By Rosemary Biggio
Becca sipped her last drop of Lady Grey brew while Sebastian, her husband, in a faded University of Penn sweatshirt, labeled boxes.
“By God, hurry up, the movers will be here any minute.”
Staring at the flakes of loose tea forming a pattern at the bottom of her cup, she found her husband’s habitual use of the expletive “by God” annoying. Three hulky men with the logo “Move Away” on their shirts loaded the truck.
Her husband shook her perching stool.
“Hey, cut it out,” she croaked.
“Got to get going,” Sebastian raised his voice above his wife’s.
“I’m exhausted. Too many late night parties with a colicky baby. You disappear into fiction and miss all the fun,” she cawed.
He didn’t believe the doctor about his wife’s postpartum depression, still he tempered his comments.
When the movers left the scene, she settled in the car while her husband squeezed their son into his car seat.
He patted his wife’s hand. “Honey, you’ll see things will be different in the country. By God, it’ll be a fresh start for all of us.”
Baby Evan drooled. As the car pulled away, Becca looked back at their Society Hill townhouse. The stool and teacup were left behind.
The rolling hills of Lancaster County were dotted with tidy Amish farms and towns with curious names like Intercourse and Bird-in-the-Hand. Sebastian plunked down the advance on his novel and most of their savings to buy a stone farmhouse beyond Intercourse in a tiny hamlet called Harmony. The village appeared on no map or GPS. Harmony was out of Google‘s spying. On one of his drives, he came upon the village. The desolate farmhouse with five acres rested between a restored mill and an Amish farm. He had no intention of farming.
It had been a month after the couple took possession of the house when Sebastian brought in a wicker basket with a gangly Golden Retriever pup recently whelped.
“Are you crazy? I have enough looking after Evan, now a dog?” The kettle whistled. She readied a fine bone china tea cup from Ye Olde Tea Shoppe on High Street.
Sebastian confessed, “I should have asked you. I thought it would pull you out of this funk, that’s also why I bought the house.”
“You bought the house for you, Sebastian, so you could write that damn novel. I was an afterthought,” she intoned.
He grabbed his sweater.
“What did you name it?” His wife called after him.
“Charon,” he yelled slamming the door.
Sebastian heard the clippity-clop of the horse’s hooves as the black carriage rounded the bend. Under the blue moon, the Amish couple, shoulders touching, headed for the meeting house. The woman peeked out the window. Her bonnet ribbons swayed in the breeze. The chilly fall air spoke of winter. After the walk, he surrendered to sleep on the couch.
It was harvest time.
When remodeling the bedroom, he ripped the wall open, exposing a door leading to another room.
“Charon, come here boy.” Ears pulled back, the dog turned tail. You’re no Lassie, Sebastian thought.
He used the hammer’s claw to pull off the rusty plate that sealed the doorway. The odor of moth balls pinched his nostrils. He dusted off books written in some dead language. Latin? Becca was in the kitchen watching teething Evan and the pup tumble on the floor. Sebastian tossed the rusty plate on the table.
“I ripped out the wall in the bedroom, and by God, I found this on the door to another room.“
“It’s a hex sign. Haven’t you noticed them on the barns around here?” His wife examined the amulet.
“No, what’s it for?” He asked.
“Folks say they ward off evil.” Becca’s fingertips traced the design on the amulet, then mumbled something. Decorating the new room and visiting the tea shop lifted her spirits.
It was a leap year, that Becca, costumed in a floppy witch’s hat, opened the room decorated for Halloween. The dog barked and squatted at the entranceway. Bobby Pickett’s "Monster Mash" blared. Evan squealed with delight at the sight of bowls filled with treats. The baby, dressed as a jester, jingled atop his father’s shoulders. Dank air and a lingering foul smell invaded the room. Becca lit candles. Sebastian glanced at his wife. Her faced was flushed, her eyebrows arched. She chanted, eerily smiled at her husband and baby. She stooped to blow out the candles. The shadowy figures of family vanished. Their lives extinguished.
A slate November sky announced All Soul’s Day. Paws on the windowsill, Charon jingled the baby’s hat. She never heard the bells. She was going to the shop to try a special tea, her lover brewed. Becca smiled as she thought of Sebastian.
By God, things would be different.
Rosemary Biggio was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. A retired high school teacher and college instructor, Biggio is now a freelance writer.
Photo courtesy of the Gold Country Cottage blog.