The house next door, p.1
The House Next Door, p.1Delilah Brennan
The House Next Door
Copyright 2014 All rights reserved.
The House Next Door
A Jones Family Mystery
By Delilah Brennan
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Copyright 2014, Delilah Brennan, all rights reserved.
Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
The moon rose high in a black ink sky, illuminating the house in a most creepy way. Jenna huddled closer to her sister in the narrow window seat and tried to calm the case of jitters that threatened to work its way into all out hysteria. Her breath misted in front of her face, fogging the window the girls stared out of; one shaky hand fisted around the blue cotton sleeve of her t-shirt and wiped the cool glass clear. There, that was better.
Of course, now both girls had an unobstructed view of the creepy old house next door and while Jenna couldn’t speak for her sister Keira, she herself wasn’t at all certain that was a good thing. The old Jamison house scared her, plain and simple. The ancient wood siding was chipped and worn, and she thought the peaked turrets looked like knobby fingers stretching toward the sky, waiting to pluck things out of the air like King Kong. If, she reasoned, shivering a little, King Kong was a creepy old house.
These thoughts she kept to herself, fearing her older sister would make fun of her or otherwise mock her again for having a wild imagination. Keira was fifteen and wasn’t scared of anything, while Jenna was only eleven and three quarters and scared of everything. She jumped at loud noises, scrunched up her shoulders at shadows and held her breath when she rode her bicycle past the graveyard at the end of their road-just in case.
"I'm cold." She complained, leaning back a little so that she didn’t breathe on the window and fog the glass this time.
"Just a little while longer. You aren’t scared are you?"
"No," Jenna denied a little too quickly. "I'm tired. There's a difference."
"Yeah, right. You're probably scared."
"Am not," she frowned, leaning fractionally closer to her sister, "Do you think we'll see anything?" She asked after a moment.
"How should I know?" Keira shrugged. "Maybe. We just have to wait."
"For how long?" Jenna made it about thirty seconds before she began to squirm again.
"As long as it takes. I don't know. If you're too scared, then just go to bed, Jen."
"I already told you I'm not scared. It's just a house. Besides, ghosts aren’t even real."
"Well, Marci said she saw something over there and she lives on the other side of that eyesore and she watches it all the time so she should know."
"I guess." She caught her lip between her teeth and squinted into the shadows. "Do you think she's up watching, too?"
"She said she would be."
Keira's best friend Marci lived in the two story Victorian style home next door to the Jamison house. The basic style of the houses were so similar Jenna thought they must have come from the same building plan, but Marci's was about a hundred times nicer and it had a big wide front porch with a swing that looked a lot like the one on Keira and Jenna's own porch.
"I'm thirsty." Jenna complained. "And hungry, too."
"You're always hungry."
"Well I can’t help it. I'm going down to the kitchen."
"Fine." Keira waved her off without taking her eyes off the dark silent house on the other side of the glass.
"Come with me." Jenna paused by the door, feeling the shiver creep along the edge of her spine to make her tremble in the dark. One hand clutched the icy door knob and when she looked back, the only thing she could see of her sister in the pitch black room was the faint gleam of her hair.
The pale strands caught the moonlight and glowed around her head like a halo, making Keira look a little like an angel. Jenna almost laughed at the thought of her snappy sibling as an angelic being. Keira wasn’t bad, but she was certainly no angel and Jenna figured she should know.
"Please, I don't want to go by myself." She pleaded, not knowing what she would do if her sister refused to go with her. Could she walk down the dark, empty stairwell and past the front door, through the family room and down the hall to the kitchen on her own? She didn’t think so.
"Bring me back a soda."
"Keira, I'm serious."
"Then forget it." Jenna grumbled with a wistful look at the door. She really was thirsty.
“Oh, alright,” Keira sighed, unfolding her legs from beneath her and using her slender arms to push off of the seat. “But let’s make it quick, I don’t want to miss anything.”
“Okay!” Jenna nodded agreement, feeling a surge of gratitude that she wouldn’t have to brave the eerie quiet of the downstairs by herself.
“Shhh,” Keira held a finger to her lips. “We can’t wake Mom.”
“I know that.” Jenna shot her sister a look but followed silently in her wake. The hardest part was opening the door without making that creaking sound that seemed to echo like a shot in the dark. After that, the going was easy enough. The girls had been sneaking down to the kitchen for years, since before their older sister Blake had still lived at home. They knew instinctively to avoid the third step from the bottom and which boards in the living room creaked. Blake had taught Keira who’d taken Jenna under her wing when Blake had gone off to college two years ago. They’d been happily pilfering Oreos and soda ever since. They also snuck into each other's rooms at least twice a week.
