The Girlfriend Experience

curly hair pic girl in yellow blouse

He hadn’t had much experience with dating, let alone an actual girlfriend, but she was here, finally. He’d known that they were destined from the first moment he’d seen her floating across campus in that brilliant yellow sundress. There had been a group of girls, all in brightly colored dresses that always inhabited late summer in the city. And even though she wasn’t the prettiest or most voluptuous of the group, she was the one that caught his attention.

It was the smile, he supposed. The bright slightly buck toothed grin that made her face light up. Or the curls. Her face was encircled by a halo of brilliant auburn curls that bounced and bobbed with each step she took on that warm summer afternoon. Thick curls that bounced against smooth tawny shoulders that glistened with some lotion that smelled of strawberries as she passed him. She’d brushed against him, whispering an apology as she turned to face him without seeing him and his breath caught.

She had eyes that were an unfathomable, coffee brown and dimples that made her look even more angelic to him. They were deep, like divots in smooth skin that would have looked strange on anyone else, but on her they were enchanting. She’d turned back to her friends then, laughing at something one of the other girls said, moving away from him.

He’d found himself following the gaggle of giggling girls as they made their way across campus from the dining hall , past the lake to their sorority house. He remembered thinking that he should have realized that these were sorority girls; they always seemed to travel in packs. Well, to him anyway, a pack of exotic creatures that lived in big houses on the edge of campus like gilded cages. He paused when they mounted the steps to the front porch that wrapped around the mansion. Yes, mansion was the only term that would fit this palace. As she followed the others into the house, she’d turned to look at him, her brow furrowing curiously at him, before she seemed to shrug and close the door.

He had been infatuated with her from that point on, wanting to know everything about this daffodil of a girl.

He discovered, after much inquiry, that her name was Daisy Pendergast from Savannah, Georgia. That she was sophomore biology major, a member of Greek Council and Student body treasurer. He learned that she was a cheerleader and that she sometimes sang with a Jazz quartet, when she had time. She was also president of the Gamma Delta Alpha sorority and dated Wilson ‘Beau’ Grayson off and on. Wilson Grayson, son of Senator Paul Grayson of Virginia, and at that moment, they were off. No one knew why, since by all account Beau was completely enamored with Daisy. To the point of reenacting scene from her favorite movie “Say Anything’ one rainy Sunday afternoon.

Beau had found an old trench coat and stood beneath the balcony of the Gamma house, playing her favorite song, as she and her sisters watched and swooned. Daisy had simply stared, her pretty face blank as the handsome, and yes he was movie star handsome, Beau poured his heart out to her.

He begged her to come down and talk to him, his good looks and sweet disposition doing nothing to ebb her sour mood. Nor did the encouragement of her sisters persuade her to go down and ‘talk to him, Daisy.” Instead, she turned away, disappearing into the darkness of the house, leaving sweet handsome Beau standing in the rain, boom box in hand.

***

He’d watched her for three weeks after that before finally getting the nerve to speak to her. It was in the Library one Friday night. She was alone, trying to get some program to open on her laptop. She continued to get an error, locking her out of the University WI-FI and adding to her growing frustration. Knowing what to do, he’d eased over to her and nervously tapped her shoulder. She looked at him, her eyes narrowed suspiciously, her face tense as if she were waiting for a come on or lame pick up line. He assumed someone like Daisy received unprovoked come-ons daily. He’d bore witness to more than one. There was something in her face that gave him pause, a hardness he’d never noticed before, a calculating menace that all pretty girls seemed to have.

“I can help with that.” He’d said in a soft, low voice. Her face immediately softened once she took him in, that adorable bucktoothed smile lighting her coffee brown eyes. He knew that he was as non-threatening as one man could be, standing all of five foot nine, only a few inches taller than Daisy. He was slight, not skinny, just slight with decent muscle tone, he supposed. He wasn’t the strapping Beau Grayson, but he wasn’t a ninety pound weakling either. He was by all accounts, and by his own admission, very average. His eyes were brown, not coffee or honey or amber, just brown. His hair was dark blond just a shade or two shy of brown, but not light enough to be anything spectacular, and was brushed away from a face that was barely memorable. He was, as one girl he’d had a crush on in high school had once told him, utterly passable. That’s it. Not handsome, not ugly or striking, just passable.

“Can you really?” She asked in a honey dipped Southern drawl that was warm and inviting.

“Yes. I’m a TA in the computer sciences- I can help with that.” She smiled wider and a light filled her eyes.

“Please,” She motioned for him to take the seat beside her and turned the offending laptop to him. “I have a project that needs to be posted in-“She checked her delicate gold watch.” Twenty minutes.” She groaned.

“No problem. I can have you in ….” He tapped a few keys and then smiled. “Now.” She looked at the screen and saw that she was connected to the Internet. She squealed excitedly, that smile radiating and those dimples shining up at him.

“Thanks so much,” She said embracing him.

“Michael Smith.” He said. “My name is Mike.” Mike Smith, an ordinary, unremarkable name for an unremarkable young man. It was as the rest of him, passable. She nodded and held him tighter.

“You are a life saver Mike.” She released him, her smile still in place as her tiny fingers moved over the keyboard. She hit the enter button with a flourish and a message popped up on the screen letting her know that her project had been accepted. She turned that smile on him again.

“Just in time. Thanks Mike. I’m Daisy by the way.” She said.

“I know.” He cursed himself for that. It was never a good idea to let a girl like Daisy have the upper hand, especially for a guy like him. But she didn’t seem to notice or didn’t care. Of course, pretty girls were always well known, from middle school until the end of time.

