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“She’s bought a house,” mum announced, looking up from the letter she’d been reading.
My father lowered the newspaper he’d been perusing and asked, “Whose bought a house?”
“Janet of course,” mum said, waving the letter in the air.
“Ah, I’ll bet she’s bought a lemon.”
The letter was from my Aunt Janet, my mother’s youngest sister, and things always seemed to go wrong for her. If she bought car, even a new one, it was sure to be in for repairs within a few weeks. When she got engaged and before they could get married the guy was put in jail for sex with a series of minors. She was the sort of person who if she was walking along in a wide open space and there was a banana skin lying in the middle of it, Janet would somehow find it and slip on it.
It was not that Janet was stupid, far from it. She had a doctorate in educational development, and the reason she had bought the house was because she’d just got an appointment to one of the new government universities.
Mum looked down at the letter again and said, “Adrian, she wants to know if you’d go and help her move in.”
That was fine with me, any excuse to be with Janet. She was only in her early thirties and a really voluptuous woman; you know the sort, all the curves going in and out in the right places. I think she could have easily have got married but as I heard mum and dad saying once, she’d gone sour on men after her engagement experience. She just missed out on another lemon there.
Not that Janet had ever been sour with me. She’d always been affectionate and I was very fond of her. Well when I say fond of her I mean that I used to fantasise a bit about her. I suppose that’s how a lot of teenagers get over attractive aunts or even their mothers, but now at twenty I thought I was past that sort of teenage nonsense, and anyway we hadn’t seen a lot of her lately.
“That’s ok mum, I said, when she is moving in?” Mum referred to the letter again and said, “On the twenty ninth.”
“Fine, tell her I’ll be there.”
Mum read a bit more of the letter and then said, “She says the house is haunted.”
“Haunted, haunted by what?”
“She doesn’t say, but she says that’s why she got the house so cheap because people heard things and got scared.”
“I said she’d buy a lemon,” dad said smugly.
I’d read about Borely Rectory and places like that and I had visions of evil deeds done in the past whose influence still pervaded the place. Murderers doomed to haunt the place of their deed for eternity, or the restless spirit of their victim still seeking revenge. It sounded to me as if the place had exciting possibilities.
“A load of rubbish,” dad said from behind his newspaper, “nobody with any sense believes in ghosts.”
“But dad,” I said, “don’t you think that deeds done in a place in the past can linger on in the atmosphere of a place.”
Dad looked at me over the top of his newspaper and said, “Yes, they can, and what the place needs is a good scrubbing.”
That settled it, I knew from past experience that is was useless to argue with dad. I’d volunteered my services and could look forward to seeing my aunt, ghost or no ghost.
* * * * * * * *
After a couple of hours drive I arrived at the address given to me by mum, to find the removal van already there and the men carrying in the furniture and other things. Janet, dressed in tight denim shorts and green shirt, was supervising. My God she looked sexy, sexier than I’d ever seen her before. I thought it was a pity she was my aunt because I could have…well, it was no use dreaming.
My part in the situation was stay around for several days and help Janet move the furniture around until she was satisfied it was in the right place, and generally help her to settle in.
The place came as a bit of a surprise. After hearing about it being haunted, or supposedly haunted, I’d pictured a gloomy sinister place. It’s best described as a cottage and over a stone lintel above the door was carved 1872, which I suppose qualified it as potentially in the creepy league.
In fact it didn’t have that atmosphere at all. If it didn’t exactly have the roses-round the-door romantic image, it did have a peaceful ambience. Inside that impression was sustained as the cottage seemed to emit embracing warmth.
True the place was a bit of a mess. It had been vacant for some time and it seemed nobody, not even the agent, had bothered with it. In summary, it was neglected.
Janet and I didn’t have much time for talking as we set about arranging things. It wasn’t only the placing of furniture; there were simple jobs like replacing tap washers and getting the gas hot water system going — the damned thing defied my efforts to get it going for some time. There was a lot of cleaning in general and late in the day I had to roar into the nearest town to buy a couple of pizzas for our evening meal.
I wondered why Janet had bought the place because it was around thirty kilometres from the sparkling new university she was to work in. However, we were both bushed by the end of the day and it was bed, and canlı bahis for me almost instant sleep. If there were any ghosts I didn’t see or hear them.
