They never talked about it, but it had cast a shadow over their relationship and haunted J. But he had no right to feel jealous. Maeve had misunderstood, but J. And he had been grateful, at least until his gratitude had soured into resentment. In her dream Linzi plaited narrow strips of leather into a strong, flexible cord, which became a noose around the tanned and weathered neck of a man who wore nothing else except a soft cap made of animal hide, and a flat leather belt loose around his middle.
As the house drew closer to completion, Linzi felt more and more unhappy about the prospect of moving into it. So they moved in, and she told herself she would soon get used to it. The first week in the new house was something like a second honeymoon. They hardly went anywhere, except to the village for supplies, or meals in the pub; the days passed in a pleasurable round of companionable work as they sanded and painted and moved things around, and their nights were filled with sex both vigorous and tender. Linzi had never seen her husband so completely happy. He thought she was only nervy because pregnancy still eluded her and kept encouraging her to relax.
Mostly, as long as J. She felt safe enough in their new house, looking inward, happiest when the curtains shut out any sight of the featureless marshes that surrounded them, and she left all the outdoor chores to her husband, having found that no matter what direction she was facing, she was plagued by the uncomfortable sensation that someone was creeping up on her from behind. Sometimes she was plaiting the noose; sometimes she fitted it around his unresisting neck, before or after bestowing a kiss upon his motionless mouth. At other times she was not so immediately involved, but stood huddled at the back of a solemn crowd and watched him die, his legs kicking, feet dancing on air, semen spurting a final blessing on the barren ground below.
After J. It was her first visit to the new house. I love the big windows. What a great view. Standing slightly behind her mother, Linzi peeked over her shoulder at the long, flat, treeless expanse stretching away beneath the blue sky. Although more attractive now in summer colours, she still found it a sinister sight. She shrugged.
Not that it is anything like a garden yet, but.
Her mother took the request seriously and examined the land from every side. She even got down on her knees and dug into the soil with her hands. Linzi, meanwhile, put her back against a wall of the house and watched her mother closely for any signs that she felt an invasive, invisible presence, but if she did nothing showed. Whoever lived here in the past must have tended it well. You said there was no way.
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Something bad, dangerous, even though there was nothing to see. I want to know if you sense anything here. Alarm flickered in her eyes.
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I knew it! You never liked him. Her mother threw up her hands. Not about J. This place is haunted.
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The land. Her mother sighed, shifted in her chair, shot a glance at the clock on the oven. I did.
But she was a person; alive. How can a dead man hurt you? It was a challenge her mother deflected. I will say this: I never heard of anyone being killed by a ghost. I know, neither of my marriages worked out, but I do know that what troubles one partner is bound to affect the other. Although she ignored her advice to tell J.
His obliviousness was her bulwark. One evening as she passed the kitchen window she caught sight of an unpleasantly familiar shape on the ground, just behind a pile of gravel waiting to be spread, and the shock brought her to a halt and made her lean towards the glass, peering out intently, just as J.
But the sense of a sinister, lurking presence remained and intensified as the days began to grow shorter. She was aware of it, like an assassin waiting to jump out at her, every time she came home, from the moment she stepped out of her car, until, nerves taut and vibrating with fear, she managed to scurry into the house and shut the door. Only then did she dare to relax, a little.
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That her husband was unable to see the dead man, that he was seemingly immune to any sense of its presence, reassured her. It would happen very soon. Once a fortnight his scheduled delivery rounds included an overnight stay—mandatory when further driving would push him over the safety limits for hours behind the wheel. Drivers broke those limits all the time, of course, including J. She felt happy as she pulled in to park beside his van, until she saw something that gripped her heart with a nameless dread: the front door to the house was wide open.
Leaving her purse, phone, bags, everything in the car, she galloped inside, calling his name, in a panic. I just—I just saw the door and thought—thought someone might—might be inside. She could think of no plausible explanation and was determined not to speak her fear aloud, her terror that the dead man she had seen in the ditch and then closer on the ground outside was now inside the house with them.
But she knew it was true. She could feel that the tenuous safety of their home had been breached by that old ghost. It was obvious as they walked through the large, light, and still sparsely furnished rooms that there were few places a man might hide, but Linzi knew the intruder she feared could hide in plain sight.
But neither of them saw anything that did not belong, and Linzi had to pretend to be comforted by J. With the cameras mounted outside, she could monitor the property, all approaches to the house, from the TV set in the bedroom. Thus, if she heard spooky noises from outside while he was away, she could check them out without even having to show herself at the window, and find out if it was a fox, or a gust of wind, or even a couple of kids from the village looking for somewhere to take drugs and have sex.
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