163 Olivegrove Lane
Jamie Smith showed up on the doorstep of 163 Olivegrove Lane with nothing but a duffel bag and a twin air mattress.
Usually, the families that moved into the house at 163 Olivegrove Lane made a big deal out of move-in day. David would watch from the shadows as the moving trucks lined the curb, movers and parents and whatever friends they could rope into helping them going in and out carrying brown boxes. The kids would chase each other throughout the empty rooms, their laughter ringing off of the walls.
But Jamie arrived with little fanfare. David listened to the jingle of her fresh new set of keys in the lock before the door swung open with a creak.
She stepped inside. She didn’t take the time to admire the newly purchased house that was all hers. She marched straight up the winding staircase, the air mattress tucked under one arm and the duffel bag slung over her other shoulder. He followed close behind her, his footsteps making no sound as he walked up the steps.
He followed her into the master bedroom. She dropped the bag to the floor and plopped the mattress down in the middle of the room. She rolled it flat and got the pump out of the duffel bag. She plugged it in and turned it on, filling the room with the soft whirring of the machine as the mattress slowly inflated.
She stooped down as she rifled through the contents of the bag. He circled her, examining her like a photographer taking photos of a model from every angle. Her tongue stuck in her cheek as she concentrated, and there was a slight crease between her brows as they furrowed. He smirked to himself. She had no idea what was in store for her.
He stopped just behind her, looming over her. “I wonder what’ll make you run.” He had grown used to talking to himself. “Blood? Screams?” He tapped his chin in thought. “Spiders always seem to do the trick.”
“I don’t know. I think spiders are cute,” she said as if she were talking to a longtime friend.
At the sound of her voice, his muscles locked into place. Part of him thought he had imagined it, but he had heard her clear as day. He opened and closed his mouth like a fish out of water, speechless. He wasn’t sure what to say now that his words were no longer falling upon deaf ears. “You can hear me?”
“Yeah.” She turned around and leaned back on her hands, staring him straight in the eye. “I can see you, too.”
He blinked at her. He was hyper aware of every little move he made for the first time in years. “How is that possible?”
She reached into the duffel and pulled out a folded blanket. “I’ve been able to see ghosts since I was a little girl,” she said as if she were talking about the weather. “My parents used to joke that it was my sixth sense.”
His eyebrows shot up. “You know I’m dead?” She nodded. “Well, aren’t you scared?”
His eyes ran over her face, searching for any of the signs the other occupants had shown when they realized the house was haunted: the frightened, bleary eyes; the trembling lips; the wobbling chin. But none of them were there. Her face was completely blank, almost devoid of emotion, no trace of fear whatsoever.
She lifted her chin slightly and looked down the slope of her nose at him, a fierce sense of determination in her eyes. “Should I be?”
She didn’t wait for an answer. She walked over to the mattress, and he dodged out of her way. She stood with her back to him as she bent over to shut off the pump. She shook out the blanket in her arms and flapped it in the air once before spreading it flat on the mattress, completely at ease. His hands curled into fists at his sides, and his shoulders hunched. How could she be so unbothered by the presence of a dead person in her house?
“I think I’m going to turn in for the night. It was a long drive.” She stretched her arms above her head. “Let me know if I’m invading your space, and we can talk more in the morning, okay?”
He didn’t respond. He spun around and stormed out of the room. Invading my space? You’ve invaded my home!
The attic was David’s safe haven, the one place in the house that had remained untouched by all the people who had moved in over the years. The only piece of furniture in it was a rocking chair that had been there even before his time. It made a terrible squeak every time it rocked forward, but he liked sitting in it. Rocking was a good way to pass the time.
He remembered the day the realtor had shown Jamie around the house. She had seemed unimpressed by all the things the other clients had swooned over: the parquet floors, the winding staircase, the spacious bedrooms, the crown molding. But clients were few and far between these days. The house’s reputation was starting to precede itself, which David didn’t mind.
“I think you’ll find the house in good shape considering its age,” the realtor had said to her, a wide, forced grin plastered on his face.
Jamie walked into the master bathroom after him, observing with detached interest. “I heard rumors this house is haunted.”
Beads of sweat started to form on the realtor’s brow. “Well, rumors are rumors.” He wrung his hands. “I can assure you, there is no truth in children’s stories.”
