Focus Friday #2

PROMPT: Your house is haunted. You’re too busy to give a [BLEEP]

I chose this next prompt (also courtesy of reddit) simply because it made me laugh. So, I thought I’d use it for my weekly writing exercise. I realize that I often find myself writing about ghosts and the paranormal, and maybe that’s not very Christmas-y (what with it being Christmas Eve Eve), but… hey wait a second, wasn’t Scrooge visited by three ghosts in Christmas Carol? Nevermind, carry on. And I hope you enjoy my Focus Friday contribution.

BENJAMIN

Benjamin was at it again. Only this time he had an audience.

“Do you hear that?” my mother asked.

“Hear what?”

But I knew exactly what my mom heard. It was footsteps from up above. Loud ones. Think, angry-bull-practicing-tap-dance-routine loud.

Mom was over for dinner to celebrate the first week in my new place. First house of my own, actually. And already, she had something to say about it.

I was attempting to finish cooking my famous made-from-scratch fettucine alfredo, (which my mother had already so kindly pointed out was so fattening), only now I was attempting to cook louder, deliberately clanging the spoon against the pot, hoping the metallic CLACK-CLACK would drown out the unexplainable noises above.

“Shhh!” mom scolded, grabbing my hand to stop me from banging again, so tight her diamond wedding ring cut into my finger. At my protesting OUCH, she loosened her hold, but didn’t let go of my hand. She angled her strawberry coiffed head toward the ceiling, pursed her lipstick-caked lips, and furrowed two perfectly-arched eyebrows as she listened. Sure enough, the stomping continued overhead.

Plan thwarted. Damn.

“I think your place is haunted, Stella.”

God, my mom was so judgmental. I could hear her voice far too often, invading personal boundaries in the way only moms can. Why aren’t you more like your brother, Stella? Tattoos aren’t classy, Stella. Why aren’t you married, Stella? Your home has ghosts, STELLA.

“That’s ridiculous. What if my boyfriend is upstairs?”

“You don’t have a boyfriend.”

“Casual hookup, then.”

“Stella, please. That’s beneath you.”

I wasn’t going to argue that one. Best let my mom continue to believe my virginity was intact as long as she wanted. Not worth the headache.

“Ok, fine, you’re right. But would it be too much to ask that my mother consider the possibility that I have a male suitor before she jumps straight to ‘this place is haunted because clearly my daughter isn’t getting any’? Way to bruise my ego, mom.”

My mom sighed her most exasperated sigh. “You know I hate when you talk like that.”

I shrugged. “Just being real.”

An extra loud thunk from above made her jump. She placed a manicured hand over her heart, eyes wide.

“Is there any possibility someone got inside? A burglar, perhaps?”

“Doubt it. We’d have seen someone go up the stairs,” I pointed at them, “If they broke in on this floor. Plus, we’d have heard them. And the only burglar who manages to get inside those second floor windows would be one who also moonlights at cirque du soleil.”

My mother shuddered and placed a hand on her cheek, shaking her head. More of a nervous twitch, really. “To think, my only daughter. Alone. In an old, drafty, haunted house.”

“It’s not that bad, really.”

The thunking above got more aggressive. Not at all helping my point.

My mother was now pacing anxiously around the kitchen. “I don’t like the feel of this place. It’s always so cold. And the lights flicker. And I swear I heard voices earlier. And that door over there,” she pointed as though accusing it of murder, “it closed by itself. By itself, Stella! You need to get out of here.”

I turned the stove off and grabbed two plates. “Mom, I just got settled. I can’t afford to make another move so soon. Besides, I’m way too busy.” I began to heap fettucine onto the plates. It smelled heavenly. I kept piling it on, waiting for my mom to tell me that I’d served her more than enough and honestly how do you expect to keep your figure eating like this.But she said nothing, not at all paying attention to what I was doing.

Damn, she must be upset.

“What if this thing hurts you?” Her eyes actually began to well up with tears. Big, fat, overdramatic tears. I knew my mom loved me. She also drove me up a wall.

“What’s it gonna do, mom? Rattle chains at me to death?”

“But what if it’s a demon? What if it…. attaches itself to you? Possesses you?” My mom instantly made the sign of the cross at that. Too many churchgoing years on the brain.

