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We had a haunted Halloween around the house this year.
Around 11 p.m., I heard a kitty call out, “Hello?” It was in Cat, so it sounded like “Meow.” But if you converse in Cat, you’d recognize it as in a call a lonely kitty gives out when it wants to be found.
For hours, I heard the little cat and even looked out our kitchen window to see if perhaps he was stuck somewhere. I worried like an overprotective mother about the poor little cat. Was he all alone or abandoned? Was he thirsty, hungry, cold?
It’s not like there was anything I could do for him. I couldn’t bring him into the house. The old household dog would eat him alive. And we are not allowed pets in our apartment. But still…
For hours I heard the kitty calling out, a disembodied cry for attention, calling out for me -- because Mom never heard it. At one point, I was convinced he was in the house.
But, of course, that couldn’t be right. Max the dog would have detected a feline in his territory and the ensuing racket would have been heard for six city blocks!
I fretted all night: trying to hear the kitty, not knowing what I could possibly do for it and worrying to death that it was in need. The only assurance I had that did not break my heart was that it never sounded like it was in actual distress or agony. It was a plaintive sound suggesting insecurity, but not fear or pain. A universal “is-there-anybody-out-there?” call, if you will—but the very lament was driving me mad.
[A few days later we found out what had happened. Apparently, the kitty came in the house through the mail slot on the front door, and went up the stairs to our landing thinking it was in the house next door. Sometime after 2 am our landlady and her daughter, who’d both heard a sound they couldn’t quite identify, caught the kitten sauntering down the stairs. Max the dog was already almost all deaf and missed the intruder.]
appears here slightly edited. It was a journal entry from 2002; was published on the now-defunct board, Nerdnosh in 2002, on in 2005, and in the mini-memoirs .
About the Author
Kali Amanda Browne was born in New York City; grew up in Puerto Rico; and she came of age and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Above all, she tries to laugh even at adversity.
She is a writer, food enthusiast, devoted daughter, nerd, pagan, wild woman…
You can follow all her writing projects from the online catalogue at – from fiction, short stories, and cookbooks, to online articles, blogs and social media.
Follow her personal blog at ; the publishing blog at ; and the food blog at ; or on Twitter to follow Weekend Menus , and various boards at .
Kali, the Food Goddess: Volumes 1 & 2
Because She Was A Woman
The Bloody Trail of Disenchantment: Sins of the Father
The Scent of Honeysuckle
Remembrance of Dingbats
One Night with B.B.
Life, Dreams, and Magical Landscapes
Chronicles of Ash – Ash to Ashes
Another great read for Halloween!
The Scent of Honeysuckle
A Ghost Story
By Kali Amanda Browne
The Silver Bullet BMV idled outside the posh liquor store called Heavenly Spirits.
“I’m just running in for a minute,” Mike said to his wife.
She sighed and stared out the passenger side window.
Mike undid his seatbelt and put his hand to her shoulder, gently caressing the back of her neck. She did not reject his touch, but she did not react to it. All he got was cold indifference.
“Baby, I know you’re upset that instead of going out to celebrate our anniversary we got sucked into this business dinner at my boss’s,” Mike said. “I promise I’m going to make it up to you.”
His tone was loving and conciliatory.
“Can we just get it over with already?” she said without turning to face him.
He knew he would not win this one and exited the car. He gave a quick glance back as he waited to be buzzed in, but Jess was stubbornly staring into the darkness.
He heard the familiar ring and the locking mechanism release, and he went inside.
“Good evening, Mr. Morgan,” the distinguished gentleman behind the counter greeted him. “It is always a pleasure to see you. How’s your lovely bride?”
“Hi Abe,” Mike replied. “The lovely bride is in the car. Simmering and plotting my death. A painful one.”
“Ah,” Abe said. “She still doesn’t know…”
“Nope. She thinks we’re on our way to a business dinner.”
“Risky, sir,” Abe said as he began opening a small package.
