The tea kettle began to sing its loud pitch informing the world it was ready, until Karen lifted it up and off the burner.
She poured two cups of her favorite Earl Grey with a single sugar cube in each.
Other than the fact it was a common courtesy to make tea when having guests, she sipped it as if it was a much needed treat for a long day of work getting the house together.
She sat down on the couch, and leaned on her sister.
“I love what you’ve done with everything here,” said Cathy. “It has that same feel as when we were kids, but with a more modern look.”
Karen glanced around once more at her work and smiled. “Thank you sis. And thanks for coming by, you know I can’t stand being alone in a place for long.”
“Who can? Anyway, it’s the least I could do after what you’ve been through. And you won’t be alone for long, you’ll find someone else who deserves you.”
“Oh, I don’t think another man is what I want. I’d like to just be alone and forget about everything. To never think of it again.”
“Nonsense, you will find someone that will treat you like the angel you are. But until then, remember, you will always have your lil’ sister here for you.”
“Thanks Cathy. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Karen lifted up her head, kissed her sister’s shoulder and put her head back where it had been.
She had always loved her sister and had always gone to her whenever she was going through hard times.
Sometimes it felt as if she were the younger one, looking up to her older sibling for guidance.
After an hour of chatting while rearranging the living room, kitchen and foyer, Karen looked at her watch, yawning.
It was the watch Jim had given her for some holiday she couldn’t, or rather wouldn’t, remember. She took it off and tossed it in the garbage bin.
She thanked her sister again for coming by to help, but insisted she had better go to bed. It had been a long day and tomorrow would be much of the same.
“It was no problem Kat, I’ll be back tomorrow for a full day of tidying up.”
“You better,” Karen teased.
After her sister left, Karen walked into the kitchen to put away the tea cups and kettle.
She looked out the window over the sink and watched the red taillights make their way down the winding driveway.
The lights had lit-up part of the bumper, making what looked like a menacing smile. It was then, Karen realized she was out in the country, alone at night.
She started her breathing exercise then closed her eyes, as if it would magically banish any horrible thoughts. But, it did just that.
Up in the upstairs bathroom, the faucet water quickly became warm after she turned it to wash her face. It was her nightly ritual after turning off all the lights.
The bathroom was rectangular with the bathtub on one end and the sink in the middle, directly across from the door.
Above the sink was a medicine cabinet stocked with painkillers, antidepressants, anything to take away the physical and psychological pain she suffered.
She closed the cabinet and looked at her reflection in its outside mirror.
“What am I gonna do?” she whispered to herself.
Beside her face, a small silhouette stood in the adjacent room behind her in the darkness.
She could make out a head and broad shoulders, She jumped and turned around in fright trying to see who it was.
It was gone.
A hat rack had taken its place.
Karen’s heart felt like it was going to burst, believing she saw someone standing there.
But after seeing it was nothing, she closed her eyes, thinking she just needed to sleep, and left it at her tired eyes playing tricks on her.
Karen turned the bathroom light off and got into bed. She was glad she remembered to unpack the book she had been reading, but then realized she was too exhausted to read.
She put down the book, turned off the light and shut her eyes.
Knock, knock, knock, knock…
Karen lifted up her heavy eyelids. Something must have woken her up. She waited in silence for anything. A creak, a branch scratching a window, but heard nothing.
She closed her eyes to drift back to sleep.
Knock, knock, knock, knock…
Her eyes jutted open in a wide state. She heard that. It was knocking, but from where. It was too loud to be from the front door downstairs, besides, who would be knocking at this hour?
She turned her head to see the clock read 3:15 a.m. Nobody would be coming to visit her now, not even Cathy.
Also, no one besides she, Cathy, and her parents had known she was living here.
Karen thought to merely ignore it. If there was someone outside knocking, they would take a hint and leave. She wondered if she had locked up, and realized she did.
She was grateful and proud of herself for remembering to do just that.
Five minutes pass and not another sound. She could have been dreaming, she thought. So, she turned over to lay on her right side and closed her eyes once more.
These were loud. A lot louder than the previous ones. It had sounded like they came from her bedroom door. She was positive they had. Her body was frozen stiff.
Eyes as wide as they could be staring at the door, wondering who or what was on the other side.
She sat perfectly still for a few minutes, petrified. Then the thought had come over her. It had to be her older sister trying to scare her.
She knew Karen didn’t like being alone in places. Her toes started to wiggle, then her legs and arms until she was able to move again.
Karen grabbed her phone off the table and dialed Cathy’s number.
It rang three times before Cathy answered in a hoarse whisper. “Hello?... Kare, is that you?”
Karen hung up. She knew it wasn’t her sister. It was time to face her fear. She turned her table lamp on and slowly got out of bed, one leg at a time.
Calmly and carefully, she tiptoed to the door. She reached for the handle and grabbed it. Karen held it for a few seconds before turning it. She turned it just slightly—
“Ahhh!” She shouted, jumping at the loud, alarming sound. It was a familiar sound though. Her phone, she could recognize anywhere. She walked over and picked it up.
It must have been her sister calling her back, worried since Karen had just hung up on her. She handled the phone which said It was from an unknown number.
Karen questioned whether to answer or not. At the last second, she pressed the green button.
Then the other end hung up.
“Well, that’s not creepy,” she said to herself.
Thinking about going back to bed, she realized there was some unfinished business. She had to see what was on the other side of the door. So once again, she grabbed the door handle.
She waited three seconds then quickly yanked it open.
Nothing was there.
Of course there was nothing there, she thought to herself. She looked down the hall in each direction but saw nothing but blackness.
The bathroom was directly across the hall from the door. She had left that door open. Inside, she saw the sink and the mirror above.
Though, in the reflection, there was a black figure lying in her bed.
She jumped up in terror, turning around to see. But it was just an empty bed. Her heart felt like it was going to beat out of her chest. Or at least have an attack.
Karen closed the bedroom door and leaned her back against it to catch her breath. After a minute, she leapt back into bed, yanking the sheets over her like a frightened child.
She laid there, in mild shock. Her breathing exercise came to mind, so she started to breathe, in and out, in and out.
After a while, she was calm and cool again. She just wanted to sleep and forget it all, or deal with it in the morning. Lying there, her sleepiness came back.
It’s my mind just playing tricks, she thought. Her eyes slowly closed shut.
Knock, knock, knock, knock!
Karen wailed in terror.
To be continued...