Ok, so I know what you're thinking. "It was a dark and stormy night...."
But no, it wasn't like that. Here's the story as Mrs. M told it to me (paraphrased, of course)
There was a man who worked for the railroad who lived in this area who fell in love with a young woman from the area, and though he traveled quite a bit since he was part of the management team responsible for building new rail lines, every time he was in town he would come to court her. He wanted to marry her, but because of old customs and family beliefs, they had to wait until the oldest daughter married first, which after a couple years of courting, finally happened, and they were free to be married. They had a very small church wedding and a small family celebration after, and after the party, he invited the entire family to go and see his wedding surprise to his bride.
You guessed it. It was the house, and she adored it. He was not a rich man, but he had saved his money and had secretly been building the house a bit at a time as he traveled in and out of town, doing some of the work himself, and hiring others to do what he couldn't. He had it built right by the railroad tracks so that when he could be home in a flash. See, the town's train station was another few miles up the line, so he would simply have the conductor let him off in front of his home and then continue on its way.
Things were wonderful for the couple. They were happy and comfortable, and very much in love. He adored her, as he always had, and every time he came home he brought her some gift from wherever he had been. They had two children, a boy and a girl, who were both healthy and happy. A third child, born the winter of their 10th year together, died in infancy.
Now, the man did have a jealous streak it seems, but it never turned into a violent thing. He did not let it rule him or turn him evil. Mrs. M said she believed it was more out of a longing to be with his soul mate all the time rather than traveling so much, seeing so little of her, and worrying about her being lonely that made him feel the way he did. But the woman loved him as much as he did her, and never gave him reason to worry, and so they managed to live happy together the way they were.
Tragedy did strike the family, though. First in the death of their infant child mentioned above, and later the death of their son who was killed by a train. Every time the man would come into town he would signal his arrival by the train's steam whistle. One day the boy heard the whistle in the far off distance and ran to the tracks to wait. It wasn't his father and the train didn't slow down. When the conductor realized what was about to happen it was too late to stop and the boy was killed. Mrs. M said the whole town mourned, and the man and woman never completely recovered from the loss.
In later years, the man eventually died of a heart attack. The woman never married again after the man died, and from time to time rumors floated around the town that she had gone mad. She stopped going anywhere except church on Sunday and to the town's grocer and post office once a week. People who visited her would come away with tales of her talking to her late husband as if he were there in the room with her, and would seem surprised that no one else could see him. The woman continued to live alone in the house until she died a very old woman, some time around 1950. The daughter rented the house out from time to time, but never sold it.
I was enthralled, and I think back then I had every word she said committed to memory - and had a reason to go somewhere I had not yet dared to go - under the house. I had always been strangely fascinated by the history of people around me, and loved going to various great-aunt's houses and being allowed to rummage in the attics. According to Mrs. M, when the woman died, the daughter had all of her personal belongings put into trunks and boxes and put in the storage space under the house. I couldn't resist it. I had to go under there.
The storage space under the house was something someone had added well after the house was built. It was directly under my bedroom and was about 6 ft square, and had been padlocked. The owners of the house, grandchildren of the man and woman who built it, lived out of state, and apparently no one had bothered to ask about a key or even looked inside it. I had been curious about it since the first day we moved in, but I didn't dare go under the house for my own fear of spiders. But one day I put on long pants, a long sleeved shirt, and anything else I could find to cover myself up from head to toe and decided I was breaking in. I worried with the lock for a while (OK so I had skills I shouldn't have had - get over it) until I finally managed to unlock it. Inside the storage area were several old trunks and some boxes. Most of them were filled with old, moth eaten clothes, photographs that were very much the worse for wear and other personal stuff like that.
I found old letters, journals, and books, too. Some of it held my interest, some I simply passed over as mundane things that I'd come back to later. Then I opened a smaller trunk and that's where I found the small jewelry box. I doubt there was anything of high value in the box, as I'm sure the daughter took whatever she thought was valuable, but there were some lovely items in the box. One item in particular caught my attention and I could not help myself.
I didn't consider it stealing, since the woman died way before my time and the family obviously didn't want the stuff since it had been under the house all that time, and I decided that I would only keep it a while, and then I would put it back. I was simply borrowing it. It was the most beautiful turquoise cross I'd ever seen, with gold filigree around the edges. I slipped the delicate chain around my neck and clasped it, and marveled as the small cross fell against my chest, right between my breasts. Then I stuck it inside my shirt so no one would know it was there. I don't know what to call it except to say I felt a connection to the old woman, and the cross just simply made it that much more so.
Now, there's the background of the house and my part in all of this. I know you're probably bored at this moment and wondering when you'll come to the good stuff, but I promise it's coming.
In Part 3...