Photo: Lavender by Lena Cramer
The Scent of Lavender
The scent of lavender was overpowering. He sniffed at his tea. “What the hell?”
He peered around the small first floor room. He’d had a T1 line run to the house and connected in here. If he was going to write video games, he needed a fast connection. He sniffed. Got up out of his ergonomic chair and walked around the room, sniffing. “What is that smell?”
Every day since he’d settled in the overpowering scent hit him. Bedroom , bathroom, office, it didn’t matter. “That’s what I get for buying an old farm house,” he muttered as he sat back down.
He just wanted quiet, that’s why he moved out here to the hinterlands. That’s what he called it though the old farm was being engulfed by the suburbs. The owner assured him no animals had been raised on the farm in years. “No smell left at all,” the guy said as they shook hands.
“Yeah,” Nathan thought, “except this old lady smell.”
It was two weeks after he moved in that the shimmer appeared in the kitchen. Nathan squinted. “Need to get away from the computer screen,” he thought as he poured the first cup of coffee of the day.
He rubbed at his eyes for the next two days. The shimmer wouldn’t go away. On the fourth day he turned away from his coffee maker and nearly dropped his cup. An old woman stood in front of him. Hot coffee splashed his hand. When he looked up, she was gone.
“Damn!” He rubbed his eyes and ran his hand under cold water from the faucet. “What the hell!” He spent the rest of the day jerking around in his chair at every creak the old house made. I need to go to town, he thought. Too much alone time.
He met old programming buddies at their favorite bar. “How’s it going?” his best friend, Davin, asked.
“The house smells like old women,” Nathan said.
“Bummer, dude. Why the hell did you want to move way out there anyway? No chicks, man.”
Nathan rolled his eyes and punched his friend in the shoulder. He didn’t say any more about the house.
The next morning he squinted against the morning light flooding through the kitchen windows. Need some shades, he thought as he poured his coffee.
The old woman appeared as he turned around. He shut his eyes then slowly opened them. She was still there.
“Look,” he said. “I’m hung over. There’s no such things as ghosts. Go away.”
She looked at him. He was taken with the sadness in her eyes.
He squinched his eyes closed then opened them again. She was still there. “What do you want?” he nearly screamed.
A tear leaked from her eye and ran down her cheek.
He felt like an ass for distressing an old woman. Then he felt stupid, there’s no such things as ghosts. “You’re not real!” He stepped through her and nearly ran to his new office.
All morning he worked, afraid to turn around. He finally had to go to the bathroom. No old woman. “Stupid,” he told himself as he washed his hands and looked at his reflection in the mirror. “Just hungover.”
He went to the kitchen to refill his cup. She hovered near the kitchen table. “Please,” he heard her say.
Nathan pressed his fingers into his eyes. When he let go, she was still there.
“She’s not there,” he muttered and went to the sink to rinse out his cup. When he turned around she was still there.
She looked so sad. He remembered his own grandmother, standing at her kitchen sink, washing up the cookie sheets as he sat munching warm peanut butter cookies at the kitchen table, sun streaming through the windows. He took a deep breath. “Grandma,” he whispered. A memory of the bottle of lavender water on her dressing table flashed through his mind. “What.”
“I’m in the cellar.”
“The cellar.” She disappeared.
He rubbed his face with both hands. This is what I get for moving out of the city. He remembered touring the house with the realtor. The cellar was dirt floored, a relic of old farm houses. “The house is sound,” the realtor said. “These old houses were built on solid foundations, built to last. They just didn’t put floors in.”
He walked to the door in the kitchen leading to the cellar. He took a deep breath as he grasped the old fashioned iron knob. Door open, the musty smell of the cellar washed over him. He flipped the light switch and stepped gingerly down the ancient wooden steps. A bare 40 watt bulb hung from the cellar ceiling, the dusty under-floor of the kitchen above.
A short handled shovel was propped against the wall next to the stairs. The acid from the mornings’ coffee churned in his stomach. He sincerely wished he hadn’t drank so much the night before.
“OK,” he said out loud. The vision of the old woman crowded him. “OK. I’m looking.” He picked up the shovel.
There was evidence of water flowing through. Cobwebs caught in his hair as he walked across the uneven floor. The overpowering scent of lavender stopped him. He scraped the dirt with the shovel. In a frenzy he stuck the shovel into the dirt, again and again. Nathan hit something solid. He dropped to his knees and gently brushed away the dirt.
Two hours later the State Police were there. The previous owner’s name was mentioned, the grandson of the farm’s original owner. Nathan talked to police all day. A week later it was over; the grandson in jail for murder. Nathan never smelled the lavender again but he did learn to make peanut butter cookies in the old farm kitchen.
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