The Odd House
They met the realtor at the house. How many homes had they looked at that day? Evelyn couldn't remember. Some of them had been nice, but nothing had really jumped out at them yet. She didn't expect this one to be any different, but as they pulled into the driveway, already Evelyn knew this one was different. The lot was larger than any they had seen that day. The home was a two story with lovely large windows. It was made of wood and brick and not covered in the plastic-looking siding. The realtor opened the front door and showed them into a home unlike any they had yet seen. It was old looking. Rustic. It had character and personality. The banister was real carved wood. The kitchen was a good size. Not small like the apartment they were currently renting, but not the huge over sized kitchens Evelyn had seen in so many of the new homes. The cupboards were real wood too, not laminate.
Every room Evelyn went into had more surprises. It was such a lovely home. It was perfect. The right number of bedrooms, a perfect sized yard and most importantly, the house was the right price. It was perfect. Too perfect? Why had no one bought it yet? Evelyn asked the realtor. It had only been on the market for two days. She knew they needed to get working on the contract immediately. Such a home would not stay unsold for long. Her husband Phillip agreed. They went back to the realtor's office and wrote up their offer.
Two days later, they heard back from the realtor. Their offer had been accepted. The home was theirs. After a house inspection and some repair work, they finally moved in. Evelyn kept re-arranging the furniture, trying to find the best position for it in the new rooms. Under her direction, she and Phillip had repainted the living room and bathrooms. She liked the oringinal colors, but they were looking a little old and dark. The new paint was very close to the old one, but a shade or two lighter. It certainly made a huge difference. After four weeks, the house was ready and they had their open house party. Friends from the old apartment complex were invited. Friends from work and church were invited. They also invited the neighbors on either side of them, whom they had met while moving in.
They barbequed in the spacious back yard and had drinks on the patio. Several hours later, the guest began to leave. Evelyn took a tray of dirty dishes to the kitchen. Her best friend, Lucy, followed close behind with another tray of dishes. Evelyn thanked her.
"Evelyn, I love your new home," Lucy said.
"Thank you. So do I," Evelyn laughed.
"Just out of curiosity, though, who lives in the house across the street from you?"
"Oh, I don't know," Evelyn said. "I haven't met all the neighbors yet. We've been so busy balancing work, the move and updates to the house that I haven't had much time for neighbor watching. Why do you ask?" She turned away from the sink and the piles of dishes to look at her friend.
"It's an odd house, isn't it?" Lucy said casually.
"Is it? I haven't really noticed," Evelyn said.
"Well, yes. It's old and looks a little run down."
Evelyn laughed. "This house is old and looking a little worn down. It's an old neighborhood."
Lucy chuckled, "Yes, I suppose it is. Well, let me know when you meet the neighbors."
Evelyn plopped down on the oversized recliner after the last guest had left. She loved having parties and was especially proud of her new home, but it was always such a relief when it was over. Phillip sat down on the couch. "Glad it's over?"
"Yes. I don't want to get up, but I guess I should take care of the dishes. I can at least get the dishwasher loaded." Evelyn pulled herself out of the recliner. Phillip went back outside to clean up the patio and barbeque area while she loaded the dishwasher. Forcing herself to continue, even though she only wanted to sit back down, she finished washing all the dishes. When they were done with the clean-up, they sat snuggled together on the couch and watched some TV until there was nothing else on to keep them entertained, so they headed to bed. Phillip turned out the light and climbed into bed. Evelyn went to the window to make sure the curtains were pulled closed. She didn't want the morning sun getting through the curtain before she was ready to be woken up. Evelyn looked out the window to the house across the street. It was dark and she could see nothing of the house except a single light shining in the foyer of the home. She closed the curtains and got into bed.
The next morning was a Saturday. Oh how Evelyn loved Saturdays. No work to get up and go to. Today she planned on spending the morning in the front yard, cleaning out the flower beds and planting some new flowers around the porch. The sun was shining and the sky was clear. She was glad for the tree in the front yard to provide a little bit of shade.
