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Feeling the cold breath against the back of your neck, I think, is the worst feeling a person could ever experience. It beats out everything else. It beats out the feeling of divorce and your favorite team losing the World Series. Nothing is as chilling as the chill against the back of your neck.
I went into the guest room for decorations. The guest room is my storage room. I pack all the boxes around the single bed left there by the former homeowners. I live alone in a two bedroom house and have way too much stuff. I’ll admit, I’m what one would call a “Home Shoppers Network Addict,” or an “HSN Addict.” I buy way too many things with nowhere to put them and nowhere to use them. I’m a packrat and can’t stand things being put in any sort of order. My socks never match and my hair is always in a messy bun. I don’t wear contacts and I never wear make-up, even on special occasions. The minute I walked into the guest room, I froze. It seemed strange to me. I’ve had this feeling before. Every holiday I decorate and every holiday I go into this room with a churning in my stomach. Why does this room seem so strange to me? I know there’s nothing in there that can harm me. It’s only stuff.
Sometimes I can hear things going off in there in the middle of the night. I hear voices as well. A little kids is always laughing in my dreams. I told my psychiatrist about it and she said it was only in my dreams. She is the only person I go to for my problems. I have one good friend and I haven’t seen her in so long. I don’t get along with my co-workers. They’re too snobby and professional. I don’t think they like me much, either. They’re always talking about going out after work and never invite me, not that I care. I like being by myself. I have fun by myself. I get work done, I have hobbies. I have made tons of blankets, outfits, etcetera that I made. I have puzzles I have to frame and tons of movies to watch. I’m love movies. It’s my escape from people. I’m very eclectic when it comes to movies. Nothing’s better than sitting in your pajama’s on a Saturday night, curled up with popcorn, watching a movie.
I’m not as much of a loner as I seem. I have a pet dog who keeps me company. His name is Alan and he is a Lhapsa Apso. He is my world. I love him. He’s a good listener and he always does what he is told. I tell him all about John from work. John is the cutest guy with the sweetest heart. He’s the only one who really talks to me and actually carries on a conversation at the vending machine. I wish he would talk to me more often though. If only Mary didn’t get in the way. I call her Malibu Barbie. She’s a pretty blonde with long legs and a bubbly attitude. That’s all he wants. I’m convinced. That’s what all guys want. The pretty girl, of course. What would he want with me?
Alan won’t go in the room either. He always just stands by the doorway, whines and runs away to hide in my bed. That’s his favorite spot. I always try to get him to come in with me. I even tried to put the leash on him, but nothing worked. I call him a wimp when he runs away, but truth be told, if it wasn’t my storage room, I’d run away, too.
I turned on the light before stepping into the room thinking maybe that would help. One look inside and I knew it hadn’t. It actually made things worse. I thought I saw something move when I turned it on. I thought it was just my imagination or my eyes adjusting to the light. You know when you see circles when you’re not used to the light? Well this time, the circle moved more than it should have. I shuttered at the thought of a ghost living in my house. I wouldn’t be able to cope with that. I would have to move somewhere far away.
I could hear Alan whining under my covers.
“Wimp,” I said. He was supposed to be the man of the house. Sure. That was the truth. I walked into the room and the chill went away. Why was I so nervous to walk around in my own home? I was just scaring myself. There was nothing here. I’m just being stupid.
I walked over to the Christmas corner and started to cautiously look around . The feeling did not go away. I thought it had, but I was wrong. I felt like someone was watching me. I looked over my shoulder and saw no one. I got what I needed and ran out as fast as possible. I needed to get out of there.
I got in touch with my realtor and got the previous owner’s information. They moved only two hours away, so me and my boy got into the car and drove. When I got there I felt so uncomfortable. Maybe I should have called first? Who doesn’t like surprises?
I walked up to the cherry red front door of a large white house with shudders the color of my jeans. There was a wrap-around porch and a swing hanging on the right side of the door. I rang the bell and waited. One minute later, I rang again. A woman about thirty opened the door with a baby on her hip and a tired look on her face.
