Shawn and Linda bought the house on Harper Lane after touring several homes in the area. They thought it was the cutest little house in the neighborhood. They felt no reason to question its vacancy. They signed the papers, and moved in.
There was a small patio surrounded by a low brick wall that had a flower garden just the right size for Linda’s blossoming green thumb. There were three cozy bedrooms, a spacious kitchen and plenty of storage. The backyard wasn’t anything to turn your nose up at either. It was perfect for their family. A room for their little girl, Angie, and a room for an office.
It wasn’t until a month later that Linda noticed something odd.
Linda was a compulsive cleaner. She like to have things neat and clean at all times. Everything had a place. And there wasn’t anything that drove her more nuts than cabinet doors being left open. Shawn knew this. And yet, every morning when Linda would get up to start making breakfast, there would be cabinet doors open.
At first it was only one. And she ignored it. Then there were two or three, and she would close them and go about her day. And then it was all of them. And she couldn’t take it anymore.
“Shawn!” Linda’s fists were tightly clenched and she resisted the urge to stomp her foot.
“What is it?” Shawn appeared from the hallway, buttoning up his shirt. Linda gestured around the kitchen; her lips pursed. “Oh.”
“Oh? That’s all you have to say?”
“What? You don’t think I did this?”
“Who else? Angie’s two! Unless she’s been dragging a chair all around the kitchen while we sleep, I don’t know how you could think – “
“I’m sorry, dear, but I didn’t do this. You’re the last one to bed and the first one up.”
“Are you sleepwalking?”
Linda deflated. “I’m sorry. I just don’t understand. It’s been all week. I thought… I don’t know. Thought you were trying to be funny.”
Shawn went around the kitchen and closed the cabinet doors, then he kissed his wife on the cheek. “I don’t have a cruel sense of humor. It’s probably just the foundation. I’ll have someone come out to check it. Okay?”
“Yeah, sure.” Linda sighed. “I’m sorry I accused you. It’s just been driving me crazy.”
Shawn kissed her again. “Don’t worry about it, love.”
But she did worry about it. Because after Shawn left for work, she had to close the cabinets three more times. Even the dishwasher was hanging open when she went to the kitchen to make lunch. She wasn’t sure she believed it was the foundation. She felt like she was being mocked.
But she eventually put it from her mind. A man came to check the house and scheduled a day to come and level the foundation. Linda was able to dismiss the cabinet doors now, knowing there was a perfectly sane cause for their opening. If only they’d been able to schedule the leveling sooner than a month away. But she tried to live with it the best she could.
Shawn, on the other hand, discovered his own worries. He had a workbench in the garage where he liked to build model cars. Nothing special, just a hobby to keep his hands busy. His day job was a little monotonous and he needed a creative outlet. He spent two or three evenings a week in the garage to assemble and paint the little cars. It was on one of these occasions that he began to hear the footsteps. It sounded like someone was pacing right on the other side of the garage door.
“Linda, is that you?” Shawn said. He didn’t know why she might be outside, unless she was just getting some fresh air while Angie played in her room. But pacing?
When no one answered and the pacing continued, Shawn rapped on the garage door. The sound stopped for a brief moment, and then continued. There was still no answering voice.
Shawn set down his miniature tools and went to investigate. Linda was in the kitchen washing dishes and Angie was toddling her dolls back and forth in the living room.
“Where you going, hun?” Linda asked when she saw Shawn heading for the front door.
“I think there’s someone outside,” he said. “I hear footsteps in the driveway. I’m just going to check it out.”
“Be careful,” Linda said, but without any real concern.
Shawn walked around the house to the driveway and looked around. There wasn’t anyone there. He went out the street and looked both ways, but he didn’t see anyone at all.
“See anybody?” Linda asked when he reentered the kitchen.
“No.” Shawn frowned. “But I swear I heard someone out there. They just wouldn’t answer when I said anything though.”
“Hmm… Should we get some cameras, maybe?” Linda picked up on his tone and felt the beginnings of worry herself.
“Maybe. I’ll see if I hear anything again. It might have been my imagination.” Even though he knew it wasn’t, he didn’t want to cause any alarm.
Two days later, though, he heard it again. There was definitely someone walking back and forth in his driveway. Just on the other side of the door. Shawn would swear it to anyone. This time he wasted no time and ran through the house and outside to try and catch the culprit. But again, no one was there. No one in the street. No one hiding behind a fence. Nothing.
“Shawn?” Linda stood in the doorway; her face pinched with fear.
“I’m going to
look into getting some security cameras.”
“Are we not safe here?”
“It’s going to be fine. Don’t worry about it.”
Shawn found some reasonably priced security cameras a week later. He installed them around the outside of the house and watched the monitors obsessively for three days straight. And he saw nothing. He heard nothing. After the fourth day, he relaxed and went back to working on his model cars in his spare time.
In late April, after the house had been leveled and the cabinet doors didn’t open on their own anymore, after there hadn’t been any sign of a stranger in their driveway, Linda discovered something different to be frightened of.
She’d been cleaning all morning. The vacuum scared Angie, so she played in her room with the door shut. It was nearing lunchtime when Linda went to find her. But she wasn’t in her room.
“Angie?” She called into the hallway.
Linda heard a splash and a giggle from the bathroom. She sighed and shook her head, but there was a smile on her face.
“What are you doing in here?” Linda put her head around the doorframe of the bathroom and saw Angie in the bathtub. Angie was fully clothed, but the tub was almost overflowing with water. “Oh, Angie.”
Angie giggled and splashed the water over the edge.
“How did you fill up the tub by yourself.”
“I didn’t.” Angie held up her arms so Linda could lift her out of the tub.
“You know you aren’t supposed to lie to me.”
“Not lying. She did it.” Angie pointed back to the bathtub.
“Angie there isn’t anyone there.”
Linda peeled off Angie’s wet clothes and wrapped her in a towel. She then reached into the tub to unplug the drain. For a brief moment as she tugged on the chain, she felt a hand wrap around her wrist and squeeze. She screamed and jumped back from the tub, nearly tripping over Angie.
“She wasn’t done with her bath, mommy.” Angie said.