“And Tessa said what?”
It wasn’t much of a basement. First of all it was old and, over the years, had seen a few floods. Secondly, it was quite ugly and in dire need of some loving attention, especially the walls where big patches of paint had let loose. Underneath, the gray concrete showed, making the walls seem sad and depressed. And then, it was dark. Whoever had designed the building had not deemed it necessary for anyone, venturing down into the belly of the building, to be accompanied by sunlight, or any light for that matter. Only a few, very small windows were allowed to let any of the daylight seep in. Not nearly enough to make the space give any kind of positive feel to it.
The occupants of the house avoided the lower level of their home as much as possible, not enjoying the creepy feelings that came over them every time they had to be there. On those occasions, they usually made sure to get back upstairs as fast as they could. There was a shared feeling of utter discomfort when confronted with the dark rooms and the consensus was to use the basement only if absolutely necessary. Only one inhabitant of the otherwise light and sunny house did not agree with that statement...
“I don’t know, Marjorie. I haven’t seen any of it yet and I hate to ask for it.”
“Don’t be silly, Kit. They owe you.”
“I guess...maybe,” was the hesitant answer. “But it was my decision to start this project and...”
“And they made a profit, big time,” was the stern answer. “If you don’t bug them about it, I will. I love you to death, Kit, but I swear, you’re the worst businesswoman I’ve ever met.”
“No, that would have been my sister,” Kit replied with a sigh.
There was a brief silence that was broken when Marjorie cleared her throat before speaking again.
“I know and I am sorry, sweetie,” she spoke in a soft voice.
Katherine Pullman, Kit to her friends, raked her fingers through her unruly blond hair, while casting a quick look at the wall clock in the kitchen. She was amazed at the time and let out a soft sigh.
“Listen, I will call you later, okay? I need to pick up the kids from school and then take Tessa to the optometrist.”
“New glasses?” Kit could hear the smile in her friend’s voice.
“Unfortunately, yes. Again,” Kit chuckled. “For a four year old she sure goes through a lot of them. It’s not that she’s careless, it’s just...”
“That she always seems to break her glasses,” Marjorie interrupted with a laugh. “Well, have fun at the optometrist. Is it okay to call you this evening?”
“Sure,” Kit answered, reaching for her purse on the kitchen table. “But call after eight, when the kids are in bed.”
“Will do. Talk to you later, Kitty.”
“Yup, later,” Kit answered, putting down the phone and heading out of the door.
“Aunt Kit, is it okay for me to be a zombie tomorrow? One of those with blood and stuff all over his face?”
Kit’s hazel colored eyes traveled to the rearview mirror so she could cast a look at her six year old nephew, Connor. She met his blue eyes in the reflection and bit back a smile when she noticed the pleading look on his face. He was a very cute and charming little boy and the way he often pleaded with her reminded Kit of her sister, who had always been able to charm their father into agreeing with a lot of things their mother disapproved of.
“A zombie, Connor? I don’t believe that’s a very good idea. Besides, you already have your pirate outfit.”
“Zombies are gross,” Tessa chimed in from the other booster seat. The four year old was holding a picture book, with a slightly frustrated look on her face. Kit knew it was because the girl was not wearing her glasses and had trouble seeing the words and pictures. Tessa loved stories and it was a punishment for her not to be able to read her many books.
“No, they’re not,” Connor responded to his sisters’ words. “They’re cool. You don’t even know what a zombie is,” he added, his voice filled with contempt.
“Do you?” Kit asked, applying the brakes of her car when she approached an intersection with a four-way stop.
“It’s a monster,” Connor answered with all the self-confidence of a six-year old. “They come at night, when it’s dark and eat little girls,” he added with a look at his sister, who hardly looked as frightened as he had hoped she would.. Tessa’s hazel eyes narrowed when she looked at her brother, not because she was upset with him, but it was hard for her to see without her glasses.
“I’m going to be a wizard,” she calmly replied, before turning her attention back to her picture book. Connor stuck out his tongue at her and shrugged when he met Kit’s warning glance in the reflection of the mirror.
“Can I, Aunt Kit? Please?” he practically begged.
“I don’t feel you walking around like a zombie with ‘blood and stuff’ on your face is very appropriate, Connor,” Kit answered, making a mental note to try and find out where her nephew had learned about zombies.
“But it’s Halloween,” Connor objected.
“That’s right,” Kit responded. “But that doesn’t mean I approve of you running around like a zombie. You wanted to be a pirate.”
“Kirk is going to be a zombie too,” Connor pouted.
Kit nodded, realizing where Connor had learned about zombies. Kirk was Connor’s friend and the youngest of five siblings, all of whom were a lot older than he was. Kirk’s parents had very busy lives and their children were not always supervised, which sometimes let to poor choices about what they were watching on tv.
“I don’t want you to be a zombie, Connor,” Kit answered her nephew in a gentle, but decisive voice.
“But, Aunt Kit! I...”
“No, Connor. I don’t want you to argue with me about this. You can’t be a zombie for Halloween. You wanted to be a pirate, you have the costume and that’s it.”
“That’s not fair,” Connor pouted with a dark frown.
“I’m sorry you feel that way,” Kit sighed.
“You’re scared in the dark,” Tessa unexpectedly remarked, without looking up from her book.
“I am not,” Connor immediately went into defensive mode and his blue eyes were huge when he looked at his little sister, completely taken aback by her sudden accusation.
“You don’t like the basement,” Tessa replied.
“Only because it’s really dark and....it stinks there,” Connor spat.
“It does not,” Tessa objected. “It smells....old. That’s all.”
“Come on, guys,” Kit interrupted, before her two charges would start an all too familiar ‘It doesn’t’, ‘Does so.’
“Besides, Aunt Kit doesn’t like you going down there by yourself,” Connor added quickly, wanting to get the last word in. “That’s where you break your glasses.”
Kit, who had parked her car in front of a small, local strip mall, turned around in time to see the slightly guilty look on her niece’s face. Inwardly, she sighed and rolled her eyes when she noticed the smug look on Connor’s face.
“It’s not a very nice thing to tell on each other,” she sighed, before turning to Tessa, who looked at her with all the innocence a four year old could muster up. It almost made her smile.
“I thought you broke your glasses when you jumped off your bed,” Kit said. “Did you break them in the basement?”
Tessa did not answer, but she nodded her head.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Tessa shrugged her shoulders and kept her eyes cast down, while her small hands fidgeted with the book she was holding.
“Tessa?” Kit prodded. “Lying is a bad thing to do. You know that.”
Again, Tessa nodded and judging by the increasing redness of the little girl’s cheeks, Kit knew she was close to tears.
“I like it in the basement,” Kit’s niece finally answered in a barely audible voice.