David had scoffed, leaning against the tiled shower wall with his arms crossed. “Said every character in a horror movie ever.”
In the mirror, he swore he saw the lips of Jamie’s reflection quirk into the smallest of smiles before the expression disappeared.
She had finished up the tour with that same apathetic expression on her face. He had been surprised to see the red “sold” sign show up in the front yard two weeks later.
David watched the sky turn dark outside the tiny, square window in the gabled roof of the attic. He could hear mellow, even breathing coming from the bedroom beneath him. He stood up from the rocking chair with a squeak.
That night, he made a racket. He rattled the pipes in the walls, flipped lights on and off, even tampered with the thermostat. He paced back and forth in the attic for hours, moaning and wailing and stomping so hard the floor quaked beneath his feet. He was sure he would have fallen through if he were still alive.
He went downstairs and peeked into Jamie’s room. The door was cracked open, and he could see her lying on her stomach with her limbs spread out wide like a snow angel on the air mattress. Any of the other families who had moved into the house before her would have been scrambling to pack up their things at this point, eager to spend the rest of the night at a motel. But she just let out one long, loud snore, her chest rising and falling with the movement. The gray lump that was her form on the makeshift bed barely stirred, her foot peeking out of the threadbare blanket covering her. He was going to have to up the ante if he wanted her gone.
The next morning, Jamie woke up to the walls of the living room oozing with bright red blood as thick as slime. She walked down the stairs, rubbing the sleep from her eyes. When she saw the blood, she merely said, “Great. Now I don’t have to repaint.”
David huffed and retreated to the attic.
The first piece of furniture to make its way into the house was a ratty, overstuffed couch. The next pieces to show up were a dining table and two mismatched chairs. She bought a TV and set it down on the floor in front of the couch, the thick, black cords connecting it to the outlet in the wall tangling together like snakes. The house on 163 Olivegrove Lane consisted of four bedrooms and three and a half baths, the perfect size for any family. But somehow, it felt emptier with Jamie in it than it had when David had been all by himself.
A week into Jamie’s stay, she walked through the door with her arms full of the cardboard boxes he had been waiting to see. She set them down in the hallway and lined them up against the wall. She stood up, dusting off her hands, and retreated back outside. David watched through the doorway as she walked across the lawn. Even though the front door was propped wide open, it didn’t matter. He wouldn’t be able to follow after her and escape if he wanted to.
He tiptoed closer to the boxes and peered inside. Instead of the clothing and toiletries he had expected to find, they were stacked full of some sort of machinery. There were screens with buttons and switches and levers, like whatever they were, they would be used to track something.
He heard footsteps and looked up to see Jamie standing in the doorway holding another box. Her eyebrows shot up, like she hadn’t been expecting to see him. He couldn’t blame her. It was the first time he had willingly shown himself to her since she had arrived. He had been spending most of his time in the attic, avoiding her and plotting ways to get rid of her.
His curiosity got the best of him. “What’s all this for?” he asked.
She put the box down next to the others. “Ghost hunting equipment.”
He froze. “You’re a ghost hunter?”
She squatted down and began sorting through the pile. “I prefer the term ‘ghost exterminator,’ but I guess that’ll do. It’s not like I’m Bill Murray.”
She looked up at him. She must’ve noticed his fear, because she was quick to assure him, “Don’t worry. None of it actually works. The only way to get rid of a ghost is to fulfill their unfinished business, but people don’t really believe in all that. They hardly think I see ghosts as it is.” She rolled her eyes. “They like to have mathematical, scientific solutions to their supernatural problems.”
He was still glued to the spot. “Is that why you’re here? Are you trying to get rid of me?”
She raised a brow at him. “Do you want me to get rid of you?”
He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He had never really given any thought to what came after this. After he had woken up here dead, no clue as to what was going on, he always just figured he was meant to spend the rest of eternity trapped in this house. Scaring away the people who moved in was his only way of protecting his final resting place.
She lowered her head and went back to rummaging through the boxes. “Besides, I like to keep my work and my home life separate.”
