A/n: All right. So...here's a new story, and a ghost story at that! Mind you, it's going to be a mini ghost story, with only five (maybe six) parts. And I don't know when I'll have the next chapter out, so if you like it, you should definitely put it on alert. Kay? Yeah? Lovely.
The Covington House
If I had to pick three words to describe my best friend, they would be Rational, Determined, and Egghead. And I say this with the upmost love and respect, I really do. But, honestly. She is probably the most insufferable know-it-all I have ever met in my life.
Of course, I would never tell Gwen that to her face for fear of what she would do to me afterwards. You know…what with the vengeful bitch that she is.
But however true that may be, Gwen and I still fit together well. (Not like that, perv. As friends. Jesus Christ…) Her passion for schoolwork and books and success nicely balances out my lack of passion for everything except designing. Houses, mind you. Not clothes. Gay though I am, I'm not that gay. No offense to the people who are, though. Or the metrosexual fashion designers. It's just…um…
Gwen also puts her foot in her mouth less often than I do, which is why I usually just keep my mouth shut and let her do all the talking.
Though, that's not necessarily always a good thing, since Gwen can't ignore people. It's the one thing I'm better at than her (you know…besides drawing houses), but I wish I wasn't. I seriously wish that this was another thing she was better than me at, because, well…
It would make my life a whole lot easier if she was.
See, Gwen is one of those people who like doing homework and studying. But because she can't ignore anyone to save her life, it becomes a very large problem when we go to the library for a study hall and the kids sitting at the table next to us are talking just a little bit too loud. It makes her unable to concentrate on her work, and when she's unable to concentrate, she gets pissed. And when Gwen gets pissed, she likes to start arguments, which usually end with her tearing the person apart verbally.
She's very good at it, too, though I hate to admit it. I think it's all the reading she's done; it's taught her how to be extremely scathing with words.
But, in the past several years that I've known her and been her friend, I've taken it upon myself to make sure she doesn't get that far. There's already enough people who don't really like her and think she's a bitch.
Which she is, but, you know…that's beside the point.
"Gwen, just ignore them," I tell her. I know it's pretty much a useless thing to say, since she honestly can't, but I have to at least try. I always do. It never works, but I'm hoping someday my wasted efforts will eventually pay off.
Though, that day is definitely not today if the way she glaring at the group next to us out of the corner of her eyes is anything to go by. I stifle a disappointed sigh.
"I can't!" Gwen grinds out between her teeth. Her fist clenches tightly around her pen as one of the girls at the nearby table lets out a laugh.
"Well, then get your iPod and listen to that instead," I say. "I don't understand why you didn't do that when we first sat down like you normally do." I neglect to mention that I also don't understand how having music blaring in your ears is any different than having people talking next to you.
"Because I forgot it at home," she growls, still glaring at the group, and I have to hold back another sigh and resist covering my face with my hands.
"All right," I say when I've recovered. "All right, then how about we just go somewhere else?"
Gwen snaps her gaze back to me, her light green eyes glowering. "No," she says stubbornly. "We were here first."
I stare at her with a flat, unimpressed look. "Gwen, now you're just being immature."
"I don't care!" she hissed. "I—"
The kids at the table start laughing again. Scowling, Gwen huffs and throws her pen down on her notebook.
"That's it!" she exclaims. And then she crosses her arms over her chest and turns herself slightly towards the other table, now openly glaring at the other kids. Resigned to the inevitable, I shake my head and let out the sigh I've been holding in.
There's nothing I can do to stop her if she starts. She's in one of her moods today.
God, I hate PMS.
"Oh. That new ghost movie came out today," says a guy at the table. I don't know his name. I don't know any of the juniors' names, except maybe a few. Hell, I don't even know all of my classmates' names, and I've been around them for four years. "We should go see it."
"Yeah! We should!" this one girl says excitedly. Her name's Kelly Grouden. I know that because she's a slut, and when you're a slut, everyone knows your name.