“I know that,” Kit nodded, allowing a small smile to break through. The differences between Tessa and her brother were so big that sometimes it was hard to believe they were siblings. Connor always seemed to be in motion and had a hard time entertaining himself. He had difficulty focusing on one thing at a time and needed a lot of attention. Tessa on the other hand was quiet and very independent. She could spend hours just coloring, reading her books and telling stories to her favorite doll. For some obscure reason Kit did not understand, the little girl also loved spending time in the basement. Kit really preferred her to play upstairs, but also realized that her feelings of discomfort were no reason for her to tell Tessa she was not allowed to go to the basement. Especially, because there was nothing down there that would harm the little girl. There were boxes of old book and clothes and some pieces of furniture that the previous owner, an elderly lady, had left in there. They were draped with sheets to protect them from dust and Kit still had not figured out what to do with the huge dresser, the desk, made out of solid oak, and the cedar chest. She figured that, one day, she would probably have a charity come pick them up so they could be sold in the local thrift store.
“How did you break your glasses, Tessa?” Kit asked, reaching out so she could gently lift her niece’s chin. Moist hazel eyes, so much like her own, glanced at her with a mixture of guilt, embarrassment and sadness.
“I stepped on them,” Tessa finally whispered.
Kit’s eyebrows rose in surprise.
“Did they fall and then you stepped on them?” she asked for clarification, aware of Connor’s silent, but rapt attention.
“No, I stepped on them. I forgot they were on the floor.”
“Why did you take them off and put them on the floor?” Kit asked puzzled, knowing the little girl’s eyesight was very poor without her glasses.
“I could see,” Tessa mumbled with a trembling lip.
In the three and a half years she had been taking care of her niece and nephew, Kit had learned that sometimes it wasn’t a good idea to press on, especially, since right now, Tessa seemed visibly upset. So, she decided to let the subject rest for now and try to talk to the little girl again later, although she was incredibly curious about the rest of the story.
“We’ll talk about it some more when we’re home. Okay?”
Tessa sent her Aunt a grateful look and Kit smiled, knowing she had made the right choice.
“Let’s go and get your glasses, so you can read again.”
The small store was quiet when Kit and the children stepped inside. A small chime alerted the staff of their presence and a familiar voice sounded: “I’ll be right there.”
“No rush, Betty,” Kit replied, grinning when Connor immediately headed to a small corner where a collection of weird and funny frames were put on a table for children to play with.
“Look at me, Aunt Kit,” he laughed, wearing a frame that immediately reminded Kit of Buddy Holly.
“Cute,” she commented. “You look very distinguished, Connor.”
“No, it’s silly,” Conner replied laughing, tossing the black frame and going for one that seemed to have bat wings on the sides.
“Hi Kit. Hello, Tessa and Connor,” an elderly woman stepped in from the room behind the counter and sent them a warm smile. “Tessa’s glasses are ready,” she said opening a drawer behind her and taking out a small pair, holding it up to give it a last inspection.
“Come here, pumpkin,” she told Tessa, stepping away from behind the counter and walking toward Tessa who had not left her Aunt’s side. She knelt in front of the girl and gently put the frame on her nose, adjusting the round hooks behind her ears.
“How’s that?” she smiled, gazing into a pair of grateful eyes.
“Good.,” Tessa beamed. “Look, Aunt Kit,” she said happily, looking up at with an utterly relieved expression on her face. Kit, who had an excellent eyesight, could only imagine how miserable her niece had been without her visual aides.
“Perfect,” Kit answered, affectionately ruffling Tessa’s hair.
Finally being able to see again after two whole days without her glasses, Tessa literally ran to her brother to help him finding the funniest frame there was.
“She’s such a sweetie,” Betty smiled. “I can’t believe how much she reminds me of you when you were little.”
“I hear that a lot,” Kit chuckled. “It’s amazing how DNA finds a way.”
“It is,” Betty agreed. “I am still blown away by it though, every time I see that little girl,” Betty confessed. “Ellie would have been so surprised,” she added softly, referring to Kit’s sister.
“Ellie would have been very unhappy to see me every time she looked at her daughter,” Kit replied calmly. “You know what she was like.”
“I know, sweetie. I know,” Betty sighed. “She was...difficult.”
Kit let out a humorless laugh and shook her head in amazement.
“You are one of the few people I know who would never really say anything bad about Ellie. I have to admit I’m kind of pleased about that, in a sort of a warped way. This is such a small community we live in, Betty. I know that, one day, the kids will hear things about their mother,” Kit spoke softly. “Bad things. But as long as there are people like you around, I know they’ll hear some good as well. That means a lot to me.” Kit let out a deep sigh. “Ellie made a lot of really, really bad choices, but she’ll always be my sister and she gave birth to two amazing children,” she added with a small smile. “I am very grateful for that. Even if Tessa would break a pair of glasses every week.”
Betty chuckled and gently patted Kit’s arm.
“Keeps me in business,” she joked.
The sound of a door closing in the back made both women look up and a pleased smile crossed Betty’s face.
“I didn’t get a chance to tell you, but I’ve finally found a new optometrist. Isn’t that wonderful?” she beamed.
“That’s great, Betty,” Kit responded, giving the elderly woman a quick hug. “Now you and Gary can finally retire.”
“And we will, after Rayne has settled in, which I think won’t take long. She’s pretty smart.”
“Did I hear my name?” an unfamiliar female voice sounded and when Kit turned to the sound she saw a woman with a mass of windblown, copper-colored curly hair enter the small store. She was of average height and would never be considered beautiful by any of the modern day standards, but the twinkling blue eyes in a very freckled face made Kit smile instantly.
“Did you hear the smart part as well?” Betty laughed, gesturing the woman to come closer.
“I did, but I’m too modest to bring that up,” was the quick witted answer.
“Kit, I’d like you to meet Gary’s replacement and my savior,” Betty smiled. “Rayne, this is Kit Pullmann and she’ll be one of your regular customers, especially if Tessa keeps breaking her glasses at the pace she’s been doing it lately.”
Kit’s hand was caught in a warm grip and again she smiled when her eyes met the optometrist’s.
“Nice to meet you, Kit. I am Rayne Forrester.”
“Hello, Rayne,” Kit replied, still smiling. She noticed Rayne’s eyes traveling to the two playing children and she half-turned in order to introduce them to the new optometrist, but when she saw Tessa’s face, she paused. The little girl was staring at the strange woman with an odd expression on her face. It was a mixture of utter confusion, surprise, trepidation and happiness. Betty and Rayne had noticed it also and they silently waited for either Kit or Tessa to speak.
“Tessa, Connor, this is the new eye doctor,” she spoke slowly, her eyes never leaving Tessa’s face. “Her name is Rayne.”
“Like rain?” Connor immediately responded and Rayne chuckled.
“Almost, it sounds alike, but it’s spelled differently,” she explained with a smile.
“Not Rayne. Felicia,” Tessa mumbled, barely understandable.
“What, honey?” Kit asked, stepping a closer to the little girl.
“Not Rayne,” Tessa repeated, casting down her eyes and staring at her shoes. “Felicia.”
“Who is Felicia?” Connor chimed in, looking from his sister to his Aunt and back again.
“I don’t know, buddy,” Kit answered with growing confusion. Tessa was definitely acting strange, but she had no idea why. “Tessa?”
“Maybe you remind her of some Felicia,” Betty suggested, turning to Rayne. The blue eyes were pensive when they stared at the four year old, who was still standing very still, with her eyes cast down, obviously not willing to give in.
“I don’t want to freak out anybody, but my great-great-grandmother’s name was Felicia,” Rayne said in a soft voice. “And if I have to believe the pictures and family stories, I look like her a lot.”