Ever since David had learned how to haunt, he had prided himself on how quickly he could convince people to move out. No one stayed for more than a day. His best record was when he had gotten a family of four to move out in less than an hour. He had scared the two children by appearing to them holding his own head. People hardly ever acted the way they did in horror movies. They never ran for the stairs when the front door was right there.
Jamie had certainly lasted the longest out of all of them so far. He figured it was because it was hard to find him scary when she could see him all the time, even when he wasn’t trying to be. After all, he was just a skinny college kid.
“You’re impossible.” He panted, exhausted. He had just tried scaring her by making cockroaches materialize in her bathtub. She had barely batted an eye as she watched them crawl up the tile walls.
She smirked at him, a dimple forming in her right cheek. “I’ve dealt with more hostile ghosts than you.”
He hunched over with his hands on his knees. “Is there anything you’re afraid of?”
She didn’t answer. She leaned back against the sink and crossed her ankles, wagging her foot. “Now that you know I’m going to be here for a while, why don’t you tell me about yourself?”
He blinked at her. “Like what?”
“Well, your name, for starters.”
Heat crept up his cheeks. “My name is David.”
“Nice to meet you, David. I’m Jamie.”
She didn’t miss a beat. “How long have you been here?”
He pursed his lips. “About thirty years, give or take.”
She hummed in acknowledgement. “How did you die?”
He was taken aback by the bluntness of her question. “I don’t know.”
She tilted her head. “Do you remember anything from your old life?” She vaguely reminded him of a therapist his mother had taken him to see once in his early teens.
He could feel his eyelids fluttering. The harder he tried to think, the more his face screwed up into a contorted expression. The memories of his life before his death were hazy. They all blurred together like a watercolor painting left out in the rain. They all seemed just out of reach, only appearing to him in rare moments of clarity.
He gritted his teeth. “I don’t know, okay?” He stomped out of the bathroom, slamming the door behind him for good measure.
Jamie hardly ever left the house. She spent all her time on the couch, reading creased paperbacks she got from used bookstores. She often fell asleep there to rerun episodes of a sitcom on TV that would continue to play well into the morning, and the air mattress upstairs would remain empty through the night. Sometimes, she left, saying she was going to visit a coffee shop or the library. One time, she came back with a yearbook she had borrowed from the local university.
“David!” she called out to him, flipping through the pages. “I was doing some research, and I found out this used to be a fraternity house in the eighties. Look!”
She held open the book to a picture of the fraternity’s members posed outside of the house. She tapped her finger against the page. “Is this you?”
He leaned in closer and squinted at who she was pointing at. It was him; he stood towards the back of the group with a forced smile on his face. A flicker of a memory came to him, and he managed to grasp it. He remembered hating the fraternity and everyone in it. The only reason he had joined was because he knew it would look good on his resume.
He had kept his door shut at all times. At first, the other boys had tried to be welcoming and nice to him, peeking their heads into his room and inviting him to hang out. But after enough of his excuses, they seemed to get the hint and left him alone.
The rest of the frat house had been a pig sty, but David had kept his room neat and tidy. Everything was lined up on the shelves just the way he liked, and his bed was always made. There was constant noise in the house. The other boys’ laughter carried from the floor below, and he could hear every word they said through the thin walls. It was even worse when they threw parties. The thump of the heavy bass blasting out of the speakers shook the floors. David would sneak a bottle of whatever alcohol they had purchased and spend the night in the attic, the furthest place away from all the music and the cheers.
That was why it had been a while before they had found his body. They hadn’t found him until he started to smell. The days he spent waiting there, staring at his own corpse, had been unbearable. He was sure he had been sent to hell.
After his death, he had learned to crave quietness. His last moments had been filled with so much commotion that all he wanted afterwards was silence. Any noisy family that tried to move in, he drove away. At least Jamie seemed to like the quiet as much as he did.
David knocked the yearbook out of Jamie’s hands. It hit the floor with a loud thud and landed splayed open. She picked it up and examined it. The spine was creased, and the pages were bent at awkward angles from the impact. He marched away from her up the staircase before he could register the expression on her face at his outburst.
From what David could tell, Jamie didn’t have any friends. The only times she seemed to interact with anyone besides him (if he could be counted as a person) was when she went on ghost exterminating business, which wasn’t often. She would load up her sedan that looked older than him with all her fake equipment and disappear for hours at a time, returning late at night long after the sun had set.
