[This story contains sensitive discussion of suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day everyday. They are there because many people have suicidal thoughts. Many people have lost a loved one to suicide. The first step is the hardest, but you are worth it. If you are in need, Call 1-800-273-8255 and speak with a compassionate person.]
We have a few items to discuss before we meet our next non-Wellesley resident.
Firstly, I’ve gone and changed my mind. Charging a dollar for these Out of the Swells stories began to feel soooo… tedious. So, I’m not going to do it. I’ll just post ‘em here once a month as promised, for FREE, like library books.
Let’s get set, shall we? Though, travel was at the height of tediousness recently, wasn’t it? With all the religious intolerance and xenophobia and such.
Head over to ghostsintheburbs.com where I’ve included links to the donation pages at The American Refugee Committee and the ACLU. Send your dollars their way. RESIST.
We need to recognize someone this week. Ms. Gaye Forren was the very first to donate $5 per month to the podcast, buying the golden, once in a lifetime, no it’s not a pyramid scheme opportunity to have her name used as an alias for one of my haunted friends. I’m saying it loud and proud and have repeated it every day since I transcribed this interview: THANK YOU GAYE! The friend your moniker represents is a complicated one. She’s a touch… conflicted, anxious and fancy, but aren’t we all these days?
Alright, we have a trip to make. Though I warn you, it won’t be a relaxing one.
Now that I’m able to reflect on my haunting with some perspective, I see that all it added up to was tapping, a couple creatures and a few scratches. Some experts came, did their thing and it was over. At the time I was terrified, but looking back it all feels more exciting than dire. Compared to an unexpected phone call on a Tuesday morning from a friend bearing news of illness, or a letter bringing final warning before collections, or even an ingrown toenail, paranormal tapping is positively mundane. Really sometimes I scare myself more than any entity ever could.
Chris had the day off on Monday and I took advantage of the time to go grocery shopping by myself. Today (Wednesday) when I got in the car I happened to look in the back of the truck as I was buckling the girls into their seats.
There were the groceries.
It took me a moment to understand what I was looking at. I actually had to search my memory to figure out where they had come from.
I got straight A’s in grad school and now I can’t even remember to take the groceries out of my car when I get home from the grocery store.
I use an app to track my spending and I even dragged and dropped the Whole Foods expense into the “groceries” category.
But I left the groceries in the back of the car and that scares the hell out of me.
They’re still there. I dropped off the kids at school, left a message for my psychiatrist that we might need to tweak my prescription a pinch and then went to Cafe Nero to drink coffee and pretend to read a book.
I’m trying to shrug it off, but I’m rattled.
Those groceries. They feel like the canary in the coal mine, it’s lifeless eyes staring at me from the back of my car. I can’t even fucking remember what I bought.
I listen to a weekly podcast called One Bad Mother. Without Biz and Theresa’s humor and honesty I wouldn’t have survived my first five years of motherhood. The hosts maintain a voicemail box where listeners may leave a parenting rant and Biz and Theresa listen to one of these rants at the end of each episode. A mother may call in with a detailed fail involving a holiday event, or a father will reveal his hapless trip to Target with infant twins and toddler in tow. These parents lament their inability to remain patient, calm and kind in the face of childrens’ outrageous irrationality.
These rants strike close to home for me, and the insightful hosts brought something interesting to my attention. Many of the anecdotes often end with something like, “My father’s funeral was last week, so I’m just trying to deal,” or “I had a medical procedure and it’s really slowed me down,” or “My friend was just diagnosed with cancer and it’s thrown me for a loop.”
Most often, these throw-away confessions come out just before the caller thanks the show hosts and tells them they’re “getting really good at this.” No one ever leads with their life shattering news. It’s treated as an afterthought, as though, if they lead with their heartache it would relay weakness or, even worse, the possibility that they are the only ones dealing (or not dealing so well) with their life circumstances. The rants are shared in an effort to unite, but only at an arm’s length. We are allowed to empathize and feel for them in their “failure” but we are not invited into their true pain.
We are supposed to buck up and deal with pain by ourselves, aren’t we? It’s to be private. I am the guiltiest of this practice. You may see me tear up but I’d be more likely to wear a “Make America Great Again” hat before you’d ever see me lean into a full-on ugly cry.
