Author's Note: Even writing this story was starting to give me the chills – hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Serita Wallden moved quickly through the bookstore. She hadn't realized how the time had gone so quickly – when she had arrived in the store, it was only a little after four on a Friday afternoon, and now it was seven thirty. She was expecting a call from her boss at eight o'clock. She always visited the bookstore every chance she got – it was comforting to read a book and sip some coffee while life is continuing around you.
Serita dropped the three books she was planning to buy on a vacant shelf and quickly exited the bookstore. She lived twenty minutes from town in an old mansion that she had inherited from her great-grandfather. The mansion owed its size to the seven large bedrooms, a spacious kitchen, and more living and dining rooms than anyone could possibly use.
As she drove on the long, winding driveway up to the mansion, she thought of the reasons why she didn't just sell the place. It was just her living alone since her late husband Jonathan passed away three years ago. The mansion desperately needed repairs that she just couldn't afford, and it was farther away from town than she wanted to be.
Even though she had wanted to sell the place many times before, it being one of the few links to her family had made her keep it. Now, as she parked the car in under the porte-cochere, she had never felt lonelier. After Jonathan had passed away, she had a constant stream of friends and co-workers. Soon afterward they started to dwindle, but that didn't bother her as she needed time alone. Now, almost three years later and three year older – pushing her to 41 years old – she wanted a companion, she wanted a group of friends, and most of all she just wanted someone to be there for her when the loneliness sometimes got unbearable.
She sighed and turned on the kitchen light. She gasped at the sight she saw. All of her kitchen cupboard doors were open. She looked around, and slowly started closing them. Probably just some kids, she thought. After all, it wouldn't be the first time some teenagers broke into her home just for the kicks, but usually they just broke a lamp or overturned a chair or two. Nothing this…bizarre.
Just then, the phone rang, jarring Serita out of her thoughts.
"Hello," she answered. Static on the phone was the only noise. She waited a few moments. "Hello?" she asked again. Maybe the other person was on their cell phone, she thought. She hung up, and waited for them to redial, but the phone didn't ring again.
Strange, she thought. She was expecting a call from her boss, but he would call from his home, not from his cell phone. She shrugged, and continued closing the kitchen cupboards.
When she was finished, she climbed the stairs to her bedroom, switching on lights as she went. When she reached her bedroom, Serita was startled to see her bedcovers unmade, even though she had made the bed that morning.
"Teenagers," she muttered under her breath. She mentally added an alarm system to the checklist she had made for the repairs and renovations to the house. The kids usually just stayed on the first floor, and they usually only came in because of a dare, or initiation into the club. Never had they come to the second floor.
As she was changing into her nightgown, something struck her as odd. She looked back at the bed, and realized that whoever had pulled the covers back had pulled them back similar to how Jonathan used to do it.
Serita walked over the bed. Yes, she thought, identical to how Jonathan used to uncover the beds. She noticed it because it was almost like a signature the way he used to do it – she had never seen anyone else unmake a bed like that: the outside duvet was neatly folded at the foot of the bed, with the second sheet folded over twice so that it was right above the duvet. He also used to make the pillows prop up against the headboard – like how they were now.
How odd, Serita thought. Only she knew how Jonathan had made the bed. It was one of his little idiosyncrasies that she had found so endearing. It was almost as if he did it again…
She shook her head – she had to remember that Jonathan was no longer here anymore. She sighed, and got into bed. Sometimes she wished she had a boyfriend, but Serita knew she still hadn't completely gotten over Jonathan's death.
He died three years ago, but she still remembered every detail of that horrendous day. She was at work, getting ready to pack up. It was a Thursday evening, and Jonathan had told her he had a surprise waiting for her for when she got home. It was only later she found out that he had a candle-light dinner prepared for the both of them, some soft music, and dimmed lights.
She was about to leave the office when two police officers walked out of the elevator and headed towards her desk. It was only her left in the office, and she thought that they were looking for someone else. Picking up her purse, she headed towards the elevator when they stopped her and told her that her husband, Jonathan Wallden, had passed away in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. At first she didn't comprehend, and began to get angry at the two men for playing a cruel joke on her.
Later on, she found out that Jonathan had stopped on the side of the road to help someone whose car had stalled on his way home. As he got out of his car, a semi truck collided with his car, sending him smashing into the concrete divider of the highway. The semi truck driver was drunk, and a few months later he died of an alcohol overdose. The police showed her two pictures of the crash and Jonathan's body before she vomited and was driven home. She didn't start crying until she walked into the dining room and saw the table set with the best tablecloth, two candles, and flowers.
Serita remembered that was the worst time of her life. She didn't truly stop grieving until several months later, when she was able to walk into her house alone without breaking down. Even though she grew stronger everyday, she still missed him so much.
Shaking her head, she tried to clear the morbid thoughts away. She turned off the lights, and snuggled deeper into the blankets. She would call the policeman tomorrow, and report that someone had broken into her home. For now she would just sleep…
And that's when she heard a door open. She sat up, and heard it close. It came from downstairs.
Serita did not bother turning on the lights, but silently got up and crept out of the bedroom. She slowly made her way downstairs, moving her feet over the steps that creaked. She reached the kitchen, and flicked on the light switch. She put a hand over her mouth to stifle a gasp.
All the cupboard doors were open – again.
Serita didn't know how it happened, but when she checked, all the doors and windows were locked on the bottom floor. But didn't she just hear a door open and close?
Something was going on. The hairs at the back of her neck were standing on end. She hoped she was making a bigger thing of it than it really was, but for some reason she couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched.
