We went up to the house and knocked and waited with bated breath to see who would answer. If they’d be carrying an axe. Or a shotgun. Surely, I kept thinking, if the worst happened our bodies would be found before they rotted past identification.
No one answered. The white cat appeared in the window and meowed politely. Somewhere in another room the dog barked. And that music wafted through the rooms and out into the summer’s day. Soft, lovely, dance music.
But no one came to the door. No footsteps could be heard inside. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
“Let’s go, Caleb,” I said nervously and practically dragged him to the road and then towards our house as fast as possible, hardly giving him time to stuff the chocolate cake carefully back into his pack before rounding that curve that hid us from whomever was watching. Because someone was. I could feel it.
“What about our picnic?” Caleb wailed and fought against my push to get home.
“When we’re closer to home.” I pulled with renewed vigor and soon we were almost running along the road.
We didn’t have that picnic, at least not outside, because as we went, a thunderstorm developed, looming larger and darker with each step we took until, just as we turned into the yard the sky opened up and we were drenched before rushing into the kitchen and slamming the door behind us.
“Guess we’ll have an indoor picnic,” I said as brightly as I could manage considering that we were dripping water from every part of us.
“After we dry off,” Caleb added, inspecting the puddles on the floor with scientific interest and yelling because the thunder was so loud it was the only way he could be heard.
He looked through the window. “If someone knocked on our door right now we’d not hear them.”
Who would knock on our door? No one, that’s who. Except, as I opened my mouth to say so, I thought I heard a car. But no one turned into the driveway so I must have been mistaken. The house at the end of the road was getting to me. Making me hear things that didn’t exist. I’d better take a firm hold on my imagination before I lost it. So I turned to the backpacks we’d not needed because we’d not had a picnic and no one had answered our knock to be given a cake.
We dragged out sandwiches and other food and had that picnic lunch at the kitchen table. I noticed that the chocolate cake had disappeared and I didn’t ask about it because, after all, if it no longer existed then there’d be no reason to return to the house at the end of the road.
Which was fine with me because I’d already decided that as far as I was concerned that house was off limits to both Caleb and me and we’d never know who lived there and I had no wish to know. Caleb felt differently but he had no choice in the matter because he had to obey his mother. Me.
Neither of us should knock on that door again. It was a weird house. A strange house, never mind that it appeared normal. A haunted house?
Caleb must have been thinking something similar. “Do you think the house at the end of the road is haunted?”
I didn’t want to give him ideas because if he truly thought it was haunted there’d be no way to keep him from investigating. Not even the mom-is-boss thing would keep him away. “It didn’t look haunted.”
“I think it might be.” His eyes took on a dreamy look. “Maybe. Just maybe it is haunted.” Then the dreamy look disappeared, replaced by the sensible boy he can be and I gave a sigh of relief. The haunted house thing was likely no more than a passing thought. His next words proved me right. “Most probably it’s just some old person who hates company.”
I didn’t answer because I was afraid that if I said anything, I’d blurt out what I was thinking and I didn’t want him to know I was uneasy.
But I wondered.
What secret was the house at the end of the road hiding?