* * * * * * * *
The next day we took a slower pace as we put the final touches to the placing of small items like vases, crockery, cutlery and a tentative exploration of the overgrown garden.
There was some time for talk and I asked Janet why she’d bought the place.
I’d expected her to say because it was cheap, but her first answer was, “I don’t really know.”
She paused for few moments and then said, “When I saw it I just knew I had to have it. It was as if the cottage was saying to me ‘I’m what you need.’ I know it sounds weird, but that’s really how I felt.
It did sound weird, but I understood how she’d felt because the cottage was having an odd effect on me. It was as if I’d known about it all my life even though I’d never seen it until the previous day, and if what Janet had said sounded weird, what I felt was even weirder. The cottage seemed to be saying to me, “You are going to love me.”
“Did they tell you anything about the ghost?” I asked.
“Not the agent at first,” Janet replied. “It was when I went into the local post office to buy some stamps and mentioned I was considering buying the place the post mistress couldn’t wait to tell me. It seems that no one had ever actually seen anything, but they’d heard voices, a man and a woman talking.”
“What do the voices say?”
“I don’t know, no one seems to know, and when I asked the agent he denied the voices and the existence of ghosts. He said it was all rubbish and superstition and people probably heard some night animal moving about and making a noise or it was the wind in the chimney. But you know Adrian, I got the feeling he did know about the voices but wasn’t telling because he was keen to make a sale.”
She went on, “Of course I don’t believe in ghosts and so I went along with what he said. I supposed the previous owners must have been nervous types, superstitious with over active imaginations.”
“How many previous tenants have there been,” I asked, feeling doubtful that all of them could have been superstitious with over active imaginations
Janet said, “I looked up the local records and over the past one hundred and five years there’s been a constant stream of occupiers but with long periods when there were no tenants, but after the original owners there was a couple who occupied it for twenty five years.”
I felt that my doubts were confirmed, there must have been some among that “constant stream” who were not superstitious nut cases, but then, how did you account for such a big turnover in occupancy?
I couldn’t account for it, and so I didn’t pursue the matter any further, but that didn’t mean I didn’t think about it. I tried every rationalisation I could come up with, but none of it sounded convincing. I just hoped Janet hadn’t, like my father had said, bought another lemon — a ghostly lemon.
* * * * * * * *
By the third day we’d got everything just about right, although Janet was talking long term about repainting and reviving the garden. Since things seemed to be settled I could have gone home at that point, but I didn’t want to.
I’d never spent time like this with Janet, as it were, living together, and I found my attitude to her had started to change. True I’d had sexy thoughts about her in the past but it had started to become more than that. I know it sounds crazy but I started to feel I was in love with her, and it seemed that Janet had become more affectionate towards me.
There was something else as well. I didn’t want to leave the cottage. I didn’t know why, but I simply felt I belonged there; belonged there in a way I’d never felt at home and what was more, belonged there with Janet. I’d never felt that way about anything or anyone before.
It was on the third night of my stay it happened. Janet and I were sitting in the living room and she was talking about her future plans for the cottage when I heard something. It wasn’t loud and as best as I can describe it is sounded like, ooowaa…ooowaa…and then there was a muttering sound.
I looked at Janet to see if she’d heard it but she showed no sign of having done so except that she seemed to be alert as if listening. It was a case of the elephant in the room.
Both of us alert but not acknowledging we’d heard anything the sound came again, louder this time.
“Did…did you hear anything?” Janet asked uncertainly.
Not wanting to admit I might have heard a ghost I said, “Yes, probably the wind in the chimney.”
“There is no wind, it’s perfectly still,” Janet said.
“Well perhaps it’s…” I got no further because the sound came again but different this time and louder. It was more like “oh…oh…ohha…hah…hah…haaaa….” Then there was silence for a few moments followed by more muttering.
The sounds were not frightening and I had the distinct impression I’d heard them before. They sounded like a couple copulating.
There was no avoiding the issue bahis siteleri now and I said, “The ghosts!”
“Yes,” Janet replied, looking at me intently. “It sounded as if they were…were…having sex.”
“Ghosts don’t have sex, do they?” I asked uncertainly.
“I don’t know,” Janet replied, “but it wasn’t frightening, it was rather beautiful.”