"I'm in," another guy grunts.
"Me too," this brunette chick pipes up. "I heard it was totally, like, based on a true story."
And that's when Gwen decides to jump into the conversation by snorting loudly and rudely. I knew it was only a matter of time before she would. In fact, I'm honestly surprised it took her this long. Sighing again, I lean back in my chair. Might as well get comfortable and enjoy the show.
You know… Until I have to drag her out of the library before she can cause someone to need psychological therapy.
"You don't honestly believe that, do you?" she asks when she has all the juniors' attentions. "I mean, that's just a marketing ploy. It isn't really based on actual events."
"And how do you know?" Kelly Grouden asks, her voice full of attitude. I shake my head at her stupidity.
Bad move, Kelly. Bad. Move. If there's one way to piss off Gwen quicker and even more than normal, it is to give her attitude. And the person who does it is pretty much doomed to Gwen's wrath.
I glance at Gwen, and, sure enough, I see her staring at Kelly with her eyes narrowed and that barely noticeable, derisive smirk she gets when she's coming up with the words to cut someone down. And if Kelly had any ounce of intelligence, she'd be apologizing to Gwen and then getting the hell away from her right now. But seeing as the only knowledge in that tiny little brain of hers is how to go down on someone, Kelly just glares back at Gwen with a nasty look on her overly make-upped and fake-tanned face.
"I know," Gwen says mock-conversationally, "because ghosts aren't real."
"You don't know that," says a familiar cheerful voice from behind me. When I hear it, it literally takes all my self-control not to groan and put my head in my hands.
The voice belongs to Evan Miller, the King of Social Hierarchy here at our school. He's your typical Golden Boy: extremely good-looking, MVP of almost every sports team he's on, and intelligent. In fact, he's the only one in our class who is as smart as Gwen.
And Gwen absolutely loathes him. Not only because he's her rival for valedictorian, but also because, in freshman year, he beat her by one point on a test. It's now senior year, and Gwen has yet to let it go. She still rants about it to me at least once a week.
So, keeping all that in mind, I know Evan showing up right now and telling Gwen she doesn't know something is not going to improve her mood. At all. If anything, it's going to make it worse. And I can clearly see that in the way she glares at Evan as he sits down at the right end of our table, grinning at her. It's a mystery to me as to why Evan still acts friendly towards her when she's made it quite obvious over the past four years that she hates him. I shake my head a bit, uncomprehendingly.
And then I notice someone else has sat down at the other end of our table. I look over at him, and he smiles at me when our eyes meet.
"Hi, Reese," Sam says.
"Hi…" I say uncertainly back, and Sam's smile brightens. Confused, I frown and turn away from him, shifting awkwardly in my seat.
Sam is Evan's best friend, and like I'm sure you can guess, he's into sports too. But that's really all I know about him. Sam doesn't really talk to other people much, and, to be completely honest, he kind of gives off that big, dumb jock vibe.
Though, for some reason, whenever he sees me, he always smiles and says hi. I have no idea what that means and, truthfully, it makes me highly uncomfortable. I'm awkward around people in general, but there's something about Sam that makes me especially so. It's weird.
"I do know that," says Gwen hotly, bringing me out of my thoughts. I look at her to see that she's completely forgotten about Kelly, and is now concentrating all her anger on Evan. Her glare is murderous.
However, along with being the only one in school who's brains match up with Gwen's, Evan also happens to be the only one that is completely immune to her glares, glowers, scathing words, and can argue just as well as she can.
This is also a reason why Gwen hates him.
"How?" Evan asks teasingly. I honestly think he likes winding her up just as much as Gwen loves tearing people down. Which is a lot, let me tell you.
"Well," Gwen begins, sitting up straighter and arrogantly tossing her long auburn hair over her shoulder, "it's just not logical. And I've never seen any proof of ghosts being real, so how can you expect me to believe a bunch of hearsay?"
