Chapter 13: Candi...
Waking up wrapped around Chris is not exactly a new experience. We’ve been here before on the nights that he’s stayed with me after the nightmares and fear. What IS new is the fact that there’s nothing between his skin and mine. Without opening my eyes, I take a minute to savor the warmth of his skin and the comfort of being held tight in his arms.
He shifts under me and then, in that raspy sleep voice, says, “Good morning.”
“You still with me this morning?”
I shift my head up to look at him, “What do you mean?”
“No freaking out about last night?”
“Oh.” I shrug, “About yesterday and everything we’ve seen and heard? Yes, absolutely. But, last night? Us together? I always thought this was where we should end up. So, no, no freaking out.”
He puts his hand on my cheek and leans down to kiss me lightly. “Good. I don’t want to see you running from me.”
I lean up, following his mouth as it backs away from me, “Not gonna happen.”
After a few minutes of just making out like teenagers, I get up, heading for the shower. Over my shoulder, I say, “Can you try to get in touch with Cam again real quick?”
“Sure.” He jumps up and follows me, “but listen… let’s just have a day together. No Kieran. No hauntings. No witches. Just you and me and some fun. You seriously need and deserve it after everything you’ve been through lately.”
With a soft smile, I walk back to him and kiss him, “Sounds good. Thank you.”
He nods and walks back out into the room, presumably to call Cam. I rush through my shower, getting more excited for this day by the minute. Just as I’m wrapping a towel around myself, he walks back in, getting into the shower himself.
“Still nothing. I’m sorry.”
I shrug, “It’s ok. He probably just found a girl to hole up with. He’s done it before. I’d know if something were wrong, so no big deal.”
After his shower, we start our day out with a huge breakfast. After last night’s marathon, I’m starving and he seems to be, too. When we’re finished, he asks if I wanna catch a movie but there’s still a couple hours before the theatre opens, so we just drive around, looking at scenery. It really is beautiful here. When I thought about mountains, I never imagined a place like this. They’re called the Blue Ridge mountains for a reason. There’s a blue haze hanging over them. The mountains are completely covered by trees, so the ones in the distance almost look like they’re covered in a dark green carpet. While that description doesn’t sound all that great, it’s actually pretty amazing. I can almost imagine what it must have looked like before all the technology was brought here. The only thing disturbing the picturesque view are power lines and the road we’re currently on.
After a little over an hour of driving, we start up a road that seems to be going straight up the mountain. I turn to him, “Where are we going?”
“Well… you remember that movie that your mom loves? Dirty Dancing?” When I nod, he continues, “It was partially filmed up here. The resort in the movie is an actual place.”
I sit up straighter, looking around, “Seriously?”
“Yep. It has a different name than in the movie, but yeah. We’re going up so you can look around a bit. If you want, we can come back another day because there’s a pretty popular cave at the foot of the mountain that we can explore.”
“Why not today?”
He shakes his head, “I didn’t bring the gear with me today for that. We both need better shoes and flash lights, at least. To get into the interesting parts, you have to either go up high or down low. Up high, you risk falling and down low it’s slippery in areas that you have to climb over. It’s pretty cool though. There’s an underground stream in there that you can see some fish in and it feels like you’re in a completely different world.”
“How do you know about this place?”
“Well, Mountain Lake… the resort we’re heading to… I’ve always known about. But the cave is one that one of my classes took a field trip to when we were in high school. I got stuck helping babysit a girl that freaked out over the heights when we went up high instead of down below, so didn’t go very far.”
“That’s kind of harsh, Chris.”
“I really don’t mean it that way. I was fine hanging out with her and our other friend at the time. But she froze. She even dropped her flashlight and damn near hit the people below us. One of the guides had to basically pull her along the ledge because she couldn’t move. As far as I know, she still hates heights because of that one day. But, the three of us stopped and waited in the first big room you come to. We explored in there a bit, even lit some candles that our other friend had in her bag, and just basically chilled out, waiting for the rest of the class to get back.”
