Chapter Two ~ Sand and Shoelaces
The hiss of the varnish coming out the aerosol breaks the silence; the hoover is humming somewhere on the other side of the house, but it’s muted, making every sound sharp like a knife.
As I rub the wood till it shines I can’t help but glance over my shoulder, expecting someone to be standing there watching me; as soon as I stepped over the threshold of the front door, the back of my neck itched, as if eyes were on my every move.
“I think that’s the shiniest that’s going to get.”
My head whips towards the voice; as soon as my eyes settle on Jude, I feel silly for expecting anyone else. What is wrong with me?
Moving to the fireplace, I make loops with the varnish as I spray the polished wood. “Do you get the creeps from this place, or is it just me?” I feel slightly daft asking but the sense of being watched is so strong I can feel the hair on my arms standing up on end.
“Place seems fine to me. Have you noticed that there isn’t a photo anywhere? There’s only paintings of old people and there’s a big arse mural upstairs devoted to fairies,” he collapses onto the sofa in front of the fireplace. “And have you noticed that this place is spotless; why the hell are we here? It’s clean as a whistle.”
Shrugging, I toss the cloth and varnish into the open duffle bag by the door before throwing myself down beside him. “This place is weird.” I tilt my head back to look up at the ceiling: white Artex covers it completely but when I look to the archway that leads out to the hallway, it stops; so it’s only this room?
“Is there Artex in any of the rooms upstairs?” I don’t why this interest me, maybe because this house makes me want to run for the hills or in our case sand dunes, but this is a fairly modern beach house, why would there be Artex? It’s old and rarely used nowadays.
“What the hell is Artex?”
I point to the ceiling and his head goes back, stretching his throat tight and smooth apart from the bump of his Adam’s apple.
“You mean the bumpy ceiling?”
“Bumpy ceiling? I guess that’s one name for it. Yeah, did you notice it in any other rooms?”
He looks at me like I’ve lost a few marbles. “I don’t know. I wasn’t looking at the ceiling.” He speaks slowly, like I’m unstable but I don’t care; this place is so weird.
“Do you want to ditch? I don’t like this house; it’s giving me the creeps.” If I stay here any longer, I’m afraid I’m going to start searching rooms for Artex.
Still looking at me like I’m completely mad, he shrugs. “If you want.”
“Come on.” I jump up and when he doesn’t budge, I grab his hand and pull him to his feet. “Walk down the beach or skate back towards town? Your choice.”
“Skating it is; there’s a great hill that leads to the bridge.”
Still looking at me like I’m a lunatic, he jerks his head towards the front door. “C’mon then.” He says, obviously taking charge of the situation.
We’re almost at the door, it’s not even six steps away when there’s a subtle crack and then a whoosh as the back door opens and then a bang as it closes.
“Come on, before they see us.” Jude murmurs before tugging my arm but I don’t budge.
“I’m not leaving my aunt here with a thief! What if he murders her?”
His lips part as he stares at me; confusion and disbelief makes his forehead wrinkle. “It’s probably someone who lives here! C’mon!” He tugs me again, this time he pulls me so hard I stumble forward and crash into his side, he doesn’t seem to care though as he pulls open the front door.
“Who are you?” The little girl can’t be older than six.
I jerk of balance when Jude pulls me, more insistently this time. I twist my arm out of his grasp, glaring at him through narrowed eyes.
“You’re unhappy with him.” She skips forward, switching her gaze from me to Jude and back; deciding who she wants to talk to more.
Before I can ask her about her statement, she’s switching back a topic in a blink of an eye.
“Who are you?” Her stare is unblinking, and doesn’t stray from me any which way. Why is he so focused on me?
“I’m Charlotte, and this is Jude– I hook a thumb to where he stands behind me, looking like he wants to run –and we were cleaning your house.”
She seems to be processing this when her gaze suddenly jumps to Jude. “You’re not supposed to be here.” She whispers like she letting on a secret before slapping a little dinky hand over her mouth. This little girl should be in movie, more specifically a horror movie.
“Oh no! We better go then!” My voice is on the verge of being sarcastic but the door’s right there so I can’t bring myself to care because there isn’t a lot of chance I’m going to be seeing this little girl again. Aunt Tanya has got no chance of me helping with this house ever again.
Before I can blink, I’m through the doorway and the door’s being slammed with a mighty crack
“Okay, I agree: that house is creepy.” He tosses me my board after getting them out the car. He’s trying to act casual but I can tell it’s unsettled him because his eyes can’t seem to stay still; not that I’m any better. “I’m going to head over to Tyler’s; I’ll talk to you later.” He turns, crunching his way over the shingle of the drive. Wait, what?
“Hey! Are you ditching me?”
His step falters but he keeps walking for a few steps before stopping completely. “Lot’…” his shoulders sag and his head goes back like I’m exasperating.
“Aw, whatever. I’m going down the beach. Talk to you later.” I turn before he can see the look in my eyes.
I walk across the grass of the back garden, board in hand. I watch the sand in the grass get denser till I’m sinking into the sand and I’m standing on the beach. Slipping my shoes off, I tie the laces together before letting them dangle from one of my fingers holding the board.
I can hear the throaty purr of an engine coming down the driveway and quicken my pace, not wanting to be caught out here, but when I hear the laughter and voices, I find myself retracing my steps to peer around one of the trees that fringe the garden to give them some privacy. The little girl comes out the back door and soon she’s greeted by a girl and boy; they’re obviously my age or slightly older, and definitely twins.
The garden is huge, but I can just make out their conversation.
The girl: “Hey Sum’, where have been?” She sits down on one of the steps of the deck and gestures for the little girl to join her.
The boy hangs back, looking down at something in his hand and before I can wonder what it is he holds it to his ear: a phone.
The little girl: “She was here, Charlotte was here. Julian too.”
The girl: “Are you sure it was Julian? Really sure?”
The little girl nods her head viciously. “Yes! I’m positive and they’re really close too, though she’s upset with him; they had a fight and she went down the beach and he went up the drive.”
At the mention of the beach the girl looks towards me and I duck behind the tree, praying she didn’t see me.
What the hell are they talking about?
A boy’s voice: “What were they fighting over?”
I lean out slowly; they’re not looking in my direction so I know the girl didn’t see me.
The little girl lets out a girly giggle. “He freaked out when he saw me, he said he was going to go to…Tyler’s and she said he was ditching her.” The little girl shrugs. “I don’t know what ditching means.”
A smile starts to creep across my face but then I remember what they’re talking about and it vanishes. Who the hell are these creeps?