"Technically, the same thing can be said about a lot of history," Evan tells her. "It's just a bunch of people having heard a story and then passing it on. Who's to say it's actually true? You have no real 'proof' in front of you." He flashes Gwen a grin. "And yet, you still believe it."
Gwen flushes angrily, and her fists clench on the table. "That's completely different and you know it!" she snaps. "Even if it's not in front of me, there is still evidence somewhere that says something in history did, in fact, happen. But where is there authentic, undeniably true evidence that ghosts exist? Nowhere."
"Then what do you call all those people who claim to have had a paranormal experience?" countered Evan.
"Liars and idiots," Gwen says easily, and at once.
Evan cocks an eyebrow at her. "So, you don't believe any of the stories about the Covington house on Second Ave?" he asks her, and I have to close my eyes for a brief second in exasperation. I really wish he would stop antagonizing her, because this is all I'm going to hear about from her later on. And you have no idea how boring that gets, or how fast.
Sighing, I open my eyes again. In my peripheral vision, I see that Sam looks as fed up at these two as I feel. And even though he unnerves me slightly, I'm glad someone is on my side.
"Nope," Gwen answers haughtily.
"Well, then," begins Evan, grinning again, which is the first tip off I get that something unpleasant is about to happen, "you wouldn't be scared to stay a whole night there, would you?"
"Of course not," Gwen says. A smirk then forms on her lips, and that's the second thing that tips me off that I'm really not going to like where this conversation is going. "Because ghosts. Aren't. Real."
"I bet you won't be saying that afterwards," Even says. "In fact, I bet you won't even be able to make it through the night."
"I bet you I can and will," Gwen retorts.
Even grins at her. "All right. You're on," he says. "Tonight. Twenty bucks to you if you make it through the night, but twenty bucks to me if you believe in ghosts tomorrow morning."
He then holds out his hand for her to shake, and before I even get a chance to open my mouth to protest, Gwen smirks and takes his hand, saying, "Deal."
I blink at her for a moment, unable to believe her or Evan's nerve, then look up at the ceiling and stare imploringly up at it, wishing it could share my vexation.
Gwen's going to drag me along with her. I just know she will. And from the way Sam is staring at Evan with a wide-eyed and anxious expression, I'm bettering Evan's probably going to do the same to him. But—you know what?—that's great. Real freakin' peachy. This is exactly how I pictured spending my Friday night: in a supposedly haunted house with my bitchy best friend, her proclaimed rival whom she'll be arguing with the entire night, and his best friend whom makes me extremely uncomfortable. I am so frickin' excited.
Shaking my head, I cover my face with my hands, resigned to my fate.
"Why are we here an hour early?"
Gwen suddenly spins around, whipping me in the face with her hair and stopping so abruptly that I nearly walk into her. I give her an unimpressed look, but it doesn't do any good. She just gives me a mild, yet serious, glare back. I sigh, yielding to her superior facial expressions.
"Because, Reese," Gwen says, in a slightly exasperated tone, "I'm going to need some sort of entertainment if I'm going to spend the entire night here. So…if Evan wants ghosts, I'll give him ghosts." She flashes an impish grin at me, and then starts walking across the lawn again. With a sigh, I follow her up towards the back porch.
All ghost stories aside, the Covington house is very impressive on its own. Maybe it's just me and my love of architecture, but I think it's beautiful. Victorian-styled houses have always been a favorite of mine, and I tend to incorporate a lot of their aspects into my designs. You know: How dimensional they are; the large windows and porches; the circular towers with the spires. Oh, it's wonderful. And the Covington house is in rather good shape for having been abandoned for the past ten years.
All right. Technically it's not abandoned. Some guy owns it, and though he doesn't live here, he's kept up the maintenance, which I guess is the reason why it's still in such good shape.
