Haunted

We had always told ourselves that our house was haunted.  It was a simple conceit, something to pass the time, snuggled under the covers on a snowy night or sitting entwined on the porch swing, waiting for the sun to go down.  It wasn’t as if we really believed it, though there was always that quiet little voice that whispered, “Yeah, but…”

The old victorian we lived in was suitable for haunting – looking out over the bay where smugglers once rode the midnight winds in small, fast boats with tanbark sails and well greased rigging.  Leopold Ganter was reputed to be one of the more ruthless and more than one revenue agent had disappeared among the small, scrub-pine islands that littered the route out to the open sea.  He died, so they say, of old age and bile, an unhappy man for all his money

There followed a succession of owners, Ganters, until recently, and while none seem to have followed in Leopold’s footsteps, there were more than a few questionable deaths in the hundred and fifty years that this house had stood, and more than enough old-timers left to tell the tale, if you took the time to listen.  We always did, but in thirty years, we’d never seen a ghost not of our own making.

It was a joke, at first.  One sultry summer evening, when even the seagulls were quiet, Kate tacked a tattered old bed sheet to a branch outside our bedroom window.  You couldn’t see it from inside, not until the late night breeze came in off the bay, and it fluttered across the window, casting tentacles of shadow on the moonlit wall across the room from our bed.

I remember it well, how my eyes were drawn from the dancing shadows to the window, where the sheet whispered across the window screen, an eerie, pale green cloud that seemed to glow in the moonlight.  I’ll never know she kept from laughing until I spotted it.  She was never one for keeping secrets, or a straight face, but for this one prank she managed, then fell into sudden, tearful hysterics at my wide eyes and sudden gasp.

Of course, I had to retaliate, and I did, but hard as I tried, she never fell for it.  We played this game our whole life together, but so far, she’s the only winner.  I look down at her now, her silver hair spread in a fan across the pillow, the lines of her face relaxed in sleep.  Those lines I watched grow, that I learned to love once I understood that she never frowned, that each one was the shadow of a smile from some moment in our life.

I’ve waited so long for this, for the one moment when I know she can’t be expecting me, when I know that I can finally even the score.  But I can’t do it.  She’s already had one heart attack, another would most likely kill her.  And, as much as I’d like for us to be together again, I think I’ll just wait for her.  Besides, it seems like cheating, somehow, to use a real ghost.