“I know, but it has been 15 years and it is virtually impossible to surprise that woman,” Mike said as he reached the counter. “Is that it?”
“It is,” Abe said and set the contents before him.
The “it” were two hand-blown crystal flutes. Mike had designed the glasses as calla lilies, just like the bridal bouquet of three perfect lilies that Jess had chosen for their wedding. The flute was a sand etched frosted white glass with a thin, long and delicate green stem.
Mike had back-ordered the items exactly nine months before and now held the product of his creativity.
“She is going to love it, sir,” Abe said. He then showed Mike the magnum of Dom Pérignon with the custom label, with hand-painted calla lilies, that read:
Fifteen years of wedded bliss.
Mike & Jess
The same Venetian gallery that created the flutes had been charged with creating two candle holders and matching dessert plates. These were not perfectly round but the irregularity was part of their charm and Mike and Jess would eat their cake from them later that evening.
Abe gently placed the magnum and flutes in a padded velvet bag, and the other gifts in a fitted wooden case. Behind Abe, an excited news anchor boasted of the latest super jackpot.
“That’s crazy,” Abe said. “It’s up to $280 million. Would you like to try your luck?”
“Sure,” Mike said as he picked numbers from a small form.
Their transaction done, Mike returned to the vehicle and found his wife in no better mood than when he’d left her. They drove in silence.
When they reached the Hudson Valley mansion, Jess exited the car and waited petulantly by the front door. Mike retrieved his packages and thanked the valet before joining her.
“Honey,” he said. “Please…”
“Screw you, Mike!”
The door opened and they were greeted by the lady of the house.
“It’s the Morgans everyone!”
The couple was led to the ballroom and it took Jess a full minute to comprehend what she saw. Amongst the sea of faces and beautiful gowns, she spied a few familiar faces: her mother, her sister, her in-laws, her friend Clarissa… Above them a banner read Happy Anniversary, Mike & Jess!
Her jaw dropped and she gasped -- a delayed reaction to her shock. She turned to her husband and found him grinning like an idiot.
She let out a girlish squeal and threw herself into his arms. Apparently, all was forgiven.
“You evil, evil man.”
“Shut up, wench. You love me!”
As guests, family and friends, and a few colleagues rushed to welcome and congratulate them, Mike slipped away to set up the head table with his crystal goodies.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
There is no point in detailing the evening as it is of no consequence. There were delectable appetizers, exotic cocktails, laughing and chatting, a fabulous four course meal, and some dancing.
As their anniversary cake was rolled into the formal dining room, applause broke out. A perfect replica of the small church in which they wed, the cake was a work of art.
“Make a wish!” someone yelled out.
“Nah, that’s just on birthdays,” Mike’s boss helpfully added.
“That’s right, the rule is you need to blow out birthday candles to make a wish,” Mike said as he produced he lottery ticket, “Here, wish on this instead.”
Jess looked at it intently and her eyes misted over. She kissed Mike.
The numbers were not randomly generated, she saw that immediately. Instead, the combination consisted of three sets of dates: their first meeting, their first date, and when Mike proposed. The bonus number, 42, was a reference to their favorite childhood book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
They were having their traditional toast out of the beautiful hand-blown crystal flutes when the lottery numbers were announced. They were eating cake and listening to toasts – about marriage, happiness and what $280 million could buy you. Out of sheer curiosity, Mike discretely brought his cell phone to his lap and launched the lottery commission’s website to check out the winning numbers.
He jumped up abruptly and their table wobbled. He knocked over both glasses, though thankfully neither broke. Jess quickly picked them up and tried to sop up the spilled champagne with her napkin.
“Michael!” she admonished.
“Holy shit!” he screamed and sat back down. He handed her the phone and pointed to its tiny screen, unable to say any more.
Jess stared at it for a few seconds and sneered at her husband.
“Very funny, Michael,” she said and slammed the phone on the table.
“No,” he said. “You don’t understand. I didn’t do that! It’s not a joke.”
