Molly awoke the next morning with her head out of the covers and her left arm hanging limply off the side of her bed. Dribble had dried and gone crusty around her mouth and she tried to swallow but couldn't. Taking a sip of lukewarm water, she remembered the nightmare she had last night. There was something nasty lurking in her bedroom and it had eyes like glistening rubies. Her heart thudded. It was no dream.
Dawn light filtered in through the curtains, swathing her bedroom in tones of warm oranges and golden yellows. It was hard to imagine that anything could lurk here now, in the calm serenity of those warm hues. Molly wished that it wouldn't have to be night time ever again, but she knew that when the sun went down, he would be here. She shivered. He was probably still here, right now, watching.
It was six o'clock Saturday morning. She felt her eyes getting heavier and before she knew it the warm glow of dusk had gone and a brighter light filtered through the curtains. She opened them a little, letting a gap of daylight through. It looked like it was going to be a nice day so she decided to go out. The village looked nice, and a mooch around sounded like a good idea. Anything to get out of this place. She hated it here.
Molly clambered out of bed, shut the bedroom door behind her and went downstairs. Her dad was in the living room reading the newspaper and Lauren was helping her mum do the laundry in the kitchen. Tiffany was still firmly in the land of nod it seemed.
"Morning," Molly said, yawning, as she traipsed past him and into the kitchen.
"Morning love", replied her dad before drifting back into the depths of his newspaper.
"I didn't sleep at all last night thanks to you," her sister replied snidely. "Oh I'm so scared! Let me sleep with you! Baby!"
"Lauren!" yelled her mum, her hands on her hips.
"Get a life Wally Molly," Lauren chided, her mum's warning falling on deaf ears. "Oh, and try not to pee in your pants tonight."
"I didn't pee in my pants!" yelled Molly defensively. "There's a ghost in this house and no one believes me!"
"Whatever…" Lauren mumbled.
"For goodness sake you two!" huffed their mum. "Pack it in!"
Molly was so sick of this. Why would no one believe her? For a twelve year old girl she knew she had an active imagination. But it wasn't her imagination, not this time. This time it was real, and sooner or later something would happen to prove it to her family. Maybe then she wouldn't have to deal with all this on her own.
She walked into the village wearing just a t-shirt and a pair of denim shorts. It was a bright, hot day with a gentle breeze. Birds were chirping all around her and the leaves were rustling calmly, as if flora and fauna were singing in unison. It was a pretty, thought-provoking sound and it made Molly smile for what felt like the first time since the move.
She looked around when she got into the village. It was really just a road lined with quaint thatched houses and pretty gardens full of colourful flowers. A few cars were parked here and there and in what looked to be the centre of the village was a grocery store, a dainty, old-fashioned pub and a tea room with tiny, flower filled windows shielded below red and white fabric awnings that billowed gently as the breeze caught them.
"Hello there, my dear girl," came a frail but cheery sounding voice from one of the gardens. Molly turned and saw an elderly woman wielding a watering can and donning a pair of bright coloured gardening gloves. Her garden was full of roses of every colour you could imagine. She looked at Molly with deep, wrinkled eyes and smiled.
"I've never seen you around here," she said. "Are you new here or are you just visiting?"
"Me and my family moved down here from London. We live in a really old house a mile or so down the lane."
The old woman's smile faded. "Oh. Oh dear."
Molly's chest thumped and a sharp pain caught in her throat.
"What is it?" asked Molly. "Is it haunted?"
The woman set down her watering can and slipped her hands out of her gloves.
"Well," she began. "There's a story attached to that house, but…" she trailed off, eying up Molly as if she was unsure of her.
"I'm twelve and I'll be thirteen in October. I can handle it."
"I admire your tenacity, my dear child. Very well. Why don't we finish this conversation over a pot of tea in Jean's Tea Room. Would you like that?"
"I don't like tea but I'll have a hot chocolate."
"Wise choice. Jean makes the best hot chocolate in all of Devon. My name's Elspeth by the way."
"That's a nice name. I'm Molly."
The tea room smelled like cinnamon and toast and coffee and chocolate, and the atmosphere was kind and welcoming. She and Elspeth took a seat right at the front of the tea room. The sunlight streamed in through the dainty window, showering the red and white gingham tablecloth with its warmth.
A plump rosy-cheeked woman was serving cups of coffee to a young couple who were sat at the opposite end of the room near the back wall. She saw Molly and Elspeth and came bounding over with a huge smile on her face.
"Morning Elle, lovely day, isn't it?"
She glanced towards Molly and held out a welcoming hand.
"Good morning, my lovely. I haven't seen you around here before. I'm Jean. What can I get for you?"
"Can I have a hot chocolate please?"
"Of course. Would you like cream and marshmallows on top?"
Her stomach grumbled greedily. That sounded lovely.
"Yes please. I'm Molly by the way."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Molly. Elle, cup of tea as usual?"
"Coming right up."
As they sipped, Elspeth began telling Molly the story she had been anticipating to hear all morning.
"Now then, Molly," Elspeth began. I'm not telling you this just to scare you. You're a bright young girl with an older head on your shoulders. I think you deserve to know the bigger picture. A hundred years ago a man decided to build that house for his family to live in. He needed extra help so he hired a couple of men to help him build it. It was hard times back then. A lot of people were down on their luck. The man decided to help those less fortunate than himself by giving them a chance to get a job and earn some money. But one of the men was dangerous and a criminal. For reasons unbeknown by anyone, the deranged man pushed him into the foundations, killing him. He covered up the body and the house was built on top of him. This is a true story, but one still shrouded in mystery. No one knows for sure if it's true that his body is still down there, but the general consensus is that he is, and that his spirit is a tormented one. A lot of families have come and gone over the years. One family haven't even been seen since. They just vanished into thin air."
Molly felt dizzy. Her hot chocolate suddenly didn't seem that appetising.
"So it wasn't my imagination after all," she gasped. "My family think I'm being silly. They won't believe me. What if he hurts us?"
"Now now, sweetie, I'm sure it won't come to that. Most ghosts are harmless. Sometimes it's only their energy that can be felt, and other times they just like to make themselves heard or seen. You live in that house now, with your family. When things settle down then I'm sure he will too."
"Do you really think so?" asked Molly.
She nodded, smiled and said, "I do."
"But what about the family that vanished into thin air?"
"They most likely did a moonlight flit. You know, just packed up and left. Some people are like that."
Somehow Molly didn't believe that was entirely true. A nagging hunch clawed at her insides but she shook it away.
She and Elspeth left the tea room and went their separate ways. She climbed up the steep incline of the mound of earth that the house was set upon, opened the rickety gate and into the garden. When she got nearer, she could see something unusual. On the kitchen window was a scrawl of words written in the condensation. It said: Get out of my house or die.
To be continued...