Everyone said the old house on the outskirts of Lima was haunted. The details of how and why it was haunted had been lost in the re-telling of stories, the spreading rumours, the misheard tales, and everyone’s reluctance to go near the house. Even people like Puck, who considered himself tough and fearless, refused to get too close to the house that should have been the target of dares and vandalism.
“Dude,” he’d say whenever someone mentioned the house or they passed by it, “some fucked-up shit goes down in there. I don’t know what it is, but I can feel it when I’m nearby. You don’t have to be a tough badass to go inside; you have to be screwed in the head.”
A battered ‘for sale’ sign had been displayed in the overgrown front yard of the house for several months now, but the only calls the estate agents got were from people out of town who hadn’t heard the stories. They would shake their heads at the agent after viewing the house and say, “Something just doesn’t feel right.” It looked like nobody would ever buy it.
The current owner hadn’t lived in the house for almost five years. He had another house out of state, but as he had grown up in Lima he bought the old house on the outskirts and used it when he was visiting his old hometown. People said he was selling it because he was relocating overseas. He hadn’t visited the house in years, they said, he had no idea about the rumours and tales surrounding it.
Kurt found the house intriguing. Sometimes, he would drive round by it and stare up at the blank windows, tangled front yard, and weathered paintwork. He didn’t know why he did it, why the house piqued his curiosity, but it interested him. He would listen intently to any stories about it and would puzzle over every new tale he heard, trying to see how it fit in with the others. Maybe it was the mystery surrounding the house that interested him – it made Lima less boring, even a little bit exciting. Or maybe it was that the house was different and an outsider in this town, just like him. In the end it didn’t matter why it interested him; he never shared this with anyone, all that mattered was that the house made him curious.
The people who lived near the house didn’t share his views. As it was on the outskirts of town, the houses on that street were more widely spaced, but the neighbours still spoke of hearing noises during the night, and not from the house. From out in the street. They said they were often woken late at night thinking they heard sounds like trash cans being disturbed or footsteps running down the road, but whenever they went to look there was nothing to be seen.
“It’s whatever is in that house,” their friends would say, nodding knowledgeably. “It must leave during the night and haunt your street.” A sympathetic smile. “Just keep your doors and windows locked and you’ll be fine. Why they don’t just demolish the place, I’ll never know.”
Kurt’s dad was not one to be superstitious or to believe in things like ghost stories; he usually laughed and said they were a load of bullshit. He would shake his head and roll his eyes whenever he heard someone talking about the house and would always say the same thing whenever anyone brought it up in a conversation with him: “It’s just an abandoned old house that people are making-up stories about to have something to gossip about.” He was one of very few people who thought that way.
Despite knowing his dad’s attitude towards the house, Kurt was still shocked when he announced that he had bought it.
Kurt stared at him with his fork halfway between his plate and his mouth. “What?” Across the table from him, Finn was gaping at Burt, his mouth opening and closing like a goldfish.
“I bought the house,” Burt repeated calmly. “I told you Carole and I have been looking for a bigger house since she and Finn moved in, and this place is big enough and was a good price.”
Kurt glanced over at Carole, his eyes asking for her opinion on this. She just shrugged. “I like the house and I know you boys will too. You’ll be able to have your own bedrooms – no more sharing that basement – and they are big rooms with en suite bathrooms.”
Kurt didn’t know what to say. “I-”
“But it’s haunted!” Finn blurted out before Kurt could fumble up a response.
Burt chuckled and shook his head. “Those are just stories, Finn.”
“But all those people say they saw someone at the window!” Finn protested, almost stumbling over his words in his frantic panic. “And the noises at night and-”
Carole patted Finn’s large hand. “They’re just stories people have made-up for something to talk about, sweetie. This is a pretty boring town; people just want something exciting to gossip about.”
Finn didn’t look particularly convinced and he shot Kurt an appealing look.
Burt, upon seeing this, frowned at Kurt. “You don’t believe this made-up trash as well, do you?”