“Why did ya’ll have to stay behind with her? Ya’ll couldn’t see the rest and come back for her?”
“We probably could have but nobody was willing to leave her in there alone, me included. The thing is… it’s underground. So, there’s no light at all, other than the artificial light you bring in. So, think how terrifying it would be to suddenly be in there by yourself with nothing but a flash light. Every single noise you hear would make you think something was about to get you. And sounds are amplified, so it would be so much worse. Just the sound of water dripping off in another room of the cave would sound like it’s right next to you. It’s easy to imagine things waiting right beyond your circle of light to get you.”
“Well, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for me to go in there with you.”
He laughs, “Good point. We don’t have to go if you don’t want. Mostly I just wanted to bring you up here.” He points out the windshield and I take in the resort coming into view. There’s a huge lake, with a really pretty gazebo right beside of it. On one side is a stone building, which I assume is the motel. It’s that old looking light brown stone, almost like someone pulled pieces of rock out of the mountains and put them together to make a building. It’s so gorgeous!
As we get out of the car and walk down to the lake itself, he says, “It’s a little low right now. It goes through this sometimes. It’s really weird. Sometimes it randomly dries up and then it’ll go back to being full.”
“So basically, this entire state is supernatural.”
He laughs again, “I guess so. Never really thought of it like that, but there are a lot of unexplainable things that happen here. I’ve always just thought the mountains had a lot of mystery. Too much for any one person to ever explain. You can go your entire life here never encountering anything out of the ordinary. Or you can see things that will boggle your imagination. The mountains can be harsh but they can also be a source of protection. One thing’s for sure, every day here gives you a new opportunity for mystery and beauty. That’s part of the charm, though, I think.”
“Well, even without much water, it’s really pretty.” I pause and point to the structure by the lake, “Is that the gazebo from the movie?”
“Yep. If you want, we can go do one of the tours. They have the self-guided ones that you can see all the spots from the movie.”
I smile up at him, “Yes please! I know that movie was before my time, but my mom watched it enough times to make me love it too.”
We go into the motel, looking for a map, which is actually a brochure, and one of the ladies tells us that they have tours with guides that we can do if we’d like to come back another day.
I put my hand on Chris’ arm, “Hey, why don’t we do that? I’d much rather have someone with us that knows everything, than try to figure it out on our own.”
He nods, “Whatever you want. We can get some lunch in Harvest, if you want to, and then hike up to Bald Knob.”
“Hike up to what?”
“Bald Knob. Just trust me. When you get to the top you can see for miles.”
“Ok. Sounds good.”
While we’re having lunch, I overhear a couple at the next table talking about a Dirty Dancing weekend. When I ask Chris what that is, he shrugs and says, “It’s just what it sounds like. A whole weekend devoted to the movie. They show the movie out on the lawn and do all kinds of activities, even dance lessons. Or that’s what I’ve heard anyway. I’ve never been to one.”
“Why the hell not? That sounds awesome.”
“Uhhh… cause I’m a guy?”
I roll my eyes, “Whatever. Can we do that?”
He looks up at the ceiling, I assume for divine intervention, “How did I know you were gonna make me come up here for that?”
“Fine. Just need to find out when.”
The older lady at the table next to us leans over, “I couldn’t help but overhear you, dear. The next weekend will be next month. You might want to reserve your spot now, though. I’ve heard they fill up pretty quickly on those weekends.”
I smile at her, “Thank you so much.” I turn back to Chris, “You done? Cause I’m done.”
“Seriously? You’re in that much of a hurry?”
I’m pretty much bouncing in my seat at this point. “Yep. I wanna go reserve a spot for that weekend. So, eat up. Let’s go. Things to do.”
He shakes his head, seemingly amazed. But, really, does he not realize what an awesome thing this is? It’s Dirty freaking Dancing! The movie that generations of people love. Not just the ones that were young when it was made. Like I said, I wasn’t even born yet, but I LOVE that movie. I actually cried when Patrick Swayze died. Right along with my mom.