“Well, Mike Smith. I would offer you a coffee, but I have got to get going. I have a study group and I am tots late.” Then she was gone half running, half skipping that adorable smile on an angelic face.

***

Over the next few weeks, he’d made a point, then of being wherever she was, conveniently running into her on a campus as one did with friends. It was as strange thing that happened in small towns and on college campuses when you met someone, even just a casual acquaintance, you see them everywhere. It’s never suspicious because there aren’t that many places one can go. Not really. Not in a college town like this one, not when everyone went to the same restaurants and clubs, one of the two ice cream parlors and the one movie theater, it was inevitable. The key, he knew, to following someone is to not follow them.

The key was to be where ever they were going to be before they arrived. That way they could never accuse you of following them. In all actuality, it made it seem as if they were following you. Especially when you were someone as passable and un-extraordinary like good old, forgettable Mike Smith.

But she hadn’t forgotten him.

As a matter of fact, she made a point of greeting him warmly whenever she saw him. She would smile that genuine smile and flip those auburn curls and talk to him. When she spotted him in the dining hall, she would sit beside him and chat him up. She introduced him to her friends one night as they passed him at a local pub, referring to him as her friend Mikey. She never realized that he knew her plans well in advance, because he was smart about it.

He didn’t always show up. Sometimes he watched her from afar and other times he just stayed at home, biding his time. On the nights he didn’t go out, he would watch her. He’d managed to hack into her laptop, all he’d needed was an IP address, which he’d found that night in the library. He’d lay with the lights out and watch her sleep, his finger tracing the outline of her face as she rested. She wore black shorts and a cami to bed, nothing overtly sexy, but on her it was. She had a birthmark, a small thing that looked like an hourglass, just above the cutest bellybutton he’d ever seen. It intrigued him and made her even more attractive to him, and he didn’t know why. Those thick curls were natural, she would take her time brushing them until they shone in thick waves, but they would always spring back into corkscrew curls by the morning.

She didn’t spend as much time with the other girls as he would have thought, since she always seemed to be with at least two of them while walking across campus. She would go into her room and study, alone. On the rare occasion she wasn’t alone was when she reconciled with good old Beau. Beau who come over and cuddle with her beneath the covers and watch movies, his big hands sinking into those thick curls. When they were together, it was the hardest time for him to watch, but he would, looking for something to remove the other man from her life. But Beau, he had to admit, was nothing but a loving gentleman.

Mike thought Beau would be an oaf, a clumsy boorish troll like his fraternity brethren. He, unlike Mike, was not at all passable. Beau with the thick dark hair and deep hunter green eyes could have easily been a dick. He had the looks, he had the money and he had the girl. In high school he had known dozens of Beau’s but none were as genuinely nice as this young man. He wished that he was a complete muscle headed douche; it would have made him so much easier to hate, easier to insinuate things to poison her against him. But, Beau was none of the things, at least not with her.

He treated her as if she were the most precious thing on this earth and that he would do anything for her. He’d bring her soup when she was sick, and rubbed her feet after one of her five mile jogs. He would spend hours with her, cuddled up on her bed watching movies. He would sink those big hands of his into her thick curls and kiss her until her cheeks were flush. He would cup her perfect breasts and brush his lips along her neck, while whispering words of love into her ear.

How Mike hated him in those moments. Hated that she allowed him that intimacy, that closeness. She would revel in his love, smiling up at him with those deep dimples and kiss his cheek. She rested her hand on his muscled chest, curl up on his lap and run her fingers through his hair. She looked at him as if he hung the moon and the stars and Mike despised him for that.

Beau, nice as he was, was not who she needed. Beau couldn’t make her as happy as he could. But he would bide his time and wait, his time would come. It always came because as nice as he was, extraordinary men like Beau always screwed up.

Always.

***

His chance came just as the weather turned cold in late November, just as the campus was coated in white for the first time that semester. By then, Mike had become her friend, welcomed at parties and nights at the pub. He was accepted and it was understood that old passable Mikey was one of the group. He had no affiliation to any fraternity or sorority, he didn’t play sports or was part of any campus organization, his only connection to any of them, the beautiful ones, was Daisy. Daisy liked him, so everyone liked him because everyone loved Daisy.

Even Mr. Perfect, Beau liked him because a un- extraordinary young man like Mike Smith was no threat to the amazing Beau Grayson. There was no competition, no jealousy when he spent hours with Daisy in dark libraries or on the quad. Beau didn’t worry when Daisy took care of him when he had the flu or even when she canceled a date so she could support Mike during a play he’d foolishly auditioned for at her behest. He’d dreaded being on stage and hated the fact that he’d even accepted a role, albeit a tiny one, in the university’s production of Our Town. All he had to do was be around, and wait.

And he hadn’t even had to wait very long. The tension began when Beau asked Daisy to come home with him over Thanksgiving break.

“I just don’t know what to do about it, Mikey.” She confided in him one blustery fall after noon as they walked to the dining hall together.

“Do you want to go?” Mike asked, trying to side as nonchalant as possible.

“I do, but going home with him is a big step. Don’t you understand what it would mean?” Of course he knew. This was Beau’s big play; she was going to meet his family. The entire Grayson clan would converge at the family compound so they could size her up. Taking her home would be Beau declaring to his family that Daisy was the one, the future Mrs. Wilson Grayson. But he couldn’t let her know that. He had to play cool, it wouldn’t work otherwise.

“That he wants to show off his family chalet?” He joked and she managed a little laugh.

“That he’s serious.” She said.

“And you aren’t?” He asked.” I thought you loved him, that he was the greatest guy ever.”

