29. Let Me Call You Sweetheart

“Lookaway” is the name of the old house on Manila Street. It was a wedding gift from Mr. Whitson to his new bride, Beth Slater Whitson. You have probably never heard of her.  When the house was for sale a couple of years ago, the listing made no mention of her ever having lived there.  The last thing anyone who wants to sell that house wants to do is to draw attention to Mrs.Whitson.

Of course, after a while, you can’t help but notice her.  You’ll come home to find your clean pots out of the cupboard an arranged on the kitchen stove. You’ll be sitting in the living room, reading a book, and the television will come on and start to flip through channels. Lights will be on in rooms you know you left dark.

And sometimes the air will hang heavy with the smell of magnolia blossoms, even with the windows shut, even when the magnolias aren’t in bloom.

Even the neighborhood children who use the huge front yard like a neighborhood park will come home singing “Let me call you sweetheart, I’m in love with you. Let me hear you whisper that you love me, too.” And when their mothers ask, “Did you make that up?” the children say, “No, that woman in the funny dress sings it when she’s on the porch.”

And, by this point, the mothers don’t even bother to look out their windows in suspicion.

“It’s like this,” one says to me, “I don’t want to live there and I would scream if I ever saw her, but she’s kind of our neighbor, so what can you do? I heard they called in a pastor to bless the place, but he said he didn’t think she was evil or trapped there. She’s just where she wants to be. There’s nothing he can do. Just wait for her to move on.”

“Or be forgotten?”

“How are you going to forget someone who’s teaching your kids those old-fashioned songs? Did you listen to what I told you?”

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