The house was like an empty skull with empty sockets for the windows and a gaping mouth for the door. Its rooms told of lives lost and horror-filled days not quite gone. The screams of agony from those who once lived there still hang in the air, seemingly stuck on the many cobwebs draping the walls. A dense fog begins filling the rooms, making you wonder if ghosts are as imagined as you thought they were.
I am Annalise, and my life is perfect as a life can get. I have the perfect parents, school, friends, and brother. I am what people describe as a classic beauty. I have deep auburn hair with plenteous golden highlights. A pert little upturned nose is situated above a generous mouth, and my wide sea green eyes complete the arrangement. Standing at barely three inches over five feet, I am petite. Although some would think my way of describing myself is vain, I do not flaunt myself; in fact, I hate my appearance. Because of my outer shell, I am expected to be a snob, someone you wouldn’t want to meet, or a perfect little angel. I hate it when people judge me by my face. Contrary to what my petite frame seems to say, I am not weak. My pixie-like face hides my stubbornness and independence. I am not at all what my appearance suggests.
I’ve always thought that my life could not get any better...... and then disaster struck. My life was changed forever.
It all started innocently enough. We moved into a house across town, a step up for us. The house was large and splendid. My father had gotten a huge promotion at work, and moving was his way of celebrating. The only problem with our house.....it sat across from an ancient dilapidated house. The house is a monstrosity. It has been estimated to have over 200 rooms. People call it the Emerald Manor. And they say it is haunted.
Derek and Annalisa McNeill built the Emerald Manor in the 1700s. Derek was killed in a dreadful hunting accident before the house was ever completed, leaving Annalisa a great fortune. Annalisa decided that ghosts killed him and that to appease the ghosts, she must build the house large enough for each to have a room. She sought out many psychics to establish just how many ghosts she was dealing with, and after consulting numerous psychics, she found there were over ninety spirits. She decided then that there must an abundance of rooms so that no spirit was left out. Terrified of the spirits taking her life, she built the house as large as she could without going bankrupt. After furnishing the rooms, Annalisa was penniless. She “died” only six months after the construction was complete, but her body was never found. Some say she still roams the house, playing hostess to the many spirits who live there. And I have seen her. And she told me that I am next.
Three months after moving into our new house, my brother and I decided that we would hold an great party on Halloween night. We planned for days, consulting our friends, talking to party planners. After all, we were rich, we couldn’t be expected to plan the whole thing alone. We wanted to make our house into a “haunted house” but then my best friend, Dominique, had a wonderful thought.
“Lisa, you and Eric always talk about that house across the street as being haunted. Why not have it there?” she questioned. “After all, you wouldn’t have to decorate this house and then clean it all up. All you would have to do is clean the manor up before hand. It would be awesome. A real haunted house.” She was getting really excited about the idea, I could tell.
“I guess it would be ok...... but I’d have to check to see if the owners agree. I mean, what if the town owns it?” I said, making a face. We both knew that if we wanted to have that party there and the town owned the house, we would never have our party.
“I highly doubt the town owns it,” she said thoughtfully. “I mean, come on, they would have torn it down by now.”
“Come on, you know you like the idea!”
“Let’s go talk to my parents about it.....just to make sure it would be alright,” I finally conceded.
My parents may not be on the cover of People Magazine, but they certainly looked like they could be. Michael Rhodes, prominent attorney, is known to me as “Dad.” My father is the best defense attorney in the U.S. Of course, that may be because I’m just a little prejudiced. In his late thirties, my father is a stately man. Prominent cheekbones, a straight nose, piercing gray eyes, and a wide mouth hide my father’s outstanding persona. Quick comebacks may help him in court, but they are also perched on the tip of his tongue at home, always ready to amuse us. Beneath his coal black hair with graying temples lies a sharp mind. He rules our house with a firm hand and an entertaining behavior. Graceful and even-tempered, Anne McNeill Rhodes, my mother, is where I run when I need advice. At five foot four, my mother can tackle any problem she sets her mind to. With her should-length auburn hair and green eyes, you can tell my looks came from my mother. Mom can glide into a room and quickly set everything in order with her winsome smile and cheery personality. She often tells me that people may judge you by your appearance, but you can change their opinions just by how you act. My mother stands beside my father rather than behind. While she believes the statement “behind every man is a good woman,” she believes even stronger in the statement, “” Secretary for my dad, my mother does her job at home, and he has never complained. My parents act like friends instead of parents, always consenting to parties and things.