A couple days after the yearbook incident, David approached her like a dog with its tail tucked between its legs. She was sitting on the couch, poring over paperwork for a new case she was working on. “Jamie?”
She looked up at him. He felt even more nervous with her eyes on him. He fidgeted with his fingers. “I just wanted to say I’m sorry for how I reacted the other day.”
She pursed her lips and shrugged. “It’s not your fault. I shouldn’t have done that. Ghosts don’t usually like to be reminded of their past lives. I was just curious.”
She went back to her paperwork. He tilted his head. “I don’t get it,” he said.
Her gaze flickered up to him again. That slight crease between her brows returned. “Get what?”
He stared at her. She wasn’t much older than he was. The price of the house had dropped drastically since rumors about it being haunted had spread, but not that much. “How can you afford a house like this? I can’t imagine ghost exterminators making that much money.”
She leaned her head back against the armrest and kicked her legs up on the couch. “My parents left me a good inheritance when they died.”
He raised his brows. “Your parents are dead?”
She nodded once. “Car crash.”
“Oh.” He bit the inside of his cheek. “Did you see them? I mean… as ghosts.”
She kept her eyes on the manila folder in her hands as she answered him. “No.”
He could tell from the look on her face that she didn’t want to talk about it anymore.
The times she did eat, Jamie only ever wanted ramen. The walk-in pantry was stocked full of hard, plastic packages of microwaveable ramen. She once bought a carton of milk and a box of cereal that she ate with the one bowl and spoon she owned, but after that ran out, she just went straight back to ramen. It made him feel like he was back in college again.
“Is that all you’re going to eat?” he asked her.
She craned her neck to look up at him hovering behind her. She didn’t say anything. She just sucked up the one curly noodle hanging out of her mouth with an obnoxious slurp.
He wrinkled his nose. He couldn’t stand the smell. It seemed to waft out of the microwave and fill the entire house. He imagined it had to be a convenience thing for her, because from what he could remember, ramen didn’t taste all that great either. It had always been a last resort meal for him when he had been alive.
He backed away from her to the kitchen. He dug through the trash can and pulled out a random receipt. He rummaged through the drawers for a spare pen. A couple who had bought the house to flip it for a profit had managed to paint them a sickly shade of sage green before he had scared them out. He found a pen and took the cap off with his teeth. He slapped the receipt down blank side up on the counter and started scribbling on it.
Jamie perked up, dropping her chopsticks in her empty bowl of ramen, nothing left but the broth. She twisted around and folded her arms over the back of the couch. “What are you doing?”
He spat the cap out of his mouth. “I’m making a grocery list.”
She stood up. Her bare feet padded across the parquet flooring as she walked over to him. She peeked over his shoulder and remained quiet, watching him write. When he was done, he threw the pen down and held the receipt out to her. It was a simple list, but comprehensive of all the basics.
“If I promise to cook for you, will you buy these things for me?” He arched a brow.
She picked at a thread coming undone on the hem of her gray sweatshirt, pulling it loose between two fingers. She nodded and took the list from him, flipping it around so she could read what he had written.
He walked away from her, calling over his shoulder, “I swear to God, Jamie, you’re going to get scurvy and die and then we’ll both be stuck haunting this house.”
The next day, she took off in her beat-up sedan and returned with everything he had asked for as well as pots, pans, and a couple of utensils.
David was never really much of a cook. His mother had cooked for him when he was a child, and then when he had gone away for college, there had always been someone else to cook for him, whether it had been the campus dining halls or the personal chef at the frat house. But he began to enjoy cooking for Jamie.
He started off easy with meals like spaghetti and stir fry and mac and cheese. When he got bored of that, Jamie bought some recipe books for him to draw inspiration from. She started going grocery shopping every day, and she got stools for the kitchen island. It became a tradition for her to sit at the island and watch him cook in comfortable silence, sipping a mug of tea he had made her as steam rose from whatever he was concocting on the stove.
He made her lunch and dinner, and she still ate ramen for breakfast. He considered it a compromise. At least she was getting three meals a day.
