As Brian crept closer to the ramshackle two story he began to think better of this little escapade. But his thoughts kept going back to late morning, when he had stopped here to get water for his overheated radiator, and of Amanda, the woman who had so kindly obliged. Brian had never seen anyone so beautiful in his life, and now he could not get her out of his mind.
“She bewitched you,” the waitress at the diner told him over lunch. He could not help but talk about her. Tall, slim but well built, dark eyes to match that long silky black hair. And a smile that could enchant a stone. He could not believe anyone so beautiful lived in such a dump. He had expected a vagrant – or no one at all. The place looked abandoned.
But she had answered his tentative knock right away, and invited him in. The inside of the house belied the crumbling exterior. The kitchen was well appointed and spotless. Copper kettles gleamed on their hooks. Silverware shone as if buffed for hours. There was not a spot of dust anywhere. Amanda, for that is how she introduced herself, bade him sit while she made tea, then they talked and laughed for over an hour. The only thing odd about the inside of the house was all the cats. There were dozens of them. But not a stray cat hair to be seen.
“She’s a witch,” Mable, the waitress told him. “Best stay away from the cat house, mister. You’re lucky she didn’t put a hex on you. Folks have disappeared up there. Mark my words.”
He laughed it off, paid for his lunch, and headed back to the garage to see if they had fixed his car yet. Fortunately it was just a hose clamp, maybe a new hose. Thankfully, there was nothing wrong with the radiator. That was good. Sales so far on this trip were dismal. He had every intention to pick up his car and hit the road for his next destination.
But something held him back.
He kept seeing Amanda, sitting at the oak kitchen table, her bright smile and quick wit making him laugh. He laughed now, at the insanity of this. Here he was, acting like a common prowler, creeping about in the night. He looked back down the long winding drive towards the county road where he parked his car, and resolved to give this madness up. He had to go.
Then Brian saw her up in the second floor window. Just a silhouette, behind a thin film of curtains, but enough to make his heart leap. He imagined her naked, himself wrapped in her arms. Then, with a pang of loss, she was gone. She stepped out of view. He actually whimpered.
Despite all reason, Brian crept closer still, past the two dead trees that stood like silent sentinels on either side of the walk. Now there was nothing to conceal him in the bright light of the full moon, so he dashed across the open yard and stopped, panting, plastered against the wall next to the door.
He did not even consider trying the door. He was not a criminal, he told himself. He just needed to see her one more time before hitting the road. He darted past the door and pulled up next to the kitchen window. He took a deep breath and peered inside.
A crack in the curtains allowed him to do a quick survey of the room. Alas, she was not there. He slipped around the corner and tried from the other window, and was again disappointed. Just a cat, slipping out of the kitchen into another room.
Brian worked his away around the house, systematically checking each window as he went. But these rooms were dark, the curtains well drawn. He began to sweat, the palms of his hands grew clammy. He wiped them repeatedly on his jeans. The place began to give him the creeps. He remembered Mable’s warning to stay away.
Dark forms seemed to be moving about in the yard. He saw motion out of the corner of his eye, but when he turned to look there was nothing, only shadows. He felt he was being watched. “She’s probably called the cops,” he muttered, disgusted with himself.
He finally made the full circuit and came up to the last window. It was lit, and therefore held out hope. He held his breath as he leaned to peek in. His foot came down on something alive and he and it gave out a wild scream. Damned cat!
Brian plastered himself against the wall, breathing hard. He expected the porch lights to come on, Amanda to come out with a gun to shoot him. Something. But nothing happened. Slowly, his heart rate came back down to somewhere close to normal. “I’ve got to get out of here,” he said to himself. He searched the yard for the cat, wary not to step on it again, and saw not only it, but others flitting from here to there, shadows within shadows. There must have been dozens of them. They seemed to be drawn towards him, watching him, as if in expectation.
“You’re just spooking yourself, Brian. Quit it. Just go.” He took a deep breath, resolved to leave. But something made him take one last look into the house. Instead of running for the gate he turned and peered into the window.
He let out a yowl and leaped back, landing on all fours. Amanda was there, peering out the window as if expecting him. His heart thumped as he scurried for cover, any cover. The door opened. A bright beam of light pierced the night. It framed a shadow, the silhouette of a female form. Brian cowered, trying to hide, but the cats led her right to him.
He looked up at the beautiful face and his heart melted. This is what he had come for. She bent down and scooped him up, scratching him under the chin. “Nice kitty,” Amanda cooed as she carried him into the house. “I’ll take you to the vet tomorrow and get you fixed.”
©2009 by J. M. Strother, all rights reserved.