The rest of the visit was pleasant enough considering my mind was on the house at the end of the road. But Lucy was kind and laughed a lot and when she left, I decided she’d been joking. At least that’s what I kept telling myself.
Caleb saw her remark differently. Of course he did because he’s Caleb. “Can we go see that house?” He tugged at my sleeve in his eagerness but I wasn’t going traipsing around without thinking things through first, not a house that could be a problem. So I said it was time for dinner and afterwards it would be too late to go visiting people who didn’t know we existed. Visiting was a middle of the day thing.
I wasn’t sure Caleb bought my excuse but he stopped pestering me and the next day he seemed to have forgotten about houses at the ends of roads because he’d reached the Civil War in history and that grabbed his attention.
But after dinner he wanted to go visiting. Again I said it was too late and he subsided, disappearing into a movie about the Civil War that I quickly said could be counted as homework if he paid close attention and wrote a book report on it the very next day.
He nodded. Then he asked if we could visit the house at the end of the road as soon as he finished his report. I was caught and I knew it so I said if he wrote a really good report and there was still time for a walk to the end of the road then maybe we could go after I finished my own work. But only if the report was good enough to satisfy a picky teacher. Me. Then I repeated the word ‘maybe.’
I’ve learned to use that word a lot when dealing with Caleb but he knows me and figured that ‘maybe’ meant ‘yes’ so he erupted in a happy shout and turned his full attention back to the Civil War. I had peace for the space of the movie except for the part of me that wondered what we’d find when we actually checked out the house Lucy had mentioned.
The next day after a Civil War movie report written at warp speed that I couldn’t find fault with no matter how I tried, we set out for the house at the end of the road. It was a long walk and the closer we got the more uneasy I felt though I kept telling myself not to pay attention to the ramblings of a senior citizen real estate agent named Lucy. Then we rounded one last curve and reached the house.
I sighed in relief. “It’s a perfectly normal house.” Then I added, “It’s surrounded by a lot of green stuff but maybe the owner has a thing for bushes.”
Caleb was disappointed. “It’s just a house.” No ghosts jumped out at us. There was nothing scary at all. Just a normal house in the country surrounded by a lot of shrubs that hid it from the road. As if the neighbor didn’t want it to be seen.
He hollered. “Anyone home?” His shout was loud. Very loud.
“Caleb. Shhh!” I wished he’d been a bit more tactful but that’s Caleb. “They aren’t used to neighbors and might not want company.” But we listened for an answer.
A cat appeared in a window, white as snow and curious about us. Somewhere a dog barked. And as if on cue, music wafted through a window. But no one answered Caleb’s call.
We knocked and no one came to the door, after which I wimped out. “We didn’t bring a gift. Everyone in the country brings food when they visit a neighbor for the first time. Like chocolate cake.” Such as the one Lucy had brought us.
“Can I knock on the door again?”
“No. The dog is barking so I’m sure whoever lives here knows we are here and would be opening it if we were welcome. Which we clearly aren’t.” Keeping a firm grip on his hand, I started towards home. “Let’s go, Caleb.”
“Awww.” He came reluctantly, turning back every few feet just in case someone came to the door. But no one did.
As for me, I couldn’t get away fast enough. As we rounded that curve on our way home, something in me relaxed as happens when you’re being watched and the watcher stops watching.
Had someone been watching us?
If so, who were they?
What were they?