Well, I do believe this chapter will be my "last hoorah" for now. I think this is a great point before the critical turning point of my book to stop posting chapters. Much to my chagrin (yes, I did just say "much to my chagrin" in a very cliched way!), my book has not been picked up and I am just flat-out tired of trying to talk it up every which direction. I believe it's a great book whose subject matter is a bit ahead of its time.
On that rather despondent note, I would like to thank all you readers for your support. You have encouraged me all the way with your interest in this story. And I'm not about to give up on it. I'm planning to write another book in an entirely different (and more acceptable to mainstream Christian publishers) genre as soon as I gear up for it.
So, with no further adieu, here is the final chapter I'll be posting. I hope you someday get to read it in book form!
PS--Disclaimer! Aurora's use of a Ouija board is not any kind of justification to use one. In fact, this little venture of hers is going to get her more than she bargained for in future chapters...
I am thrilled just thinking about traveling with her. The two of us, connected forever, in a way she only dreams about being connected with her husband. I decide to show myself to her again, when the time is right. But maybe in a different way.
I wait until he walks Phoebe to the bus stop. I actually kissed him goodbye this morning, hoping he will forget about counseling. Phoebe just holds his hand every time he is around. I hate that she is so fearful of me.
I grab my portable phone and go out onto our back deck. It is low, overlooking the woods behind us. I feel more private here than in that house. I still wonder if it actually was Dollie I saw somehow.
I pull the card out of my purse. I could not find a local psychic, and I have a feeling psychics don’t make house calls anyway. I dial almost all the number on Melody’s card, then hang up. Maybe there actually is a way I could do this myself.
I just remembered a game I’ve had since college, back in the days Phi Beta did all those sorority late nights. Somehow I wound up keeping it. It’s the Ouija board. I remember asking it some question, like who I would marry, and it said his name started with a J. Funny thing is, it was right. I remember it being right on some other girls’ info, too.
It’s worth a try. If I can smuggle it up there, then use it when Dollie’s not around, I could ask him a question. Maybe I won’t have to know his name that way--maybe he’ll just tell me.
I try fitting the board into my purse, but it’s just a little too big. I change purses, to my turquoise leather tote, and it works like a charm. I throw on my old clothes and head toward the house.
In the field, I can see a couple of deer standing near the woods. One is a male, I can see his horns from here. What do they call them? A bull?
They both look right at me. I’m sure they’ll run away, because I don’t stop walking. Instead, they just stand there. Run, you stupid animals, I think. You should be afraid of humans. I know deer-hunting is as important as football around here. It may even be hunting season now.
Still they stand, even as I get to the bottom of the hill. Now I understand the phrase “sheep heading toward the slaughter“, but I can’t remember where on earth I heard that one.
I go once again toward the stairs. I’m getting to know the moss formations by heart now on these lower ones. I’m hoping Dollie had some errand to run. I have her key in my pocket.
Once again I get turned around, coming out at the back door. Strange how the steps seem to be a maze I still haven’t figured out. I keep my eyes on each step in front of me, but so far, no blood.
I’m almost to the top of the hill when I look up toward the back porch. I can see Dollie walking around in the kitchen through the larger window there. Must be getting a late breakfast. I head up toward the door and knock. No answer. I peep in the window, but see no one. She must have gone upstairs and can’t hear me. I decide to walk around to the front.
I go around the turret, keeping a rather wide berth. I’m not as psyched up for what I have to do today. Something, maybe it’s the stuff Phoebe has said, is telling me to stop while I’m ahead.
I approach the familiar black door and insanely think for a minute about buying Dollie a colorful wreath to put on it, or some kind of plaque that says “Dollie’s Place.” The thing is so dark and oppressive.
I ring the doorbell and wait. I even work up the nerve to peek in one of the skinny windows, after a few minutes. Nothing is going on in the hall, thankfully. I guess she won’t mind if I let myself in.
I fish the archaic key out and twist. The door doesn’t open, so I twist again. In the meantime, there starts one of those quick and heavy downpours they get sometimes around here. The key gets slippery. I keep trying. I need to just get this thing done.
My hair is sopping and so are my clothes by the time the key actually works. I half-walk, half-fall into it. I stand on the rug Dollie has and wonder how I can get dry in a hurry. I cannot make it to the towels in the bathroom without getting the floor wet. I decide to drag the rug along under me, hopefully catching the water as I move.
