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Everyone knew Mabel was crazy. All the mothers of the neighborhood told their kids that if they didn’t finish their homework or eat all their vegetables that Mabel would come to get them in their sleep. The people in the neighborhood who walked their dogs would always walk on the other side of the street when they passed her house. I too believed this until I met her.
I remember the day she moved in. I was walking home from school while my sister walked behind me and saw a moving truck parked by the “abandoned house” while two heavy set men with scratchy looking beards and tattered clothes carried a very old looking couch with faded red fabric. I wondered who would move into that house.
The “abandoned house” is what all the kid in the neighborhood called it, ever since the previous family - the Morgan’s - were burned in a mysterious fire about eight years ago which killed both the parents and eventually killed their two son’s a few days. The doctors say it was because the boys inhaled too much smoke and had some severe burns. The house was never rebuilt, but left half burned sitting at the end of our block with a - too brightly colored - for sale sign in the front yard. Most of the neighbors agreed that the house should just be taken down so someone can build a new one, but whoever is in charge of the house don’t have the right to do that and says selling it is the only way to get rid of it.
I am the younger and more quiet one of the sisters. The only way you would be able to tell the difference between me and my sister is that she’s taller and more talkative… And popular. My name is Katlyn, but everyone in my family still calls me Kat or Kitten, even though I turned 16 a few months ago in March. My older sister Rebecca is 18 turning 19 soon and thinks she knows everything. Everyone seems to likes her, no matter who you are Rebecca has a way of charming you, even me. I never really liked my sister, she was always the center of attention and got away with almost anything.
One time my family invited our cousins over for dinner, and my mom decided to clean the house from top to bottom, and right as we were beginning to clean Rebecca asked if she could go over to Natalie's and said that she would be back in time to help finish up, and my mom like everyone else that was charmed by my sister said she could go, if she promised to come back in time to help with dinner and Rebecca said of course she would. A few minutes later I asked my mom if I could go over to Jane’s to work on a project we have to do for science and she asked why would I even think about leaving her to do the house all by herself and that that was a very selfish of me to suggest that. I pointed out that Rebecca just went over to Natalie's and my mom said that that was different, that Rebecca promised to come back in time to cook dinner and finish up the house. So I was stuck for the rest of the day cleaning the house, while Rebecca was doing how knows what. The evening came and went and our cousins has a great time coming over to socialize and eat mama’s famous lasagna, but by the time they left Rebecca still hadn’t showed up just as I thought she wouldn’t.
I stayed up late that night sitting on the couch in the living room watching a cheesy high school love movie when Rebecca comes in at about 2:45 in the morning. She looks like she was ran over by a bus and smells like the cheap beer that daddy buys. “Where have you been?” I ask her as I turn the volume down on the remote and she stumbles over. “I went over to Natalie's like I told mom… and I guess… I just lost track of time.” She says with a slur as she sits down next to me. “Well for your information I was stuck cleaning the house with mom, and you know how picky she is with that. Then I had to sit through dinner listening to the parents talk about boring things, and their kids complain about wanting to use their phones so much that their parents let them just to shut them up! And you know your not allowed to drink till your 21.” I say annoyingly at her. “Okay! Okay! You don’t have to yell at me. I’m sorry I didn’t come back sooner and some people over at Natalie's spilled some beer on me. Geez…” I just roll my eyes because I know she doesn’t mean it and she obviously lied about drinking because she’s sitting right next to me and her breath smells awful. She’s just says it because I want her to say it. We’re both watching the movie and not talking to each other when she cuddles up to me and says sincerely “You know I really am sorry and I know I shouldn't have gone over to Natalie's when mama needed help.” I know this is just an act and she’s only trying to get on my good side, probably because she doesn’t want me to tell our parents that she’s been drinking underage, but for some unknown reason I let myself believe her lies and rest my head on top of hers.
It was the day after someone moved into the Morgan’s old house and I was coming in the front door with Rebecca trailing behind me when my mom handed me an apple pie and one of her homemade lasagnas in a bag. “What do I need this for?” I ask, even though I have a sinking suspicion I already knew. “To take it over to our new neighbor, whoever that is… Oh I hope I made enough lasagna.” Mama says then starts to trail off. “Why can’t you or Daddy? Or maybe Rebecca?” I ask in a whiny voice. “Because you were the first one home. I certainly can’t go looking like this, your dad’s at work for another few hours and Rebecca isn’t even here yet.” Mama says it like it’s obvious and I should have known. “Well Rebecca will be here in a second, she’s probably just standing on the porch using her phone.” I complain. “Katlyn will you just do it!” My mom says a little bit to loud. I know I’ve lost when she uses my real name and not one of my many nicknames. I set my backpack down hard and pick up the bag with the food in it and walk out the door in a huff. As I predicted Rebecca is just standing there on her phone. As I past her I shove her with my shoulder as hard as I can and murmur under my breath “thanks a lot!” I keep walking down the street towards the Morgan’s old home even as I hear my sister yell after me “Hey! What was that for?” I walk faster not looking at anything, but the ground till I reach the front lawn and ten I stop.
