Authors: Dana Michelle Burnett
Dana Michelle Burnett
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Copyright © 2011 by Dana Michelle Burnett
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real accounts. Any resemblance to a person, living or dead is completely coincidental.
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With love for my family for their constant and never ending support, none of this would be possible without your constant encouragement.
If I could have just one more wish,
I’d wipe the cobwebs from my eyes.
If I close my eyes forever,
Will it all remain unchanged?
If I close my eyes forever,
Will it all remain the same?
Lyrics “If I Close My Eyes Forever” by Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne
Death. It always seemed such a strange and far off event I never thought about what it would be like to actually die. That was something for the distant future, but as I heard the window shatter behind me, I knew my time had come.
What was I was dying for? The sins of the past? The wrongs of the present? Did it even matter?
I looked up at him one last time, staring into his sad and familiar eyes. I took one last breath and prepared to die.
I hoisted my suitcase up and into the back of my dad’s Suburban. I winced as the hot tearing pain ripped through my lower back, but I ignored the pain and adjusted my suitcase among the last of the moving boxes.
The back of the Suburban held all the treasures I didn’t trust to survive in the moving van and the things I couldn’t bear to have out of my sight even for one day.
Slamming the rear door, I took one last glance at our Indianapolis town house. We were not even gone yet and already the familiar brick building was a stranger to me with dead curtain-free eyes staring back at me. It wasn’t my home anymore.
Two hours away, in the small town of Corydon, a pre-Civil War mansion waited. My Dad’s ancestral home. I had heard about it all my life, but it always seemed unreal and far away.
It was to that remote small town that we were moving to now. When Dad announced we were moving, I tried to pretend that it wasn’t true, even as all of our things were packed and taken away. By the time I had to face what was happening, I just couldn’t make myself care.
“Becca,” my Dad said to me as he tossed his own small duffel bag into the back seat. “You know this is going to be great for us, right?”
I couldn’t let my Dad guess how much I hated this, so I smiled up at him. I liked the way his blue eyes crinkled around the edges as he smiled back. I hated to lie, but…
“I know,” I said with another humoring smile. If my mother was still alive, she and I would have exchanged knowing glances as conspirators in pacifying my father.
To think of my mother made my eyes smart with unshed tears. She died in a car accident two years ago and it was from her memory we were running. No matter how much stuff we crammed into our townhouse, the rooms still echoed with emptiness left behind with my mother’s passing.
I glanced back one last time at the house we all shared and then got in on the passenger side. There was really no point in looking back again.
“And we’re off.” Dad said with a happy smile as he got behind the wheel and snapped his seatbelt in place.
Rather than respond, I turned so I could lean against the door and stare out the window. I said nothing else as the familiar structures of the city gave way to long expanses of trees on both sides of the highway, peppered now and then by an open field.
Once I got bored looking at trees and cornfields, I took out my notebook and started doodling. I could have been creative and wrote a poem or something to capture the moment, but I refused to compare the highway to the journey of life or the path of fate in my life. That omission severely limited what I felt like writing about at the moment.
By the time we started veering toward the west; the cornfields disappeared and were replaced by rocky hills that were cut in half by the interstate. We seemed to be going uphill, causing my ears to pop.
As we drove on, rugged trucks replaced sleek sedans. I didn’t have much hope for urban entertainment when the exits off the interstate led to places with names like Greenville and Edwardsville.
“Are you taking us to the middle of nowhere?” I asked, more to break the silence than any real interest.
“Hardly,” Dad said with a chuckle as he flipped back some wayward strands of his salt and pepper hair. “But it will be very different from what you are used to.”
I glanced out the window again at the dull view, “I’ll bet you’re right.”
He shifted his eyes my way, letting worry and concern take the shine from his face. “Different isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
I squirmed with guilt and changed the subject. “So if this house is your family’s original home, why didn’t you grow up there?”
The happy light came back to his eyes, “The house belonged to my ancestors back when Corydon was the capitol of Indiana. Sometime after the Civil War my family lost the house.”
