Chapter 20: Back in the house
“I died eighty years ago. What is it like now?” Chloe asked, resuming her seat and patting the cushion next to her. “I’m glad we never had the atomic war…did we?”
Alex laughed. “No, we never had the nuclear war, came damn close a couple of times. We’ve had other wars, though.” His smile slipped from his face at the thought of how many wars had occurred since she had passed.
“Are you all right?” she asked.
“Yeah, just got me thinking.” He sighed. “All these years, and we still can’t seem to get along in the world.” His smile returned. “We have a lot of cool ways to communicate now.” Pulling out his phone, he showed her the Internet, videos, photos, and messaging.
“Does anyone actually talk to each other?” she asked after he told her about text messages and e-mail.
Alex thought for a moment. “No, not really.” She waited for him to continue. Alex tried to think of the best way to ask his question. “Listen, I need to ask you about…Richard and Edgar.” He felt the weight hit the pit of his stomach as she turned from him. She was up and floating away in an instant. Alex found himself on his feet reaching out. Her transparent hair slipped through his fingers as she moved. “Wait, I’m sorry; I just need to understand. I learned some things, and they just don’t make sense.” Now it was Alex who turned away. “Listen, I uh…” He had decided to tell her about her brother. Now his stomach squirmed at the thought of telling her he was gone. Then again not knowing could be worse, he thought. Steeling himself, he shut his eyes, turned back to her direction, and spoke. “I found your brother.” He heard her gasp but continued on. “He was already…gone when I got to his house.”
“Where did he go? When was he going to be back? Did you tell him about me?” Chloe interrupted, her tone more excited with each question. A sudden gasp and her hands flew to cover her mouth. “Oh my, you meant he died.”
He could only stutter as he watched the tears well up. She turned from him, shoulders shaking. It was with careful hands that he held her presence by the shoulders. She turned, his hands passing through her. He found an odd weight on his shoulders and neck. His arms encircled, pressing just enough not to pass into her. Tears flowed out onto his shoulder. To his surprise, the material became cold where she cried but remained dry. He did what he could to comfort her, wishing to help as well as reveling in the feeling of the wisps through his fingers as he ran them through the flow of her hair.
“Your heart is beating so fast,” she remarked as her shoulders calmed from crying. “Mine hurts but doesn’t beat anymore.” She choked back a sob. Her hands were now on his chest. Her head turned to listen to the rhythm in his chest.
“Um, yeah. Well, I didn’t get to tell you.” He backed away, immediately missing the feeling of her. “I met your niece.” Quickly he explained what he had discovered during his visit. She listened, making few remarks until the end.
“So he thought it was me haunting this place, but he never came to find out?” she asked as she wandered to a window.
“I think he hoped it wasn’t you, and if he found out it was, it would confirm you were gone,” he suggested. He decided to try again. “So what can you tell me about Richard?”
“Nothing really.” She continued to stare through the filthy glass. “He was younger, handsome, and very well liked.” She turned to face him. “From what I heard, nothing at all like Edgar.” She frowned. “I always understood there was a deep resentment by Edgar of his brother. Richard was smarter and much better with the ladies.” She smirked, which turned to an ugly frown. “Edgar was mean, ugly, and crass. He was”—she glanced around, looking for the right word—“not smart, a galoot, I guess.” She was pacing now. “I did hear that Richard would often cover for Edgar. Like when Edgar got mad and damaged old Mr. Graham’s wagon, Richard paid for a new one.”
“So you think Edgar did something to help his brother out?” Alex asked.
Chloe frowned. “No. I really doubt it. Well, I don’t know. I never believed in any of that stuff, but, well,”—she motioned to herself—“I guess ghosts are real.” Suddenly she yelped. Alex rushed to her, not sure what had surprised her. Chloe stared at him wide-eyed. “Their grandmother!” she cried.
“What, is she here?” He was staring all around trying to shield her.
Chloe passed right through him, turned to stare him in the eyes. “No, she isn’t here.” She laughed. “Such a gentleman to guard me from harm. Little hint, though.” She winked at him. “I’m already dead. No, their grandmother was rumored to be a witch.” She shook her head. “Until right now I never even thought of it.”
“No shit? Really? A witch?”
“Language.” Chloe blushed.