All through his lectures that day, Elijah couldn’t stop thinking about the old building. What secrets was it hiding? Why did no one even care to go there? Where were the owners and why didn’t they care to renovate the building? How long ago had they chosen to abandon their home and why? These questions and more continued to plague him. They kept running through his head and bouncing around in such a manner that he was deaf to the teachings of all the lecturers who stood at the front of the class. He was no designer or landscaper, but it was obvious to him that the house would make an amazing place if it was well taken care of. And they just let it go to waste. And the two dolls. Why were they both blind? From his little observation, the eyes had been ripped out and it seemed like it had been a hasty action. Who does that? Who would rip out the eyes of dolls, inanimate objects? Whoever had done it must have been troubled a great deal.
As the voice of the lecturer droned on and on and Elijah stared distractedly at him, he could not help but wonder why he had even bothered to come to school even though he had known that he was already late. A stubborn voice at the back of his head poked him and said, You must have forgotten that you are failing and currently on probation. What were you told in that last meeting with the Dean? Get your act together else, you will be thrown out. Elijah nodded his head sleepily as he remembered, he could not afford to get kicked out of school else his stingy parents would withdraw all his privileges. Originally, till he had turned eleven, Elijah had been the last son in a bunch of four. He had grown up watching his parents constantly arguing and hitting each other. Never had he and his brothers ever interfered until that fateful night.
That night long ago had been the worst of his life so far. His father, cradling his precious bottle of Scotch had stabbed his mother to death. Anytime the memories bombarded Elijah, he always could not help but curse his father. And to think that the argument had been about something as trivial as the fact that his father had found his soup too spicy. That day about twelve years ago was always very vivid in Elijah’s mind. He would always remember the look that had clouded his father’s face as soon as he had tasted the soup that night. He had bolted up, his friend the bottle still in his hand, and with the other hand, he had given his wife, Elijah’s mother a slap. The sound of that slap had resounded through the whole room and the four brothers had stared at their parents in horror. It was not like that was the first time they had seen their father laid his hands on their mother and of course, as expected, their mother reacted. She replied their father with yet another loud slap.
Soon enough, the dining table was in chaos, dishes and utensils had clattered to the floor, the food was spilled all over and the walls were stained with the rejected soup. Glass crunched under the feet of their parents as they exchanged words and wrestled each other. The four young boys sat shivering in their seats, their eyes fixated on the actions that were unfolding before them. Soon enough, the worst happened. Seeing their parents argue and fight was not unusual to the boys but things had gone completely out of hand that night. The usual routine when these fights occurred was that their neighbors would rush into the house, while some took the boys to their home, the others would try to resolve the issue. But on that day twelve years ago, by the time the neighbors came on their usual rounds, they met four little boys huddled together underneath the table, staring at the lifeless body of their mother. The blood seeping from the gaping hole in her stomach had encircled them and the boys were completely soaked and sticky. Their large blue eyes held the horror that they had witnessed. Their father had been nowhere around.
As soon as he realized what he had done, he had taken to his heels leaving behind his eleven-year-old, twelve-year-old twins and thirteen-year-old. While some neighbors called the authorities, the others took the blanketed little boys to their homes where they cleaned them up. Their father had finally been found the next day trying to cross the state line. The trial had started immediately. The boys had been in shock all through the trial and though their testimony had been unavailable, their father had left sufficient proof of his crime behind. The murder had obviously not been premeditated. The boys had not stayed in the system for long. Soon enough, they had been adopted though by three different families. Luckily, the twins had been placed in the same home. The brothers had been separated and had lost contact with one another. In a way deep down, the brothers always knew that that was how it was going to end between their parents. Just like Elijah’s brother had said, they had stopped being husband and wife for a long time.
The day they had left the orphanage home was the last day they had set their eyes on one another. Elijah had been adopted by a pair of aristocrats, they had shown him love and taken him as their own, until they had their own kids and things had turned around then. The trauma Elijah had experienced when he had witnessed his mother’s death at the hands of his father coupled with the hostile character his adoptive parents had shown had further pushed him down the ledge. His terrors started when he had been bullied at school, he had run home and found an unattended bottle of scotch. From that moment on, alcohol had become his best friend. Elijah shook his head as the memories flashed before his eyes. He could not bear reliving the pain. Time and again, he always wondered why he still remembered it all. He had heard of repression of memories after a trauma so why hadn’t such happened to him? Why hadn’t he forgotten all those awful memories?
