Rebel Spirits

Rebel Spirits by Lois Ruby Page A

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Authors: Lois Ruby
here, I guess.” She looks around at here , and I see it through her eyes — a mellow, rambling house cloaked in history and mystery. “Wow, Lori, it’s just like you described. Old and creepy. I like, I like. This would have been a fabulous place to do our séances, yes? I don’t remember why we stopped doing them, do you?”
    “Vaguely,” I lie. Some things you don’t tell even your best friend.
    I usher Jocelyn in for breakfast, but Hannah has just pulled the muffins out of the oven, so she shoos us away. Gertie and I show Jocelyn the spooky basement, the attic, the shed, the creek, and finally, my tower room. We yammer like magpies, and I tell her everything I know about Nathaniel.
    “What’s great about you, Jos, is that you don’t think it’s weird that I’m communicating with a spirit who was killed — murdered — in 1863,” I say as we sit in my room.
    “Weird? Far from! It’s totally the coolest thing.”
    I don’t feel quite that way, but it is exciting. Jocelyn says she’s starving, so we go downstairs for some of Hannah’s cranberry muffins. Mom and Dad come out to say hello to Jocelynjust as the other guests start to wake up and emerge for breakfast.
    Before long, Jocelyn has to sputter back to the Poconos in her leaky-tank pickup. I watch her go from my bedroom window, feeling melancholy. It’s been so good to have her here for a few hours. So normal, if there’s such a thing anymore.
     
    Mom ding-a-ling s the parlor bell that calls me downstairs to greet the McLean family, from Cottonwood Falls, Iowa. They’re a mom, a dad, two sons, and a Chihuahua named Brownie. Gertie’s caught a whiff of the dog, and she’s one happy pup. She’s been lonesome, especially for males of the Chihuahua persuasion.
    I gallop down the stairs with an armload of monogrammed towels that fly out of my hands when I bump headlong into Bertha.
    “You being chased by wolves?” she snaps.
    “Why, are they loose in here?”
    “Awoooooool,” Evan howls from the computer in the downstairs hall, where he’s been designing a new website for the inn.
    I’m gripped by a sudden idea. “Listen, I need to ask you something, Bertha. You can answer, too, Evan.”
    “I’m an afterthought,” he pipes up. “Great for the male ego.”
    “I’ll answer if it suits me,” Bertha says. Her flowery peasant skirt is cinched at the waist and skims her swollen ankles.
    “You two know the ropes around here,” I say, glancing from one to the other. “It has to do with … ghost legend.”
    “It’s not legend, missy; it’s money-on-the-nose fact.”
    Evan rolls his eyes behind Bertha and hits a few keys dramatically.
    “Okay,” I say, not wanting to let on to Bertha that I fully agree with her. “But how can ghosts take on human form?”
    “They’re human, same as you and me.”
    Evan mouths, That’s a matter of opinion .
    Can I get through this with a straight face? “I mean, instead of appearing as shimmery, shadowy, see-throughy images or balls of light and energy. What about when they … solidify?”
    “Like ice, you mean?” Bertha asks.
    “Or real bodies?” Evan pantomimes a He-Man muscle and then a classic wavy female shape, but he drops his arms when Bertha turns toward him.
    She scratches her head, loosening her shambles of a bun. “Mostly it’s invisible beings hanging around behind you.” She turns and glares at Evan. “Or a door opening or slamming — wham! — when you’re not expecting it. Lord-a-mercy, it scares the living daylights outta you. Sometimes you gotta watch fordishes and such floating through the air” — Evan tosses a piece of paper like a Frisbee — “unless they’re weighted down good, and even then. Ghosts are powerful things, even if they’re all just puffs of air. But turning solid and all? No, never heard of that, no.”
    Is Nathaniel always going to be mostly air and mist, only solid for a few fleeting moments?
    “Well, now, hold your horses,” Bertha is

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