Kurt hesitated, his eyes flicking from Finn to his father, and then he shook his head. “No, it’s just a house.” Out the corner of his eye he saw Finn’s face fall.
Burt nodded approvingly. “Exactly, it’s just a house and we’re moving in two weeks, so I suggest you use this weekend to start packing.”
Kurt nodded absently, his mind on the mysterious house where he would soon be living. It was the truth: he didn’t believe all those stories about ghosts haunting the doorways and evil spirits lurking in the shadows of its rooms; something had always seemed off about all those stories people liked to tell when other gossip had run dry. He believed there was more to the house than a ghost story. And Kurt Hummel didn’t believe in ghosts.~ * ~
To say Kurt’s friends were shocked when he told them the news would be an understatement.
“You’re moving to where?” Mercedes exclaimed loudly, her eyes wide.
Rachel’s mouth fell open in horror. “Kurt, is your dad insane? Does he know which house that is? Has he not heard any of the stories?” Her voice was getting louder with each successive question and people passing them on their way to class were starting to stare. “You can’t live there!”
Kurt shut his locker and turned to face his friends. “Well, I have to,” he said calmly. “I don’t believe any of the stories anyway.”
“Since when?” Rachel demanded.
Kurt shrugged. “Since always.”
A small frown line appeared between Rachel’s eyebrows. “You’ve never mentioned that before.”
“And you always listen whenever any of us talk about that house,” Mercedes added.
Kurt stepped away from the lockers and began walking down the hall to his next class, Rachel and Mercedes scrambling after him. “Well?” Rachel pressed when they had walked for a bit and he still hadn’t responded to them.
“Just because I listen to the stories doesn’t mean I believe them,” he told her lightly.
Mercedes rolled her eyes. “Oh come on, Kurt you can’t expect us to believe that.”
Kurt just shrugged again. “Well, it’s the truth, but you can believe what you want.” He reached the doorway of his class, which he thankfully didn’t share with either of them so he wouldn’t be pestered throughout the lesson. They hovered by the door, still eyeing him sceptically. “It doesn’t matter what you say, my dad has bought the house and we’re moving into it in two weeks.” And with that, he spun around and entered the classroom.
He knew that the news would leak to the rest of the school at some point; Rachel and Mercedes both liked to gossip and though they were generally good at keeping secrets, they clearly didn’t consider this a secret. He just hadn't expected it to spread through the school like wildfire, but by lunchtime everyone knew.
Stares and whispers followed him as he joined the line of jostling students queuing for food and he could feel dozens of eyes on him as he selected a sandwich and bottled water and carried it to his usual table. They didn’t even bother to hide their whispers behind hands or to look away when he caught them staring, they just gaped openly at him and muttered to their friends, but then subtlety had never been many of his fellow students’ strongest suit. At least their stares and whispered comments were about something other than his sexuality.
He dropped down into a free seat beside Santana and took a bite of his lunch, freezing in the midst of chewing when he realised something. He looked up to find everyone at the table staring at him.
He bit back a heavy sigh. “What?” he said a little resignedly.
They just continued to stare at him in part horror and part grim fascination as if he had just grown an extra head.
“Dude…” Puck breathed eventually.
Kurt just finished chewing his mouthful of sandwich and swallowed.
“I can’t believe you are going to live in the creepy house,” Puck finally continued.
Santana unfroze as well. “Did living with Finn cause your dad to lose his marbles?”
Kurt unscrewed the cap on his water bottle. “I don’t understand the big fuss, it’s just a house,” he said, echoing his words from last night.
“How can you be so calm about this?” Rachel asked.
“How can so many people believe a bunch of silly ghost stories?” Kurt retaliated.
Rachel opened her mouth to argue back, but was interrupted by Puck sitting up tall and craning his head to see across the cafeteria. “Where’s Finn? I bet he’s not taking this well, he was shit-scared that time we went by the house at night.”
Kurt swallowed a mouthful of water. “He didn’t seem too happy about it when my dad told us last night.”