Sometimes Keira raided the kitchen on her own and brought an assortment of stolen snacks from the well-stocked pantry off the kitchen and the two would sit up and talk. Rather, Keira would talk and Jenna would listen. But sometimes Jenna would take center stage in their private conversations, mostly so that her sister could tell her how to handle this problem or that, or to explain what she should have done. Since Keira was fifteen, she knew about boys and school and the other million embarrassing things that Jenna faced on a daily basis.
At eleven and three quarters she was the tallest girl in her class-and she wore braces. Some weeks she was the one who did most of the talking. Not that it really changed much of anything at all. She still felt awkward and on display in the morning, but not being alone usually helped take her mind off her trouble. And if Keira sometimes scolded her for being afraid of her own shadow, well that wasn’t so bad. Keira even let her borrow her clothes. The tops were usually a little on the big side, but the pants fit Jenna nearly as well as her own- the only benefit she could see to being tall.
“Okay let’s make this quick.” Keira reminded her as she flipped the switch to turn on the pale golden light over the shiny double kitchen sink.
“Salty or sweet?”
“Caramel.” She sighed, knowing full well she couldn’t eat her favorite treat, not for another six months. Once these braces come off, she vowed, I’m going to buy all the caramel and taffy I can find.
“No,” Keira answered, snagging a box of chocolate chip cookies from the top shelf of the pantry. “It’ll stick to your braces.”
“Everything sticks to my braces.” Jenna whispered back, thoroughly disgusted with the metal that adorned her teeth.
“Quit complaining. This is October already. You get them off in March. At least you won’t have to go through high school with them. A lot of people aren’t so luc
“You and Blake didn’t have to get them at all.” She pointed out.
“So? Here,” Keira thrust the cookies and a bottle of water into Jenna’s thin arms and took a cola out of the fridge for herself. “Let’s go.”
They made their way back to their rooms on swift, hushed feet, and had the door firmly closed, their original posts resumed, in a matter of minutes. The box of cookies dwindled into crumbs between them as the night wore on.
Evening blended seamlessly into middle of the night and Jenna could see a fine mist begin to coat the surfaces below in their sleepy little Pennsylvania neighborhood. Cars and blades of grass took on the faint glittery sheen of the dew and Jenna felt herself finally begin to relax now that her belly was full and nothing untoward had happened. Her eyelids began to close on their own; she felt herself being lulled to sleep by the whisper quiet rhythmic swoosh-swoosh of the ceiling fan.
Keira elbowed her a second later, hard.
“Ow!” She cried, rubbing her side almost as soon as her eyes snapped open.
“Look!” Keira gasped, grabbing her sister’s arm and yanking her back to the middle of the window seat with enough force to nearly topple them both onto the floor. “Look!” She commanded again in a high pitched tone.
“Oh!” Jenna paled. A light was on in the house across the street! A light was on in the empty house across the street.
Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
"Oh, no, oh no, oh no.” Keira chanted. Jenna shrieked. There was someone over there! She could see the shadow of a man walk slowly past the lit up second floor window. Jenna could hardly believe what her own eyes were telling her. Surely it wasn’t possible-ghosts weren’t real; things like this didn’t happen to people like them anyway; they just didn’t. Nothing interesting ever happened to the Jones family so why should tonight be the exception to that rule?
Jenna took a series of three deep breaths before she turned away from the chilling sight at the window and took hold of Keira’s shoulders.
“Calm down. There’s got to be some sort of explanation.”
“It’s a ghost-I know it is! Marci was right!” She blurted, still wearing that deer in the headlights look.
“Keira,” Jenna frowned at her older sister, trying again to help her see reason. “The bible says there are no ghosts running around haunting empty old houses. It’s not real.”
“The bible…” Keira uttered, her blue eyes focusing on Jenna for the first time, as though she were truly seeing her sister now. “You…you’re right.” She exhaled after a pause, seemingly in control of herself once again.
Keira and Jenna heard the worried cry at the same moment and turned together just in time to see their mother come barreling through the bedroom door wearing her own deer in the headlights look. Uh-oh.
“What’s going on in here? Who’s screaming? I heard screaming.”
For the first time, Jenna noticed that her mom, an older, blonder version of Keira, toted an aluminum baseball bat in her left hand. Her right was clutching the doorknob in a white knuckled grip.
“Mom,” Keira stepped forward and made a visible effort to keep her voice down this time, “there’s something…” she paused, “someone next door.”
“The Jamison‘s old house?” Mom frowned but released the door knob long enough to advance into the room. “Is he watching the house? Show me.” She instructed her daughters in her brusque ‘mom’ voice, all business now.
“He’s not on the sidewalk, Mom,” Keira rubbed her hands up and down her arms while she talked. “He’s in the house. On the second floor. Look.”
“He could be a woman.”
“Excuse me?” Mrs. Jones’s gaze cut to her youngest daughter briefly before she carefully propped the baseball bat against the side of the window and placed two hands on the eggshell white window seat, leaning forward and squinting into the dark night.
