Abandoned Lives

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Chapter 1: Candi

“I swear I’m fine! I just really like the house!” I’ve spent the last two hours of my drive on the phone, trying to convince my brother that I haven’t gone insane.

“Candi,” he blows out a breath, “You’re a city girl. There’s no way in hell you want to live in the woods, with no neighbors close by.”

I roll my eyes, “I’m not THAT much of a city girl.”

I hear a snort and then, “Yeah, sis, you are. You’re a tattooed city girl with dreadlocks in your hair, driving a Mustang, for God’s sake. Do you think you’re gonna be able to drive that thing up here in the winter? Because it’s gonna snow and there’s ice… You’ll be stuck inside, possibly with power failures, this winter. You can’t just get a cab like in New York. You’ll be in the middle of nowhere. And YOU’RE SCARED OF THE DARK!”

Rather than reply to his annoying highness, I hang up the phone, tossing it in the passenger seat of my baby. Yes, I AM driving a Mustang. A royal blue 2015 Mustang, to be exact. But, it’s summer right now, so I don’t have to worry about winter and snow for a while. Even if I did, it’s not like I need to actually go out anywhere. I don’t work and I can stock up on necessities before any snow gets here. And… I may possibly be slightly afraid of the dark. Not much, just a little. But that’s beside the point. This is my chance to do something for me. I found this house online, called a friend that lives nearby, and he worked out the details for me. Now I’m the proud owner of a six bedroom, three-bathroom home in the mountains. Going by the pictures Chris sent me, I won’t have that much work to do to get it in perfect condition. Of course, he didn’t go inside, so I only have pictures of the outside. He forgot to charge his phone before he met the realtor and it died on him. Oh well. The outside looks great and he did say that the inside is pretty good too. Just a few minor upgrades needed and some cleaning. I’m fine with that. No problem at all getting dirty for my new home.

The GPS suddenly pipes up with “Turn left in one quarter mile.” I turn down my music and start looking ahead, trying to make sure I don’t miss my turn off. But, once I get to the point that it’s telling me to turn on, there’s nothing but a dirt road. Huh. Not what I was expecting. He didn’t tell me I had to drive my baby up a dirt road to get there. That’s not cool.

I pull over on the side of the road and, as expected, my phone starts ringing. I don’t even bother to say hello, “I just need to call Chris. This doesn’t look right.”

My brother is behind me in the moving truck with all my stuff. “You don’t even know where we’re going?”

I roll my eyes again. He’s so damn annoying, “No, Cam, I don’t. I told you I had Chris look everything over for me.”

“Oh my God! You put over 100 grand on a house you’ve never even seen.”

It doesn’t sound like a question, so I don’t dignify it with a response, “Hanging up now.”

What sucks about hanging up on him is that he’s pulled over right behind my car. I can’t get away from him. He just walks over, opens my door, and stands there with his arms crossed, glaring at me. My friends always referred to my brother as the “sexy” twin. He got all the muscles and height from our womb sharing days. He’s around 6’3” tall and built like a damn linebacker. Or what I assume a linebacker is built like, anyway. I don’t actually watch football. I, however, got stuck being 5’4” tall and, if it wasn’t for my modest B-cup and cute butt, I’d look like a ten-year-old boy. Yep, I said my butt’s cute. It’s about the only part of my body that I really like because it always looks good in those palazzo pants that kind of drape down from the waist. It’s almost like a little bubble back there. Otherwise, I’m what my grandmother calls “willowy”. I just call it too damn skinny. Anyway, we’re both blonde with green eyes. But, I had my hair done in dreadlocks a while back. Even twisted up like that, it reaches almost down to my butt. He went the opposite direction and shaved his head. I guess he was protesting my choice of hairstyle. He did, however, keep his mustache and goatee.

“Candace, what the hell were you thinking?” Oh yeah. I almost forgot, he’s mad at me right now.

“Well, Camden, I was thinking I’d really like to get to my new house and get some dinner. What the hell were YOU thinking?” Yep, it’s fun to antagonize him. I love him. Duh, he’s my twin. Of course, I love him. But his face gets all red and his nostrils flare. It’s hilarious. Of course, I wouldn’t take it too far because that’s just mean and I’m not a mean girl.

