It was dark by the time she disembarked from the train. She stretched the kinks out of her shoulders as she gathered up her bags and began the long walk to her old home. It may have been ten years but it felt just like yesterday that she had walked these very streets of Mineral Creek.
When she turned down the street to her old home, a feeling of homecoming settled over her. Just ahead, the only dark house on the street, was her home. She knew there would be a lot of work cleaning ten years worth of neglect away but she was ready for the task.
The front door had swollen with age and disuse so she had to struggle to get inside, but once inside the memories swarmed her once more. Everything was how they had left it. All the furniture was there but age and dust had dimmed their color. Her parents hadn’t even taken the time to cover the furnishings to save them from age. Again she wondered why they had left so suddenly.
She found a lantern and quickly lit it to chase the darkness from the room. It was late September and there was already a chillness in the air so she set about making a fire in the fireplace. Smoke filled the room at first but it soon cleared out and she had a nice, cozy fire going and the room began to warm up. Once the room glowed from the warmth of the fire, Ella could get a better look at the room. Layers of dust covered every inch.
She was sure every room was in a similar condition but she needed a place to sleep for the night. Sighing deeply, she rolled up her sleeves and began cleaning the sitting room. She would sleep in there tonight and worry about the rest of the house tomorrow.
Hours later the room was as clean as her mama had kept it. Unfortunately, she couldn’t say the same for herself. Dust and grime covered her from head to foot but she was too exhausted to care. With a weary sigh she added more wood to the fireplace then laid down on the settee and quickly fell asleep.
“Who do you think she is?”
“From the looks of her, she must be a hobo.”
“Women can’t be hobos stupid, only men can.”
Ella pulled herself from a dreamless sleep at the sound of the young voices. “I assume a woman can be a hobo just as easily as a man can be,” she said, sitting up to look at the two children staring at her. “May I ask who I have the pleasure of receiving?”
“I’m Abigail and this is my brother Ronnie,” the little girl with bright red curls said.
“So are you a hobo then?” Ronnie asked, his eyes were round with fascination at the thought of a woman hobo.
“Ronnie that’s rude!”
Ella laughed, “No that’s quite alright. I’m sure in my present state, I do resemble a hobo. My name is Ella Mattox and this is my home.”
“But no one has lived here in all the years I’ve been alive so how can it be your house? We’ve never seen you before?” Abigail questioned.
“I lived here when I was a young girl but we moved away to Tulsa. Now I’m back because I missed my home in Mineral Creek.”
“And you’re going to live in this scary house all by yourself? I heard that it’s haunted but I wouldn’t be scared to live here cause I’m a brave boy. Being scared is only for sissy little girls,” Ronnie said and Abigail stuck her tongue out at him.
“You have strange ideas for such a bright young man, Ronnie, and as for this house being haunted that is utter nonsense.”
“But Mama says it is,” Abigail said. “She said it’s haunted by the girl that used to live here that died a horrible and tragic death,” she turned wide eyes towards Ella. “Does this mean that you are the ghost girl then? You said you used to live here long time ago. That would mean that you are the ghost.”
Ella was thunderstruck! People believed Anna haunted this house? What utter nonsense and to be telling their children these horrible stories! It was deplorable and not the way she wanted her sister to be remembered.
“Of course I am not a ghost you silly gooses,” she said, when she finally found her voice. She held out her hands, “See, if I was a ghost would you be able to touch my hand?” Both children crept forward and gingerly touched her hands. When they felt the warmth of her hands instead of the cold hands of a ghost they both breathed a sigh of relief.
“Then who is the ghost Mama is talking about?”
“My sister died ten years ago but I can assure you she is not a ghost and what is this horrible, tragic death your Mama talks about? Anna died from pneumonia and nothing more tragic than that.”
“Mama says that was a cover up from the doctor. She said he done something really bad and didn’t want to get in trouble for it so he lied.”
“Abigail! Mama says that was something we’re not supposed to talk about. We could get into lots of trouble if anyone found out we said anything.”
Abigail nodded wisely. “You’re right, Ronnie. We gotta go now anyway or else Mama will start to worry. You see, we’re not supposed to come in here but we sneak in here all the time to play. I guess since you live here now we can’t sneak in anymore though.”
“You can come visit me any time you like and bring your mother over as well. I need to get to know my neighbors.” Ella said goodbye to her new little friends then sat down to ponder over what Abigail had said.