But mentioning the owner now brings up two things I think both Gwen and Evan forgot to thoroughly consider when coming up with this stupid bet.
Number one: we are totally trespassing by being here, and;
Number two: the reason why this house is owned, but not lived in.
I don't necessarily believe or disbelieve the story of the house (same goes for ghosts in general), but obviously the stories are important or else this stupid bet wouldn't have happened.
Oh. And right now I would at home, sketching, instead of frickin' being here.
But, um… Anyway…
Everyone in town knows the story, even those who don't believe it (like Gwen). And according to it, in the 1940s, a family who lived there—the Covington's—all died of carbon monoxide poisoning. It's said that one of the family members (or more) now haunts the place, trying to keep people out of the house.
I suppose there might be some validity to the story in that aspect, because anyone who lived in the house after the Covington's didn't stay there for very long before eventually moving. Strange things kept happening to them, apparently. I don't know if it was actually ghosts, but the last family who lived there claimed their six year old son got pushed down the stairs by one, and they sold the house and the property shortly after that to some rich guy. Now he's doing whatever reason rich people do with weird things they don't really need. Maybe it's got something to do with taxes—I don't know…
Just like I don't know whether or not to believe the stories. Or in ghosts. I suppose I'll know after tonight, eh?
I glance around as I climb up the back porch steps after Gwen. Trees and underbrush separate the yard from the neighbors on either side of us, and directly behind the house is literally woods. I guess that's good to keep people from knowing we're here, that way the neighbors won't call the cops on us. As much as I don't want to be here, I would hate spending the night in the town police station even more.
Hearing Gwen rattle the doorknob, I look back over to her just as she turns to me with an expectant expression.
"It's locked," she says.
"Well now, who would've guessed?" I ask sarcastically, feigning surprise. "You know, with this being private property and all."
Gwen narrows her eyes at me dangerously, and I give in with a sigh.
"All right, all right. Do you have a bobby pin? I can't pick the stupid lock with my fingernail."
Gwen grins brightly at me and hands me a bobby pin. I roll my eyes and shake my head slightly at her, but kneel down in front of the lock regardless of my exasperation and reluctance. I have the door unlocked within a minute.
"Excellent!" Gwen exclaims as the door swings open with a creak. Then, she rushes into the house. Not feeling even an ounce of her excitement, I get back to my feet and follow her in.
The back door leads us into what once was the kitchen. I barely get time to look at it, or any of the interior of the house, because Gwen's dragging me through it so quickly. I let her, since what else is there for me to do?
But then we stop inside the hall near the front door, and I finally get time to look around. And as I do, my eyes widen and my mouth falls open a little. The inside is completely bare of everything except for dust, but that doesn't mean anything to me. Who the hell cares about furniture when there's this architectural genius?
I mean—look at it! The hallway immediately opens up on the left into this huge living room with this beautiful front window, never mind how grimy it is. And on the right side of the hallway, there's this great staircase with this elaborate banister that leads up to the second floor balcony. I stare up at it in awe.
I am in love.
You know what? I don't even care about those stupid stories about this house anymore—I want it. I honestly want to live here. That staircase sealed the deal. The supposed ghosts can kiss my ass.
"C'mon," Gwen says, and then pulls me up my beloved staircase. I hardly notice that her grip on my wrist is painful as she drags me because I'm still staring in awe at this masterpiece.
It's even better up here. The balcony gives an amazing view of the entrance hall and front door. There's only one door behind us, but the halls continue on either side of the balcony, where the banister hits wall. I start wandering towards the right wing, wanting to explore, but before I can even take three steps, Gwen grabs me by the back of my shirt.
"Later," she tells me. "But right now you need to help me set up. What time is it?"
I glance at my watch. "Six-thirty," I say. Then, I blink as my brain takes in her other words. "Wait. Set up what?"
