Haunted houses were supposed to be remote, old, and sinister, maybe located on the edge of a bog or a mist-enshrouded forest. But this one, homey and filled with natural light, stood in the middle of a street with excellent plantings, In Westchester of all places. It even had a living resident. May had lived in the house since she was a new bride, and she wasn’t going to stop just because her husband had died. Especially since, as she found out a year after his death, he wasn’t planning on leaving either. If death didn’t stop him, his ghost wouldn’t stop her. She’d always known love was forever. This just confirmed it.
Together they adjusted to his afterlife. It was no more difficult than it had been just after he’d retired. Just a change. They settled on a new routine fairly quickly. May would wake up in the morning alone, eat her breakfast tea and toast. At eight she would go into the library where she still worked in the children’s section. She came home at six every night. By this time her dead husband, Phillip, would begin to stir.
At first it would just be little things: her wine bottle would uncork itself, her freshly pan-fried steak would go suddenly ice cold, the TV channel would change. Sometimes the lights would flicker, but the wiring was old and erratic, so that may have not been the ghost. Phillip would start to manifest midway through dinner, sometimes a little earlier if there was a sitcom on TV. They would sit in silence as he solidified on the couch or at the kitchen table, watching TV together as he became again.
When his transparent body was solid enough to make a dent in the couch, May would turn off the TV and talk to him. She worried sometimes that they would run of out of things to say, since her life was small and he couldn’t or wouldn’t say anything about the afterlife, but if anything he seemed more interested in the details of her day than he ever had. He’d ask so many questions that she started paying more attention so she could report back to him with accuracy. He wanted to know what flowers had come out, the price of milk, and if Betty Price’s boy had learned his alphabet yet.
Sometimes she would touch his hand, or squeeze one of his feet on the couch next to her, and he would smile his old smile. He felt cold but never unpleasant, like a sip of cool mountain water, refreshing no matter the weather. They went up to bed together, and he’d sing to himself in the bedroom while she brushed her teeth and hair. He was a better singer now than he had been before. His voice always echoed like he was in a shower stall. He kissed her goodnight, just once on the lips, and she fell asleep with just their toe-tips touching under the covers.
She always woke up alone.
One day in early October a nice looking man named Marvin walked into the library. He had a bright smile and freckles. Marvin liked mysteries, but he was getting tired of the British ones he’d grown up reading. He wanted something with grit. He’d never read any of the classic hard-boiled detective fiction. May found this unacceptable and steered him towards the Hammett and Chandler. He said his favorite detective story was The Murders in the Rue Morgue. She didn’t read much of Poe anymore. There was too much death, and too much that came after it. No happy ghosts for Poe.
Marvin left that day with a smile, a handshake, and a promise to report back on the Maltese Falcon. HIs hand was warm. May thought about him all day, but somehow she forgot to mention his visit to Phillip during their chat that evening.