David’s favorite part was watching her eat. He forgot what it was like to crave food, or anything, for that matter. Sometimes, he thought about possessing her just to remember what it tasted like, but he quickly dismissed the idea. He had only possessed someone once and had found the whole ordeal very unpleasant. It had made him feel dirty invading someone’s head like that.
The house wasn’t as fraught with tension as it had been before.
Jamie had arrived at 163 Olivegrove Lane in the fall, and autumn soon faded to winter. David watched snow fall outside the window and the kids from down the street hurl balls of frozen mush at each other, laughing.
He turned his back on the window and faced Jamie on the couch. “Any family coming over for the holidays I should be aware of?”
She looked up from her book, a trashy romance novel she had picked up on her way home from a case. “I don’t have any left.”
He chewed on the inside of his cheek. “Why didn’t you bring any furniture with you then?”
“I sold it all.”
“No family heirlooms or anything?”
“I got rid of them,” she said. “I wanted a clean slate.”
Every time she answered a question that had been stuck in the back of his head, nagging at him, it seemed like two more popped up in its place like the heads on a hydra. “Why did you come here? You knew the place was haunted before you moved in. Why would you choose this house?”
She hugged her knees to her chest. She looked so small. “I didn’t want to be lonely.”
He stared at her. “Most people would just get a roommate.”
She didn’t respond. She merely shrugged and went back to reading her book.
Later that evening, David paced in the attic, running his hands through his hair. He hated Jamie. He hated that she was impossible to scare. He hated that she wasted her life in this empty house day in and day out, sitting on the couch and never doing anything. He hated that she ate ramen. Sometimes, he swore to God (if there was one) that he could convince himself that she was a ghost just like him, trapped and wandering from room to room, lost without a purpose.
He watched the dust motes float in the air and catch the light of the fading sun. He went downstairs and into the second-floor bathroom. He squatted down and grabbed the pipe under the sink, pulling with all his might. The grating of metal against metal made an awful screech before it snapped in two. Water sprayed everywhere, splashing against the tiled walls like rain. The stream went right through him, and he knew if he could have felt it, the water pressure would have felt like a blast of ice straight to his face. He stood up and walked away, the growing puddle of water undisturbed by his footsteps.
That night, Jamie did wake up.
“David!” It was the loudest he had ever heard her be.
He peeked through the door to the bathroom. She was picking her books up out of the bathtub (with so many bathrooms going unused, she preferred to keep them in there rather than bother to buy shelves). The books were wet, the pages warped. The water began to seep under the space at the bottom of the door and spread into the empty bedroom like fog.
She snapped her head to look behind herself, and he ducked out of her line of sight. “David, what the hell? Why did you do this?”
He didn’t answer. He had never seen her look like that before. David hadn’t aged a day in thirty years―he was still the same beanpole kid who had gotten made fun of for being stick thin as when he had died―but over the course of a few months, Jamie seemed years older. She had bags under her eyes and wrinkles at the corners of her mouth where dimples had once been.
She abandoned the books she had saved from drowning and twisted the valve under the sink until the stream stopped. All that was left were a few droplets that dribbled out of the broken pipe and into the puddle on the floor underneath, creating ripples across the surface.
Jamie pressed her back against the wall and slid down until she collapsed in the pool of water. Whatever fury had possessed her before ebbed away. She covered her face in her hands, muffling her sobs. Her shoulders shook as she cried. He was sure her voice would be hoarse tomorrow.
She stayed there through the night. In the morning, she went downstairs in damp clothes and talked to someone on the phone in hushed tones. An hour later, the doorbell rang.
Jamie opened the door for a man in a thick winter coat carrying a toolbox. His heavy boots left rock salt footprints on the hardwood as he came inside. Any other time, David would have been enraged. But he was the only other person to step foot in the house since Jamie had moved in.
He introduced himself as Will and awkwardly shook Jamie’s hand. He blinked at her obvious lack of furniture. Jamie shrunk in on herself with embarrassment and showed him to the second-floor bathroom.
“Woah.” He blanched when he saw the inch of water covering the floor. He stepped inside, soaking the soles of his boots.
Jamie stopped just outside of the bathroom. “How bad is it?”
“This is worse than just a burst pipe. It looks like it was ripped in half.” He bent down and looked under the sink, squinting his eyes. “You’re going to need new pipes, probably replace the sink. And then there’s the chance of mold. You’ll have to tear up the tile if that happens. Who knows what else?”