My little grocery experience was an amusing “rant,” no? What I didn’t mention was the undercurrent of anxiety and agitation I’d been managing for months. I was two weeks away from back surgery when this grocery thing happened. Two weeks away from having to give up control over my life for another six weeks and have to *cringe* depend upon others for help. Two weeks away from make-it-or-break-it-will-it-or-won’t-it-this-had-better-fucking-work stakes. Two more weeks of pain to hide from friends and family with Oh, I’m totally fine’s and I’m just so excited to get it over with’s. And it was definitely throwing me off my game.
t was during these two weeks that I visited my old neighborhood, Beacon Hill. Since moving I’ve had a really hard time visiting the city. Memories of my pre-kid life and the independent, no-strings-attached person whom I used to be slaps me across the face around every corner.
It has gotten easier but when I visit I can still see the old me in my mind. Jogging down Comm. Ave. before grabbing a latte and a pumpkin spice scone. Fighting back tears as I walk through the Common, headed home from a job I hate and am tied to because I’ve run up credit card debt buying expensive bags and shoes. Walking Walter in the Public Garden, adoring him and attempting to stop him from attacking other dogs. Strolling along the Esplanade when a phone call confirms that yes, I am indeed pregnant. A year later compulsively walking, Max tight in the Baby Bjorn, climbing Beacon Hill, winding through the alphabetical streets that intersect Commonwealth Avenue, afraid to be alone in the apartment. Two years after that shoving a double stroller through tight sidewalks and again fighting back tears wondering why I ever thought I could handle being a mother once, let alone twice.
These images stabbed too deeply when we first moved to the suburbs three years ago. I still dream that Chris and I will retire to our old neighborhood, but who am I kidding? By the time we are ready to retire Beacon Hill will be surrounded by marshland once again.
Anyhow, I was in the neighborhood one Saturday afternoon in January to meet with an old friend. After Max was born, Gaye Forren and I had been in a Great Beginnings class for first time moms at the ill-fated ISIS Maternity. She was the only other mom in the fifteen person class feeding her child formula and I was drawn to and reassured by her apparent confidence in early motherhood. I cried every time it was my turn to talk during circle time and I remember feeling overheated, stuffed like a sausage into my clothing and desperate for someone to tell me for sure whether or not they thought I might have postpartum depression, which, looking back, I most certainly did.
To my hot mess, Gaye was cool as a cucumber. It wasn’t ever that she seemed like she had it all figured out, it was more like she was letting motherhood in whereas I was running from it as though it were hunting me.
When I first knew Gaye she had brown, shoulder length hair with some cute sweep to the side bangs. She was post pregnancy plump and rocked skinny jeans and flowy tops with ease. I saw her in makeup once, when the moms from the class all went out together for drinks, but I thought she was much cuter in a ponytail and no makeup.
The Gaye I met that Saturday at Tatte on Charles Street was a brand spanking new Gaye. I spotted her from the table I’d been holding for us, though I almost didn’t recognize her. Her chestnut colored hair was long, ombre and beach waved, she slipped out of her hunter green Canada Goose Kensington, before gracefully taking a seat. She was a tornado of wealth: Lululemon workout gear, Hermes saddlebag, Tom Ford sunglasses, and Valentino sneakers. I had to look that last one up when I got home. They were so fabulous – bright white and studded with a metallic band across their top.
I’m both embarrassed and proud to say that I felt like a proper dick head in my blue striped button down and black pullover sweater. All brought to you by a 40% off J Crew promo code. I did carry the old Louis Vuitton catch all that Chris got me when we were childless and care-free, but truthfully it made me feel like even more of an ass.
Anyhow, there we were. Stark examples of the roads we’d each taken, one that lead to suburban preppy comfort, the other to chic urban affluence. Though we’d once had an easy rapport, there now was an awkward “this wasn’t such a good idea” vibe that felt, well, super fucking awkward.
“How are the suburbs treating you?” Gaye asked. “Is it worth the yard and garage like everyone says it is?”
I laughed, though I definitely detected mean-girl sarcasm in her tone.
“Honestly?” I replied, “It didn’t feel worth it for a while, but we found our groove. We’ve got a fun group of friends, and the yard is awesome, especially for the dogs, but we don’t have a garage, I mean we do, but not one you can fit a car into. And, hey, once we hit kindergarten school is officially free, ha ha.”
Then I forced myself to take a sip of coffee to stop my oddly defensive rambling.
