Alex looked at the house in front of her, then at the online description of the house, then back at the house in front of her.
...well, they had called it "gothic."
It had been years since anyone had tried to track her down, but sometimes it was still hard for Alex to feel safe in a new place. Then again, the people who'd tried to find her hadn't lived in a place like this, and this was the only house anywhere near campus with a rent that wasn't hard to afford with a work-study job.
Tentatively, Alex rang the doorbell.
After a moment, the door swung open, answered by a...wow...incredibly tall butler. He looked at Alex expectantly.
"Um, hi," she said. "I'm here to find out about renting a room?"
The butler nodded, gesturing for her to come inside.
The inside of the house wasn't any less gothic than the outside. But, Alex reflected, maybe the dark decor meant that it was easy to keep stuff from being damaged or stained. She'd heard Annie talk about the way some of her classmates trashed the places they'd lived in, and Alex was determined not to be like that.
A man walked by with a dimly lit lightbulb in his mouth. He turned, paused, and waved to Alex. Surprised, Alex waved back. The man removed the lightbulb.
"It doesn't hold a charge like it used to," he said mournfully.
To her own surprise, Alex heard herself say, "I think I can help with that." After all, if he could light it by holding it in his mouth, maybe what she could do wouldn't seem strange.
"Oh, could you?" the man asked hopefully.
Alex nodded, pointing a finger at the lightbulb and zapping it with some of her own electricity. The bulb flickered and then glowed in the man's hand. He put it back in his mouth, and it was twice as bright as it had been before. He made a noise of excitement, rushing over to enthusiastically shake hands with Alex before heading away. He passed a woman in a long black dress, gesturing excitedly to her as he passed.
"I see you've met Fester," the woman said as she approached Alex.
Had the woman seen what she could do? Alex fidgeted. "I'm sorry if I shouldn't have..."
The woman lifted one eyebrow. "Don't apologize. This is the happiest he's been all week. Are you here about the room?"
"Um, yeah," Alex said. "I emailed you, I think?"
The woman smiled graciously. "Of course--Miss Mack. I'm Morticia Addams." She gestured to the house behind her. "Would you like to see the room?"
The house was old, but just as clearly very grand. There were a few artfully placed cobwebs in each corner, and Alex couldn't shake the feeling that they were there on purpose. Maybe this was a family that was very into Halloween. That wasn't a problem; Alex liked Halloween too. And the lighting in the house seemed to be low on purpose. The hand scampering down the corridor was--wait. There was a hand scampering down the corridor.
"Hello, Thing," Morticia said to the hand.
The hand--Thing?--balanced on its thumb so it could wave to Morticia.
Morticia gestured to Alex. "This is our newest renter, Miss Alex Mack."
Thing waved to Alex too, then shifted its weight so it could give her a thumbs-up.
"Hi, Thing," Alex said, waving at it and giving it a thumbs-up in turn. It didn't have eyes. Could it see her? But it didn't seem to have ears, either, and it had heard Morticia.
Thing scampered down the hallway. Alex watched it go before turning to follow Morticia.
"Here we are," Morticia said, opening the door.
Alex hadn't been sure what to expect, but the word that came to mind first was "old-fashioned." Everything in the room--the bookcase, the bed, the desk, the chest of drawers--looked like it was a well-kept antique. No wonder they needed a butler. At one end of the room, there was a huge window with dark velvet drapes, and it looked like there was a little balcony outside the window, perfect for looking out over the neighborhood, or for stargazing at night. This was so much nicer than $50 a month.
"Are you sure you want me to have this room?" Alex asked.
Morticia tilted her head. "There are others, if this doesn't suit you."
"No, that's not what I mean! It's a beautiful room. I just..." Alex shrugged. "I'd be nervous about breaking something."
Morticia shook her head. "No need to be nervous. We encourage it."
Of everything that had happened so far, somehow that was the thing that made the least amount of sense to Alex. "What?"
Morticia picked up a vase, held it for a moment, then let it drop, sending it crashing to the floor. "Sometimes there's nothing else as satisfying."
Alex nodded, not sure what to say to that. It was true that breaking things could feel good if you were angry or upset enough, though. "Okay."
"There's a limited budget for paint, if you'd like the room to be a different color," Morticia added. "Any color you wish, even..." She seemed to choke on the next word for a moment. "...lavender."
"Oh, thank you," Alex said, "but I think it's nice the way it is!"
Morticia seemed to relax at the comment. "I'm glad to hear that." She glanced at the lamp sitting atop the desk, then at Alex. "Your electricity doesn't seem to affect them."
She had seen. Alex tried to tamp down the jolt of fear. "No, it's...I can control it." She pointed at the lamp, zapping it to turn it off and then zapping it to turn it on again. If Morticia already knew, there was no reason to hide what she could do.
Morticia regarded Alex thoughtfully. "How useful!"
That wasn't a reaction Alex had ever gotten before. "Oh. Really?"
"I don't, um. Normally tell people," Alex said, feeling awkward and weird.
"I understand," Morticia said. "We have witch trials in our family history too."
Alex looked at Morticia for a moment, but she seemed sincere. "Oh."
Morticia rested a hand on Alex's arm for just a moment. "You're safe here."
Alex hadn't been in a lot of situations where that was a reassuring comment, but somehow, from Morticia, she believed it. This family protected people under their care...and she guessed that while she was here, she was one of those people. It was...nice.
"Anything else you can do that I should know about?" Morticia asked.
"I can turn into liquid," Alex said, almost to see what would happen.
Morticia nodded. "I'll tell the children not to walk through you. Wednesday may try anyway, so do what you must to avoid that." She started for the door, then turned back. "I take it you are interested?"
"I am," Alex said.
"Excellent," Morticia said. "If you have furniture of your own, we can remove some of ours from the room. Will you need Lurch to assist you in moving your things?"
Oh, Lurch. For a moment, Alex entertained herself by picturing Lurch showing up at her parents' house. "I think I'm okay, but if he could help me move the stuff in once I get here..."
"Of course," Morticia said.
Alex followed Morticia back downstairs, wondering if Morticia had any powers of her own. She supposed she'd learn soon enough. Everyone she'd met here seemed nice. Unusual...but then, Alex was unusual herself, and she'd never imagined that anyone would take the news of her powers as well as Fester and Morticia had.
She was sure that the coming year would be even more of an adventure than she'd planned, but she was looking forward to it.