As we walked down the winding staircase in my home, I had the feeling that I was being watched. I looked out the window to the manor, and saw a face in the second story, a face I would never forget. It was me, but seemingly many years older. I gasped, and Dominique quickly glanced my direction.
“Are you ok? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” she commented, jokingly.
“I have,” I said under my breath
“Let’s get going! I want to talk to your parents as soon as possible so we can get started on that house!” she exclaimed.
“Alright, alright. Be patient.”
Mom and Dad were right where I thought they would be, in the office looking over Dad’s new case. They were deep in a debate over whether or not the jury would acquit the person he was prosecuting; they didn’t even look up when we entered the room.
“Mom, Dad? May I speak to you a minute?” I asked.
“Oh! I didn’t hear you girls come in,” Mom said. “Of course you can ask a question. What is it you need?”
“Well......” I said slowly, trying to figure out how to best word the question I was pondering.
“We were wondering who owns that old manor and if we could use it for our party,” Dominique cut in.
“Thanks, Min,” I said sarcastically under my breath, just loud enough for her to hear. She just rolled her eyes as if to say, well, you needed help, didn’t you?
My parents looked at each other a moment before my father started to answer the question. “Annalise, Dominique, why do you want to have the party over there?” he asked. I sensed he was hiding something.
“Dad, it’s perfect. We wouldn’t have to spend all our time decorating our house. We could just clean that one.” I argued.
“I see where you two are coming from, but won’t it be a terrible place? I mean, what if the boards are rotten?” my mom said, sounding concerned.
“They can’t be too bad, Mom. I just saw someone.....” I cut myself off, afraid to say more; fearing that they would question my sanity.
“Saw someone one?” my dad said, almost frightened. At that moment, I feared that he knew just what I was talking about because he had seen her, too. “Nonsense.”
“So who owns it?” Dominique persisted.
“Actually, we do.” This statement came from my mom, who seemed reluctant to share this information. “You see, Annalise, my family owns the house, and since I was an only child, the house belongs to me.”
“What do you mean, you own the house?”
“My great-great-great-great-grandmother was the one who built it.” My father looked as though he wanted to change the subject, but couldn’t.
“So, since you all own it, may we have our party there?” Dominique brought in, excited that things were working out her way.
My parents looked at each other and seemed to have a conversation just by looking at each other, the way only parents can. After a while, my father spoke up. “If I check the floorboards of the rooms you will be using, I guess it would be ok.”
Dominique let out an enthusiastic shout. I felt happy, myself. Almost as if it was supposed to happen. I felt a chill go down my spine. Was this supposed to happen? Was this determined by someone....and my parents had to obey their wishes? I dismissed the thought. Ghosts were not real.
“What’s going on?” my brother entered the door. Eric and I are close; I’ve heard that twins usually are. Identical twins, the only things distinguishing us are gender and hair. Eric’s hair is a darker shade than mine, and his is short and spiked. Eric plays football, makes good grades, and has an abundance of admirers. His outgoing personality and good looks combined make for an interesting day wherever he is. True to his title “brother” he is constantly bantering with me. Although he teases me, I know if someone were to ever go against me, he will be there and he will be on my side.
“Guess what, Eric!” Dominique gushed. “We are having the party over at the manor!”
“Why did you all decide this without me?” he asked her. “Oh, well, at least I’ll be there to chase away all the ghosts for you.”
“Ok, Mom, Dad, we’re leaving now,” I said. I wanted to get to work as soon as possible.
We left the office, talking about what to take over to the house, and who to invite. Halloween was only three weeks away, and we really should get started. We heard Dad telling Eric to check the floorboards in the house so that we could get started.
Dominique and I decided to go with him to choose which rooms we wanted to use and what decorations we would need. As we entered the house, a chill went my spine for the second time that day. I wondered if I would see the lady again....the lady who must be my grandmother.
The front door swung open, not even creaking. Dominique and I followed Eric into the first room, which was an entry hall. Dominique instantly became excited.
~*~ to be continued ~*~