Another ghost story.
707 words. Please leave a comment if you like what you read. 😊
Uneasy (Presence, pt ii)
When Jo was little she’d been afraid of the dark, but she’d grown out of it. At some point in high school she’d realized that most monsters looked like regular people and came out in daylight just as often as they lurked in the shadows.
So why, as a twenty-eight year old woman with her own life and apartment, were old habits coming back? She kept her eyes closed from the time her head hit the pillow until her alarm went off in the morning, as if not seeing anything meant nothing could see her. She tried to breathe as quietly as possible so as to not attract attention. If she absolutely had to get up in the middle of the night to pee she turned on every light on the way there, then raced to get them all off again and back under the covers before the toilet finished running. And she never, ever bent down to look under the bed.
Her cats seemed uneasy too. All three of them had started keeping close to her after dark. Even Artie, who hadn’t been so snugly since he’d grown out of being a kitten, was cozying up to her feet every night. Sometimes their eyes seemed to be following things that hers couldn’t see — except weren’t cats always like that? They were weird, moody little shits, but she was still relieved to have their constant company. Especially since she’d blown it with her only remaining friend by being a complete idiot.
Sometimes she daydreamed about that kiss, though. Hazel’s lips on hers, kissing her like she wanted her… But that was a laugh. Who would want someone who made a move on someone right after they found out their ex had just died? Not to mention that Ariel had been her friend too, sort of. In a ‘mutual toleration’ kind of way. In a ‘had sex half a dozen times just for the hell of it’ kind of way, before Hazel had come into the picture. It hadn’t meant anything, even though it was Jo’s first time admitting she wanted to be with women, and if she’d ever thought it meant anything she quickly reminded herself that Ariel never had.
Ariel had never been her type. She was too calculating and manipulative. Plus all the booze, cigarettes, and drugs. Jo didn’t mind the first one so much, but she’d been a competitive runner ever since junior high and had no interest in sacrificing her health on the altar of tobacco and painkillers.
She still didn’t get what Hazel had seen in her. Maybe it was just that Hazel was a better person, able to see through Ariel’s concrete-hard layers down to the lost little girl underneath. Jo had never been that nice. Which was why she didn’t deserve Hazel, and hadn’t deserved that kiss.
Jo was just washing up after the obligatory daily scooping of the litter when her cell phone rang, startling her with the sudden blaring chorus of Pharrell Williams’ Happy.
“(Because I’m happy!) Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof!”
The soap flew out from between her fingers and hit the bathroom mirror just right to send cracks spidering across the reflective surface.
“(Because I’m happy.) Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth.”
Cursing under her breath, she hastily wiped her hands on a towel and ran to catch the call. That was the ringtone she’d set for Hazel’s calls. Mental note, she told herself, find a less obnoxious ringtone later.
“(Because I’m happy) Clap along if you know what happiness is—”
There was just static on the line. Just static, until she heard a familiar voice in the white noise, and it wasn’t Hazel.
“Stay away from her,” it whispered, just barely over the crack and snap of the bad connection “Stay away from her stay away from her stay away from her stay away from her stay away from her you bitch.”
The little hairs on the back of Jo’s neck were standing up. Dinah, who’d been curled up on the table next to the phone, was on her feet now with ears back and tail twice its normal size.
It was Ariel.