The minute the last lecturer was out of the class, Elijah rose from his seat and walked over to his friends. As he had grown older, the bullying had stopped and when he moved to another state to go to college, he had made friends, friends that were like brothers. The three of them had obviously arrived early and so, were seated on the second row and he would have been seated there as well if he hadn’t come in late. The only other place he could sit was near the back where the colored people sat. To him, it didn’t mean much. He really wasn’t bothered by being so close to them. They had no effect on him. He was indifferent towards them and honestly did not give a hoot what happened to them. But he had to put up a front for anyone watching so they wouldn’t think he had gone friendly with the coloreds. That would hurt his reputation even more than his drinking.
He had made a face, grumbled some and then wiped off the chair over and over before he settled in. Considering that there was still one empty row of chairs between him and the coloreds behind him, all that wasn’t necessary. But it was drama he needed to put up. He could not afford for the others to find out his stance when it came to the coloreds. He had ignored the snickers from the other white folks up front as well as the angry and sad looks from the coloreds and tried his hardest to concentrate on the classes but memories and intrigues had kept haunting him all through every one of them. At the end of a class, his professor had asked him to see him when he had the chance. He had wanted to say never but he knew that by doing that, he would be putting himself in bigger trouble.
“How was the journey to the other side?” Eliot, one of his closest friends asked with a smirk. There were three of them and as expected, they were all white, the racist Eliot, the playboy Nathan and the realist known as Paul. Paul, unlike him, despised the coloreds but when that dislike was compared to that of Eliot’s, it was nothing. Nathan in some ways was like him. Eliot despised the coloreds with every iota of his being. He felt they were a virus that had to be cleansed away, weeds that had to be uprooted for as long as Elijah could remember, Eliot had always perceived them as scum. He never cared to hide his disdain for the coloreds. He would make fun of them whenever he had the opportunity and ignored them like they had a communicable disease that could be caught from just breathing the same air. He would throw things at them ranging from expletives to physical objects as well as vandalize their property. They could be walking through a street or even on a bus driving past a black home or community. He would suddenly develop an inexplicable urge to hurt them. Time and again Eliot had bought eggs, paint, even milk and used it to decorate the homes, businesses and even the vehicles of coloreds. That was how deep his hatred went. They may not be offending him by being in his way but he happened to find their very existence offensive to him.
“You could have saved me a seat,” Elijah replied with a glare.
“Now what fun would there be in that?” Eliot asked, laughing with the other two, Nathan and Paul.
“You’ve had your fun guys. Now to more important things, which actually has a little something to do with the reason I was late in the first place,” Elijah said as he settled into one of the chairs.
“Your hangover?” Paul teased. “And what on earth happened to your head, man? Were you swinging around with your bottle?”
“I was not swinging around with a bottle, Paul. I just slipped and fell, that’s all. I did not see where I was going and I smacked my head against the sink,” he narrated to his friends.
“Ouch! That must have hurt so bad. I cannot imagine it happening to me because unlike you, I do not get myself drunk to stupor. And now, what happened? You got yourself drunk, you hurt yourself and then, you came late to class. How marvelous,” Nathan told him in a reproachful tone.
“I didn’t…” Elijah started to say and then sighed. “I did have a hangover but that’s not why I was late. I was on my way here and I decided to try another route. I stumbled on this really great place that I think we should check out. It’s pretty cool.”
“Err, place?” Nathan asked. “What in the world for? I’m not looking for an apartment. And neither are you or anyone else.”
“It’s not a house to live in, dumbass. I just think we should check the place out. I’m curious. It looks pretty old and abandoned. That kind of a place shouldn’t be left like that. It looks like it was quite the looker back in the days. One of those huge plantation homes from before the civil war.”
“You know this how?” Eliot asked.
“I might love the bottle but I know my architecture, idiot.”
“Right. So why exactly do we want to go with you to check out this old building?” Eliot asked again.
“There’s just something about it that calls out to you. You’ll see when we get there. I can’t put a finger on what it is yet but that place literally screams out your name as you approach it,” Elijah replied.
“Okay, now you’ve added a little bit of crazy to the list of the things wrong about you. Noted,” Nathan said as he started to pack up his books. “Calls out your name…. you’ve started hearing voices in your head, brother.”
Elijah sighed. It was all he could do to not send a punch up Nathan’s jaw. “Can you guys just let us go check out the house? Who knows, we might have found a new place to hang out.”
“An old, almost ruined building from over 100 years ago? I’ll pass. But if it would make you any less crazy than you are now, we’ll go check out the place with you,” Paul said. “Just so long as Rachel can come with me. I was supposed to be with her before you ruined things with this crazy of yours.”
