Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters.
Author's Note: In 1990, Anthony Perkins filmed a pilot for a new television show called The Ghost Writer. It was about a horror writer (played by Perkins, obviously!) who remarries after his first wife dies, only to have his second wife completely terrified by his family and his lifestyle.
Unfortunately, the pilot was never made into a series, although the episode has aired on television a couple of times (or so I've been told.) It's available for viewing on YouTube, if anyone is interested. I recently viewed it for the first time, and I couldn't help but start to write about it.
"Tomorrow night? I have to be there that soon?"
Cindy Strack knew something was wrong when she heard the alarm in her mother's voice. Elizabeth Strack was usually so calm, but she seemed to be panicking as she spoke over the phone in the living room.
"Are you sure this can't be put off for a week or so? I mean, my husband just got home from a book tour, he's not feeling well, and…" Elizabeth was cut off by whoever was speaking on the other line. Finally, she closed her eyes and put her free hand to her forehead in defeat. "All right, I understand. I'll book a flight right away, and I'll call you back to tell you what time I'm coming in. Goodbye."
"What's going on, Mommy?" Cindy asked immediately as her mother hung up the phone.
Elizabeth Strack sighed. "Honey, I have to fly back to Chicago. They sold our house, and I have to sign it over to the new owners." Before her daughter even asked, Elizabeth shook her head. "And I'm sorry, but you can't come with me. I'll be too busy to look after you."
"But Mommy-" Cindy protested, her eyes widening in pure panic.
"Sweetheart, it's only going to be for a few days. You're going to stay here, and Anthony will look after you."
"No, Mommy!" Cindy cried in terror, tears of panic welling up in her eyes.
Anthony Strack was Cindy's new stepfather, and Elizabeth's new husband. Elizabeth and Anthony had met on one of his book tours, and Elizabeth and her daughter had moved into Anthony's home, a creepy old mansion in upstate New York. Anthony refused to live anywhere else; he insisted that the house helped him as a writer. He was, after all, the world's bestselling horror novelist.
But Cindy was scared to death. She thought her new stepfather was, in reality, a crazed murdering lunatic. Anthony looked the part—he was tall, lanky, and quiet, and had a low, dark voice—but her mother knew him as nothing more than a loving husband.
"Honey, Anthony loves you," Elizabeth insisted, wrapping her daughter in her arms. "Besides, he's not feeling well. He'll feel a lot better if you stay here and help Miss Blasko take care of him." Miss Blasko was the Stracks' housekeeper, whom Cindy found equally as creepy. She wore nothing but black dresses and blood-red lipstick, and Cindy swore she had fangs.
"I don't want to be near him, Mommy! He still scares me!"
"Cindy, dear, he's a gentle man who adores you. Here, let's go upstairs and see him. Let's bring him something to drink; he's probably thirsty."
Anthony Strack also stuck close to home for another reason; book tours wore him out. He was never able to sleep in hotel beds, so he arrived home exhausted, nursing immense headaches. Visits to New England and Minnesota cities tore apart and congested his chest. Eating food he wasn't used to gave him stomachaches. After returning home, he took to bed for several days, and this book tour wasn't any different. He was asleep in he and Elizabeth's bedroom now.
Cindy numbly took her mother's hand as they went up the stairs of the Strack home. The master bedroom was the first bedroom on the right upon reaching the top of the stairs; Cindy hung back, but Elizabeth quietly pried open the door, took her daughter's hand, and entered quietly.
Anthony Strack, wearing pajamas and a loose robe, had just woken up from a nap. Lying in bed, he stretched his arms out in a yawn, and smiled at seeing his wife. "Hello, darling Elizabeth."
"Anthony, dear, I have some sad news. I have to return to Chicago for the closing on our house. I have to be there tomorrow evening, and I probably won't return for a couple of days."
"That's all right, sweetheart." Anthony's voice was gentler than usual due to his fatigue. He gave out a few hacking coughs, and took a sip of water from the glass on his nightstand to calm his throat down. "We can look after young Cindy until you return."
"But Mommy-" Cindy began alarmingly, hugging her mother tightly around the waist.
Elizabeth and Anthony exchanged glances. There was nothing more to be said.
"Cindy, darling, I need someone to help take care of me while your mother's away," Anthony said to his stepdaughter as gently as he could. "I'm sick in bed, and this chest cold is making me miserable."
"Cindy, dear, we can talk on the phone three times a day. I promise," Elizabeth said, reaching for her daughter' s hand and squeezing it as Anthony gave out another dry cough. "Come with me to my closet, okay, honey? You can help me pack."
Cindy nodded numbly and followed her mother to her walk-in-closet. There was no use arguing anymore; her mother was going to leave whether she protested or not.