“Yes” I said, wishing it was Janet and I having sex. She looked particularly delicious at that moment and the ghostly sounds had given me an erection.
We sat in silence for several minutes listening for any more ghostly sounds but we heard none.
Janet suddenly stood up and started to come towards me but veered away at the last moment. I could se she was trembling and she said in a shaky voice, “I’m going to bed,” and left me.
I sat on for a while still listening for the ghosts, but there were no more sounds. It was odd, most people including myself usually associated ghostly sounds and apparitions with evil deeds done in the past, but our ghosts seemed nothing like that.
I wondered if as well as evil, love could haunt the place of loving.
* * * * * * * *
On the fourth day we didn’t talk about what we had heard but I think it was on both our minds. I wanted to stay on at the cottage and even more I wanted to stay on with Janet. Feeling I needed to justify staying on any longer and testing whether Janet wanted me to stay, I offered to start work on the garden; not that I knew much about gardening but I could at least pull out weeds.
I was surprised at how enthusiastic Janet was about my suggestion and she seemed to want to give me a hug, but didn’t quite manage it.
Together we surveyed the garden, and as Janet pointed out the places for flowers, shrubs, vegetables, and which fruit trees needed pruning I notice that she kept using the pronoun “we.” I put this down to her enthusiasm for her cottage garden and a slip of the tongue, but I felt gratified to be included in this way.
We were looking over the front garden when a voice said, “Hello.” We looked up, and standing at the garden gate was a wrinkled old lady looking at us closely with bright lively eyes.
“Hello,” Janet said.
There was a pause and then the old lady said, “I’m Emily Swan, I live at Wattle Cottage.” She pointed down the road and we could see a cottage some two hundred metres away. “I thought I’d come over and welcome you,” she said.
“That’s very nice of you,” Janet said, “I’m Abby and this is Adrian.
There was another pause as the old lady, Emily, continued to look at us searchingly, and then without preamble she asked, “Have you heard them yet?”
It was not possible to mistake what she meant and so I said, “Last night.”
“Ah, and were you frightened?”
“No,” Janet said, “Intrigued but not frightened, in fact it was rather beautiful.”
Emily looked at us shrewdly, her eyes brighter than ever, and said, “They’ve all been frightened, some of them only lasted a couple of weeks, but they weren’t the ones.” “The ones?” Janet asked, puzzled.
“I know the story because Anthea told me.”
“Yes, Anthea and Ernest, I knew all about them, they were…”
“Would you like to come inside and have a cup of tea?” Janet asked.
“That’s very hospitable of you,” Emily said, just like Anthea and Ernest.”
* * * * * * * *
Emily was ensconced in a comfortable armchair. Janet went to the kitchen to make the tea, leaving me with Emily.
She looked around the room and said, “You’ve settled in quite nicely.”
It was a neutral statement and so I rambled on about how we’d moved in and what was intended for the future. I surprised myself because I was talking as if I was part of that future.
Janet came in with the tea and we all settled down with me wondering what to say next.
Janet had no such problem and asked, “What’s this about Anthea and Ernest?”
“Ah,” Emily said her cup half way to her mouth, “I’ve never told anyone the full story. You see, as soon as they tell me they’re frightened by what they hear I know they’re not the ones so I never tell them.”
“Are you going to tell us?” I asked, expecting to hear some rambling old tale about ghosts told by a superstitious old lady.
Emily hesitated and the said, “Are you sure you want to hear it?”
“Yes,” Janet said eagerly, “Tell us about Anthea and Ernest.”
Emily drank some tea and said, “Well it was a long time ago. I was just a kid when the original owners sold the place to Anthea and Ernest. One day soon after they moved in I was curious about the new owners and I was looking over the gate just like I was today.”
She chuckled and said, “A child’s curiosity I suppose.”
“Anthea was weeding a plot and she saw me looking and started to talk to me. She was lovely and Ernest was so kind and good looking — a bit like you two,” she added.
Everybody thought they were married although he only looked about twenty or so, and she must have been in her early thirties, but you’ve never seen a couple so much in love as those two. They were always bahis şirketleri touching each other and they could hardly bear to be apart even for a few hours.”