She paused then, standing under the arching limbs of the snow covered cherry blossoms. She looked up at him, her curls covered by a knit cap in soft white, matching her cashmere coat and gloves. Looking at her, with her cheeks a deep rosy pink from the cold, those curls peeking from beneath that hat, he thought this must have been what she looked like as a child. This is what her children would look like.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love Beau. I really do, but I’m not sure if I’m ready for marriage.”

Mike put and arm around her shoulders and smiled down at her with his unremarkable smile and nodded.

“Then take your time and think about it. Who said you had to say yes?” They began walking again, trudging through as the snow began to fall again. Mike looked up at the arch of the trees and pictured it in full bloom walking like this with Daisy in that brilliant yellow dress. Or better yet, a white dress, a wedding dress as they strolled arm and arm. Yes, spring was always best for new love, he thought.

***

She didn’t go with Beau when he left the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Mike knew this because he’d sat in the freezing bushes across the street from the frat house, watching. He couldn’t hear them, but he could see them, see them and worry that maybe she would change her mind. Beau could profess his love and propose to her right there, and then what could he do? What could he say? He couldn’t rush over to stop it; he’d look like a lunatic. Not to mention he’d give away his secret, that he’d been watching them. It wouldn’t take long for either of them to figure out that he’d been following them. There was a misconception that sorority girls and frat boys were dumb, and that was far from the truth. Sure, there were some idiots, but that is just because in any group there is at least one idiot of two. It was a given. But perfect Beau had gotten early acceptance into Harvard Law. And Daisy, well Daisy was far from stupid or gullible. He’d known that the first time he’d looked into her eyes. She was shrewd and thoughtful and very cunning in some ways. No they weren’t stupid and he had to be very careful not to let his emotions take over. Not when he was so close.

But that didn’t happen. Beau didn’t propose. Instead, Beau lifted her in his arms and kissed her on the tip of her nose, spinning her until she started to giggle and wrapped her arms around him. He kissed her then, a full on movie magic kiss made even more motion picture perfect when slow gently fell on them.

Mike wanted a moment like that with her. He wanted a perfect kiss. He assumed that any kiss he shared with Daisy would be perfect.

It had to be.

He hadn’t called her right away.

No. Couldn’t seem too eager, too needy. Daisy didn’t like needy.

So he waited until Monday afternoon. Watching through her web cam as she bid goodbye to her sisters as they left the house one by one, inviting her to their homes. She declined watch as they came to her door to give her a hug and kiss on the cheek. They told her to be safe, some told her to go see Beau while others, those that knew her best, just said good bye. They all liked her; all of them genuinely liked her.

Perhaps that was why he liked her, loved her. She was a good person.

***

Only the house mother remained, by the time Mike had dialed Daisy’s number. But she had already retired to her little apartment, the guest house just across the back lawn, leaving Daisy alone in the house. He’d called to check on her, to see how she was feeling and to let her know that, if she wanted, they could have dinner together.

“If you feel like it.” He hastened to add. “I’m heading home tomorrow but I thought maybe if you like, we can hang out. Eat watch a movie. That house had got to be pretty creepy by now.” She was silent for a while, sitting on her bed in sweats that made her look tiny and delicate. She sighed, running her hands through her hair. She looked at her clock, and he in turned looked at his own, unable to see hers from the camera’s vantage point.

It was just after seven, still early but she seemed apprehensive. He held his breath and watched as she considered.

“Okay. I guess I can use some company. ” He wanted to shout and dance, but he maintained his cool even as his heart raced. “But I’ll come to you. Just let me change And I’ll pick up Chinese.” She added and his heart sang.

As soon as he disconnected the call, he sprang from the bed and looked around. The dorm room he occupied was a mess; his roommate had left his things all over the place. Clothing, books, everything scattered across his bed. There were jump drives and papers stacked along the shelves and his bed still bore a huge dark stain that had turned sticky and smelled since he’d last inhabited his bed.

Frowning, Mike rolled up his sleeves and got to work. He opened the closet door, expecting the smell to assault him as it had for weeks before, but it didn’t. Instead, Michael Smith, the other Mike Smith, stared at him with cloudy blue eyes. That Mike Smith hadn’t been the easiest to live with, with his video games and gear all over the place. His steady diet of pizza, nachos and soda had taken a toll on his already acne prone skin. Poor kid didn’t stand a chance. Mike had been a decent kid, he supposed, but he was clumsy and awkward and stayed in this room playing video games, only talking to people through his war games that no one really knew him. That made his transition into the new Mike Smith that much easier.

Of course, he’d avoided detection by attending just enough classes to keep Mike’s grades up, to avoid any suspicion. He’d made sure that whenever his parents called, he assures them that he was in the library or with friends or he simply let the calls go to voice mail. Occasional emails seemed to do in a pinch, but he had never been able to master Mike’s thick Brooklyn accent and speech patterns enough to fool his parents.

But no one here knew that. No one here knew Mike Smith. Not that Mike Smith. He hated to do it, but the kid was a means to an end. All he needed was an excuse to be on campus, to be close to her without being some creep who stared at her from across the quad. He didn’t want to be that guy and he looked young enough to pass for a college sophomore, though he was few years older than that. But Daisy had never seemed to notice. And now she was on her way over. Finally

***

She’d arrived just as he’d climbed from the shower. Perfect timing in his opinion, but she’d blushed when he’d come to the door in nothing but a towel. She averted her eyes, not looking at a chest that was more muscled than she’d expected. He was not as cut as Beau, but he could stand his on his own. He’d even been referred to as sexy in his former life.