It was chilly and Kit had started a fire in the wood stove to warm up the house a little without having to use the heater. Oil was expensive and she was determined to use as little as possible.
Tessa and Connor were asleep, finally. Kit sighed. It had taken her some poking and prodding to get them to go to bed in time. Connor was excited about the upcoming Halloween and Tessa...Kit exhaled slowly, staring at the dancing flames in the stove. Tessa had been unusually quiet and had refused to talk to Kit about what had happened at the optometrist’s. Kit knew that, eventually, Tessa would open up about it, but still, she was a little worried about the little girl.
Betty had found Tessa’s reaction to Rayne intriguing, but had not said much about it. Yet. Kit knew her friend would most likely call her soon to get the scoop on the whole story.
Rayne had been very friendly and charming, but Kit had noticed the puzzled look every time the woman had looked at Tessa. It was obvious she wanted to know more and Kit was grateful that the optometrist had enough sense not to bombard a four year old with a barrage of questions.
Rayne Forrester, Kit mused, wiggling her toes inside her comfortable, warm socks. It had been an unexpected, but welcome sight to have a new, female optometrist who would be taking over Betty’s and her husband’s business. Rayne seemed very nice. And she was cute.
“Alright, that’s it,” Kit mumbled, unfolding her legs from underneath her and getting to her feet. “I really don’t even want to go there. I don’t know anything about the woman.”
“Except that she’s cute,” a nagging, yet amused little voice in the back of her mind spoke up.
“Tons of women are cute,” Kit replied. “That doesn’t mean a thing. It’s not like they all take a look at me and call me at night to get to know me better.”
Kit reached out to grab her mug from the coffee table, ready for a last cup of tea before heading off to bed, when the unexpected sound of the phone almost made her drop it.
“Good grief,” she muttered, reaching out for the cordless device. “Give me a heart attack, will ya?”
“Hello, this is Kit,” she spoke into the receiver. There was a smile in her voice, because she just knew it was her friend Betty who could not wait until tomorrow to talk to her.
“Um..hi...Kit,” a totally different voice than she had expected answered. “It’s Rayne...Forrester. I...um...I hope I don’t interrupt anything and I...Betty gave me your number and said you wouldn’t mind me calling you. I don’t think...I mean...if...”
“Hello, Rayne,” Kit interrupted, glad the other woman was finding it hard to get out a coherent sentence. That gave her the time she needed to get over her surprise and collect her thoughts. How many times did women she had just met call her? And how often did that happen when she was just thinking about them? The thought made Kit a little nervous and she suppressed a giggle. The last thing she wanted was for her to make Rayne feel even more awkward than she obviously already did.
“Okay,” Kit could hear Rayne take a deep breath. “This is not going well. At all,” the other woman sounded frustrated. “I think I’d best start over.”
That made Kit chuckle and she nodded.
“Go ahead,” she encouraged.
“Great. Thanks,” Rayne sighed. “Hello, Kit. Good evening. I hope you don’t mind me calling you, since you don’t know me. But Betty gave me your phone number and assured me you wouldn’t freak out if I’d call you.”
“I don’t mind,” Kit answered with a smile. “And Betty’s right, I’m not the kind of person who freaks out easily.”
There was a brief silence that was not entirely uncomfortable.
“Besides, I think I know why you call,” Kit continued in a soft voice. “I tried to talk to Tessa, but she wasn’t ready to tell me why she called you Felicia.”
“It’s so...intriguing and bizarre as well,” Rayne replied. “I...I did some reading about the family history and I called my grandmother to ask her a few questions. After talking to her I’m even more curious.” Rayne paused a moment and Kit could hear her take a deep breath. “I didn’t know this, but my grandmother told me Felicia used to live here in town.”
“She did?” Kit answered surprised.
“Yes, she was married to a banker and they owned a few houses here.” There was another brief silence. “You’re in one of them.”
“What?” Kit replied, sitting back down on her chair so fast she bounced. “I am? Are you serious? That’s...that’s....”
“Amazing?” Rayne filled in.
“Yes, that too,” Kit replied with a chuckle. “But the word I’m thinking about is ‘creepy’”
“I guess it is, isn’t it?” Rayne admitted with a sigh. “Listen Kit. Are you...Do you believe in...in...do you believe there’s more between heaven and earth?”
“I never really thought about it a lot, but the last few minutes it has crossed my mind more often than in the thirty six years before,” Kit grimaced, unconsciously looking over her shoulder. She could hear Rayne’s soft laugh and smiled.
“I can’t blame you,” the optometrist confessed. “When I was talking to my grandmother I acquired goose bumps that have not left yet. Right now I wish I had never watched any scary movies.”
“I really want to go down into the basement and have a good look around,” Kit mused. “Although, knowing how dark it is there, especially in the evening, I think I’ll pass, which makes me feel like such a chicken, because my four year old niece sure as heck is not afraid.”
“Your niece?” Rayne replied in surprise. “Wow, I could have sworn she’s your daughter. She looks so much like you.”
“I know,” Kit smiled. “It’s funny how that worked out, but yes, she’s my niece and Connor is my nephew. I’ve been taking care if them ever since their mother died.”
“Oh, I...I’m sorry she passed away,” Rayne answered.
“Tessa was only six months and Connor not even three years old,” Kit said. “It wasn’t easy, at first, but their father didn’t want anything to do with them, so I took them in. My parents, who live in Florida, and I are all they have.”
“That was very courageous of you,” Rayne said in a soft voice.
“I haven’t regretted it for one second,” Kit smiled. “I love those two.”
“I can tell,” Rayne replied in a warm voice. “And from what I saw this afternoon, the feeling is mutual.”
“It’s not always easy. Connor is very energetic and has some slight learning issues and Tessa, even though she’s the sweetest kid you’ll ever meet, can be as stubborn as a mule. It took the three of us a while to get to know each other and work through some issues, but so far we’ve managed and we’ve become our own little family.” Kit paused for a moment and then chuckled.
“What?” Rayne asked with a smile.
“I hardly know you and here I am, telling you my life story.”
“Well, first of all, I ‘m sure there’s more to your life than what you just told me,” Rayne laughed. “And secondly....don’t get me wrong, Kit, but it feels like I’ve known you a lot longer than...” there was a brief silence in which Kit knew Rayne was looking at a clock and doing the math.”Five hours,” the optometrist added with a chuckle.
“It might have sounded weird if I didn’t have the same feeling,” Kit admitted.
“Is it okay for me to freak you out a little more?” Rayne asked, but there was a teasing tone in her voice and Kit smiled.
“Go for it,” she encouraged., not aware of the sparkle in her eyes.
“I know it sounds very, very bold of me, but, I would love to see your basement. Just out of curiosity,” Rayne quickly added. “I’d like to have a look around, especially after a few things my grandmother told me.”
“Now you’re make me curious as well,” Kit sighed.
“Good,” Rayne laughed. “I’d hate for you to think I’m a weirdo with bad intentions.”
“Well, I know Betty and Gary would have checked your background and criminal record, before offering you to take over their business,” Kit smiled. “And Betty did give you my phone number, which shows me she trusts you, so I believe I am safe.” Kit let out a soft chuckled and continued: “The question is; are you?”