She had been out front many, many times since moving in and had knew there was a house across from theirs, but she had never taken the time to really notice it. Today she did. The home was two storied and similar in size and shape to their home. Probably built around the same time, Evelyn thought. However, the home across the street didn't look like it had been nearly as well cared for. The roof was metal and rusted. The gutters were bent and broken in some places. Ivy grew up one side of the house. All the windows were dark and covered on the inside by dark curtains. The front door had a large piece of glass at the top and the door frame was surrounded by panes of glass. She could see the foyer light was still on.
The lawn of the home was well cared for. It had recently been mown and the large bush that sat in the middle of the yard was trimmed and neat. Evelyn noticed the driveway, or what was left of it. It was a rock path, like their driveway, but the rocky path of the other house was completely grown over with grass after the first three feet. No one had used that driveway in a very long time. Evelyn shrugged her shoulders and went to work in the flower bed.
Several weeks went by and Evelyn found more and more she was staring at the house across the street. She had never seen anyone there. No lights were ever on in the house, except the foyer light and it never went off. She had never seen anyone come to the house or leave it. She might have simply passed it off for an abandoned home or a bank owned home, except the lawn was always mown and the bushes always trimmed. What was odd, though, is that she had never actually seen anyone mow the lawn or that the lawn grew at all. Phillip mowed their own lawn every Saturday since they had moved in. Of course, she did go to work during the day. Evelyn assumed that the owners had a lawn service that came each week during the day to care for the home's grounds. But she couldn't stop thinking about the house. If anyone did come during the week, no vehicle ever went up that driveway.
She shared her observations with Phillip one evening over dinner. He was interested in her observations, but it wasn't odd to him. He figured, as she did, that a lawn service took care of the lawn each week while they were at work. The house was probably a foreclosure, owned by the bank and kept in nice condition in case anyone wanted to see and buy the house.
But Evelyn noticed there were no signs on or around the house. Usually if a home was bank owned, there was a notice in a window, but this home had none. If it was bank owned, why hadn't their realtor told them about that house at the same time she showed them this one? Perhaps she figured it wouldn't fit their needs and so didn't even bother to tell them about it. Still, it was odd that she hadn't mentioned it, if it were available for purchase.
And why was the foyer light always on? Phillip said it was to keep burglars away, but Evelyn didn't find that very convincing. It was the same light. It never went off. If there was a burglar who had been watching the house for the perfect opportunity to break in, they would have noticed that nothing ever changed at that house.
Evelyn decided she had had enough of the house across the street. It was silly to spend so much time and thought on it. She would focus on projects around the house. Her and Phillips's sixth anniversary was come up. Evelyn decided she needed to do something special.
A week before the anniversary, Evelyn was given a surprise vacation from work. She wasn't happy about it, as it was not a planned vacation, but would take some of her vacation days away from her anyway. A small fire had broken out in one of the cubicles and had blown a large number of circuits in the rest of the building. Everyone was cleared out as a team of electricians were brought in to re-wire the entire building. She was quite upset because not only was she loosing vacation days, but she was also losing a weeks’ worth of income. After ranting to Phillip about it for half an hour, she felt better and decided to use the days to work at home on the various projects she had going.
The days were nice and pleasant. Evelyn threw open all the windows in the living room and kitchen to let in the fresh breeze. The sounds of birds and street traffic were all she could hear from outside. Evelyn liked the birds. She wished she knew how to identify which birds made which sounds. Phillip joked with her in the evening about how Evelyn was now the perfect little housewife staying at home each day. That joke had earned him a punch in the arm.
