Brad grabbed his phone from his pocket, he opened the lock screen and went into the music app, he pressed play then skipped a few songs. He looked up from his phone, he had been lost in his thoughts before the music stopped, he wasn’t too far from college, only another twenty minutes or so. He could get there a little faster but it was a hot day, too hot to walk at anything other than a leisurely pace. He was enjoying the faint breeze and the feeling of the sun on his face, it felt like it had been months since there was weather this nice. He started to walk again then paused as something caught his eye, he looked over at the large house, it was a little run down for the area, but the garden was well taken care of. He scanned the windows, he thought he saw someone waving from the corner of his eye. He pushed it away, must have been kids messing, he walked a few feet then stopped again. The house really was quite beautiful and it possessed a strange charm about it. It could use a lick of paint and the windows needed a good wash, but over all it was lovely. Brad jumped as his phone started ringing, interrupting the music, he fished out his phone, “Hello?”
“Hey, its Alex, where are you?”
“I’m about twenty minutes away. I was thinking we could all go for a drink after the lecture.”
“Dude the lectures over, did you not get my texts?”
“What? No, it doesn’t start for another” he pulled his phone from his face to check the time. “What the fuck? Shit. Sorry, I must have misread the clock or something.”
“Uh huh, let me guess, you slept in again?”
“No seriously I swear to god I thought I had another half an hour until the lecture.”
“Whatever, we’re going to head to the pub, we’ll probably be there for a few hours anyway.”
“Cool, I’ll be there in a bit.”
Brad hung up, then stared at his phone, frowning at it. Maybe it was a fault with the phone? It was kind of old and he needed a new one anyway. He slid his phone back into his pocket, then glanced at the house again. He saw her this time, a young woman, early twenties, with long red hair, she smiled at him and waved, Brad waved back. He turned and began to walk, he got a few steps before he stopped and went back. The girl was still at the window. Not really knowing what he planned he entered the garden and went up to the door, before he fully realised what he was doing he knocked on it twice. The noise of the heavy doorknocker startled him, what was he doing here? Was he really going to knock on this girls door and ask her out? Yet that was exactly what he wanted to do. The door opened before he could reconsider, the girl stood before him, she wore a light summer dress, her skin was pale and she was barefoot.
“Uh hi. I’m sorry, I know this is weird, but would you like to go for a drink sometime?”
The girl laughed, it was a light laugh, musical, Brad started to laugh too, though he wasn’t sure why.
“I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that forward.”
“Well, it was just an idea, no pressure if you don’t want to.”
“No, no I’d love to,” she looked back into the house, “It’s just I’m staying with my grandfather, he’s going a bit senile and I worry about leaving him…if you like you could come in for a coffee or tea though?”
Brad smiled, “Sure, I’d love to.” She stepped back to let him in, as Brad crossed the threshold he felt a thin thread of unease in his stomach.
“If you’re sure. I mean, you don’t really know me after all, it just doesn’t seem very safe”
“Well, are you intending to rob me, or hurt me in anyway?”
“No, I wouldn’t do something like that.”
“There you go, it’s perfectly safe.”
Brad nodded and smiled, that made all the sense in the world. She closed the door behind him.
The house was cooler than he expected, gloomier too, despite the large windows and open curtains. Everything in the house seemed to have a thin layer of dust, he could tell that an old person lived here, odd porcelain figurines were dotted around the place, as they passed the sitting room Brad glanced in and saw uncomfortable looking couches with ugly floral patterns. The girl gestured around the hall as they walked, “Sorry it isn’t exactly clean, normally my granddad would have cleaners come in, but he fired them a few months back and he won’t let me hire anyone else. I try to keep up with it but there’s only so much I can do.”
“Are you in the college?”
“Yeah, I am, I’m doing business, you?”
Brad grinned, “arts degree, which is way less impressive, I’m in my second year.”
“I just started, figured I could give my granddad a hand and save money on rent too.”
“It must be tough looking after him.”
“It’s not too bad, he has his good days and bad.”
They entered the kitchen, it was large, with marble countertops and a large conservatory at the back, despite the heat of the sun the tile floor seemed to radiate cold. He could see out into the back garden, it was larger than he expected, it seemed overgrown but strangely designed in its wildness.
The girl filled the kettle with water, as she flicked it on Brad realised he hadn’t actually gotten her name. His cheeks reddened slightly, “I’m sorry, I don’t think I caught your name?”
“Nice to meet you, though you don’t look like a Brad.”
“Oh really? What does a Brad look like?”
“Well it makes me think of American jocks, who’re always douche bags to everyone.”
She laughed, Brad couldn’t help but laugh along, “I’m sorry, that’s just what I think of. You seem lovely though. Besides you don’t really have the build for American football.”
“No, sports were never really my thing. Too much running.”
She poured the hot water into two cups, as she did she gestured at the kitchen table. It was smaller than he thought it would be, seating only four, but the thick, dark wood looked expensive. He sat down and she joined him a few seconds later, she passed him a mug.
Brad sipped his tea as they talked, it tasted familiar but he couldn’t quite place it, it was sweet, slightly floral and had a pleasant bite to it. Every so often he thought he saw something moving in the reflection of the windows, but every time he glanced behind himself there was nothing there. His phone started to ring, Brad reached for it and without looking at the screen he muted it. He was having far too much fun to be interrupted, though he couldn’t quite remember what they had talked about so far he knew he was having a great time.
They had talked for what felt like hours and he had drank two cups of the tea. Outside it was starting to get dark, he didn’t want to leave but he knew he would have to soon. Almost as though sensing his thoughts Annalisa looked outside and sighed, “It’s getting dark, I suppose we better finish up here, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to take up your entire day.”
“Oh no, don’t apologise at all, I had a wonderful time. I’d love to do it again.”
She smiled, “me too.” She gasped, “My granddad, I’m sorry, I should go check on him, I completely forgot.” She got up from the chair and left the room. Brad reached into his pocket, he might as well check who was ringing, when Annalisa came running back into the room, “He fell, oh god I wasn’t paying attention and he fell, I think he’ll be ok but I need help getting him up, he’s too heavy for me to lift by myself.”
“Oh of course, where is he?”
“In his room, C’mon!”
Annalisa took off at a jog and Brad followed her, she brought him through the hall, up the stairs and down a long hallway. The bedroom was dark, thick heavy curtains were pulled across the window, and had a strange smell about it, one of sickness and decay, of flowers and perfumes. He saw her granddad lying on the floor, crumpled at the side of the bed, Brad ran over, “Oh god Annalisa this isn’t good, I don’t think he’s breathing.”
“He’ll be fine, please we just need to get him back into bed, we can ring someone after, we can’t just leave him on the cold floor.” Together they carefully lifted the old man into the bed, to Brad it felt as though he weighed almost nothing. His skin was old and wrinkled, a map of veins spreading across it. As they gently put him down the old mans eyes opened, Brad gasped in surprise as the old mans hand shot out and grabbed his wrist. The old man was stronger than Brad expected, he tried to pull his hand back, the old man jerked him forward and Brad fell onto of him. Before he could register what was happening the old mans mouth was securely fastened over his, someone was pushing down on his back, he could feel a strange pressure as the man started to suck as his mouth. He struggled to pull back but he felt sick, lightheaded. A few seconds later the old man released Brad, he stood up shakily, he felt weak. “What the hell is going on?” he turned to see Annalisa holding a heavy silver vase, before he could move she swung it at his head. The vase connected with a meaty thud and Brad’s body crumpled. The young man on the bed sat up and looked at the wrinkled corpse on the floor. He swept Annalisa into a hug and held her tightly, he pulled back slightly and they kissed.