“Keep quiet back there!” she boomed. “Can I help you?”
“Yeah, um, I’m looking for Suzanne Mildred.”
“Got her. Who are you?”
“I’m Abigail Hoff. I bought your old house. Um, I just have some questions for you -” Her face dropped. She looked like she just saw a ghost. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah. Um, please come in.” She set the baby in the rocking seat in the living room and told me to wait in the kitchen. In the back room, I proceeded to hear her arguing with who I can only assume to be her husband about taking the kids out to the nearby park.
“We’re alone,” she said, sighing with relief. “Shoot.”
“Okay. This is going to be extremely out there and I’m sure you’re going to look at me like I’m crazy, but I -”
“Trust me. I think I know what you’re going to say and I think I have an answer. So believe me, it won’t be crazy.”
Confusion. “Okay? Well I just wanted to know if you were ever afraid to enter the guest room. I mean, I always feel as though someone’s watching me or something.”
“I’ve had that feeling before. I used to get it all the time. It’s one of the reasons why I moved. I got so scared one night I forced my husband out of bed and rushed over to my mother’s house. I haven’t slept there since.”
“Do you know why though?”
“I did the same thing you’re doing now. I found the previous owner and she explained everything to me. It all has to do with Frankie Page, a murderer who lived right across the street.” I perked up. I was tuned in completely. Tell me more, I thought. A murderer lived next door to me. How weird. How creepy. “He murdered a little girl in your house.”
My jaw collapsed and I could hardly form words. My throat was as dry as the Sahara Desert and no amount of liquids could have washed down the bile forming in my throat. It was terrifying, thrilling, unusual, intriguing, petrifying, and captivating. I didn’t know what to ask.
“She was a twelve-year-old girl. Her name escapes me at the moment. He kidnapped her. She lived in your house and people believe her soul is still there.”
“I don’t think I can handle anymore. I think I have to go.” As I started from my seat, Suzanne grabbed my arm fiercely. She wasn’t finished.
I was scared to go home. I couldn’t go home, but I knew I had to. A quote by Dorothy Thompson sprung to mind. She once said, “There is nothing to fear except the persistent refusal to find out the truth, the persistent refusal to analyze the causes of happenings.” It was my favorite quote when I was younger.
When I got home that night, I walked directly to my computer and researched this Frankie Page. I knew his name. Suddenly, my fear was dissipating, along with my search for answers. I no longer needed to know who Frankie Page was. Now I needed to know little Ava Lanighan, all because of a news article I found.
MOMMA’S BOY NEEDS A MOMMA…
…AND HE’LL DO ANYTHING TO FIND ONE
Franklin “Frankie” Page is in desperate need of some motherly love. Seeking females who fit the job description, he would search high and low for someone to make the cut, literally. This is how he found twelve-year-old Ava Lanighan, resident of Greensboro.
She was a young girl with huge dreams and a huge heart, says her neighbor, AnnaMarie. Page always lurked in his window watching her with the neighborhood children and figured she would be the best candidate for his motherly search.
“I always felt like my mother never loved me. Why didn’t she love me? I can’t understand it. What did I do wrong?” This was written in one of his journals police found in his home during the investigation.
On her way home from school to take care of her ill brother for the afternoon, Ava was asked by Page, who lived across the street, for a hand with his garbage pails, said passersby. Later, those passersby say, “She never came out.”
“He took my baby from me. That was my baby,” cried Ava’s mother, Christine, through swollen eyes. “She was my baby. What am I going to do without my baby?”
Police were told by neighbors that young Ava was missing and that Page’s house was the last place they saw her. He hid her in a basement closet and she wasn’t seen for another three days when she was running across the street from Page.
Police say she was forced to do house cleaning and cater to his every need, like a “typical mother should,” said Page’s journal. Ava was forced to do such housework as cook, vacuum, and make his bed. These discoveries were found by Ava’s fingerprints. When asked about her disappearance, Page blatantly lied to the police and said he watched her walk home after helping with his garbage cans.