This turns out to be a bad plan, as underneath the rug is a place that doesn’t get swept much. So I wind up smearing black dirt across the floorboards in the hall. I finally give up and start walking to the bathroom. I’ll just have to towel up where I’ve walked when I dry off. By this time I’ve concluded that Dollie isn’t home and who knows what on earth I was seeing in the kitchen.
I get in there and try to figure what clothes I should change. It seems I’m soaked, top and bottom, since I didn’t even wear a jacket today. I finally decide to strip to my underwear and put a towel around myself. Then I can sneak up to Dollie’s room and rummage for something. I don’t think she’d mind. Maybe I can dig up a stylish apron for myself.
I head very slowly and carefully up the shin-busting stairs, since I still have a couple nasty bruises from my last walk up. I should have brought the cleaning bucket and just cleaned her bathroom while I’m up here.
I get to the top and head into the pink room. She must have repaired that doll somehow, because the cabinets look full again. I decide not to look too closely for the red-haired doll, and focus on where her clothes might be.
She has a walk-in closet, so I go to that. There are many assorted dresses and skirts hanging up in a haphazard way. But her shoes are in labelled boxes, which cracks me up. I push the clothes around to find something old, or at least some kind of pants. She isn’t quite my size, but I’m sure something big and junky will fit okay.
Over in the corner, she has a beautiful dress hanging. It looks like a turn-of-the-century dress, all ivory lace. It looks, in fact, a lot like the dress the woman in the painting is wearing.
I can’t resist picking it up. Immediately I feel some kind of charge go through me, almost electrical. I drop it. But it has to be hung up again. My towel is dropping off, and I decide to put something on before I attempt picking it up. Maybe I’m conducting electricity through the clothes hanger or something. I rummage toward the back, and find a sweatshirt with sweatpants hanging under them. The sweatshirt says, “50 is Fantastic,” and is definitely some shade of teal.
I throw the shirt on, facing the closet wall. But I feel again that I’m being watched, so I turn to face the front, pulling up the pants. The dress is hanging up again. And it’s on a plastic hanger.
This has to be the work of a person. What if Dollie is in the house? What if my vision of her in my kitchen was some kind of premonition? She does have that gun for some reason, after all. What kind of old woman has a gun?
I grab the towel and bolt over toward her bathroom. It has one of those ancient stand-up showers and sink faucets from the 50s. I peek under the sink and find a cleaner and sponge. Might as well go ahead and clean while I’m up in creepy land. Then she’ll know I’ve been working, at least.
It takes no time to clean, then I head back downstairs. I want to get on with my mission while Dollie at least appears to be out of the house. On my way to the right room, it hits me that I’ve never even seen the left turret room. What if I’ve been supposed to be dusting in there? I can’t remember what Dollie said was in that room. Storage or something.
I go over to its door and turn it gently. It opens without a creak, and the light shines on the switch near the door. It’s at the same place the one in the other turret is--a bit high.
I push the button and look around. Sure enough, there are quite a few boxes in this room, which is painted a dark blue. Dark red and dark blue, how morbid somehow. As if having no windows isn’t dark enough already.
I wonder if I should do the Ouija in here. Then I won’t be distracted by the painting, worrying about what it’s going to do next.
I decide to go get the board from my bag in the bathroom. It’s a bit damp, but it’s made of real wood, so none of the painted letters seem to be messed up. I forget the rules, but think I put my hands on the pointer and ask a question or something.
I open the door to the blue room again and put the board on a lower box. I kneel in front of it and place my hands on the pointer. What on earth should I ask?
“What is your name?” is what I finally decide on. The pointer doesn’t move. Maybe I need to be more relaxed.
I stretch my arms in front, then behind me. I do a couple of yoga poses I’ve learned over the years. Then I try again.
This time, the pointer seems to slide a little to the left. “O,” it points to. I realize I should’ve brought some paper to write stuff down on, but I can’t write when I’m letting it move.
“C” comes next, then, more smoothly, “A” then “S” then “T” then “A.”
“Ocasta?” I ask.
The board points to “yes.”
Must be a last name. Sounds like a town in Florida or something.
“Are you a man?” I ask.
“Yes,” the board says.
“Were you married?” I ask.
“Yes,” it says.
Now what? Did your wife die a horrible death? What are you trying to tell me? I need some short-answer questions.
“Have you been here long?” I ask.
“Ever,” it spells.
I should be weirded out that I am talking to myself through a board, but it really seems pretty logical somehow.
“Do you want something?” I ask.
“YOU,” it spells, and flies to the side and off the board.
Then the lights go out.
--copyright Heather Day Gilbert--January 2009--all rights reserved