The wind whispered into the sky, storms passed and went. Leaves were stilled, and the weathervanes rusty. Vehicles just a look away seemed as vacant as her heart. The leather belt biting into the shoulder of her fair skin, not comparing to the constant pain that the beating heartfelt under it.
The distant hum of 'sweet Caroline' rang faintly in the ears of the pained. She paid no attention, she never paid any attention to anything anymore. The numbness of her fingers felt as cold as the frost glazing on the car windows. Which is why the flinch was nothing but small when soft gloves grazed her collar bone. All the sound suddenly came rushing back in like a faucet, senses on high and emotions on an extreme.
"Xandy" The medium pitch voice spoke to the blonde out of her thoughts for the first time since she had gotten in the car.
Her hazel like doe eyes lifted from the longing permanent stare she had adapted for the sixty-minute ride she had to endure. She was met with the bright grin of her dear aunt, who seemed uncharacteristically positive given the circumstances.
"Alexandra, my name is Alexandra." She had said it numerous times that day but had started to feel too weak to keep correcting the brunette. Her aunt had insisted on calling her that incessant name since she picked her up from the airport an hour ago. She even took the time to write it down for her, to the point it took her fifteen minutes to wander the airport only to figure out that she was, in fact, the Xandy she was referring to on the heavily decorated white name card.
"Your parents insisted on giving you that cookie-cutter name in the hospital no matter my rebuttals. 'Alexandra' is such a mundane name, especially since the first four letters will most likely be the only ones in use. You're lucky I've figured out a way around it, by coming up with a new and improved, Xandy! Oh my Xandy! Been calling you that since you were a baby. Not easy... " Alexandra's Aunt Sage rambled on for another ten minutes about the highs and lows of having a unique name and how she was a chubby baby from the start.
The blonde's mind wandered at the mention of her mother, she was still fighting her invisible broken wounds in her heart. Sage hadn't been around when she was growing up, she had vivid memories of her when she was around the age of three. That night her mother and aunt had gotten into an argument that Alexandra was too young to remember what it was about. All she knew what that her mom had been so pissed enough afterward that she packed everyone away to move out to Atlanta.
Her mom hadn't stayed upset long, she never did. As a child, she envied the way her mother simply forgave and forgot as easily as she did. The stubbornness of Alexandra would never allow her to be so polite. She knew she and Sage talked on the phone every once in a while, but her aunt had never come to visit. Alexandra hadn't known she had come to resent her for it until she saw her at the airport, she had this stupid grin on her face as she walked towards her, like everything was fine. Like her sister hadn't just died like she hadn't missed her funeral.
"How long before we've arrived," The sixteen-year-old asked, the uncomfortable feelings of her legs going numb finally getting to her.
Sage stopped her rambling only to raise an eyebrow at her niece. "If you had been paying attention to what I was saying child, you would realize we're already here"
So out of her mind that she didn't even see clearly, she only just then saw the leave covered wooden sign on the side of the road, It was rusted on the legs and covered in moss, almost as if it was made for no one to see it.
Welcome to Whispers Creek
It was brief and it was fast but she saw it, her back straightened and her eyes suddenly became sharp.
"Welcome home Xandy"
That dirty four-letter word invaded her mind with numerous thoughts of happiness and pain. Her home, that meaning had changed in the past week. Her home was with her family, and they were no longer an option for her. It felt as if a steel blade was piercing her heart, her throat started to constrict to hold back her true feelings.
Take a breath Alexandra
She needed to take a breath, just five little breathes.
Just like we practiced
Take your first breath for calmness, you need to calm your mind.
First breath, all the air inhaled in her throat only to be exhaled later, throat still constricting like a wormhole.
The second breath is for stability, you're ok Alex, it's only in your mind.
She gripped onto the seatbelt in sickness looking at the trees they had kept passing, all the words her aunt were saying we're extremely blurred in her mind. She hadn't noticed that the teenager sitting next to her was having a full-blown panic attack, and she was only a few inches apart from her.
