Stella was exhausted with apartment hunting. Apparently, her realtor was as well. She could see her tight expression through the windshield of her egg-shaped white Prius. The tense woman exited her vehicle and joined Stella in front of the formidable three-story brownstone.
“Today’s the day,” Stella told her with a warm smile although her confidence was flimsy.
“Let’s hope so.” The woman replied. She made no effort to hide her pessimism.
Stella desperately needed to get out of her current apartment. Her relationship with her roommate had gone sour and now almost every object in their place had a label with either of their names on it marking territory and boundary lines. Stella was four weeks into her search and she was close to signing a lease for this place sight unseen to avoid returning to her miserable living space.
“There are two bedrooms and one and a half baths. The specs say there is an eat-in kitchen but the other agent told me it’s more of a breakfast nook.” The realtor explained over her shoulder as they hiked six flights of stairs to reach the third floor.
“Honestly, you could say it has a window and a hole in the floor for a toilet and I would still be interested.” Stella replied.
The realtor chuckled but her laughter was empty.
“Your standards have lowered I see.” She told her. Stella could tell she delighted in that statement. The first locations the realtor had shown her were a slight step above a hole in the floor and Stella had turned her nose up at them all.
“My standards haven’t changed but my patience is waning.” Stella sighed.
The air was so humid on the top level it made Stella’s clothing feel damp. The realtor retrieved the key from the combination lock and let them inside. One look around the spacious living space with hardwood floors and spacious kitchen was all Stella needed to see. She couldn’t be this lucky could she?
“Its been on the market for quite some time,” she took another look at the papers in her hand, “a little over six years it looks like. There have been some short rentals but no one has stayed longer than a year.” The realtor continued and frowned down at the paper.
“Does that concern you?” She asked
“Hell no.” Stella replied as she opened and closed cabinets in the kitchen.
They moved deeper into the apartment. The first bathroom had a double sink and a deep bathtub with a few rust stains near the faucet. Nothing that couldn’t be cleaned away. When they entered the master bedroom and Stella found the second bathroom attached, she was sold. She certainly couldn’t see why such a find would be on the market so long but it was about to be her very own as soon as she could get her hands on the agreement. She was looking at her liberation from her psychotic roommate.
“I want it.” She said with finality as they left the master bedroom and moved on to the spare room.
“I’m glad to hear it.” The realtor replied.
She entered the room before Stella and began to give her the details about the agreement and the rent to own options available. Stella stood frozen at the door as the realtor strolled the length of the bedroom pausing for a moment to look out the curtain-less windows.
“I have an agreement in my car and if you have a check I can take the security and first two months’ rent today.” She said staring at Stella with crossed arms.
Stella didn’t speak. She couldn’t speak. The blood in her veins felt cold and thick as her heart pumped furiously in her chest. What seemed to be a man, dressed in a dingy white tee and suspendered trousers, was standing in one corner of the room. His face was nestled so close to the corner that she couldn’t see a profile of his features and his arms hung limply at his side as he stood as still as a corpse. The skin on his arms was translucent and stained with purple bruises.
“You don’t see that?” Stella said quietly. Her voice was being strained through the sieve of terror building inside her.
“I know there are a few imperfections in the walls but it’s nothing a bit of spackle and paint won’t fix.” The realtor told her dismissively. “Today’s the day remember? This is really the best you will get for your price range.” She reminded her.
Stella backed out of the room and slammed hard against the wall behind her before scrambling quickly toward the exit door.
“Stella, are you feeling okay?” The realtor called behind her as she slipped down the first few stairs heading down.
Stella kept moving without looking back. Why didn’t the realtor see him? The question repeated over and over in her head as she descended. She could hear the realtor’s clunky heels on the steps behind her but she didn’t slow.
When she pulled the door open and exited the building she took a frightened, ragged breath and clutched the edge of the stonework porch for balance.
“What’s wrong, what just happened?” The realtor said emerging from the building concerned and breathless.
“You didn’t see. How could you not see he was right next to you, right there.” Stella replied anxiously. She realized she wasn’t making much sense.
“Who was right there? I don’t understand.” The realtor pleaded.
“I don’t want the agreement. I’m getting out of here!” She yelled as she descended the porch steps at a quick pace.
By the time she reached her car, the realtor was still staring after her dumbfounded. Stella was sure she’d found the reason this beautiful apartment had been empty for so long. The damn place was haunted. She felt safer behind the wheel with the door shut tight but before she could start the car her phone’s text message alert chimed three times.
The first message read, “I know you used some of my laundry detergent you sneaky bitch,” with a string of angry emojis and exclamation points following.
The second message said, “I spit in something of yours in the fridge. Good Luck figuring out what!”
And the third, “I just can’t wait until you move and get out of my life!”
Stella looked back at the brownstone where the realtor still remained staring at her with confusion. Her message alert pinged again but she didn’t check it. Stella sighed and exited the vehicle.
“What was that all about?” The realtor asked?
“It doesn’t matter,” Stella told her. “Do you have the lease agreement?”