“I double dog dare ya!” said Butch.
What seemed like a good idea earlier didn’t seem so hot now that we were standing on the front lawn of old lady Havisham’s aged Victorian. The house’s peeling paint and crooked shutters gave me the creeps.
My dog, Charlie, was straining at the leash. His hound’s nose scented something.
“Stop, Charlie!” I said, yanking the leash, but the dachshund refused to listen.
“Look, Skeeter, if you ain’t gonna do it, I’m leaving.” Disgusted, Butch turned away. “You’re such a girl sometimes.”
His words wounded my tomboy heart. “Wait!”
He did. “If you’re gonna do it, do it now. I ain’t got all day.”
“I didn’t say I wasn’t gonna do it… I just need some time to think.”
“About what? Just knock on the door and run. I’ll hold Charlie for ya. Go on.”
This special summer was important. Butch was the new boy in town and his opinion mattered. I was eleven, but I’d already decided he was the boy I’d marry when I grew up. I liked his blond hair and freckles. He seemed to like me, too; said I was the bravest girl he knew.
“Okay,” I said, tossing him Charlie’s leash. “Hold him – he likes to run.”
“Don’t worry ‘bout Charlie,” he said, nudging me forward. “Go!”
I took a deep breath then ran up to the sagging porch. Peeking through the window nearest the door, I couldn’t see much. The panes were grimy and foul.
“Hurry up,” called Butch.
“Okay, okay,” I muttered under my breath. I quickly pounded on the door. Before I could run, it suddenly swung open, no one in sight.
“CHARLIE, NO!” yelled Butch.
Charlie, leash trailing, scooted right past me and through the door.
Cautiously, I followed. “Charlie?” I whispered. “Come back here, bad dog!”
My eyes slowly adjusted to the shadowy room.
On a nearby table sat a sepia-toned photograph of a young woman dressed in white, wearing a pearl necklace and long, filmy veil. I picked up the photograph, studying it.
“PUT THAT DOWN, LITTLE TOAD!”
Scared, I dropped the photograph and spun around. Before me stood an old woman, glaring.
She held Charlie in her arms, ignoring his wriggling attempts to get free. “Is this yours?” she asked.
Frozen with fear, I could only nod. Her long, grizzled hair hung past her shoulders and she wore the tattered remains of a once-white dress and old, chewed veil. I gagged on the smell of mothballs.
“Come to visit, little toad?”
She crept close and I slowly backed toward the door. Suddenly, Charlie freed himself, jumped down, and ran out of the house.
“What about you, little toad?” She raised a withered claw in welcome.
Cackling laughter followed as I ran out the door, screaming like a lunatic, no longer caring about Butch’s opinion.
Catching up with Charlie, I grabbed his leash, putting distance between us and that house.
I never looked back to see if Butch was following…
Word Count: 500
Author’s Note: This tale is written in response to a writing prompt to write a 500-word story utilizing the words: photograph; special summer; heart; dachshund; and pearl necklace. Thanks to Elizabeth Frattaroli who hosts monthly challenges. Her blog can be found here.