It was the time of day when no one thought to turn on the lights. A plate of clams was downstairs, and the sun had fallen below the tall hedges.
Dusk was making its way into the big house and up the stairs, where we cousins were told to read a book, play a game, get ready for dinner. We clung by age, draping off the top bunk, playing Uno, polishing toenails with a foot on the sink. I laid on the floor by the stairs with my chin on a fist, looking at an old nail bent wrong and thinking about the tasty cocktail sauce downstairs. Sand was in my sunburnt ears.
Dinner was slow to the table that night and the cousins shared a potato chip bag upstairs. When the dusk broke down into dark, we reached for the lights and started talking about the house’s ghost.
Our families called the ghost Grace. We knew about her history from the house’s owner, and even other renters. It made us laugh if we were outside in the sun at the beach, and our families bonded over this experience. Our own ghost! But if we were inside the house, when the sun was depleted, the cousins would stay downstairs in a large group until it was time for bed and go up together. No one spent time alone upstairs, even during the day, and especially not at night.
“Don’t leave me,” we’d say. Or a simple, “wait!”
The ghost never made an appearance, but she did make her feelings known. Some of us had come across a strong sense of anger while opening this one old door upstairs, and to me as an 11-year-old, this was evidence of somebody invisible. Was it left behind emotion? Or was she standing right there? It was anybody’s guess.
Finally, we heard pots in the kitchen. Laughter. They were having fun, telling their own stories. I could smell barbecue sauce and was relieved. My cousin and I left the younger cousins to play Rummy 500 on our bed. By this time, the dark had grown heavier. We turned our table lamp on, needing it to see the cards on the bed.
We were deep into the game when the lamp began to dim. Slowly. As if electricity was being pinched away. My cousin and I looked at each other, and turned our heads back to the lamp, watching it grow dimmer.
When the lamp light was gone, the screaming started. Cousins ran from the bedrooms hysterical, bare feet pounding down the thin hallway and stairs to the first floor, where we found more dark.
But the fireplace already had a fire so we held onto each other in front of it, shouting story upon story of what just happened, recounting the event already, while flashlights were found. “It’s Grace!” we said. “She’s here!” Adults talked about the island’s unreliable electric plant, how the wiring in the house was ancient, but we cousins knew it was the ghost. Dinner was by flashlights that night.
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As always, xoxo Amy