“I’ve just never minded street parking, and we pretty much walk everywhere anyhow,” she replied, scanning the cafe. “I can’t imagine having to drive everywhere.”
“So, what’s new with you?” I asked, having already had my fill of the superior urban mommy passive aggression.
“We’re waiting to hear from Beacon Hill Nursery School and Kingsley Montessori for Brooks, I’m hoping he can get into a three’s program for the fall. We’re giving Whitaker one more year at Park Street School, then I suppose we’ll go for BB&N,” she said casually.
“I’d love to give Max another year of preschool too, but the school system is pretty strict about holding kids back,” I replied, though I was doing some quick math in my mind.
The preschools she’d mentioned cost approximately $20,000 per school year, and the Kindergarten at BB&N? That one started at $32,000 – and these tuition costs were before all the “extras” children were expected to take. It was imperative that gifted (and not-so-gifted) offspring specialize in a language and an instrument, take supplemental STEM courses, and incorporate mindfulness lessons into their busy schedules. That last one was added to the roster once wealthy, well-meaning families became aware that this high-stakes education game had kids burned out by the time they were eighteen. Since it would be ridiculous to rethink their crowded schedules, the mindfulness skill set was added to the roster.
I’m not without fault here, Max attended an expensive private preschool for a year before we left the city. It may sound crazy from the outside but it’s hard to pass up the Kool Aid when you’re in the Jonestown of the competitive urban private school environment. Tier 1 colleges were a mere fifteen-to-seventeen years away and private schools invoke the college application specter early on.
Gaye had changed. Whereas I’d known her as someone who rolled her eyes at the mention of Baby Einstein videos, the fact that she’d mentioned these exclusive, price-tagged schools felt like a micro-aggression after I’d made the comment about “free kindergarten.” I mean, maybe I shouldn’t have made the comment. I remember the sticker shock when we were looking at preschools for Max and even if you could afford to pay you weren’t guaranteed a spot. So maybe I’d been making a little dig at the city, but I’d reacted defensively towards her, well her fabulousness.
I decided to change the subject.
“Enough kid talk, it’s boring,” I said, only half-kidding. “When I read your message on Facebook it seemed like you were rattled, but maybe I read too much into it?”
“No, you’re right I was, I mean, I am rattled,” she said, lifting a hand to her face and nibbling on the edge of her thumbnail. “I’d seen a few posts about your ghost stories and you were the first person who came to mind when things started happening in the brownstone.”
“If you are about to tell me that you moved into a haunted Beacon Hill brownstone I will lose my mind,” I said loudly, unable to contain my excitement.
Gaye smiled and looked like the Gaye I remembered for a moment; open and amused at life. She said, “Yeah, our place is really haunted, like, too haunted.”
“Holy shit,” I said loudly, causing people in line to look over at our table. I scooched my chair closer to hers and exclaimed, “Do you even understand that this is, like, my Holy Grail? A haunted Beacon Hill brownstone? It’s the story I’ve been waiting to hear my whole life!”
“No,” she said shaking her head, “you wouldn’t want to live there. I actually think we’re in trouble. That’s why I messaged you, I need advice.”
“I’m sorry,” I apologized, feeling like a jerk. “It’s just that I have been obsessed with this idea since I first walked through the neighborhood. This place is crazy dense with history, who’s haunting you? Some Boston Brahmin pissed that you’ve let all the staff go?
“Wait!” I demanded, cutting Gaye off before she could reply. “Which slope are you on? Was your place part of the Underground Railroad? Holy shit. This is amazing.”
“Stop,” Gaye said, holding up her hand. “No, it’s nothing like that. The ghosts, they just used to live in the house. I’m pretty sure that I know who they are, I just don’t know how to make them leave.”
“Yeesh,” I said, then, “What does Andrew think about it?” I asked, referring to her husband, a man I’d met once in passing when Gaye and I’d run into eachother at Starbucks long ago. I’d disliked the man immediately. A moment after Gaye introduced us he’d taken out his phone to scroll through urgent Sunday morning business.
“He thinks that I’m overreacting. Actually, I feel like I have to watch what I tell him or I could find myself one step away from the looney bin.”
“No,” I said, unsure.
Gaye laughed and looked up with eyes filled with tears, “Not really, but he won’t hear me when I tell him that we have a major problem. That house is proof that Andy’s a heavy hitter in the private equity world. In his mind there neither can nor will be anything wrong with the house. And he travels so much for work that he isn’t there enough for me to prove to him that something really is happening. Meanwhile, I am living in a nightmare.”
