So, I kind of cheated on today’s prompt. It was to retell a fairy or folk tale. But, I’m working on my NA ghost story today, so I decided to actually tell the story of the ghost. But, it kind of changed as I wrote. I’m really liking these two and can’t wait to see where the rest of their story takes me.
I followed Nola down the hallway of the old house. I shouldn’t have turned her away earlier. She was doing her job, and I’d acted like a cold bitch. It was this house. Everything about it was throwing me off. Aunt Adriane not being here most of all. Usually she would have herded me right into the library and started telling me another story she’d uncovered about the house. She wouldn’t do that anymore, though. Not ever again.
I wiped a tear from my cheek and hoped my guide didn’t notice. I didn’t want to answer any questions about why I was still crying over my dead great aunt. My parents had seemed to think I should have been over it before I’d really even had a chance to grieve.
“Did Ms. Adriane ever tell you about our resident ghost?” Nola asked.
I was surprised by her sudden question and nearly tripped over my own feet. Okay, it didn’t really take too much for that. But, still. “Ghost? Really?”
Nola threw a glance over her shoulder at me, and I swore I could see a smile ghosting around her lips. Yeah, maybe that wasn’t the right word, given her question.
“You don’t sound scared or disdainful, as most do when they hear about it.”
No, neither of those described what I was feeling right now. “I’ve spent every summer for the last like seventeen years here. How could I have never heard of this before? Aunt Adriane told me all the stories about this place. We picked them apart. Every summer. She wouldn’t have left one out.”
“She did this one. She didn’t like to talk about the ghost. Said it would give its existence more credence. She didn’t want her home to be a haunted house.”
She sent me another look, this one with more meaning behind it. I was pretty sure I knew what it meant. She wouldn’t want me to turn this place into that, either. Well, I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do with the house. So, she didn’t need to worry about that yet. “Why don’t you tell me?” I suggested. Maybe I just wanted to keep hearing her voice when she didn’t seem…I don’t know, so cold and distant. Like she’d been earlier, so I’d retaliated by doing the same.
I moved up closer to her so she didn’t have to keep looking back at me as she talked. And, okay, I just liked being closer to her. It was an exercise in frustration, but I couldn’t help it.
“There are different accounts of her. But, it is almost always a her,” Nola said. “Some claim she was a servant here, others that she was the daughter of an owner.” She looked over at me again, those beautiful lips twitching. “Some say she was both.”
It only took me a moment to process her meaning, barely even that long. I’d studied history pretty much my whole life, even before I majored in it. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if a lot of the kids who had walked these halls had been the unrecognized sons and daughters of the owners. “How do they say she died?”
“Every way,” she said. “She was murdered, she killed herself, it was an accident. It was her boss, her father, her lover. She was stabbed, shot, fell down the stairs. I’ve heard any number of those combinations.”
“Which one do you believe?”
She looked over at me again, the corners of her lips pulling up. I wanted to kiss her. Damn. This wasn’t supposed to be happening. I was here to figure out what to do with the house my aunt had left me, not fall for one of the few employees who had stuck around.
“Who said I believe any of them? I’m just telling you what everyone else says.”
“Right.” But, I saw the way her gaze flicked to the staircase. Like she wondered if the ghost would start floating down this way, as if to disprove her statement. But, there was nothing there.
“Come on,” Nola said. “You know this house well enough. Like you said, you’ve spent nearly every summer here since you were five. You should see what Bailey’s done with the grounds, though.”
She seemed almost too eager to get out of the house. Maybe she really did believe, even if she didn’t want to admit it. I wondered if I should, too.