When I woke up that morning it was a lovely sunny day. I was very happy because I had arranged to meet up with one of my men friends from a dating site called `Plenty More Loving`. I was going to drive to his house where we had decided to share lunch together.
He and I had been e-mailing one another and talking on the telephone for six months and even though I understood that a blind date is not necessarily recommended, I felt we knew one another well enough by now for it to be a great meeting between the two of us. He felt familiar to me, like an old friend and he hadn`t given me even the slightest hint of any sexual frisson between the two of us which suited me fine. I admit I was a bit apprehensive as my date had already explained he was something of a recluse but other than that, it felt good, I was excited.
I put on some makeup and a spray of my favourite perfume, Yvresse, before I left home. His name was Jonathon and I liked him. His profile on the dating site described him as a thoughtful and thought-provoking, clever individual. I love clever men. His photograph on the dating site portrayed a handsome man in his mid fifties, quite tall, a silver head of hair and a close cropped white beard. He was elegant, dapper, witty although his humour was sometimes hard to get.
When we first met he told me that for a long time he had studied psychology. He often sent me links to poetry, plays and film that he had enjoyed and we had shared many an internet conversation on all kinds of interesting topics. We spoke on the phone every week.
I had a close female friend called Maggie. Maggie`s a psychotherapist and when we talked about Jonathon she had said that in her view, all psychologists are completely barking mad! We laughed at the comment at the time. Little did I know what awaited me later on that day.
I suppose it might not have been so bad had Jonathon not sent me a text me a few minutes before I set off saying, `I`ve just put mother in the basement`. I found this a trifle disconcerting but hurriedly putting my mobile away, I assumed he was attempting to be funny. I explained about his humour didn`t I.
It was an hour`s drive to where he lived through pretty English countryside. Very verdant and green. I had packed a bag of lunch goodies to take with me, cheese, olives, hard boiled eggs, some salami, fresh fruit…. damn! I had forgotten the crusty bread. I thought, `never mind,` intending to stop on the way to buy some but by the time I remembered, it was all motorway. Later I was to realise that forgetting the bread was definitely the best thing I could have done but I wasn`t to know that yet. I think I may have been beginning to register some disquiet on a deep level in my brain.
When I arrived at his house, let us call him John, I gave the front door a quiet knock. It was an unassuming red brick house set in the middle of a row of terraces in a provincial market town. The door opened and just a face appeared, John`s face, peering at me from behind the door. He was wearing a woolly beanie hat and he kept the rest of his body concealed, he didn`t look at all like his photograph, not nearly as handsome or as young. He gazed down at me with a deadpan expression on his face and said in a low voice,
“You`d better come in.”
Now I have a great sense of humour and I knew that this line was taken directly from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. I thought, “Is he for real? Is he trying to be funny or does he just not realise what he`s said?” Anyway I let it go and I was ushered straight into a dark sitting room. A very dark sitting room. Everywhere was dark green or brown.
There was a dark green three piece suite; dark green carpet and at the windows, brown drapes which were pulled almost shut, keeping the daylight out of the room. I began to feel slightly uncomfortable.
I handed the bag of lunch goodies to Jonathon and he took them into the kitchen. He made a peculiar comment that he found fruit to be obscene but at least he was smiling when he said it. He returned with a steaming cup of tea for me. He had taken off his beanie hat and to my shock, was completely bald. Retrospectively, I realise that he could have spiked my tea but I sat in any case and sipped at the drink in the gloom and that`s where it all started to get really weird.
John began pacing, up and down, up and down the room, he was clearly flushed and sweating and I noticed that he had both hands gripped into tight fists. I could see his knuckles were white. I said to him,
“You seem nervous, John, why don`t you sit down? If my visit is too much for you, why then I`ll leave, no offence.”
He seemed quite relieved and sank into a chair in the far corner of the room. I carried on chatting, attempting to put him at ease.
“I know you are a bit reclusive so my visit must be quite a big deal for you?”