Before he can blast me again, I sigh, throwing him the pitiful puppy dog eyes, and say, “I’m sorry, Bubba. Don’t be mad at me. I really just wanted to move away from the city. Please understand.”

He rolls his eyes at me. Yep, we have that in common, too. We’re a family of eye rollers and antagonizers. “Fine. Just… find out where the hell we’re going. I’m hungry.”

I nod, “I know. You usually are.” And dial Chris.

When he answers, I ask, “Hey, can you give me some directions? GPS isn’t working right.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. I forgot to tell you that you can’t use GPS to get there. Tell me where you are and I’ll meet you. You can follow me up.”

I look around and there’s nothing but trees and a river. No signs, no landmarks of any kind. “Dude, I have no idea. I’m on a small road in the middle of the woods. There’s a river beside me.”

“Ok, check the GPS and see if it says the road name.”

I look back in the car, “No. It just shows that I’m on a road. It doesn’t have a name for it.”

Cam speaks up, “Ok, we passed a grocery store a while back. We can double back there and meet him. Will that work?”

Once I relay that and give him the name of the store, we have a plan in place. Backtracking for about half an hour, we pull into a fairly large parking lot and meet up with Chris. I haven’t seen him in months, since he was in college with me in New York, and I’ve missed him like crazy. He steps out of a huge red truck and I do a double take.

This is so not the Chris I remember. He’s wearing camo cargo pants, a black T-shirt, and what looks like Timberlands on his feet. In New York, he was always in jeans and long sleeve T-shirts, with sparkly white sneakers. Now he looks like he’s about to go hunting. Cam walks over, doing the guy thing of fist bump with Chris and speaks up before I can.

“Dude, what’s up with the beard?” Yep, he was clean shaven in New York. Now? He’s got a full beard, the same dark brown as his short hair. It’s shaped up and not real long, but still. It’s a BEARD. Since when has slightly southern, but sexy, Chris become Mr. Camo bearded guy? And, really, who the hell am I to be judging people? Half of New York has seen my naked ass.

He starts rubbing his hand on the side of his face, “Oh… yeah. I, um… well, I don’t really know. Just decided to grow it out, I guess, and see how it looks. Hadn’t really made up my mind yet if I’m keeping it or not.”

“It kinda works, though,” I speak up. “It matches this whole country boy vibe you have going on right now.” I motion up and down his body and he grins over at me, walking over and picking me up in a bear hug.

“Damn, girl, I missed you.”

I laugh, “I missed you, too, C.” I pat his shoulders, “Put me down. I wanna go see my house.”

He’s still grinning at me as he slides me back down to the ground. I really did miss him like crazy. He was my best friend for a while there and, when he graduated, he left me to come back home. I get it. This is home for him. But, I really could have used his help this past year, with everything that happened. I know he would’ve stood by me and made sure no one messed with me. Instead, I got to find out the hard way who my friends actually weren’t.

We all get back in our respective vehicles and start the convoy to my house. I was right. The dirt road is wrong. I actually drove right past the correct road. After about 45 minutes of following behind Chris’ truck, we turn down a long, winding paved driveway that runs through the woods. The trees provide a canopy over the road. Bet that’s creepy at night. Especially since there’s no street lights here.

We come out at a huge clearing and there’s my new house, sitting right in the center. My first impression is that the pictures didn’t do it justice. It’s absolutely beautiful. I mean, yes, I can see where Chris might think it needs to be repainted. But I, personally, love the look of age on the house. The gravel driveway circles around to a set of gray steps that lead up onto a wraparound porch. There’s another set of the exact same steps that go down into the front yard, which, by the way, is immaculate. Apparently, they mowed in preparation for me being here. That wrap around porch juts out on the right corner into what almost looks like a castle turret. It has two levels on that side of the porch, creating an upper balcony, and is topped with a cone shaped roof. There are shrubs against each corner of the porch and some kind of ground cover vines in between the steps and the shrubs. The porch itself is made of red bricks, some of which are darker than others, giving it more character, I think. The house is made of wood and it almost looks like siding, rather than just a plain wooden exterior, with the designs in it. The color is a faded grey that sounds awful but actually works really well. It has three chimneys, telling me there are fireplaces, which I fully intend to use this winter. The roof… It has a few different shapes to it. There are the obligatory A-shapes in the center and, on the edges where the building is more rounded, there are the cone shaped areas that lead into those A-shapes. There are plenty of beautiful windows on both floors of the house, including a small circular one where I assume the attic is, and almost all of them have dark grey shutters.