The words had left her mouth before she had time to think about it and Kit could hear Rayne’s intake of breath. Immediately she realized that what she had just said could easily be perceived as flirting and she could feel a blush coloring her cheeks.
“Katherine May Pullman, open mouth, insert foot and start chewing,” she scolded herself in silence, while rubbing her heated cheeks.
“Well, Betty gave me your number,” Rayne drawled. “So, I guess I’m safe also. But, just in case, do I need to bring pepper spray?” She added in a teasing voice.
“Oh, no, please don’t,” Kit sighed. “There’s no need to use it on me and I’m pretty sure ghosts are pepper spray resistant.”
“I’m glad that’s settled,” Rayne replied dryly.
“Me too,” Kit nodded, grateful for the fact that Rayne had not been able to see her fiery red cheeks and embarrassment. “So, how about doing some basement diving tomorrow, sometime during the day,” Kit suggested.
“Sure. Do you have a specific time in mind?”
“While the kids are in school,” Kit decided. “It’s not that I don’t want them around, but...I don’t want Tessa to think I’m forcing the issue and Connor avoids the basement like the plague. He doesn’t like it down there.”
“How about nine?”
“That sounds good. Early in the morning. I can’t remember any story that has weird and scary things happening to the heroes early in the morning.”
“Not even on Halloween,” Rayne added with a chuckle.
“Tomorrow is Halloween, remember?”
Kit was a little nervous. She had dropped the children off at school and immediately had returned home. Usually, she started work, but since Rayne was coming, she quickly made sure there were no toys strewn around the place and no dirty dishes in the sink. She made a conscious effort to avoid wondering why it was important to have the house tidy and instead went to her small office to check her email.
She was engrossed in a reply to a message from her mother, when , all of a sudden, the doorbell rang. Even though she was expecting company, the sound still made her jump and, with an annoyed grunt aimed at herself, she saved the email she typed as a draft and quickly went to open the door.
Again, just like the first time she saw her, the sight of Rayne with her wild hair and freckles made Kit smile.
“Hello, Rayne. Come in,” she invited, opening the door to let the other woman in.
“Hi, Kit,” Rayne returned the smile and stepped inside the hallway. “Happy Halloween.”
“Oh, yeah,” Kit sighed and then they both laughed.
“Come on in, I was just going to make some tea. Would you like some as well?”
“Sure, thanks,” Rayne answered, following Kit to the kitchen. “Nice place,” she commented, looking around. “I like all the windows.”
“I do too,” Kit nodded, while filling the kettle with water. “It’s one of the reasons I wanted to buy this place. I love the light.”
“Mmm, I can see why. Especially since the winters here are so long,” Rayne mused, casually leaning against the kitchen counter and staring at a framed picture on the opposite wall.
“I take it you’re not from here, originally?” Kit asked, glancing at the other woman, whose eyes were still glued to the picture.
“No, not really. I grew up in New Mexico,” Rayne answered, her blue eyes finally traveling to meet Kit’s. She smiled, creating tiny wrinkles around her eyes that Kit found very charming.
“Is this going to be your first winter here?” Kit asked curiously.
“Ummm...yes?” Rayne laughed. “Am I in trouble?”
“Not if you like long winters and snow,” Kit chuckled, reaching into one of the kitchen cabinets to retrieve two mugs. “It’s a good time to catch up on reading.”
“I love reading,” Rayne admitted. “I was told by Betty that I need a few more indoor hobbies though.”
“Not if you like winter sports.”
“I’m not sure if I do,” Rayne grinned. “I’ve never really been the athletic type and I just can’t picture myself on pieces of flat wood, racing down the hill. I do believe I’d like to try snowshoeing though.”
“That’s fun to do,” Kit replied, pouring hot water in the mugs. “I like it. Connor skies, which is a great way for him to get rid of some excessive energy. Tessa likes building snow forts, but right now that’s her extent of winter fun.”
“May I ask you a question, Kit?”
“Sure,” Kit replied, handing Rayne a mug of steaming tea and pointing to a tray that held sugar and milk.
“This picture,” Rayne gestured at the artwork she had been studying. “Isn’t it from a children’s book?”
Kit smiled and nodded, adding a lit bit of milk to her tea.
“How did you know?”
“I have a bunch of nieces and nephews,” Rayne shrugged. “And I must have read them hundreds of books. I don’t know why, but this is a picture I remember.”
“Do you remember the story, also?” Kit asked curiously.
“Wasn’t it about this little boy and girl who find a magic box that transports them all across the world, where they have all sorts of adventures?”
Kit nodded and Rayne grinned, pointing at the wall.
“The picture gave it away. It sums it up nicely. Where did you get it? It would make a cool Christmas gift for the kids.”
Kit didn’t immediately answer, but stared at the floor for a few seconds. Rayne, who was looking at her, thought she looked a little embarrassed.
“I made it,” Kit finally mumbled.
“What?” Rayne asked, looking from Kit to the picture and back again.
“I made it,” Kit repeated, a little louder. “That’s what I do, I illustrate children’s books.”
“Are you serious?” Rayne responded staring at Kit with wide eyes. “Wow, you’re good. I love your illustrations. Didn’t you also do this one Christmas book with pictures only?” When Kit nodded, Rayne sent her a brilliant smile. “It’s a great book.”
“Thank you,” Kit mumbled, sipping from her tea.
“And you get to work from home,” Rayne continued, an expression close to awe in her eyes when she looked at Kit. “That must be really nice, having two small children.”
“Oh, yes, it is,” Kit nodded. “It’s absolutely perfect. I am very lucky to be able to do this, I realize that.”
“Who knew I’d meet a celebrity after only having been in town for a few days,” Rayne chuckled.
“I don’t exactly consider myself a...” Kit paused in mid-sentence when she saw the amusement in Rayne’s eyes. “You’re teasing me,” she accused, but there was a smile in her voice.
“I am,” Rayne admitted. “I’m sorry.”
“No, you’re not,” Kit laughed. “And that’s okay. I will let you walk in front when we go down the basement.”
“Oh, I love playing the hero,” Rayne grinned. “Talking about the basement; I told you last night my grandmother told me Felicia owned this house.”
“You did,” Kit nodded. “When exactly was that?”
“I’m not sure, according to Nana it must have been in the late 1800's. She told me she has some documents somewhere that she can dig up if I am interested. My grandmother is the family’s record keeper,” Rayne added with a smile. “She has records that date back to before the time our ancestors arrived here from Europe.” Rayne took a sip from her tea and glanced at Kit, who was staring back at her with interest.
“That’s pretty amazing,” the blonde said. “It must be great fun to go through your family albums.”
“Oh, yeah,” Rayne laughed. “Especially when you go back in time; start with me and my siblings, to my hippy parents, my liberal grandparents, my conservative great-grandparents and their ancestors who were a mix of well-established business owners, hard working farmers, trappers, gold diggers, adventurers, cowboys and prostitutes. I believe there were a few outlaws in the mix as well,” Rayne added with a wink.
“Like I said; amazing,” Kit chuckled. “So where does your great-great-grandmother fit in?”
