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“My own good?” I muttered angrily as I strode down the sidewalk, hugging my arms for warmth. How was I supposed to live without her? I missed her already. And I just wasn’t ready to be on my own yet. “Mama, you didn’t prepare me for this.” I moaned. I wiped a tear from the corner of my eye. Eventually I found the address she’d given me. I gazed up at the looming structure in front of me and imagined the life I could’ve had. A complete one with both my parents and so many friends. I sighed and made my way up the stairs. Under the doormat was a key…just like Mama said there would be. I opened the door and went inside. Cobwebs had made their homes in all the corners and the wallpaper was peeling. It smelled stale…like no one had opened a window or cracked or door in decades…which was probably the truth. I blew the dust off of the framed pictures hanging on the walls and traced my finger down the faces in them. My mama was so pretty and my dad was so handsome. I looked around the living room and kitchen before finally going upstairs. I found a small room decorated for a child. I smiled. This was supposed to be my room. I laid on the bed and struggled to fall asleep. It felt so different here. The old mansion by the sea was alive in a way but this place…it was vastly empty.

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Then came the day I never thought I’d live to see. It was Melinda’s eighteenth birthday and I’d been in the kitchen all day preparing dinner when I realized I hadn’t seen my daughter in several hours. “Where did that girl get off to now?” I muttered to myself. She was always exploring the many rooms of the manor and it’s grounds. I stood on the front porch and glanced across the street. I could see her at the beach, tanning in a lawn chair. “Melinda! It’s time to come home for cake and ice cream!” I called to her. She reluctantly heaved herself from the chair and began to cross the street when it dawned on me. She was free. “Melinda, stop!” She came to erupt halt with a confused look on her face. “I want you to listen to me closely. You run, girl. You run as fast as your legs can take you away from this place.” Her eyes grew as round as saucers. “There is a house in town…it’s yours now. The address is 463 Main Street. You will find a key under the rug near the front door. There is money in the safe in the master bedroom. It’s not a lot but any little bit will help.” Melinda looked as if she was about to cry. It broke my heart. “But Mama…” She began. I shook my head. “No buts. It’s for your own good. I promise. I love you more than anything. Now go.”

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A child was born in the old mansion by the sea and in time, she grew quickly into a young lady. I did the best I could…giving her a happy and loving childhood but there were challenges nonetheless. The maid, Susan, returned to me from the beyond nearly a decade ago. We were frightened of her skeletal form at first but she proved herself to be loyal and eventually she became the keeper of our house. We sustained ourselves by growing our own food and we raised honeybees. And oddly enough, the utilities were paid every month. I assumed that it was Hannah doing so…out of guilt. As hard as it was, I finally found it in myself to forgive her. If I’d been in her place, I would’ve done the same thing…maybe.

I’ve mentored my girl in right and wrong. I’ve taught her morals and manners, and everything I remembered from my own upbringing. And yet I still worried…what kind of woman would she become? Living as a recluse in this damned house, never meeting another soul besides myself and the bony maid. Would she really spend the rest of her life trapped like me? I wanted better for her than I was given. She meant the world to me. My angel, my flower child, the light of my life…Melinda.

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A month later, I was taking an afternoon nap when I felt the bed dip like someone was sitting on it. “Sheldon?” I whispered then opened my eyes. It was only Hannah. “Sorry to wake you but I figured we were overdue on spending some together.” I nodded and sat up. “That would be nice.” I noticed the dark circles under her eyes and rubbed my fingers under them. She pulled away and stood. “How about get dressed and we’ll go up to ballroom…we’ll eat and dance. Could be fun.” She stared out of the window with an odd expression on her face. “Is something wrong Hannah?” I asked worriedly. “Everything is wrong.” She smiled sadly. I quickly got dressed and made the long trek to the third floor. While I waited for Hannah to show up, I put on some music. I closed my eyes and pretended that Sheldon was there…dancing with me. I was waltzing around the room for the second time when suddenly, I heard a door from downstairs slam shut. I peered out of the window and could see two figures standing in the front yard. “What’s going on here?” I shouted once I reached the steps. “I-I tried to leave before you saw me. I knew I wouldn’t be able to face you. But I must think of my son, Elaine. I had to make a deal. Please find it in your heart to forgive me.” She pleaded from the sidewalk. Next to her, stood Nerissa. “Forgive you? Are you mad? You’re just going to leave me here? And what of my own child as well, Hannah? How dare you take it upon yourself to seal our fate!” She wiped a tear from her face. “Wait.” I turned to Nerissa. “Why can’t I make another deal…to leave this wretched place for good?” I asked. “Because we already have a deal…and I’m not done collecting on it.” She gave me a wicked grin. “I’m truly sorry, Elaine…” Hannah sobbed. “Oh please. Do me a favor and go screw yourself, Hannah!” I watched with a heavy heart as they faded into the night.

