Authors: Trisha Grace
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Without Jesus, nothing is possible. I dedicate this to my wonderful Lord and savior who has been with me every step of the way.
To my fiancé, thanks for always encouraging me to pursue my dreams.
Paige glanced around her apartment and shook her head. She was desperate for a solution, but the one being presented to her wasn’t exactly what she was expecting.
“Paige, are you listening? It’s vital that you don’t tell anyone where you’re going.”
“I can’t just disappear, Drew. I’ve a job here, I can’t just quit; there are responsibilities. Besides, I’m still paying for this apartment, and how am I supposed to move all my things without letting anyone know I’m leaving?”
Andrew leaned forward, his elbows resting on his legs.
“Take only one suitcase; pack only the things you need. Then tell everyone you know that you’re going on a holiday.”
“One suitcase,” she mumbled, then sighed and skimmed her fingers down the arm of her beige colored couch. “And my work? I can’t just leave and not turn up. They would need to find someone else to replace my classes.”
“Tell only your boss. Explain your situation to her, tell her she’ll have to give you a week to disappear. After that, she can find a replacement and tell everyone who asks that you’ve decided to quit your job and get a fresh start somewhere else. Summer semester is ending, you can leave right after that.”
Paige twisted the ring around her index finger and watched the lights flicker off the crystals surrounding the light pink flower. She could feel Andrew’s eyes on her, waiting for her to make a decision. She closed her eyes, but her mind was in a complete blank.
She had no idea what she should do.
She’d worked so hard to build her life here; she didn’t want to be forced away.
Then again, she hadn’t had much of a life in the past three years.
She dropped her head back and sighed. It was too difficult a choice to make.
So, she did the one thing she knew couldn’t go wrong—trusting her brother. “You’re sure this is the best solution?”
“No, but I think you need to leave.”
She looked up at her stepbrother, watching his eyes as he studied her. “I’m so sorry.” Whatever she was going through was nothing compared with what he had already gone through.
Andrew had just returned from Afghanistan weeks ago, after having half of his left leg amputated. The doctors had recently fitted Andrew with his new prosthetic leg. He should be concentrating on his rehabilitation, on getting better.
Yet here he was, fixing her problem.
“For what? This is what big brothers do.” He cracked a smile. “Don’t worry about me, I’m fine. You, on the other hand, look like you need a break.”
With her palms clamped together, she pressed her index fingers against her lips.
“Leave this place. Get a new start,” Andrew urged.
She drew in a slow, deep breath then nodded, dropping her hands. “All right. Tell me what to do.”
“Find a place to go and get yourself a place to stay. Preferably, a small town; small enough to know whenever a newcomer arrives. That way, you’ll know if someone follows after you. I’ll get you a new laptop and a new cell phone. When you’re ready to leave, I’ll meet you out of town to pass them to you.”
“What should I bring?”
“Some clothes and whatever stuff you can’t live without. You can buy the rest after you’ve settled down.”
“Do I tell mom? What should I say?”
“You just concentrate on things here. I’ll settle things with mom. You do
call her until you get your new phone from me, understand?”
All Paige could do was nod.
“It’ll be all right.” Andrew held her hand firmly and looked her right in the eyes. “Everything will be all right.”
“How long will I need to run?” She could see his jaws tightening.
Andrew took in a deep breath and said, “I don’t know. But I promise I’ll be there for you whenever you need me.” He paused, then continued after a small sigh. “You know what, look at it as a chance for a fresh start. Don’t worry too much. For now, we’ll take it one step at a time. Choose where you want to go. I’ll take care of the rest for you.”
This was her only choice, there wasn’t any other way out; not if she wanted to keep her sanity.
Paige walked, circling her house, looking up at the new ash gray tiles on her roof. As she turned back to the front of the house, she smiled with a nod and handed the check that she’d stuffed in her back pocket over to the supervisor.
“You’re welcome. Let me know if there’s any problem.”
Paige nodded again as the rest of Matt’s staff went trotting down the small, stony steps, heading back toward their truck.
“Aah, I almost forgot,” Matt said, reaching into a large black duffle bag containing his tools. “I have something for you.” He took out a white box and gave it to her. “It’s nothing expensive, just something for your house.”
Paige’s eyebrows lifted as she took the box. “Thanks, you didn’t have to. Should I open it now?”
She opened the box and pulled out a simple wooden cross. Pursing her lips to stop herself from giggling, she looked up at Matt and asked, “You don’t believe the house is haunted, do you?”
Matt broke into a sheepish grin. “I saw your necklace, thought it’d be a nice housewarming gift. Besides, it’s better to mark the house as God’s than whatever else that may or may not be out there.”
Paige reached for the necklace, her finger playing with the cross pendant.
Her mother had given the necklace to her when she turned 18, and she was only wearing it out of habit.
