The story so far:
I took a deep sip of the Sangria and a long drag on my menthols as I gazed at the beauty of the bayfront. The sun would set in the next hour and I wanted to relish the perfect view as I perched comfortably on the porch steps. The Latin music on my MP3 called to my soul. My mother's side of the family hailed from the Americas and Spain, and my mixture of Spanish and Sicilian blood ran deep and hot as the guitarist strummed and the congo drums beat. It had been a fruitful week at the office. Home sales were on the rise and being busy kept my energy high. The life of a realtor was not as glamorous as one might think, but the money was good right now and I felt young, beautiful and successful as I began my long weekend of pampering myself. "This is what life's all about," I thought happily to myself.
As the last ember of my cigarette burned out, I closed my eyes and let the setting sun warm my soul as the music played on. My neighborhood was relatively safe and I felt no danger as I napped there, content with my existence. As a young girl, I had sat in the very same spot with my Grandfather and watched the same unfolding scene, sleeping peacefully as the gulls sang out and the ocean breeze washed over me. I knew many of my neighbors for the better part of my life and knew I was safe and napped with ease, despite the planes above me, approaching for landing.
I awoke to a shadow blocking the sun. I opened my eyes to see Joseph, an elderly man, standing over me. 'How are you this evening, Miss Toni?" he asked as I pulled the earphones away from me. "Good, and you?" I replied. "Not too bad, not too bad," he said hurridly. He was on one of his many walks to patrol the neighborhood and hand out lemons from his tree. He handed me a small bag and I thanked him kindly. "I have some really yummy breaded steak all ready for cooking..." I tempted. "Would you like some?" "If it's not too much bother, Miss Toni," he added. "Don't you go to any trouble, now". "No problem....come on in!" I beckoned. We entered the livingroom and I offered him a seat and headed to the fridge to package him up a nice slice or two of my Grandmother's recipe. He called out to me...."did you see that nice lady who was by this way earlier today?" 'No....who was she?" I asked. "She said she was looking for you, but I did not get her name. I gave her a pen to leave you a note. Did you get it?" I walked back to him to hand him his dinner and glanced at the door. There was no note. "No, I didn't", I said. "Well, maybe she'll come and swing back by," he offered. "Nice lady. Said she knew your grandparents." "Oh...Really?" My curiosity piqued. "Sure thing, sure thing," he reported. "Well, I have to be on my way, Miss Toni. You say hello to that lovely lady for me when she comes back around." " I will, Joe....thanks for the lemons!" "Thank you!," he replied, as he hurried off lifting the bag of food as a gesture of gratitude.
The air was colder now, and the light from the remaining sun paletted the horizon with brilliant violet and fushia brushstrokes. I wanted to stay outside a little longer so I went to my bedroom to grab a light jacket. "That's funny." I thought. The closet door was slid open a bit. "Did I leave that open when I got home?" I thought about it and shrugged off the thought as fast as it came. I pulled the cord dangling from the ceiling to turn off the light bulb and slid the door back into place. My Grandmother had always been fussy about every detail of her house and I sometimes wondered if her spirit wasn't always beside me, prompting me to keep it the way she had for so many years. I remebered at how honored I had felt when I found out she had willed the home to me and looked lovingly around before existing the bedroom that was once hers and retreating back to my spot on the porch.
As the day faded away and the street lights began to flicker, my phone rang. I pulled it from my jeans pocket and smiled. It was my sister. "Hey you, what's up?" I asked her. "Nothing much. What kind of plans do you have for the weekend?" she asked. "Nothing but pure indulgence," I replied. I am going to the beach tomorrow and to the spa on Sunday. Wanna come along?" "Let me get back to you on that. We were thinking about grilling up some food and watching the pre-season games over here". Her husband was an avid football enthusiast. "Maybe I'll swing by, then. We can always do the spa thing on Monday, if you wanna." "Sounds good," she said." Give me a call later tonight." "Will do...later." I hung up and happily looked forward to visiting with her. Even though she was younger than me, she was always the fiercer child, running around town with the boys, ever the tom-boy, herself. She was newly married and needed a friend. Forming bonds with men was an issue we both had problems with after enduring years of abuse as kids. We spent many a night huddled in one or the other's bunk beds for companionship and protection. We spent many nights, too, huddled clothless and crying in the closet for such ommissions as leaving a fork in the sink or having a shoe untied. No matter how bad it got, we found solice in eachother's arms. We didn't talk much about it anymore, but the inert understanding was there.
