You can also hear me read this story on: Episode #51 (Halloween edition) of R.B. Wood’s “The Word Count” podcast.
The prompt asked that we write a ghost story.
* * * *
Katy called me a week before Halloween and asked if she could come by to treat or treat in our neighborhood. She had not set foot in our home for over a year. She had also not spoken to her father in just as long. Their once happy daddy-daughter relationship ended that previous Halloween night. Her phone call surprised me and gave me hope that reconciliation might be possible. She must have heard the concern in my voice.
“You know your father will be here, Katy. I wish the two of you would—”
“Mom,” she said, “I don’t want to talk about Dad. I know he’ll be there, but I’m coming to see you. Jacob misses you.”
I sighed at the mention of our four-year-old grandson, whom Bill had not seen in over a year because Katy forbade it. She was angry with him, and I guess she had every right to be. I had visited our daughter but chose to keep it a secret from my husband. It would have only rubbed salt in the wound for him to know what he was missing. Unfortunately, a slip in the bathtub threw out my back. I hobbled around the house, unable to do much let alone drive the two hours to visit Katy and Jacob. Maybe that was why she wanted to make the trip.
After I hung up the phone, I wondered if I had made the right decision, but what could I do? My husband was tortured over what had happened, but I had to believe that a visit from his daughter and grandson would somehow heal the hurt. Because Katy initiated it, perhaps she was ready to forgive him.
When I told Bill about Katy coming over with Jacob, he did not say a word. I thought it meant he might make himself scarce during their visit or he would choose to leave the house altogether. I really did not know how he would react. I suppose I didn’t expect him to stay, but he did. The awkward reunion with him and our daughter was short-lived. Jacob broke the ice by running into Bill’s arms when he kneeled down to greet him.
“Grandpa!” he screamed.
Bill’s eyes welled with tears as he picked up the small boy and hugged him tightly. Jacob squirmed and giggled, brushed his small hands over his grandfather’s mess of silver hair. When Bill loosened his grip, Jacob stared into his eyes, “Grandpa, why are you crying?”
“I’m just so happy to see you.” Bill’s voice cracked. “You are such a big, handsome boy now.”
“And you have a white beard!” Jacob said, running his hands over Bill’s face.
Katy stepped forward and scooped her son out of his grandfather’s arms. “Now, now,” she said, “make sure you say hello to Grandma too.”
As I hugged and kissed Jacob, half my attention fell upon the other two people in the room. Father and daughter exchanged cool words, but the greeting was civil. Katy may not have been ready to forgive yet, but my heart beat quickly at the possibility that things could only get better. At least they were talking.
That afternoon, I made a special meal for Halloween before darkness set in, things I knew a little boy would love—severed finger hotdogs and bloodshot eyeball cookies. Jacob squealed at the sight of the chocolate Halloween brownies shaped like mice. I used strands of licorice for the tails and almond slivers for the ears. Red candy pieces made up the eyes. “I love these, Grandma!” He grabbed two mice, one in each hand.
“Jacob!” Katy said with feigned exasperation. “Take one at a time please. You can’t fit both of them in your mouth, sweetheart.”
Jacob offered a tiny smile. “They’re not both for me, Mama. One is for Tyler. I want him to have a chocolate mouse too.”
I gasped at the mention of Tyler, a name neither Bill nor I had spoken since he died a year ago—in our home. Though the accusation was never made, I knew Katy blamed her father for Tyler’s death. I suppose I did too. Tyler was born less than five minutes after Jacob; they were identical twins. The baby gate Bill had secured at the top of the basement stairs had somehow come undone. Tyler fell down the wooden flight of steps. Bill was the only one with them at the time. When he yelled Jacob’s name, Katy and I had rushed into the room. Jacob would surely have fallen down the stairs too if Bill had not grabbed him.
I saw my daughter’s eyes widen as she pulled her son close to her. “Jacob, what … what are you saying? Tyler is gone.”
“No, he’s not Mama.” Jacob’s high-pitched voice suddenly took on a deeper tone. “He’s here. He’s talking to me.”
I could tell Katy was trying to maintain calm even as she stuttered to find the right words. “Sweetheart …,” she said to her son, “Tyler is not here. It’s not possible—”
“Yes it is! Yes it is!” Jacob stomped his feet and threw his chocolate brownies on the floor. His angelic nature of minutes ago took a quick turn.
I looked to my daughter who stared back at me with her mouth open. She lifted her shoulders and turned up her palms in disbelief. No matter how much Katy tried to cajole her son, he kept talking to his little brother.
“Tyler. I’m sorry,” he said. “Come back, please come back …”
Katy shook her son by the shoulders. “Jacob … it’s okay, everything will be okay.”
But Jacob was not listening to her. “I’m sorry, Tyler,” he said, “I’m sorry I opened the gate and pushed you down the stairs … Come back … please come back.”
As Jacob sobbed, his words sucked the oxygen out of the air. I looked to my husband whose face turned white with an expression I had never seen. Was it dread, or was it relief that a secret he had kept to protect his grandson was now revealed by a ghost?
Thank you for reading. ♥
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