“Well we don’t know for sure if it’s a man or a woman over there.” Jenna responded, shivering a little in delayed reaction.
“I don’t see anything.” She said after a moment.
“You don’t see him?” Keira’s brow furrowed and she hastily edged past her sister to take a place next to her mother in the window seat. “I don’t…oh! There! Look Mom-he’s downstairs now! The light just came on again.”
“Or she.” Jenna murmured automatically though no one was paying attention. She darted to the window, elbowing her way in between her mom and Keira to get a better view of the Jamison house-a house that was getting more eerie by the minute. Still, she refused to believe that a ghost walked the halls of the house next door and apparently that was a view that her mother shared because a moment later, Mrs. Jones abruptly straightened and turned away from her vantage point at the window.
Jenna watched her stride from the room muttering something about the police and could tell that she was in full mom mode now-Carla Jones was a force to be reckoned with; immediately a sense of calm washed over Jenna. The welcome reprieve from the heart pounding fear of the past ten or fifteen minutes left her feeling a little weak and spent and she walked over to the bed and dropped down to the mattress with a sigh.
Keira continued to watch the house, crawling into the window and leaning forward to tuck her legs beneath her.
“What are you doing?”
“Making sure he doesn’t get away.” Keira replied without taking her eyes from the empty house.
“I don’t think he’s going anywhere.”
“But he might.”
“What are you going to do if he does get away?”
“I-” Keira frowned and glanced toward her sister.
“It’s not like you can follow him or anything.” Jenna pointed out reasonably, curling up to sit cross-legged on the bed. The thick comforter felt smooth and cool beneath legs left bare by the old pair of sky blue shorts that made up the bottom half of her usual pajamas and she was suddenly glad she’d decided not to pack up the heavy blanket and stow it in the closet for the season-she rarely dug out her winter things before the beginning of November. She would have liked very much to wrap up in the soft yet sturdy material but she didn’t want Keira to think she was being a baby.
“Well, maybe I can’t follow him,” Keira conceded before turning back to her surveillance duty, “but if he does leave I can at least see which way he goes. That way the police can catch him.”
“Why do you think it’s a man?” Jenna uncurled her legs and flipped onto her stomach to stretch out against the covers.
“I don’t know. I guess because of the way he walks. He just reminds me of a man I guess. And the person looked tall, don’t you think?” She asked without looking at Jenna.
“I guess so.” Jenna shrugged and began to twirl the fringe from her pillow case around her finger, tightening each thread around her index finger before releasing it and moving on to the next one.
“Man or woman…I can’t believe this is happening.”
“Yeah, I know.” Jenna agreed wholeheartedly. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a house prowler in this neighborhood, have you?”
“No I don’t think so. Ummm…” Keira cleared her throat and now she did toss a look over her shoulder. “About earlier,” she spoke haltingly, “when I thought he was a…well, you know,” she swallowed, “don’t tell anyone okay?”
“That you thought he was a ghost?”
“Yeah.” Keira shifted uncomfortably in the normally cozy window seat.
“Okay, I won’t tell anyone.” Jenna promised, secretly thrilled that Keira needed her to do something important. She wouldn’t let her down.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
With a youth pastor as a father, Jenna had grown up among many pearls of wisdom-and one such kerne
But looks were deceptive because right then, Jenna felt like nothing would ever be normal again. Her sisters bedroom still sported the same pale shade that looked like a cross between a plum and a lavender bloom. The sequined curtain sheers still hung over the window, filtering the same sunlight across the same beige carpeted floor. None of that had changed; but next door...Jenna shivered and drew her knees to her chest, hugged her hand-made quilt, and stared ominously at the window.
If she were really brave, she would get out of bed as though nothing bad had happened the night before. She might even be so bold as to stand in front of that shiny sun-drenched curtain and glance casually at the scene of the crime. Because a crime had been committed last night-someone had broken the glass out of the back door and prowled through the house next door; she and Keira had heard the police officers say so to mama in the downstairs foyer. And later, long after the flashing red and blue lights had gone, leaving the quiet neighborhood still and peaceful, they had tiptoed to the edge of the stairs and overheard mama's phone call to their fathers hotel.
"Keira?" She leaned over to clasp a hand to her sisters shoulder and gave a light shake when there was no response. "Keira, are you awake?"
"No it isn’t.” Keira groaned.
“Yes it is.”
“Ugh.” She covered her head with a thick pillow and rolled onto her side, taking the red patchwork quilt with her. “What time is it?” She asked, her voice muffled by the bedding.
“You want to know what time it is?”
The pile of blankets nodded and Jenna scooted to the end of the bed to peer at the clock that sat across the room on her sisters desk. “It’s six seventeen.”
The House Next Door by Delilah Brennan / History & Fiction have rating 3 out of 5 / Based on39 votes