She wasn’t sure what her stand was with God.
She grew up in a staunch family, but the unanswered prayers over the past three years had changed things. She couldn’t help but think that God had forgotten her and she had somewhat given up on God as well.
Still, it was sweet of Matt.
“You’re right. Thanks. I’ll get it on the door once I can find a hammer and a nail.”
“I’ve got them. I’ll help you put it up.” Matt bent over and dug into his bag without waiting for Paige’s reply.
“Sure.” She placed the cross into the supervisor’s hand and watched him hurry over to her door.
“Is this okay?” He placed the cross in the middle of the door. “Is it slanted?”
“Nope. It looks great.”
He made a mark and hammered the nail in before placing the cross back in position. “Done.”
“Well, if you need anything else, let me know.”
“I will,” she said. “Thanks again for the cross.”
She waved goodbye as Matt returned to his truck and waited until he pulled out of the street before turning back to look at her house.
She doubted there would be any issues with the workmanship. Both the painting and roof tiling company came with great recommendations from her elderly neighbor, Mr. Seymour.
Mr. Seymour had a form of quiet dignity and seemed like a trustworthy old man.
She stepped toward the house with a small smile.
There was no longer a light sheen on the newly painted panes of her house. Matte white panes now stood in front of her, replacing the dirty yellow color that was accompanied by numerous dark gray cracks.
New windows, with ash gray borders, and new dark brown doors made her house safe and livable.
Now, after four days, the crumbling muddy roof tiles had also been changed to a new set of ash gray tiles.
From the outside, the house looked like a cute, little cottage. That was one of the draws that made her buy the house. Even in its dilapidated state, she could see how nice it could look.
It was the right choice in getting the spray painters for the external walls. It would’ve taken her forever to do it herself. Though it did cost her some money, she did some calculations and realized it would have been more expensive to stay at the hotel in Cheyenne while she worked on repainting it.
She jogged up the front steps to her door and looked up at the cross.
There was so much she wanted to say, to ask, but she didn’t know where to start. She sighed softly, unlocked the door, and stepped into the house.
Everything on the outside looked new and wonderful.
The inside was another story.
The owners of the house had cleaned it up before she viewed it, but the neglect to the house was obvious.
Inside, the wallpapers were outdated and peeling. All sorts of graffiti, ranging from pen marks to spray paints, coated the different walls.
All that remained in the house was falling apart as well.
The realtor assured her that the foundations and walls were structurally safe even though it hadn’t had an occupant for over ten years.
But with all the work she would have to do, she was ready to leave.
That was until she heard the price.
She had done her research on the average selling price of houses in the area, compared to the apartment she had in New York, the prices were significantly cheaper.
The price, however, was too good to be true.
So she finally asked the question she should’ve asked right from the start. What was wrong with the house that left it unsold for over ten years?
The answer wasn’t exactly music to the ears.
Fifteen years ago, a lady committed suicide in the house. A year after that, the couple who moved in complained of seeing things and basically abandoned the house after a few months. Since then, the rumors had spiraled out of control and the house had become the town’s infamous haunted house.
The reputation itself was enough to keep potential buyers at bay.
Its location—being perched on the edge of town, with only another house on the street and its backyard leading to the forest—didn’t help.
Fortunately for the owners, she wasn’t one of those buyers.
After what she’d been through in the past three years, she’d come to learn that the real evil in the world wasn’t the boogeyman who hid in closets or under beds.
She thought about it for another fifteen minutes, with the realtor quickly shaving another few thousand off the price.
Still, she wanted to run some calculations.
She went back to her hotel room, did some research and came up with an estimation of how much it would cost her to fix up the house before calling the realtor back with an offer.
After nearly a month in Pine Bluffs, she finally settled all the necessary paperwork for the house.
She took out her cell phone from her bag and recorded the latest payment while running through the figures of all that she had spent in her head, making sure she hadn’t exceeded her budget.
With the new house and car, a house loan in New York, and all the work she’d need to do for the house, she had to be careful with her spendings.
Leaving her door open, Paige got out of the house and down the stony steps to her car. She opened up the rear door and stared at the bags of things she’d stuffed in there.
“Need help with that?”
Paige jumped and turned around to see her neighbor, Victor Seymour. The corner of his lips inched up slightly as if he was trying to conceal a grin.
“Didn’t mean to scare you.”
She sighed, relieved. “It’s not your fault, I get shocked easily.”
She grimaced and shoved her hands into the pocket of her jeans. “Sorry. I’m fine, though. Thanks for offering.”
The few times that Paige had been out in town, walking around to familiarize herself with the area, she was approached by several different people. All of them greeted her zealously, but few minutes into the conversations, it was clear that things wouldn’t be as easy as she’d hoped.