“Sorry,” She stammered. “Sorry. I can wait out here.”

“No, no. Come in. I’ll just throw something on real quick. I didn’t expect you so soon.” He lied and right away, he knew she knew it was a lie. It was the way she was looking at him, with those sharp inquisitive eyes. She stepped into the room, pushing the door closed behind her.

“Of course.” She said, her entire face flushed. “Go get dressed. I’ll just set the food out. Do you mind if we eat on the floor? “

“No,” He called from the bathroom. “It will be like a picnic.”

“It was completely dead out there.” She was saying. “ I don’t think I saw anyone the entire ride over here. I mean ghost town. “

“Yea, it gets pretty dead around here during the holidays. But it’s cool. I get a lot of studying done. No distractions, well not as many.” He pushed the door, but not all the way, leaving just a crack so she could see. He knew that she could see him if she turned her head, just a little to the left. And she would look. She couldn’t help but to look. He could feel her eyes on him as he dropped the towel and slipped into a pair of jeans, taking his time to pull them up. He turned, catching her peek as he pulled on a t-shirt and masked his smile.

Yup, he thought. She was here and she would be his before the night was over.

***

They sat and ate in the dimly lit room, her curls bobbing around her face as she laughed. She was relaxed and at ease with him, something in her mood light. He hadn’t seen her like this since that first day in the quad as she crossed the campus in that bright yellow dress. She had never been more beautiful that day. He reached up and stroked her cheek, leaning in he took a chance and kissed her.

And she let him, parting her lips and welcoming his kiss. It was as if the world bloomed into living color and Mike felt his heart race. He had imagined this moment a hundred times over the past few months, but it was even better than he imagined. And when she let him undress her, let him make love to her, he felt as if his heart might burst from the sheer joy of it. As much as she’d cuddled with Beau, Daisy was still a virgin and she had given herself.

To him.

Not Beau. Him. She had saved herself for all this time and had given everything to him. She did love him. He’d known it all along but now, this, she’d just proven to him just how much. He found that spot, that cute little birthmark and brush his lips across it, reveling in the tiny ripple of giggles it sent through her. She sank her hands into his hair and sighed, contented. He was in love and she loved him back. She actually loved him back. This, he thought as he held her in his arms, this was what he’d been waiting for, this was what it would be like from now on. This was what it felt like to have Daisy as his girl.

***

“I hope you like red wine?” She removed a bottle from her backpack and held it out to him. He nodded, before searching for cups. She sat up with the blankets pulled up around her chin, her curls a tousled mess around her face.

He found two red plastic cups and held them out to her.

“So I guess you will have to tell Beau about this.” He said, staring at the burgundy wine in his cup. He was so happy, so full of joy that his body tingled. It was like a hum that thrummed through his bones making him feel weightless, like his limbs didn’t belong to him. He felt amazing and free.

“He knows. We talked about it before he left. He figured I would have to get it out of my system before I joined our families in Virginia. Everyone will be there when we tell them. We figured that it would be best if it were you. We agreed. I mean, I couldn’t risk hurting him because I love him. He is my soul mate. You see, Mikey, Beau knows everything there is to know about me. And he loves me even more because of that. How could I say no to unconditional love?” He stared at her, confused. His lips burned as he drank the wine, his throat tightening as he forced himself to swallow.

“We decided that the spring would be the best time for the wedding. You know, after he graduates. That way we can spend summer in Europe before he starts law school and I will finish my last two years at Harvard. I got in you know. How are you feeling Mikey?” She asked her eyes suddenly narrowed, sharp and cruel as she stared. She put her cup down and he could see that it was empty. Not only empty, but clean. He sat up and looked at the food still laid out on a blanket on the floor and realized that she hadn’t eaten anything either. He felt strange, his eyes heavy and his head swam. She’d drugged him.

“I know you’ve been watching me, Mike. If that’s your real name. It isn’t is it? You think I don’t know, but I know. You follow me, well not really since you just happen to be where I’m going to be. And you spy on my through my web cam. Is it thrilling for you? Watching me get undressed? Watching me with Beau? Watching me sleep? Did you get some sort of sick thrill from it, you sick fuck?”

This was wrong, he thought. No, this was wrong. She wouldn’t do this. Not his Daisy. She was going to be his tonight, tonight she was going to be his and his alone. He could feel his heart racing, but everything in his body went numb. He opened his mouth to say something but nothing came out.

“The problem is you don’t know me as well as you think you do, Mikey. Because while you were watching me. We were watching you. We knew that you were spying that’s why it was so easy, so easy to let you in, let you close. Because we needed you.” She said, her mouth spreading into a wide smile, too wide. ‘There is a curse on the women in my family, Mike that goes back as far as anyone can remember. Every Pendergast woman is cursed to kill the first man she has sex with, the one who takes her maidenhead as it were. Sometimes that’s not a problem. A random hook up and BAM, its all over. But if she loves the man truly loves him…like I love Beau, you do what ever you have to to make sure that doesn’t happen. So we decided, Beau and I , to find someone that no one would miss. Someone so insignificant that if he disappeared, no one would really notice. Some one completely unremarkable. Someone exactly like …you.” Her eyes changed them, from that beautiful soft coffee brown to obsidian, frightening, and insect-like eyes. “ I’m not what you think I am.”