Now that I’ve stopped I start to get nervous. Kids have told tall tales about this house. Some say it’s haunted by the Morgan’s, others say they can hear low sad moans coming from the house and a few say they’ve seen lights flickering on and off late at night when no one is awake.
As I step onto the walkway I expect to feel a chill in the air or have the wind suddenly pick up, but nothing happens. Maybe they were called tall tales for a reason. As I walk up the front steps I look at the wood. It’s mostly black and chipped, but there are some lighter spots that showed the cream color of the house before the fire.
It was a really cute house before the fire. I always said to mama that I when I grew up I would live in a house exactly like the Morgan’s. They designed the house themselves because Bill (aka Mr. Morgan) designs houses for a living and Mrs. Morgan always had wonderful taste in everything. I’m on the porch looking for the bell to ring and when I see that it's been burned away and that the only thing left is some wires sticking out of the wood I knock on the door, it rattles as I knock, and I stop, afraid I might break the door even more that it already is and think about how my mother would yell at me for giving a bad first impression. I wait for what seems like forever so I knock again. This time I hear a voice on the other side of the door “I’m coming, I’m coming!” I step back as the door opens and a old lady that looks to be in her late 80’s steps onto the porch. She has wavy grey hair that stops right passed her shoulder and is wearing a dark knitted magenta shawl over a grey pencil dress that matches her hair color. Her eyes are the deepest blue I’ve ever seen and they seem to hold the universe in them. She also has a cane that actually looks like she found it in the forest. “Well? What do you want? Or did you just come over to knock on my door for fun?” She says accusingly as I realize I’m staring at her. “Oh! Um… My mom wanted me to give you this food as sort of a house warming gift and to say welcome to the neighborhood.” I say as I hand over the bag. “Huh.” Is all she says, like that is the weirdest thing to do. I turn quickly ready to leave, but she starts talking so I turn back to face her reluctantly. “Well, I guess I should ask you in.” She turns around and walks back into her house. I don’t know whether or not to follow her so I stay where I am until I hear her yell at me “Well, come on! I don’t have all day!” So I hurryingly follow her and close the door behind me.
The last time I was in here was when I was seven years old. All the neighborhood kids were celebrating the begin of summer by going over to play in the Morgan’s pool. I remember I was mad at my sister that day because she had gotten to wear a bikini because she had turned ten and I had to wear this horrible light olive green one piece that my mom thought would look good on me. It didn’t. I looked like a walking seaweed monster from the bottom of the ocean.
As I walked down the hall I run my hand across the wall. It’s stained black from the fire, but somehow it’s still standing. “Watch your head.” I hear just as I bang my head against a wooden beam “Ow!”. Dust comes down coating my hair and shoulders. I rub my forehead. I expect her to come back or at least apologize for not warning me earlier, but she keeps walking and takes a left into what I think is the family room. I follow, becoming more annoyed by the minute. When I walk into the room I see the red couch against one of the walls that was being moved on the first day. Most of the space is taken up by boxes, but there’s still room for the couch, two chairs and a little coffee table. I sit in one of the chairs. “I bet you think I’m cranky and annoying and probably weird and maybe even a little bit scary, but I’m not really like that.” I’m startled by what she says and automatically say “No, of course not.” But actually thinking about it I find that she’s
right, about me and everyone else in this neighborhood.
I don’t know why she starts talking to me, but she does and for some reason I end up listening. She tells me her life, about how when she was really young her mother left her and her father to be with another man and how her father died of cancer right after she came home from college. She talks about how she was a nurse and had a boyfriend and that they had been going together for a long time. She really thought that he would ask her to marry him soon, but then she found out that he was seeing someone else and didn’t tell him she knew. From then on she said she got really depressed and couldn’t focus on her work, it got so bad that her boss told her to take some time off because he was concerned that she would hurt one of the patients. Once she told her boyfriend this he finally told her about seeing someone else and that the only reason he was with her at the time was for her money. After he left, Mabel said she couldn’t live in California anymore, not with all that’s happened and decided to move to Washington. She said she wanted to live somewhere where she wouldn’t have to lose anyone she’s close too again. That’s why she bought the Morgan’s old home. She was told by a neighbor what happened in that house and that nobody would be likely to buy it because of its history. She told me that that house is exactly what she was looking for. Somewhere she could be alone.
From that day forward I visited Mabel everyday and we talked. At first my mother complained saying that anyone who moved into that house out of their own free will must be crazy, but I was determined and eventually after a while she gave up. My sister made fun of me, but she too got bored of it and left me alone. What I thought, but never said is that they are afraid of Mabel and would never go over their on there own. That they think poorly of me for going over there, but they don’t even give her a chance. They just judge. Sitting on the sidelines. Living from day to day, never daring to take a chance. To be open.