An electric blue ’71 Dodge Demon rumbled into the driveway of the “haunted” two-story on Pennington Road. Killing the engine, Dean Ransom climbed out with two grocery sacks and paused to consider the old place which was framed by a pair of regal golden maples.
So what if it’s creepy? He smiled at his new home, oblivious to the opaque face watching him from an upper bedroom window. “I like it.”
Six months ago, he moved in with the ten cats he’d collected since university despite his sisters’ constant harassment about becoming a male “cat lady.” He didn’t care, though; he loved cats. Unfortunately within the first week of moving in, nine cats out of ten ran away, leaving him alone in the big house with the youngest – a happy-go-lucky, abnormally friendly orange-and-white female named Hahn.
Entering the house, he shut the door behind him. “I’m home!”
Hahn exploded from around a corner and made a mad dive for his shoelaces. Unsurprised, Dean walked gingerly down the front hall into the kitchen with the furious furry scramble attached to his ankles, careful not to step on a paw or trip as he’d done many a time.
“All right, okay.” Setting bags on the small round kitchen table, he pulled off one shoe and chucked it in the other room. Paws slipping on the hardwood floor, Hahn tore after it with an arched back.
“You’re so weird…” He rummaged in one of the paper sacks. Setting canned fruit on the table, he noticed a tall shape in his peripheral vision. He looked. A dense human-shaped fog loomed at his elbow.
He flinched wildly, then leant on the table with both hands, hanging his head, to compose himself. After a long exhale, he straightened with a mildly grey face. “Okay, you got me good that time.”
The fog condensed into a petite young woman wearing a sundress his grandmother might’ve worn in her youth, with tame inky hair and a mute giggle.
“Seriously.” He winked, returning to the bags. “When Eric stops by on Halloween and tries to pull his crap on me, we are going all out. Hey, look what I got.”
From the emptier bag he pulled a paperback book and a small bouquet of white daisies nestled in a cloud of angel’s breath. The ghost’s pallid face lit up which made him smile, too.
“I thought you’d like that.” He proceeded to put the bouquet in a vase with water which he set in the center of the table.
She sank into a chair at the table like a ballerina underwater and studied the blooms dreamily. Whenever she gazed like that, her usually murky dead eyes glittered a striking unearthly blue. Dean always caught himself staring.
Shaking it off, he put away the few groceries and returned to the table where he picked up the paperback. “You want me to read to you or are you good?”
Blinking, she sat straighter and flapped both hands at him, shaking her head.
He paused. “I don’t know what that means.”
She gestured to the only other chair at the table, pointing vaguely at everything around the kitchen as though her mode of communication made perfect sense.
Attempting to feign confusion, he fought to suppress a grin. She was fun to tease. However whenever she realized the joke was on her, she’d innocently smile along with him which sort of made him feel like a jerk so he didn’t do it too often.
Honestly, if I didn’t already know what she meant, we’d never get anywhere. “I’m kidding, just kidding.” He sat and cracked open the crisp new book. “You ready?”
Hahn hopped up on the table. Wearing only one shoe Dean read aloud from The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson as the spirit, ignoring the meowing feline, settled with elbows on the tabletop and chin in cupped hands, and lost her gaze in the flowers.
(P.S. She seems like a “Beth” to me. No idea why.)