Saturday, Phillip mowed the lawn, like usual. She was rather annoyed that while Phillip was out mowing she had to shut the windows in the house to block out all the noise. After he was done and taking a shower, Evelyn opened the windows again. She looked out at the house across the street. It looked exactly as it had since the day they had moved in, two months ago. The lawn the perfectly mown and the bushes neatly trimmed. The light in the foyer glowed its usual orangy-yellow. Evelyn realized she had been home every day that week and had never once seen anyone go to the house. Come to think about it, she had not even heard anyone using a lawn mower on its front yard. She remembered she had noticed when her neighbor on her right had mowed his lawn, but as far as she could recall, she had never seen nor heard anyone across the street. Evelyn shivered.
What was going on with the house across the street?
She would ask the neighbors tomorrow.
The first thing Evelyn did when she woke up was look out the window to the house. It was what she did every morning. Checking on the house was becoming quite compulsory. It looked as it always did – neat, trim yard, light in the foyer, darkened windows and otherwise quite decrepit looking.
After breakfast, she crossed over to the Hanson’s who lived on their left. Mrs. Jane Hanson was a pleasant woman who had raised her children in their home and now, as an empty nester, had found part time work at the library. Evelyn knocked at her door.
“Good morning,” Jane said, “Evelyn, isn’t it?”
Evelyn nodded. “Yes, that’s right.”
“Well, come in dear, could I get you something to drink? Tea, coffee, water?”
“No, thank you. I just wanted to ask you,” Evelyn paused. What was it? Something had been very important, but she couldn’t remember. “Um, I was wondering, do you know if the area has a good farmer’s market? I’ve been wanting to get some really good tomatoes.”
“Oh yes, there is.” Jane was happy to explain to Evelyn where several good markets were as well as the best time of years to visit them. Evelyn listened with great interest and stayed for a good long hour, chatting merrily with her neighbor. She felt happy as she walked home, until she reached her doorstep. She turned suddenly and looked at the house. The hairs on the back of her neck bristled. It looked exactly the same as it always did. How had she forgotten to ask Jane about the house? She walked back over to Jane’s house, but upon standing on her door step, Evelyn was standing there asking Evelyn about her favorite brand of coffee.
Evelyn returned back to her home soon after and was more confused than ever. She looked at the house. It was like she was being watched.
So she went to the neighbor’s house on her left. She stood in front of their door, hand up, ready to knock, but she couldn’t remember the reason she was there. She walked back to her home, stood on the threshold of her door again and stared at the house. This time, she walked back to her neighbor’s house, she kept her eye on the house across the street the entire time. She walked backwards, towards the neighbor’s door and then she stopped. The house across the street looked exactly the same as it did when she stood directly in front of the door of her house. It was the same angle. She had moved to the left, and should be looking at more of the house’s right side now, but it wasn’t. She was still facing the house straight on.
A tingle ran down her spine and as she stepped onto the threshold of the neighbor’s house, suddenly Evelyn was wondering what in the world she was standing here for, looking at the empty lot across the street. She had come here for a very specific reason, of that she was sure, but now that she was here, her memory failed her. It was just as well, she noticed looking at their empty driveway. No one was home. Another tingle went through her.
Her cell phone rang in her pocket and Evelyn answered it.
“Hello? Yes, this is she. No, no thank you. I don’t need my carpets clean. Yes, thank you. Bye.”
By the time the call was finished, Evelyn was back at her own home and the hairs on her neck stood on end again. She turned to see the house. It was teasing her. It was playing with her and she had no idea how.
“That’s it!” she said out loud to herself. “I’m going over there.”
She walked down the side walk and arrived at the street. She had to break eye contact with the house to look up and down the street to see if cars were coming. There was one, the mail man. He drove right past the house. No mail for this mysterious house.
Evelyn crossed the street and stepped up onto the curb. She had never been so close. One foot into the neatly trimmed yard. Then two. She took two steps and her stomach churned. She felt sick. Another two steps and she started to heave. She turned and ran back to her home, running into the house and into the bathroom, where she dry heaved a few times, but nothing else.
She wiped the sweat from her brow, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She got a cup of cold water and eagerly drank it down. There was something wrong about that house. She just wanted to stay in the kitchen and not go near the front of the house. She didn’t want to see the house across the street again today, but in her haste to get to the bathroom, she had left the front door open. She had no choice but to go back and shut the door.