The police have figured that Ava took a knife off the table for security and, while Page was asleep, ran towards her house, where her parents were still out searching for her. Page heard her and began to chase after her. He chased her into her house and all the way up the stairs, fighting her the whole way, found by the blood stains on the carpet staircase. The police then believe Ava stabbed him in the throat. He then took out the knife and slit her throat killing her instantly at the foot of her bed. Page died minutes later from blood loss and placement of the wound.
A neighbor heard ruckus in the house and saw Ava run across the street, then called the police, who were there within minutes, two minutes shy of saving her life.
My eyes began to swell as I re-read her name over and over. Ava Lanighan. She was my best friend’s niece. I couldn’t believe it. I went to her funeral. My friend was broken up about it for weeks upon weeks. I met Ava once. She was extremely sweet and harmless.
I placed my sweaty palms against the desk and propping myself up. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I knew there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t grieve anymore. I figured I might as well eat something before I fall over from hunger instead of shock. I needed something in my system, even if it was some butter on toast.
I walked past the room and stopped. It felt like a force was planting my feet to the ground and wouldn’t let me move. It turned my body towards the room and had me open the door. I couldn’t do anything but turn the light on, right? What else was there to do? Turn back?
I ran downstairs to my living room, grabbed Alan and wrapped myself under the blanket screaming with fear. I used the blanket as a shield from the horror I just witnessed.
Ding-Dong. The doorbell. Who could that be? ? I walked towards the door and looked through the peephole, shield in tow. My shoulders dropped, my jaw tagged along for the ride.
“John?” I whispered to myself. It couldn’t be. What in the world would he be doing here? I watched a gentle smile form on his face.
“You look confused.” I nodded, jaw on the floor. He took one finger and closed my mouth. How embarrassing. He let out the most innocent chuckle and I quickly followed.
“Yeah. A little. What are you doing here?”
“I had some questions about some paperwork and I was in the neighborhood. I didn’t think popping in would be a problem. Yet I see you’re wrapped up so I guess I’ll just see you Monday? Okay, then.”
“Um, no, it’s fine. Please come in. Don’t mind the mess.” The house was a wreck. Papers and jackets everywhere. Shoes galore and not to mention Alan doing something not so pleasant on my hardwood floors. Dumb dog. “Alan,” I groaned. I turned to John and said, “House training’s so difficult on a new dog,” softly chuckling. I’ll get you for that later.
“It’s fine. Same thing with my dog.” He leaned over and put his hand out. Alan walked right over, no problem, like they’d known each other for years.
“So you said you had questions?” I asked. I needed him to leave, even though I didn’t want him to. I needed to face those fears and get my answers. I needed to get rid of that ghost I now knew lived upstairs. My only question was which ghost was it, Frankie or Ava?
He looked up at me and I couldn’t handle his beauty. I had to look away. His features were so distinct and his aroma put me in a trance. Man, he smelled good. What is that Armani? I didn’t care. I just needed to be close to him.
“Yeah, I just had some filing questions. I noticed there were some reports that weren’t filed and some co-workers said you might have them. I need them.”
“Oh,” my trance died. Dumb work. Work, work, work. Is that all he thought about? I hope not. “Yeah, just let me-”
I couldn’t do it. My work was upstairs. I got as close as the handrail and I stopped. “Is everything okay?” he asked. He sounded concerned.
“Yeah,” I said slowly. I felt faint. Here’s that nausea again.
“Unconvinced. What’s the matter?” I couldn’t keep it in anymore. I took in a deep breath, turned around and let out the fastest sentence I think I’ve ever said.
“I’ve always heard noises in my house so today I saw the old owner of my house and I researched the guy because she said someone was murdered in my house and I read a news article about my best friend’s niece dying in my house which means I have ghosts in my house and they just completely organized my entire guest room and I can’t go upstairs because I am way too freaked out and I don’t want to be alone because I’m really scared and I don‘t know what to do!” I took my longest breath towards a confused face, hard tears streaking my face.
