10 October 2012

After graduating from college, my husband and I moved to South Bend, Indiana.  He was starting Law School, and technically, I was looking for a job.  (I say technically because that’s what I told people I was doing, but I felt it would be a better use of my time to lie on the sundeck reading War and Peace while eating the figs I’d picked/stolen from our landlady’s bushes.  Best two weeks of my life.  Then my husband was like, “Um, are you maybe going to get a job?  Because we have no food.  And there are no more figs.  And the figs weren’t ours in the first place.”  So I finished War and Peace, and got a job teaching high school English—another scary story for another time.)

Back up two weeks to when we first arrived in South Bend.  We were impoverished, homeless, optimistic—the typical we-can-live-off-love newlyweds.  Between the two of us we had two English degrees and zero real-life skills, so we were thrilled to find a house to rent on our first day looking.  According to the newspaper ad the house was perfect: large, located in the historical district close to campus, and cheap.  When we drove up and I saw the aforementioned fig bushes, the deal was sealed for me.
Our landlady-to-be, whom we affectionately called Old Lady Siomos (but not to her mean, mean face), met us outside to show us the house.  She was all of 4’10”, maybe 90 lbs soaking wet in her clothes, and older than dirt.  Despite being the size of a lawn ornament, she had this terrifying aura, a sort of I’m-reading-your-mind glare.  I only made eye contact once or twice, but that was enough. 

Before we even went inside she explained that although the house was large and empty, if we rented it we were only to use the top floor.  The reason?  Her mother had lived AND DIED on the main floor, and it was to be kept exactly as it was.  With that intro, she showed us in.  The main floor décor was mid-60’s: pink couches and drapes, avocado countertops and vintage kitchen appliances, even an old rotary phone.  Neither of us had the guts to ask when her mother had passed away, but considering the interior design and the fact that Old Lady Siomos herself was older than dirt, it could have been decades.  The best/most horrifying feature of the main floor was the bed in the living room, which my husband dubbed Mommy’s Deathbed the minute Old Lady Siomos was out of ear shot. 

Despite all this, despite the fact that we would have to walk through the creepiness every day to get to the stairs, despite the fact that the upstairs itself was pretty nasty and would take several days of deep cleaning to get to a place where we could stomach sleeping there, we signed the lease.  What can I say?  It was really cheap. 

The Walk of Terror—my trek from the front door of the house to the door at the top of the stairs—was okay by daylight.  Not great, but bearable.  I was usually able to keep my imagination in check when I could see that Old Lady Siomos’ dead mother was not sitting on the couch glaring at me as I ran by.  At night, however, it was sheer hell.  You know that panicky feeling you get in a dream when you’re running away from somebody but you can’t run fast enough because it feels like gravity is suddenly pulling on you ten times harder?  That’s how I felt every time I sprinted from the front door, through the house and up the stairs by myself at night.  For a year.  My husband liked to study up on campus (something about me singing Back Street Boys at the top of my lungs being a distraction? I don’t know what his problem was), so I found myself suffering through The Walk of Terror on my own way too often.  Sometimes I would go shopping or go hang out on campus too, just to avoid it.  And even once I’d made it upstairs, listening to the wind howl and the walls creek and groan all by myself was no fun.

I can still remember the first time the rotary phone rang from downstairs.  It was that shrill scream that old-fashioned phones have.  I was home alone, and I’m pretty sure my heart stopped for a good ten seconds.  I knew it was Old Lady Siomos’ mother calling to yell at me for eating the figs.  No way was I answering it.  The next time it happened my husband was home, and he did go down and answer it, but it was only a telemarketer.  Apparently Old Lady Siomos refused to inform the White Pages that her mother had passed away.  I suggested it was Old Lady Siomos’ mother pretending to be a telemarketer, and he suggested I get psychiatric help. 

Not that he wasn’t scared too.  One night we were lying in bed talking about how freaky the house was, and I dared him to go down to the basement.  Neither of us had opened the door leading down from the main floor hallway, but when we’d moved in Old Lady Siomos had told us it was just storage.  I wanted to ask storage as in you dead mother’s remains? but at the time I decided I’d rather not know.  Now, for some reason, I did want to know.

