“Congratulations…” the realtor hesitantly conveyed to me as he handed me the keys from a lockbox to a small, light gray, slightly moss-eaten house. I’m not sure exactly where his reluctancy stemmed from, but I figured that he could sense how profoundly disinterested I was about the whole process. He had no idea how traumatic my September had been…
“You can’t be serious!” Mister Eddison’s jaw dropped when I came in on Monday and handed in my resignation. “You’re our top sales rep! I thought you were happy here! Why the sudden change?”
I couldn’t bear to repeat the story yet, and knowing him, he would try to overcome my objections and convince me to stay. I couldn’t do that, not if I was going to prove myself to Lilith! So, I simply stood up and told him, “Sorry!” I started to leave before he could say anything else to persuade me not to go. He tried hard to get my attention as I hurried out of his office, but I didn’t acknowledge that I had heard him at all. I could feel people staring at me as I walked past their cubicles, but I didn’t dare to make eye contact with anyone as I rushed to the exit. Leaving the same company that I had worked at for over a decade was the most difficult thing I had to do… except for maybe encountering that cadaver… I felt bad for all of the people I had disappointed from this decision! I’m sure some of my coworkers were peeved that I didn’t even say goodbye to them, but they had no clue that I avoided them because I couldn’t converse with them and let them tempt into staying! I knew this process would hurt, and it literally did since my concentration had focused on evading hard feelings and not the pole right in front of me! I quickened my gait so that no one could come check on me, which wasn’t easy! Their comfort would have meant a lot, they had become like a second family to me, which made me think that Lilith had a point about this job being more than just a career to me!
When I got back to the penthouse, I packed my bags and rented a cheap motel room to stay in while I found a new place to live. I didn’t want to sell the place at first because I wanted Lilith to have easy access to our home when she was ready to come back, but without the salary I earned at Novak Neander, I couldn’t afford it there anymore. I reasoned that she could always get my new address when she returned after our house sold, so with that in mind, I put our penthouse on the market. Now, you would think that I would have stayed there until I could sell it in hopes of catching her coming back as soon as it happened, but I tried that for one night and knew it wouldn’t work out. I had no desire to sleep in the same bed that I caught her screwing Lucas on, and I couldn’t sleep on the couch either because everything in that room reminded me of my life together with her! So, I packed what I needed and resolved not to come back until I let the movers in! Even though I couldn’t sleep thinking about her, I tried not have anything that brought her to my mind around me, it only made things worse! It did help me out a bit as I worked on the next phase of my plan…
I spent hours in the motel looking for a job in one of the school districts in the area. It seemed like a logical thing to do since their schedule could fit whatever job Lilith decided to do when she came back, but sometimes I worried that the fates were trying to prevent me from going down that path. Why? First of all, I had no idea how shoddy the motel internet would be! I traveled for work on occasions, but we never stayed in a resort that had slow WiFi! I know that they’re all on a shared network, but this was ridiculous! Secondly, it was hard to concentrate with such loud neighbors! The people on my right were a family of six- two adults and four children on a single bed, is that even allowed? Those kids sure liked to yell and bang on the walls! When they went to bed, my neighbor on the left woke up. Apparently, he thought his loud music would cover up his drug dealing transactions, but it didn’t! The walls weren’t very well insulated! Eventually, I learned to get things done while right neighbors were at school and left neighbor slept, and I was actually proud of myself for overcoming those obstacles and managing to accomplish what I set out to do- I got a job offer!
The Terra Belle school district hired me as a substitute teacher. I wanted to stay in Philadelphia originally, but after crunching the numbers, I could see that I couldn’t afford to live in the city with a low-level school worker salary, so I purposely applied to places in the suburbs. I didn’t have a high opinion of Terra Belle prior to moving there, actually, I used to joke and call it Terrible! It wasn’t a dangerous place, much nicer than the hotel I stayed at in Philly, but it had a reputation for being horribly old-fashioned. I didn’t think I would enjoy living here, but I convinced myself that after Lilith returned, we could go back to Philadelphia, so I didn’t think I would stay there for long!