“Well, like I said, she was married to a banker. But, according to the family history, it wasn’t a happy marriage. She was married off when she was barely sixteen and spent the first ten years of her married life being pregnant. I believe they had eight children.” Rayne paused for a moment and visibly shivered. “Can you imagine that? Not even being thirty years old and having eight kids?”
“That must have been tough.”
“I bet,” Rayne nodded. “Anyway, Nana told me that things weren’t always what they seemed. She...uh...” the optometrist hesitated and shot Kit a look that was a mixture of curiosity, amusement and nervousness. “Nana claims that Felicia never loved her husband and only married him because her parents forced her to.”
“She loved someone else,” Kit concluded in a somber voice. “That is really sad.”
“It was,” Rayne sighed.
“Whom was she in love with?”
Rayne looked up from her tea and her blue eyes quickly averted Kit’s when she noticed the other woman’s eyes were resting on her. There was a brief silence in which Rayne tried to collect her thoughts and come up with an answer.
“Let me guess,” Kit continued after a brief silence. “She was in love with another woman.”
The look Rayne sent her was one of pure relief and Kit grinned.
“I guess by the way you were beating around the bush,” Kit laughed. “Come on, Rayne, it’s 2008 in New England. You’re allowed to speak about things like that. In case you didn’t know, even the Episcopalian bishop here is openly gay.”
“That’s true,” Rayne nodded. “You have a point.”
“So, your lesbian great-great-grandmother was so deep in the closet she was married with eight kids,” Kit summarized. “Did she ever find happiness?”
“As a matter of fact, she probably did,” Rayne answered. “Nana says she finally had the opportunity and courage to run off with the woman she had been in love with for all those years. They lived the rest of their lives together, pretending to be sisters, or so the story goes.”
“Nobody knows that for sure?” Kit frowned.
“No, Felicia and her lover basically disappeared off the face of the earth. But legend has it that she left letters to her children. The only problem is though that nobody has ever found them.” Rayne put her empty mug on the kitchen counter and shot Kit an amused look. “The fun part of the story is that when she disappeared, her husband lost a substantial amount of cash.”
“Ooh, I love that,” Kit grinned. “Do you think she cleaned him out?”
“She must have, if she was able to travel all the way up here from Texas and buy a house.”
“Did her husband ever go looking for her?”
“Not really,” Rayne answered with a sigh. “I have no idea why not. Maybe he didn’t want a scandal. According to Nana he did tell her grandmother at some point that he knew Felicia lived in the Northeast. When she asked why he had never bothered to get her back, he had answered that if she did not want to be married to him, then who was he to force her?”
Kit shot Rayne an inquisitive glance and set her empty mug next to the other woman’s on the counter top. Her movements were slow and deliberate and Rayne noticed a frown creasing the blonde’s forehead.
“You look puzzled,” she stated, when a pair of hazel eyes looked at her pensively.
“I am,” Kit smiled. “I’m wondering what you’re hoping to find downstairs.”
“Honestly? I’ve no idea,” Rayne responded in all honesty.”I’d love to find a treasure, because, deep down inside I’m a closeted adventurer who loves Indian Jones movies, but the realistic part of me knows that won’t happen. I’m intrigued by your little girl calling me Felicia, so I do believe there’s something in the basement that Tessa saw that is of Felicia. A picture, probably.”
“I’m as curious as you are,” Kit replied with a tight smile. “But as I so honestly have confessed already, I don’t like going down there.” The blonde rolled her eyes at herself and let out a soft chuckle. “Still, let’s head down, before I lose my nerve.”
“Point me in the right direction and I’ll lead the way,” Rayne offered, which earned her a smile from Kit. “Just don’t run off and shut the door on me,” she added jokingly.
“Don’t worry. I won’t. One ghost in the basement is more than enough,” Kit answered dryly.
“Who said anything about a ghost?” Rayne asked, her hand on the doorknob of the door to the basement. She looked over her shoulder, straight into the eyes of Kit, who was standing close behind her.
“Nobody,” the blonde answered. “Just my imagination. Sometimes it runs pretty wild.”
“Well, whatever you do, don’t scare me,” Rayne grimaced with a wink, before turning back and opening the door. The light from the kitchen illuminated the first few steps, but after that all Rayne could see was darkness. Her hand automatically sought the light switch. Kit, who witnessed Rayne’s hand blindly reaching around, let out a small chuckle, extended her hand and without a problem found the switch.
“Thanks,” Rayne muttered, feeling strangely comforted by the warm presence at her back. “It doesn’t make much of a difference, does it?” she remarked, seeing how the small light bulb that had just sprang to life failed to shed more light on the steps ahead of them.
“It’s a sad light, I know,” Kit answered. “But I was told it can only stand a low watt bulb. I don’t want to fry the electric wires and burn down the house.”
“No, that would be bad,” Rayne mumbled, descending with one hand firmly clutched around the railing. “But still, it doesn’t make much sense, the lack of light I mean,” she added. “You’d think it would be better than this.”
“Hey, I’m no electrician,” Kit answered feeling a tickle of nervous energy in the pit of her stomach. How long has it been she had been on any kind of adventure? Too long, she admitted in silence. And even though she was somewhat apprehensive about what they would find in the basement, part of her was excited.
“Goodness. This basement is huge,” Rayne exclaimed when they had arrived at the bottom of the stair. “It seems a lot bigger than the upstairs.”
“It probably is,” Kit answered, squinting her eyes in able to get a more clear view of what was lying ahead. The light that came in through the few windows was bright, but only able to illuminate small areas of the dark space, simply because there were a lot of corners and secluded little areas.
“Don’t tell me this basement used to be a torture room, or something,” Rayne muttered, which made Kit let out a nervous chuckle.
“I don’t think so. According to local history it used to be a store, so my guess is they had a lot of stuff down here.”
“What kind of store?” Rayne asked, curiously looking around.
“Torture devices,” Kit dead-panned, laughing when Rayne turned her head to shoot her a dark look.
“Fabric, yarn, leather and stuff like that,” Kit grinned. “Anything you could think of to clothe yourself and your family. I guess the dark basement helped to keep the colors nice and crisp,” she added, having never really thought about that before.
“My mother would have loved it,” Rayne mumbled.
“Does she make her own clothes?”
“She used to,” Rayne chuckled. “My parents used to be hippies, heck, they still are, although my dad shed the long hair and the car wheel sized peace sign around his neck, although he has it as a bumper sticker.”
“Cool,” Kit replied. “My parents are too conservative to have bumper stickers like that, although they have mellowed out a lot and are more broad minded these days.” Kit tapped Rayne on her shoulder. “Hey, your name, is that a remnant from the flower power era?”
“Oh, yeah,” Rayne grunted, but there was a smile in her voice. “Rayne Dew. It could have been worse though. My sister’s name is Summer Joy and my poor brother goes through life as Ryvre Zen, spelled r-y-v-r-e, not r-i-v-e-r.”
Kit laughed, which made Rayne smile.
“I like it,” the blonde admitted. “Rayne, Summer and Ryvre. It’s unusual, but it has a very nice ring to it.”