“Oh yeah, that’s true, Rachel should come,” Nathan inserted hastily. He turned to Paul with a smile, “You could tell her to you know, come with a friend, Kate or what’s the other one’s name? Gwen or Giana? I forget. Anyway, she should bring one.”
“Really? Wanna change this into a fishing trip?” Paul smacked his friend on the back and frowned at him and in a sarcastic tone, “Why not the two of them?”
“Oh, I can handle the two of them smoothly if we are in an open place like a party but, we are going to be secluded in an old house. My tricks won’t be as effective. Even I know how to strategize, my friend,” Nathan informed Paul, already rubbing his hands together in glee. “I think this is a great idea.”
“Yeah, yeah, of course you do. You get a chance to set out your net with its bait,” Elijah said.
“No, no. That is where you are wrong, my friend. I don’t just want to set out my net, I want to reel in the catch as well, and in this case, Kate or Giana.” Nathan turned to Paul, “That is her name, right?”
Paul just shook his head at him, a sign which said, ‘I give up on you’. He turned to Elijah, “Can she come?”
“No, no. Can they come?” Nathan interrupted.
“Yeah sure. She can come, they can come,” Elijah said, finally smiling. It wouldn’t hurt if Paul brought his girlfriend. In fact, it didn’t hurt if they all brought their girlfriends or interests, in the case of Nathan. “You should be thanking me because I think I just saved you some cash. The more the merrier in fact. You all can bring your girlfriends.”
“What? This has become a group date scavenger hunt?” Eliot teased and high-fived Nathan.
“Ungrateful lot,” Elijah replied, laughing as well. “Whatever you do, just clear out your afternoons, gentlemen. If you like, bring your plus ones. All I know is, we’re going to that house.”
“While we’re at it, sir, do we bring food and booze too?” Paul asked.
“We’re going to check out the house, not move in, Paul,” Elijah replied playfully. “Maybe the next time we go there, we’ll throw a party. But right now? It’s in and out.”
“Dumb fuck,” Paul replied, hitting Elijah on the head playfully. “I’ll go get Rachel and meet you guys at your place in an hour.”
“Just Rachel? What about one of her friends?” Nathan inserted.
Paul heaved a frustrated sigh and then said, “I will go get Rachel and a friend. Happy now?”
“Good, thanks. I’ll be expecting you all,” Nathan slapped his friend on the back.
“Good,” Elijah replied. “You guys want to go say your goodbyes or something or you’d rather come home with me?”
“Nah. I’ll see you in an hour too. I’ve got to drop off this stupid assignment for Professor Taylor,” Nathan said, rising off of his chair too.
“Since when did you start taking Professor Taylor’s classes?” Eliot asked.
“This week. Some extra credit nonsense that I really wish I could do without but I can’t. See you guys in an hour.”
“I’ll go home with you,” Eliot said. “I’ve got no goodbyes or assignments.”
“Wait a minute. Elijah, didn’t Professor Boxton ask you to see him?” Nathan had been out of the room but had stopped in his tracks as soon as he remembered. He turned around.
“He said I should see him when I have the chance,” Elijah corrected him, “Go on.”
“I presume you are busy right now,” Nathan persisted, interjecting air quotes when he mentioned the word ‘busy’.
“Uh huh. We have somewhere to go to,” Elijah stood up and picked up his backpack, slinging it over one shoulder.
“That won’t be for another hour or so. Why don’t you go see him and get it over with?” Nathan continued pressing.
“I really don’t think so. You know how loquacious the professor can be. He is going to keep me in there forever. You know how much he drifts away from topic. I can go tomorrow.”
“Today is Friday, dummy. You better settle whatever pending issues you have with him today. You seem to have forgotten that this weekend is the state ball. Your parents will definitely be there. If they run into Professor Boxton who we all know never misses the balls, not for anything in the world, if they run into him, you my friend are done for. My candid advice, go see him now,” Nathan told him.
“I agree with Nate. I honestly doubt the professor was giving you the choice of next week when he told you to see him when you had a chance. He expects you to create a chance, Paul put in.
“Yeah. I know.”
“How about we plan this out? A strategy that will help if the professor starts to take too long? All that’s needed is to find a way to get you out of there. Come on, we will think of something as we head there. Let’s put our heads together,” Eliot said as he too gathered his own things.
“It was bad enough when separate, now two empty heads want to work together? Wonderful,” Paul scoffed and just in time, he dodged the book that Eliot flung at him.
“See you in an hour.” Elijah said to the other two after the laughter had died down. He turned to Eliot and asked, a frown pasted on his face. “Shall we?”