“It’s ready!” Mrs. Utt yells from upstairs.
“Coming!” Marimar yells back. She lets go of my arm and she runs upstairs and turns the light on. Chicken. I walk as fast as I can towards the rack and I position the camcorder so it is facing the direction where we heard the ghost takeoff. “Hurry, Up!”
“I’m coming.” I turn and walk briskly up the stairs trying to look as casual as I can. We both go through the door. As she looks back I can see her face reflecting how I feel. Her eyes are full of terror — they remind me of a deer in headlights. Her olive skin looks as white as a sheet; even her red strawberry lips are pale. I sure hope I don’t look that scared. I also hope she didn’t feel me shaking. Damn. The camera, did I hold it steady or will it give me away? If anyone sees it shaking I’ll have to give up my man card.
“You two must be freezing. Did you guys find the ghost?” Mrs. Utt asks with a laugh.
I answer with a dull, “No, ma’am.” Marimar is still frightened speechless.
“Wash your hands and then go sit down at the breakfast room table. I put the bread on the table.”
“All right,” is all Marimar can manage.
“Marimar, you look like you’ve seen a ghost. Splash some water on your face, that’ll help you.” Mrs. Utt’s voice is serious yet light. I can see the laughter dancing behind her eyes. Just like how Marimar’s eyes can look sometimes.
We go down the hall to wash up and then come back to the breakfast area. This time I really notice the big room on the right across from it. I peek my head in and see a huge, dark wooden bookcase on my left against the wall of the breakfast area. There is a fire place along the back wall and on the far wall across from the book case is a large flat screen TV in between two heavily curtained windows. The furniture is antique and dark, matching the bookcase and the crown molding. The wooden floor is also dark with an antique Persian rug covering most of the room. It reminds me of a set from any classic horror film, except for the flat screen and electronics on the far wall. Come to think of it. This whole house looks like a classic horror movie set.
We haven’t spoken a word since we left the kitchen. I’m too frustrated for words. I just might have caught a real ghost on camera. I really need to talk to her about polishing up on her listening skills. On the plus side is the one-on-one time I’m getting with Mar, but right now I’m a little too ticked off to enjoy it. Mar tugs on my arm and I follow her into the breakfast room. Mrs. Utt is already there and she’s pouring some coffee into a cup.
“You two looked cold so I thought I would get you something to warm you up.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” I say trying to put some sugar back into my voice.
“Gracias, Mama,” Marimar says, her voice regaining control.
I hate coffee. It sucks! How can anybody like this stuff? It’s like drinking dirt, it’s so bitter. What’s with this family and watching my every move? Mar’s ma is staring at me. I blow on it before I take a sip; I can hear Mar giggling at the memory of me scorching my tongue. I try hard not to roll my eyes at her. Mmm. What did she put in here? This is the best cup of Joe I’ve ever had.
“This is the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.” Mrs. Utt seems well pleased.
“I thought you’d like it, I put in a splash of vanilla. Do you want anymore sugar?”
“No, I’m fine, thanks.”
“Sit down, sit down,” Mrs. Utt says, gesturing with her hands to my seat. I obey, sitting down beside Oscar. Mar’s sitting across from me beside Marisol. Right now I don’t mind the large space between me and Mar. Mar seems to be returning back to her normal color.
“What are you staring at?” Yep, she’s back. What’s her problem? I’m the one who should have the problem. Her mom shoots her a disapproving look as if to say, “He’s our guest”. She turns her eyes towards her cup and sips.
“Do you like everything?” Mrs. Utt asks hopeful, trying to change the mood.
“It’s delicious, ma’am. Thank you,” I say.
“Good, good. You kids enjoy. Marisol, Oscar, are you finished eating?” They both respond with a yes. “Okay, good. Now why don’t you guys go wash your hands and then you can go play.” She helps Marisol out of her seat and Oscar scrambles down from his and then they run off together.
“I’m going to go do the dishes, you two enjoy yourselves.”
Mrs. Utt turns to leave.
“Want any help?” Mar hollers after her.