“Look,” I said quickly, “Chris has the kids this afternoon so I have plenty of time to talk. Why don’t we go grab a booth at 75 Chestnut and you can tell me over a glass of wine.”
“Excellent idea,” she said.
I called Chris to let him know I’d be home later than expected and he was his usual easy going self about the change in plans. He asked me where we kept the extra diapers, which brought out my usual impatient how in the hell do you not know that? self.
With Chardonnay in hand, Gaye opened up about her home.
“The brownstone is up Mount Vernon, just past Louisburg Square. It’s on the shady side of the street, so at first I assumed that’s why it felt so gloomy all the time. And the people that lived there before us,” Gaye shuddered, “they owned five long-haired cats and every single room was covered in the same exact floral wallpaper.”
Gaye went on to explain the extensive renovations undertook to modernize and reconfigure the space, “Actually, the kitchen was originally ground level so that obviously wouldn’t work. We ended up moving it to the first floor and created a great open concept for dining and entertaining and we put a playroom and exercise area on the ground level. The second floor has two bedrooms and a bathroom for the kids, and then our master, bath and office are on the third floor. There’s an old maid’s quarters in the fourth floor space and we’ll do something with it eventually, but for now it’s just storage.
“Oh! And there is this adorable patio in the back, but we’ll never use it for anything. I landscaped the hell out of it because, you know, rats.”
I nodded my head in acknowledgement. When Chris and I lived in the city we never took an apartment below the third floor. It wasn’t a guarantee, but at least you had a better chance of only being infested with mice if you lived on an upper floor, rather than both mice and rats.
“So, the planning and watching the transformation was all fine. When we did the renovations and then all the decorating the house was filled with people. I did notice some strange things the few times I was there alone but I shrugged them off as tricks of the light from all the construction gear or the house settling into it’s new dimensions.
“But shortly after we moved into the brownstone it was immediately apparent that recessed lighting and a ‘neutral design palette’ weren’t going to disperse the gloom.”
“Do you have any pictures of the renovation?” I asked, absolutely dying to see the transformation almost as much as I wanted to hear her ghost story. Just so we’re clear. We are talking about a 5,000 square foot home in the heart of Boston’s most expensive neighborhood.
“Oh, sure,” she said taking her phone out of her pocket. I watched her scroll for a moment and then accepted, well, snatched the phone from her hand.
I scrolled through several photos of the home in it’s pre-renovation existence and smiled, the wallpaper truly was bizarre. I quickly shot past images of the home in mid-renovation and then gasped when the post renovation first floor shot blazed onto the screen. I used pinchy fingers to enlarge the picture and study the perfection it captured. Gleaming glossy whites and bright greys, pops of navy and pink coming from art and a few key accent pieces. The rug! It was the most neutral and the most striking animal print ever.
I kept scrolling, each photo more beautiful than the last. The kids’ rooms were minimalistic, not a toy or lone shoe in sight, which was boring, but the master bedroom had a crystal chandelier, and the bathrooms are just what you would expect, five-star hotel quality marble and shiny white tile.
I scrolled past the final home photo to one of Gaye with four other women, who pretty much looked exactly like her. All thin-thinner-thinnest with long ombre hair, bright white smiles, perfect makeup, and pricy clothing.
I handed the phone to her and asked, “Who are these gorgeous women?”
She looked at the photo and a cloud of emotion (anger? sadness?) passed across her face, gone as quickly as it appeared.
“They’re a few friends from Park Street, their children are in the same class as Whitaker.”
“Cool,” I said, then, “you guys knocked it out of the park with your house!”
“Appearances can be deceiving,” she replied.
“Sure,” I agreed, feeling a sudden sadness overtake me. “Tell me what’s happened.”
“To understand what’s going on, I actually have to tell you about the house’s history. I contacted one of those ghost hunting groups in New Hampshire – anonymously, of course – and asked them what I should do if I suspected my house might be haunted. They suggested that I conduct some research on the previous homeowners to see if there had been any recorded deaths or crimes in the home.”
“That’s really good advice,” I said.
“Right? The property record search was easy enough, the home was built in 1855, and believe it or not, only six other families owned it before us.”
“Wow,” I commented, “that’s incredible.”
