I woke to Sunshine gently caressing my right cheek. And no, this wasn’t from the bright yellow ball illuminating the world on the other side of the wooden blinds. I welcomed that sunshine on these cold winter mornings when a light dusting of the white stuff clung to the green prickles of the fir trees and Jack Frost slithered up my spine. Instead, I opened my eyes to peer at the half-melted away face of my confidant and permeant shadow.
What a way to start the day. “Do you mind?” Appreciating this morning’s wake-up call after the sun decided to grace us with its presence, I rolled over to stare at the aging wooden rafters forming a reversed V above my head. They’ll need to be replaced this spring, less I end up with an unplanned skylight.
“Rise and shine sleepy head. Time to start a good morning.”
Sunshine floated an arm’s length away from the bed, just out of my reach. I cut my eye in his direction. “Far from a good morning.”
“Oh please. You’re such a drama queen before your morning tea.”
“And you’re like Satan’s little helper poking me with a stick knowing the hole there is already red, puss-filled, and protruding.” The covers flew over my head - not my doing but his - as the room warmed flowing his departure.
Most described our relationship as love/hate. Personally, I love to hate the spirit lingering in my humble abode. Or at least on days like this when he delivers a message of visitors. I suppose I should appreciate the warnings. His tips give me time to get things in order before the real work begins.
“You should get a move on,” he bellowed from the other side of the wall, “your new guest shall arrive in exactly one hour.”
Guest. Singular. No mother and father mourning the loss of a child? No harem of women seeking the truth about the demise of the man shared among them? These types of visitors periodically grace my home, summoned here by those with unfinished business. When this place calls, the beckoned answer.
Not too many people visit my neck of the woods to spend a night or two in Happy Haunts. North of the bustling Atlanta, my cottage in the woods is off the beaten path and, for the most part, cut off from the outside world. Only within the last year did indoor plumbing and phone service become a staple. I preferred to be hidden away, my long paid for old, haunted house in the woods tucked away from prying developer eyes. But it didn’t mean I didn’t want a few modern amenities, so I bit the bullet and took the proceeds from my unique clientele for both necessary repairs and a handful of upgrades.
Sliding out of the bed, donning the goose down slippers strung together with a strand of leather well past its prime, I padded my way across the bedroom ignoring the slobber-filled greeting from my husky, Chopin. I showered quickly and dressed in a wool sweater, dark blue jeans that hugged my curves and a pair of fur-lined boots.
Sunshine greeted me with a look of distain. “Took you long enough. He’s coming up the drive.”
“He?” I prepared the teapot before tossing a couple of logs into the fireplace and setting it ablaze. A sudden chill passed through me, an indication that the one my visitor sought had arrived.
There she was, standing before the bay window, her pigtails tied up with lace ribbons on either side of her head. She stared out of the window opposite the drive, her attention focused on the flakes falling from the sky. Something hung loosely from her right hand. Possibly a tie or leash.
I joined Sunshine at the other window, gawking at the strapping young man dressed in all black as he passed a few bills to the driver. His long lean body sent something fluttering in my neither region, something I hadn’t experienced since taking the plunge and walking away from my old life to continue my family’s legacy.
“Do I detect a bit of lust?”
I waved Sunshine off. “Jealous?” I would have punched him in the arm if he possessed a solid form.
“Who me? Why would I be jealous? You’re the one stuck with me. I can leave whenever I choose.”
His comment caught me off guard. “What do you mean?”
“An opportunity or two have crossed my path to skirt over to the other side. But you need me.”
“I do not!” Pounding my fist into the stone countertop hurt like hell. I rubbed the now tender flesh before removing the whistling kettle and setting the table for morning tea.
“What is he doing out there?” Sunshine asked still watching our visitor like a lioness stalking her prey.
I too expected a knock on my door by now. Guess he needed some encouragement. I added milk and sugar to my cup of earl Earl Grey, drooping only a half of a teaspoon into the other mug suspecting my gentleman visitor preferred a much stronger beverage. Sliding the picturesque door open – hopping out of the way before Chopin bulldozed me over – I greeted my guest with a steaming cup of tea.
We hope you enjoyed this excerpt from Aziza Sphinx's story. Visit our website today and pre-order Terminus 2: Black Fantastic Tales from the ATL today. Release date: June 19, 2022