This is my first Haunting in Connecticut fic! I'm hoping to do really well on this one, and I hope you're prepared for horror and death, love and heartbreak! I don't promise a happy ending since I'm a bit of a sadist when it comes to writing, but I really hope you enjoy the ride! Please review, even if it's a short "update soon!" I'd really appreciate it!
Summary: It's a plain life for Eloise in 1920 Connecticut. Plain job, plain home, plain looks, the whole boring shebang. Or so it appears. Dead family members, dying family members, a dangerous boss, and a boy's love she never even considered before rear their heads and turn Eloise's safe little life into a picture of tragedy… and insanity.
To be completely honest, Eloise Cross really enjoyed her job. Though to some it seemed quite menial, it was something she did well and without complaint.
She even liked her employer, to a point, and his other employee who doubled as his assistant. They were a quiet pair who were as equally quiet about their work and had only one rule for her: stay out of the morgue.
Yes, Eloise worked for Mr. Aikman as his housekeeper; cooking, cleaning and the like for only a month so far.
Just as Eloise had never badgered the two about their work, they in turn never inquired about her personal life, just as she would have kept it. Six days a week from eight in the morning to eight at night she worked then left for home. Monotonous and unwavering this pace was, and it seemed it would always be so. Though they failed to see it, change was immanent.
Eloise sucked in her breath as the cutting knife inflicted a slight wound on her thumb. She brought it to her lips to nurture it, examined it for a moment, and then continued to chop vegetables in silence.
Mr. Aikman and Jonah were downstairs in the mortuary as usual, working with the cadavers and only coming up for meals and meeting the occasional visitors in the arrangement room. Today would be no different.
Once the remaining vegetables were sliced, she dropped them in a tall pot of boiling broth and topped it with the lid and cleaned up her mess.
She had just finished wiping down the counter with a cloth rag when the distinct sound of heavy footfall approached behind her. She turned with a small smile.
"Hello Mr. Aikman." She said amicably in her light southern drawl. "Somethin' I can do for you?"
Ramsey Aikman was an intimidating man, tall and skinny with a high forehead and sharp cheekbones, and there he stood, looming in the doorframe.
"Just wondering when dinner will be ready." He replied.
"About ten minutes, I'd say. I just finished cleaning up."
He nodded stiffly. "Thank you, Eloise. Will you be eating with us tonight?"
"Not tonight, I'm afraid. My daddy wants me home." She shook her head. "Should I go get Jonah before I leave?"
"He's on his way up. That'll be all for today, Eloise." Aikman stepped further into the kitchen to allow room for her to pass.
"Yes sir. I'll see you tomorrow morning then." She smiled politely and walked out into the hall to get her coat.
She pulled the oversized gray coat over her shoulders just as Jonah emerged from the lower room. He paused a moment to look at her, gave a barely perceptible nod of acknowledgement and disappeared into the kitchen.
Eloise blew a piece of straw-yellow hair from her face and finished buttoning up, bracing herself for the cold air that would bite her skin as soon as she opened the door.
The harsh chill hardly changed once Eloise was indoors again. The crumbling apartment was missing huge patches of drywall, revealing the skeletal structure. There were shapeless oil marks on the cracked and otherwise bare walls. Bottles and rumpled clothes littered the concrete floor, making a trail that lead to a worn and weathered mattress that her father had bartered for from a junk man several years back.
Atop that beaten mattress lay a man of nearly fifty years, though his solid gray hair and long, burdened face revealed his true age. The heavy lines on his bearded face gave away the life of a man who had been defeated in everything in life and knew that it would never change.
He was asleep now, settled under a heavy wool blanket tucked under his chin. His thin mouth was twitching from under his salt and pepper beard as he dreamt in uneasy peace.
Eloise looked down on her father with a mixture of affection and pity. Here was a man who worked harder than anyone and had nothing to show for it. Poverty was all he ever knew and it was all he had to give to his beloved children. Eloise loved him anyhow.
Henry Cross stirred from his slumber, his eyes opening to find his oldest daughter peering down at him with a strange look on her face. He coughed, shaking the sleep from his voice.
"Lou?" he slurred. "Lou, honey, what're you doin' hoverin' over me like a ghost? Swear you almost gave me a heart attack."
Eloise smiled at his heavy southern drawl. "Sorry, Daddy. Just lookin' at you is all. You must be hungry."
He sat up with a groan, rubbing his matted gray hair with his weathered hands. "After a ten-hour shift, you 'kin bet I'm hungry."
She bent to hand him a basket of hot, towel-wrapped baked potatoes, a single ear of corn, and a half loaf of two day-old bread. He accepted the basket with enthusiasm and immediately began to munch on a small brown potato.
Eloise straightened and turned to leave the room when Henry called out to her. "Don't you want some?" he asked with a mouth full of potato.
She shook her head, her straw yellow hair falling in front of her eyes. "No sir. But try to save that loaf for your breakfast tomorrow, alright?
Henry swallowed and nodded. "G'night, Lou darlin'."
There were only two rooms in the Cross's apartment, not including the bathroom which did not work, and a coat closet that only stored a small trunk, containing her grandfather's Confederate Army uniform. This second room belonged to Eloise. It was small and cramped, but it was relatively cleaner and neater, and somewhat decorated.
The windows were draped with thin, faded blue curtains that the moths had helped themselves to. The mattress wasn't nearly as ratty or as old as her father's, and it was neatly made up with a thin white sheet, a heavy wool blanket, and a folded red quilt at the end. There was no pillow. A single, bare light bulb was all that lit the room, and it hung drearily in the middle of the ceiling.
