As the familiar little red car pulled up on the drive I heard the crunch of gravel from my room and dashed downstairs to fling open the door for my sister. She had cut her hair since I'd last seen her and her light brown hair framed her face in a bob and she had replaced her glasses with contact lenses which glinted slighting on her bright blue eyes that matched mine. As soon as she stepped out of the car I raced into her arms and hugged her gushing about how I liked the changes to her appearance while my father went round to the boot and retrieved her suitcase. My mother who had been preparing a welcome back dinner in the kitchen came to the front door drying her hands on a tea towel, when she laid eyes on her oldest daughter her ageing face brightened into a beautiful happy smile, 'Hello honey, did you bring me as much washing as last time?'
'Judging the weight of this, she brought home the whole college's washing this time.' My father said pretending to wipe sweat from his brow as he dragged her case into the house. Sally and I followed him inside.
That evening I remember being as animated as I had been in a long time since Sally had left for university. Her absence had taken away a large part of what had kept me going for many years and had forced me to struggle into the world of independence with which I coped terribly. I had been quiet and sullen and barely spent much time with my parents but Sally's return for the next 4 months seemed to me like Christmas had come very very early. For the first time in a year my family seemed perfectly back to normal and that alone was enough to fill my heart with energy and my mind with happiness. It was agreed I would spend that night in Sally's room.
'So what's it all like?' I asked Sally when we were alone I sat cross legged at the end of her bed while she wrote in her diary.
'Stressful. I'd definitely take another gap year.' She laughed. Sally had put off starting uni for a year so that she could travel around Europe finding inspiration for her writing. It had worked since she was already well into publishing a second book that summer. 'Not that I had really needed to travel that far I took most of the inspiration from this old place.'
I had of course read her book, it was a horror based around the imaginary friend of a little girl. 'I sensed some of old Hadley in it when I read it if I'm honest.' I replied.
'Yes,' Sally laughed again, 'I remember those times when you and I believed all...'
'Sorry, when I believed all that stuff and scare the pants off you even if you pretended you didn't believe it.' Sally shut her diary and paused for a moment as we shared the memories. 'Speaking of Hadley, I dropped in on Aunt Josie this afternoon as I was passing through on the way here.'
'How is she?'
'Still mad as a bat and still hanging on in there.' Sally said sadly. Aunt Josie was our father's younger sister and often we laughed at her crazy mismatched clothing, alcoholic traits and complete belief in all superstitions no matter how far fetched. When I look back on it now, I understand what good reasons she had to be the way she was. Her and my father were the two youngest of five and the age gap between them and the three older siblings was enormous, and the two oldest had already left home with children when Josie was born. Both of those siblings died relatively young due to a genetic illness passed down the women in the family and our uncle, the older brother, lives abroad and rarely even writes. By the time I was born Aunt Josie had already started showing the signs of the same illness she lost her sisters to. On top of her fear of death being so soon round the corner she had also ended up with a baby whose father had run off with someone else and later on married them and had other children leaving nothing for our little cousin Sam at all. Sam was only a couple of years younger than me but I don't know him at all since he was put into care after my aunt's drinking habits became apparent to be serious; she had sworn to stop drinking and come back for him in a couple of years when she was in a better state to care for a child but by the time he started school it was clear this would never be possible and he was put up for adoption and now lives with a delightful family, I'm sure, with some family a few towns over. Overall, my aunt has had a pretty rough life but had always got on well with sally and I was glad to hear Sally had gone to visit her since I'm sure it made that poor woman's month.
'Mm,' I said sympathetically and there was a silence. 'Anyway, you mentioned Hadley.'
'Oh yes,' Sally brightened again a deeper thought fading from her eyes,'She said she's heard that it's finally been sold off.'
'Oh! How come we didn't hear about his? I never saw it go up for sale. Who's bought it?'
'It was a private sale apparently, to his granddaughter and her husband and three small kids, Josie only heard about it because the current gardener of the property is her neighbour. Apparently they are to be moving in this week sometime.' Sally had replaced her diary with a book on Shakespeare and she was now flicking through the pages absent-mindedly as she spoke.
'Woah, hey, we should ask Mum if we can visit them when they move, check they are settled in and stuff. We haven't had a new neighbour in years.'
'We can ask. I don't doubt we'll get a lecture on ghost hunting beforehand, mind you I wouldn't mind a look inside that place.' As though our 9 and 4 year old selves were only around yesterday we spent a long time into the night discussing what might be inside the house and Sally told a fresh story about the house similar to that of her book. I fell asleep that night my head full of questions and queries and suspicions about my possible new neighbours.