“No, I’m fine. You two have fun.”
I wait a minute until I lean forward in my chair to talk.
“You know I’d get my ears checked if I were you, because you seem to be having a problem with your hearing.”
“Don’t play dumb with me, Mar. You know exactly what I’m talking about. You totally ruined a chance at what could have been our biggest piece of evidence, and you don’t even seem to feel bad about it.”
Silence. “What is your problem?” I ask after having a staring contest with her for almost a minute. She’s leaning back in her chair, her arms crossed over her chest, her lips pouted, and eyes hard.
“I don’t have a problem.”
“Please, do I look stupid to you?” I say. Her mouth opens in ridicule. “Don’t answer that.” A long ass silence. “What? Do you expect me to already know what’s bothering you?” Typical girl, “If you are not going to answer me that, then you could at least explain to me why you turned on the light.” I sit back in my seat. I interlace my fingers behind my neck and I rest my head on them.
“Okay, I got it. I won’t do it again.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
“Fine, all right, I freaked out and I turned the damn light on. I said I won’t do it again and I’m not! End of conversation.”
“So, you believe me now?” I ask knowing that she can’t disprove what happened in the cellar.
“No, It could have been a rat,” she says.
I’m completely stunned. My mouth drops open. She found a way to blow this off. Why the hell is she so stubborn?
“What do you mean it was a rat? How could it possibly be a rat?”
“We could have just let our imaginations run wild. It explains why everything was being knocked over, and the hissing we heard.”
“Rats?” I say irritated. “First you said that you have mice and now you’re saying rats. Make up your mind, for Christ’s sake.”
“I said we might have mice, but it sounds a lot bigger than mice, don’t you think?”
“If you thought that it was a rat then why did you flash the light on?” I knew her excuse as soon as the words left my mouth.
“Well, I wouldn’t want a rat jumping on me now would I?”
I stroke my chin in frustration. “You know what; I’ll prove to you that it wasn’t a rat. I’ll go down and get the camera,” I say determined to prove my case. I stand up.
“Are you crazy? You can’t possibly go back down there!” she says, the sound of her voice coming close to hysteria.
“Why not? I thought you didn’t believe there’s a ghost down there?” I banter.
“I never said there wasn’t something down there. I’m just saying there could be a reasonable explanation for everything.” She’s totally back-pedaling.
“Come on, it’s just a ghost, what can it do?” I say reassuringly.
“It can haunt us. Follow us around the house. Be a moving shadow in the dark,” she says, panicking. “You get to go home. We live here. If anything happens to me or my family because of you ...” I block out the rest of her rant. Now I get it. That was her problem. She was steamed at me for pissing off the ghost. She’s even hotter when she’s angry. Food for thought … Why didn’t she come out and just say it then? Oh, that’s right, she’s too stubborn to admit that there really is a ghost in the house, but isn’t that what she’s doing now?
“The truth comes out! Why can’t you admit that your house is haunted?”
“Because it’s not possible, ghosts aren’t real,” Marimar says, tugging on her curls. Stress is emanating from her face.
“Then I guess it wouldn’t matter if I went back downstairs, does it?” I say, softening my tone.
“I guess you’re right,” she says, grudgingly.
“Of course I’m right; I’m the expert,” I tease. I turn to leave.
“I’m going with you. Just wait a couple minutes until I’m done with my coffee.” I nod and sit back down. She sips her coffee slowly, trying to buy time. Still, I don’t press her to hurry because the longer she sits and drinks the more her features relax, until she’s almost back to her happy self again. “If you want I can get you more coffee,” Mar offers. I’ll take that as a peace offering/stall tactic.
“Thanks, but no thanks. I’m anxious to see what’s on the camera.”
We finish our coffee and go back through the kitchen. We stop to thank Mrs. Utt and to dispose of the dishes. Then we head back down into the cellar. I’m grabbing the camera while Marimar guards the light switch — just in case the ghost comes back. I look around once I get to the bottom step, wondering if it’s lurking around nearby. The camera is within sight. I would go and make a run at it, but Marimar’s watching and I don’t want to look like a coward, so instead I make quick strides towards it.
