'Not a bad game', Clara thought as she got off the bus at Fish Trap Rd. 'Not our best, but not the worst, either.
Clara was on the Slater High School Girl's Basketball team and she had just participated in an away game against Easley. Clara was a guard, first string. That really wasn't huge since they didn't have that many girls who had gone out for the team.
She did have one claim to fame, though. She held the record for fouling out. She had not even made it through the first quarter of the game before she was asked to leave the floor. Amazing. Not the biggest girl in the game, but man she could scrap!
She had gotten permission from her school (with a slip from her mother) to get off the bus at her aunts' house on the way back from the game. She liked visiting her aunts. They weren't married and Doris was fairly close to her age. Someone she could talk to.
The bus stopped at the corner and she hopped off to walk down the road the hundred yards to the two story farm house.
The house was seriously old, but pretty. It was white and always seemed so welcoming. Her uncle, Lewis, had purchased the home for his sisters with the money he made in the Air Force. He was a bachelor and had decided to make the military his career. He was really neat and he treated his sisters well.
Clara reached the house and went to the back door. If you were family, you never went to the front, that was saved for salesmen and the preacher.
Upon climbing the steep back steps, she went in without knocking. Again, she was family. The door opened onto the back porch with another letting into the kitchen.
“Hello”, she called as she entered. “Hello?” There was no answer and her voice seemed to echo into the emptiness.
'Hmmm .. must be gone to the store', she thought. No problem. She could walk the mile down to the local general store and ride back with them. Anyhow, she would like to get a 'coke'. It was rare that she had the opportunity and the money at the same time for this little luxury and this store was famous for having the bottles so cold that ice formed on the inside!
After the walk, she was even more ready for the drink and looked forward to riding instead of walking back. She paid no attention to cars in the lot as she entered the cool interior of the store. It was dark and cool with a huge ceiling fan slowly turning from the open rafters. She called out to the owner behind the counter as she made her way to the 'coke' cooler in the back. She had reached in, grabbed a bottle, opened it and was intent on taking that first chilling sip when she realized that her aunts were nowhere to be seen. “Sir, have you seen the Hendersons this afternoon?” she asked the owner as she paid for the drink and added a pack of 'Nabs' to her purchase.
“Not since about three. They drove by headed towards town.”
“Well,” she replied, “if you don't mind, I'll wait outside and catch them as they come back. I would really rather ride than walk back to the house.”
“You're more than welcome to wait, long as you want. I don't close til about 8.”
“Thanks” she said as she went and parked herself on one of the worn out chairs still standing sentinel out front.
The minutes Clara had expected to wait turned into an hour and the sun was beginning to set. It looked as if she had no choice but to trek the mile back and she best get on it if she wanted to reach the aunt's house before dark. With that she struck out down the road.
Having reached the house, she went straight on in, turning on lights as she went. Since this was a Friday, she had no school tomorrow and, hence, no homework. What to do, what to do.
She decided to do what any red blooded American girl would do in her situation, she took what was left of her 'coke', made herself comfortable on the couch in the sitting room and opened her latest comic book.
Now the sitting room was situated directly off the kitchen with the rest of the house available through the two doors opening onto the formal dining room. From there you found the hallway (with staircase to the left), two bedrooms off to the right and the front door and porch. The front bedroom on the right was no longer used. It had been Aunt Annie's prior to her death. It was still just as she left it. Weird.
Anyway. Clara had read about half the comic when she heard someone coming up the front hall. Thinking that one of the aunts had come through the front, she quickly rolled off the couch and moved to a spot just behind the nearest door. She was going to scare whoever came through!
She heard the steady tread as it progressed up the hall and stopped just the other side. She waited for the door to open .. nothing. Waited a bit more in case the aunt was having to shift grocery bags in her arms. Nothing.
Not knowing what else to do and tired of waiting, Clara flung open the door, jumped through and shouted … Well, she started to shout, “BOOO!” but it never got past her lips, for on the other side of the door was, nothing. Not an aunt, not an intruder, not anybody, not anything.
She was sure that she had heard someone and that the footsteps had stopped at the door she just jumped through. But, come to think of it, she had not heard anyone come through the front or even heard the slamming of the screen on the porch.
All of a sudden, this wasn't fun anymore and the house that had always been so welcoming wasn't.
With this in mind, Clara hastily gathered her book and made a dash for the back door.
She waited, sitting on the front steps even though it was dark outside. The dark, however, was more inviting than whatever was inside.
Within fifteen minutes the aunt's car pulled into the drive and she followed it to the back of the house. Hugs were given and received and Aunt Beatrice explained that they had gone to the grocery and forgotten that she was supposed to spend the weekend with them. Noticing that Clara was unusually quiet, Beatrice asked what was the matter.
Clara was still quite shook-up from her experience and so it took a while to tell the story of what she had gone through. Still, it took less time to tell than it had to live it. She helped take the groceries into the kitchen. She didn't notice the looks that she got from the aunts as she finished her story.
Nellie had made her way into the sitting room to her chair by the heater when she called Clara to her side. She had suffered from polio as a child and was only able to go out with the assistance of her sisters and walking sticks, so the trip to the grocery had worn her out.
After Clara had taken her seat, Nellie asked, “Was this the first time you heard the footsteps in the hall? Why, its not unusual for us to hear those footsteps as well as other sounds every so often. Nothing going to hurt you. Its all family.
Nellie went on to explain that ever since Annie had died, there had occasionally been heard footsteps coming from the front room and progressing up the hall to the sitting room door, where they would end with no one ever coming through. It was believed that it was she who walked the hallway.
Annie had died in that room (it was her bedroom at the time) as well as having been 'laid out' the day before her funeral in that same room. There were stories about that wake, as well!
After this explanation Clara really didn't feel any better. Matter of fact, the weekend seemed to draw on and on as she was constantly listening closely for any sound that might seem out of the ordinary. From that point on, when she visited the aunts, she made sure they were home and that she was never alone in the house, again.