So, yeah. It’s been well over a month. I keep intending to write new blog posts, and then I get distracted by pesky little things like making a living and spending time with my family and friends. I know, lame, right?
But Halloween is one of my absolute favorite holidays, so in honor of that, here is an excerpt from a book about ghosts I wrote a few years ago. I was going for scary/romantic with this, but looking over it now, I realize the only scary thing about it is how cheesy it is. I would still like to write a really good ghost book someday, but because I’m 100% positive that this will never make it into the final cut, here is the first chapter of the now-abandoned (and badly titled) Remember Me Not.
This story begins as many ghost stories do– with a dark and stormy night. On this particular gloomy and tempestuous evening, Susan McNally has the unfortunate task of wheeling her cello through a darkened parking lot. The pelting rain is incredibly unhelpful as the wheels on her cello case skid this way and that, nearly causing her to slip and be crushed under the instrument’s weight at least twice in her journey across the parking lot. The lightning is a bit more beneficial, occasionally brightening the darkened sky with a burst of white light that allows her to navigate across the pavement, although it does little to soothe her already jumpy nerves.
Because someone is watching her.
Susan is a person often prone to flights of fancy that convince her there’s someone in the closet, the backseat, under the bed, etcetera, but even though she can often work herself up into quite a panic, she usually is aware that there is really nothing to fear, that the only thing hiding in the night is the shadows, and that just a flick of the light switch will assure her that she is safe.
That feeling of security is gone now. She knows someone is watching her like she knows the sun rises in the morning and that Johnny Depp should be the father of her children. There is someone in the shadows of the night, lurking behind the dumpster, perhaps, or in one of the alleyways, or watching from the window of a nearby building.
The truly strange thing is that Susan has felt this impression of someone watching her for the past three months, accompanied by other unsettling sensations: the lights flickering on and off unexpectedly, the radio turning onto white fuzz or changing stations at random, the feeling of waking with someone’s arms around her, even though she’s alone.
What is most strange about these occurrences, however, is how little they worry her. Her mind was startled at first, but there was very little reaction in her body– no prickling of goose bumps or hairs rising on the back of her neck. It’s almost as though Susan’s body is remembering something that her mind cannot, and though logically she knows she should be worried, her nerves refuse to comply.
So Susan continues on through the parking lot as though oblivious to the eyes following her progress, though every movement she makes is aware of being watched. Ever since she became aware of the presence keeping tabs on her, Susan’s mannerisms have been careful, as though there is a surveillance camera in her home. She hasn’t picked a wedgie, talked to herself out loud, or licked the last bit of sauce from the bowl in ages. Every time she showers and changes, she is careful to stand behind something or turn toward the wall for privacy’s sake. It is a strange way of living, but one to which she has grown accustomed.
The ludicrousness of the situation is not lost on Susan, and she almost smiles at her own ridiculousness when something makes itself suddenly apparent.
Someone is watching her– the same someone who has been watching her for about three months now.
And tonight, someone else is watching her, too.
There is no benevolent feeling in this second voyeur. Susan can feel the bad intent radiating from him like tangible black waves. Without thinking, she starts running to her car, no longer worrying about slipping, cursing herself for parking so far away.
Thunder booms in the sky. Lightning flashes, sending another electric jolt to light up the horizon. It is at this moment that Susan sees him, etched against the lightning, a mammoth monster of a man, his skin so pale that he almost blends into the white light, except for the shock of his dark eyes.
Every visible part of his rock-like body is completely hairless—no eyebrows, no eyelashes. There is a mottled scar across his left cheekbone, up over the eye and through his brow. He stands between Susan and her car, causing her to stop in her tracks, uncertain.
This man is the bad one, the one with cruel intentions, Susan can tell just by the look in his eyes. He hasn’t moved yet; he just stands there, long after the lightning has passed, just a shadow now in the once-again black night.
Instinctively, Susan steps in between him and her cello. This is, perhaps, an incredibly stupid decision, but there is sentimental value in this instrument. It was a gift, one for which her mother scrimped and saved. Susan’s blood and tears are stained on the strings, the wood. So even though it is foolish, she has to stand between it and this man who means her harm.
He remains unmoving, a giant black shadow, so still Susan might have convinced herself that he was just a figment of her imagination if it wasn’t for the fact that she can still feel his eyes on her.
