Emily followed Jasper down to the cellar. At first glance, she didn’t like the looks of it. He opened the door and the stairs looked as though they lead to a bottomless pit. She could have sworn she saw a bat fly out the door, but Jasper called her dramatic before heading down the steps. Reluctantly, she followed.
The two had just recently married. They were both fresh out of college and couldn’t afford anything. Between their student loans, they had a small wedding and no honeymoon. Maybe for their fifth or tenth anniversary they’d be able to splurge on a vacation out of the country, but Emily and Jasper were just as happy to be together no matter where they were.
The problem was, Emily still lived with her parents. They loved Jasper but thought the two of them rushed into their marriage. Since both of them had just graduated, neither one of them had set careers yet. Jasper hated his job and it was an entry level position in his field so he wasn’t making much money. All Emily had found, so far, was an unpaid internship. She figured some experience was better than nothing though she was still looking for a job.
Emily still lived with her parents, but they told her now that she was married, she needed to grow up and figure things out with her husband. Jasper had a studio apartment which was far too small for the two them. Emily couldn’t move most of her things into it because it was so cramped. Jasper even got rid of some of his things for her and Emily’s parents were being nice enough to let her keep some things at their house until they figured things out.
So, they were looking for a house. Emily wasn’t sure it was the right decision since neither of them had much money. She didn’t know what made Jasper believe they could afford a mortgage among all the other bills and headaches that came with owning a house. They had just paid for a wedding (small, yes, but it was still a rather hefty expense) and they both had student loans they needed to make monthly payments to.
Jasper thought it wouldn’t hurt to look at some houses especially since most rent for apartments were the same as a mortgage. Emily understood his reasoning, but there were more bills that came with a house than an apartment. She wasn’t too sure which would be the right decision for them.
When he found a fixer-upper home that was in their price-range, Emily had to humor him and take a look at it. He was so excited and Emily knew he truly thought they would end up with the house.
Jasper called the real estate agent and she gave him the code to the lock box for them to check out the house themselves. Emily found it strange they were allowed to tour the house themselves. She wondered how many other people had the code to the lock box. Would they walk in on another couple looking at the house? Will someone walk in on them while they toured around?
The house was certainly in bad shape and Emily wondered if some people who knew the code had come in to vandalize it to knock the price lower. The price was low enough, especially to be in their range. However, Emily knew they would have to put quite a bit of money back into it to make it a livable space which would mean it’d be out of their price range soon enough.
“I can’t find the light,” Jasper said.
“Don’t joke,” Emily warned.
“I’m not joking.” Jasper’s face lit up as he turned the flashlight app on his phone. He moved it around the room taking a closer look at the walls.
Emily stood on the final step of the staircase ready to turn and run if need be.
“Oh, here.” Jasper reached over to a switch behind him. He flicked it upward but nothing happened. He hummed to himself. “Maybe the bulb is dead.”
“I think there’s something more that’s dead down here,” Emily whispered.
Jasper smirked, holding out his hand to her. “Stop being dramatic. Everything is fine.”
Emily took his hand and stepped off the final stair. She still didn’t like the idea of being in the basement. “What is it that we have to see down here?”
“Well, apparently, we need to make sure no dead bodies are hidden down here.”
Jasper sighed, gently tugging her along. “I’m joking. You seem to think this place was used as a torture chamber. It’s just a regular basement though. See?” he moved his flashlight back and forth in slow motions trying to get a picture for the whole room.
“It’s small,” Emily observed. She didn’t dare let go of his hand.
“It is, but I think this would make a fun hangout space for us and whenever we have friends over,” Jasper suggested.
Emily nodded in agreement. There wasn’t much to the basement at all. Looking up at the ceiling, there was only one light fixture and the bulb was missing. A small armchair sat in the far corner of the room though it looked run-down and old. She assumed the previous owners took the other furniture and left that one behind for certain reasons. There was a spot where it looked like a TV used to be. There were cable cords sticking out the wall lying uselessly on the ground. On the other side of the room, there were folding doors – one open and one closed that seemed to reveal the washer and dryer behind it. Emily shrugged to herself. That was something. Of course, who knew what condition they were in seeing as they were left behind.
The carpet was dull and dirty. Emily was sure it wasn’t supposed to be a murky brown color. She was glad to be wearing her sneakers because the whole atmosphere of not just the cellar, but the house as a whole, was dirty. She cast her gaze to the ceiling and noticed a few cobwebs in the crevasses.
“What do you think?” Jasper asked.
Emily turned to him with a harsh frown on her face. He frowned in return.
“You saw the dust and spiders? I was hoping you wouldn’t notice. Those are easy to get rid of though.”
Emily sighed. “I know. It’s just… it’s hard to picture this place as livable space. It seems so sad down here.”
Jasper nodded in agreement. “It needs a lot of work, for sure. I feel bad the place hasn’t been taken care of either. So, maybe this is an opportunity for us to help the house out.”
Emily didn’t answer. She knew Jasper was right. She felt bad for the house and she wanted to take care of it. However, the two of them had a hard time taking care of themselves, how would the be able to help out this house?
“We don’t need to decide right now,” Jasper reminded her. “But it might be something to think about. It’s a little under our budget and we can slowly renovate and update things as we get the money to do so.”
Emily nodded still not answering. She was too busy staring at the cobwebs in the ceiling.
Jasper turned her around so she couldn’t stare at them anymore. “Let’s go back upstairs where there are windows and it’s light.”
As soon as Emily turned around, she screamed. Jasper jumped a mile startled at her sudden outburst. Emily leaped behind Jasper and he turned his flashlight in the direction of the stairs where Emily screamed.