I moved to a new cheap motel in Terra Belle while I hunted for houses. My new neighbors were a chain-smoking old lady that made the whole area smell like ash and a young man who got way too into whatever movie he watched, so yeah, they were kind of an upgrade! At least the internet worked a bit better there. The penthouse sold without Lilith coming back to it, but I let her know where I was storing our stuff while I bought a new house. I called her every night to give her updates on what I was doing, and while she never actually took my calls, I wanted to keep her informed at all times. Partly for legal reasons, but mostly, I did it to send her continual proof that I really had changed!
My realtor found a really good deal on a house that had been on the market for several months! I know, with the money I got back from the penthouse, I could have bought a much nicer place to live, but I intended to spend as little of that money as possible so that I could buy a better home when she came back. A more realistic part of me knew that If she did go through with that divorce, I probably would legally owe her half, so I didn’t touch as much of it as I could help, which wasn’t easy! The house on Dusk Lily Lane needed a lot of work! The fence was ready to fall down, and I think I mention the moss on the exterior earlier. The carpet was about as old as I was, and as much as I liked things from my childhood, shag carpeting wasn’t one of them! The water heater blew the second I tried to use the sink too! There’s plenty more I could list, but I won’t bore you with ALL of the details! It disgusted me to think I would live in that shack, but I had to preserve my savings, as I already explained. Plus, I kept telling myself it was just temporary!
“I’m so glad that this place finally sold!” the realtor expressed gratefully to me. “I was a little worried that I’d have to pay someone to live here!”
“Is that still an option?” I surprised myself with that piece of humor, I hadn’t felt much like laughter or merriment since that awful day last month! After he chuckled at my quip, I glumly glanced over the home and opined, “It’s not pretty, but it’ll be better than staying in a motel! It’s not the nicest place in the world, but it’s definitely not the worst house in the world! I’m kinda shocked no one else wanted to buy it sooner!”
The realtor admitted to me, “Well, I don’t usually have a problem selling a fixer upper, but nobody wanted to buy property across the street from the creepy house!”
I took a glimpse of what laid behind me and saw the most nightmarish building that I had ever seen in my life! The wooden panels looked as though it was flimsy before the structure had apparently caught on fire! Parts of the roof were missing from both the flames and just general damage, and the paint had faded into a strange yellow hue. The driveway had gotten so covered in pine needles that no one could see it anymore, and the mailbox by the street was full of rotted papers! It gave off an eerie enough vibe that it probably would have given even my tough motel neighbors pause! If I knew what actually came out of that house, I wouldn’t have bought the house on the other side of the road! Yes, that house had everything to do with the vampires I keep mentioning, but as a rational human being, my mind didn’t go there! It spooked me a bit with its disturbing visage, but it never occurred to me delve into any supernatural elements concerning that property! All I could think to do was ask, “Why hasn’t that thing been condemned yet?”
“The owner’s trying to get it done,” the realtor explained, “but every contractor, handyman, wrecker, you name it, no one wants to take the project on!”
“Then why wouldn’t the city just take it down?” I inquired. “I mean, it’s gotta be a safety hazard at this point! Someone’s gotta do something!”
The realtor hesitated before he replied, “Well… I don’t think even the city workers wanna tackle this project! Everyone is too scared to set foot on the property much less see what happens when it gets torn down!”
I furrowed my brows in confusion. “What? What could happen? Dust?”
“Well, no, it’s…” He sighed, and then he confessed, “There’s rumors that it’s haunted.”
“Haunted?” I responded skeptically. “Man, people will believe anything nowadays!”
