The week was winding down and I’d worked hard making the house as presentable as possible for the real estate agent on Saturday. As a result, my muscles screamed in protest and although I wanted to finish repairing one of the cabinets in the kitchen, I decided a soak in the tub would be a better reward to end my day.
I’d always wanted a claw foot bathtub so when I first moved in to the house, I’d been excited to finally have one. Before today, I’d never stopped long enough to actually make good use of it but now, especially in light of the fact that my next place wouldn’t be nearly so fancy, I decided to enjoy it. I lit several candles around the perimeter of the room and scented the water with lavender oils.
Slipping into the tub, the steam rose into the air around me. It was a shame I couldn’t stay, I thought. A girl could get used to this. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t think about the ghosts but immediately, my thoughts went to them.
I’d never been a particularly religious person. The times I spent alone with my thoughts like this were probably as close as I’d ever feet to “something bigger” in my life and I’d always been okay with that. But now, it felt a little sad, not just for me, but for all the lost souls roaming the big, old house.
Was there such a place as heaven where we should go after we die? Would my ghosts never pass beyond the physical world to find their own peace in death?
Maybe they didn’t want my help? Maybe I’d have been better off leaving well enough alone? After all, some of them were guilty of horrible crimes. If such a place as heaven existed, then why not hell? Being trapped between living and dying may have been the better alternative. All the same, I felt as if I owed it to those, like Benjamin or George, that didn’t deserve the endless suffering they endured.
When I opened my eyes, I wasn’t surprised to see a shadow of movement from the other side of the room. Even in the privacy of my bath, I couldn’t be alone.
“You want to help us,” she said softly.
There they went again, seeming to know my thoughts and my actions even before I did.
“I feel like I should do something,” I admitted with a sigh. What that was, I had no idea. I tried to get a better sense of her form but this one preferred to stay just out of sight, almost hidden beyond the flickers of the candle flames.
“Do you want my help?” I asked her.
“I — I don’t know.”
“Don’t you want to rest in peace?”
“I’m afraid of no longer existing at all.”
I couldn’t offer reassurances when I didn’t really know what was out there beyond my attic for them. I watched the candles dance around me throwing shadows on the walls and ceiling. The idea felt hopeless. Lost.
Or maybe it was her that I sensed. Harriet.
“You don’t want to stay here trapped for the rest of eternity.”
“Maybe not,” she agreed, “But there will be others that won’t look too kindly on your plans.”
“I don’t doubt that. Not everyone has been quite so friendly.”
“There are others who will try to take your place.”
I closed my eyes again as if I could will away the fear that sank deep into my bones when I thought about the ghosts. It wouldn’t be easy. I was going to need help.
“You’re packing. You were going to move away,” she said.
“Well, it seems I might be here a little longer than I thought. My friend Jennifer and her husband can’t take me in right now. They’re expecting a baby.”
“This makes you sad?”
“No, not sad. Just …”
“Do you know where you are buried?” I asked her, choosing to steer the conversation away from my ultimate demise.
“Not far from here.”
“Not in my backyard, I hope,” I said, my voice heavy with sarcasm which she clearly missed. She only sat in the corner staring in my direction. I couldn’t see her eyes but I knew she watched me, waiting for something, or simply enjoying the company. I didn’t know.
“I’m going to find a way to help you move on,” I said again, feeling more certain as I considered this possibility.
“You will join us.”
“I’m not going to give up that easily.”
I yanked the plug from the drain and sat as the water started to sink lower. I was so mesmerized by the shimmer of its movement under the candle’s glow that I didn’t move until the tub was empty. I grabbed my towel, wrapped it around me, and stepped carefully out onto the tiled floor.
I didn’t need to look for her to know that Harriet had disappeared. I blew out the candles and headed to bed. Tomorrow would be a busy day.
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