He wanted to scream, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t do anything as the slightly bucked teeth he’d found so adorable, changed into large dark fangs, two right in front. She opened her mouth wider and the smooth skin on her face stretched as more eyes appeared on a face that was covered in shiny black skin, spider’s eyes. She hissed at him, those curls falling away and the dimples disintegrating until there was no semblance of his Daisy. There was only a glossy black creature climbing over him with spindly legs that pinched his skin. The last thing he saw before the darkness over took him was a blood red hourglass birthmark, just above where her belly button had once been.

The Miranda House- Revised


This is actually closer to what I pictured when I first came up with the story. 

 

“You are going to fucking love this place, Walls.” Kelly had just about screeched over the speaker phone as he barreled south. He had been on the road for the better part of three days, taking I-95 from New York to Florida , before switching to Interstate 10 to Louisiana. He’s spent the better part of three days on the road, stopping in small town along the way on his way to some remote rental house . He smiled, shaking his head , then remembered that she couldn’t see him.

“You said that last time.” He chided and could picture her rolling those big brown eyes of hers in exasperation.

“But this one is really the best. I mean what is the most haunted city ever?”

“Paris.” He mumbled and see her close her eyes an count to ten. He was the only person on the face of the earth who could frazzle Kelly Sanderson- Phillips. As a teen ager, he’d made her her scream and stomp into her bedroom on many occasions. As an adult, she had learned better coping skills, so she treated him like an imbecile.

“In the U.S. , smart ass. New Orleans, of course and this house is epic. It is the best possible place for you to finish your latest novel, Walls. ” She squealed and he couldn’t help laughing. He could picture her, standing in her clean white kitchen, the doors to the patio open as a late summer breeze blew through the space. Outside the kids would be playing either in the yard or the pool, while her husband watched over their brood. She would be barefoot, her crop brown hair tousled as she prepped dinner. Her home always smelled of fresh bread and she always had a smile on her face, even when she was angry. Right now, he knew that she was bouncing on the balls of her feet in excitement. That was one of the things he loved about her.

“Is that my sister or my agent speaking?” He chuckled.

“Both. Your agent because that book was due on my desk two months ago and I can’t stall for much longer. Your sister because the story that goes with the house is fucking bananas.” She said. “Perfection in the sickest, most twisted way possible. It’s called Mirañda House and it has a gruesome, gothic romantic history.”

“Sounds interesting.” He said. He still had more than an hour of drive time before he reached his destination.

“Do you know who the Los Isleños are? Of course you don’t because you only read your own books. Anyway, they are descendants from the Canary Islanders, and they had large settlements in the south in the early seventeen hundreds . Anyway, one of their settlements was in St. Bernard Parish right outside of New Orleans and the house was built by one of the earliest settlers, Andrés Mirañda. He built it for his youngest daughter Ana-Lucia.”

“Sweet,” He mumbled.

“You would think,but it turned into a nightmare. So, as the story goes, Andrés came to the states to get settled, building a cattle farm before sending for his wife Julia and two young sons, Tomás and Juan-Andrés. By the time they reached New Orleans , Andrés was a very rich man. He had built a huge house, had working staff and farmhands living on the property and was super rich and popular. It was wonderful, a regular freakin Southern fantasy land. By all accounts they were blissfully happy, Julia gave birth to two more boys Jose and Don-Julio. But she longed for a little girl.”

“Of Course,” Walls grumbled only to be shushed again.She also was not a fan of his commentary.

“Anyway, she miscarried a bunch of times and delivered three stillborn daughters. She went to doctors and priests and healers looking for a reason, but they had none. There was no reason why she shouldn’t have been able to have a healthy baby girl. Finally, she was informed by one of the servants- read slaves- that she was cursed. The servant, Magda, was a priestess of Santeria and gave her a healing potion that was to fix everything. Magda said that it was powerful magic and that Julia would have to promise something to the spirit world in exchange. So you know what she did, right?”

“She agreed?” Walls mumbled.

“Of course she did. I never found out what was promised that part is sketchy, but Julia did get pregnant almost immediately. Her pregnancy was stressful, she was sick the entire time and had strange cravings for raw seafood, like oysters and fish, and she ate hot peppers by the bushel and drank red wine like water.”

“Good Lord,” He whistled.

“Yea I know. Talk about what a pregnant woman is not supposed to eat. Despite all of that, she gave birth to a perfectly healthy, beautiful baby girl with thick dark hair and pale amber eyes that they named Ana-Lucia. It was said that she was so beautiful that she stole the hearts of her father and brothers instantly, and that she stole her mother’s breath. Julia died suddenly a month after Ana-Lucia was born. She was found in the baby’s room in a rocking chair, a smile on her face, dead. Ana-Lucia was still suckling at the breast of her dead mother, gruesome, huh?”

“Nauseating.” He agreed, picturing the blue tinted features of a young smiling woman, her bare breast in the mouth of a healthy, pudgy faced little girl with large amber eyes. He wondered if the milk had soured or if the child had simply sucked the life out of her mother. It left a nasty taste in his mouth as bile rose in his throat.

“I know, makes my stomach churn just thinking about it. I mean could the milk have gone sour?” She echoed his own thoughts. “Yuck, ecck, bleck.”

“Are you done?” Walter asked once Kelly began to dry heave. “I’m half way across Mississippi and you still haven’t gotten to the alleged good part.”

“Sorry. Strange thing, when they performed the autopsy, they discovered fresh lake water in Julia lungs, yet she hadn’t been near a lake for weeks. Anyway, Ana-Lucia grew up to be a very pampered and very lovely little girl. She also continued to crave raw seafood and hot peppers, eating them by the handful. The cooks had tried to cook her food and mix he diet with what everyone else ate, but her system didn’t digest it well. She needed fresh seafood, the fresher the better. And because of this, she ate most of her meals alone. Another little quirk were the accidents. When someone did something that she didn’t like strange things would happen.”