The realtor elaborated, “Look, I know a lot of buildings have had rumors of ghosts and stuff, but this one might have some merit! People in the neighborhood have heard strange noises at night. Sometimes they hear scratching, gurgling noises, and even screaming! They find random things on their lawn that has no logical reason for being there, like a porcelain doll, an empty picture frame, and even a brick of cheese!” He saw my peculiar stare, so he clarified, “The guy’s a vegan, he wouldn’t have put it there! Anyways, the few people who’ve walked up there immediately felt cold, even in the summer! People think it could be some kind of magical gateway to another world, so they’re afraid of what’ll happen if they destroy the structure!” None of that convinced me, and I guess that was obvious by the expression on my face because the realtor surmised, “So, you don’t seem like you’re ready to pull out of the contract since I didn’t disclose this information to you, that’s good!”
I shrugged. “I grew up with a man of science, we never bought into that superstitious stuff!”
The realtor shrugged too. “Well, as long as you’re happy…”
“I’m not happy!” I let a bit of honesty slip out, but when I spotted the alarmed expression on his face, I added, “But I’m satisfied with our transaction.”
“Oh, good!” He breathed a sigh of relief. “Listen, I’m late to meet another client. Call me if you need anything!”
As he walked back to his car, I assured him, “I will!” After I said it, I thought that was a strange thing to promise him. I mean, what would I need my realtor for now that the sale was complete?
I turned back towards my new home, and comparing it against the eyesore across the street, it didn’t seem so bad anymore! As I went back inside my house, the empty rooms made me feel a little disconcerted, and a part of me wished that my realtor hung around a little longer! I decided to pass the time until the movers got there by calling Lilith. She didn’t answer, of course, so I left another message, “Hey babe! I just wanted to let you know the sale of the house is final! When you come back, we might have a hard time selling it ‘cause the idiots in this Podunk town think a place across the street is haunted! But there’s still enough money left over from the penthouse to-.” The voicemail box cut me off, so I redialed and continued leaving my message, “There’s enough money to buy a decent place in Philly when you come back. Well, the movers will be here soon! All your stuff is here, don’t worry! Call or text me soon, ‘kay! I love-!”
It cut me off again, so I just left things there. I sighed and went out to the front porch to wait for the movers. There were people outside, so it made me feel less alone. My eyes kept getting drawn to that ugly, abandoned house, and it annoyed me that no one was trying to destroy it. I was just must musing that perhaps I could find someone to volunteer for the job when something shiny caught my attention from the corner of my eye. I could see a small object buried in the flowerbed next to the house (which was really only dirt), so, out of both curiosity and boredom, I went down and unearthed it. It turned out to be a silver spoon! It thought about what the realtor said about random things popping up in people’s yards, but I shook off that notion and reasoned that it probably just slipped out of someone’s box as they moved out. It seemed too nice to throw away, so I took it inside to wash it. I know that piece of silverware may not seem significant, but trust me, it becomes a big thing later!
Once the furniture was all in, the final phase of my transition was complete! I had really hoped that Lilith would come back before I got to that point, but I assured myself that now I could live my more humble life and really prove to her that I changed. I had already started my subbing job while I was living in that motel, and I hated it! I thought it’d be a cinch since I completed all these grades before, but it wasn’t that simple! The way they teach things now compared to what they did when I was a kid is totally different! I had no clue they had a new way of teaching math! I totally bombed my first day! One class used tablets instead of textbooks, and I couldn’t’ get the teacher’s copy open because they wrote down the wrong password for me! I was teaching this class about dinosaurs, and I couldn’t pronounce any of the dinosaur names, but these little, tiny kids could! I got totally confused when I saw that Pluto wasn’t classified as a planet anymore! Dwarf or not, in the nineties, we called it a planet! I told Lilith all about my misadventures, and she never answered, which was devastating. I did manage to get some rest at the end of the day though because, unlike the motel, my neighbors were quiet, especially at night! I hadn’t heard or seen anything strange from that abandoned house, so I believed that those rumors the realtor told me about were unfounded… until I got assigned to the high school…