For a second Puck grinned wickedly, but the smile was quickly wiped from his face. “Well, at least one of you is reacting normally to this.”
Kurt rolled his eyes and went back to his lunch, ignoring his friends as they started discussing the house that was soon to be his new home and all the stories they’d heard about it. It was the first time he hadn’t listened to a conversation about the house. He only looked up from his food at Sam’s shout.
“Finn! Where have you been, man?”
Finn sat down next to Sam, looking a little on-edge. His eyes darted around the crowded cafeteria and he kept shifting in his seat. “I just needed to go to the library for something,” he mumbled.
Everyone at the table stared at him in disbelief – visiting the library was not a phrase they had ever heard come out of Finn’s mouth before.
Kurt cottoned on to what Finn had been doing straight away. “Oh, Finn…” he sighed. “Stop getting yourself all worked up. It’s just a house and ghosts don’t exist.”
Finn shook his head frantically at him, his eyes wide. “No! There are all these stories on the internet about people seeing spirits in their homes and there are these photos-”
“It’s not real, Finn,” Kurt insisted firmly. “If all those reports were looked into properly there would be a perfectly reasonable explanation behind them.”
“But what about the photos?” Finn wanted to know. “You can’t fake photos!”
Kurt snorted at this. “The camera is a really good liar, Finn and there is also such a thing as Photoshop.”
Finn looked ready to protest again, but Kurt shook his head at him. “You’re being ridiculous,” he flicked his gaze to his friends, “you all are. Ghosts don’t exist and the house isn’t haunted, you’ll see when we move in.”~ * ~
He wrung his hands as he walked along the corridor towards his locker, keeping his gaze on the floor and his shoulders hunched in an effort to make himself as small as possible in the hopes that nobody would notice him. He jumped when a brunette girl in a cheerleading uniform slammed her locker shut before turning to the tall guy in a letterman jacket leaning against the bank of lockers. He quickened his pace, scurrying down the hall.
He was twitchy as he opened the door of his locker and began putting away the books he didn’t need for that night’s homework. He started slightly every time a locker was slammed, another student shouted, or he heard loud footsteps behind him. He couldn’t help it; over a year of being bullied had left him permanently nervous whenever he was on school grounds and the thought of what he planned to do tonight made things worse today. Closing his locker gently, he hitched his satchel further up his shoulder and set off for the main doors, torn between hurrying out of school as quickly as possible and dragging it out so he didn’t arrive home too quickly.
He was so tense and worried that he almost walked into someone. “Watch it, fairy boy!” the muscular blond boy snarled. “Or can you not see anyone down at that height?”
“S-Sorry,” Blaine spluttered out, darting away before the boy could do anything more than sneer at him.
“Do it again, fairy, and I’ll make sure you pay a visit to your good friend, the dumpster!” he yelled after him.
Blaine ducked his head and walked faster, his heart pounding uncomfortably in his chest and his hands shaking uncontrollably. He hated this, he hated this school, and he hated the people here. He had only one friend and he was in the year above so he hardly ever saw him during school hours, not that they could be seen together at school, not unless they both wanted some more cuts and bruises and they both had enough of those already.
He reached the front doors without any further incidents with other students, but he wouldn’t feel any relief until he was off school grounds and walking home. There was a burst of laughter from near the steps leading up to the doors and he caught a flash of sleeves of the jackets he feared. His breathing quickened into short pants as he sped up until he was almost running across the parking lot. They may not have been laughing at him or even noticed he was there, but he couldn’t take the risk, not with pain still shooting through his back whenever he made too sudden or too large a movement.
He only allowed himself to slow down when he reached the street leading away from the school and the parking lot rapidly filling with students was disappearing from view. Now that the worry from being at school was leaving him, the fear of what he was going to do when he got home began rising inside him like a river in a heavy rainstorm, the water threatening to spill over the banks.