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A few weeks after Aiden’s disappearance, Sheldon began to behave oddly. He would stare at the walls and talk to himself. “Do you hear that?” He’d say to no one in particular. “The singing. She’s always singing.” That day, I was trying to have a conversation with him when to my surprise, he took off for the front door. I pulled him back before he could walk outside. “Where are you going? You know we can’t leave here, sweetheart.” He looked at me as if he didn’t recognize me and jerked his arm away from me. “I have to go. It will not stop unless I go to her.” I frowned. “What won’t stop? And who?” He cocked his head to the side, listening to things I couldn’t hear. “The singing. It’s pulling me to her. To the ocean. I belong there.” I blocked the doorway. “Even if you could leave, I won’t let you. You belong HERE…with me. And your unborn child.” I motioned towards my stomach. But he wasn’t listening to me, his eyes were trained on the ocean behind me. He suddenly pushed past me and went out the door. “I’m sorry Elaine. I’m so sorry.” He mumbled as he ran. I gasped as I watched him run across the street to the cliffs. He was able to leave! But when I tried to follow, my feet would move no further. “Wait, Sheldon! Please, don’t go!” I called after him. Then I ran up the stairs to the second story balcony and from there, I could just barely make him out in the distance. He was staring over the edge of the cliff, down into the sea below. “No! Don’t do it!” I screamed at him. He turned his head to look back at me one last time…then he jumped.

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Day after day…we searched the manor from top to bottom. And we never found Aiden. Eventually Hannah gave up and lost hope of ever seeing him again. “I don’t think I’ve hurt so bad since my Daddy died. How will I get through this?” I patted her hands. “You won’t be alone. You still have us.” I said with a small smile. “Did I ever tell you about him?” She asked me. I shook my head. “Daddy was a sea captain, he was gone for months at a time. Well when I was twelve, we heard that his ship had gone down and all the souls on board had been lost. We thought he was dead but to everyone’s surprise, he washed ashore. He was the only survivor. And he came back to us as mad as as a hatter. Raving about huge sea creatures and singing sirens.” Hannah stared off into the distance, reliving her memories. “Sirens?” I whispered as I rubbed my stomach. “Yeah. Dangerous creatures that lure sailors to their death with their singing.” I felt uneasy after hearing that. It reminded me of the sea witch I’d met. Was that what she was? Hannah continued her story, “Daddy died a few days after he got home. My mom said the stress from the shipwreck was too much for his heart.” She blew her nose into a handkerchief. “I think I know how he felt.” She glanced up at me. “Do you think it’s over now? And they’ve got what they want? The spirits I mean?” I thought for a moment. “I honestly don’t know.” She sobbed. “Why him? He was everything to me.” I wrapped my arms around her and let her cry on my shoulder. My heart ached for her. I couldn’t have imagined how it would feel to lose Sheldon. But little did I know…I was about to find out.

