Melinda checked the order form again and knocked on the door. A tall woman dressed in black opened the door. Her gray hair was pulled back tightly in a bun, and her thick dark eyebrows were pulled down in a glare. “Yes?” the woman said.
“Miss Ganon?” Melinda said, holding the order form in front of her like a shield. “I have your cookies.” She nodded her head at the bag sitting next to her on the front step.
Miss Ganon took the order form and looked over it. “Very well. Bring them in and I’ll get my purse.” She led Melinda into a dark, dusty living room. The curtains were closed and the lamp shone weakly. “Wait here, and I’ll be back,” the woman said. “Don’t touch anything. I’ll know if you do.”
Melinda thought about sitting on the sofa and decided that might be considered touching. So she stood awkwardly next to the little table in the center of the room. The table was empty except for a chessboard. Melinda looked a little closer. The pieces were surprisingly detailed. She could even see the buttons on their suits and dresses.
Melinda shuffled forward and bent over to peer at a piece that had its mouth open in surprise. The dust was thicker near the table, and moving closer stirred it up. Melinda began to sneeze and sneeze and sneeze all over the chess pieces.
There was a flash of light and a roar of thunder. When Melinda finished blinking and could finally see again, she looked around in surprise. The chess pieces were gone and the room was filled with people.
There were thundering footsteps on the stairs. The woman was coming back. “Run!” someone said. Every one began to run out of the room away from the footsteps.
“Which way to the door?” A woman yelled.
“Go left,” Melinda said. They all rushed from the house, back into the brilliant sunlight.
“We’ve got to get out of here!” a man yelled. He turned right and kept running. Everyone followed. A little girl grabbed Melinda’s arm and dragged her along. After several minutes, several of the older people started to look ill. They panted and wheezed, and still they ran.
Melinda was shocked that the woman hadn’t caught up with them yet. Perhaps she didn’t want to confront them out in the open. Or maybe she’d gone the wrong way on one of the turns they’d made.
They turned again. The street looked familiar. “Turn here,” Melinda said. “You can hide in my back yard.” She directed them to her house and opened the gate. Everyone hurried through and huddled together under the trees in the far corner of the yard while they caught their breath.
“I’ll go and keep watch,” a little boy said.
“Be careful,” a woman said. “Maybe I’ll come with you.” They hurried across the yard and crouched by the gate.
“This is all your fault,” an older woman said to a woman dressed in a poofy white wedding dress. “You’re the one who didn’t invite her.”
“I sent invitations to everyone on the list dad gave me,” the bride said.
“I thought she was dead,” a middle-aged man said. “There was an obituary and everything. You thought she was dead too.”
The older woman scowled. “We should have gone to the funeral and made sure she was dead.”
“We didn’t have any notice and it was on the other side of the country,” the man said.
“Why did she even want to come to the wedding?” the bride asked. She smoothed down her dress. “She hates all of us. I think she was just looking for an excuse to come and curse us.”
The man standing next to her straightened his tuxedo and frowned. “So your aunt is a witch or something?”
The girl sighed. “Great-aunt, and apparently so.”
Just then, the little boy came running up. “She’s coming! What do we do?”
“Into the house,” Melinda yelled. Everyone ran.
Melinda’s mom came into the living room. “Melinda, who are all these people?”
“Um…” Melinda began. The doorbell rang. “Mom, tell her I’m not here!”
Melinda’s mom rolled her eyes and left. She came back a few minutes later. “Melinda, Miss Ganon brought over the rest of your cookie orders. She said you left them at her house. She said her chess set is missing too. She’ll come back later to talk to you about it. Melinda, what is going on?”
That’s right. The order form had her address on it. Miss Ganon hadn’t needed to follow them at all. “Mom, how hard would it be to just leave on vacation for a few weeks? Before she comes back?” Melinda asked.
“Who wants to help me explain?” Melinda asked.