In answer, Gwen just grins at me and pulls her backpack off her shoulder. I watch as she unzips it and pulls out a white cloth-thing from beside her sleeping bag, along with fishing wire. When I realize what it is, I stare at it for a second before I look back up at Gwen with an incredulous expression.
"You've got to be kidding me."
"What?" Gwen says with a pout. "What's wrong with it?" She holds up the Halloween ghost decoration and looks at it critically.
"What do you plan on doing with that?" I ask. "Drop it on their heads in the hopes that it scares them?"
I wasn't being serious—not completely, at least—but the way Gwen's now slowly grinning at me, looking sheepish, tells me that's exactly what she was planning on doing. I let out an exasperated breath and cover half my face with my hand.
"This is ridiculous," I mutter.
"It's a joke," Gwen says sulkily, still pouting. I drop my hand so I can give her a proper severe look.
"It's stupid, that's what it is," I tell her. "Stupid, and immature."
"Fine!" She sniffs, tilting her chin up haughtily. "You don't have to help! I'll do it myself!"
Goddamn it. Goddamn her. She's guilt-tripping me, and she know I can't stand feeling guilty.
"All right," I give in with another sigh. "What do you want me to do?"
Gwen beams at me, and then immediately begins giving me directions.
About twenty minutes later, everything for the prank is set up, and I have to admit it's kind of genius for how immature and simple it is. The Halloween ghost is currently strung up over on of the bar-things of the old chandelier that hangs above the entrance hall. It's kept in place by a long piece fishing wire connected to the loop at top of its head, which runs over the bar of the chandelier, down to where we're sitting on the stairs. When Gwen lets go of that, the ghost will slide down another piece of fishing wire that's also strung through the loop on its head and over the chandelier. The end of that particular piece of wire is tied to a doorstopper on the floor, near the kitchen entrance.
So, in short, when Gwen lets go of the wire, the ghost will swoop down on Evan and Sam when they walk in through the kitchen.
Like I said: Simple and childish, yet strangely genius. But, really. That's Gwen for you.
And now all we have to do is wait for Sam and Evan to get here. Which is easier said than done, especially with Gwen's patience.
"What time is it?" she asks.
"Three minutes since the last time you asked me," I tell her blandly. She stops twirling the fishing wire impatiently around her fingers to glare at me. I sigh and roll my eyes at her. "It's five of seven."
Gwen pouts and turns back towards the kitchen entrance. "They should be here."
"Uh huh," I say distractedly, craning my neck to see up the stairs and down one of the hallways. I swore I heard something thud against the floor or wall in one of the rooms.
Seeing nothing, I look back at Gwen with a slight, thoughtful frown. You know, it would really be just our luck if some sort of animal somehow managed to get in the house. But hopefully it's just the house shifting. Old houses do that.
Then, out of nowhere, Gwen swats me hard on the arm. I stare at her with an affronted expression, grabbing at the spot.
"Ow!" I say. "What the hell was that for?"
"Shut up!" she hisses at me, staring excitedly at the kitchen doorway. "They're here! Listen."
I listen, and she's right. I can hear Sam and Evan's voices talking somewhere down the hallway, though I can't see them yet.
"Here." Gwen shoves something into my hands. I look down at it, confused, and then let out a small groan when I see what it is.
"A camera?" I ask in a whisper. "What the hell, Gwen? What am I supposed to do with this?"
Gwen huffs impatiently, giving me a quick look. "Blackmail, duh. Take a picture of their faces when the 'ghost' attacks them."
"You know," I begin, "for as intelligent as you are, you're awfully immature." Though, even with that said, I hold the camera up like I'm getting ready to take a picture.
I don't turn it on.
Gwen doesn't notice; she already back to staring eagerly at the entranceway. Evan and Sam's voices are closer than before. I roll my eyes as Gwen lets out a small, excited giggle.
"Get ready," she breathes. I make a noise of consent, but have no intention of doing what she tells me to do. This time.
