Twelve hours later I stand on the sidewalk looking up at Olive Specter's home. I won't say I'm shocked. There was a little piece of doubt inside of me that told me coming here wouldn't be some big hole in the middle of the town that everybody skimmed over each time they passed by. But hearing Olive's son talk about my family being some outsider as they put it forced me to come and see what's up. And no, nothing out of the ordinary, at least from street view anyway. No portals leading to the underworld. No flashing beams looking to take me into outer space. Nope, just a lovely house covered in icicles and beautiful wooden carvings.
It doesn't stop me, though. I open the gates at the front and walk through them.
I make my way up the steps of the wrap-around deck. Snow is still falling, has been falling since late last night, though light, from the looks of it, nobody has come or left this property since maybe before the gathering last night for Snowflake Day. I allow my thoughts to swarm as I peek inside the nearest window. Lights are out and everything is closed up. I shrug the possibility off somewhat, doing my very best to be somewhat pessimistic that my brain isn't trying to play tricks on me. I know something was off last night, but there are plenty of possibilities as to why Olive may not have come home last night. They did have the nanny, that overly sweet Rose Thorne... Olive probably drove her home... Maybe Rose lived out of town--
I stop dead in my tracks as my eyes turn to pinpricks, zoning in on the stone feet from me. A gravestone in the backyard? I take cautionary steps down the stairs of the deck and make my way over.
"Here lies Ichabod Specter," I mutter, kneeling down and putting my hand on the cold surface of the stone to support me. I knew Olive's husband had passed recently, but she never mentioned anything about having his stone in the backyard. Last time he was brought up in conversation, she said how she and NS would be taking a drive out of town to go see his grave. I actually have to pat the ground beneath me to see if the soil is soft. It's hard. Of course it's hard. It's winter and the last few weeks have been absolutely freezing.
My mind is spinning with countless ideas of where this gravestone came from and why Olive would lie to me about it. I stand quickly, stepping away from the stone as one though keeps prodding my brain like a jackhammer: Did Olive dig up her husband's grave that day and have it transferred here? It may be unimaginable to me, but maybe...
Kam would say I am completely overreacting, and sure he'd be right. In what world would somebody as kind of Olive steal her husband's grave or gravestone and bring it all the way home.
I tell myself, clapping my hands together and turning around in a pace-like manner, now you're overreacting, that's completely out of this world.
I've decided I need to leave. When Kam is in my head without being around me, my conscience is telling me something and this time it's telling me my imagination is getting the better of me. He was right last night to not believe me. Last night being blitzed out of my mind, anything and everything sounded plausible. Now, pushing aside my determination, I can see how insane I actually sound.
I'm about to head back up to the deck and back to the roadside when I spot a garbage can. "Last thing," I tell myself and head for it.
I expect it to stink when I lift the lid so I don't know why I am surprised when the odour hits me like a brick wall. There's the smell of old greens, like celery or lettuce that's spent much too long in the pantry. Old chicken makes an appearance as I dig around. But there is something else. It's potent, much more so than anything else in the garbage to the point where it almost makes me gag. It reminds me of my childhood for some reason. Metallic almost. The image of my early years in public school come to mind, of me and my friends on the playground, hanging upside down on the monkey bars, my hands getting sweaty as I would spin around and flip off, the scent on my hands... For the life of me I can't place it exactly and why would I be smelling it now?
Before I can figure it out, I hear a car pull up in the driveway. A quick look around the corner, I realize it's Olive.
Heart hammering like an 808 drum, I plant the lid of the garbage back on as fast as I can and use the snow to clean off my gloves. Too little time! I pull them off, bundle them inside out and stuff them in the bottom of my pocket.
I've made it all the way back to the front door as Olive is making it through the gates. "Hi, Olive!" I say with a wave.
"What are you doing here?" She may be asking me, but her eyes are following my trail in the snow to the backyard.
"I just wanted to come over to apologize for last night." Before Olive can say anything, I add, "for my drinking. I'm sorry if I made you or your son or Rose feel uncomfortable. Control got a little away from me." I, too, glance down at the path in the snow. "So I just wanted to come and say that to you. I knocked on the front door and nobody answered and I didn't know if you used the front door or the side door. From where I come from people are more inclined to use a side door, so I tried that too, and now I'm babbling. Sorry, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry and that I understand if I made you so uncomfortable last night that you don't want to have me around anymore or--"
"You are babbling," Olive says as she walks past me and unlocks her door. "Are you coming in for a coffee?"
