The Neighborhood Watch

Stonebrook Farms was one of those neighborhoods that people would often see on television shows about people who had a lot of money but not enough to have a mansion by the sea in Malibu. Most of these places were very nice on the outside yet were more often than not, filled to the brim with competitive residents trying to out do each other on decorations or gossip about who is sleeping with whom, who should part of the committee for community involvement, etc...

Young Sarah Jones, lived in this neighborhood with her aunt Jessica and uncle Roger Carson. They were fairly acceptable in terms of the neighborhood. Both had worked for a long time and the Carson's had a decent law practice in town.

Sarah herself, was a student at the local community college studying journalism.  She thought this would be a a good choice since there are so much that seems to go on in this neighborhood and she frequently observed some of the habits of the residents. 

Ms. Pickens, for instance, a 50ish woman with permed, blue hair, frequently walked along Sarah's street every morning along with her poodle and usually did it twice in the evening. She also stopped and talk to Mr. Fields, a widower in his 70s, at his house on Wicker Street. 

There was no "romance" in these encounters. It was just a habit of Ms. Pickens to stop and talk to the man.

Today, Ms. Pickens stopped at Sarah's house instead of Wicker Street and talked anxiously to Sarah's aunt and uncle about something.  From the upper window, Sarah could see Ms. Picken's arms going up and down in the air and making faces at a moving van that appeared on Wicker St. 

It appeared that someone had decided to move in on the end house on Wicker street.

The house was one of the first to be built in the neighborhood 10 years ago. Like most of the houses it had 2 car garage, 4 bedrooms 2 and a half baths,. walk in closets, and a kitchen with a bar and kitchen island. It even had a bonus room. It was said that the house had a buyer and the contract was signed, but the owner never took possession of it, so for 10 years it remained empty -- until today when the moving trucks arrived.

Sarah talked to her aunt and uncle about the new neighbors but they were just as much in the dark as anyone else. Maybe that was what was so upsetting to Ms. Pickens. She didn't like anything that was out of the ordinary. After all, this person, whoever it is, may not fit in this neighborhood.

This only intrigued young Sarah more. If it was new to Ms. Pickens, it had to be interesting.  

Sarah had a bowl of cereal for breakfast and a cup of coffee and then left the house for her curiosity needed to be satisfied.

She walked to the end of Wicker St in the late afternoon as the was slowly vanishing beyond the hills. It was just the right time for things like meet and greets, dinner parties and backyard barbecues.

The movers that came to 121 Wicker St. didn't pay attention to Ms. Pickens or anyone else but went about the work bringing in boxes, furniture and a few crates.   Sarah also noticed something else about theae movers that didn't make much sense. They seemed to be moving in a rhythm. It was not the rhythm of a dance but the rhythm of the machine.

They kept up the work throughout the day and by nightfall they were done. There were no signs of new owners at all. 

A little disappointed, but not overly so, Sarah turned to leave when she caught a glimpse of the face of a young man gazing down at her from the upstairs window. She was only able to make out some of his features. He had long brown, wavy hair that framed a long face. She felt his eyes on her and then the disappeared into the house.

On her way back home, she saw Ms. Pickens walking towards the house almost mechanically.

That night, Sarah slept fitfully and dreamt of that boy in the house. He had the look that was almost a cross between a boy band member and Lord Byron. She could almost here him calling.

The next morning, she awoke to the smell of orange juice and fresh fruit. She came down stairs for breakfast and she found her aunt and uncle in the living room, comforting each other.

She found out from them that Ms. Pickens had passed away in the night. She had some kind of heart attack. She thought that was an odd coincidence that she saw her last evening walking towards the end house on Wicker Street.  She contemplated last night's events while eating an an apple and went back upstairs to change for her classes.

Sarah got back later than usual from the campus and once it again, it was dusk. She knew her aunt and uncle would not be worried about her, but Sarah herself couldn't quite shake the feeling that something was out of place.

" I saw you out of the window, " a voice said, seemingly out of nowhere. The hair on the back of her neck stood out from the skin as a crimson color flooded her face. She turned slowly and saw the boy standing behind her. He was about her age and he did have long, brown wavy hair and he wore the clothes of someone from a theatrical production.