Emily sighed and went on, “Not like most couples who after they’ve been married for a while are only too glad to see the back of each other. No, they weren’t like that, Anthea and Ernest, if ever two people belonged together they did.”
“I got very close to Anthea as I grew up, and it was when Anthea knew that her life was drawing to a close she told me.”
Emily paused for dramatic effect and no doubt to keep Janet and me in suspension.
“Told you what?” I asked.
“Well I suppose it was a sort of confession,” Emily said, “she wanted someone to know how things really were. You see, when they came to cottage they were running away.”
“Running away?” Janet interposed.
“Yes,” Emily said, “It was a lot more isolated here in those days and they didn’t want to be found.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Ah, well, they weren’t really man and wife, and never could be.”
“Why not?” Janet asked.
“Because you see,” Emily said knowingly, “they were aunt and nephew who had fallen in love.”
Emily paused again looking at us shrewdly as Janet and I looked hastily at each other, our faces reddening.
“You two have come to fulfil her prophecy,” she said slowly.
“Prophecy?” Janet and I said simultaneously.
“Yes, Anthea said that when she died she wouldn’t leave Ernest, she’d haunt him until he joined her, and the together they’d haunt this place until one day people took it who loved as they had loved, and they have haven’t they, not until now?”
No one spoke for several moments until Emily went on, “You see they’d filled this place with their love and they wanted others to share it, and so those who hadn’t got their sort of love only experienced their haunting as something frightening, but you two have experienced it as something beautiful, and that’s just how Anthea said it would be.”
Janet asked the female question, “Did they have any children?”
“No that was the sad part of it. Anthea said she’d wanted to fill the cottage with children because that would be a sign of their love, but she never did get pregnant, although she did say it wasn’t for want of trying.”
Emily laughed lewdly and said, “I think those two were at it every opportunity they had; mind you, if I could have got Ernest into my bed I’d have made sure he never got out of it again.” She sighed heavily and added, “Ah, but he only had eyes for Anthea and her for him.”
She was eyeing us astutely as she said, “I suppose you two will be staying,” and then laughing again she looked at me and said, “I suppose I’m a bit too old for you, but then, why would you bother with an old lady like me when you’ve got someone like Janet?”
Why indeed would I bother with an old lady when I had Janet, but I didn’t have Janet?
Emily had finished her tale, she rose and thanked us for the tea, and we accompanied her to the garden gate where she said something about seeing us later and then added ambiguously, “They’ll be free now,” and shuffled off towards her cottage. Janet and I stood at the gate looking after Emily until she vanished from our sight as she entered her cottage.
“Do you believe her,” I said.
“Yes, I do,” Janet said firmly, “Haven’t you felt the atmosphere of love in the cottage?”
I had to admit I had felt it, and I was tempted to tell Janet that I loved her, but instead I said the opposite, “She was wrong about you and me, we’re not in love like Anthea and Ernest.”
“Aren’t we?” Janet said, and walked back to the cottage.
I was tempted to follow her to try and find out what she meant by her question, but instead I played the coward and got on with some weeding.
* * * * * * * *
For the rest of that day we both seemed to be wrapped in bubbles of our own thoughts, but the atmosphere of the cottage and even the garden seemed to close round us.
In the afternoon Janet joined me in the garden and she took over the weeding while I set about doing some of the pruning. She was wearing tight shorts again and every time she bent over I could see the shorts tighten over her buttocks and outline her pudendum. I wanted her, wanted her like I’d never wanted a woman before, but it wasn’t as it had been in the past when I had taken women in my lust, this was different.
I didn’t understand myself, I was confused; was this love — to want to have a woman in an act of love instead of raw lust? Was this the cottage atmosphere taking hold of me? I didn’t know, but I did sense that if I once made love with Janet it would be a bond for life. How did I know? I didn’t know how I knew, I just did.
Later, in the evening, Janet and I sat in the living room. We still barely exchanged a word, we were tense, waiting for those sounds again, and for my part wanting to hear them.
They came, more audible than ever this time, almost as if they were in the room with us. It began with soft sighs and moans with some words heard distinctly, “Oh my love…my darling…yes…now darling I’m ready…come…come in me…oh….oh…I love you…I love you…” Then a groan accompanied by a long drawn out orgasmic cry and then the soft sighs and murmured words of love.
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