Trying to calm himself and settle his racing pulse and churning stomach, he ran through the speech he had been practicing for weeks in his head. He repeated the words over and over in his mind, but the knowledge that he knew them by heart failed to lessen his anxiety or fear any. He felt almost sick as he crossed the road to his neighbourhood and he pressed a hand to his heaving stomach, gulping in large lungfuls of air through his mouth and willing himself not to throw up in the neat rosebushes lining the sidewalk in the front yard of the house he was passing.
‘You can do this,’ he told himself. ‘You can tell them this.’ He repeated these words in a mantra, hoping to build some courage and strength, but only succeeding in winding himself into a greater state. He wasn’t sure if he could do this. He had no idea how his parents would take the news.
His father was very stern and had high expectations of him, wanting him to be the best at everything he attempted. Blaine could remember messing up one math test and not getting a very high mark, only just scraping an A grade; when he told his father about it he was shouted at for over fifteen minutes and a tutor was hired until his next test when he got his usual top mark again. His father expected him to be perfect, the model son, just like his older brother Cooper and Blaine worried that being gay didn’t fit into his father’s image of a perfect son. But then again, Blaine was still his son and though they never spoke much outside of discussing school grades and his sporting and musical achievements, he knew his father loved him a lot.
His mother spent more time with him and often doted on him, baking his favourite cupcakes for him and asking him to play the piano for her and praising him when he finished a song. Like her husband, she had high expectations of her sons, but she was more understanding if they messed up than he was. If either of his parents were to happily accept his sexuality, it would be his mother.
Blaine’s pulse pounded loudly in his ears when he reached his house and came to a stop on the sidewalk outside it, taking a moment to have one last attempt at calming himself down before he entered the house. His hands shook as he reached up to adjust the strap of his satchel and his palms were damp with sweat. The house looked serene under the cloudy sky and everything from the gleaming front door to the grass on the front lawn was pristine and orderly. The cool February wind ruffled the trimmed hedges and caused Blaine to shiver and tuck his hands into the pockets of his coat. His father’s car was parked in the driveway – home from work early as he always was on a Wednesday – and he knew both his parents were inside, probably discussing his father’s day at the office whilst his mother started to prepare dinner.
He didn’t know how long he stood there steeling himself, but there was no point in standing there any longer; it was time to face the music.
Taking a deep breath, he set off up the path to the front door, fumbling his key out of his pocket with trembling fingers as he did so. He unlocked the door and stepped into the deserted entrance foyer, closing the door softly behind him. Straining his ears for any sound of his parents, he took off his shoes and set them aside before walking onto the cool marble floors. A soft murmuring of voices could be heard from the direction of the kitchen and Blaine guessed his predictions from earlier of what his parents were doing were correct.
When he entered the kitchen he found his dad sitting at the breakfast bar talking to his mother, who was chopping vegetables for a salad. They both looked up when they heard Blaine approach and broke off their conversation.
His mother smiled at him. “How was your day?”
Blaine stopped when he reached them and gripped at the kitchen counter for support. “It was ok,” he mumbled.
His father frowned, always quick to sense his nerves. “What’s wrong?” His frown deepened. “You didn’t get another poor test result, did you?”
Blaine gulped and shook his head, gripping the counter so hard his knuckles turned white.
The frown lines on his father’s face were so deep they looked as though they had been carved into the skin by knives. “Well, what is it then?” he demanded, somewhat impatiently.
Blaine glanced fleetingly at his mother; she was frowning now, too. “I- I have-” he stammered.
His father was starting to look annoyed; he hated it when Blaine stumbled over his words, he saw it as a sign of weakness.
“What is it, Blaine?” his mother asked gently. “Is someone bothering you at school again?”
Even through his overwhelming nerves, Blaine still felt a twinge of hurt at her use of the word ‘bothering’, like all the harassment he suffered at school was nothing. All the bruises, cuts, torn clothing, and humiliation was little more than just an annoyance. Mind you, his parents had no idea about the extent of what he was subjected to at school, they thought he had just been called some names by a couple of students for always getting top grades in class. He didn’t want to tell his parents the truth, since his father would be disappointed at how weak he was being and they would want to know why he was being bullied and he hadn’t been ready to tell them until today. So he had hidden all the evidence of how bad it was and seeing as how none of the teachers cared enough to do anything to prevent it, they had never found out.
