The House -24-

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Chloroform? That was odd.

I walked forward to the window I could see from upstairs, pretending I was looking for something on the ground. There wasn’t a soul to see me. While the parties with loud music, alcohol and pot were strong during the night, people slept in the morning. Those were the tourists. The locals who didn’t go to work or worked from home, needed to recuperate from not being able to sleep at night. With the exception of those really devoted to surf early in the morning, people were quiet, sleeping, I assumed.

There was no way I could catch a glimpse of anything through the window.

It happened the same at home at my soon-to-be my ex. It was the left side of his house I had no access. There was no door to reach that part of the building. “I’m a retired business man,” he had told me from the beginning. “I own half of the house,” a mansion, in my opinion,” and sold the other half to one of my partners.”

“What kind of business?” I candidly asked. I knew he had a restaurant. His answer intrigued me.

“Transportation.”

“Did you sell your business, as well?” My question surprised him. He went with his hand through his hair and then played with his goatee. I could see he was uncomfortable for a moment. His face relaxed. Started laughing. “You should be a detective, my dear. You have quite a surprising spirit.” “Surprising spirit?” It was my turn to laugh. Nobody told me that before. He took my hand and kissed it. “Never saw that in you, my dear. Well, just to answer your question, yes, I’m in the process of selling this business.”

“You are a mystery,” I stated and left a kiss on his cheek.

I missed him.

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The House -23-

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It didn’t do any good to me to go down on memory lane. A cup of coffee was a remedy for that, and a couple of minutes later I stepped outside on the deck with the mug in my hand. It burned my hand when I tried to place it on the wooden edge for a second. My hair clip was loosening, but by the time I had my hands free, the clasp fell down on the alley under the small terrace.

Coffee in hand, it didn’t matter that I was in my pajamas. I stepped down the stairs and got out on the street. Nobody was there. Two blocks away I could see the ocean and silhouettes with surfboards.

There was no gate to the private alley where I was ready to search for my pin. The entrance was blocked with the trash bins. I moved one of them on a side and I squeezed between the other two. A little window I haven’t seen before, maybe of a bathroom of the next door house, didn’t have any covering. Instead of locating my clasp, I pressed my face on the glass to see inside. It was a regular half-bathroom with outdated furniture. Sink, toilet and a cupboard under the sink. Nothing else. There were no towels, soap, decorations or personal things.

What did I expect? The house was empty.

Somehow, I caught a smell, a smell of some sort of medicine, coming through one of the window’s edges.

 

The House -22-

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It was early morning and the daylight was peeking in the living room through the small window. There were no drapes to cover it and anybody who came, could see inside before knocking at the door. I had to fix that.

I felt rested, but weak, a sign that I had to make some chicken soup. Not so usual among my friends, but among my family where mom and grandmas tried to cure their sick loved ones with chicken soup. That was their first resort after praying to God for healing. I learned to do the same. At least about soup. It didn’t matter if it was summer, chicken soup with vegetables usually took away the weakness and put me back on my feet.

I looked at my phone. He didn’t send me a message. I hoped a night-sleep would change something in his heart, but it seemed it didn’t. He accused me of marrying him for money, and deep inside me I knew it was true. In the beginning I needed someone to talk to and go places. I had had only one man in my life and after breaking up I was a divorcee for many years until I met him. But re-marrying at the age of 60 wasn’t the best idea. Everybody told me that. We were not compatible. Didn’t have much in common. He needed a servant and I needed a companion who took care of everything for me.

When he placed the prenuptial agreement in front of me, I wanted to back off.

“Don’t worry, Sophie. This is not for us, it is for my daughter. She keeps telling me you are after my money.”

It was a moment of embarrassment for me. I knew that if he would have nothing, I wouldn’t have married him. But I couldn’t tell him that. Nobody knew.

“Do you love him?” Adam asked me when I gave him the news.

“I will. It is a friendship that will evolve in love,” I tried to lie to myself.