“Got it, let’s go and check it out,” I say excitedly, swaggering calmly back to the steps … CRASH!!
The sound of broken glass coming from behind me shatters the silence. I bound the stairs taking them two at a time yelling, “GO! GO! GO!”
I nearly knock Mar over as I reach the top and we explode out the door into the kitchen. Mrs. Utt turns around to see what the fuss is about as we try to look calm; so much for looking brave.
“What happened? Are you guys okay? What broke?” Mrs. Utt asks.
“We don’t know, we heard it fall when we were going upstairs,” Mar answers.
“If you show me where the dust pan is I can go and clean it up if you like,” I offer politely. Please say no. Please say no.
“Don’t worry about it; I’ll have Walter pick it up when he gets home. But thank you.” She stops and studies our faces and laughs, “Did you two kids freak yourselves out?”
“It is kinda spooky down there, ma’am.”
“Why don’t you show Sage the rest of the house and not just the root cellar?”
“Can I show Sage my room?” Mar asks.
“Sure, just be sure to leave the door open in case your Papa happens to come home.”
“Sure, Mama, let’s go.” Now I’m really terror stricken. It must show on my face ‘cause Mar says, “Come on, don’t be scared of my room. Besides, as fast as you ran up those steps, Papa could never catch you.” I can feel my face redden with shame.
“Do you have a computer or laptop?” I ask as we ascend the stairs, changing the subject.
“I have a laptop. It’s up in my room. We can plug in the camcorder and check out what we captured,” she says. I leave one haunted room just to enter another.
Upstairs we plug the camcorder into her laptop. We sit down on the edge of her bed.
“Okay, now let’s see what we have here,” I say turning to look at Marimar. I pull up the video and put it on full screen.
“Crap!” I exclaim, making Mar jump. There’s nothing, nothing at all, just static.
“Where’s our footage? Are you sure you pushed record?”
“Yeah, I’m sure,” I say.
“Maybe you turned it off when we were about to get up?”
I’m about to argue when I realize that maybe I did. I can’t be sure that I didn’t.
“Then it should have the footage of when we first went down before I got up and put it on the shelf. Weird.”
“It’s all right, we can always try again some other day,” Marimar says, sympathetically. I seriously doubt she’ll want to.
“I guess so. What do you want to do now?” I ask.
“Let’s head back downstairs before Mama becomes suspicious,” she says getting up from the bed. In other words, before she thinks we’re up to no good. I can only wish. A now familiar picture of her dad’s angry face invades my thoughts. I head for the hallway.
“First I have to put this back,” she says. She goes towards the armoire, slips out her laptop bag, places her laptop inside of it, and places it back in the armoire.
“Here, I’ll do it for ya,” I say, terminating my exit. I reach for the camcorder and place it back on the top shelf.
“How did you manage to put the camcorder there in the first place?” I ask, curiously.
“We have a stool in the bathroom for Marisol and it gave me the extra boost,” she says. I turn away from her trying to disguise my laugh as a cough.
“You might think that’s funny, but for your information, I’m taller than all the women on Mama’s side of the family,” she says matter-of-factly. Her head is held high in superiority. “Besides, good things come in small packages.”
I can’t hold in my laugh in any longer. I know laughing will piss her off but I can’t help myself. It’s hilarious that she’s considered tall in her family; she has to be five-one on her tip toes on a good day. I’m really trying hard to stop laughing, but the sight of Marimar glaring at me with her arms crossed over her chest and her foot tapping the floor makes me laugh even harder. She’s really mad now, and beautiful.
“Well, at least I’m not a gigantic freak!” she lashes out.
“Well, it’s better than being short!” I snort. The face she gives me is priceless.
I can’t help but let out one more big laugh. Once I finish I see the expression on her face like the time she found out I was the one that almost crashed their van. It seems that the look in her eyes get more filled with rage every time I make her angry. That’s a lot of anger for such a small creature. Her arms are still crossed, and with that look still on her face she stomps her foot, turns around, and walks out of the room; her head up high as if she is saying, “This battle is not over”.
