This story is by karen gref and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Jaxson Farms was a sweet haven. The view provided beautifully sculpted mini-farms, thirteen in all, each with an eclectic house on about fifteen acres. All around were native birds singing and the faint sound of a distant babbling brook. Nestled in the northern part of the great state of Georgia, it was lush with mature trees and wildlife, and there was loads of room on the rolling hills for horses, gardening, and simple peace away from the hectic world.
Julia Wallace was so happy and wore a sweet smile on her lips. These last few days were like a beautiful dream. She had always fantasized about residing in Jaxson Farms, owning a big house with the land; now, it was hers! 702 Sweetbottom Place, she felt so blessed! Her business was good. Jake, her hunky husband, was still crazy in love with her, and Marly, her beautiful twelve-year-old daughter, was such a good girl and had captured her mother’s heart. But as life sometimes goes for us, this fairytale soon becomes a nightmare.
David and Grace, her trusted painters, had just done the finishing touches on the wrap-around porch of the two-story brick house. Julia had convinced Jake to agree to a pastel grey with a black trim accent. The paint complimented the grey vein of the marble on the foyer floor but not so much on the tail of Roxy, their Rottweiler mixed dog. She seemed to be everywhere all at once. Modern decor with a touch of antique was Julia’s love, and now she had it. They had sacrificed and saved for many years to make their dream house a reality, and she couldn’t wait to put her loving touch and hard-earned money into each room.
Julia chose a neutral, crisp white for the interior, so anything goes as far as furniture color. She favored colorful large abstract prints on the walls, several of them she did herself. Although a hairdresser by trade, she enjoyed looking at home decor magazines for fun inspiration. Jake, by contrast, was a police officer and needed to be outdoors after sitting in a squad car all day, so he tinkered on the outdoor structures and worked
hard to repair the red barn. Unfortunately, neglect and weather had taken a toll on the wood. Luckily for the Wallaces, Jake was handy and could put a lot of sweat equity into the property. The original owners built the home on the site of what used to be a thriving general store back in the 1800s. Unfortunately, local rumor had it that the store mysteriously burned down.
Today was the final moving day. They had been at it all week. Friends from the police department helped Jake move the big stuff while the home improvement store delivered several new appliances.
A grey sectional seating sofa for the living room was arriving next week, so they’d have to sit on outdoor chairs for now. Marly helped her mother arrange the heavy wrought iron pieces in front of the television hanging above the fireplace. Although the dining area was ready for use, they usually enjoyed a movie while eating the evening meal. The old bedroom suits fit nicely in their respective places, so they would get a good night’s sleep in familiar, comfy beds.
David finished the last touches on the white spindles, then wrapped yellow caution tape around the two columns, blocking the entrance to the newly painted porch. The last thing he needed was rowdy trick-or-treaters messing up his hard work with sticky fingers and muddy footprints. Halloween again! The seasons were undoubtedly flying by. He and Grace packed their paint and brushes into their work van and said their goodbyes. With the big job finally finished, it was time to go home, eat, and get some much-needed rest.
Jake set up a card table and three folding chairs on the front lawn. Tired from unpacking, they welcomed the chance to sit, have a beverage, unwind and take it all in. Maybe they would get to meet their new neighbors. Julia purchased candy to give to the kids on this chilly Halloween night. Marly combined it all in a large mixing bowl she found in the boxes on the kitchen island. She decided she was too old to trick or treat. Besides, staying close to home to explore her new surroundings seemed much more exciting.
Julia and Jake sipped a chardonnay, and Marly sat crisscrossed, trying to cool down a mug of hot cocoa. Roxy enjoyed a rawhide treat as she lay at their feet. They had pizza delivered from a local mom-and-pop restaurant, and now they were set to dig in. The wind picked up, and several leaves fluttered to the ground. Roxy’s ears perked up at the sound of footsteps in the grass nearby.
Julia needed the restroom and walked to the side door to enter the kitchen. But after taking a few steps inside, suddenly she found she was falling, her legs heading in opposite directions. Her head made contact with the kitchen island, causing a small opening to her skull. Her hip smashed hard on the tile floor shattering the bone into tiny pieces. There was water everywhere! Her red blood flowed and mixed with the colorless water to make a giant pink puddle. The faucet was flowing full blast, and the sink was overflowing. A small river of icy liquid engulfed her backside. The room went black. Martha watched the water as it poured onto the floor. It reminded her of pumping the well in the summertime.
The Goodwin family initially settled on this very property in the late 1800s. John Francis Goodwin purchased a modest house on one hundred acres. His rowdy brother William Scott Goodwin built a cabin on his brother’s property about half an acre away. They bought and sold cattle and hogs. The men added rooms and porches to the house, eventually making it one of the finest homes in the county. John married Sarah Flagg, a beauty at eighteen, and fathered five children. Sarah tended to children, chickens, and a large vegetable garden.
The children were well behaved, except the middle girl, Martha, who was full of mischief. Sarah attempted home-schooling them until more families moved to the area. Then, the men built a proper schoolhouse. Eventually, there was a barbershop, a switchboard operator house, and even a general store.
One day, the man at the store’s candy counter scolded Martha for stealing some hard penny candy. He watched her and caught her red-handed, sneaking it into her high shoe. He made a big show of it and told her never to return. To make matters worse, the most handsome boy at school, Edward, witnessed the whole drama. Martha was so embarrassed as she had known this boy her entire life and convinced herself she loved him and would marry him someday.
Naturally, he told every kid in school, making Martha pay for her mistake daily with teasing and ridicule. She lost all her friends and reputation. On Halloween 1903, practically every kid in town dressed as a jailbird to mock her, several with balls and chains attached to their leg. This prank sent Martha over the edge, and she promptly snuck out at eleven p.m. and burnt the general store to the ground with her father’s pipe lighter and some of the automobile’s gasoline. She always felt terrible about that and continues to this day to try to return the candy to its rightful glass jar. Maybe she could make it right by putting out the fire.