“It is,” she said, quietly. “I mean, those families inside our walls, Brahmins first and now, us. I went to the BPL (http://www.bpl.org/) hoping to find information about the families. I found some of it there, but they pointed me to several other sources and after just a few weeks I had a pretty complete and horrific picture of what has happened in our home.”
“What do you mean?”
“In shorthand? There have been two murders and two suicides there. The home has been broken into three times, the last break in was in 2011 in which the people we bought the home from were tied up and held at knife point while their fourteen year old son was taken around the house to show the robbers where all of the family’s valuables were kept.
“In 1979 The Globe reported that the homeowner committed suicide because he was being blackmailed. Three kids under six, anything and everything anyone could ever want and he cheats on his wife and gets blackmailed and then kills himself. Can you even imagine?” she said incredulously.
“Complicated,” I said, simply.
“Well, totally,” she acknowledged.
“That was the second suicide in the house, the first happened in the basement kitchen on October 30th, 1929. Can you guess what happened?” She asked, sipping her wine.
“The crash,” I answered.
“The crash,” she repeated. “Or, the day after the crash to be exact.”
“OK, this is all super dark, but what exactly happened to make you look into the house’s history?”
She took a gulp of wine then met my eyes, “The people you’ve interviewed, do you believe them? I mean, like, were they all just delusional weirdos?”
I paused for a moment before replying, I didn’t want to snap at Gaye and shut her down, but the ease with which she’d simplified a person’s suicide had raised my hackles to begin with, now she was suggesting that paranoid nutcases had taken me for a ride.
I took a drink then said, “I believed them.”
She sighed, “Ok, good, because, I have actually tried really fucking hard to find another explanation for what is happening in my house, and I can’t. Unless the explanation is that I am crazy.”
I realized that she wasn’t being a bitch, she was just scared. I said, “I won’t think you’re crazy and I didn’t think the woman who told me she’d been visited by aliens her entire life was crazy either. I was judgy at first for sure, but then I had to have my home exorcized.”
Gaye’s eyes filled with tears again and she motioned to our server for another round, “Did you drive here or Uber in?” She asked me. I told her I’d Uber’d (I was on way too much pain medication to be driving, though I didn’t mention that) and she said, “Good.”
“Out with it,” I said.
“The house is gloomy, I told you that, but it’s more than just a feeling, it settles into your bones. I can’t be there for long or I get, like, really depressed.
“The idea that we would have cocktail and dinner parties at the home drove our entire plan for the first floor. It’s perfectly arranged for parties, but I’ve never invited anyone over to the house.
“It makes Andrew so angry. He keeps insisting that we host a cocktail party so he can have some of the guys from his office over with their wives, but I just keep making excuses that I would be embarrassed if they came before it was perfectly decorated. I actually lie and tell him that we host play dates and that my friends come over for coffee all the time. He’s barely ever home, so it’s not like he would ever know anyway.
“But I have a woman who comes to help with the kids after school. She just makes dinner and helps me with the baths and bedtime. I know she feels it too, she won’t let the boys go down into the basement playroom anymore for some reason, she’ll only let them play in their rooms. Actually, she even keeps them at her feet in the kitchen while she makes dinner, it’s like she won’t let them out of her sight,” Gaye’s heavily botoxed forehead twitched slightly in a ghost of emotion.
“Have you asked her why?”
“No, I mean, sort of, but there is a language barrier. That’s why we hired her, to teach the kids Spanish while she’s watching them.”
Got it, I thought, then said, “Gaye, out with it. What did you see?”
“The first thing I saw were the feet,” she replied.
I imagined a set of sovereign feet trotting across that animal print rug. I was at a complete loss for words.
“The door to the laundry room got locked somehow. It was the kids’ naptime and Maria needed to do laundry. As I was trying to jimmy the lock with a bobby pin I heard something from the other side of the door. Maria heard it too.
“We both panicked and thought that maybe one of the kids wasn’t sleeping, that they’d snuck into the laundry room and locked themselves in. I dove to the ground to look underneath the door and called the boys names.
“I saw someone, but it wasn’t either of the boys. As I was peering under the doorway a set of men’s dress shoes clapped across the floor right towards me. I scrambled backwards immediately. Maria was standing right there and she heard the footsteps too – it wasn’t just me.
“I yelled at her to get the kids. We took them outside and I called the police from the sidewalk. They came and got the door open but there wasn’t anyone in there. The only way out of that room is through the door.”