Before I even get the car parked, I’m already planning the deck furniture I want to buy for both levels of that circular area on the porch. I can see myself sitting out there on a warm day, reading and relaxing. Pulling the car over to the side of the drive, making room for Cam to park the rental truck so that we can get my stuff taken inside, I park and slowly get out. I’m not even paying attention to the guys walking over toward me because I’m so busy staring at the amazing home in front of me. It’s mine! All mine! Well… I may share it with Cam… But, yeah… all mine!

Camden speaks up from behind me, “Candi, this can’t be right.”

I turn with my eyebrow raised, “Why’s that?”

“You said you paid $125,000 for it?” When I nod, he starts looking concerned and asks Chris, “Are you sure the real estate agency was on the up and up?”

Chris nods, “Yeah, man. I went to their office to get the paperwork to send to Candi. It’s a well-known agency around here.”

That doesn’t relieve any of the worry on his face. “There’s no way in hell this house was that cheap. Something’s wrong with it.”

Chris finally seems to understand, “Oh… yeah, well… it’s been empty for a while. And the last owners apparently left a bunch of their stuff behind. I think it was a foreclosure, but since it’s out in the middle of nowhere they couldn’t get anyone else interested in it. And since it’s sat here empty for so long, it’ll probably need some work. I had an inspector come out and it passed, but it needs a few upgrades.” He nods at me, “I figured you’d want to make decisions on that stuff once you got here.”

I smile at him and run over, jumping up and giving him a hug. “Thank you, Chris! This is so awesome!”

His arms immediately wrap around me, squeezing tight, and his voice gets a little gruff, “You’re welcome.” He clears his throat, stepping back away from me, “You ready to see the inside?”

I nod and we go up onto the porch. He hands me the house key, motioning for me to do the honors. When I step inside, I’m once again speechless. Hard wood floors everywhere! The walls are a soothing shade of off white. Honestly, it’s kind of making me start to agree with Cam’s concerns. This house can’t possibly be that price. Then again, New York prices are outrageous, so maybe that’s why it’s so much lower than we would have expected. It has a very open layout, with rounded archways going into each room. There are scalloped designs over every single archway. The stairs leading to the second floor are directly in front of the door and the upstairs is in a sort of balcony design. The ceiling over the foyer reaches all the way to the top of the house, with railings surrounding the second floor. The banister is a dark, shiny wood. It’s all been freshly cleaned and polished.

“Chris, I thought you said there was some cleaning that needed to be done.”

“Yeah, there was.” He shrugs, “Guess they took care of it. There WAS a whole bunch of furniture and stuff in here.”

I can feel my brow crinkle up. I don’t own much in the way of furniture. In fact, other than my bedroom set, the only other thing I have is a couch. I’m starting to get worried about it because it’s already afternoon. No way will I be able to find a furniture store that can deliver. Walking into the kitchen makes it even worse. Don’t get me wrong, the kitchen is huge and it has definite potential. But, it’s been completely gutted. There’s no fridge, no stove, not even any cabinets or counter space. The only thing in there is a sink. And it looks like it needs to be replaced. I have electricity and water, thanks to Chris, so I walk over and try it out. The sink works. It’s just really ugly. It’s too small for this big of a kitchen and the stainless steel is not so stainless. There are dark spots and hard water stains all over the inside of it. Underneath the sink is what should have been a cabinet, but there’s no doors to it.

I turn to Chris, “Did you not see this when you came in?”

He nods, “I did, but I thought you’d want to take care of decorating it yourself.” He smiles, “Come on, it’s a fresh canvas for you to work with.” He points to my full sleeve of flowery tattoos, “I know you appreciate being able to create something beautiful.”