“Can you fix it?” She leaned in the doorway, impatience written all over the hard planes of her face.
He stood up, wiping his hands on his jeans. “It’ll be lengthy.” He glanced at the empty bedroom behind her. “And costly.”
Despite appearances, David knew, she had more than enough to cover the expenses. Jamie preferred to be house poor. “When can you start?”
“Right now, I guess.” He settled his hands on his hips. “How did this happen anyway?”
She folded her arms over her chest. “I don’t know. I just walked in to find water everywhere.”
“You know, people in town say this is a haunted house.” He cracked a smile. “Maybe a ghost did it.”
She glanced at David, who was smirking, out of the corner of her eye. “It wouldn’t surprise me.”
The clang of metal echoed throughout the empty house and drifted downstairs to where David was. Normally, all the noise would’ve given him a metaphorical headache, but he brushed it off. Besides, he was causing a ruckus of his own in the kitchen, brewing a pot of coffee. He got out a mug from the cabinet and set it down on the countertop with a loud clunk.
“What are you doing?” Jamie stormed into the kitchen, her eyes sharp. “What if he comes down here?”
“I was thinking he could use a cup of coffee.” He picked up the finished carafe and filled the mug to the brim. He pushed the mug towards her. “Why don’t you give it to him? He looks thirsty.” He winked.
She didn’t return his enthusiasm. “I’m not offering him coffee.”
He pushed the mug further until it tipped off the edge of the counter. She barely caught it before it crashed to the floor, liquid spilling over the side. He could practically see the smoke fuming out of her ears. “Why are you trying to destroy this house? Have you forgotten that you’re stuck here?”
He didn’t answer. She narrowed her eyes at him and retreated up the staircase.
The first few times, David had to prompt her to give Will coffee, but eventually she started to do so all on her own. It became a habit for her. Instead of waiting in the living room and biting her nails down to the quick, she lingered around him while he worked and made conversation.
David watched him work, too. He submerged himself in the shadows of the bedroom like he used to before Jamie had moved in. He tried to stay out of sight. He knew Jamie wouldn’t like it if she saw he was eavesdropping on her conversation.
“So, what do you do for a living?” Will asked her, tinkering with the pipe under the sink.
Jamie sat on the floor just outside of the bathroom in the doorway, cupping a steaming mug of Earl Gray tea in her hands. “I’m a ghost exterminator.” David noticed she was so much shier around living people than she was around him, even than when they had first met. “I know it’s not as practical as what you do.”
“It’s probably a lot more exciting. Not to mention, it allows you to live in a big house like this.” Will looked around in awe and whistled.
She snorted. “It might be big, but it’s also old. Hence the pipe.”
“That just means it has character. This house is worth the repairs,” he said. “I guess that explains why you moved in. How does one become a ghost exterminator?”
She pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. “Well, anyone can do it, really. But it helps if you can see ghosts.”
He froze, and his eyebrows shot up. “You can see ghosts?” She nodded. “Really?”
She smiled at him sheepishly. “I understand if you don’t believe me.”
“No, I believe you.” His eyes lit up. “That’s so cool.”
She looked up at him from beneath her lashes. “You don’t think it’s weird or creepy?”
“What? No! I think it’s awesome. It’s like you have a superpower or something.” Will flashed her a smile so dazzling David was surprised she didn’t go blind.
Her cheeks turned a bright pink. “A superpower. I like that.”
“Are there any ghosts here with us now?” he asked.
She dipped her tea bag into her mug and turned her head to look into the empty bedroom. David shrunk further into the corner. “Not that I can see.”
Will ducked out from under the sink and reached for his toolbox. As if she could sense what he needed without him having to tell her, Jamie took out the wrench. She balanced her mug in one hand and held the wrench out to him with the other. Will paused for a second, his gaze lingering on her. Then, he took the tool from her, his fingers brushing against hers.
Jamie settled back in her spot in the doorway and leaned her head back against the frame. “I was just happy my parents believed I could see ghosts and didn’t throw me in a psych ward.”
Will chortled. Jamie joined in, and the house at 163 Olivegrove Lane was filled with the sound of laughter once more.