Now, after a year of compromise I was ashamed of myself.

The House -21-

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“It’s not my business,” I told myself again going back in the apartment. “I have enough drama in my life right now and don’t need more.” I put a bag of popcorn in the microwave for dinner and turned on the TV. The exhaustion took such a toll on me that when I was half into the bowl of popcorn I fell asleep.

I heard Adam unlocking the front door and I turned off the TV. It was midnight.

“Mom, are you OK?”

I took a glimpse of myself in the mirror on the wall and saw my puffy eyes. “It’s nothing; it was an interesting day and I fell asleep all dressed. How was your evening?”

“Good.” Adam dropped his shirt on the chair and went to the bedroom. “There was this guy who offered me a job.” He came back in his pajamas.

“To do what?”

“To sell life insurance.” I could see from his face expression he wasn’t delighted. “I don’t know … ”

An ambulance was blearing its sirens on the main road and I remembered I didn’t take my heart meds. They were there in the little basket for pills, by the sofa.

“If I decide to try it, I have to be at their office on Monday for the entire day.”

“It’s your day off.” I went and changed in the bathroom and came back in the living room.

“It will not hurt to try,” he completed.

The next minute I was on the couch under the blanket. He wasn’t pleased. “Are you sure you want to sleep on the couch? I told you the bedroom is yours.”

“This couch is very comfortable, son. I made you enough trouble already.” Adam came and sat on the edge of it, patting my hand. “I’m sorry you have to go through this, mom. I’ll help you. You’ll be fine.”

 

 

The House -20-

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One of the policemen got to the gate of the house and rang the bell. He stood there for a few seconds, but nobody answered. Somebody from the viewers announced, “Nobody lives there.”

The man of the law pushed the gate to see into the courtyard. “Hello! This is NBPD. Is anybody here?”

There was no answer. The guy from the crowd insisted,” The owner passed away some time ago.”

“Was this their dog?”

The man raised his shoulders. “I know the owner’s son. I don’t know if they had a dog.”

“Do you know where this son is?” The officer was taking notes.

“He went to the hospital with his aunt. She had a heart attack.” The woman who gave the clarifications came to the front. She was pushing a special stroller with a cat in it. “I’m glad that you got the dog. I hope you classify him as vicious.” She turned to the people around. “We here have pets, little puppies, cats and birds that are in danger from this animal.”

“You wouldn’t say that if this would be your dog,” an elderly man with a cane answered. “You wouldn’t want your dog to be put to sleep by the police.”

“He attacked this poor woman,” the cat owner explained. Her upper lip was shaking.

“All right, let’s leave it here,” the police officer continued.

The ambulance was long gone taking the wounded neighbor to the ER. A young lady in a beach dress came with a pitcher and plastic cups. “Who wants some ice lemonade? Officers?” Both of them had a cup and were ready to go to their cars. “We’ll follow up with the son,” one concluded.

I stood up. Maybe now was the time for some more searching.

“Officer, ” I called and kept my voice low. I didn’t want the neighbors to hear what was on my mind.” I’m new in this neighborhood, but I am sure something is going on in this house.” The man placed his hands on his belt. “What is going on?”

“There are weird noises coming from it.” I looked both sides to ensure nobody was too close and hear my statement. “Somebody looked at me behind the blinds. Then I heard a thrust like a person who fell on the floor.”

“When did this happen?”

“Today. Maybe you should search the building.” My genuine suggestion didn’t make the impression I wanted.

“We need a search warrant to search somebody’s house. We don’t have a reason to ask for one, ” the police concluded.

“Search warrant? For what?” His partner caught the end of our discussion.

“This lady said she heard some weird noises coming from inside the house.” I nodded my head.

“We can’t do that for now, Ma’am. It may be the son making those noises.”

“But he doesn’t stay there. He lives across the street,” I insisted. The men waved at me and got in their cars, “Sorry.”

“What if somebody is dead there on the floor?” They couldn’t hear me, but the neighbors did.

