Despite having her two closest friends beside her, returning to her childhood home haunted by memories of night terrors, always gave Hailey a chill.
It was probably the reason she visited Mother so infrequently.
Nan parked the Mini Cooper on the street, leaving the circular drive free for family members, and then, she and Hailey walked back toward the manse.
Trish was waiting for them on the sidewalk, gazing in curiosity at the century old house. “This is where you grew up?”
Hailey grimaced. “Let’s just say it’s where I spent my childhood.”
She and Nan joined her in staring up at the huge three story gray stone manse with the gables and attached conservatory. Trish completed her visual inspection of the property and announced, “I’m impressed.”
“I’m not. To tell the truth, it creeps me out.”
“Too bad. It’s a lovely example of Victorian architecture.”
“It’s got bad mojo.”
“Come on you two,” Nan interrupted, “I think we’re expected inside.” She gave a slight nod in the direction of the main floor window and as she did so the white lace curtain quickly closed.
“Hmm. Someone watching. Are your aunts inquisitive?” giggled Trish.
Hailey shook her head. “Not really. I think it’s more a case of our being déclassé, loitering out here on the street.”
“Oh, I see.” She gave Hailey a sympathetic look.
Nan placed a hand on both their shoulders and pushed them towards the house. “C’mon, ladies. No need to disturb dragons in their lair.”
An ominous rumble of thunder seemingly added urgency to Nan’s words. Why was it that whenever she came back home, she always felt like Duncan entering Glamis castle? She pictured a cackling Lady Macbeth inside gleefully marking Hailey’s fatal entrance beneath the battlements.
Trish grabbed her arm before she reached for the doorknob. “Are you okay? You look as pale as a ghost.”
“It’s silly really, but I always feel like I’ve been handed a death sentence whenever I come back here—almost as if I hear a raven croaking.”
“So dramatic,” Nan purred. “In the next scene, enter knight errant—preferably tall and dark.”
Hailey forced a nervous smile. “You’re right. I do tend towards melodrama.”
“I wouldn’t doubt this Victorian ambiance pulls it out of you, but don’t worry—the three amigos will prevail.”
She opened the door with a flourish, running directly into a young dark-haired man who was quickly exiting.
“Oh!” Nan gasped.
“Excuse me.” The young man sputtered, glancing apprehensively over his shoulder, before scurrying away.
Nan watched him hurry down the walk. “That was weird—I think I know that guy.”
“He does look familiar,” Hailey agreed, “but I can’t quite recall where I’ve seen him.”
The young man got into a small red sports car with a black ragtop roof. Within seconds the engine started up and with a throaty growl the car spurted away and disappeared down the street.
“Miss Hailey!” It was Birdie calling from the foyer. Hailey flashed her a smile of recognition and hurried in to meet her.
“Your aunts have been fussing—they’ve lined up several people they want you to meet.”
She rolled her eyes. “I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. Oh, by the way, Birdie, I know you’ve met Nan, but I’d like you to meet my other friend, Tricia Duncan.”
Trish held out her hand and smiled. “Tricia is so formal—please, call me Trish—all my friends do.”
“I’m flattered that you’d include me in their company, Miss Duncan—I mean, Trish.”
“Birdie—that’s an unusual name. Is it a short form?”
Birdie smiled. “My real name is Dorin Segal, but when Miss Hailey was small she called me Birdie. She thought my last name was ‘seagull’. She giggled at the memory.
“I guess the name just stuck. After a while even, even Miss Beatrice took to calling me that—not that I minded, of course. She never could never get straight that my name was Dorin—not ‘Doreen’ as she was apt to call me.”
“Dorin is lovely,” Trish enthused.
“It’s Jewish and means ‘gift’.”
“And that’s exactly what she is,” Hailey interjected. “She’s God’s gift to me. In fact, I don’t know how I would have made it this far without her.”
Birdie blushed, but looked pleased. “Now don’t go turning my head, as your mother would say.”
The mention of Hailey’s mother evidently caused her a pang of nostalgia, bringing a tear to her eye, which she quickly wiped away with the white cuff of her uniform sleeve. “Mustn’t mourn like the pagans—isn’t that what your Aunt Alicia says?”
Hailey nodded sympathetically. “Auntie’s full of sententious sayings.”
“Well, that one’s Bible, she tells me—the very words of Saint Paul, himself.”
“Well, in that case, Amen,” smiled Trish.
Birdie’s face went ashen. “Oh no, here comes Miss Alicia. I promised I’d bring you to her as soon as you arrived.”
“And so you did, Birdie. We’ve hardly been in the house five minutes.” Hailey reassured her.
Despite her outward calm, her insides were quaking. Alicia’s approach was ominous as a tsunami sweeping towards her, deadly and unavoidable.
© 2017, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.