She kept her eyes down as she walked to the door, reached her hand out and started to shut the door. A split second before it closed, she looked up and saw the house looking the same as it always did. She screamed as the door close shut.
Phillip came home that night to a hysterical wife. She tried to explain to him what had happened, how she had gone to the neighbors to ask about the house across the way, but the moment she did, she forgot why she was there. There was something very, very weird going on. Someone was watching her from the house. She was sure of it, but them Phillip reminded her that she was watching them and perhaps they felt just as nervous.
Evelyn couldn’t sleep that night. She got up several times to check on the house. The light was on in the door foyer. No other lights shown. She laid awake thinking. It seemed every time she left the house, she didn’t give any thought to the house, but when she was home, it was all she could think of. She tried to remember. Had she ever thought about the house while she was at work, or at the store, or visiting her best friend, or when she and Phillip went out to dinner? She could not remember a single instance.
“Evelyn,” Phillip’s voice sleepily slurred at her, “what’s wrong?”
“It’s the house, across the street. I can’t get it out of my head. It’s there, mocking me. It has its secrets and is flaunting them in front of me but, it will not share them. I tried to ask a neighbor about it, but as soon as I got to her house, I had completely forgotten. I never think about it when I’m at work, but it’s consuming my thoughts when I’m home. Why does it not bother you?”
“Because I don’t care?” Phillip said. “Look, if it bothers you so much, why don’t you go over there tomorrow? Knock on the door and find out what is going on. You’re obsessed with that stupid house. Go there, meet the owner or the ghost or whoever it is, and ease your mind.”
“But I tried that today. I took four steps into their yard and felt ready to puke. I had to run back home,” Evelyn’s voice was unnaturally high pitched now in her fervor.
“Then puke in their yard and keep walking. You’re driving yourself mad. Go there and find out what is going on. I would hate to have to sell the house and move, but if you’re going to go crazy on me, then that is what we’ll do.”
“No,” Evelyn nearly shouted. “Don’t sell the house. I’ll go. I’ll go tomorrow and find out exactly what is going on.”
“Good,” Phillip yawned.
“Okay, I’ll do it.” She took several deep breaths and snuggled back down next to her husband. She was terrified by the idea of actually going to the house, but the idea of having her curiosity satisfied was stronger than her fear. “Yeah, I will. First thing in the morning.”
“Good,” Phillip rolled over. “Now go to sleep. I’ve got to get up early tomorrow.”
“Sorry and thanks,” she said. “Night.”
But Phillip didn’t answer. He was already asleep again.
Phillip’s alarm went off way to early. He got up and left her to sleep. He came in right before leaving to say good-bye. Evelyn sleepily kissed him and rolled back over. She lay there for quite a while, enjoying the near silence of the morning. Birds outside her window were chirping happily and she could hear the garbage truck rumbling down the road. She hoped Phillip remembered to roll out the garbage can.
Her mind was going now and Evelyn couldn’t stay in bed any longer. She got up and showered. Was she forgetting something? She didn’t have work today, she knew that. She looked at the calendar hanging on the wall. There was nothing there for today. So what was she forgetting?
Evelyn opened the front door, stepped out onto the porch and took in a deep breath. The ‘for sale’ sign on the empty lot across the street had a ‘sold’ plastered across it. She wondered what kind of new neighbors she would have. Perhaps it would be a young couple like her and Phillip or maybe a young family with small children. She hoped the house would be built to match the feel of the older neighborhood and not be some flashy, all glass, eco-house.
She brought out her morning tea and sat on the porch. The day was bright and clear. It was going to be a beautiful day. But there was this nagging feeling like she had forgotten something and she kept finding herself looking over to the empty lot across the way. Whenever she got close to remembering what it was she had forgotten, she would look out the window and see the empty lot.
Oh well, she thought. If it was that important, she would remember it later.