“Thank you,” Rayne grinned. “Of course, having grown up with names like that, we don’t know any better. I’m glad, though, my brother and sister have given their kids regular names, like Adam, Hannah, Robert, Julia and Rodney.”
While chatting, the two women arrived upon a corner, where the narrow hallway turned right. Rayne, who was still in the front rounded the corner, but after a few careful steps she stood still. Kit, who was still grinning about Rayne and her siblings’ names, walked straight into the other woman.
“Whoa,” she exclaimed with surprise. “What’s happening?”
“It’s dark here,” Rayne muttered. “I need a second to let my eyes get used to this. I guess all the windows are where we just left them. I really don’t understand how Tessa finds her way around down here.”
“That makes two of us,” Kit sighed. “She’s one gutsy kid. When I was her age I would have never done this. Especially not on my own.”
“I would have sent my brother in first,” Rayne admitted. “Why didn’t we bring a flashlight?”
“Because there’s no fun in that,” Kit immediately replied. Before Rayne could say anything else though, Kit noticed a soft, barely visible light at the end of the hallway. She knew there was a small room there, but had only been in it once, which was a very long time ago. The things that she had stored in the basement, were in one of the three little rooms that were on the right hand side, just behind the staircase. That way, if she needed one of the items, like a box with Christmas ornaments, she could just run down the stairs, grab what she needed and head back up again without having to venture out in the dark.
“What’s that?” she whispered, pointing over Rayne’s shoulder toward the faint shimmering.
“The sun shining through a little window?” the optometrist tried.
“Wrong side of the house and there is no window,” Kit replied softly.
“I was afraid you were going to say that,” was the whispered answer and Kit let out a nervous laugh.
“Have I told you I am really happy that you’re the one in the front?” she teased, gently poking Rayne between her shoulder blades.
“No, you haven’t, actually. But I did have that impression,” was the dry answer, before Rayne took a deep breath. “Alright, if we want to find out what that is, we need to keep walking. Are you ready?”
“Not really, but lead the way.”
“Just imagine, Kit, this adventure will be enough inspiration for you to do a whole new children’s book; ‘Halloween In The Basement’.”
“First I want to know what that light is,” Kit answered. “Otherwise the book might be too scary.”
The two women slowly walked toward the end of the hallway. Rayne was keeping her eyes on the shimmering light, but was still aware of a warm hand that had gripped her arm and felt like it was not going to let go any time soon. In spite of the nervous tickle in her stomach, the sensation of Kit’s warmth seeping through the cotton of her sleeves made her smile. It was a very reassuring feeling.
“Is it me, or is the light getting brighter?” Kit whispered while she was almost pressed against Rayne’s back.
“I’d love to say you might want to get your eyes checked,” Rayne joked. “But I have to admit it is, getting brighter that is. Do you believe in Tinkerbell?”
Kit let out a soft chuckle and the grip on Rayne’s arm intensified.
“Right now I’m ready to believe in anything,” Kit answered. “And meeting some cute Disney characters sounds a lot better than the alternative.”
“Which is?” Rayne inquired.
“Oh, gross,” Rayne responded with a shiver. “Did you have to remind me of that movie? Now I can see all Stephen King’s books and movies fly through my brain and I so not needed that. Can we go back to Disney?”
“I’d love to,” Kit whispered with a slight quiver in her voice. “Does it sound really wimpy if I said I wish Tessa was here?”
“I was just thinking that,” Rayne admitted. “We do know she comes here regularly, she doesn’t wake up in the middle of the night having nightmares....or does she?” Rayne asked, casting a glance over her shoulder. The steadily brighter shimmer of light cast interesting shadows across Kit’s face and suddenly Rayne wished she could turn around and study the blonde’s facial features more.
“Focus, Forrester,” she mentally scolded herself, not aware she had spoken the words aloud.
“Excuse me?” Kit asked, having heard the other woman mumble.
“Oh..um...nothing,” Rayne sighed, slowly turning back to face the light again.
“As far as I know, Tessa doesn’t have nightmares,” Kit said absentmindedly, busy trying to determine if the little flutter in her stomach had anything to do with the dark and spooky environment, or something else.
“Good, I guess we’ll survive then,” she heard Rayne mutter and again Kit let out a nervous chuckle.
“I really believe that....” Kit could not finish her sentence, because all of a sudden they were bathing in light. Both women jumped in surprise and unconsciously grabbed each other’s hand. Their hearts were slamming against their rib cage and both Kit and Rayne had to take a few deep breaths to try and calm themselves.
“What the...?” Rayne whispered, her eyes focused on the light in front of them. Her initial reaction had been to turn around and run for the stairs, but there was a strange, comforting feeling the light invoked in her. Like the shadow of a memory of which the images were vague, but the feeling was warm. Unconsciously, Rayne smiled. No wonder little Tessa was not afraid.
“Let’s keep going,” she encouraged, giving Kit’s hand a gentle squeeze.
It took them only a few steps to arrive at the entrance to the little room at the end of the hallway. The light was bright and surprisingly warm and illuminated the objects stored in the small space. Curiously, the women looked around.
“I’d forgotten about that desk,” Kit said, looking at the dust covered desk in one of the corners.
“It looks old,” Rayne remarked.
“Probably is,” Kit shrugged. “When I bought the house I toyed with the idea to have it hauled up and sell it, or something, but it was never a priority and I forgot about it. I guess it’s an antique.”
Rayne brushed away some of the dust covering the top of the desk, revealing a shiny, dark surface underneath. Immediately they could feel a breeze blowing through the room. It was soft and a little chilly, but strong enough to ruffle their hair.
“What was that?” Kit wondered, clenching Rayne’s hand a little tighter and stepping closer to the other woman.
“Just a breeze,” was Rayne’s calm answer.
“Just a breeze?” Kit repeated with a soft snort. “In case you haven’t noticed, there are no windows in here. Where did the breeze come from?”
“Good question,” Rayne replied in a soft voice. Her blue eyes searched the small room and widened when they fell on an object, tucked away in another corner, half hidden behind a cracked mirror.
“Maybe it comes from that thing,” she pointed with her free hand.
Kit looked into the direction and felt goose bumps rise when she noticed a small object that was softly glowing., almost pulsating with a warm, amber colored light.
“Holy cow,” Kit whispered. “Would you look at that.”
“I’ll do more than look at it, though,” Rayne stated, pulling Kit toward the corner. “I really need to know what that is.”
“As long as it’s not Pandora’s box,” Kit muttered and Rayne let out a soft laugh.
“You know, Kit. You really are a great co-adventurer,” she said. “This is all very strange and a little scary, but you’re great fun to be around with.”
“I’m even more fun over dinner,” Kit quipped.
Rayne stopped and half-turned, so she could look at the other woman’s eyes. They stared back at her with a mixture of amusement, shyness and sincerity.
“Is that an invitation?” Rayne dared, staring in a pair of hazel eyes that were showing a lot of green in the bright light.
“Would you like it to be that?”
“I would,” Rayne smiled.
“Then, yes, it is,” Kit replied with an answering smile. “Of course we’ll have to survive all of this first.”
“Of course,” Rayne repeated with a chuckle. “But I keep telling myself that Tessa has been here before us.”
