Dad was getting the better end of this whole insane deal. He had gotten the offer from a longtime friend . . . supposedly. Tyson Roman had been one of Dad’s college classmates, according to his ramblings on the plane. They had been members of the same fraternity and lived in the frat house for two years together. They had pulled off several memorable pranks, which he had described in painstaking detail. Tyson was now a business tycoon in Charleston, with several construction companies to his name. This was the first time I had ever heard of him, and I was pretty sure it was the first time for Mother, too.
A few minutes later, we pulled up to the curb of our new home. Once the car stopped, I put away my headphones and looked out through the darkly-tinted window. Our house was really close to the other houses on the street . . . like, I could literally reach out a window and touch the other house. Palm trees lined the sidewalk, and most of the houses had short iron fences guarding their tiny, well-manicured front lawns. It was a big letdown. I was used to not having a single neighbor within earshot.
There were three imposing porches, one on each level of the house, that ran the length of the house. The exterior was a warm honey color with black decorative shutters. Its front façade reminded me of a grand plantation home from Gone with the Wind. I hated to admit the house was really pretty.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” Dad asked, as he hastily got out of the car. I stepped out onto the street as well, but with less enthusiasm. The air was thick and muggy with humidity. It almost took my breath away. It was just as blistering in Kentucky this time of year, but the air didn’t have the same heavy, salty quality. I could almost taste the ocean on my lips.
Mother and I walked toward the house in a daze. Neither one of us uttered a word as Dad continued to gab away about the house.
“It was built in the late seventeen-hundreds—amazing, right?” He was still cheery, but it was obvious he was looking for a reaction from someone at this point. Mother and I shared the same stubborn quality. We walked in silence, ignoring his attempts to get us talking about how “amazing” all of this was—in reality, it was nothing more than a bad dream.
We reached the front porch, which had a beautiful wood floor that glistened like it was encased in glass. The front door was ornate, with white decorative molding and windows at the top and along both sides.
It was very different from our home in Kentucky, but no less impressive. My mother had extravagant taste and Dad would do anything to please her. When she had complained that the original house had been too small, he had a contractor on hand the next day. The new house had marble floors, mahogany paneling, and gold-plated fixtures throughout its massive structure, which spread across the farm like a miniature White House.
Dad finally reached the front door and unlocked it cautiously. It creaked as he swung it open. A crystal chandelier dangled from the tall ceiling, which cast a tranquil glow across the foyer’s wood floor. I looked to the right of the front door. A dark wood staircase wound up like a mahogany corkscrew to the second floor. A long hallway stretched ahead of us toward a set of frosted glass double doors. I took a few steps toward the left to a set of pocket doors. With a little effort, I pulled them apart and revealed a large formal living room.
I was shocked by all the furniture that was perfectly arranged in the room like a museum exhibit. I walked across the hall and opened another set of pocket doors next to the stair case. They squeaked from disuse, and once again I found furniture in perfect arrangements.
It looked as if someone already lived here and we were the house guests. Everywhere I looked there were ornate furniture, antique wall hangings, and luxurious velvet curtains enveloping both rooms. My mother was not into antiques. I didn’t see any of these things lasting very long.
“I thought that our things were being shipped?” she asked, her jaw tight as she paced between the two adjacent rooms.
After several hurried looks back and forth, she stopped next to a round table placed in the center of the foyer. She touched the large silk flower arrangement on the table and frowned. She jerked her hand away as if she would be infected with some terrible interior designing disease. She crossed her arms over her chest and arched one perfect eyebrow, as if to say, You better have a good explanation.
“Some of them are, but the house came completely furnished. The things already here would match the style of the house much more than our own would. Besides, if we empty out the other house, we won’t have anything to sit on when we visit.”
“Fine,” she responded, pursing her lips. It wasn’t like my mother to give up so easily.
“So, what do you think, Casper?” he asked, avoiding any further confrontation with Mother, who had disappeared into one of the rooms.
“No!” squealed Mother. There must have been more fake flowers. I smiled for the first time since we’d left.
“Do you like it?” Dad stood next to me and nudged my shoulder. I let my guard down, feeling a little bit sorry for him for some strange reason.
“It’s pretty Dad.” He didn’t look convinced. “Really,” I repeated.
He finally smiled and took in a deep breath. “Why don’t you go upstairs and pick out a bedroom? There’s four on the second floor and three on the third.”
I nodded and dutifully made my way up the stairs. The staircase curled up the side of the house. I could imagine all the families who had made their first trek up this very staircase and I was comforted by their lingering spirits—as long as they didn’t show up in the middle of the night. Ghost hunting was not on my bucket list.
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Genre – YA / Mystery / Suspense
Rating – PG13 (No sex scenes, some violence)