This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
“I don’t see why I have to stay here Mom, I really don’t!”
David O’Leary sulked behind his mother as they walked up the path to the overgrown yard. Jane looked back at her eighteen-year-old son and frowned, stopping to smooth out his wild hair. David wiggled, trying to get his mother to stop.
“You listen here! This is only for a few days while I visit your father.” Jane said, frowning as she continued to try and pet down her son’s hair. “Should have brought a hairbrush… I can’t leave you with your Grandmother like this!”
“My hairs fine Mom, geez… why can’t I just come with you? I wanna see Dad too y’know!” David said, looking off towards the forested area flanking the old house in front of him.
“I’ve already explained this to you, your father is working at a government installation, and he can only have one guest. And after the party you threw when I left you at home, there’s no way we’re taking that chance again. Your Grandmother is a really nice woman, and she would love to spend some time with you.”
David bowed his head, smiling softly as he remembered what he’d gotten Rebecca Wilkerson to do that night, allowing his mother to try and arrange his black mop of hair to her liking while he reminisced. “If she’s so nice, why is it we never see her?”
“Well, she lives all the way out here in the country… and she doesn’t really like visitors, so to speak. But your family and I know for a fact that she wants to see you.” Jane smiled, pushing back David’s bangs to look at his blue eyes.
“How do you know?” David asked not wanting to admit he was a little bit scared of being alone with his father’s mother, a supposed old biddy of a woman with a family business in the small town of Alice Grove. He really wasn’t looking forwards to spending time with her as the freshman term had just started and he needed to crack down on his Biology homework if he wanted to get ahead in his first semester of college.
“I called her of course! We spoke for a while and when I asked if she could look after you, she seemed overjoyed at the thought. I imagine she has a fresh plate of cookies waiting for you, just out of the stove.”
David stood there, arms crossed; thinking over what this time with his older relative could possibly hold other than disappointment. He sighed and turned back towards the car, walking towards it.
“Let me grab my backpack and suitcase then,” David grumbled. Lanky arms and legs with long black hair, David was a thin young man with nearly perfect eyesight and a penchant for playing the guitar just well enough to woo the ladies. Grabbing his backpack and suitcase, he pulled his guitar case from the trunk as well; carrying them all up the steps as his mother rapped her knuckles on the door.
“That’s the spirit, you’ll have a great time here, I promise,” Jane said, either missing her son’s defeated attitude or ignoring it.
Setting his guitar on the ground, David looked at the building with a critical eye, brushing his bangs from his eyes as he studied the old wooden boards and aged shingles sliding off of the roof. The front of the building was covered by blue-wood and red-brick, with a walkway winding through six-foot-high hedges leading to the doorway. Looking up, he smiled when he caught sight of the rolling fields behind the house. Maybe he could get some people together for a football game?
“Guess I better make the most of it,” David said before he noticed something very strange in the second story window.
From a darkened room he saw a stately woman staring down at him, her hands folded in front of her as she stared down an aristocratic nose at him, her hair tied back in a graying bun. Her dress was a deep red, with a rose sitting nestled in her hair. Heavy lines on her face made her seem older than she seemed to act, her posture more akin to a startled cat then a welcoming Grandmother.
David swallowed the lump in his throat, his eyes never leaving the woman. He waved weakly with the hand holding onto the loop of his backpack, only to have her incline her head in greeting. David smiled slightly… maybe she wouldn’t be so bad after all?
Hearing laughter from behind the hedges, he bent down to pick up his guitar case and walked around the hedges to be greeted by the sight of his mother laughing with a small bell-shaped woman with silver hair pulled into a tight bun, glasses perched on the end of her nose and an ugly red sweater practically blinding him. The women stopped laughing when they noticed David, the older one adjusting her glasses to look David over.
Jamo is a picknee.
“Oh my, you’re right! He does take after his father!” The old woman said, nudging Jane with an elbow. “But I see your eyes and chin on that face, very handsome.”
“Oh, um… thanks?” David said, shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
“Oh, where are my manners, David, this is your Grandmother Anne,” Jane said, motioning toward the plump woman, who clasped her knotty hands together and smiled. “She’ll be watching over you until I’m back in town on Monday. You have plenty of homework to do so you shouldn’t be bothering her too much.”
“Oh nonsense Jane, he won’t bother me at all! I might have him help me with some chores around the house, seeing how long it’s been since I had a strong back and a man’s strength to do the heavy lifting.” Grandma said with a laugh, walking forward to scoop David into an awkward hug. He dropped his guitar case and looped his arm around his Grandmother to hug her better, smiling as he inhaled the scent of cherries and chocolate.
“Now, you’ll be staying with me for the next three days while your mother joins your father at the teacher’s conference in Austin,” Grandma said, backing out of the hug a few inches, looking up at him. “I think we’ll get along well enough, don’t you?”
“Yeah Grandma,” David agreed, thinking on the woman he’d seen in the window. Was that her sister or something? “
Looking back up, David felt his heart begin to race when the stately woman from before was now gone, vanished from his line of sight. Shivering as a cold wind blew past him, David marched up to the front of the house just in time for Jane to pull him into a one-armed hug. She looked up into David’s eyes and sighed. “You will behave, won’t you David?”
“Of course!” He said, trying to act indignant and failing miserably. “I have more work than I can handle to get into any kind of trouble on the side.”
“So long as you can spare some time to help me with a few chores and to test my recipes, I’ll leave you to your studies,” Grandma said as she bustled back to the front door, which was slightly ajar and filtering out motes of dust into the afternoon light.
David smiled at that, imagining the plump woman pumping him full of sweets and treats throughout his stay.
“Now Anne, he isn’t to eat too much. We have him on a vegetarian diet at home. Will that be okay with you here?” Jane asked.
Grandma waved away the concern. “Baked potatoes and corn on the cob, I got it. I have more recipes from my mother than I care to admit that will put some meat on his bones and stay vegetarian for you.”
Any response Jane had was cut off as something deep within the house crashed followed by a long and mournful groan.
Carolyn Hahn-Re: I really liked this story! The writing was well done, and the plot was suspenseful. I couldn't stop reading chapter after chapter, on the edge of my seat! The characters were well developed, and true to form. Thank you so much for this wonderful read.
Bradley Darewood: I really really really liked this. I just voted for you!The voice is flawless-- I can't write men as well as you do and I have a penis. Maybe I'm narcissistic but I particularly enjoyed the moment where he muses about how artists would do better in such a solitary job. But my favorite moment ...
Kiz16: After a truly shocking start to the story, I found the style and content slowed down as the author introduced a varied group of characters who I thought were fleshed out very well. After a slow couple of chapters, I found this story difficult to leave with the tension growing within the house. Yo...
Deleted User: This is a very clever story in the style of 19th century (and turn of the century) Gothic writing, very reminiscent of Stevenson's The Body Snatchers or even of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (less so of Frankenstein itself, since the author is more minimalist than Shelley's florid, Romantic rhetoric). ...
Jan Imonti: Loved the story, but didn't like the delivery...had to read this on my computer on line. Wasn't able to download it to my kindle. Excellent story, lots of twists and turns. Fairly quick read. Love the versitility of Mitchell's writing. Keep up with the great mysteries.
FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"
Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."