The following morning Ed woke up as happy as he had ever felt, in the past months.
Maggie wasn’t around, or at least – as it happened often when the morning light illuminated the apartment that much – she wasn’t visible. That meant he was alone, or at least he could pretend to be.
For a change, he took his time to fry ham and eggs and toast two slices of bread. Indeed, it was long since he had had the desire and the drive to prepare for himself such a treat. The day, as such, started well.
The morning in the office went by meeting after meeting, during which Maggie didn’t appear. He knew she was there, though, and when he finally had time to go to the toilet just before lunch-time, he wasn’t surprised when he noticed her presence floating a little afar.
Well, it was long since he had last been embarrassed by her presence even in his most intimate moments, so he didn’t really pay attention to it until she spoke.
“I was wondering,” she began, “I’ve been following you for weeks and I think I understand something about your job. You work for a law firm, and you manage their customers. I recall previous tenants’ discussions about lawyers and suits, I think that’s clear enough.”
“Indeed, I do,” he said, waiting for her to get to the point. It wasn’t normal for the girl to engage a conversation like that.
“Why don’t you just find customers for yourself?”
Ed smiled. He had expected something more serious coming, but that was easy to answer.
“Because it’s too much work, at this point in my career. I’m still too young, nobody would trust me,” he replied. “And anyway I don’t know that many potential customers.”
“You can take for yourself the customers you are managing now. They would sure trust you, it would be easy…”
“No, I can’t, of course, because it’s against the law and against my personal ethics. Moreover, my contract clearly defines huge penalties for this kind of behaviour.”
“Do all employees of the company have those penalties?”
“I don’t know,” he said, “Why are you getting so serious about my job, all of a sudden?”
Ed, now, he was getting a strange feeling coming from the conversation.
“I was only curious, I wanted some information.”
Maggie floated back and forth for a while, and so Ed washed his hands and approached the door. If she had nothing to say anymore, he’d just let the conversation end: he wanted to have lunch. But as soon as he touched the handle of the door she spoke again.
“What if an employee hasn’t that kind of penalties, and thus act that way?”
He turned around. The bathroom was one of the darkest rooms in his office building, because the large windows faced on other offices, and so they always had the thick curtains closed to give the people the necessary privacy. He could see Maggie pretty well, in there, and she was now flying near the basins, close to the mirrors in which there was no trace of her presence in the room.
“I’d say he is an asshole, and he is probably going to get sued by this very law firm soon. Even if it’s not in the contract, this is a serious matter: there is no company that would let it go unpunished.”
“And if he gives the customers to someone who doesn’t work for the company?”
Now, Ed was very curious. The ghost was trying to get somewhere, and if so… there had to be a meaning. Was she speaking about a concrete matter? Was something like that happening?
“Maggie, what’s happening?” He asked but soon had to hush her when he heard a noise from outside.
It was funny, though, because he knew nobody would have heard her voice. But a colleague hearing him talking to himself may have reconsidered his mental sanity, he had to watch out.
He looked out of the door to be sure nobody was approaching the bathroom, then closed it again.
“Really, this isn’t normal: has something happened?” he urged her.
“I think… I’m not sure, Ed!” she said, and then almost blurted out in a breath, “I was floating in one of the offices today and there were two people in one of them, having sex. I stopped there to look at them. Apart from you, it has been long since I saw anything like that and… I was curious. I know more now and I kind of fel-“
“Get to the point,” he interrupted her wandering. He could feel her nervousness.
“The girl was bent on the desk and the man was taking her from behind. They were being very quiet. Then when the man groaned she knelt in front of him and stroked his… his… oh, God… asking him questions like ‘Is everything ready? Are we going to enjoy our money soon? I want to be at your side, I want to fulfil all your…’ – I think she said ‘desires’, here – and then the man cummed inside her mouth, and when he stopped grunting, while she kept his member inside her mouth, he took a green notebook from the desk, looked at it and said that all preparations were ready, that the customers would soon be moved to a friend beyond suspicion and they’d just have to manage them in the shadow until some kind of pact ends.”
Even if it was a little strange to hear the girl he had had sex with just the night before, telling him she had snuck out on another couple doing that, that last sentence had definitely piqued Ed’s curiosity more.
Was she speaking about the non-compete clause, then?
“Did you hear anything more?”
“No, when the girl finished her job she exited the room and the man just sat at his desk, back to work at his PC.”
“Can you point me at the office where you saw all of this?” He asked her.
“For sure,” she nodded.
Luckily, the bathroom was at the end of the long corridor in which were located pretty much all of the personal offices.
“Ok, so just tell me ‘this’ when we pass by the door.”
He opened the door and walked out in the corridor, a little slower than usual, passing the doors one by one until he heard Maggie’s voice.