“What kinds of things?” Walter asked, his interested suddenly piqued. He had to admit, this story had begun to intrigue him slightly. After days on the road listening to talk radio and what seemed to be the same ten songs on top 40 radio, Kelly’s meandering tale was a welcomed distraction. He didn’t know if was his sister’ excited retelling or simply his enjoyment listening, but the miles seemed to be flying by as he crossed Northern Mississippi and headed south.

“Do you remember that movie, The Bad Seed? “ He did. It had been one of his favorites for years. “Well Ana-Lucia was a cross between the kid from that movie and that little boy from The Omen. Anyone who crossed or disappointed or just disagreed with her would have an unexplainable freakish accident. When she was about five, her nanny punished her for disobeying a rule and the next day, the girl took a tumble down the grand staircase and broke her leg. She was the first, but as the years went on there were more accidents. One of the maids was scalded with boiling water, though none was boiling at the time.A farm hand who’d innocently teased her was mauled by dogs, another fell from his horse and broke his arm. The servants gradually began to avoid her, making themselves scarce whenever she was nearby, whispering about her. If she heard them or if they did anything that she deemed unfair, they would pay. They believed that whatever Magda had given her mother had cursed the child with an devil spirit. Magda, of course, was the only one who wasn’t afraid. Even when the others began to flee in the middle of the night. Even after the thing with Tomas.”

“The brother?” He asked.

“The oldest brother, the one she idolized. He was much older than her and she saw him more like a father than a brother and he treated her as if she were the most precious thing in the world. Tomas was a gentle, kind heart soul and he was closer to Magda than any of the other boys. When his mother died, he had been heartbroken and Magda had taken care of him, spending time with him and his baby sister, treating them as if they were her own children. He was the light of her life, many said. She was most proud of the man he had become. When she was twelve or thirteen, Tomas had gone to Puerto Rico to take care of business for his father. When he returned months later, he brought a young beautiful…wife. Ana-Lucia hated the girl immediately. She felt as if this girl had stole her brother’s affections,he no longer had time for his baby sister. When the wife became pregnant, Ana-Lucia was devastated. She locked herself in her room for days. The pretty young wife, whose name was Bianca, tried to comfort the girl, telling her that they would be like sister;s and that she would be an aunt. But Ana-Lucia wanted none of that. Three weeks later, they found Bianca who was six months pregnant, dead. She was found in her bed, her face blue, just like Julia. Only her lungs were full of lake water. She hadn’t been near the lake since her arrival. No one knows what really happened, but Tomas never looked at his baby sister the same way again. He returned to Puerto Rico.”

“Then, there was the other brother, Jose. He was not as keen on dotting on his baby sister as she got older. He thought of her as a spoiled brat and told their father that he should not spoil her so much. When she begged and begged her father to buy her a new horse, a new Arabian or something, Jose put his foot down. He said that she already had three horses and did not need another. There father conceded and within hours of that little victory, Jose was trampled to death by a stampeding bull. The bull that killed him, was one of the most docile creatures on the ranch and one of Jose’s prized bulls. No one could figure out why it charged and figured something must have spooked it. His skull was crushed in front of his wife and young son. ”

“Jesus,” Walter whispered more to himself.

“ Yea. But it gets weirder and worse After that more and more of his staff threatened to leave if Andres didn’t send the girl away. Unable to bear with sending his daughter away, Andres commissioned the Miranda house be built on the shores of the lake, Ana-Lucia loved so much. Magda begged to be sent with her to the house with a small staff to look after her, Andres agreed and assured them both that he would be there often to visit. Which he did. But it was pretty much a velvet prison. There was only one road that lead in or out, the grounds wee so isolated that there was no chance of strangers or random guests showing up. In Andres mind,it was a perfect solution. And for a while it was.

When she was sixteen, she met and fell in love with a man named Miguel de la Fuenta Garza. She met him at a Christmas ball, only he was engaged to another young lady at the time, the daughter of a friend of her father’s named Maria Diaz Cordova. She as a pretty young lady and by all account, Miguel was completely smitten with her. Maria was well educated, beautiful and gracious and she knew Ana-Lucia as a friend. Ana-Lucia went out of her way to split them apart, wanting the dashing young Spaniard as her own, but he rebuffed her time and time again. Then Maria mysteriously died, in her bed her face blue, her lungs filled with water. Ana-Lucia used this to make her move, comforting Miguel offering a shoulder , among other things, to cry on. Yet, he continued to push her away,he’d heard the stories and wanted nothing to do with her. So she turned to Magda and magic, just as her mother had done before her. Magda tried to warn her off, telling her that spells for love always had dire consequences, that once the spell was cast, once they consummated their union only death could break that bond. Magda told her, just as she had told her mother before her, a price must always be paid. Ana-Lucia didn’t care,she wanted Miguel and she was going to have him.”

“Persistent girl.” Walter mumbled, smiling as his car crossed the Mississippi Louisiana state line. The sun was finally lowering in the later afternoon, lighting Lake Ponchartrain as he made his way toward the city. “I’m almost there, Kells. Does this tale have an end?” He said.