Blaine shook his head jerkily. “It’s not that.” Sensing that his father was reaching the end of his tether, he said shakily, “I have something to tell you.”
His mother nodded in encouragement while his father watched him closely with barely concealed impatience.
“I-” He fumbled for the speech he had prepared, the one he had practiced in front of the mirror when he was alone in his room and had muttered under his breath to himself as he laid in bed at night, but the carefully prepared words wouldn’t come to him.
He darted his gaze between his parents, his hands still clutching at the counter, his heart thumping erratically in his chest and fear blurring his vision. He swallowed around the heavy, oppressive lump in his throat. “I’m gay,” he whispered.
His parents froze, the mixture of concern and encouragement still stuck on his mother’s face, the annoyance and impatience still caught on his father’s.
“What did you say?” his father asked, his voice deadly calm. Blaine had a sudden mental image of a venomous snake hiding still and silent in the long grass, waiting for the right moment to strike and deliver its deadly bite.
Blaine swallowed again, his mouth bone-dry. “I’m gay,” he repeated in a louder voice.
His mother blinked at him as her face went blank like a canvas suddenly cleaned of paint. His father’s expression was unreadable as he stared at him. Blaine found himself crossing the fingers of his right hand as he waited for them to say something.
Faster than the eye could follow, the snake leapt from the grass and struck. “You’re not my son,” his father said in a low voice, his tone dripping with venom.
Blaine staggered back from the counter, his sweaty hands slipping from the smooth surface, the crossed fingers becoming untangled. His stomach was no longer churning uncomfortably with nerves; in fact, it felt like he had no stomach at all, like he was just a hollow shell. He cast an appealing look at his mother, but her face was as cold as if it had been carved from stone and her eyes were full of shame and disappointment.
His father shook his head at him. “I thought we raised you right, Blaine. We did everything the same as we did with Cooper, but it obviously wasn’t enough. We did everything right by you, but you still turned out like this.” He waved a hand at Blaine and shook his head again. “You’re not an Anderson, you’re not my son.”
Tears clogged Blaine’s throat and pricked at his eyes. “D- Dad…” he choked out.
His father’s eyes flashed with anger. “How could you do this to us, Blaine?” he demanded. He raised his voice and Blaine cowered away from him as he appeared to swell with anger. “How could you do this to our family?”
Blaine was shaking so hard he was surprised he was still standing upright. “I didn’t-” He desperately blinked back the tears turning the kitchen into a wavering blur. “Mom?” he pleaded.
Jaw tightening, his mother returned her attention to the salad as if her son had never spoken.
A tear spilled down his face and he raised a hand to wipe it away, wincing as the movement pulled at the healing cuts on his back.
Realisation dawned in his father’s eyes. “This is why those kids at school were calling you names. It had nothing to do with your grades; they all know what you are. The ruined clothes I saw in the trash, the bruise on your face that time, the wincing when you move; that’s all because they know about you and your filthy little secret.” He inhaled deeply, his eyes narrowing. “Lift your sweater up and turn around.”
Blaine stiffened. “Wh- what?”
“You heard me!” his father roared. “Lift up your sweater and turn around so I can see your back!”
Knowing he had no choice, Blaine took hold of the bottom of his sweater and pulled it up to his shoulder blades, before slowly turning to face away from his father. He heard fabric rustle and then footsteps as his father stood up and came closer to him. Blaine tensed up and squeezed his eyes shut, suddenly terrified that his father would hit him. A rough finger traced none too gently over a cut and then circled a bruise and he hissed in pain, his body automatically trying to shrink away from the touch.
He jumped slightly as his father suddenly spoke coldly from behind him. “You deserved it.”