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Fiction by L.K. Campbell

Revisiting Evergreen

At the end of the gravel driveway, Steph spotted her brother’s SUV parked next to her parents’ Cadillac.

“Good, Joe’s already here,” she said. “If my parents are occupied with their grandchildren, they’ll have less time to bother me.”

Neal shook his head and parked in the empty space next to her parents’ car. While he retrieved their luggage from the trunk, she surveyed the house. It seemed much different from her memories and yet, the same. She remembered the long, wide porch and the second-story dormers but in different paint colors and building materials. The old white, clapboard siding had been changed to forest green shingles. As if the property weren’t green enough, she thought. Then again, maybe the new owner wanted the house to blend in with its surroundings.

“Ready?” Neal asked when he came up beside her.

“As I’ll ever be.”

When Neal rang the doorbell, a pretty, dark-haired woman greeted them.

“Welcome to Evergreen,” she said. “You must be Stephanie and Neal. I’m Kristy Stone.”

Upon entering the foyer, she had to revise the description she’d given Neal. The sad and spooky Muriel Manor had been transformed into a bright, cozy home.

“Your family is in Stephen’s Studio,” Kristy said. “Your father tells me that you’re an artist, too. I’m anxious to hear what you think of your Uncle Stephen’s work.”

Kristy turned toward the entryway on their left. “It’s this way.”

A wave of nausea coursed through Stephanie’s insides. She laid her hand on Kristy’s arm.

“Can we freshen up first? We drove down from Long Island and have been in the car all day.”

“Oh, of course,” Kristy said. “I moved down here from New York so I know what a long drive that is. Follow me, and I’ll show you to your room.”

She and Neal climbed the wide staircase side-by-side, and she gripped the polished-wood railing for support.

“You get to stay in the honeymoon suite,” Kristy said.

“How did we rate that privilege?” Stephanie asked more to herself than to Kristy.

“Your dad went straight to the room where he’d stayed as a boy,” Kristy said. “Your brother and his wife wanted the two adjoining rooms so their girls could have a separate room but still be within easy reach.”

At the end of the hallway, Kristy opened a door and handed Neal the key. “I’ll let your parents know that you’ve arrived,” she said. “Your mother wanted me to serve supper at seven.”

“I only need a minute,” Steph said. “We’ll be down in plenty of time for supper.”

“Of course, I’m sure they’ll understand. When you come back down the stairs, go to your right through the front parlor and main dining room to get to Stephen’s Studio.”

“I don’t remember there being another room beyond the dining room,” Stephanie said. “I remember that there was a sleeping porch off from the kitchen, but it didn’t open into the dining room.”

“The studio was between the sleeping porch and the dining room,” Kristy said. “The door had been paneled over for many years. My aunt found it when she started remodeling the house.”

“It must’ve been like opening a time capsule,” Neal said.

A strange look passed over Kristy’s face. “Yes, you could say that.” Her shoulders straightened, and her expression brightened. “I’ll see you downstairs.”

Kristy left them, and Neal entered their room.

“Very nice,” he said.

Stephanie hesitated in the doorway. She stared straight ahead at the king-size bed. It had been four weeks since she and Neal had slept in the same bed. She glanced at the sofa. If things took an uncomfortable turn, she could always sleep on the couch.

“When I came here with Grandpa, I didn’t come upstairs,” she said. “I wonder if this was my great-grandparents’ room.”

She doubted that the original room bore any resemblance to this one with its mix of modern and traditional furniture. The gas fireplace, lighting fixtures, and double-paned storm windows had to be of recent vintage.

Neal swung around to face her. “Do the sleeping arrangements bother you?”

Damn, he’d cut right to the chase. “Does it bother you that we’ll be sharing a bed?”

“If you’re worried that I’ll make too much of it, don’t,” he said. “I’m not going to get my hopes up that this trip will turn into some kind of reconciliation.”

“I’m not worried,” she said.

He set his suitcase on the bed.

“Good, then there’s no problem.”

A familiar lavender scent permeated the room. She sniffed the air. I know that scent fromwhere? She couldn’t recall right offhand, but it didn’t matter. What does matter these days?

She opened one of the two doors to her left. Behind the first door, she found a large walk-in closet.

“Well, that’s not the bathroom,” she said. She opened the second door. “This is it.”

She flipped the light switch and closed the door behind her. Setting her purse on the marble-topped vanity, she unzipped the side pocket where she kept her anti-anxiety meds. She removed a paper cup from the wall-mounted dispenser and filled it with enough water to swallow the pill.

As she stared at her reflection in the mirror, she wondered when her life would get back to normal. More than anything, she wanted to be the person who had blocked out the past and put it behind her. She wanted to turn back the clock to before she’d received the message that had thrown her for a loop. All of the emotions she’d thought she had buried—fear, anger, and guilt—had clawed their way to the surface and taken over her life again.

She lifted the hot water lever. It only took a few seconds for the water to heat. Steam fogged the mirror, and she raised the cold lever before splashing water on her face. As she bent over the sink, her gaze drifted to the right hand corner of the glass. What is that? She leaned down closer to it for a better look. One-by-one, letters formed on the mirror’s cloudy surface as if written by an invisible finger.

S. T. E. P. H.

What the…? She jumped backward away from the vanity. Cold air rushed out of a vent in the ceiling, clearing the fog from the mirror, and the writing disappeared. She leaned against the bathroom wall and closed her eyes.

“Oh, my God, I am losing my mind.” Oh, no, did I say that out loud?

A gentle knock came at the door followed by Neal’s voice.

“Steph? Are you okay in there?”

“Yes.” She stepped back to the sink to turn off the running water. “Yes, I’m fine. I’ll be right out.”

She snatched some tissues from the box on the vanity and wiped away the moisture from the mirror until the glass became clear. Maybe I’m hallucinating now. What’s next?

Blurb

In this third book of the Evergreen series, the family of Evergreen's original owners return, but their reunion is problematic. Stephanie Perry is hiding a terrible secret from her past that has caused her to separate from her husband Neal. Determined to uncover her secret and win her back, Neal agrees to go to her family reunion at Evergreen. Upon seeing the house again, Stephanie senses that her ancestors are still in residence there. Will the kindred spirits from Evergreen’s past give her the courage to tell the truth?

Category: Fiction - Ghost; Paranormal; Supernatural

Published: April 22, 2016

Words: 33,690

ISBN: 9781310896538