Gail’s eyes flew open. Something happened, but she couldn’t decide if it was a touch or a sound. There were other people in the house. She remembered, six people in the three bedrooms upstairs. It was Wednesday. Her husband was not there, still working and staying in an apartment in the city. The group upstairs had been to a holiday party at a ranch. Now, they were upstairs asleep, supposedly. Gail waited up for them to return from a party. They were instructed to come in the back door, using their keys, but she had to get up and let them in the front. . . What woke her? She recalled, they laughed and joked about the house mother, getting up to let the drunk revelers back into the dormitory. This definitely gave away their ages. House mother?
She heard it again, a definite thump from upstairs. Not in one of the rooms, but on the stair landing. She stayed quiet and listened. The Christmas tree was in the front foyer. She could see the reflection on a mirror over the fireplace, hitting the wood floor and barely visible under the door to her room. She knew the lights were still on, accustomed to that faint glow. The timer would shut them off at two a.m. There it was again, the thump.
The table that normally sat in the middle of the foyer, was at the foot of her bed, gifts and wrapping paper covering the top. Now the noise was downstairs, in the foyer. Gail heard the swinging door from the main foyer to the small hall under the stairs swing open. Someone was standing outside her room. She peeked over the covers, as her door edged open and a man in white pajamas turned and side-stepped into the room. He walked around the table and went into her bathroom. She heard him pee and flush the toilet.
She stayed quiet, wondering what she should do. One of the men in the party was a concern. His wife confided in the other guests. Gail heard them talking over wine in the living room; Melvin was becoming more and more disoriented, showing signs of dementia. The wife, Sheila, requested twin beds, insisting she could not deal with his night time restlessness. Gail thought if this was Melvin, he was fairly adept at maneuvering around a strange house to find a bathroom in the middle of the night. None of the guests were ever given access to her suite of rooms.
The man walked out of the bathroom, across Gail’s room and back out the door. She heard the swinging door open again. She listened for a while, but could not determine that he went back upstairs. Shortly after her clock read two a.m., the Christmas tree lights went off. She wondered if he would try to go into the kitchen and cook, or get ice cream. Gail thought about rousing his wife, going upstairs, looking around, but she decided against this, not wanting to embarrass anyone if it was a medical issue. She stayed in bed, awake, thinking about why she thought having a bed and breakfast was a good idea in the first place. At five a.m., she decided she should get up and make herself coffee. She could at least sequester herself in the kitchen, read and prepare the scones.
The party goers showed up for coffee at seven-thirty, all claiming to have slept well. Melvin seemed a little groggy. Gail couldn’t wait for them to leave. She was having difficulty maintaining a pleasant smile. She waved them off and before changing the beds, went to the hardware store and bought a bolt lock for the swinging door under the stairs. The following week, she began weekly trips to the pet shelter, seeking the perfect dog to sleep at the end of her bed and bark his ass off if anyone attempted to come through the door.
Gail never confirmed that Melvin was the man in white pajamas. That was still a mystery. She thought about it from time to time, wondering who was at fault in the situation. If it was a person without dementia, then of course they were culpable. However, if poor Melvin was the pee man, then the cognitive functioning was the issue. Gail would be willing to have some sympathy for anyone in that situation. Then again, he found his way through a strange house, beautifully. What about his wife? Gail wanted to hold her responsible for something. That woman arrived in a fur coat and seemingly slept through an event that kept Gail sleepless for most of the early morning. Her mother cautioned her about having strangers sleeping in the house, maybe it was her fault.
Gail’s husband, Ray arrived for the weekend. He pushed the swinging door from the front hall and found it bolted. “What’s this?” he called out to Gail, standing in the kitchen.
“Remember, I told you about that man in white pajamas that came in the bedroom in the middle of the night. Well, I decided I needed a lock on that door. I’m picking up a little dog next week to be my alarm for people wandering, trying to get in my room.”
“Don’t you think this is an overreaction?” Ray said. “I mean, how do you invite people into your home for your hospitality, then put up defenses? That doesn’t make sense. You sure you want to keep doing this bed and breakfast thing?”
“So you’re saying I’m getting paranoid?”
“Well, I wasn’t here. I guess it is a little disconcerting when someone comes in your room in the middle of the night, but I don’t think he was the enemy.”
“So, you’re saying, I’m the enemy? I’m letting my imagination get the best of me?”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying. You are the one who lectures me about the whole ‘them versus us’ mentality of competitions, sporting events, etc. If you open up your home to guests, you have to be willing to accept their frailties.”
“Yeah, you’re right. There are no enemies. I just perceive it so.”
The little dog came the following week. He was on the job, willing to growl and menace intruders. Otherwise he seemed to have a pleasant outlook and kept a low profile. He was kennel trained, knew the sit and stay commands, and staked out a corner of the bedroom to sleep in the evening. It was the visit from the pet psychic that revealed Ollie’s other interest in the house. He communicated with the resident ghost. Neither of them cared for the other.
Ollie’s communication with the psychic was news to Gail and her husband. The ghost, according to the psychic, was a previous owner of the house, probably the original owner, a woman who was insisting the house remain as she intended. She did not like the changes Gail made, remodeling the kitchen, taking down heavy window coverings and allowing a dog inside the house. The ghost also insisted that it would be perfectly fine for people to smoke in the house and she missed the smell of her own husband’s tobacco. Ollie reportedly called the woman an “old bitch” when she complained of him being in the house. The pet psychic did say he was prone to cursing. Gail did not claim to know where he picked it up.
Initially, Gail was skeptical about the psychic’s report, but she added enough personal information that she had no way of knowing, to convince Gail and her husband that she could actually communicate with Ollie and the ghost. Gail began to notice that sometimes, Ollie refused to go upstairs when she went up to clean and change the beds. He would curl up on the rug in the main foyer, waiting for her to come down. Gail wondered if that meant the ghost was present. The psychic showed Gail how to cleanse the house, using sage for smudging. There was an incident that convinced the psychic that the presence in the upstairs rooms was darker than an irritated, previous owner. Gail couldn’t get the match to stay lit when she attempted to light the sage. When she tried to use a gas lighter, it wouldn’t work.
Several years later, Gail and Ray decided to sell the house and retire to a small house in the country. The house sold, but the buyers kept it for less than a year. Gail and Ray didn’t communicate with the buyers, but heard that their children couldn’t sleep upstairs. The house was haunted. It was true. There was a ghost in the house and she considered the house hers. Ollie still talks about her.