“Who’s dead?” the woman with the lemonade asked.

“Nobody’s dead,” the man with the cane answered and puckered his lips. “We had enough entertainment for the day.”

The House -19-

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With all my fear of dogs, I knew something was going on in that house. Was it my business? No. I stretched my arm to close the gate, when the dog leaped toward me. That scared me to death. There was no time for me just to walk away. I pulled the gate with two hands, but it got stuck. I couldn’t close it. It was too late to run. I took only one step and the animal barged out on the street.

I had one second to do something dramatically.

“Lord, help me!” That was my unspoken prayer.

I didn’t turn my back to the dog. Slowly, I stepped backwards to the trash cans and grabbed the first one. The class I took with the Department of Defense was paying off. I knocked the big bin down and the garbage spilled on the road. The dog stopped for a moment. Then I used the bin to keep the dog away, yelling for help.

Somebody came from a few houses down the alley. The man was empty handed, but he pulled his shoe and tossed it to the dog to scare him. “Go away!” He yelled. A woman showed up in her bathing suit and approached the creature from a side. “Come on, puppy. Nobody is going to hurt you.”

“Do you know him?” the man asked her.

“No, but he is a good boy. Aren’t you, little doggie?”

“Don’t approach him, ” the man asked her, but it was too late. I was still holding the trash can between me and the dog, when he jumped and bit the woman’s hand.

The barking and squealing attracted a little crowd. The woman wanted to back off when the dog attacked her again. A man from the crowd took off his T-shirt and dropped it on the back of the animal. Another person did the same and they managed to restrain him on the pavement.

“I’m all right, I’m all right,” the wounded lady kept saying as she sat on the curb, shaking. Somebody helped her drink water from a bottle. Her arm was covered in blood.

A police car came again and the Animal Control showed up behind it. Somehow they made the dog get in a cage. “Who is the owner?” One of the officer asked. Nobody knew. “It came from this house,” I pointed at the next door building.

“Are they filming a show?” this tourist carrying a beach umbrella asked me. “Hollywood is not far, right?” The firetruck blocked the street and the ambulance stopped by the wounded woman to help her.

I didn’t answer. My body dropped down by the garage and I sat there trying not to weep. It was too much for one day. I wished Adam was there with me.

The House -18-

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“Do you know what happened?” an elderly man asked me from the second floor of his house.

“Somebody was taken to the hospital, if you know Phillip.” Just as I finished, I realized how that sounded.

“What happened to him?” the neighbor yelled back.

I walked to get closer. “I’m sorry, it’s not Phillip. It’s somebody from his family.”

The man crossed his chest with both arms, as a person in a coffin. “Gosh! That woman again.”

What woman?

“His mother?”

“No,” he kept talking. “His mother passed away a while ago. It’s his mom’s sister who moved here from Nigeria. She was married with a Nigerian and came back to the States without him.” He looked both sides and leaned over the window to keep his voice low. “Who knows what happened to him?”

Wow, I didn’t know what to do with all that information. I was ready to say “Good Bye,” when the man continued. “That woman is strange. She …”

“Joseph, what are you talking about?” An elderly woman with a towel around her head showed up next to her husband unexpectedly. She smiled at me. “My husband loves to invent stories, don’t you my dear? You are missing your show on the Sport Channel.” They both disappeared in the house and probably didn’t hear me saying, “It was nice talking to you, Mr. Joseph.”

Right then Adam came on the alley.

“I’ll be late. Have a nice evening.” I was almost asking him where he was going, but wisely, I didn’t. He left a kiss on my cheek and went to his car parked somewhere on the street. That kiss felt precious. He never kissed me randomly, and his little gesture of affection reassured me that I was loved and accepted in his house. That meant a lot.

As I watched him leaving, I saw the gate to the house next door cracked. Pretending I was taking a walk, I stopped by that gate and mimicked I was strengthening my pants. I bent down to catch as much as possible of the yard. A black dog was looking at me from the stairs. Growling.