As she is setting up, she shows me to the living room and tells me to make myself comfortable. There is a photo album on the coffee table. I pick it up and flip through it. There are countless pictures, most of them of NS as a baby and Olive being the glowing mother in every opportunity to be by his side.
"How time flies by," Olive says as she makes it next to me with a steaming cup of coffee.
"I was just noticing how many photos you are in with NS. You guys are very close."
"Always have been. He is very special."
Olive smiles and nods, taking a sip of her coffee, though it would seem her mind is somewhere else. "Ichabod wasn't around very much and when he passed NS wasn't old enough to understand what was going on. I mean, it may only have been a year, but Ichabod lack of being there as NS grew kind of made little difference."
I don't know what to say, so I just sit there, listening.
"I'm sure you saw his gravestone out back."
It feels as if a crater has dropped to the pit of my stomach.
"I lied to you. I know I told you I travelled out of town to see him, but not many people take me having my husband buried in my backyard well. Thankfully, those kinds of people aren't around here long, but you... you're different."
"I'm different?" I say, draining what's left of my coffee.
"I knew it when I first met you. There's an aura about you that fits in so perfect here in Midnight. You're not squeaky clean and from the moment I laid eyes on you, I knew you weren't one to hide it. Most people have the immediate intuition to defend themselves and pretend to be something they very much can't. They hide their true selves for fear of being judged, for fear of an inability to embrace what we really are and what we are meant to become."
I don't completely understand what she is talking about. There are parts that describe me trying to deal with the anxiety that has come from the hell I went through in regards to my modelling life. But the part where she brings up what I am meant to become...? I pretend to know what she is talking about. I don't know what else to do. So when I catch a glance at the time, I realize how late it is and how I need to get home.
By the time I get home, my brain has spent how many minutes going over and over the conversation with Olive. Finally, as I park the car, seeing Kam walking up the steps pushes the thoughts away. I'm surprised to see him. We haven't spoken a word since last night when he barged out of the house and slept in an igloo the kids build during Snowflake Day.
"Kam," I say, pushing my door closed. He turns around with a look on his face that doesn't look hateful.
"Where did you go?" he asks me, but I don't answer him.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry for last night for making a fool of myself and you and everybody. My brain has been fried for a while now and I guess letting loose last night was the only thing I felt I could do."
"No, I get it. I shouldn't have said I felt uncomfortable in this town. It's crazy, I know, but while I can't say I understand everything about the place, nobody seems to be on top of me or questioning me about every little thing I do. It's not bad..."
"Really?" This time when he says it, he doesn't seem to be unimpressed, not like last night. No, he seems somewhat surprised. "That's fantastic. I couldn't be happier." He doesn't seem ecstatic, but that's probably just me overplaying it.
I'm about to walk with him into the house when a thought hits me.
"Hey, you know Peter can babysit the other two tonight. Did you want to grab a bite to eat in the village tonight? It'll just be the two of us. We haven't done anything for us in a long time."
He's thinking about it for a moment--probably to figure out his schedule for the rest of the day--and finally says, "Uh, yeah, okay, yeah."
"Yeah, that would be lovely. I just have to run a few errands and drop off a paper at work and be back in an hour?"
"Okay, great!" I start walking to the front door. "I'm just going to get out of these clothes, have a shower and I'll be eagerly waiting, okay?"
"Okay," he says, walking to the car and getting into it.
"Okay!" I clap my hands and hurry into the house.
I let Peter know that he's on for babysitting tonight. He complains, which I expected, and I boogie up the stairs to the bedroom, pulling the clip from my hair as letting the golden locks fall to my shoulders. There is an excitement inside of me that I haven't felt in a long time. A longing, a love for Kameron and a want to spend time with him. I felt this first when we started dating, again when he proposed and again when we got married. Modelling got in the way a bit and everything cooled off especially when kids were added into the equation. But this! This alone time is what we need. What we have always needed and finally my anxiety is be shaped so that I no longer have to fear what people are going to think of me or how I need to pretend. Maybe this is exactly what Olive was talking about. Maybe this town really is absolutely perfect for my mind and soul because I can finally be who I am meant to become!
Pulling off my coat, I open the door to my bedroom and all excitement has vanished from my body and dread, horror and all anxiety I thought I could fend off comes crashing in.
I scream at the top of my lungs as I look at the dead body in the middle of my bedroom.