It was almost at the end of the corridor, and apart from the meeting room he had used in the morning, there was only the open-space after it.
The only personal office close by was that of a manager, one of the most important ones in the company, one that was managing almost half of the customers of the law firm.
Together with Rose.
“You are jealous, aren’t you?” Edward mocked her.
He had stayed quiet about the whole matter for the rest of the day, but inside himself, it was a storm of different feelings. But mostly, his blood was boiling with anger. He had long realized he didn’t feel anything for Rose, she could fuck anyone she wanted, of course.
But fuck the entire company? That was out of the question. Granted anything Maggie had told him was true, indeed. He had to scrape off of himself the last doubts.
So, as soon as they had reached home, while the sound of the water boiling in the kettle had begun rising in volume and the darkness had engulfed the kitchen, he had asked Maggie.
“Wh… No, I’m not… I… She is, really…” she stuttered for a moment.
The reaction he had expected from his joke, though, was different. He just wanted to tease her, but after the short stuttering Maggie got engulfed in light and her hair floated around her face and her body rose in the air in front of him, as powerful emotions possessed her.
He felt a rush of adrenaline through his body, the fear tightening his blood vessels: he had already forgotten this side of her. The calm, good ghost could really transform into a monster. And once again, he had been the one to cause it.
“I’m sorry if your Rose is a slut and sucks her boss’s cock for money!” She shouted, infuriated.
Then her body seemed to grow bigger as she approached him. This time, Edward really feared for his life. But Maggie only yelled her frustration at him.
“I hate you!”
Then she disappeared.
It wasn’t the first time Margaret hadn’t shown herself for an entire day, but this time the feeling was different.
Edward spent the entire following day working and trying to figure out what to do. Maggie would have never gotten so angry if all of that was a lie. That meant Rose and her boss were actually trying to steal customers to the company. In which case, he had to tell it to his boss he had to tell it soon, but doing it without any proof – or even trying to acquire it – was going to be risky for him.
He may have even ended up losing his job.
How much did he trust Maggie? He wondered. Playing with her to test her motives, though, had revealed to be a mistake.
The evening of that day Maggie didn’t show herself and Ed, stubborn as he was, didn’t call for her either.
The second day, though, Edward began to feel worried. He had to solve the issue regarding Rose and he had to solve the issue with Maggie: in the past two days he seemed to have gone backwards with his progress with women, he thought, bitterly smiling.
In the evening, once again unable to read the book he had once again left unfinished on the bedside table for too long, on the verge of exasperation, controlling his voice to sound calm and sorry, he finally called out for her.
“Maggie, I know you are here, please show yourself,” he said, then he added his excuses. “I’m sorry, I wanted to tease you, and the joke went too far. I shouldn’t have implied you lied to me, I shouldn’t have implied you confided in me those matters out of jealousy.”
He put the book on the bedside table again, sat on the border of his bed and looked in front of him, where Maggie was used to appearing. Then he started hearing sighs, and a while fog slowly took the shape of the girl he liked.
“Please don’t hate me… I don’t understand what’s happening to me anymore…”
“I could never h-” he tried to say, but Maggie hadn’t finished and wasn’t listening to him.
“Look at me… I never felt like this. I want to slap you, and the moment after I want to hug and kiss you with all my heart. But I can’t do either of those, at least not whenever I want, how I want,” she continued.
“Look at me! The only thing I can wear on this cursed body of mine is this shabby old white nightgown. But out there… There are thousands of real, pretty girls waiting only for you to find them. And then I’ll lose you, and I’ll be alone again… aching for the love I need, and yet I can’t share with anyone.”
Maggie was looking at him, and yet crying so much that Ed could see her drops lining her face in silver paths, before falling on the floor and slowly disappear.
On a rational point of view, he understood what all of that was about. She was jealous, and he could relate to that. But he wasn’t a ghost, he could never understand completely what she meant by those words. The truth was, they lived in worlds too far apart, which only occasionally touched.
“I’m jealous, FUCK! Of course, I’m jealous! I envy her! She could have you whenever she wants!” Maggie complained, raising her voice, talking about Rose.
Her words had pierced through his heart. He suddenly realized her discomfort was something he could try to ease only sharing his own feelings with her. For once, he was going to try and open his heart to a woman.
“You are wrong about that. Rose can’t have me anymore,” he said, reaching out to her and hugging her thin transparent body floating in the air. “I couldn’t understand this before but… It’s been long since I’m only yours.”
The resolve to confess his own feelings clashed with his inexperience. At the last moment, he felt insecure about what he was supposed to say.
Was it a good thing or not, was it an act of pity, or selfishness? Was it a way to pretend everything was OK, even when it wasn’t?
He didn’t know, but in that moment it felt like the truth.
“I love you, Maggie.”