Chris blows out a breath, “Alright. Let’s go.” He pulls out his wallet, throwing some money on the table and we head out to make our reservations. I’m so freaking excited!
The lady tells us that part of the weekend includes a Dirty Dancing tour, so we decide that we’ll just wait until we come back for that. With that taken care of, we head out on our hike, which turns out to be fairly easy, as hikes go. When we get up to Bald Knob, I see exactly what he was talking about.
The mountains actually look small from up here. It feels like we’re alone on top of the world. We’re standing on these huge slabs of stone, up on the edge and it’s quite possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
Chris stands behind me, with his arms wrapped around my waist, and whispers, “So… good day?”
I rub his arms, “BEST day.” I turn to look at him, raising my head up for a kiss, “Thank you for this.”
He reaches up and tucks my hair behind one ear, “I’ve missed this.”
“What do you mean?”
“Since you’ve been here you haven’t been you. I’ve missed seeing you like this. Happy, I guess. Almost care free. I don’t want this place to change you and make you into someone else. Someone you don’t want to be.”
I turn back to face the mountains, “Everybody changes, Chris. It’s just life.”
“Not what I meant, Candace, and you know it.”
I nod, “I do know.” I chew on my lip, trying to get my thoughts straight. “Maybe I SHOULD just move. Maybe it would be best. I just don’t want to leave anyone else the chance to move in that house and cause the problem that I’m trying to avoid.”
He squeezes me a bit tighter, “So don’t sell the house. Hell… you own the house and the land it’s on. Tear it down. It won’t be an abandoned house, just some land that you own and never visit.”
“I love that house, though. I don’t want to tear it down.”
He turns me around in his arms, “I work in construction, baby. I can build you another house just like it somewhere else.”
I shake my head, “It won’t be the same.” He opens his mouth to say something else, but I just continue on, “Maybe we should try to figure out how to get rid of him. What if there’s a way to fix this and no one’s taken time to try before?”
“Really? There was an entire coven of witches involved. You don’t think they did everything they could to fix it? It’s been almost two centuries, Candi. If it hasn’t been resolved before now, it won’t be until his time is up. And you can’t keep living in motels for the next ten years. We need to find a permanent solution. One that DOESN’T involve you putting yourself at risk.”
“How do you know he’ll hurt me? Maybe he won’t.”
“Ok. Say he has no intention of hurting you. Are you gonna give him what he wants? Are you gonna sleep with him? Because, after last night, I gotta tell ya… I’m not ok with that.”
I roll my eyes, “No, I’m not gonna sleep with him. Obviously, that didn’t work out in the past for the women who DID. But, what if I could string him along? Just long enough for us to figure out what to do?”
He shakes his head, “You didn’t see yourself yesterday. You turned into a completely different person. You were all about him. Even after finding that little girl, you were just going to go with him, no questions asked. The spell he has you under is too strong for you to be able to string him along. You’ll end up giving him what he wants and giving birth to a serial killer.”
“No I want. If nothing else, I can be assured of that. I’m on the shot, remember?”
“Even that’s not a hundred percent, Candi. What happens if the birth control fails?”
I wave my hand in the air, stepping back from him, “All of this is moot, anyway. I’m not sleeping with a creepy ghost. That’s just too out there, even for me. Let’s just head back to the motel and try to get in touch with Cam again. Maybe we can all get together and figure something out. Besides, I don’t want him at that house either.”
He nods and I say, “We can talk to that lady that was there yesterday. Maybe she has some connections or some ideas on how to fix this?”
“I guess. Won’t hurt to try, anyway. As long as you agree not to go back there, I’ll explore every avenue you want me to.”
I walk back over to him and kiss him, “Thank you.”
This was the most amazing day, other than that talk about Kieran, of course. I never knew places like that actually existed, but, now that I do, I’m seriously looking forward to a romantic weekend up there with Chris.
If we could just get past all this ghost crap, everything would be perfect. Chris is my best friend, so it makes it easy to be with him, considering he knows pretty much everything about me and has never judged me for my choices.
