Her face was flushed red from the exertion of physical activity.
Alex laughed. She had hardly broken a sweat, though she could feel heat on her neck from the thick dark hair that hung down to her tailbone. She quickly pulled this back into a messy poof and tied it with the band she kept on her wrist for just such occasions. “I don’t think we’ll find any here,” she said checking the cupboards. "Everything is thankfully empty.” She closed the cupboard and peered out the window over the sink. “Check out the view back here.”
Vanessa moved to a set of glass doors. “Wow. Those are some impressive gardens. I wonder what they would look like with proper care?”
“I guess we’ll have to put that on the list.”
“Hmm,” Vanessa hummed pulling out her phone. “Weed whacker. Lawn mower. Gardening tools. Gardening gloves. Flowers.”
“Spontaneity,” Alex adding pulling the phone from Vanessa’s hands and pushing the doors open at the same time.
“I wonder where the gave is,” she said walking to the edge of the cobbled patio. “Come, Nessa. You’ll have to come hunt for the headstone with me if you want your phone back.”
“Fine. But if we see a ghost anywhere, know that I’m never coming to visit you as long as you live in this house.”
Alex rolled her eyes with a shake of her head and stepped out onto the grass. The gardens extended quite a way from the house, almost to the point where the trees began. “Well, whoever lived here back when it was lived in must have really enjoyed gardening.”
“I hate to point it out, but where do you suppose that trail leads?” Vanessa asked pointing to the right.
It took a second for Alex to see what Vanessa had spotted. “Good eye, Nessa,” she praised. Between two bushes was a trail of flat stones leading off into the woods. She giddily followed this to where a single headstone stood. It was unmarked and had no decoration carved into it. Vines were creeping over it, nearly claiming it as part of the forest. She pulled some of these away to get a better look.
“No name, right?”
“No name, no date, no anything.”
“Let’s go back, Lex. We’re attracting bugs.”
Alex acquiesced the request and followed Vanessa back to the house. They spent the next few hours exploring and adding to the to-do list. Once they had completed their tour, they returned to the town and checked in at the hotel.
The next day saw them back at the house following the contractor from room to room. With the go-ahead from him, they began the process of cleaning house. Another of their friends arrived to help with the clean-up process, as well as Vanessa’s mom. Together, they got the kitchen, one sitting room, a bathroom, and one bedroom ready for use. Alex then moved into the bedroom despite Vanessa’s protests.
“Are you sure you don’t want to stay at the hotel with us?”
“Nessa, I’ll be fine.”
“We’ll be back first thing in the morning with breakfast,” Vanessa’s mom said sweetly.
“Thanks, Mrs. M.”
With the house to herself, and the day drawing to its close, Alex went to her chosen room to get ready for bed. A part of her was expecting something to happen so that she didn’t sleep as thoroughly as she normally did. Her mind tried to play tricks on her, but by the time morning came, nothing strange had taken place. The house was haunt-free.
Be prepared for part 2 coming next week! Thank you all for reading! :)