I run up behind her and call out, “Mar, wait!” It didn’t take me long to reach her with my long strides. She walks around me, clearly ignoring me, as I watch her head towards the end of the hall. I sigh deeply. She stops. That was unexpected. She turns around on her heels and looks at me. We stand there in silence. This doesn’t look good. Is she trying to choose her words carefully or something? Great, I’m in for an earful. Finally — after what seemed like hours — she speaks.
“Go on.” Is that it? My breath rushes out in relief.
“Okay, I’m sorry ... that you can’t take a joke!” I start to laugh at the expression on her face. Her jaw is down; her eyes are wide with shock. Her mouth suddenly closes and her eyes narrow, forming a sharp and intense glare, like daggers.
She opens her mouth to say something, but before she can I interrupt her and say, “You are too serious, you gotta loosen up and learn to have some fun and take a joke.” She rolls her eyes, completely ignoring what I just said. That annoys me on so many levels.
“Don’t even bother coming over tomorrow … oh, and Papa’s coming home in five minutes or less so I suggest you leave now.” Her tone is as cold as ice. I hit a nerve there. Without thinking my body turns into flight or fight mode. I fly. My legs move without hesitation. I’m tearing down the stairs about to head for the door. I realize she may just be saying that to get rid of me, but either way I really don’t want to take a chance on seeing her psycho dad again. My heart is racing and my breathing is becoming shallow. I reach the front door. Wait a second. Now I remember. Didn’t she tell me on the phone that he’s not going to be home until six-thirty? I have plenty of time.
Hahahaha. I see her on the rails laughing at me. Normally, I would be totally hypnotized by the sound of her laughter and the way it makes her look even more amazing … but now the thought of her laughing at my expense enrages me beyond words. I can feel my face burning up with the heat of anger. I’m such an idiot! She made me look like a total jackass. Another giggle emanates from her. I turn around and walk up the stairs to where she is standing. I look her straight in the face and say in a serious and calm — as much as I can muster up — tone, “Very funny.”
She burst out in laughter and says, “You really need to learn how to take a joke.”
My temper is boiling at the moment. She’s laughing so hard that she snorts. What was that? There it is again. The sound brings me up short. Her laugh is sweet and unrestrained. I watch her as she wipes away the tears that her laughter had rung out. She’s shaking with laughter. Her curls are bouncing around. Her cheeks are flushed red and her eyes are sparkling. Stars. In spite of myself, and my pride, I find myself wanting to join in. I bite my lip hard so that not a corner turns up. I’ll give her hell and see if she’ll repent.
“Not funny,” I say trying to sound serious, but failing completely. In spite of my efforts a grin broke through my serious mask; so much for giving her hell.
“It took you long enough. I guess now we’re even,” she says smugly, triumphantly; through breaks in between her laughter.
“Guess I’ll be leaving then, only if you want me to of course.”
“Don’t let me stop you,” she says, waving her hand in dismissal. She’s still giggling. I was expecting her to ask me to stay. She’s waiting for me to give in, smart ass.
“Fine, I guess I’ll be leaving.” I turn to walk away. More laughter. I walk down a few steps and still no response. Does she even care or is she just being stubborn? I keep walking. When I’m on my last step to the door I can see she’s hovering over the railing watching me. Her laugh has faded, only a smile remains.
“Bye.” She waves at me. She’s being stubborn.
“I guess I’ll be going.” I flash her my winning smile; it used to work on all my exes, but then again, they are my exes.
“I know. You said that already.” Her smile widens.
“Thanks for having me. I’m going to say thanks to your ma.”
“Bye, now,” Mar goads me on, relapsing into giggling. I turn to walk towards the kitchen.
“Since you’re not going to be leaving anytime soon we might as well watch that movie I was telling you about.”
“All right, since you want me to stay so badly.”
“Well, I didn’t want you to have to go home and try to explain to your parents where your little brother is.”
Damn, she got me. How could she make me forget about my little bro? This girl has really gotten under my skin.