“I know. My little heroine,” Kit said affectionately. “This light is really different, it’s like everything is a lot more clear.”
“I have noticed that,” Rayne answered. “It’s very strange.”
“It explains why Tessa takes her glasses off when she’s down here,” Kit suddenly realized. “I bet she doesn’t need them.”
“I bet you’re right.”
Rayne bent over to reach behind the mirror. A moment later she pulled out a small, wooden box, or, at least, that’s what it looked like to both women.
Reluctantly, Rayne slowly pulled her hand out of Kit’s warm grip and put the small box on the desk. It had stopped pulsating light, but there was still a faint glow emanating from its surface. Intrigued, both women bent forward, their heads close together.
“I’m gonna open it,” Rayne decided, her hands already resting on the box’ lid.
“It was nice knowing you,” Kit joked and Rayne shot her a grin, before slowly lifting the intricately carved lid. At first, it resisted, the tiny hinges stiff from dust and old age, but Rayne persisted, slowly but surely increasing the pull, until the lid relented and let itself be lifted. There was a whooshing sound and instinctively Rayne and Kit took a step back..
“Do you think Indiana Jones ever feels like his heart is going to beat its way through his chest?” Kit asked in a whisper.
“Only when someone is opening the Ark of the Covenant,” Rayne chuckled. “Look, Kit.”
Rayne pulled a small stack of envelopes out of the box. The paper was almost yellow because of old age and the stack was neatly tied together with a blue ribbon.
“Wow,” Kit whispered in awe. “Whom are they addressed to?”
The writing on the envelope that was on top was neat, but still not very easy to read and Rayne had to tilt the papers a little more to the light to get a better view.
“Emma Lynn Forrester,” she read, the surprise evident in her voice.
“That must be one of your relatives,” Kit said with barely contained enthusiasm.
“Felicia’s oldest daughter,” Rayne answered, untying the ribbon so she would be able to examine the rest of the stack. “Julia Ann Forrester, Matthew Philip Forrester,” she continued, going through the stack. “Timothy William Forrester. That was my great-great grand father,” she explained, before looking at the next envelope. “Abraham Joseph Forrester, Jacob Anthony Forrester, Pauline Ruth Forrester, Laura Beth Forrester.”
Kit knew, from what Rayne had told her that Felicia had eight children, but when she looked at the envelopes in Rayne’s hand, she could see there were still a few more.
“Rayne Dew Forrester,” Rayne read in a husky voice. Her fingers trembled and in pure reaction Kit grabbed the other woman’s arm.
“What?” she whispered, her eyes wide when she stared at the envelope in Rayne’s hand. “Is there...was there...?”
“No, not in our bloodline,” Rayne answered the unfinished question. “That letter is addressed to me.”
“Oh, my goodness,” Kit breathed. “Somebody around here has a warped sense of humor.” The blonde moistened her dry lips and swallowed hard. “Whom are they from? Please tell me they’re written by someone who didn’t die a century ago,” she added with a wry chuckle.
Rayne turned the envelope to be able to read the back and then it up for Kit to see.
“Felicia Ann Forrester - O’Connor,” Kit read, before exhaling. “Okay, Rayne, I need to know if you think what I think. Is this someone’s idea of a Halloween joke? Because if it is, I’ll have to admit it’s a good one.”
“I’d love to believe that,” Rayne replied with a sigh. “And I’m sure the letters could be fake, but I don’t know how to explain the light and the fact that Tessa called me Felicia.”
“I love a woman who’s realistic during times of stress,” Kit grumbled , making Rayne laugh. “Tessa and Felicia, I just...” Kit paused in mid-sentence and could only stare at the mirror in the corner. Her face was pale, which, all of a sudden, made her eyes seem very dark.
“Kit. What...?” Rayne started, then followed Kit’s look and froze.
“Rayne,” Kit whispered. “Why are you wearing old fashioned clothes?”
“I’m not,” Rayne answered, also whispering. “That’s not me.”
“Would it be okay for me to faint now?” Kit wondered aloud.
“If you don’t mind company on a dirty floor,” Rayne replied, still staring at the apparition in the cracked mirror.
“Is it....is she....waving at us?” Kit stammered.
“Wake me up when breakfast is ready,” Rayne muttered, stepping a little closer to the mirror, pulling Kit with her.
The ghostly figure in the mirror seemed to grow in size and both Kit and Rayne stared in fascination as the figure slowly, but surely, came loose from the surface and floated into the room.
“Rayne,” it sounded like a faraway echo.
“Yes?” Rayne breathed, blindly reaching out for Kit’s hand. The other woman happily let her own hand slide into Rayne’s warm grip.
“Tell Tessa I’m thankful.”
“For what?” Kit asked, having regained a little bit of composure now it was clear that she had not fainted and that the ghost she was staring at had not zapped her with electrifying bolts of protoplasm.
“For sending you,” the ghost smiled. She floated even closer and Kit was amazed at the resemblance with Rayne, who was standing close to her, feeling warm and very much alive. The ghost’s hair was long, but just as curly as Rayne’s and the facial features of the apparition and the woman who was holding her hand were eerily similar.
“The letters needed to be found,” the voice echoed off the walls, surrounding Kit and Rayne like a warm blanket. “It was time.”
“What is so important about them?” Rayne asked.
“The truth,” was the answer.
“So, just for....the record,” Kit started, after having cleared her throat. “Are you Felicia?”
“Yes,” was the simple answer and both Kit and Rayne nodded.
“And the truth...what truth? About the stories that you were....are....,” Rayne took a deep breath and shook her head, still amazed at the fact that she was talking to a ghost. “The truth about you being...that you ran away with a woman whom you had fallen in love with even before you married?”
“Well, that too,” Felicia shrugged. “Although he did know from the beginning.”
“Your husband did?” Kit asked with a frown.
“Yes, he did. He didn’t approve of it, of course, but he knew I only married him because I had no choice. I didn’t love him and he didn’t love me.”
“Still, you had eight children,” Rayne mumbled, almost inaudible, but Felicia had heard her.
“Only one of those eight children was borne from me.”
“What?” both Kit and Rayne exclaimed.
“Arthur had a mistress, who, conveniently lived in with us, which was fine with me, of course,” Felicia explained. “Seven of the eight children were hers, except Timothy, he was mine,” she added with a smile.
“Was he Arthur’s as well?” Rayne asked, feeling Kit squeeze her hand in anticipation of the answer.
“He was not,” Felicia spoke softly. “He was my companion’s brother’s son.”
“Wow,” Kit sighed. “I’m almost afraid to ask how that came about.”
“He was a friend of Arthur and when he found out his sister was my lover, he wanted to teach me a lesson,” Felicia replied in a calm voice. “It was humiliating and very painful, for me as well as for Elizabeth, but Timothy was the result and I loved him dearly. We both did,” she added with a smile.
“Then why did you leave him behind?” Rayne wanted to know.
“Who said I did?” Felicia countered.
“You mean, you didn’t?”
“He grew up in this town, raised by his mother and his Aunt, which was not a lie, since he resembled us both.”