I’ve never seen such a confused face. I don’t even think it was confusion. I think it was a confusion, mixed with shock, mixed with what-did-I-get-myself-into-by-coming-here face. Then he changed his tune from shock to laughter and couldn’t hold it in. I couldn’t understand why he was laughing at me. Yes I could. If I were him I’d be on the floor laughing, having that not being able to breathe, red in the face kind of laughter. He was being sincere.
“I’m sorry. I’ve never heard that before. So you…you have a ghost.”
“Yeah, a ghost and I don’t know what to do.”
“Okay. Did you try a Ouija board? I heard they work.” Is he really trying to help me? What’s going on right now? Yesterday, he barely acknowledge my existence and now he was in my foyer, trying to help me, being sweet and genuine. It was weird and I liked it.
“You want to help?” I asked softly.
“Yeah. Well, you said in that mess of a breath that you didn’t want to be alone so I thought I’d stay and help you out.” Normally that would sound like a come on, like all he wanted was a quick night and no fight, but not the way he said it. He must be too good to be true. Nothing like this ever happens to me. I mean, he wasn’t even looking at me when he said it. It was sort of like he was nervous to say it, like he wanted to help. “Is that a problem, Abigail?” He said my name. It sounded sweet when he said it. Why couldn’t it always sound that sweet? I’ve never heard my name sound like that. I wanted to hear it again.
“Is that a problem, Abigail?” he said with a flattering smile. He knew what I was thinking. He knew what I wanted. A smile stole the spotlight from my confusion. My heart started racing and my face was getting wet. I think I was crying. I didn’t know why. He walked over and wiped the tears from my eyes. His hands were rough, yet smooth. They felt strong, something I needed. I felt protected just by the strength of his hand gently rubbing my cheek. I stared at him the entire time. I couldn’t look away. I didn’t want to. He moved his hand towards the back of my neck and pulled my lips to his. We shared a moment, the sweetest moment I’ve ever experienced. We pulled apart not knowing what to say or do. All we knew was that we didn’t want to let go. We remained there for a moment while everything lurked around my brain trying to process what had just occurred. He kissed me and it was amazing. I knew it would feel amazing to finally touch those lips with mine, but I didn’t imagine how good. I forgot about the ghost. I forgot about my problems. All my thoughts were of him.
“Abigail,” he whispered in my ear.
“Yeah?” I whispered back.
“Let’s get rid of this ghost.” I let out a short chuckle and walked towards my computer. He held my hand in his and we took as much time as possible to get there.
Pointing to the screen, John said, “That one.” Click.
“Okay, ‘The easiest way to get rid of a ghost is to simply ask it to leave. Use a firm voice and tell the ghost exactly what you want and why.’ Easy enough. You want to try it?”
“Let’s go.” We walked up the stairs quickly, but quietly to not disturb the ghost. I was almost afraid to walk in. Then John grabbed my hand and all my fears dissipated into thin air. How could I fear anything if he’s touching me in any way?
I took a deep breath and began to plead. “Hi, ghost.” I looked at John for a supportive face and I took his raised eyebrows as one. “Um, I just, uh, wanted to say that, um, this is my house. And I wanted to make sure you knew that because it kind of bothers me that you’re here and messing up my house and stuff. Like it’s only this room and everything, but it’s kind of annoying because I shouldn’t be afraid to walk around my own house. So if you could do me the favor and leave that would be great.” I did a quick nod towards…no one…and walked out of the room, John’s hand still in mine. We walked halfway down the stairs and stopped. “How was that?”
“Not bad.” How does he make me smile so much, my face is going to start hurting.
“Okay, so you want to wait a little while? See if it worked?”
“I’d love to.” For the next hour and a half, we proceeded to watch nothing on T.V. and learn about each other’s lives.
I was completely lost in thoughts of John’s stories when I remembered the ghost.
“You want to see if it worked?”
“Yeah, sure.” We walked towards the staircase and halted. I heard banging upstairs and it was very chilly. “Does it feel cooler to you?”
“Yeah.” I ran up the stairs, John chasing after me screaming my name.