" Sorry, I didn't hear you behind me" she said with a smile. "I just wanted to see who the new person was in the neighborhood. I'm Sarah by the way."

"Jonathon Earnshaw" he said and bowed deeply. " A pleasure to meet such a fascinating young woman."

"Fascinating young woman" she thought to herself. " Boy is he laying it on thick. I kinda like it". 

She beemed at him. "Wow! Thank you and welcome to the neighborhood. I will be around. "

" Would you like to stay for dinner?" he said evenly, gazing into her eyes.

"Ummm.. sure. I will let my aunt and uncle know.  I'm sure they won't mind at all. " as she fished in her pockets for her phone. Her hands trembled as they searched her pockets frantically, finding everything in the world except her phone.

"Is that your phone right there, sitting the a mesh pocket of your backpack?" he said.

Flushing again, she rolled her eyes and smiled saying "Thank you, Mr. Earnshaw! That's so embarrassing. " 

"Not at all". he said pleasantly as she dialed the number and talked with her aunt and uncle.  They were pleasantly surprised at the invitation and stated that they would see her at home when she returned and reminded her of the some funeral arrangements that were made for Ms. Pickens next week.

Sarah smiled as the call disconnected and followed Jonathan Earnshaw to up the path to the front door. She had expected boxes on the floor since he had just moved in the day before, but instead, she found everything neat and tidy although a bit dark. She did seem paintings and a dimly lit dining room with two lit candles in the center along with fully prepared meal on either side of the table. 

"Would you care to sit down?" he said, motioning to the chair on the opposite end. 

"Sure.." Sarah was not sure what to make of this.  It was obvious that he had wanted to have dinner with her since the first moment he saw her through the window. She couldn't imagine the preparation it took in one day's time for the meal itself plus everything laid out so professionally like in a 5 star restaurant. 

He continued to gaze at her from the other side of the table, eating slowly. She decided to break the ice with some simple questions. 

"So where are you from, Mr. Earnshaw?"

"Ah." he glanced downwards at the plate for the first time. " Eastern Europe between Romania and Hungary."

"Wow! I don't think I've met anyone from Eastern Europe before. Cool!. So umm.. how do you like it here so far?"

"Well, " he began, sipping a drink out of an ornate crystal goblet. " The town and the neighborhood are quiet.  A lot of Europe has become ... noisy of late, you could say. "

"Ah. I see you brought some paintings with you as well. '

"Would you like to see them? I'm afraid that the local electric company has not yet turned on the service for the house although the water is on."

"Yes, I would like to see them at some point." Sarah paused for a moment. Something didn't make sense. "If you don't have electricity, how to did you prepare such a delicious meal?  I don't know that any of the houses here are connected to gas"

"I used the grill in the back for most of it. In the old country, we learned how to make use of earthen ovens and fire pits, so it sort of became second nature to us.' 

Jonathan Earnshaw got up from the table, after finishing the meal and went into another room. When he came back he was holding a candelabra. 

"Come. I will give you a tour. A candle light tour."

Sarah found that for some reason, she just couldn't take her eyes off of him.  He was young but had that old world charm about him.   She followed him down the hallway where he stopped to gaze at the first set of paintings.  

"These were painted by my great grandfather"

The painting depicted a young woman, dressed in peasant clothing standing by an overturned wagon that had been filled with hay. The moonlight gave the left side of her face a certain glow.  She looked somewhat familiar.  

As the two of them went down the hall, Sarah noticed more paintings of the same woman in different time periods.   There was even a girl from the 1920s flapper days right next to Model A.

Sarah then stopped at the very last painting. It was of a young girl leaving this house Sarah screamed.

The next morning, the neighborhood was eerily still. The day came and went with no change. Sarah woke up that evening sniffing the air, her eyes alight with hunger.

October 30, 2020 01:17

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Patrick H
18:54 Nov 06, 2020

Thank you so much!


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Claire Tennant
03:22 Nov 05, 2020

This is an excellent story I loved the steady pace of this tale; lulling the reader into a safe place, then planting seeds of doubt both in Sarah and the reader. I felt that you captured also a sense of curiosity from the reader's perspective ending with the bitter twist Achieving this without making the reader feel uneasy, and include some humour made me want to read more I hope there is an opportunity for a sequel. Well done


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