Because my husband can’t say no to a dare, he got out of bed to explore the basement.  To this day, TEN YEARS LATER, he maintains it was one of the most terrifying experiences of his life.  His details were and still are hazy but include a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling, dirt floors, piles of stuff covered in tarps, and a nasty dead animal smell.  He spent the rest of the school year describing to me what he called the Silence-of-the-Lambs-freakiness of the basement, as if he’d actually discovered canning jars of human body parts down there, and trying to convince me I had to go down and see it too.

Ummm.  No, thank you.

Miraculously, we suffered through the whole school year without being possessed by Old Lady Siomos’ mother’s ghost, or even stumbling upon her petrified body.  I will, however, bear the emotional scars of The Walk of Terror until I die, which will likely be several years before I otherwise would’ve on account of my heart stopping for when the dead lady’s phone rang.  And of course my husband still has nightmares about the basement.

Title: The Space Between Us
Author: Jessica Martinez
Publisher: Simon Pulse, 400 Pages (October 16th, 2012)
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis: From the author of Virtuosity, a novel about two sisters and the secrets they tell, the secrets they keep—and the secret that could tear them apart.Amelia is used to being upstaged by her charismatic younger sister, Charly. She doesn’t mind, mostly, that it always falls to her to cover for Charly’s crazy, impulsive antics. But one night, Charly’s thoughtlessness goes way too far, and she lands both sisters in serious trouble.

Amelia’s not sure she can forgive Charly this time, and not sure she wants to . . . but forgiveness is beside the point. Because Charly is also hiding a terrible secret, and the truth just might tear them apart forever.

Find Jessica Online:

Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Order Jessica's Books Online:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | The Book Depository


  • FIVE winners will receive a copy of BOTH of the above titles!

Rules and how to enter -

Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below to enter this giveaway.
Name & Email Address must be provided. (Easy Entry, just click the form & it does it for you!)
You must be at least 13 years old to enter.
This giveaway is open to US residents only.
Giveaway ends: October 25th, 2012 (12:01AM EST)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Jessica, Thanks SO much for sharing that creepy story with us! I have no idea how you lasted so long in that house. There's no way I could have done it. Thank you also goes out the Simon & Schuster for donating the copies of these titles for this giveaway.

Don't forget to stop by and check out who Jessica is featuring today for Haunted Halloween!

REMINDER: *If you are interested in the COMMENT CONTEST, remember to include your email address with your comment for an extra entry.
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  1. LOVE this story! Thanks so much for the scary read!

  2. This post made me giggle. It sounds like something my husband would go through and never let me forget!!! Though to be fair, I've had my share of scary basements.

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  3. Oh what an eerie story. Eerie of course would be an understatement.. I wouldn't have the guts to live in that house. I think I'd die the first night in there. :D

  4. I loved Jessica's descriptions, even if she did make it funny, it had to be scary as all get out. Don't blame her about NOT stepping foot in the basement *erk* O-O

    On the plus-side, I love genuine mid-century decor and would have enjoyed seeing the main floor. Just not be myself, lol ;P
    Mary DeBorde M.A.D.
    zenrei57 (at) hotmail dot com

  5. Oh man! Don't think I could do that by myself!


  6. Awesome creepy guest post! These books sound great - thanks for the giveaway!


  7. You are stronger than me! I would of been running for the hills!

    mmafsmith AT gmail DOT com

  8. Thanks for sharing! You book sounds great! Love the cover! Happy Halloween!

  9. What an interesting book cover! It reminds me a little of PIVOT POINT by Kasie West. I like it! The pink is kind of nice :)
    SIOMOS lol... you guys were nice :D

    Thanks for the post!!!


  10. Oh my gosh, I would freak! I can't believe he went down there! How scary!


  11. No way! As soon as I heard about the dead lady I would have been out of there! No way would I have gone to the basement!

  12. I would love to read these two books. Thanks for having the giveaway.


  13. Yeah that house would have scared the crap out of me too. I don't know if I could live there. I haven't read the new one yet, but I really enjoyed Virtuosity.


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