“Abigail, no!” I swung the door open. The windows were being slammed open and shut and the fan was on high. The light was flickering and boxes were turned over, decorations covering the carpet. “Guess he didn’t think you were as sweet and innocent as I did.” What did the ghost want?
I covered my eyes from the wind drying my eyes and flicked the switch off, making everything stop; the windows, the lights and the fan. My head angled sideways in curiosity. I flicked on the switch and everything started again. I flicked it off. It stopped. It became a game. I did it a few more times before John grabbed my hand saying, “Abigail, before I start having seizures, can you stop playing with the ghost? It’s not going to get him out of here any sooner.”
We went back to the computer and tried again. Like the crystal ball in The Haunted Mansion says, “You try, you fail. You try, you fail. The only true failure is when you stop trying.”
“Okay, ‘Ghosts don’t always know they’re dead. You may have to explain to them that they are dead, that they no longer belong in the physical world.’ Why not.”
Once again, I led the way. John was close behind holding my hand, giving silent support. I opened the door without touching the switch. “Um, Mr. Ghost? I’m assuming your name is Frankie Page. If that’s your name, can you make some kind of noise or movement or something?” Two minutes of silence went by before I saw a soft blinking light from under the pile of decorations poured onto the floor. It was a Christmas light. It was him. I was connecting with a ghost. This has never happened before and I didn’t know how to react so I just kept going with my instructions. “Ok, thank you. Um, Mr. Page? Do you know you’re dead? I have a feeling you don’t and I just wanted to make sure you knew. Maybe it would be best if you just packed up and found, like, a light or something. Do you see some sort of light? If you do, can you tell me?” Another minute passed before the door started closing in on me. I mean literally closing on me. Frankie Page wanted me out, or was he trying to get me in?
“Well that was successful,” I said. The computer was my new best friend. The third suggestion was to ask it what it wants. How was I supposed to do that if it didn’t want me in the room? Light bulb. I grabbed a sheet of paper and a pen. I folded it in half and ran upstairs, John staring at me the whole time. I slipped the paper underneath the door and waited. John came up behind me, questions invading his face.
“Just wait” was all I said. His look didn’t change for the next five minutes of complete and udder silence. The paper flew out from beneath the doorway. Did he really respond? I opened the paper with caution, not knowing what to expect.
“What’s it say?” John asked repeatedly. I handed him the paper, not believing what I saw. This really was unreal.
Is there anything I can do to make you leave?
“Yeah.” My psychiatrist will never believe me. I didn’t know what to say. I grabbed the paper from John and wrote back, slipping it back under the door.
What do you want?
I dropped the paper and ran to the bathroom, vomit trailing up my throat, aching to escape. When I returned, breath now a mixture of vomit and mint, John was right where I left him in front of the door. Only now he was holding the note. He looked up at me and fell back against the wall. My breath was heavy and my eyes were swelling, his body reacting the same way. A knock at the door broke our frightened trance, shooting our heads towards the door. We both ran to open it. I looked through the peephole. It was Mary. Mary? What was she doing here? I opened the door with ease and tried to seem calm. “I’m not here” was whispered in my ear.
“Hi,” I said. How does everyone know where I live?
“Hi!” She was perky. “I’m looking for John. Is he here?”
“Nope. Sorry.” I began to shut the door, but she stopped me with her perfect little hands.
“Don’t play with me Abigail. His car is out front. I figured he’d be done by now, but I can’t wait any longer. Where is he?”
“Chill out one second.” I closed the door harshly in her face and looked towards him. He walked towards me. Holding my arm, he kissed my forehead and walked towards the door, opening it wide so she could see me.
“I’m busy. What do you want?’
“No need to be rude, baby.”
“What do you want?” he asked, rolling his eyes.
“You said you were going out with us tonight. You never showed. I got worried. What are you doing here?”
“How’d you find me?”
“So I followed you. Big deal. What are you two doing in here? It’s been hours.”
“Stop stalking me. Go home.”