The next plane loomed above as I took one last drag on my cig and got up to head into the house. As I stepped inside and looked out, a young raven haired girl waived from the corner. I smiled and waived back, wondering where her guardian was. I looked further out and saw her mother catching up to her and looking up at me to see what had entranced her daughter so. I waived again and closed the door, locking it tight with the old deadblot, keyed inside and out.
I tossed my jacket carelessly on the armchair and cranked up my C.D. player to listen to some metal while I cooked. I had a wide range of musical interests and felt like rocking out in my kitchen. Food on the stovetop, I began my jam session. I dipped and swung in the doorway like a stripper on stage, blowing off the long workweek. "Hello?" The voice scared the crap out of me as I swung around, heart pounding from "stripping" and fear. "You bitch!!" I laughed. It was my sister standing right behind me, musing over my sultry display. She had a key. We all had keys to eachother's homes.....aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, second cousins twice removed....my music had been so loud, I hadn't heard the doorbell or the lock turning. I walked past her, panting and turned down the music. "What are you doing here? I thought you were at home..." I asked. 'I never said I was....you just assumed so. No, I was down at Mona Lisa's buying Italian Sausages for the party," she replied. "I just thought I'd stop by for a minute." "Wanna eat with me? I asked. " I can't stay long...you know how Terry gets.." We sat on the couch and chatted about our weeks with eachother. "What a SLOB," she taunted, grabbing my jacket off the chair from under her. "It's one thing out of place," I retorted. "Can I borrow one? It's a little chilly out there and I need to be heading home," she asked. "Help yourself...you know where to find 'em," I offered. She headed to my bedroom to grab a sweater. 'What's wrong with tht lightbulb?" she called out. "I don't know...it was fine a little while ago!" I hollered back from the kitchen. "You know how old the wiring and plumbing is here....I need to replace the one in the basement, too." I yelled. She walked into the kitchen. "I hate that friggin basement," she shuddered. "What's wrong with it? Afraid of ghosties?" I laughed, but knew that my question was not without merit. That house had it's fair share of paranormal activity that we all tried to ignore. "I just do," she retorted. "Gotta go." We hugged and I locked the door behind her and sat down for some great food, more wine and rock and roll.
It was a few minutes past ten when I looked up sleepily from the couch. The early news was on t.v. I decided not to watch the same old feel good news stories. Local stations were trying to portray a family friendly feeling to their broadcast audiences and doggie playgroups, walk-a-thons for better ozone and the world's biggest cookie bake-off were not my cup of tea. I dragged myself from my seat, grabbed the remote, cut off the t.v. and headed for the bathroom. I didn't bother to turn on the light as I peed. Wishing I didn't have to get up, a "bump" in the house grabbed my attention. I perked up and listened. Nothing. "She's got me scared of ghosts in my own house," I grumbled under my breath. I pulled up my jeans and headed for the sink. Turning off the water, I heard another sound. I definately heard another sound! I stood still for a moment listening intently. "This is stupid," I told myself and entered the hallway. I plopped down on my bed and grabbed my last cigarette from the dresser top and lit it up. Smoking always calmed my nerves. I sat up to reach the ashtray and noticed the closet door open again. I figured my sister hadn't closed it this time and got up to slide it shut. As I reached out, an ominous chill lept up my spine. The warning was too late! I heard the scream of terror escaping my clenched throat as an arm reached out, grabbing mine......