Cam walks in and speaks up, “How about this… you keep looking around. I’m sure Chris knows where the master bedroom is, so we’ll get everything unloaded and set up real quick. When we’re done, we’ll take the rental truck and find a furniture store. We can probably get quite a bit of what you’ll need in there and we won’t have to wait for delivery.”

I blow out a breath, nodding, “Thanks, guys.” I go to the stairs and proceed to do exactly what he told me to do. It’s pretty easy to find the master bedroom and I’m definitely impressed with it. The room is huge and it’s painted a dark burgundy color that’s absolutely beautiful. I love having darker colors in the bedroom. It relaxes me. There’s a connecting bathroom with a large claw foot tub and what looks like a new shower stall with rounded glass doors. The shower itself has a massaging shower head. The vanity has two sinks and a huge mirror with really big round light bulbs over it. The bathroom is painted burgundy, as well, and has this really cool looking tile on the floor. It almost looks like broken shards of different colors of glass, all mixed together. The toilet is closed off in its own little room, complete with a locking door. That’ll be nice if I ever actually have a guy over. I’m not big on doing my business where people can hear me. There are two exhaust fans in the ceiling… one in the toilet area and one in the main bathroom area.

My imagination immediately goes to adding a couple of tables around the tub and taking a nice long, hot bath, with candles lit and no other lights on.

Walking back out into the bedroom, I open the other door. It looks like a small closet door, but when I open it, it’s a huge walk in closet, with several shelves to the right and rods to hang clothes on to the left. The wall straight ahead is empty and would be a great place to put a dresser.

I walk out of the master bedroom as the guys start bringing my furniture in, looking into the other bedrooms. Each one has a different color on the walls. There’s a royal blue, a white, a yellow, a green, even a black one. There’s another bathroom up here, I guess for the other bedrooms to share. It’s not quite as grand as mine, but it’s pretty big as well, painted white. The other bathroom is on the ground floor.

My curiosity for this floor satisfied, I go for the door that I saw in the kitchen earlier. Opening it up, I see steps leading down into a basement. There’s a light switch on the wall outside the door, in the kitchen, so I flip it on and the whole basement lights up. I’m not much on basements so I leave the door open and cautiously go down the steps. It’s a little creepy down here, with cement floors and at least 3 different rooms to it. The steps aren’t rickety but they also don’t have backs in them. So, it makes me feel like something is gonna grab my ankles through the back of the steps.

And apparently, this is where all of the stuff Chris was talking about went to. Every single room is packed with furniture and piles of what looks like clothes and toys. Did they not get rid of anything from the people that have lived here over the years?

I don’t feel comfortable down here by myself. There’s a definite chill in the air, despite the 90 degree temps outside, and it’s freaking me out a little bit. I’ll make the guys come back with me to clean everything out. Like the chicken I am, I run back up the stairs, locking the door and turning off the light behind me.

My exploration comes to an end at a laundry room beside the downstairs bathroom. Hmmm, no washer and dryer, either. Although it DOES have a big plastic looking sink and lots of shelving, including some rods built into the wall. I guess those are to hang clothes on when they come out of the dryer.

Well… I finally have a small list of things I need. I also noticed there’s no heat or air conditioning, so I need to contact someone to get something installed. Yes, this is going to be a costly home by the time I’m done, but I have the money and it’s not like I have a lot of other expenses. My car is fully paid for. I have no student loans. The house is fully paid for, including the home owner’s insurance being paid up for the next year. And I live alone… unless my brother decides to live with me, in which case, he will be helping pay bills.

Backtracking to the living room, which, by the way, has a huge stone fireplace, I find the guys sitting on the couch talking. The only piece of furniture in the downstairs.

“Ya’ll ready to head back out?”

They both swivel towards me and Cam stands up, “Yep, let’s roll. You riding with me or Chris?” At my look of confusion, he explains, “We figured it’d be better to take his truck and the rental truck. You need a lot of shit and we’ll be able to get more at once that way.”

I nod, “Ok, I’ll ride with Chris. I haven’t seen him in months.”

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