Schizophrenia. That must be it, she concluded. There had to be some logical reason as to why the kitchen cabinets – again – were open. It would also explain why she heard a door open and close. She could get help as soon as the morning came – booking an appointment with the psychiatrist, nipping the thing in the bud. Maybe it was just stress, and this will all pass in –
She heard a door open. Serita jerked her head in the direction it was coming from in the living room. With confident strides, she quickly made her way to the living room. Looking around, she saw a large window open, and the curtains blowing in the wind.
She shook her head. Was that what she was making a big deal of? The wind must be pushing doors inside the house close, and the creaking was just the wooden boards adjusting to the new pressure.
"There, nothing to get worked up about," she said to herself, although not entirely convinced.
She walked to the window and closed it. Immediately the curtains fell silently back against the wall, and the house was still again. For some reason, though, she was not entirely comfortable. The hairs on the back of her neck were still standing on end. She shivered. Something still wasn't right.
She surveyed the living room, but everything was in place and untouched. Shaking her head, she slowly made her way back to the kitchen. That's when she saw the kitchen lights flashing on and off. Serita stopped dead in her steps. Whoever was in here with her, was in the kitchen. She just knew it.
She ran to the phone across the room, and started dialing 911. As she put the phone up to her ear, there was no dial tone, nor was there any ringing. She tried again, her hands shaking from fear. Again, no dial tone or ringing – the phone was dead.
A cold sweat broke out on her. Screaming seemed to be the first thing that came to her mind, but she overrode that instinct just barely. Breathing rapidly, she slowly made her way to the kitchen. She had no weapons with her, only her fists. But she was damn well going to fight if that's what it took.
Entering the kitchen, the lights flicked off and stayed off. She stopped breathing, and tried to hear any other sound. Everything was silent. Not even the kitchen sink tap was dripping. She waited for her eyes to adjust to the darkness, and slowly turned her head. In the corner was a shadow of a man.
Serita opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She swallowed, but the man made no attempt to move. She didn't even know if he was breathing. "Who's th-there?" her voice squeaked out.
She could see him start moving towards her, but he didn't make a sound. Not even muffled footsteps on the carpet. That was very strange, but Serita paid no attention to the sound, only the body moving closer to her. "Who's there?" she cried out, and started slowly moving backwards.
As she bumped into the kitchen counter, she clawed at the surface, hoping to find something for protection.
The man spoke for the first time, "Don't you recognize me?"
Serita stopped moving, stopped breathing, and just stared. It couldn't – it was impossible. It must be her imagination playing tricks on her. It was the voice of Jonathan – Jonathan who died three years ago. Jonathan who planned a romantic dinner but never made it. Jonathan who helped a poor man with car troubles before he was instantly killed by a semi truck.
"Jonathan?" she said softly, her eyes wide with amazement.
He continued to move slowly, but stopped when she said his name. She couldn't make out the exact details of his face, but she recognized the shape. She recognized the way he walked. It was Jonathan! He nodded.
"But how is that possible? Where have you – but I saw the photos of the accident!" she said, trying to convince herself that this wasn't real. It was just a dream, she continued to say to herself, just a dream.
She could tell that he was smiling. She could almost feel his presence in front of her – if this was a dream, it was very life-like.
"I've missed you so much," he said sadly. "So much."
She started to cry, "I've missed you! Oh, where have you been? We can be together now, just the two of us."
She saw him reach out to touch her, but instead of feeling his hand, she felt a blast of cold air touch her cheek. She gasped, and looked at him confused.
"I wish we could," he said, shaking his head. "I am not of this world anymore, Serita." Hearing her name once more come from his lips made her grip the counter edge before she fainted.
"I don't understand," she said meekly.
He tried to smile, "I don't understand all of it myself, but I do understand one thing: I was sent here in able to give a message to you."
She swallowed, "A message?"
He nodded, "You are not happy. You have not been happy since I left. Please, don't grieve for me the rest of your life. You could have such a fulfilling life if you just give it a chance." She could not think of a reply. "Please," he continued, "remember that I love you, and I will never forget you, but I don't want you to forfeit your life because of me."
"I love you too, Jonathan," she whispered. And before she could reach out to touch him, she felt another blast of cold air. For the first time that night, the house was truly silent.
Three weeks later, Serita was at the bookstore again. The last couple of weeks had been hard for her, realizing that Jonathan truly had come back. But as she faced what had happened, she realized how closed she had been to the world, and now was trying to open up herself to life experiences that had been passing her for three years. She had never felt more alive or happier since Jonathan passed away.
She bought a coffee and sat down at a free table – the only free table in the store. The bookstore was packed with people today, and she just felt happy to be around everyone.
She had only read a few pages of her new book when a man stopped next to the table. "Excuse me," he said, and she looked up, "May I sit here? All the other tables are full."
True enough, all the other seats in the coffee section where taken. She nodded her head, and he sat down. "Oh," he said surprised, "Do you read mystery novels too?" He was looking at the book in her hand, and she saw he had the exact same book in his hands too.
She smiled. He did look like a really nice guy, and with the grey flecks in his hair, made him look more attractive than not. Perhaps she could learn to enjoy life to the fullest, she thought to herself. "I love them. By the way, I'm Serita." She held out her hand and he shook it.
"Nice to meet you. My name is Terry," he replied, smiling.
Yes, she thought, she could learn to enjoy life, little steps at a time. She smiled to herself, and thought that Jonathan would be happy for her.