“Please. Benjamin is not a demon.”

My mom looked at me then as if I’d grown two heads. “So, you’re fully aware of your…problem,” she pointed at the ceiling with horror and disgust, like one might point out a roach infestation in the kitchen of a five star restaurant. “And not only are you fully aware, but you also named the problem… Benjamin?”

I really had no defense for that one. “I don’t know, he just… seemed like a Benjamin.” I carried the plates to the kitchen table and set them down. “Can we eat, please?”

“How can you think about food at a time like this?”

“Because I think about food when I’m hungry, and I haven’t eaten since 7am. I had to skip yet another lunch thanks to work being relentless, and I’ve had nothing but a Yoplait for the last 10 hours. So can you please just… ignore Benjamin? Just for tonight, be proud of your daughter and her successful job and her newly acquired house that she bought with her own money and just… be happy?

That seemed to get through to her. Reluctantly, she sat down at the table beside me. “You’re right, I’m sorry. It’s just… you know ghosts make me nervous.”

Translation: she watched too many ghost hunting shows.

“I know, mom. But I promise Benny won’t hurt me, or you. See, he’s already stopped clomping around upstairs. I bet he’s up there going, ‘Dammit woman, eat your fettucine already, it smells delicious’.”

She raised a brow. “So now Benjamin is just Benny?”

“Mom…”

She threw up her hands in submission. “Alright, you’re right, I’m overreacting.” She picked up her fork and paused, watching me shovel food into my mouth with abandon. For a moment I thought she was going to comment, but she refrained, resorting instead to taking delicate bites off her own plate.

“Mmm,” she said, in a very unconvincing way. I knew exactly what she was thinking. Too much butter and too much cheese. But to her credit, she said nothing.

Suddenly a movement behind her caught my attention, and my eyes widened with horror. The spoon I’d been using to stir the fettucine was floating in the air, lifted by an unseen hand.

Dammit Benny, not now!

“WINE!” I shrieked, slamming my fists onto the table just as the spoon clattered back inside the pot. My diversion worked. My mother jumped so high in her chair that she banged her knees on the underside of the table.

“Stella, what has gotten into you?!”

I cleared my throat and stood up. “Sorry, I, uh… just forgot the wine is all.”

“None for me, thank you.”

I knew she’d say that. “Water?” I offered.

“Please.”

“Coming right up.”

I gasped when I moved toward the cupboard and noticed two glass tumblers already set out side-by-side on the countertop.

“Appreciate the help, Benny, but can you please make yourself scarce for a bit?” I whispered through clenched teeth.

“What was that?” My mother called from the table.

“Oh, nothing.” I chuckled nervously. “Just talking to myself. Drinks coming right up.”

I gasped again when I turned my gaze back to the glasses, because my bottle of merlot had suddenly materialized next to them.

Okay, now he was just showing off.

“Benny…” I warned.

With shaking hands, I poured an acceptable amount of wine into both glasses, paused, and dumped some more in each. Then I brought the two glasses back to the table.

“I said no wine.”

I placed the glass in front of her. “Well, I don’t have a water filter yet. The tap water isn’t that great.”

“But I don’t want wine.”

“Trust me, you will.”

“I’m not in the mood.”

“And I’m not pouring that back into the bottle. Just drink.”

“Fine.”

She huffed and examined her glass more thoroughly then, tapping her ruby-tipped fingers against it.

“No wine glasses?”

“Haven’t unpacked ‘em yet.”

She shrugged, and took a drink.

And I nearly choked on my wine. Because somehow Benny had acquired my mother’s napkin, and he was waving it around as though it were a ghost itself, the classic white-sheet kind. Floating directly over my mother’s head.

I played up a coughing fit, gurgling up wine and thumping my chest with my fist for good measure.

“Are you alright?”

The napkin fell innocently beside her then, and I exhaled a noisy breath.

“Yes, I’m fine.”

“Stella, you are a mess tonight,” she said, shaking her head as she took another sip from her glass. I couldn’t disagree. Instead, I took a gulp of wine which likely equaled ten of her baby sips.

It was gonna be a long night.

TO BE CONTINUED.

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