The pipes were the first thing to go, followed by a new sink. Eventually, the floor had to be ripped up and replaced as well. Jamie picked out a salmon-colored tile David absolutely abhorred, but when she had asked him what he thought, he told her to get it. The tile would be a way she could leave her own personal stamp on the house, something permanent to mark this home as truly hers.
Nearing the end of the repairs, Jamie walked Will down the stairs. She held the door open for him as he shrugged on his coat. “See you at six.” He gave her one of his signature cheeky smiles before walking down the little pathway away from the house.
Jamie closed the door behind him and turned to face David. “What was that about?” he asked her.
Her face was flushed. “He asked me out on a date.”
She left in her sedan and a couple hours later returned with arms full of shopping bags. He listened to her bustle around her bedroom for a while before she descended the stairs, her heels clicking against each step. She wore a short, tight dress that flaunted her slender figure. Her makeup was done, and her hair cascaded down her back in long waves. He imagined curling her normally pin-straight hair must’ve taken some effort. She looked a lot younger, not at all like herself.
A car parked at the curb right on time. Will walked up the front path and knocked on the door. Jamie opened it a little too soon. They went back to his car together, and Will opened the door for her. They drove off down the street, the rev of the engine growing quieter until they were out of sight.
David leaned back against the armrest of the couch. He could be very still when he wanted to, but he couldn’t help fidgeting as he waited for them to return. He tapped his foot against the floor, pretending it was the tick of a secondhand, as if Jamie had ever bothered to mount a clock on the wall. He had never really paid much attention to the passage of time until she had come around.
He had lost count of how many taps of his foot had passed when headlights streamed through the windows, illuminating the dark interior of the house. He heard the click of car doors opening and closing in the dead of night. Footsteps grew closer to the door, and then laughter sounded just on the other side. His ears picked up low, hushed voices, and then keys jingled in the lock as a pair of footsteps receded.
A gust of cold air followed Jamie in as she entered the house. She had her heels in one hand and the strap of her purse in the other. A familiar coat was draped over her shoulders. “David!” she called out, the melody of her voice bouncing off of the walls.
He pushed off of the couch and stepped into the hallway. Her eyes lit up when she saw him. “How did it go?”
A blissful smile was etched into her features. “He was going to take me for coffee, but when he saw how I was dressed, he treated me to dinner instead.”
He chuckled. It was so like her to misread a situation. “So I take it that it went well?”
“It was nice.” She smiled knowingly at him. “I know what you were trying to do now, by the way. When you broke the pipe.” She dropped her heels and her purse on the floor and tiptoed closer to him. “You could’ve just told me I needed to get out more.”
“But would you have listened?”
She clutched the coat closer around her. “Thank you for helping me, David. You didn’t need to, but you did anyway.” She smiled up at him.
He smiled back at her, and the front door swung open of its own accord.
Jamie spun around, and they stared at the bright, white light emanating from the doorway together. It was brighter than the sun and warmer than it, too. David felt compelled to go to it, like the light was whispering his name. He felt like a paperclip being pulled towards a magnet.
He took a step towards the doorway, but a hand on his wrist stopped him. He looked back at Jamie. It was the first time she had touched him, and it felt like an electric current thrumming underneath his skin.
“Wait.” Tears beaded at the corners of her eyes like pearls. “I don’t want you to go.”
Her grip on his wrist slipped as he was drawn towards the doorway like a moth to a flame. He gave her a peaceful smile. “I don’t think you have a choice. It’s time.”
She frowned, but let go of his wrist. He scanned her face, taking her in for one last time before turning towards the doorway. Some sort of gravity seemed to pull him towards the light, like an unstoppable, irrefutable force. Once upon a time, he would have been scared to go, but now he felt a strange calm wash over him. He was ready.
He closed his eyes as he drew closer. The light enveloped him like a warm blanket, like sitting in front of the fire crackling in the fireplace when he was a kid. He took a deep breath, expanding his lungs with fresh air, and stepped into the light.
163 Olivegrove Lane was no longer haunted, at least not by ghosts.
Biographical Note: Jessica Gould is a junior at Kent State University in Ohio majoring in English. She is a lover of the arts, including dance, theater, and music as well as writing. She enjoys writing realistic fiction with supernatural elements.