A few seconds later, Evan and Sam walk through the doorway, into the entrance hall. In the short moment I have to look at them before they're obstructed from my sight by a piece of white cloth swooping down on them (Gwen having let go of the wire them moment she saw the boys), I see that Evan is talking to Sam with an encouraging and sympathetic look on his face, while Sam keeps glancing over his shoulder with an anxious expression. I notice he's extremely pale, and that Evan is also holding a pizza box.
And then they both glance up and see the "ghost" about two seconds before it dive-bombs them.
Evan freezes, his eyes widening, but otherwise his reaction is nothing too exciting. Sam, however… Well, um, he…
Sam lets out this loud yelp, like a dog being kicked, and then jumps behind Evan, huddling close to him. His hands are over his face, and his shoulders and chest heave with his breaths. He's also trembling just from pure fright.
Gwen bursts out laughing, but I see nothing funny about this. Especially not with Sam. He might make me uncomfortable, but still… Poor Sam. I kind of hate myself a little bit now for having helped Gwen set this stupid prank up.
At the sound of Gwen's laughter, Evan looks up at where we're sitting on the stairs with an annoyed scowl.
"Cute," he tells Gwen. "Real witty."
Evan shakes his head at her, and then turns towards Sam. I watch as he puts a hand on his shoulder, saying something to him too quietly for me to hear.
Gwen scoffs back at him, rolling her eyes, and then turns towards me.
"Did you get it?" she asks me.
I tear my eyes away from Sam, who still has his face hidden in his hands, over to her. "What?" I ask.
"The picture," Gwen says, giving me a look. "Did you get it?"
"Oh," I say and look down at the camera. Pretending to just notice that it isn't on, I blink at it, and then look back up at her with a sheepish expression.
Narrowing her eyes at me, Gwen snatches the camera away. She then gets to her feet, stalking her way down the rest of the stairs. Sighing to myself, I stand up and follow her.
"What kind of pizza is that?" Gwen asks Evan once she's standing in front of the other two boys.
Evan shoots her a nasty look. "Screw you," he says, and the affronted expression on Gwen's face is comical enough that I have to bite my tongue to keep myself from snorting. "You don't get any pizza."
"What?" Gwen glowers at him. "No. Don't be an ass, Evan."
"Oh, that's rich of you," says Evan. "Especially after what you just did."
"It was a frickin' joke!" Gwen tells him exasperatedly, throwing her hands up.
"Well, it wasn't frickin' fun—!"
With another sigh, I tune their arguing out, and look back at Sam. He's finally taken his hands away from his face, but now he has his arms wrapped around his stomach like he's cold and keeps glancing nervously around him. After a few seconds, his eyes meet mine, and I give him a rueful look.
"I'm sorry about that," I tell him honestly. "Are you all right?"
"I…" Sam flickers his gaze away from me, down at the floor. He shifts his weight from foot to foot, looking uncomfortable and embarrassed.
"Yeah…" he mutters finally, still looking at the floor. "I'm fine."
"That's—" I make a face, trying to come up with the right words, and fail. Hanging my shoulders, I just give him another apologetic and sheepish smile when he looks back up at me. Sam blinks at me a couple of times before he tentatively smiles back.
And then we spend a few moments just standing there awkwardly, meeting each other's eyes then quickly glancing away again, as we wait for Gwen and Evan to stop arguing.
It takes about another five minutes, but they eventually do, thank god. Though, both of them now are in an extremely pissy mood, which is why I just nod when they tell us we're going upstairs to find a room to stay the night in. I don't want to tick them off any further in case either of them decides to round on me. Sam seems to be thinking along the same lines as me since he just nods as well without saying a word, even though it's very obvious he doesn't want to go upstairs at all.
In fact, by his expression and his reaction early, I'd say this house is the last place he wants to be right now. I cast him a curiously glance out of the corner of my eye as we make our way up the stairs.
I wonder why he's here, then.