Take the third for your anxiety, when you exhale it's going to all go away.
That was all she needed, that was all she ever needed. She never got passed her third breath, maybe because she was scared. Anytime she had her panic attacks in the past her mother had always been there if she had to drop off work early and pick her up from school she would. Before her dance recitals backstage, she would always be there, telling her to take five breaths, all she had ever needed was to take three.
Maybe it was because her mother always seemed to calm her down before then, with her words and with her smile. Her beautiful smile that lit up every corridor she stepped through, she was always so positive even when it was raining hell.
"This will never be my home" she whispered, not entirely directed at her aunt, not entirely directed at anyone but herself.
"Always so cryptic, like your mother when she was younger. Always talking as if she came straight out of a Jane Austin novel" her Aunt waved her off looking off ahead into the road. Slowly trees transformed into buildings and those buildings into houses. Those houses sent shivers down her spine in a chilling feeling of a looming threat and uneasiness.
The houses in the neighborhood were unusually dated, the steps rigged, and the paint chipped. The wood looked as if it hadn't been touched in decades, maybe centuries. All of the residents were gated or hidden by trees, privacy had been a must in the town.
However; one particular house stood out and hardened her at the core, at the end of the cul-de-sac there sat a house that blew the rest of them out of the water. Big like a shadow in the dark and in the light. Vaguely familiar in a way and yet not familiar at all, it was like she was in a dream. She hoped, she prayed that this house was not her stop, that the gods didn't hate her that much.
Unfortunately; hope breeds eternal misery and she was surely miserable. For the car had stopped right on the front of the curb of that exact house that classified as haunted and in need of repair.
"Tell me this isn't where you live. " The teen pleaded with her aunt who responded with a smile and a shrug.
"Listen I know it's not the little Condo in Atlanta you're used to but let's just say this is the best you're going to get in Whispers Creek. Plus this is where me and your mother grew up, you're going to love it" Sage seemed so confident in her own words that she was out of the car before Alexandra could react.
Looking up at the house from the passenger's seat it seemed like the type of house she usually avoided or something that was written in one of her teachers' novels. She couldn't explain it but it's like all of a sudden her fibers were calling her, the instinct to rush inside was clear. She almost tripped over her feet getting out the car.
Stepping around to turn away from the house she looked onto the street and set her sights on the other houses. All chilling just not as chilling as the house she was going to be staying in until she turned eighteen, or got emancipated. Scoping the area she noticed she didn't hear a thing, not a dog, not cricket, not a single soul. Only the faint echo of crows traveling somewhere in the distance.
All the windows were covered with curtains or some even boarded up with wood, the wind was stilled and the only light she saw was the low dimness of the sunset and street lamps. She could have sworn she saw from the corner of her eye the swift peak of a curtain, but as fast as she saw it, it was as if nobody was there.
Alexandra rubbed her arms with gust and turned back around to the car, her aunt had already walked in with the bags. She stepped cautiously up the stoop and twisted the rusted golden handle. A whisper of wind knocked past her hair and she advanced in closing the door and locking it shut.
She needed to make a note to not go outside often, though she was still figuring out if it was safer for her inside or outside the house. Seeing the inside of the house for the first time, she decided she would rather sleep in the car.
"Sage" she called out left with no answer but the creaking of the wood walls.
"Sage" she tried again stepped forward in the dimly lit house, the wall lights were dated and not as bright as the modern house she was used to. It felt like she was in her version of a horror story, she couldn't even watch a scary movie without it being daytime. How was she supposed to get through it in real life?
The house inside, if even possible, was creepier on the inside than the out. Long wooden hallways and a grand wooden staircase that she was scared she might fall through if she tried to walk on them.
Somehow there was more wind inside this home than outside, the breeze could almost be mistaken for humming, it gave Alexandra, once again, chills.
Every time her foot took a step another haunting sound was made, at some point, she didn't know if it was the wood or a ghost.
Well not a ghost, she wasn't that far gone.
