“’Morning, Mr. Izabelli,” Abigail Lawdon chirped to the nearby fruit vendor as she walked down the street.
“And a good morning to you, little lady.” Mr. Izabelli smiled, his hands caressing an apple on his stand. He reached out and offered it to the girl. “Heading off to school?”
Abigail paused en route to shake her head, after accepting the apple with a smile. “Not today.” She lifted her hands to show a basket filled with baked goods. It had taken all day slaving in the kitchen to bake them, but in the end, the pastries were perfect, light and delicious. “I have to deliver these goods to my grandmother. She’s not feeling very well.”
Not feeling very well was an understatement. The last time Abigail had talked to her grandmother on the phone, the old woman had coughed up a storm and complained of a very high fever. The least she could do was send her some sweets.
The old fruit vendor gave a great belly laugh. “A regular old Little Red Riding Hood, eh? Better watch out for wolves.” He fell silent and turned to look at Abigail in concern. “Did you say your grandmother’s house? Doesn’t she live near the old Alvarado mansion?”
Hesitating a moment, Abigail nodded. She knew the reputation the mansion held; people said it was haunted and rabid dogs hung out there, but Mr. Izabelli was one of her only friends. It would be wrong to lie to him.
She feigned a bright smile, hoping it was convincing enough. “It is, but I’ll be careful.” Under her breath so Mr. Izabelli wouldn’t hear, she added, “It’s not like Mr. and Mrs. Freichels would mind if I just disappeared for awhile.”
Ever since her parents had died a few months ago, Abigail had started to live with supposed family friends, the Freichels, and their two smelly boys. They hardly paid attention to her, and were happiest when she was at school and far away from them. But she didn’t mind. As long as she wasn’t too bothered and had a place to stay, Abigail was content.
“You do that, young lady,” Mr. Izabelli said, his brows furrowing. “There is just something about that house that gives me the willies. It’s no good for pretty young girls like you.”
Abigail laughed and returned to walk down the sidewalk. “Thanks Mr. Izabelli, but I know I can handle it.” She turned back around and waved at the man. “Take care!”
As she walked down the street and towards the woods near the home of her grandmother, Abigail let out a huge breath. Her grip on her basket tightened, squeezing so hard her knuckles turned white.
It wasn’t every day that she went to her grandmother’s house, and the few times she had visited was with her parents leading the way, and her father had been armed with a rifle in case of danger. It was in a woody area, where the mist always clouded the pathways and gnarly tree roots sprouted randomly wherever you seemed to be walking.
She tried not to shiver as the chilly wind that seemed customary to her grandmother’s street permeated the air when she closed the forest. Abigail averted her eyes downward, walking slowly as she remembered Mr. Izabelli’s words, and attempted to not think about the horrible legends that surrounded the Alvarado mansion, just a few houses from her grandmother’s.
Rumor had it that the mansion housed seven ghosts, that came and scared away any trespassers, frightening them so bad that they were scarred for life; that is, if you managed to step out into the lawn. The moment you stepped anywhere near the house, two dogs armed with huge teeth and foaming mouths would come racing out the door, attacking anyone who dared draw near.
Despite her promise to keep her head down, Abigail couldn’t help but take a peek as she shuffled closer to the mansion on the left of the path. It was huge building with dark shingles, an iron gate surrounding the property, and an permanently ominous mist. She wasn’t sure why anyone would think of even coming near a building so scary-looking. Abigail touched the gate which creaked open. Normally the trespassers would not have been tolerated; closed, and locked with a huge padlock. She stepped away.
Looking down the street, she spotted her grandmother’s cute little house with a picket fence just a few houses down. Abigail took a deep breath, putting her head back down as she walked past the mansion to her grandmother’s.
When she arrived, she gave a few quiet knocks on the wood paneled door. After waiting for a minute with no answer, Abigail gave a few more knocks, louder this time.
“Grandmother?” she called, pressing her ear against the door. “It’s me, Abigail! I brought you some pastries and medicine for your cold!”
Still no answer.
“Grandmother?” Abigail cried fervently, knocking even harder. Why wasn’t she answering? Could something be wrong? “Are you in there? Grandmother!”
Without thinking, she pushed open the door, desperately hoping to see her grandmother all right. Unfortunately, Abigail was met with a far worse sight.
With an arched back and claws out, Sycamore, her grandmother’s orange tabby, blocked the doorway, looking angrier than ever.
Abigail gulped. Screw rabid dogs and ghosts, Sycamore was way scarier. Ever since she was a child and every time she had visited, Sycamore and her had always had this mutual hatred for each other. It didn’t help that she always stepped on his tail whenever he was around. It seemed that he still hadn’t forgiven her.
Trying to sound calm, she bent down warily, and put her basket on the ground. She held out a hand to scare away the murderous-looking cat.
“Nice Sycamore,” she cooed. “I just want to see grandmother, nothing more.” She gulped when her words seemed to do nothing to calm the cat.
The cat, oblivious to her pleas, looking cool as ever, leapt at her, his fangs exposed and his green eyes blazing.
Turning back, Abigail ran, nearly knocking her basket off the ground, and attempted to flee from the crazy animal, who followed her, snarling.
“Sycamore!” she cried behind her, disappointed to see the cat still on her tail. “Get away! Back to grandmother!”
But would he listen? Three guesses.
Abigail took a deep breath as she fled from the cat, running down the block in her ardour. Her sneakers slapped on the sidewalk loudly as her less-than-track-worthy performance in running carried her only a few feet from the cat’s angry claws. She turned to look behind her to still see Sycamore chasing her, and her pathetic running wasn’t doing much to widen the gap. Perhaps she should’ve tried harder in the gym when she had had the chance.
Thinking quickly, she surveyed her surroundings. It would be a good half a mile run to town, but she was quickly running out of breath.
“Stupid cat,” she breathed grumpily. “Why haven’t you died yet?” Her parents, good and loyal, had already barreled headfirst into the grave, but this mangy animal was still alive.
Suddenly, Abigail’s heels took her past the Alvarado mansion. With no other option and Sycamore on her heels, Abigail turned and ran onto the lawn from the open gates.
Sycamore, oblivious to her diversion, ran straight on ahead.
Abigail panted heavily as she tried to catch her breath. That was too close.
While she rested, the gates slowly closed, and before her eyes, a padlock appeared out of thin air, clenching them shut.
Her eyes widened. “No.”
This could not be happening. Abigail ran towards the gates and desperately tried to pry them apart, but to no avail. They were locked tight.
“No,” Abigail breathed, trepidation coursing through veins and into her heart. Sweat beaded on her forehead.
She was trapped in the Alvarado mansion.