“Just tell me what you’re doing here and I’ll leave. I swear. Cross my heart and hope to die.” She pulled a fifth grade and did the motions.
“I came for work stuff and we got to talking. Is that okay with you? Now leave.” He started to close the door, but she was extremely forceful with the hands tonight.
She was not getting the answer she wanted. We knew what she wanted to hear,, but he was not going to give her the pleasure. Plus it wasn’t true. She pushed the door, knocking him into the coat rack against the wall. I ran over to him and helped him up as Malibu Barbie traipsed around my house.
“I thought you liked her?” I whispered, helping him up off the floor.
“Don‘t ask. She‘s s annoying.” I felt better knowing that.
Mary threw her things around and made herself comfortable on my couch. “So what are you guys watching?”
A great feeling of revenge and hate came over me for all the disrespect she’s shown me.
“Hey, Mary? We were actually watching a movie in another room. It’s more comfortable in there. I just left this T.V. on for my dog. You want to finish it with us?” John looked at me like I was crazy. A wink assured him it was okay. Silent agreements. “Sure.”
I led her upstairs to my room. We laid on the bed and I began to flick through the channels. “Hm, what channel was it on. John, do you remember?” He shook his head. Thanks for your help, pal. Maybe the wink wasn’t clear?
“Oh, could you get another blanket from the guest room across the hall? I hate sharing blankets and it gets cold in here.” I gave her a maniacal smile.
“Sure.” She left and John jumped on the bed. She’s so dumb.
“What’s the deal?”
“Just wait. Payback, baby.” He laughed that irresistible laugh and I snagged a kiss before running after her, pointing her in the right direction.
“It’s chilly up here. You were right.” She turned on the light and chaos began. The banging of the windows, the flickering of the lights and the swinging of the fan. Except now, Christmas lights flashed and Halloween ghosts “BOO”-ed. Blondie tried to jump back, but I ran behind her and jolted her forward into the pile covering the floor. I shut the door and stuck the chair from the corner underneath the doorknob. “Payback!” I exclaimed.
John stood in my doorway hysterical laughing, wiping the tears from his face. I strolled over and grabbed his face, pulling him into an intense kiss. The more intense it got, the more deaf we were to Blondie’s screams for help. We entered my room and closed the door behind us.
An hour later, we walked out of the room to check on her. We figured she had stopped trying for help and was just rocking in some corner. He wanted me, not her remember? How could he possibly mistake us? I opened the door finding it strange I saw no light flickering under the door. I figured she probably hit the switch. I turned the light on, expecting a dramatic event. My jaw dropped like it weighed a ton. John came behind me and grabbed my waist.
“Abigail? What’s the matter?” He got up his courage and looked towards the entrance. His eyes got wide and his jaw dropped as far as mine. Tears started falling down my face like waterfalls. What did I do?
The boxes were back in organization. Labeled and everything. The bed was made and the curtains were pulled open. That’s not what got my attention, though. What got the most of my attention was the “HA” written in the bedspread with a blood smeared hand and no Barbie to be seen. I jumped from John’s tight grasp and ran down the stairs. No shoes, no jacket. Just me, myself and my dog. John chased after me.
“Abigail!” I wouldn’t listen. I ran away. He jumped in his car and caught up to me. We went to a hotel. We hid out there for a week before returning home. It was exactly the same. The door was closed and the porch light was on, though. We walked inside, leaving Alan in the car. He held my hand the whole time. Walking through the house, we noticed everything was as we left it. The computer was still on and the coat rack was still knocked over. We walked upstairs. I slowly turned the knob, pushing the door ever so gently. My heart was racing. John was staring at me, waiting patiently for my next move. I switched on the light and practically jumped into his arms, squeezing my eyes shut, afraid to look inside. “It’s okay,” he whispered.
I turned out of his strong, protective grasp and peeked inside the room. It was all gone. The blood, the organization. Where did it all go? Where did she go?
“What payback, huh?” I tried to chuckle, but failed epically. Where did she go? I’ve been asking myself this all week long. Curiosity was strong in my thoughts and I couldn’t let it go.