Neighbors

Episode Twenty-One – Neighbors

“Just met the neighbors.”

Lillian looks over at her husband, Greg, who has just walked into the kitchen of their new home. “What’s that?” she asks, mind still on the boxes she needs to bring in from the car.

“I said I just met the next door neighbors,” Greg replies, taking an apple out of the fruit bowl she just filled, one of the few things actually unpacked in their house right now. “They seem nice. She had me cornered for about fifteen minutes, telling me all about the history of this neighborhood.”

“People in Sudbury really like their history,” Lillian says with a laugh.

Greg laughs too. “I guess we knew that when we bought the house,” he says. “But they seem nice.”

Lillian turns to the box beside her and starts pulling out silverware. “We’ll invite them over sometime,” she says.

As they settle into the house, Lillian starts to see the neighbors around too. A tall, glamorous, middle-aged couple named Cecelia and Brent. They have shallow, friendly conversations as Lillian and Greg get home from work at night, standing on the edges of their respective properties as they chat. Cecelia will ask questions about their jobs and days, but both neighbors are evasive, turning the questions back on them. Instead, they prefer to discuss the history of the town of Sudbury. Its importance in the forming of the United States, the way it survived so many historical events, and the way that specific parts of town changed between those events and now. 

One evening, about three months after moving in, Greg and Lillian go out for dinner at the Wayside Inn, a lovely little historical tavern  in town. As the hostess seats them beside the roaring fire, Lillian catches sight of Cecelia and Brent walking out.

She nudges Greg. “I think this is the first time I’ve seen them outside of the neighborhood,” she says in a low voice.

“Have you ever noticed we never see them during the day?” Greg asks with a laugh.

The joke lingers over a leisurely dinner and several glasses of wine. As they sip a nightcap a couple hours later, suddenly it doesn’t feel so much like a joke.

“You know something,” Lillian says. “I’ve seen everybody else in the neighborhood in other places. But never them.”

“This is another place,” Greg points out.

“But is this another neighborhood?” Lillian asks. “We walked here.”

Greg hums thoughtfully. “What are you suggesting?” he asks her.

Lillian looks around to make sure nobody else is listening, then leans in a little closer. “Greg,” she said. “What if they’re ghosts?”

He looks at her, expressionless, for a long moment and she begins to feel a little foolish. But then he nods slowly. 

“That would explain why we never see them at Whole Foods,” he says.

“And we don’t see them around the house during the day,” Lillian adds.

“And it explains the whole history obsession,” Greg says. “It’s not history for them, they lived it.”

They leave the inn more than a little buzzed and unnerved. When they wake up the next morning, they are hungover, but still suspicious.

“So what do we do?” Greg asks Lillian over brunch.

She thinks for a moment, stabbing at some roasted tomatoes on her plate. “I’d say we ignore it, but it might be hard if we’re living here for a long time,” she said. “Imagine never inviting your next-door neighbor over for dinner.”

“Do we tell them we know?” Greg dumps another spoonful of sugar into his coffee and takes a long sip. “It might be worse if they figure out we know.”

“What could they do though?” Lillian says.

He shrugs. “I’m not a ghost expert.”

They decide to let it lie for a while. But both of them make an effort to avoid Cecelia and Brent as much as they can. The winter weather makes it easier for them to spend most of their evenings in the house, hurrying in from the cold and avoiding the neighborly waves from next door. But after a few weeks of this, things come to a head.

One evening, Greg and Lillian are coming home from a friend’s house over in Wellesley. They pull up to their driveway, get out of the car, and begin walking directly inside.

“Hey, neighbors!”

Cecelia and Brent are standing just over the property line, watching them. They don’t seem to be doing anything or have any reason to be standing in the yard this late, yet both are clearly there waiting for Greg and Lillian.

Greg forces a smile and a quick wave. “Hi,” he says.

“Say,” Brent starts. “Is everything all right? We couldn’t help but notice you seem to be avoiding us lately.”

“We just want to be sure we didn’t do something to offend you,” Cecelia adds, pulling her gauzy sweater more tightly around her trim midsection.

Greg and Lillian look at each other. Then Greg turns back to them.

“Are you ghosts?” he asks.

They shouldn’t be as surprised as they are when Cecelia and Brent break into peels of laughter.

“Ghosts!” Brent exclaims. “Is that what this is all about?”

“You think we’re ghosts!” Cecelia adds, wiping away tears of laughter.

Lillian feels her face heat up in the cold air. “It’s not-” she tries to explain, but Brent waves her off.

“No, no, it’s completely understandable,” he says. 

“No, we’re not ghosts,” Cecelia adds.

She smiles widely at Lillian and in the floodlight’s glow, Lillian can see that Cecelia’s teeth look much longer and sharper than they’d ever seemed. Brent’s smile is smaller, but still full of warmth and what seem to be fangs.

“Not ghosts at all,” Brent adds.

“So sorry if we gave you that impression,” Cecelia says. 

“Now that we have that awkwardness out of the way, you must come to dinner sometime this week,” Brent says. “Cecelia has picked up a few new antiques for our living room and it is just glorious. And the history behind them is fascinating!”

“And then maybe you could invite us over to yours?” Cecelia adds. “I’ve noticed some of the fixtures you moved in with you and I’d love to see them up close.”

They both give friendly waves, then hurry back into their own house, leaving Lillian and Greg standing in their driveway. They exchange a glance.

“That solves that then,” Lillian says, then turns and starts walking into the house.