“ Shut up and listen. Ana-Lucia’s little love spell worked. Within days Miguel was showering her with gifts and pleading his undying love. He went to Andres and asked for her hand and Andres readily agreed, knowing how much she loved him. The wedding was beautiful, held at the Miranda house on the lake, Ana-Lucia’s favorite place in the world. For the first few months, it was blissful, they were so happy and she became pregnant right away. This was a problem. Because Ana-Lucia’s spell worked a little too well, Miguel was jealous of the unborn baby. He fumed when ever she talked about the baby destroying the nursery she had taken time organizing. When she told him to stop being ridiculous , that the baby was his as well, he would become enraged. Then finally he snapped, yelling that the child was taking his place before it was even born. She told him he was being ridiculous and they had huge fight that ended when he pushed her down the stairs forcing a miscarriage. She was devastated and to make matters worse, the doctor informed Ana-Lucia that the accident had left her unable to have anymore children. Magda was the only one she would talk to, confiding in her friend and pushing Miguel away. This was another bone of contention, he wanted to send Magda away, but Ana-Lucia wouldn’t hear of it. So Miguel tolerated her for a while, but he watched Ana-Lucia like a hawk. He would fire or fight any man who so much as looked at his wife. His obsession drove him to murder the teen aged son of the man who ran her father’s stables when the boy came to deliver a message from her father. By all accounts, she spoke to the boy who she thought of as a little brother , briefly then said her good byes , giving him a hug. An innocent hug and Miguel broke the boys neck right before her eyes on the front lawn. Then he dragged Ana-Lucia into the house by her hair and brutally raped her. The servants said her screams were horrific and frightening. Magda and a few of the men in the house tried to help her, busting down the bedroom door. By the time the got Miguel off of her, the said he looked deranged, his eyes wild and that he was practically foaming at the mouth. Ana-Lucia had broken ribs and her face was beaten to a pulp. She was so weak and ashamed, she would not leave the house again for weeks. She begged Magda to reverse the spell, but Magda said that only death would end it.”

“Why didn’t something mysterious happen to him?” Walter asked.

“She loved him. She wouldn’t or couldn’t hurt him. Magda acted as a bufferer and sending messages to Andreas and his remaining sons to tell them of Ana-Lucia’s abuse. The only time Miguel was not harassing or obsession over his wife was when she swan in the lake. He couldn’t swim so he stayed far away from the water. He didn’t even venture to the shore. Ana-Lucia would disappear for hours in the water to escape his insanity. Eventually, even that became too much for Miguel and he forbid her to do even that. He even accused her of having a lover whom she would meet out in the lake, some fisherman or sailor. He accused her of affairs with house staff, male and female and sent them all away. But Magda, an old frail woman by that time, refused to leave. She said she would die before she left Ana-Lucia with such a monster.And that’s how they stay for years, the three of them locked in some kind of weird standoff where Ana-Lucia is stuck in the middle.”

“So, a few months pass and a storm comes rolling in from the Gulf, a huge hurricane is heading right for them. Andres sent word that they should leave, since the house was unprotected from the storm and that Ana-Lucia was too fragile to be so isolated. Miguel said he won’t leave and neither will Ana-Lucia, she is his wife she would stay where he is. And since he stayed, Magda stayed. So the storm rolls in, the city floods, buildings are destroyed. But as soon as its over, Andres and his sons go to check on Ana-Lucia, but the road is washed away. It’s another three days before they can get through to the house and what they find chilling. They find the house locked from the inside with all of the windows boarded up, but smoke coming from the chimney. They bang on the doors, but when no one answered, they break the door down and find everything completely still. They scour the house and find Magda first. She was in a bedroom on the first floor, sitting peaceful in a chair, a book in her lap her eyes closed. It looked as if she’d just closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep and never work up. Miguel, they found in the master bedroom, his body whithered and dried out as if it had been mummified or dead for years instead of days. He had a look of terror frozen on his face, his hands were up as if he were warding something off. There was no blood, nothing was disturbed or out of place and Ana-Lucia was nowhere to be found. Only a piece of material from her night gown was found on a rose bush in the back yard. She was never seen again. ”

“Creepy but not life changing.” Walter said. “Sorry.”

“That’s not the end. Andres was so devastated he died within hours of the discovery. His remaining sons could never bring themselves to step foot in the house again. So it was boarded up and left to the elements.

About thirty years later, the Prescott family bought the house and completely renovated it. Dr. David Prescott , his wife Sally and their two teen aged sons David Jr and Peter lived in the house for all of a year before they were all dead. Sally went first, the same as Bianca. David Jr, who was described as a big farm breed handsome youngster was found on the front lawn with a mysteriously broken neck. He had, for days, claimed to have seen a man charging through the hallways looking angry. He even said the man had pushed him one night yelling about his wife. No one believed him, not until his younger brother was found dead at the base of the stairs after an apparent fall a few weeks later. A month or so after that, David Sr was found dead in his office, his body completely mummified, his face twisted in terror.”

“ For the next hundred of so years, the house changed hands and over twenty seven people have died inside the house, fifteen with water in their lungs in their beds. The others have had freak accidents. But there have been over thirty drownings or disappearances in the waters surrounding the place. Every person who has ever lived in the house reported seeing a haunting beautiful young woman with long dark hair and bright amber eyes swimming in the lake at night or a handsome, angry young man charging the halls. The current owners say they’ve seen the man, Miguel stomping through the master bedroom, and have seen the woman swimming away. But they try not to stay after dark anymore, not since either youngest son broke his leg after falling off of the second floor balcony. Luckily he landed in a bush that cushioned his fall or he could have died. They only use it in the summer and they stay overnight, only when they absolutely have to do it. Over the years, with erosion and everything , there is no road so the only way to the house is by boat. Fishermen have claimed to see her as well, on late nights, standing in the window looking out over the lake. Some have claimed that they’ve seen Ana-Lucia swimming in the murky water, her skin tinted blue from years of living in the underwater, and that she’s always naked, young and beautiful. They say that when Magda cast the spell for Julia that a Naiad had been born to the woman instead of a human child, a magical nymph that beguiled and bewitched. Some say she was a demon, others just called her a poor pretty girl surrounded by tragedy that it was really Magda who caused the accidents that plagued the girl. No matter what those three souls are trapped in that house, forever.

