(Note 2 – This is Part one of a four part chapter)
I walked through town at a fast clip, ignoring everything and everyone around me. There was a light mist, which I ignored. I always walk when I need to think things through, even if were raining, as it was the night before. And as I walked, I was thinking things through, but I’m sure someone observing me would have noticed a difference, a nervous energy. OK, I’ll admit it, I was agitated. Very agitated.
I had talked to Lyndsey again Sunday evening. I don’t know how to describe it, but I could actually feel the bonds grow tighter every time we had one of those chats. I’ve known her forever, and even when she wasn’t in my life, I heard about everything she was doing through Jessica. I know it was the same the other way as well, that Jessica talked to Lyndsey about me. The hints and jokes Jessica made that we should get together and get marry weren’t just for my ears. Talking to her, Lyndsey seemed to know more about the things I’ve done over the last 20 years than my closest family members, and sometimes myself. This all became more obvious every time we talked. It was as if we had already had this long-term relationship and were finally acknowledging it.
At the end of the conversation, I told her I loved her. Playing her best Princess Leia, she said, “I know.” But then we ended up talking about love for another 15 minutes.
Monday was a hard day at work. I knew I would need to spend more time at the office. My boss, Kunhal, had left me in charge for the week and so I had a lot of extra meetings beyond my own. He wanted me to sit in on some SCRUM meetings under the other first level managers, and I wanted to do some of these meetings in person instead of remotely. Besides the SCRUM meetings, a lot of the work was new to me and I felt more comfortable actually being there where I could knock on a door and ask someone if I ran into issues. In the future, I could do most of it remotely, but I needed to get a handle on it first. It was a long day, so I looked forward to talking to Lyndsey.
But Lyndsey was distant and strange. After a while she apologized and told me she was just given a mega project and it was going to eat all of her time for a few days. She promised she’d get back to me on Wednesday, Thursday at the latest.
I had hoped she was wrong, but just after I had gotten home on Tuesday I received a text that she most likely wouldn’t call. Well, perhaps a late-night call to say, “Goodnight,” but she didn’t have time to chat.
So that is why I was stalking through town, scaring the kids. Well, maybe not that bad, but that’s how I felt. The mist started to bceome raindrops, as if answering my mood.
I bumped into Barbara, an umbrella in her hand, as she walked through the downtown of the village. She was headed away from the mill, most likely heading home for the night.
“Hi Gill. How are you this evening?”
“Hi Barbara. Pretty good. It’s a great night for a walk. How about you?”
She laughed. “Not bad, though I’ll disagree with you on the night. At least it isn’t snowing.” She laughed again. “Truthfully, I just love when the winter chill is finally gone and the whispers of summer are starting to be heard, even if it is wet. April in New Hampshire can be damp and chilly, but I love it. Have a great walk.”
“Thanks. Talk to you later.”
I walked on. A minute later I thought about how normal the conversation had been. She wasn’t overbearing, she didn’t flirt, she didn’t do anything ominous, there was nothing suggestive or in the least bit sultry. And going the other way, there were no threats or feelings she was going to try to have a ghost take over my mind and body. We were just two neighbors passing in the street. Where all of the warnings about her wrong? I felt no dread, not ghostly presence, nothing. Perhaps I had overreacted before.
Without realizing it, I had walked up to the library. When I did think about, I remembered that Tuesday was the day that the historic society was open. I was on the Main Street side and so went into the front door and climbed the steps to the historic society’s rooms, bypassing the librarian.
I looked into Mike McGuiness’ little nook, but nobody was there. I turned to leave when I heard a voice, “Mr. Baxter? Is that you come back for more stories, Gill?”
“Is that you Mike?” I looked around. In a different corner I saw legs drop down from a shelf onto a desk, pulling Mike behind them. He then jumped to the floor.
“Sorry, I had to get this off of a top shelf and it’s not that accessible.” He held up a large book.
“That’s OK, Mike. Do you have time for a bit of storytelling tonight?”
“Sure, but first a pop quiz. While I’m putting this stuff away,” he pointed to a stack of papers, “you give me a quick rundown of the story so far.”
“Sure. Hold on.” I put my wet jacket on a coat rack, then sat on a desk and watched him sort papers. “Uhm, let’s see. Johnny built a mill.”
“Right, Johnny. I forgot how well you knew them all.”
“And Johnny built a mansion, only using quite a bit of Twiss money. Johnny Jr. was to marry Abigail Twiss, but had an unfortunate accident and so had to drop out.”
“I guess that’s one way of putting it.”
“Abby and Tommy didn’t seem to get along, yet somehow, to save the mansion, they came up with an agreement to marry.”
“Abby ran the house while Thomas did whatever in the hell it was that Thomas did do. He came home one day to find Abby with child.”
“So far so good.”
“Daddy Johnny followed his son to the great beyond, being burned in a fire and… wait.”
“The old house was where the carriage house is now, right?”
“Yeah. We’ll talk about it in time.”
“Was the room where Jonathan died in the far back, right side? Perhaps ground floor?”
“That seems pretty close. The old house had been built and rebuilt several times, new parts to the foundation added each time, but I think in the end that’s about where the master bedroom was. Why?”
“Do you believe in ghosts?”
“Ha, I was wondering when you’d want to talk about ghosts. Simply put, no. I’ve been there a dozen times and never saw one. Sometimes the people I was with claimed they did, but when I pressed them about it afterward, most agreed it was just a play of light or the floor groaning or whatever. So don’t tell me about any ghosts you imagined.”
“OK, I won’t. Anyway, just something about the layout of the carriage house made me think of it.”
“The carriage house does, for the most part, follow the old house with its multiple foundations, if that’s what you wanted to know. Back to the story, Jonathan died in a fire. Go on.”
“They moved into the unfinished old mansion and Martha was born that day. Of course, they said the move did it and she was Thomas’ child, just a preemie.”
“So old Tommy goes off doing what Tommy does again, and lo and behold, there is another child. This time nobody dies, but the younger brother, uhm, OK, you’ve got me stumped here.”
“Ah, how could I forget Sammy? So Thomas runs Samuel out of the house forever.”
“Not quite forever. Samuel does make quite a few visits. He attended most of the balls Abigail threw. He also hung out at the house out and helped with the mill when Thomas was missing. It would have gone under if not for him. Not that Thomas was appreciative and usually chased him away if he caught him in the house. Come to think of it, Samuel was up in Amesbury up until…, oh, we haven’t gotten to that part yet. Thomas’ two sisters, another Martha and Emily, rarely visited after they left with Samuel the first time, but they did come up on occasion, particularly for some of the bigger balls. There wasn’t a lot of love between them and their brother, Thomas.”
“OK, that’s about where we ended.”
“And here is where it all begins to get interesting…”
“You mean that was just the prelude?”
“Yep. I’m done, so let’s sit down over here where it’s more comfortable and we can go on with the continuing saga of Thomas and the mill.”
“I’m all ears.”