A cool breeze floated over me and despite the warm evening air, I was grateful I’d grabbed a jacket before leaving the house. The sweat from my run served to cool me even faster so that my teeth chattered slightly and goosebumps covered my flesh.
I stood at the edge of the property looking up at the big, old Victorian house and shuddered, this time having nothing to do with the temperature. In one of the upstairs windows I imagined the little boy, Benjamin, who had cried in my arms. I thought he peeked out at me, secretly waving and smiling. I gave him a little wave back, careful not to draw attention, not because I was worried about the neighbors, but because I was worried about the man who had frightened him so much, the man who had taken his young life. Over and over the little boy would be forced to relive that pain and suffering. It hardly seemed fair. The afterlife overwhelmed me and even my run hadn’t managed to ease my anxiety about who I would encounter next.
Just as I was about to go inside, movement from the back of the house caught my eye. As I refocused my attention, I realized the figure of a young woman floated soundlessly across the yard. I glanced at my watch. My visitor of the evening was early. My post-run shower would have to wait until after I’d had the opportunity to speak to her.
As I jogged closer to the overgrown garden area of the backyard, I noticed that the young woman wasn’t merely out for a stroll in the lovely spring evening. She paced frantically, twisting her hands together, seeming to be talking but as far as I could tell, she was alone.
“Is everything alright?” I asked as I approached her cautiously. She didn’t even acknowledge my presence, continuing to pace back and forth, running her hands through her smooth, black hair.
When she switched directions again so that she was coming toward me, I was certain she would see me but instead she kept walking, almost moving right through me. I felt the chill circle around me again and I folded my arms over myself to keep warm.
“I would like to hear your story,” I said even though I didn’t expect a response.
I sighed and moved to sit on a an ornate cement bench to ease my tired legs. I imagined Agatha might have sat on this very bench on one time when she had been tending her garden. It must have been beautiful back then. I made a mental note to start clearing out the dead plants and weeds before spring really got into full bloom. Although I would never manage to restore it to what it may have been like long ago, I would look forward to spending time just as Agatha had, growing my own flowers and vegetables.
“I don’t know where to go. I can’t keep hiding like this.”
The sound of her voice startled me out of my daydreams and it took me a moment to realize that she’d stopped pacing and spoke directly to me. She hovered just above the ground and I remarked at how truly beautiful she was. She couldn’t have been older than mid-twenties and she had wide dark eyes that reminded me of Benjamin.
“You are Benjamin’s mother,” I said softly, mostly to myself. The resemblance between them was uncanny.
“Yes, I am Caroline. Can you help me? I’m afraid he will kill us both.”
I sighed sadly. I didn’t want to be the one to inform her that she was already dead. There was nothing I could do to change that.
“Who are you afraid of?” I asked.
“It’s Victor. He’s gone mad. I am certain he’s already killed a man and I believe he’s capable of killing again. Benjamin isn’t safe here. You have to help me protect him and get him out of here.”
Caroline melted to her knees, her white dress flowing around her as she did. Her eyes filled with tears as she reached one elegantly slender arm toward me. Her icy hand touched mine and I shuddered again.
“I don’t know how I can help.”
“I have nowhere left to turn.”
“There is no one who can help you? What about Benjamin’s father?”
“Victor is his father and there is no one else left.”
“Why would a man want to kill his own wife and son?”
“I am not his wife.”
“Ohhh,” I said.
“I didn’t want him to find out about Benjamin but now he knows the truth and he will kill us both.”
“Surely there must be some other way?”
I watched her rise to her feet and resume her pacing, twisting her hands together again, and mumbling incoherently.
“Maybe I can talk to Victor,” I suggested hopelessly. I knew it wouldn’t change the past but maybe I could help to give peace to their restless souls. Suddenly a purpose filled me. Perhaps it had been preordained that I should inherit this house? Perhaps fate brought me here for a reason?
“NO!” Caroline shouted. Her form shot up into the night sky and blazed through the trees. The chill wrapped around me again, this time squeezing me tightly until I could hardly catch my breath. I tried to move but I was frozen in place, shivering uncontrollably.
When she finally let me go, I fell off the bench and staggered forward, gasping for air. She materialized in front of me again looking serene and beautiful but in her eyes still raged a storm.
“Victor is mine and you will never have him,” she said.
“I don’t want Victor.” I struggled to my feet feeling confused and brushed myself off. One moment she was pleading for my help and the next she was threatening me?
“He is my only love. We will be together one day, you will see.”
“What about his wife?” I dared to ask.
“She won’t be a problem much longer.”
I shuddered again.
“And when he meets his son…” Her voice trailed off and she looked into the distance sad and lost.
“He will threaten to kill you both,” I whispered too softly for her to hear.
The look in her eyes changed to fear and she began pacing again. I simply stood and watched her as the anxiety gnawed away until finally she faded into the night.
No matter how long I stood in the shower letting the hot water pour over me, I couldn’t erase the deep chill that had settled into my bones that night.
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