“Okay, I’ll admit. That is a pretty cool story. And I’m here.” He said pulling his car into the parking lot of the dock listed in his directions. He climbed from the car, leaving the car door open so he could hear Kelly on the speaker. He could see the house in the distance, a lone house , three stories overlooking the lake one all sides. It was nice enough and no more than a couple miles from land. He had to admit, Kelly’s story had intrigued him but he didn’t dare believe it to be true. He was a horror writer after all, he created monsters on a daily basis. It took more than a ghost story to spook him. “I can see the house from here, looks nice and normal.”

“Of Course it does. The owner’s daughter should be along soon to take you over there. Her name is Teri and she will be your contact for anything you need. She lives in Chalmette, her parents have moved to Baton Rouge so she takes care of everything. Anyway, take care of yourself, and call me tomorrow.” He was dragging his suitcase from the car as they said their good byes. He disconnected the phone, slipping it into the bag with his laptop, just as the whir of a boat motor approached at his back.

He turned to see a young woman standing at the helm, her dark hair shining in the late afternoon light, her skin tanned and her eyes shielded by dark sunglasses. She pulled the boat to a stop and quickly ties it to the dock before she bound over to him.

“You the writer?” She asked in her distinct St Bernard parish twang. She smiled, a brilliant sunny smile and he nodded. She wore cut offs that had seen better days, a faded red tank top and low top red converse sneakers, she looked adorable.

“You the daughter?” He asked, reaching for her out stretched hand.

“Depends on who’s daughter you’re referring to. My names if Teri,”

“You are the daughter. I’m Walter.”

“That makes you the writer. Come on, big city. Let’s get you settled before your sister calls back to chew me out. I understand you have a deadline.” He laughed, letting her take his smaller bag while he managed the suitcase and computer case.

“My sister talks too much.”

“Maybe, but everything she has to say is interesting.” Teri teased. “Come on, it’s a thirty minute boat ride.How are you in the water?”

“I can manage not to drown.” He joked and she laughed.

“Okay, good enough. Let’s go.” The sun is starting to set.

The house was not what he expected, which was saying a lot. He expected some gothic memorial to a long dead woman instead,he stepped into modern luxury. It was fully stocked with movies, satellite television, wifi and even a hot tub. He looked around and whistled following Teri as she led him through the place. She showed him the industrial kitchen that opened onto a covered patio. He inhaled the fresh air and watched the sky melt from vibrant orange to deep purple.

From the second floor he could see for miles around, just water and the marsh grass that poked through, pelicans dipping into the water , the fading sunlight casting a deep golden glow on their wings. He had to admit, haunted or not, he loved this place.

“This is your bedroom. “ She opened the door to a beautifully decorated bedroom on the third floor of the house. It was luxurious to the point of decadence and he couldn’t help but smile. In the corner was a writing desk that faced one of the huge bay windows. There was a fireplace that faced the bed and a television that hung high on a wall and could be viewed from the bed, the desk or the small sitting area off of the master bath. He stepped into the bathroom and gaped at the large tub that was sunken into the floor and faced another bay of windows.

“What do you think?” Teri leaned against the open bedroom door, her arms folded across her chest. Her lips were quirked up in a knowing smile and he couldn’t help but return her grin.

“It’s perfect.” As he spoke,his phone sang to life in his bag. He excused himself and went to answer, his eyes on Teri as she removed the band from her thick dark hair.

“Hello,” He said, still smiling as he turned to face the view he would be waking up to for the next few weeks. Breathtaking was the only word he could think that fit this moment.

“Walls, were are you?” Kelly asked.

“What do you mean where am I? I’m at the house.”

“What? How could you be at the house?” She asked, more annoyed than she had been.

“Teri. The owner’s daughter. She picked me up like you said she would. “ He turned to look at her over his shoulder, watching as she ran long fingers through midnight dark hair. Sighing, he turned to the fireplace and looked at the cluster of photos that lined the mantel.

“Teri is at the dock waiting for you, Walls.”

“No, she’s not she’s right here-” He froze, his eyes falling on a picture that made his blood run cold. “Kelly, do you know what Teri looks like?” He asked in a hushed voice, his heart thumping in his chest.

“What?” She asked in annoyance.

“Just answer me, Kells. What does Teri look like?” He could hear her take a breath, blowing it out as she counted to ten mentally. “It’s important, Kelly.What does she look like.”

“Um, she’s fair, red-head freckles about five three- Walter, who is with you? Walls! Wally! Walter, who’s with you? ” With shaky hands he picked up a framed picture from the mantel, his fingers going numb as he stared at the faces smiling back at him. There was an older couple, a man with snow white hair, his wife with graying red and in the center a youngish woman with pale skin, freckles and bright red hair. Teri.

Walter turned to look at the dark haired beauty with the shinning amber eyes, her lips parted in a beautiful smile. He was just about to speak her name when he felt the powerful shove that drove him through the French doors that led to the balcony. He could see the anger filled face of a man close to his own, yelling something before he fell over the railing of the third floor balcony. He landed with a thud on the cement walkway below, those yelled words echoing in his mind as the world went dark.

“Stay away from my wife, she’s mine.” He’d said as he shoved Walter to his death. “She will always be mine.”