Could Anna not have died of natural causes? Is that why her family was in a hurry to move? Could she be in danger by moving back to Mineral Creek? She had to find some answers.
She quickly washed up and changed her clothes. As much as she wanted to find answers about her sister’s death she had some business to take care of first. She made her way to the bank and was soon sitting in Mr. Peabody’s office.
“Miss Mattox, it is a pleasure to welcome you back to Mineral Creek. How many years has it been since your family lived here?”
“We moved away ten years ago, Mr. Peabody. We left right after the death of my older sister.”
“Ahem…ah yes, now I remember,” he said, rather uncomfortably.
“Do you remember the circumstances about my sister’s death? I was just a child when it happened and really don’t remember much about it.”
“I believe she succumbed to an illness but it has been so many years and my memory is not what it used to be.”
Ella noticed that Mr. Peabody wouldn’t meet her eyes when he talked and wondered what he could be hiding. There was no point questioning him further though because he wouldn’t tell her anything if the way he was acting was any indication.
“I understand, Mr. Peabody, one’s memories do begin to fade in time. Now to get down to the reason I am here. Here are the papers that the lawyer in Tulsa gave to me. The deed to the house here in Mineral Creek as well as paperwork showing that I inherited a meager amount of funds that are being kept in your bank. What I would like to do is open an account in my name and transfer the funds so that I may have easy access to them.”
Mr. Peabody read through the papers and finally agreed that all was in order. He pulled some papers from his desk drawer and they filled out the forms transferring the funds into her new account. She could tell that he wasn’t pleased to be giving her the account but she couldn’t understand why. Many women had their own funds nowadays. It was the twentieth century after all. With all the paperwork finalized and a little pocket money for her to spend on food and supplies for the house she quickly left the bank. She was so absorbed in her thoughts though, that she didn’t see the man walking down the sidewalk and ran right into him.
“Oh! I’m so sorry! I’m afraid I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. Are you okay?”
The gentleman laughed, “I am fine but are you hurt? You ran into me pretty hard.”
Ella took a good look at the man. He had to be well over six foot tall and quite handsome as well. Of course she would run into a man like him! “I’m ok, just dreadfully embarrassed. My first day back in Mineral Creek and I’m making a dreadful name for myself.”
“Well, as I don’t know your name I assume it is safe from the gossips.”
“Oh dear, my manners are lacking as well. My name is Ella Mattox. I used to live in Mineral Creek ten years ago but just moved back last night.”
“It’s nice to meet you Miss Mattox. I’m Johnny Moore and I have only lived in Mineral Creek a couple of years myself. If you need anything you can find me at the local district attorney’s office.”
“Thank you, Mr. Moore, I will keep that in mind.”
He tipped his hat to her and strolled on down the street. “Stupid, stupid Ella,” she chided herself as she made her way home. “Of all the people you had to run into, it had to be one of the most attractive men you’ve ever laid eyes on. Stupid!”
When she returned home, she made her way through the rooms to reacquaint herself with the layout. When she reached the room she had shared with Anna tears filled her eyes. Everything was just as they had left it. Her teddy bear, Roscoe, was still sitting on her bed. She had cried herself to sleep many nights wanting her dearest Roscoe.
She glanced at the desk and saw that Anna’s journal still sat where she always left it. She hadn’t went a day without writing something in her book, right up until the last day she was here. Suddenly Ella knew! If she was going to find out what happened to her sister, she had to read her journal. It was the only way.
Surely her sister wouldn’t mind her reading her deepest, darkest secrets. Especially if it would help to put her memory to rest. Carefully, she picked up the book and dusted the years off of it. She opened it to the first page and began to read:
Today Elsie told me the most wonderful news. At least, I suppose it is wonderful but for some unexplained reasons I have my doubts. She says that she has started seeing the new school teacher in town, a Mr. Mathew Rogers.
He’s a bit older and has just moved here from Guthrie. I have only met him once and he seemed nice enough but there was something in his eyes that troubles me. After all, he comes from a large city and Elsie is just a small town girl. I hope he doesn’t take advantage of her.
Perhaps I will work up the courage to talk to her about my misgivings. I don’t want to hurt her but I also don’t want to see her hurt.
After all, she is my best friend and I don’t know what I would do if I just sat back and let something bad happen to her. Until tomorrow, my dear journal.