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I took a long nap and woke up refreshed. But I still felt bad for hurting Hannah’s feelings the way I did. I was making my way to her bedroom to apologize…when I noticed the fog seeping through the walls once more. “Noooo…not again.” I moaned. And just like I thought she would, the weeping girl crawled out of the walls. But this time…she wasn’t alone. The butler appeared, headless, and the maid was riding his back…like he was some kind of steed from hell. They both looked like they’d been dead for a very long time. I hadn’t even noticed the maid was missing. The girl reached out for me, just like she’d done before. I fell down trying to get away from them. “Help me!” I screamed as loud as I could while scooting away from her. I heard footsteps on the stairs. Someone would save me! Aiden reached me first and jumped in front of me for protection. I saw the way the girl looked at him…with her hands! I had to turn away. Then Sheldon was there…with his arms around me. There was so much noise. Screams, the sound of nails dragging against the floor, and Hannah was crying for Aiden. Hell was breaking loose all around me but I knew I was safe inside Sheldon’s arms. “I’ve got you. Don’t look.” He whispered. But I didn’t listen. The girl had Aiden by the hair and was dragging him to the attic. Hannah ran after them and reached out for his hand but the door slammed shut in her face. “Wait Hannah! Let me go.” Sheldon jumped up and took off up the stairs while Hannah sat beside me on the floor. I squeezed her hand. But Sheldon came back and shook his head sadly. There was nothing up there. The attic was empty…

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While we waited on the porch for Hannah and Aiden to get ready, Sheldon confronted me about leaving once more. He took me by the shoulders and gently shook me. “Elaine, wake up. We cannot stay here any longer. If we must, we can go out and do these frivolous things like Hannah wants but when we get back, we’re going home. Do you understand?” I nodded my head in agreement. “Yes. You’re right, dear. As soon as we get back.” The door shut loudly and Hannah announced, “It’s time to go! Let’s have some fun!” We made our way to the top of the front steps and stood there…for a moment too long. Aiden looked over at us nervously. “Anyone else having trouble moving their feet forward? I can move back all I want to but I can’t walk down the steps.” We all nodded in disbelief and moved back to the porch. “It felt like quicksand.” Hannah stated. “That’s what Sharla said earlier! It didn’t want her to come in and it doesn’t want us to leave now. But she was able to leave in the end. Why can’t we?” I asked. “Maybe the house didn’t want her…like it wants us.” Hannah whispered quietly. Sheldon sighed and rubbed his temples. He was becoming very frustrated. “We should’ve left this morning. But no, we had to stay for just one more day! Now look at us. We’re trapped here! For who knows how long.” Sheldon glared at Hannah. Maybe it was my hormones…but I began to cry. “I guess that means things are back to being my fault again.” Hannah said while rolling her eyes. This time I had to agree with Sheldon. “Maybe because it IS your fault.” I hissed through my tears then I stomped off to my bedroom to be alone.

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“Please help us get rid of these spirits! I know you can!” Hannah insisted. “Can’t you do some kind of cleansing ritual? Or a even an exorcism? We’re desperate!” Sharla shook her head. “That is out of my area of expertise. There is nothing I can do for you, except offer you my advice. Which is to leave as fast as your legs can carry you.” Hannah groaned and rubbed her temples. “Are there any other parts of the house that are a danger to us?” Hannah asked curiously. “Surely you won’t stay here?” Sharla raised her eyebrows. Hannah merely shrugged.
 
It was evening by the time Sharla searched every nook and cranny of the manor…still her answer was the same. “You all should leave here…tonight.” It was a rare sight to see Hannah angry but in that moment, she was furious. “I do not accept that!” She screamed in Sharla’s face. “I understand you are upset. I am full of regret that I can’t do more. I wish you all the best.” Then we watched in silence as she walked out the front door, it slamming behind her. Hannah burst out into tears. “We’ve put all our money and everything we own into this place…we even sold our house in town. If we leave, we have nowhere to go and nothing to our name.” I was so glad we hadn’t done the same. “You both could come stay with us.” I offered. Then I felt Sheldon’s elbow in my side. “If only we had the room.” He pointed out. “It’ll be dark soon, we should leave first thing in the morning. I think we can handle one last night here.” Aiden said confidently while lighting a cigar. “You’re right.” Hannah agreed, wiping away her tears. “And we’re gonna go out and have fun instead of staying cooped up in here the whole time. Everyone go get dressed!”

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