The only thing marring my happiness right now, other than the obvious issue of Kieran, is my brother. He STILL isn’t answering his phone. He NEVER stays out of touch this long and it’s really starting to worry me. I keep reminding myself that I should feel it if something were wrong, but that’s not calming my worry anymore.
I know if I ask Chris to take me back to the house to look for him, he’ll flip out on me. But, what else can I do? I guess I’ll give it until morning. If I still haven’t heard from Cam, I’ll just have to go alone. I’m not leaving my brother in that house with a psychotic ghost running around. What if he figures out that I’m avoiding him and decides to take it out on Cam?
For the rest of today, though… research. So far we’ve found five of the previous residents. Well… not so much found THEM as we found where they were from. According to relatives they were never heard from again. We only found them because they had missing person’s reports done on them, but they were never found. Creepy but not surprising.
Now, we’re heading back to the motel office, in an attempt to talk to that lady and see if we can find out anything else about the coven.
She’s not in there, though. According to her granddaughter, she doesn’t come into the office very often and actually lives alone. She is hesitant, but finally gives us her address, after many assurances that we mean her no harm. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we let her take our pictures with her cell and leave her our drivers’ licenses so that she can call the police if anything happens to her.
This woman lives out in the middle of nowhere. We have to drive down a dirt trail to even get to her. It leads into a small clearing in the woods, with an immaculate lawn and a cute, white cottage in the center. She has rose bushes planted along the front, only broken up by the steps leading up to the small porch. She’s sitting outside in an old rocking chair, almost like she was waiting for us.
When we get out of the car, she calls, “What can I do for you today, dears?”
I say, “We were hoping for some more information on the coven that you were telling us about.”
She stands up and starts for the door, “Come on inside, then. Not sure what I can tell you, but you’re welcome to stay for tea.”
We follow her in the house, which is typical of an older lady… knick knacks everywhere, afghans covering the sofa and chairs, and a small TV with rabbit ears. She sits down in the recliner and motions us to the couch.
“Now. What is it that you want to know?”
I clear my throat, “Did they ever try to fix the spell?”
“Of course, dear. They tried several times to change it back to what it originally was. Nothing worked.”
“Ok. Is there any way to get rid of Kieran? Other than letting this run its course?”
She sighs, “Listen, child, I know that you want to stay in the house, but there’s simply nothing to be done about it. He’s there until his time runs out.”
“No, it’s not that I particularly want to stay there. I mean, yes, I’d like my house back, but I’m willing to let it go if I have to. I’m not hurting for money and can just buy something somewhere else. I just don’t want to abandon it, like the ones before me were thought to do, and then someone else end up moving in there and starting this all over again. And… what happens if some unfortunate people hike onto that land and he grabs them? All just because I took away his opportunity and he got desperate? The Appalachian Trail runs awfully close to where the land starts and people could easily wander onto it by accident. It’s just too much to leave to chance. Honestly, the only solutions we’re coming up with are to have the house torn down and the entire property fenced in. But, then you have thrill seekers that would scale a fence, just to see what’s there. As well as putting the people in danger that have to handle all of the work. With equality laws, I can’t force them to only use men for the work and, even if I did that, it would put the men in danger because of his temper.”
She nods, “All excellent points. I can’t think of what ifs, though. I can only think of averting this disaster one person at a time.”
“Listen… I’m not one of those dumb girls in a horror movie that goes back in, thinking I know best and hoping the scary bad guy doesn’t follow me. I’m aware of the consequences if I end up back there. I’m just trying to find a better solution.”
“Well…” She slaps her hands down on her knees, standing up and heading to the kitchen, “there’s nothing to be done about it tonight. Would you all like some tea? I’m having some now.”
I’m beyond frustrated and can’t just sit here drinking tea right now, “No, thank you. We need to head back. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.”
She pauses in the doorway, turning to look at me, “Do NOT go back there, young lady. You have no idea of what you are messing with. That man will destroy everything if you let him.”
I nod, “I understand. Thank you again.”
We leave before she can say anything else on the subject. This was nothing but a waste of time.