Chlorine Odor – The HOUSE – 28

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I let him get in first, even though he held the door for me for a few seconds. “You know the way,” I said. He didn’t wait for me to tell him twice and walked in the kitchen.

“This is odd. I thought the new owner was updating at least the kitchen, but they changed nothing.” The man wasn’t disappointed. He went and opened the refrigerator. “Ha! See?” He showed me one of the shelves. “The stain from the bottom of grandma’s butter container is still here. Mom kept that thing forever.”

“It looks like the new owner treasures this house with a history.” I remembered the old looking bathroom I peeked into from the small window.

The outdated kitchen painted in white, with white cabinets and wooden countertops needed a big touch. A spider dropped into the sink from the ceiling. I didn’t scream, but I let Phillip go through the kitchen drawers and walked in a large living room. An odor of chlorine lingered in the air full of dust. The room was empty. I listened. Maybe the person who used the towel in the bathroom was still there. From the hall where I was I could hear Phillip gasping at some things he found. “I thought mom got rid of this, but no. She kept it.”

There were three bedrooms down the hall, and only the master bedroom had a bathroom of its own. The second bathroom was at the end of the hallway. That was the one I saw from outside.

For my surprise, the towel wasn’t there anymore. Nothing else has changed.

Then I realized the blinds covered the window I looked in from outside.

 

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The Side Door – The HOUSE -27

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He went through his pocket and pulled up a bunch of keys. “Here it is. I’m sure mom’s old keys would work just fine.”

I followed him, biting in one of my nails. “Did your mom have a dog? A black dog?” I asked from behind. Phillip reached the front gate that was unlocked and stepped in the narrow yard. “No. Actually, we had a dog when I was little, but he passed away long ago. Why do you ask?” He jiggled the key in the keyhole. “This might take a little wile,” he continued not waiting for my answer. I was curious. “Why?”

But right that second, I heard the “click.”

“You did it,” I said ready to get in the house.

The man pushed the handle, but the door didn’t open.

“What’s wrong with it?” He leaned his shoulder into the door to force it. In vain.

“Maybe it didn’t unlock properly,” I suggested. That idea only made things worst. I heard Phillip curse. “Don’t tell me how to unlock my own door.” When he looked at me, I saw he was sorry for the burst of anger. “Forgive me, I shouldn’t take this on you.”

“It’s all right.”

I let him deal with the door and walked to the back of the house. There was a lot of old stuff and construction items pilled on top of each other, chairs, shelves, timber and I managed to make my way alongside the wall. There was a side door I’ve never seen before because of the heap of stuff. I tried it. It was locked.

Phillip was still trying to figure it out why the front door wouldn’t open, even though it was unlocked.

“Maybe something inside it’s blocking it,” I said coming closer. “Hey, listen, do you happen to have a key for the side door?”

My neighbor gave up on his project and walked by me to the door I was talking about.

“I don’t have the key, but I know where to find it.”

He stretched his arm to get his hand in the gutter on top of the door. “We kept this door locked all the time. Here is the key.”

The key was covered in rust. “It will be a miracle if this would work,” I commented. Phillip didn’t mind my words. He started whistling, as the door cracked with a sound.

“What were you saying, Sophie?”

The HOUSE – Phillip Has Some News -26-

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The moment I finished talking, I knew it wasn’t right.

“Ah, this is weird. I’m sorry.”

Phillip didn’t say a word but stood there smoking.

“It is not my business or place to ask you such thing.”

The man took a couple of steps and showed me one of the buildings down the street.

“See that house?”

I nodded my head. That was Joseph’s house, the elderly man at the window I had talked to when Phillip’s aunt was taken to the hospital.

“The owner bought that house in the ’90s with $45,000. Now it’s $2,000,000.” My neighbor turned to see my reaction. I was stunned.

He continued. “My grandfather gave my mom the house we lived in. A few years ago, my aunt bought the house I live in now and asked me to take care of it while she was in Africa. A while ago, she put my name on the house deed.”

I felt pretty embarrassed. “You don’t need to tell me all of these. I’m sorry I asked to see your mother’s house. It was so out of line.”

“C’mon, Sophie. It’s all right.” He finished his cigarette and dropped the cigarette butt on the ground. Then he stepped on it.

“Just for you to know, I sold mom’s house. The new owner had a crew for about a month to do some changes inside. But the guy never showed up after that. Did they ever change the locks? No. Do I want to go and see the improvements? Yes.” He looked at me and laughed. “Let’s go!”

I wasn’t so eager anymore to see the interior of that building since it involved trespassing. Phillip read my thoughts. “It’s not a problem. The owner asked me to keep an eye on the house. Are you coming?”

The HOUSE – A Towel on the Floor -25-

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I went back to the bathroom window and took a glance of the interior again. A towel I haven’t seen before was wet on the floor by the door. No way! I was there for the entire time. How was it possible that someone used a towel and left it on the floor, and I didn’t hear or see anything? Because everything must have happened in the short time frame when I was trying peeking through the big window.

A pelican showed up in the air not far from the house. I picked up my hairpin and went back in the apartment.

I didn’t do much that morning. It was still too hot for me to go and walk on the beach, and I preferred to wait until the afternoon.

Then I heard Phillip. He was on the phone with somebody. I didn’t want to intrude, but I was curious about his aunt. A heart attack was a terrible thing and thinking of that, I remembered my parents. They both had passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. And here I was, suffering from a heart disease the way they did. Well, I wasn’t scared of death because I knew my days were in God’s hands, as strange as some may think about that. It was comforting for me to hold to that inner knowledge.

Went back on the veranda and held to the rail. The wooden stairs needed some repair, but I started to get used to it the way it was. When I got out on the alley, Philip was closing the garage door.

“How is your aunt?” I asked.

He looked under the garage door to see who was asking and then the door closed. The next minute he opened it again.

“My aunt is not well at all,” he stated walking outside.

“I’m so sorry to hear that.”

He lit a cigarette.

“Maybe the doctors will be able to help her,” I continued. Then I heard myself saying, “Would you mind showing me your mother’s house? It looks so interesting.”

 

The HOUSE – Mystery Man -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.

The HOUSE – A Strange Smell -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 – Prenuptial Agreement -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.