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It was several blocks and took her half an hour to reach, but relief led her to stand straighter as she slid the key into 4 Holly Street.
“I’m home.” The house echoed her. She pulled her luggage in and closed the door, leaving it at the entrance. She tugged off her wet boots and left them and her tote bag there as well. Time to check the place out.
The home had been rented off and on over the years, when there wasn’t a Parker to live in it. Her acceptance to Salem State University’s School of Social Work had come just as their property manager was listing it to rent out again. Two other girls would make their way here over the week.
Although classic, the house had been maintained and renovated over the years, so it looked quaint, but had central heating, hot water on demand, and proper outlets in all the walls. There was even an Ethernet outlet in the sitting room under an old writing desk that had been converted for a keyboard tray and monitor.
“Sweet.” Summer ran her hand over the warm brown wood, polished to shine. She had opted not to keep the cleaners, saving a few pennies by keeping house herself. It wasn’t an option to normal renters. The cleaning crew could alert the management company of problem tenants before much damage could be done.
She snorted at the thought. It had a sink attached. Not even a toilet. Not really a suite. It was the largest bedroom, though, and would give her somewhere to brush her teeth and fix her hair once her roommates arrived.
Flopping on the bed, she looked up at the plaster ceiling and saw a myriad of tiny cracks. Was that a bad thing? Would pieces of it start falling on her? Standing on the duvet in damp socks, she stretched to see it better.
“Ew.” They weren’t cracks but strings of cobwebs, tons of them. She couldn’t reach, but she would be back with a broom before sleeping. And she might not be able to sleep even then.
She would head out for food—eat out tonight or get groceries for tomorrow—but there was one more thing to do before that. Her tablet rested in her tote bag, and she sent a message to Mom, Aunt Marge, and Della, her best friend from Montreal. They would all want to know that she arrived safely, that the house was in great shape—she didn’t mention the cobwebs, the cleaners hadn’t been in since the last renter left—and she was excited to start class in a couple of days.
Formalities done, she looked out the window into the grey September evening and considered ordering in pizza. It made more sense to get groceries, though. After all, she would need breakfast as well. Judging the rain, she wondered if it was worth waiting for it to pass.
She spun around, the overwhelming sense of someone watching her coming from the closet. That made no sense. She opened the doors wide, revealing a bare bar with several hangers that rattled as air swept out.
Leaning in, Summer looked left and right, examining the corners. Maybe it was a mouse. Nope.
She hopped down the stairs and put on her jacket. Suddenly groceries and rain seemed better than staying where she was. Had Aunt Marge said anything about high turnover, or infestations, or anything? She set a quick pace and tried to recall, but nothing came to mind. The turnover was high, but that was just because students only stayed for a few years. Still, she would email Marge tonight.
When she returned with the groceries, her arms aching slightly from the weight of them, the eerie feeling was gone. Relieved, she took her time putting away milk, bread, cereal, and everything else. The deli sandwich came last and she took her time eating it.
Climbing the stairs, she yawned. It had been a long trip and she hoped for a less grey day tomorrow.
When she was curling up in bed, the sensation of being watched returned. “Who’s there?” she asked, feeling stupid. Who was going to answer her?
There was no reply, but her bedroom door squeaked on its hinge, swinging in slightly. She closed her eyes and told herself it was her imagination. One thing was certain, she would be thrilled when her roommates arrived. This place was too empty, just like the large bed, filled with only herself.