“How?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” He replied as he changed lanes with a quick glance over his shoulder. Since my mother’s death, he was an overly cautious driver anytime I was in the vehicle. “I used to walk by it and tell myself that one day I’d own it.”
I glanced over at him, picturing him as a dirty faced kid looking up at some
Gone with the Wind
style house. “Seriously?”
“I always wanted to buy it, I even promised your Mom on our honeymoon.” His mouth twitched a little at the corners talking about her.
I forced excitement I didn’t feel and made myself smile, “She would have loved it.”
He cleared his throat and nodded, setting his jaw and looking straight forward. I went back to looking out the window and tried not to think about how much I missed my mom.
It was nearing sunset when we took the Corydon exit. It seemed like nothing more than a series of truck stops and restaurants lining the four lane highway. I couldn’t believe people would move here by choice.
Dad drove past the gas stations and the one shopping center, the first sign of life in the last thirty minutes, to where there were no street lights and Victorian mansions crowded the oak lined street.
It all looked like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, the flowers in the window boxes, and the people sipping iced tea on the porch. It was just too over the top. People didn’t live like this anymore and probably hadn’t for fifty years.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked, not believing the time warp I was seeing out the window.
Dad looked around with a goofy grin that made me embarrassed for him even though there was no one else around. “Isn’t it great?”
I didn’t have to answer; we pulled into the narrow gravel drive of one of the mansions. I gazed up at the monstrous structure and tried to wrap my head around the fact that this was my new home.
The house was large, wider than most of the others. It seemed to almost squat on the lot. The multiple porches were all shaded by the tall oaks surrounding the house. The white wood siding was colored a greenish gray along the edges that made me think of the greeny growth on tombstones. When I looked at it, only two things came to mind, damp and mossy.
Getting out of the car, I saw the green gardens filled with hostas and felt the early dew already clinging to the lawn, a deep earthy scent hung in the air choking me.
“Uh! What is that smell?”
Dad came around the sedan to open my door, “It’s fresh air. What do you think about that?”
“I think it stinks.” I said with forced gaiety. I was used to clean lawns manicured by unseen people the apartment manager hired. There was something imposing about the lush permanence of this place.
“Come on Becca,” my Dad said with a teasing smile. “You have to admit, it’s beautiful. They don’t make them like this anymore.”
I let my eyes travel up the large columns of the porch and up to the red peaked roof. I wanted to shrink back from this ancient goliath.
“No, they sure don’t.” I whispered, thinking that maybe that was a good thing.
Dad opened the back of the Suburban and started pulling out my suitcase and boxes. “I got this. Why don’t you go on in and have a look around?”
Inside was no different. Where our townhouse smelled of whatever scented candles we were burning, this massive place smelled of wood, leather, and some attic-library-like scent that I couldn’t name.
Standing in the foyer, I inhaled the musty air with a chocking cough as I looked up at the grand staircase. If that wasn’t imposing enough, far above my head hung a dusty crystal chandelier so high against the dark ceiling it seemed misty and far away.
I took a few more steps forward, not feeling that this was my home at all. Through an arched doorway to my right stood the grand piano my Dad ordered a few weeks back, looking too shiny and new for its surroundings. A glance to the left and through another arched opening showed a flat screen television and a contemporary sofa set that looked just as out of place as the piano.
A door under the staircase revealed a tiny bathroom with a sloping ceiling tucked away like an afterthought. I rationalized by the advent of indoor plumbing, it was the only available area on the first floor that wouldn’t compromise the original layout.
Shutting the bathroom door, I turned my attention to the wide hall behind me. It was large enough to park a car in and at the end was a set of heavy double doors. Walking down it, to my left was a curved doorway to the dining room and to the right another opening to the room with the piano.
The double doors at the end were heavy, paneled in rich wood, and almost reached the tall ceiling. The black metal knobs almost seemed too weak to open them, but one good pull and the doors opened to an empty library twinkling with dust particles catching the light.