Ok, we should know how this works. This is the start of a long story cycle. The links will be laid out in sections to cut down the total number we see on each post. You will be able to follow from week to week as needed when new sections appear.
The house had been empty for quite some time, long enough the rot and creep had taken over. It had once been the biggest house on the street, the last house of the cul-de-sac. But streets changed, had grown longer in the name of progress. Old lady Marebelle lived in it for much longer than anyone could remember. She raised her family, and then the grand kids. When she passed on, none of the kids had come back. They had their own homes, their own lives.
The house sat, and it aged, and weeds grew in the yard, vines grew up and over the walls. At one point the old lady’s son had worked at the place to build it up again. He had cleaned up the yard and the walls; stripped away old paint and broken siding and made the place sparkle again. But he never finished the project. The young man had fallen, a blood clot found its way to his lungs from his legs. It was said that he died in quite a bit of pain. The echoes of it etched into his face when he was found in the back yard behind the fence, found only because of the smell.
No one came back to the place.
And now a car in the driveway. No one saw who owned it, or who came or went from the house. But the car sat in the driveway every day for a week.
“I don’t like it,” Jerome said. He peeked through the blinds from his house across the street.
Arial flipped the eggs in the pan before she did the same to the potatoes that still snapped and spit in the hot oil. “Quit looking out the blinds,” she said. “People can see you.”
He looked back at her over his shoulder, the blinds still cracked open by his thumb on a slat. “Who’s gonna see me? The neighbors are all at work and nobody’s been in that house in ages.”
She turned off the burners and dropped the eggs and potatoes on a couple plates. As she turned away from the counter with a plate in each hand she said, “Someone driving by. ‘Sides, nosey doesn’t suit you.”
”Where’s the ketchup,” he said as he sat at the table across from her. His eyes popped open in surprise when he saw it right next to his plate. He covered his potatoes and then his eggs in red before he set the bottle down in the center of the table. “Don’t you think we would have seen a moving van or something? People don’t just move in with nothing.”
“Maybe they moved in overnight and got rid of the van before morning?”
“No, I don’t think so. We would have heard something,” he said. “There hasn’t been anything this week, not even the Miller’s dog barking in the middle of the night.”
Arial mopped at some runny egg with a bit of toast and popped it into her mouth. She glanced at the window while she chewed. The Miller’s dog, Rufus, had been gone for close to a month. Jessica had stopped by a couple weeks back and asked if they had seen him. Her brow crinkled as she tried to remember if she had told Jerome or not. She dipped another piece of her toast into the runny egg without a word.
Jerome woke to the blaring chime of his alarm. Through bleary eyes he fumbled with his phone to turn it off, though not before it had sent waves of irritation through him and spoiled the bit of peace he had found during the last few minutes of sleep. Arial wasn’t in bed next to him. He had awakened alone and didn’t see any sign to tell him where she had gone.
At first he hadn’t thought much about it. Probably jumped in the shower before him, but the water wasn’t running. He didn’t see any light in the hall from the bathroom either.
He had thrown on his robe and wandered through the house to the kitchen. She would be there; he was sure of it. Arial had made them breakfast as long as he could remember. He had always thought it odd but never asked her about it. Frankly, she made better eggs than he did and he enjoyed the moment of pampering with fresh coffee and a hot breakfast to start his day. But she wasn’t in the kitchen either.
Jerome pushed it from his mind for the moment when he made his way into the bathroom. The need to relieve himself from the night before superseded anything. She hadn’t left him a note on the mirror. They had built on the habit over the years in order to keep each other informed if something came up and they weren’t able to talk. They could always text later but the note was a personal touch that he had grown to like. Maybe she hadn’t gone far and he would still see her before she went to work.
As he finished in the bathroom he heard the screen door slam shut. He had meant to adjust the closing mechanism a while ago but hadn’t had a chance to tinker with it yet. In the meantime, the door would shut with a vengeance if you didn’t catch it and close it manually.
Arial had gone straight into the kitchen with a box of donuts and some juice. A light smile played at the corner of her lips as she pulled a couple plates from the cupboard and set them on the counter.
“You didn’t leave a note.” Jerome scratched at his belly through his robe as he walked into the kitchen.
She glanced at him across the counter. “Sorry, I didn’t think you would be up before I got back.” Ariel placed a couple crullers on a plate and pushed it toward him and then filled a glass with orange juice and pushed it next to the plate.
He didn’t say anything, didn’t have any words this early in the morning. Instead he picked up the plate and the glass and sat at the dining room table. “Coffee?”
“They didn’t have your favorite but I picked up some dark roast.” Arial placed the cream and sugar along with a cup of steaming black coffee in front of him. She then grabbed her plate and another cup of juice. “You had been sleeping so well I didn’t want to wake you.”
“Thank you.” This had been one of the first nights in a week that he had slept all the way through. He had complained to his doctor a few weeks ago that he was having trouble sleeping, thought it might be the new medication, prescribed on his last visit.
“Ran into the new neighbor.” She swirled her spoon in her coffee as the brown and the white homogenized into a soft caramel color.
A bunch of different thoughts raced through Jerome’s mind all at once. His curiosity about the neighbor would get the better of him if he let it. “Yeah, what’s he like?” Play it cool he thought. He didn’t want to get her all riled up about his fascination again.
“Wasn’t real talkative, like he wanted to get back in the house right away instead of talk. He didn’t even say hi.”
“Did you get his name? Is he related to the Ankon’s?”
“Ya know, it didn’t come up. I said hi and introduced myself but he just let it hang there.”
He popped the last bite of a cruller into his mouth and washed it down with a big drink of coffee. “Maybe he’s shy?”
“I don’t know. He checked his mailbox and went straight inside after that. I guess he was in a hurry.”
Jerome looked into the steamy coffee cup for a short time, enough to bring a lull into the conversation. He didn’t have anything to add and Arial hadn’t learned any important information from the guy. Their new neighbor had gotten hiding down to a science. They never saw him, at least not until that morning. Up until now he hadn’t even known that it was a man who had taken over the house across the street.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.