“Oh my God, that is absolutely terrifying,” I said.
“It was, and I’ve seen him again. He was the first man to commit suicide in the brownstone, the one from the 1920s,” she paused. “He has the bullet wound still, I mean his ghost has it.”
“Holy shit,” I said.
“He walks around like we’re not even there, but one time I think he actually saw me. I was in the attic putting Christmas ornaments away and there he was was. I heard footsteps and turned around to see him walking up the attic stairs. He stopped short when he got to the top,” Gaye gave a little laugh, “I had a Nutcracker in each hand and I put them out in front of me, as if they would protect me somehow.
“He looked right at me, he seemed confused for a moment then blinked hard. When he opened his eyes he just shook his head and then called out to someone. I could see that he was calling out but I couldn’t hear him. We’ve been in the house for almost two years now and I’ve seen him, I don’t know, maybe ten times.”
“No,” I breathed.
“Yes, and he is the least scary one,” she said.
“Who are the others?” I demanded.
“Oh, we have a proper little plague of ghosts,” she said sadly. “The other man who killed himself in the Eighties, his name was John Appleton. I don’t actually see him in the house, I dream about him, it’s always the same dream. He’s sitting in our living room, only it doesn’t look like it does now. Somehow I just know that’s how it used to look. He’s in a high wingback chair in front of the fireplace with a newspaper in his hands. He shakes it at me and says something, he’s not angry but he seems insistent, but I can’t hear him over the shaking of the paper. I try to go closer and he sort of disintegrates.
“I hate going to sleep, but the ghosts I’m most afraid of are the woman and the boy who were murdered there in 1897. One of the family’s maids let some men into the house in the middle of the night. They intended to rob the home and they told her they would cut her in on the deal. She let them in through the patio door, but before they left they killed her. Didn’t want to leave any loose ends, which is sick enough, but the family’s little boy, he’d heard the maid wake up and came downstairs to ask for water.”
“Yes,” she confirmed. “He was eight years old.”
“What the fuck?” I breathed.
“I read the transcripts of their trial, it was chilling. The men explained that they simply didn’t want to leave any witnesses.”
“Do you see the little boy?” I asked.
“No, worse,” she replied.
“What could be worse than that?” I demanded.
“Whitaker sees him.”
“Uh uh,” I replied.
“Actually, he plays with the boy. He’d been pretend playing since we moved into the house and he was always talking about Henry. I figured he’d come up with an imaginary friend and I thought it was adorable. I didn’t give it another thought until my experiences in the house made me look into it’s history and I found out that the boy killed in 1897 was Henry Emerson.
“I asked Whitaker what he could tell me about his friend or if he could draw me a picture and he did. The picture was the normal circle head, shirt, pants and shoes that he draws to represent a person, but he scribbled red on the upper left hand side of the figure’s chest.”
“Don’t even tell me,” I said.
“You guessed it,” she replied. “The men shot Henry in the chest. In their testimony one of them explained that ‘It just didn’t seem right to shoot a kid in the head.’”
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” I intoned.
“Yeah, I’ve tried asking those three to get rid of the ghosts, and either they don’t want to or they can’t,” Gaye said bitterly. “I don’t let either of the boys sleep alone in their rooms anymore. I ordered toddler beds for the master bedroom.
“Still, in the middle of the night I’ll wake up to Whitaker laughing or talking to someone. I know it’s that little dead boy.
“And that woman,” she spat. “She just fucking lurks around. At first I thought that maybe she was looking out for the boy, but I’ll be doing my hair and all of a sudden I’ll see her behind me in the doorway and she looks disgusting. They shot her in the face and she is just covered in blood. I don’t know if Whitaker has seen her, I think he would have said so. She might just creep around me.
“I don’t think that boy will do anything to Whitaker, I mean, I don’t think he can. But sometimes Whit talks in a funny way, and then there were a couple times when he almost looked, like, different. It’s just a flash, but his face changed.”
“You have to leave that house,” I insisted.
“We can’t. There’s no way,” she said sadly then downed the remainder of her wine.
“Then what is the plan? What does Andrew say about all of this? I asked.
“I haven’t actually told him everything,” she replied.
“Why not?” I asked, trying not to sound too judgy.
“He wouldn’t believe me, and he’s stressed enough as it is. This house was a stretch to begin with and then we did all the renovations on top of it. It’s just, you know, I mean everyone stretches for their mortgage, right? But, it’s just that everything else piles on, the tuition, the cars, you know how it is.”