A little trunk of clothes lay beside the mattress as a makeshift side table. Atop it lay a cheap picture frame with a sepia photo of Eloise's mother, as well as a well-loved ragdoll. It was missing both its button eyes and a smudge of dirt stained the dress.
Eloise sighed and trudged over to her bed. She shrugged off her grey coat, unlaced her clunky, out-of-date shoes and tossed them both aside. Yawning, she picked up the doll and fell back into bed, clutching the toy to her chest.
When sleep finally came to her, she dreamt of working. She was in the Aikman house, scrubbing the floors when Jonah walked by. She called out to greet him, but it appeared that he could not hear her. He turned a corner and disappeared from sight. Eloise followed; a low humming noise came from the walls as she walked. When she too turned the corner, Jonah had gone, and in his place stood a young girl with hair the color of lemons. Eloise smiled down at her little sister in glee, reaching out to stroke her face.
Her eyes opened and she was in her apartment again.
By the time she was able to pull herself out of bed and slip into a knee-length, blue wool dress, her father had already left for work.
Eloise sighed and began to get ready for the day. After combing her hair out with her fingers and brushing her teeth, she left her shoddy apartment. She walked briskly down the frozen road, her clunky, black, shoes leaving clear prints in the fresh snow as she went thinking about her dream.
Yes, she decided, she would go visit her sister tomorrow. She smiled, thinking about how surprised she'd be when she showed up with her old ragdoll. They'd probably play a game or two with the other children since it was too cold to go to the park. She might even eat lunch with them and tell them stories. They usually liked her stories.
At last she reached the Aikman house, just as the snowfall came down in heavy gusts. Instead of knocking, she waltzed right in like she owned the place. The Aikmans wouldn't care; in fact, they expected her to. They didn't want to bother answering the door when they were so busy down in the morgue.
After hanging her coat up on the rack, Eloise made a beeline for the kitchen and found the breakfast dishes were already washed and put away. She frowned, knowing she wouldn't get paid for this, but shrugged it off and set off to do the next task: laundry.
She started into the next room but stopped short, lingering in the doorframe. Sitting cross legged on the floor was Jonah, engulfed in a pile of clean laundry.
He didn't seem to be aware of her presence considering his back was to her when she padded into the room. She watched him carefully fold a pair of pants for a moment, an amused smile tugging at her lips.
"You know that's my job, right?" she said finally.
He jumped, head whipping around to face her. "When did you get here?"
She shrugged. "About five minutes ago… Did you do the dishes too?"
Jonah nodded. "Mr. Aikman left early this morning for some business errands. I'm not supposed to work alone, and I didn't have anything else to do so…" he shrugged apologetically.
Eloise cocked her head. What was the harm? It was his house anyway. She sat opposite him and examined the stack of already folded clothes. "Not bad. Except this one needs to be redone." She said, picking up a shirt and began refolding it herself.
She didn't stop there. On she went through the pile of clothing, working at a steady pace while the wind outside picked up and the light snowfall turned into a storm. She could feel Jonah's electric blue eyes occasionally glance in her direction, which would quickly flick back down to whatever he was working on every time she looked up.
An hour had passed when they were done, and Eloise decided she needed to move on to dusting. Jonah offered to help, and she gave him a rag to work with.
"We'll split up." She dictated. "I take upstairs, you take down. Or would you rather take upstairs?"
He shook his head. "Doesn't matter. I'll take downstairs."
It was settled. Dusting went by a little longer than folding had, and soon they met at the bottom of the stairs, ready for the next task to come.
"Are you hungry?" Eloise asked mid-sweep.
"Are you?" he said uncertainly.
Eloise looked at him knowingly. "I'll take that as a yes."
She put the broom aside and trailed into the kitchen. By the time Jonah made it there as well she had already whipped out the stew she had prepared the night before.
When he reached over her to retrieve a bowl, Eloise glanced upward and couldn't help but feel very small in comparison.
He caught her staring. "What?"
"Err, nothing. I was just realizing how short I am." She said, unable to suppress a smile. "I was in denial about it before until I looked up and there you were."
He smiled embarrassedly and ducked his head. "Oh."
She chuckled, turned to the table and shrieked. Her hand flew to her mouth to stop the noise.
Jonah whirled around. "What is it?"
Eloise lowered her hand slowly, mouth agape and trembling ever so slightly. "I-I thought I saw someone standing right there." She pointed to the empty doorframe. "It looked just like my…"
Jonah watched her fearful eyes flicker with emotions he could not identify. He set his bowl down gently and walked to her side. His hand hovered hesitantly above her shoulder, in an attempt to console the girl, but instead it fell limply to his side. "Are you sure you saw someone?"
Eloise glanced down at her feet. "I guess it was my imagination then. Trick of the light." She looked up at Jonah and smiled awkwardly. "I'm sorry."
Ramsey Aikman came home not twenty minutes later and immediately set Jonah to work again. Eventually Eloise went home after she was sure everything in the house was immaculately neat and tidy and the storm outside was definitely over. She crunched home through the snow with a chill set in her bones that was not entirely brought on by the frigid climate.
She simply could not rid her mind of the apparatus that she may or may not have seen. The heart palpitating fear that struck her when she saw him standing there, clothed in dingy-white rags and the marred skin of her dead brother's face.
Okay, well not a whole lot of action going on, but you have to build up to these things, you know? I hope to get in the next update soon if all goes well on the exams next week! Wish me luck!