She looked at him, then back at the phone. Then they stared at each other for a good ten seconds before they stared screaming.
“We won! We won! We won!”
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
The next few months were a whirlwind, as is typical for most jackpot winners.
They both quit their jobs. Mike paid the mortgage on his parent’s house and bought them a new car. Jess bought her sister a condo and her mother got the small house in Florida she always wanted. College funds were created for all nieces, nephews and godchildren. Student loans and credit card debts were paid in full. Ten percent of their winnings were dispersed among several worthy causes.
Although they avoided publicity beyond the required press conference announcing them as winners, soon long-lost relatives nobody knew, daring entrepreneurs, charlatans and opportunists tried desperately to get a piece of their action. Soon, everybody had “the perfect business opportunity” and life became about managing the money and trying to keep it from extended hands that came out of the woodwork at every turn. That became their exhausting full time job.
It was exhausting.
They carefully considered what their future together should be and what their next move would be – because they had yet to spend a cent on themselves beyond paying off their debts. Their decision shocked everyone.
“We bought a lighthouse,” they told their friends and loved ones.
“It’s in the middle of nowhere,” was usually the first response.
“What the hell are you going to do up there?” was usually the second response.
Mike and Jess usually smiled and thought, Live in peace.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
The lighthouse was isolated, located atop a cliff overlooking a quaint little cove. The town itself was half a mile down the road, a typical New England coastal town with a nice mix of middle class and some unassuming old money for good measure.
It was all very picturesque but this did not enter into their decision.
While still functional, modern technology had made the lighthouse obsolete and it sat empty and unutilized for nearly a decade.
Sallie McCollough, the realtor, was candid.
“Most people who’ve expressed interest over the years simply refuse to put down a million dollars on a private residence that is so closely guarded by the community and under so many local council mandates as well as the historical society and landmarks commission,” she told them.
“If you have to make renovations, if you paint it,” she added, “it needs to go to a council vote first for approval. And forget the paperwork involved in making additions of any sort to the structure!”
She looked around as if to avoid being overheard by the wrong people – although only the three of them stood in the foyer.
“The last owner was an engineering and architecture genius and managed to modernize the house, the carriage house on the other side (it serves as an enclosed garage now), and even parts of the lighthouse,” Sallie said. “He very cleverly got through loopholes and maintained the integrity of the lighthouse, of course.”
It was a beautiful and serene setting, moody in a graceful way. Both Mike and Jess were already in love with it.
“There is one more thing I must legally disclose before you consider making an offer,” she said in a grave tone.
She cleared her throat and became engrossed with the rug underfoot as she spoke.
“Ten years ago, the owner of the lighthouse went mad,” she said and paused. Again she cleared her throat. “He drugged his wife and children and threw their bodies over the cliff. They were washed out to sea.”
“Oh my god,” Jess said softly. “What happened to him?”
“He tried to kill himself by cutting his wrists, but he apparently lost his nerve in the middle of it,” Sallie said. “The cuts were mostly superficial, though he did try several times. Drunk, naked, bloody and disoriented, probably because of the loss of blood, he wandered outside into a particularly nasty Noreaster. It lasted two days and he froze to death.”
Mike and Jess glanced at each other and in a few seconds had one of those long conversations couples can have using a few, discrete facial ticks.
“They found his body a week later as the snowplows were clearing the back roads.”
“So,” he said in a somber voice that was, of course, nothing more than mockery but only Jess realized it, “you are saying that it’s a haunted house?”
“No, don’t be ridiculous. Hmm, I mean, no one died on the property,” she said. “A crime was committed here and I am legally obligated to inform prospective buyers.”
Mike put his arm around his bride and whispered, “Well, Mrs. Morgan, what do you think?”
Jess turned to her husband and smiled. He returned the smile.
“If the inconvenience and isolation doesn’t keep people away,” she said, “that story certainly will.”
Mike squeezed her affectionately and said, “Draw up the papers, Sallie. We’re buying us a lighthouse!”
# # #
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