Turning into a left room she saw that she had found the living room, depressing hadn't even begun to describe it. It was the ordinary victorian style she saw in the movies, claw foot chairs, antique couches, and a rusty victorian fireplace.
Walking more towards the inside she saw hanging above the fireplace was a painting of a woman, she took a guess in assuming it was her late grandmother. She was beautiful, to say the least, gorgeous long blonde locks and bright hazel eyes. She wore a dated yet stunning white dress with lace all around. She had always known her mother was gorgeous, and she had gotten quite the compliments to her own beauty in school. However, she could now tell where it all came from. Her grandmother wasn't smiling in anyway way, but it wasn't a frown in itself either. In a way resembling the Mona Lisa, her facial pattern was neutral. Staring into her eyes for the longest amount of time she let out a yelp when a noise erupted from her left.
Spinning around grabbing the first object in front of her she held it up ready to attack whoever was in her way. Fortunately for her, she would only be fighting the air for the remainder of the day. A book had fallen from the bookshelves and it had landed on the ground, making Alexandra let out a sigh of relief. Looking to see what she had grabbed she realized she grabbed a coaster from off of the coffee table.
Oh look, a coaster, we're saved.
Jumping at the voice once again she put down the coaster, she had been so tired she was starting to hear things that weren't there. Reaching over the pick up the book she saw it was "The Scarlett Letter". The book had been one of her favorites, however, Alexandra had always hated it. She had always hated everything that didn't have the happy ending she was hoping for, everyone had called her naive for that way of thinking.
Done snooping around the living room she followed the path back into the hallway after putting the book back on the bookshelf. Her footsteps had gone back to echoing throughout the halls with a loud creak.
The creaking sound got louder as she walked and just as she was about to make a right turn her heart leaped out of her skin at the body she ran into, settings out an unfamiliar cry.
"Jesus Xandy, you almost scared me half to death" Sage appeared in front of her with flowered covered oven mitts on both her hands "I was looking for you, I thought one of the spirits got you" she gave herself a good chuckle before walking back to the kitchen peeling off her mitts with a smile.
Alexandra had to take a second to catch her breath, what the hell did she think was going to happen? An evil gremlin was going to lure her in and eat her alive. If she was going to survive the next few years she needed to keep a clear head. She walked towards the kitchen area surprised to find updated appliances in place, she had imagined that she was going to have to churn butter with the look of things. The kitchen smelt of burnt food, and she realized Sage had been cooking or attempting to, cook dinner. Alexandra would rather order out if it meant not brushing charcoal out of her teeth for the night.
"Sorry I was just having a look around, an interesting place you got here." Alexandra took off her jacket placing it on the edge of one of the barstools placed in front of the kitchen island.
"Me and your mom must have run a million times throughout this house during the day, if you look close enough you might even find one of our secret hiding spots we hid from our parents" Sage reminisced with a small huff while she threw her charcoal covered pan into the sink next to her.
"As fun as spending the rest of the day searching for holes sounds, I think I've explored all I need to for one day." Alexandra had gotten the feeling she wouldn't go digging around for clues much in her new home if anything she planned on staying in her room until someone sane had come to fetch her. "Is my room upstairs? I kind of just want to crash, I'm a little jet-lagged." She had been telling the truth, she had spent the night before boarded on a plane and even she had her limits.
Alexandra usually wouldn't sleep in this house if it was the last burning building on this planet, however, if she stayed awake any longer she feared the would pass out. Quite frankly she didn't trust Sage not to throw her into a ritual sacrifice while she was sleeping.
"Of course, look at me rambling on, you've been traveling all day and you've have had quite a week. You need all the rest you can get, your room is upstairs. The second door on the left" Sage walked over to her niece and engulfed her in a hug
The blonde awkwardly swayed in her arms not being able to move her pinned down hands. She was never much of a hugger, she enjoyed her personal space. Her dad used to say that she got that from his side, he always said it took her mom to finally open him up.
