The dinner party was in full swing. The table was set for four in my best china. The pork roast was glistening on the platter covered in some sort of red rhubarb sauce. Just because the sauce came from a jar, doesn't mean it wasn't homemade. It just wasn't made in my home. It's a tiny little secret, I'd like it to stay that way if you don't mind. Fabulous Andrea Bocelli music filled the air with glorious sound. Candles were lit and the chandelier was, as all my chandeliers are, quite incredible. Beyond the beyond - so very tres chic. Conversation flowed easily between us and we had that easy, familiar laughter of four friends, two couples. It was my first dinner party in my newly rented home. It was also the first time I had cooked for my date AND my friends. Holy crap! Talk about some pressure. It was all I could do just to come up with a menu, take my list to the market and then just how many pork roasts do you need to feed four people? I bought four big ones, just in case.
I'm not one of those cooks who makes everything look effortless. I'm a nervous OCD humming wreck trying to time everything so it's all ready at the same time, or at least within the same hour. Good Lord. I'm just not all that comfortable in the kitchen. It's like a foreign land and I don't speak the language. When my son was younger he came running through the house one day, saw me in the kitchen, and screamed out in terror "mom, mom, come quick there's a stranger in the kitchen." Smart ass. His other favorite thing to do if I was whipping up a little something in the kitchen was to ask if I was making a science project. So, its fairly safe for me to say I'm not The Barefoot Contessa or that perky little Rachel Ray, but I really can make that microwave purr.
Anyway, back to the party.... Mid-way through dinner my handsome date, who I'm trying way too hard to impress, looks out the living room window and says "There's a lady at your back door. She's can't get the door open." I wasn't expecting any more guests. I got up and walked to the door thinking "who could this possibly be?" When I opened the door, there was no one there. She had just vanished. I went out into the yard thinking perhaps she had gone up the sidewalk. But, no, she had disappeared into the night. Odd to say the least. Oh well, I had more pressing issues to deal with. Dinner and dessert. Not to mention that nagging little question at the back of my mind, "is he going to kiss me goodnight?" And if I have to say so myself, and I do, it turned out beautifully. The dinner, I mean. The kiss was quite delicious, too, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The dinner was an orchestrated masterpiece of epicurean proportions. At least that's what my wine-muddled mind told me.
A few days later my new next door neighbors met me at the communal mailbox and welcomed me to the neighborhood. They mentioned that they had frequently noticed me sitting out in my backyard late at night star-gazing. What? I had no idea what they were talking about. I thought, "oh great, more crack-smoking, looney tunes neighbors." They looked normal enough, but you just never know with people. I just smiled, shook my head yes, and acted like I knew what they were talking about, walked back into the house and promptly forgot all about them.
It took a little while, a few weeks maybe. My first real clue that there might be something amiss came when I was sitting in my living room. The wrought iron book shelf that holds a magazine-worthy display of antiques, books and tsotchkes gave away a secret. Three books on the bottom shelf just fell to the floor. There they were, Conversations With God (somewhat of a slow laborious read, in other words boring), The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, and my favorite, Dog Love. I thought "oh, maybe there was a little tiny trembler of an earthquake." I picked up the books and put them back. A few hours later I was making that microwave sing a familiar but happy song nuking up a frozen cheese pizza. There it was, a thudding sound. Something had fallen. I went into the living room to investigate. The same three books were on the floor. I'm absolutely positive there was no earthquake tremor. Maybe there's a message here. Maybe God really does want me to have a conversation with Him. I made a solemn promise to myself to give that Conversations With God book a thorough reading. I put the books back again and took my melty hot pizza into bed with me, chomping away to a somewhat disturbing plot of Law and Order. As it so often happens, I fell asleep with the TV on. Somewhere in the dead of night, I'm thinking it was exactly 3:33 a.m., I woke up from the sound of the TV. I'd fallen asleep with all the lights on too. Forcing myself to leave the cozy warmth of the down comforter and flannel sheets, I got up to turn off the lights. Oh My God - there they were again! I'm living in the god damned twilight zone! The same fricking three books are laying in the exact same fricking place on the fricking floor! Totally freaked out, I picked up the books and put two of them back on the shelf. I took the Conversations With God book with me back to bed. I'm a little slow sometimes, but I eventually get the message. I'm pleased to say there have been no further falling book issues.
