2nd Draft: Night-Time Visitations

This is the second draft of a story I am working on.  I have never written a ghost story, so this is something that requires a bit of a learning curve. Let me know what confuses you or what throws you out of the story and/or what works. I would appreciate your feedback.

Here’s to trying new things.

Mary Louise awoke in the dead of night to the distinct smell of bacon frying.  She rubbed her eyes and glanced at the clock: 3:02 am. “What the hell?” she mumbled as she slipped on her robe, grabbed her flashlight and headed for the staircase. The house was dark save for a dim lamp burning in the upstairs hall and she leaned over the stair rail to see if she saw a light under the door in the kitchen. She didn’t see one but the bacon smell was stronger than ever. Curiosity propelled her forward. She tiptoed down the stairs, avoiding the steps she knew creaked.

Off in the distance, she heard a siren and then stiffened. Maybe the police were in search of the very person who had broken into her kitchen. She crept past the kitchen door and headed for the hall closet where she kept a pistol. It was John’s – had been John’s  – before he died without warning in his armchair four months before. 

Mary Louise thought for just a moment, What if that’s John’s ghost come to see me? Of course, she had dreamed of such an event. After all, there had been no good-bye, no last kiss, no words of love or wisdom or guidance as she was left to fend for herself. Just a vacant stare as she entered the study and found him, his eyes fixed on some far point completely out of her earthly reach.

She thought perhaps she should telephone the police. Yes, of course, that is exactly what she should do, a woman alone in an old two-story Victorian home. But first, she decided to put her ear against the kitchen door to determine if she could hear any activity. Silence. Even the bacon smell, which still wafted in the air, was beginning to wane. Mary Louise screwed up her courage, held the pistol steady as she had been trained to do by John himself, and pushed the door open with her foot. It banged against the far wall, making her jump, but her flashlight revealed only an empty kitchen with everything neat and tidy just as she’d left it. The chain was still securely fastened on the back door and her rain boots were undisturbed right in front of the door. She peered out the kitchen window. The garage light glowed, revealing nothing.

She shook her head, marveling at the power of her olfactory imagination, then headed back upstairs. What a laugh her sister Kate would have when she told her about this incident later in the morning. Chuckling to herself, Mary Louise reached the top step. There, sitting in her wicker chair was a thin, white-faced man with dark messy hair. She froze, startled. “Charlie?” she whispered. “Can that be you?”

“Hello, Sis.”

“But—but, I can’t be- believe it!” Mary Louise stuttered, shocked by the sight of her brother, who had died ten years before of lung cancer. “What in the world are you doing here?”

“Not happy to see me?” Charlie teased.

Mary Louise stepped forward. “Of course, I am! Can I hug you?”

Charlie shook his head. “Better not. Besides, I’m here to help John.”

Mary Louise looked stricken. “Oh dear, this is a terrible thing to have to tell you, but John died suddenly a few months back. Apparently, it was an undiagnosed heart defect and —.”

“Of course, John’s dead. Don’t you think I’d be in the loop on that? I’m here to help him move on to the next phase. He’s lingering!”

“Lingering?  Do you mean he’s here?”

Charlie nodded. “He needs to tell you good-bye.”

Mary Louise’s face brightened. “Oh, Charles, can I see John?  I mean the way I’m seeing you?  Oh, that would make me so happy.”

Her brother shook his head. No, that’s not possible at his stage. But he’s letting you know he’s here through the bacon smell.”

Tears stung Mary Louise’s eyes. “You mean he doesn’t want to leave me?”

“He always was a hopeless romantic.”

“Can he hear me?” Mary Louise asked, looking around the room.

Charlie nodded.

Mary Louise paused, then said quietly, “Oh, John, honey, I miss you so much. I didn’t know you were here but I’m glad you’ve been close. It’s been so hard since you’ve been gone.”

Charlie raised an eyebrow. “This is not helping, you do realize that, right?”

Taking a deep breath, Mary Louise said in a stronger voice, “Johnny, it’s okay.  I’m all right.  You need to move forward in your journey now.  Don’t worry about me, baby. I am really fine. Sad, but fine.”

“Hear that, John?” Charlie said. “We have to get moving, my friend. We have miles to go before we—. What?  Okay, okay, I’ll tell her.”

Charlie’s image started to fade. “He said he’ll visit now and then just to remind you of those breakfasts in bed.”

Mary Louise laughed out loud. “Oh, I loved those! Tell him—“

Charlie disappeared.

Mary Louise sank down in the chair where her long-dead brother had just been sitting and felt happy for the first time in four months. “Thank you, both!” she whispered, and when the delicious aroma of bacon wafted up from her kitchen, she breathed in deeply and smiled.

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