A man stood at the bottom of the steps, shielding his eyes with his hand from the light. “Could you please put that thing down?”
Jasper lowered it a tad. “Who are you?”
“My name is Henry, I’m the owner of this house,” he replied.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Jasper said.
Emily narrowed her eyes at him from behind. She felt his tense shoulders relax and she wasn’t so sure they could trust this Henry guy. He probably waited for people to head to the basement and then killed them. Maybe, for whatever reason, he didn’t want people to buy the house. Maybe he really was the owner of the house but was a ghost and didn’t want people moving into his space.
She gripped Jasper’s shoulders tighter causing him to wince, attempting to pry her fingernails out of his skin. She suddenly felt faint.
“No, I’m sorry to have surprised you,” Henry said. “The realtor didn’t tell me there was anyone looking at the house today.”
“She gave us the code to the lock box to get the key and said we could come look at it any time we wanted,” Jasper explained.
Henry scoffed. “Yeah, right. I don’t know why she doesn’t come with people to look at the houses. I came here the other day to grab my TV down here and it was gone. The people who had looked at the house before said they weren’t interested and, ironically enough, disappeared,” He said sarcastically.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Jasper said. He took Emily by the hand again, her knuckles turning white. “Shall we move the conversation upstairs?”
“Of course,” Henry said. He turned around and began walking up the stairs.
Jasper tugged Emily along, whispering to her. “Everything is okay. There’s nothing to worry about.”
“He could have murdered us,” Emily snapped.
“Alright, no more crime shows before bed.”
When they made it to the top of the stairs, Henry was waiting for them in the kitchen. There wasn’t any furniture left and Henry apologized for not being able to offer them a seat. He apologized for not even being able to offer them a beverage.
“So, are you interested in the house?” Henry asked bluntly. “I know it doesn’t look like much so we’ve been having a hard time selling.”
“We’re not entirely sure yet,” Jasper replied. “We’ve both just graduated college and don’t have a whole lot of money. This house is in our budget but there’s a lot to fix and update.”
Henry nodded. “No, you’re right. That’s what a lot of people have been saying. The house is cheap, but they don’t want to put in the extra work to fix it up. Or, as in your case, they don’t have the extra money to fix it up.”
“How did it get to be like this?” Emily asked.
Henry shrugged. “Honestly, I don’t know. Both my parents lived here their whole marriage. They soon got to be too old and sick to clean or take care of anything. When something broke, it never got fixed and they learned to do without it. I admit, I’m a horrible son and didn’t check in with them as often as I should have.”
Emily frowned. “I’m sorry for your losses then.”
Henry chuckled. “Oh, no. They’re both alive and living with me now. Karma is a bitch.”
Emily couldn’t help but smile as well. She couldn’t imagine if both her parents had to move in with her after so many years. Her parents were tough nuts to crack anyway, she couldn’t bear the thought of having to be responsible for both of them. She figured she’d rather Jasper’s parents over her own if someone had to move in with them.
“They keep sending me here to grab something for them. They’re not too happy I’m selling the house,” Henry explained.
Jasper nodded. “I can understand that. I’m sure if my home was being sold without my wanting it to, I’d be pretty upset as well. It’s tough to root the elderly from their normal day to day living style.”
“You’re absolutely right,” Henry agreed.
Emily bit her lower lip. She looked up at Jasper and leaned in close. “We’ll take it.”
Jasper’s eyes grew as he looked down at her. “What?”
“I want the house.”
“You were terrified of it a minute ago.”
“But think of Henry’s parents. I’d rather us live here knowing we’ll take great care of the house rather than people coming in to steal stuff only pretending they’re interested in the house.” Emily softened her tone. “Look at the house, Jasper… it’s begging to be loved.”
Jasper turned to Henry open-mouthed. Henry put his hands up in surrender.
“Hey, it took me two marriages to learn my lesson and know not to mess with women. This is a conversation between you two and possibly the realtor,” He said.
Jasper chuckled though Emily narrowed her eyes not sure whether that comment about women was an insult to her or not. Jasper looked back at her.
“You want the house even with the creepy cellar?”
She nodded. “All we need to do is add more lights down there.”
Henry laughed out loud. “I never went down there as a kid.”
Jasper sighed, though he still smiled. “Alright, then… I guess we’ll head back to my apartment and take a look at our finances.”
Emily clapped her hands together in excitement. She didn’t think she’d be the one to have to convince Jasper in the end, but it seemed as though they were finally on their way to be an actual married couple with adult responsibilities.
The three walked out together and right as Jasper was about to shake Henry’s hand, Henry backed away and dipped his head in goodbye. He turned and walked away as though he was headed back into the house.
Jasper opened the passenger side door of his car for Emily to get in.
“I guess I shouldn’t complain,” she muttered, “but don’t you think it’s odd he wouldn’t shake your hand?”
Jasper shrugged. “Maybe he doesn’t like germs.”
“And he can stand to be in that house?”
“Emily, just get in the car. We’re going to look into the house, aren’t you pleased with that?”
“I am, but…” Emily looked over her shoulder at the front door. She narrowed her eyes. “Where did he go?”
Jasper looked in the general direction she was staring. “I think he went into the house.”
She shook her head. “No, we would have heard him go into the house.”
“I mean… yeah, but…” Jasper’s voice trailed away.
Emily shivered. “Did we just agree to buy a house from a ghost?”
“No,” Jasper replied quickly. He stared at her in confusion. “No?”
“You’re not making me feel any better.”
Jasper hesitated to reply. “Get in car and let’s get out of here!”