Her aunt pulled away gazing at her niece for a while before letting her go "Off you pop young one" she grinned turning back around to cooking whatever she was cooking with an excited hum, that must of been the humming she had heard earlier. Besides, it's not like there was anybody else in the house beside the two.
Alexandra nodded slowly and sped as much as her very tired body could take her upstairs, the stairs did not collapse under her as she thought, but the night was still young. Finding her room quickly on the left was no task, she had no desire to stand in any more hallways listening to the walls creak and the ghosts hum.
When she opened the door to the room that was supposed to be hers, she was surprised when she found it filled with a single bed and five boxes piled up on the floor. She wasn't aware of anyone else living here besides her aunt, besides her mom when she was younger.
Stepping closer in she inspects all the dust and cobwebs that have built up in the corners. The boxes in front of her didn't have any labels, and being the inspector she was she couldn't help herself. Using her hands to open up one of the boxes she stilled gazing on what was inside.
Reaching inside she picked up the photo frame with shaky hands, it was an old black and white picture of her mother and aunt when they were younger. Her mother had short blonde curly hair with a pink bow in her hair, her aunt was sitting next to her with brown hair and a blue bow in hers. They both wore formal white fluffy dresses, Alexandra assumed that it had been for a special occasion, maybe church. It had been weird for her to see her mother so young, her father had always said she got most of her looks from her mother. Staring down at the picture in her hand she could see the resemblance.
After a while Alexandra placed the picture back in the box closing it up, this was her mothers' stuff. This had to be her mothers' room aswell. Smiling for the first time in a while she looked around the room with a newfound passion, her mother had grown up in this room. She slept on the bed in front of her, played with her toys on the very floor she was standing on. She could almost feel the presence of her mother surrounding her.
Sitting down on the surprisingly comfortable bed, she examined the room letting out a long sigh of exasperation. This was her life now, dusty cobwebs and old houses. She didn't feel like herself, she felt like a stranger living in a stranger's house, living in her dead mothers' room.
Finally getting up from her daydream she rose from the bed walking towards the boarded window.
Alexandra for the life of her couldn't figure out why the windows were boarded up, it seemed to be a trend in the neighborhood and it gave her once more, chills. Using her hands she gripped the piece of wood attempting to tug it off the square window, all that seemed to accomplish were splinters on her burning hands and a disgruntled groan.
She could ask Sage for a hammer or a crane, which seemed to be the only option to get the wood off the piece of crap window. She could always light a match and pray that the whole house didn't burn down, though maybe that wouldn't have been such a bad thing.
Unrelenting she pulled again at the stacks of wood pinned to the window, determined to get some type of light from the sunset into her room.
I wouldn't do that if I were you
A scream left her lips spinning around the room looking for the source. Had she imagined it? Her mind had to be playing tricks on her. The room was empty and she could faintly hear Sage riffling through the drawers downstairs in the kitchen.
She thought she heard a voice, for sure a girl's voice, or was it her voice? Was her mind playing tricks on her, from the lack of sleep? Maybe her aunt was right, maybe there were spirits in this house.
Or maybe she just needed a nap because she was starting to hallucinate and she didn't intend on going crazy in this town just yet, she could at least survive her first night. Sighing and drawing her fingers through the top of her head she practically fell back onto the bed, her eyes were met with a popcorn ceiling and silence.
She didn't know how long she was going to survive, she didn't intend on staying with her aunt long. Though; she didn't intend to be an orphan overnight either. Alexandra wondered if somewhere they were watching her, maybe standing next to her at this moment. She wondered if she would have been happier if she just got in that damn car. if she hadn't been so stubborn and if she hadn't let her emotions get the best of her.
Shaking those thoughts away she bit her lip lightly, she couldn't think about her family, she couldn't think about being stuck in this town or this house. She had a plan, she had a will and she didn't plan on sticking around long enough to watch this town fall apart at the seams. Her eyes slowly started to flutter closed, so much that she couldn't even think about the fingers brushing against her hair.
Hang in there, Alex.