I nodded sympathetically, “I get it, life is hard enough without piling on a ghost infested house.”
“Exactly,” she agreed. “But, Andrew, hasn’t been himself lately. Actually, hasn’t been since we moved into the house. He’s distracted. I mean, it could be about money, at least I think it is. Everyone knows we’re due for a correction in the market. We can’t just keep climbing like this forever.”
“History don’t repeat itself, it rhymes,” I said quietly.
“Who said that?” she asked.
“Jay-Z quoting Mark Twain,” I replied.
“Right, that song from Great Gatsby,” she said, smiling.
“Look,” I said, “I don’t want to freak you out even more than you already are, but have you ever considered that you might be some sort of a medium? Maybe these ghosts are drawn to you because you can help them somehow.”
“That is ridiculous,” she said, picking at a hangnail.
“I know this woman, Biddy Quinn, she used to be a paranormal investigator. She’s sort of famous in the field and I would be happy to call her for you.”
“God, if anyone ever found out, I would absolutely die,” Gaye said in a forced whisper.
“You have to do something, you can’t just keep going on like this,” I argued.
Gaye looked at me with wide eyes and began nibbling on her thumb nail.
“Just let me call her and explain what’s happening and ask what she suggests. You don’t even have to talk to her if you don’t want to, but really, she’s wonderful. She helped me when I had a problem in my house.”
“What? You had something in your house?” Gaye demanded.
“Yes,” I said, shaking my head. “I thought that’s why you were telling me all of this.”
“No, I’ve never actually read your blog, I hate scary stuff. I just knew that you were into it so I thought I could ask for your advice.”
I rolled my eyes, “Well, that’s my advice. I think you should seek out an expert and I happen to know one.”
“OK, talk to her, but don’t use my actual name,” she agreed.
After we settled up with the server, Gaye told me she had to rush across the park to her son’s school. She needed to attend a lecture titled Opportunity, Instruction, and Discipline: A Study in Early Reading Achievement, Home Literacy and Your Toddler.
I gave an involuntary shiver.
“What?” she asked, slipping into her gorgeous jacket.
“I’m a librarian,” I said.
“Oh right, so you know how important this stuff is,” she said seriously. “Do you want to come?”
“No way,” I answered. “Just read to your kids, Gaye. Don’t ruin it for them with all that bullshit.”
“Ugh,” she said. “I know, you’re right. It’s just that if I don’t go the teachers will think I’m not involved and the other moms will think I don’t give a shit about my kids and then I’ll have to make twice the fucking effort just to prove them wrong.”
I decided not to overstep my bounds and call out the bullshit of that logic too. I said, “Let’s share an uber, I’ll drop you off then head home. It’s too windy out to trudge across the Common.”
She agreed and as we headed outside to meet the car she asked, “What’s going on with you? I noticed earlier that you’re walking kind of funny.”
“Thanks,” I said with an embarrassed laugh.
“No, I don’t mean it in a critical way, you just seem like you’re in pain, what’s wrong?”
“I’m having surgery in two weeks for a couple slipped discs in my back,” I explained.
“Oh, God! I am so sorry! Are you OK? Here I’ve been rattling on and on and I haven’t even once asked about you,” Gaye exclaimed.
“Don’t worry about it, I’m totally fine. I’m just excited to get it over with,” I said.
“Well, you’ll let me know if you need anything?” She asked.
“Sure, but really, it’ll be fine.”
I changed the subject and before I knew it we were parked in front of the school.
“You know what?” Gaye said, looking out the window at a group of Kensington-clad women gathered around the school entrance. “I can’t fucking stand any one of those women. They’re a bunch of phony gossipy jerks. If I’d run into them ten years ago at a party I would have steered way clear. Now I dress the same, I talk the same, I have the same insane level of debt, and I drive the same car. I’m just as big of a jerk as any of them and I am fucking terrified of being pushed out of their group.”
“Gaye-” I began, sympathetically.
“It is what it is,” she said, placing a leather-gloved hand on the door handle.
“You can call me anytime, really, text me at three a.m. I mean it,” I said.
“Thanks, Liz, for listening,” she replied looking back at me.
Then she pulled her sunglasses down and shoved the door open. I watched her saunter towards the school, hands in her pockets. When the women saw her they waved enthusiastically. She casually raised one hand in return.