Rayne rubbed her forehead, trying to process everything her ancestor had just told her. It was interesting, but also mind-boggling. She thought about how pleased and excited her grandmother would be after she’d find out. Rayne was sure Felicia’s story would fill a lot of gaps in her family history.
“And all this information is in the letters?” Kit asked, pointing at the envelopes Rayne was clutching in one of her hands.
“But most of the people they are addressed to are.... they’re not alive anymore,” Kit replied, wondering if Felicia would take offense if she would refer to her as being dead.
“It fills the holes in the history of some families,” Felicia explained. “Besides, it also shows who the rightful owners are of what I left behind.”
“You could have left whatever you had to Timothy and he could have passed it on to his children and grandchildren,” Rayne muttered, feeling the beginning of a headache.
“I haven’t told you yet why Arthur was happy to marry me, even though he didn’t love me and he knew I loathed him.”
“What is it he wanted?” Kit asked. “Money?”
“Oh, he wanted that and lots of it. He had become a very rich man.”
“Nana says that you relieved him of some of that,” Rayne said, staring at the ghostly figure in front of her. “Is that true?”
“It’s not something I’m very proud of, but yes, I did,” Felicia admitted. “We had to survive, the three of us and needed a place to live. With the money I was able to buy a house, this house, and send Timothy to a good school. What Arthur wanted is in the drawer of this chest,” Felicia pointed. “It belongs to you and your family now.”
“Why?” Rayne asked. “Why me? Us? I mean, you could have done this ages ago.”
“There were no Forresters in town,” Felicia explained. “I’m tied to this place. I can’t appear anywhere else in town.”
“So you used Tessa as a sort of a messenger?” Kit mused. “Very clever,” she continued when Felicia nodded. “I sure hope you didn’t scare the living daylights out of her.”
“Your Tessa is a special child,” Felicia smiled. “She wasn’t scared. Not even when I told her to step on her glasses.”
“You told her to do that?” Kit stepped a little closer, not sure whether she should be amused or annoyed.
“She didn’t do it, though,” Felicia continued. “I had to bring her off balance, so it was an accident.”
“I’ll be darned,” Kit sighed. “I have a devious ghost in the basement.”
She could hear Rayne chuckle and sent the other woman a sideway glance.
“Yes, you laugh, it keeps you in business,” Kit accused, but there was a twinkle in her eyes.
“The drawer,” Felicia repeated, floating closer to the cracked mirror. “Check the drawer.”
“Alright, I will,” Rayne said. “I still have a few more....”
“Everything is in the letters,” Felicia interrupted calmly, her apparition getting smaller.
“Goodbye, Rayne Dew Forrester and Katherine May Pullman. Be happy.” The words sounded like an echo, vibrating in the air, until they disappeared, just like the image of Felicia. Only the light remained.
There was a brief silence in which both women tried to regain their composure and come up with something that would express what they were feeling.
“This is by far the most outrageous experience I’ve ever had,” Kit was the first one to speak. “It beats having a roommate in college who briefly thought she was the reincarnation of Joan of Arc.”
Rayne’s eyebrows shot into her hairline when she looked at Kit.
“Joan of Arc?” there was amusement in her voice. “What happened?”
“She talked with a French accent for a while and was put on meds,” Kit explained. “She did better after that.” The blonde squeezed Rayne’s hand. “Okay, do you want to find out what’s in that drawer? Judging by the size of the desk, it can’t be a chest full of gold and jewels.”
“Not really,” Rayne agreed. “I guess there’s only one way to find out.” She reluctantly let go of Kit’s hand and stepped closer to the desk. The first drawer she opened held nothing, neither did the second and the third. When she touched the fourth one though, she felt a warm sensation travel through her hand, all the way up her arm and with a swift motion she pulled open the drawer. Without looking, she knew Kit was peering over her shoulder. She could feel the woman’s warmth and, again, she reveled in the comfort it brought her.
Inside the drawer were some old newspaper clippings and a small stack of official looking papers. They were neatly written and had official looking stamps and seals.
“What are they?” Kit wondered aloud, when Rayne carefully lifted the papers out its confinement, afraid they would turn to dust the moment she would touch them.
“They look like....deeds,” Rayne answered, her voice filled with wonder. “To some sort of mine in...” she squinted and held the paper a little closer. “A mine in California?” she continued. “And one in Alaska.”
She turned to Kit and when she saw the perplexed expression on the other woman’s face she started laughing.
“This is funny. I bet back then, Arthur would have loved these things. I bet everybody was looking for gold then.” Rayne grinned. “This is great. Wait until Nana sees these. Oh, man, she’d be so happy. This and all the letters. Maybe it’s enough for her to finally start writing a book about our family history.”
“Do you think there is still gold in those mines?” Kit wondered.
“I doubt it,” Rayne answered with a chuckle. “I’m pretty sure they’re mined, deed or not. But it’s fun to think our family owns a mine somewhere. If it’s still valid, of course. It would make an awesome story.”
“Does that mean we can go back up now and have another cup of tea?” Kit wanted to know.
“Absolutely,” Rayne nodded. “I’d love to sit down and have something to drink.”
“Great. Let’s go then,” Kit encouraged, already turning around and starting to head for the doorway of the little room. Halfway there she stopped, making Rayne walking into her. With a pensive expression she stared back at he mirror.
“What is it?”
“I...I’m just wondering, how...never mind, some things are probably better left unexplained.” She patted Rayne’s hand that was holding the letters and paperwork.
“Happy Halloween,” she smiled.
“And to you, also,” Rayne replied.
“It sure is,” Kit nodded. “I’ve found an answer to the mystery of the broken glasses. That alone was worth the trip down. Poor Tessa, she was conned into smashing them, but refused. Even a ghost can’t make her do something she thinks is wrong. That’s my girl!”
With a smile she turned again, but this time a hand on her arm stopped her.
“Um...Kit. That remark about dinner...were you serious about that?”
Kit looked up into a pair of blue eyes that tried not to plead with her, but failed miserably and she smiled.
“Yes, I was serious,” she nodded.
“When?” Rayne immediately asked.
“Whenever I can find a babysitter,” Kit replied with a twinkle in her eyes. Rayne’s eagerness was very endearing and also caused interesting flutters in her stomach.
Kit laughed and shook her head at Rayne’s impatience.
“Why the rush?” she wanted to know.
The light they were still bathing in emphasized the touch of red in Rayne’s hair and showed the, sudden intense blue of her eyes.
“Because I don’t want to kiss you before our first date,” was the stunning answer.
For a moment all Kit could do was stare, but then the true meaning of Rayne’s words sank in completely and a small smile tugged at the corner of her mouth.
“We had tea together,” she breathed. “Doesn’t that count?”
“Let me think about that,” Rayne answered in a barely audible voice.
With a smile, Kit turned around, this time determined to leave the small room in which the light had slowly begun to fade. But again, a hand on her arm stopped and slowly turned her around.
“I thought about it,” she heard Rayne’s voice say.
Before Kit could respond, two things happened; the light disappeared fast, leaving them in the darkness, but she hardly noticed that, because a pair of warm, soft lips had descended on her own, preventing her from uttering another word. Not that she wanted to.
For a moment, a very soft laugh, almost sounding like a ghostly echo, filled the small room in the basement....
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