“Yes it certainly is,” he said, “you are my very first visitor here.”
“Oh really, so you haven`t lived here for very long?” I said.
“Oh no, I`ve lived here all my life.” John replied.
I felt a distinct prickling sensation on the backs of my hands.
“You mean to tell me that you’ve had no other visitors except me, all your life?” I asked incredulously.
“Yes, that’s right,” he said, “apart from the meter man you`re the only one.”
Feeling somewhat unnerved, I attempted to divert the rather strange conversation by commenting on the furniture which was mostly from the thirties. My eyes settled on a large carved box up on a high shelf. I asked John what it was and he informed me that the box contained the ashes of his old dog.
Later, when I recounted the whole tale to my friend Mark, he tried to make light of the experience and we had laughed back then but I still shudder every time I recollect the day.
In an effort to make the situation feel a bit more normal, I talked some more to John about my career as a counsellor which for some reason, he found hilarious. He was chuckling away one minute, muttering, “Oh yes, that`s food and water to me, food and water….” and the next minute, assuming the deadpan expression again. Suddenly and quite out of the blue he turned to face me and asked,
“Do you feel a presence in this house?”
I was beginning to feel really uncomfortable by now, so I lied and said, “I don`t feel any bad vibe`s here whatsoever John, nothing at all. Why do you ask?” inwardly I was thinking, “I`ve got to get out, I`ve got to get out!”
John replied in a grave tone of voice, “Fifteen years ago, I had to have this house cleansed. A woman who was a wicca came here and went through all the rooms, cleansing them. She went upstairs to cleanse the bedrooms,”
“So, I`m not your first visitor then,” I immediately thought.
John was looking intensely at me now.
“… and while she was upstairs, I suddenly heard an almighty thud and she came rushing down with her face all bloodied …”
My heart was racing. I wanted to get out!
“And then what happened?” I asked, trying to conceal the fact that I could scarcely breathe. John delivered the information slowly.
“Then she told me that a negative energy force had lifted her bodily into the air about three feet up and hurled her against the bedroom wall. She said that there was an incredible amount of negative energy in the house,”
“Yes?” I whispered, barely moving a muscle on my face lest I flinch.
Still staring intently at my pale, damp face Jonathon continued,
“and that the source of the negative energy….. was me.”
“Oh Christ,” I thought, “I`ve got to get out of here. But how?”
And then oh thank you God, I remembered the bread. I sparked into life, a quick and happy smile upon my face,
“John, do you think we could eat lunch, I am starving!”
In reality I was extremely scared but I couldn’t let him see that. Jonathon replied gloomily, yes of course we could and then my clever exit strategy came into play.
“You know what – I`ve forgotten the bread. Do you suppose I could ask you to pop out and get some?”
Reluctantly, he agreed to go to the corner shop for a loaf. I was so relieved and yet the ordeal was not yet over because when he left the room, he pulled the door to with such a resounding click, I thought,
“Oh Jesus, he`s locked me in!”
I stood up and tried the handle. Thank God, the door was not locked. Through the drawn curtains, I watched John as he reached the end of the road and his bald head bobbed around the corner and out of view. I briefly tussled with my conscience about how ill-mannered it would seem if I just ran off back to my car and made my escape, about how hurt he might feel, how freaky he might feel, to come back and find me gone.
Dismissing all of these thoughts and listening to my inner alarm bells which by now were positively clanging, I picked up my coat and bag and quickly let myselfout of that dreary, gloomy house. I hot-footed it straight to my car and by the time I got the keys in the ignition I was shaking so much, I had to light a cigarette to try and gather my nerves.
I imagined John returning to the house, finding it like the Marie Celeste, just an empty mug, the fragrance of Yvresse and something like pure fear, hanging in the air.
I drove straight back to Birmingham to my ex-husband`s house for coffee and comfort and he was totally lovely and gave me the biggest hug. I really needed that hug!
Later, when I had calmed down enough to open my e mails there was one from John. It read simply…..
“You forgot your eggs.”