The funny thing about hotels – they kind of expect you to pay for your stay. The fact that I’d maxed out my credit cards in order to buy the supplies I needed for my renovation project was not working in my favor right now. I’d tried three different hotels and all had requested a credit card in order to confirm my reservation. Unfortunately, although I inherited a house, I did not get any money to go with it. Finally, I gave up on my plan to stay in a hotel and went with the next best thing.
“I was hoping I could stay with you just until I manage a new place,” I said, trying not to sound so desperate.
“What’s wrong with the house?” Jennifer asked.
I looked up at the half painted wall in front of me and debated how much I should tell my former roommate, especially over the phone.
“Nothing,” I said, deciding that a confession of ghosts was probably more than Jennifer needed to hear right now. “I just don’t like living so far from everything.”
That much was true, to an extent. I’d always preferred the ability to walk anywhere I needed to go from our two-bedroom city apartment but the country had been a refreshing change. I think Jennifer wanted to say yes and help me but a lot had changed in the last six months. I don’t think she’d entirely forgiven me yet.
“I don’t think Jeff will go for it.”
“But you’ll ask him, right?” I pleaded.
Unfortunately, after I bailed on the apartment, Jennifer couldn’t afford to pick up both halves of the rent. Fate stepped in to rescue her. It turned out that Jeff had already bought a ring and was only waiting for the right moment to propose. My leaving her stranded made it the the right moment and Jennifer moved into Jeff’s house shortly thereafter. I know which of us got the better deal. Jeff was gorgeous, had a lot of money, and I was pretty sure his house wasn’t infested with ghosts.
As for me, well, I guess you could say karma came knocking.
I heard Jennifer sigh and after another hesitation she finally agreed to talk to her fiance, Jeff, about the possibility of my moving in with them. She would call me back tomorrow.
That left me with very little hope and at least one more night in the Victorian Mansion. I scheduled a real estate agent to come by on Saturday and get the house listed on the market so maybe I could at least expect a quick sale to give me the money to move somewhere else.
I paced the living room floor and watched the grandfather clock as anxiety coursed through me. My stomach twisted into knots. Maybe I should have told Jennifer the truth? She might have taken pity on me, even if she did them me insane.
“Give me a reason to stay,” I begged the empty room.
That’s how I met George.
It started with the roar of a fire as it sprang to life in the fireplace. I shrieked and sank into the shadows, ready to defend myself against random flying objects. I wasn’t at all prepared to defend myself from a stolen kiss.
When George stepped back, I blinked three times and simply stared. I’m sure my jaw must have hung open, giving me a less-than-attractive appearance. George didn’t seem to mind.
Music filled the room from some phantom stereo and although I didn’t recognize the song, I knew it came from the Big Band era. It was music I once loved as much as I loved dancing. George held out his hand, beckoning me to join him in a dance now and despite my initial fear, I couldn’t resist the invitation.
He may have been a ghost but George held me in a surprisingly strong grip. He led me through one dance and then another. It wasn’t long before I actually found myself smiling and having fun. Dancing brought me to life. George dipped me and brought me back, holding me close to his chest. If only George weren’t a ghost, I thought, because I would have loved to lay my head against his chest and listen to the beat of his heart.
When we’d finished spinning and twirling across the room and the music faded, I struggled to catch my breath. George indicated a bottle of red wine sitting on the small end table next to the couch. Next to the bottle stood two long stem glasses. I know I hadn’t left those there but since they weren’t being thrown at me or poured over my head, I wasn’t going to question it.
I poured us each a full glass of the wine even though I knew I would be the only one to drink it and I settled on the floor in front of the fire.
“Thank you,” I said when George sat down next to me. “I haven’t had this much fun in a very long time.”
“Too long,” he agreed.
I looked at him curiously as I sipped my wine. How did he know it had been too long? How much did any of the ghosts know about me or my past?
He smiled. He would have been very handsome when he was alive, not to mention irresistibly charming – a dangerous combination.
“Do you have a sad story?” I asked him, not that I really wanted to know if he’d come to a tragic end or killed someone.
“Not really,” he said with a shrug but I sensed there was something he didn’t want to tell me.
“You look too young to have died from natural causes. An accident perhaps? Illness?”
He took my hand in his and I remarked at how unusually warm he felt for a ghost. He kissed the back of my hand and the room swayed a little. I was tired but I didn’t want the night to end.
“I suppose you could say that I died of a broken heart.”
“That is very sad. And tragic.”
I closed my eyes and leaned against the couch as the fire and the wine warmed me. At some point I must have fallen asleep. I spent the rest of the night dreaming of dancing with George and when I woke to sunlight streaming through my window, I realized I was somehow in my own bed, the empty bottle of wine on the bedside table next to a single red rose.
I sighed. Not all my ghosts were bad.
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