Something new is happening though. Now my lights, lamps and chandeliers are coming on in the middle of the night. All by themselves. The first time it happened, I awoke to find the kitchen light blazing away. I explained it away to myself, maybe there's a short in the electrical system. I've been blaming the electrical system for so many oddities. There's a light in the family room that's on a dimmer. I turn the knob to dim the light and turn it further to shut off the light. Sometimes I can turn it 20 times in a full rotation and the damn light just won't dim or go off. Then other times, it'll come on all by itself. All by its fricking self. Just two nights away I woke up, I would swear, again, it was 3:33 a.m. and the chandelier in the dining room was giving an impressive show of glorious light. It doesn't feel quite so glorious though when I know without a shadow of a doubt that the chandelier was off when I went to bed. My skin is definitely starting to tingle and the hairs on the back of my neck are straining to stand. It wouldn't surprise me at all to hear the soundtrack to a Stephen King thriller or one of those god-awful Chuckie movies.
So, there they are at the mailbox again, my crack-smoking, looney tunes neighbors. I rush to the mailbox like I'm expecting Ed McMahon's Publisher's Clearing House check to be waiting for me. Breathlessly, I ask the neighbors if they've seen me star-gazing lately? Now they are looking at me like I'm the crack-smoking looney tune. So, I start to explain a little bit about what's going on in the house. Well, of course, now they tell me that the lady who lived in the house before me actually died in the house. They think it was a heart attack, but they're not sure. They think she died on the dining room floor, but they're not sure. They think she was in there, lying dead on the floor, for a long time, but they're not sure. What the hell are these people sure of? Couldn't anyone have mentioned this to me before? Her name was Sue. Everyone in the neighborhood loved her. Sue had a big personality and was full of practical jokes and laughter. Who's the joke on now?
Later that day, I had a little chat with Sue. I wandered around the house by myself, talking out loud to Sue. I told her that I loved her home and that I hoped she was happy with my decorating. I asked her if she liked the way the living room had turned out as I was particularly proud of how the twin french sofas looked angled toward the fireplace as a focal point. I asked her if she'd put in a good word with the feng shui folks since there was a huge mirror facing the door and windows. A feng shui no-no for sure. I'm pretty sure Sue knew what I was talking about though as the room was small and space was at a premium. I I told her I'd take care of her house for her. I told her that I felt safe, comfortable and very much at home - in her home. I asked her not to harm me in any way. I think Sue enjoyed our little chat.
She still loves her practical jokes though. Shortly after my little chat with Sue, a week or two later, we had a "tiny" house fire, electrical in nature, of course, which involved a full on 911 call and the quick arrival of three hook and ladder fire trucks complete with a boatload of handsome firemen. Watching those fireman storm into my house was like watching the best parade I've ever seen. Each and every one of them took my breath away. I fantasized about needing CPR. And there I was salivating away with absolutely no make-up on and wearing baggy ass sweat pants. This should be a lesson to every woman - don't ever wear baggy ass sweat pants. It's just not a good look. What the heck, Sue, give me a little time to glam it up a bit before the firemen come next time. At least give me time to put on a push-up bra. I'm a single woman for God's sake. That Sue, she's quite the little prankster. Her new favorite thing to do is wake me up at o'dark thirty by picking out few tunes to play on my iPod. It just comes on willy nilly at 3:33 or so and belts out an old favorite. I barely register it, reach over and turn it off only to have the monitor screen from the computer come glaring on. She is persistent. We have a good understanding now. I only say wonderful, incredibly nice things about her - at least when I'm in her house.