Another crack of thunder, another burst of white light.
Suddenly there is second man standing in the parking lot, so shockingly beautiful in the white lightning that Susan gives an involuntary gasp. His hair is dark, his eyes deep set and gray, sad, sloping, haunted. He positions himself between the hairless man and Susan, the muscles in his cheek flinching and unflinching, though otherwise he is as still as a statue.
It is him, Susan knows in an instant. The one who’s been watching over her. Her guardian angel.
For an agonizingly long moment, the two men stare each other down. And then the hairless man turns, slowly, and steps away from Susan’s car, his skin silvery in the moonlight.
Casting one last glance at Susan, he turns and disappears into the shadows.
Susan releases a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding, feeling the sudden inexplicable urge to laugh. Her limbs are trembling. “Who was he?” she asks.
Her beautiful stranger doesn’t return her gaze, keeping his eyes on the shadows. When he reaches for her cello, Susan automatically tenses, and it is only then that he looks up, eyes boring into her. She feels suddenly ten degrees colder looking into his gaze, but not in a bad way.
“I’m not going to steal it,” he says flatly, unsmiling, though somehow Susan is instantly comforted by the sound of his voice. Maybe because it makes him seem somehow more human. Maybe because it sounds inexplicably familiar, although that is impossible, because she can’t remember ever meeting him and is certain this is a man she could never forget.
Seeing that Susan is at least somewhat reassured, the stranger swiftly takes the cello from her and pulls it the rest of the distance to her car, curtly asking her to pop the trunk. She does, babbling as he stows the cello because it’s better than the uncomfortable, almost angry silence stretching between
“I can’t believe someone would go to all that trouble just to steal a cello,” Susan says. Some part of her knows that the hairless man was not after her cello, but it’s a comforting lie to tell herself that he is just some petty thief instead of something darker, scarier, and so she wallows in it. “It’s such an impractical thing to take. I mean, it would make such a difficult getaway. You can’t exactly throw it over your shoulder and start running, you know?”
The stranger gives her a look like she’s an idiot, so Susan closes her mouth. Once the cello is safely stowed, he guides her toward the driver’s side of her car, not touching her, his gaze still out on the night. He doesn’t look at her again until she is seated in the car, seatbelt on, and his gray gaze is more intense than she would have expected, even having experienced it once before.
Susan wants to thank him, to somehow explain that she knows he’s the one who’s been following her, keeping her safe. But it seems a little too preposterous to say out loud, especially since there’s absolutely nothing to back her assertions, save be an instinctive feeling in her heart that her mind hasn’t been able to catch up with yet.
“Thank you,” she says finally to break the silence. “You’re my hero now.”
It’s meant as a joke, but she sees a flash of hurt in those gray eyes. He gazes at her a long moment, searching her face but clearly not finding what he’s looking for, then abruptly turns and walks away.
Susan watches him cross the parking lot, his shoulders curiously un-hunched against the rain, walking like it doesn’t affect him. As a crack of thunder booms overhead, she sees him glance back and notice that she’s still watching him. She raises a hand to wave, but he must not have seen her because he doesn’t wave back. He moves toward the elevator at the back entrance of the music building, his pace brisk, like he’s trying not to run.
Suddenly Susan realizes that she didn’t even ask him his name. They barely spoke; she’ll probably never see him again, but she wants to know his name—she has to know his name.
Her sneakers squeak across the wet pavement as she races toward the building. Her heart is pounding in her chest, her throat. She reaches the maintenance elevator door just as it’s about to close and forces it open. The stranger looks at her with surprise and what can only be described as fear in his eyes. Susan suddenly feels very foolish for running after him, but it’s too late to turn back now.
“What’s your name?” she asks him, barely able to get out the words, she’s struggling so much to regain her breath.
“I’m nobody,” he says, and there’s something terrified in his eyes, begging her not to press the issue.
But Susan didn’t run all this way in the rain just to walk away. “I just want to know who you are.”
The stranger stares at her for a long moment, his intensity unmistakable, but the emotion difficult to name. Embarrassed under his scrutiny, Susan opens her mouth to retract her request when suddenly he grabs her and pulls her flush against him, kissing her with such force that she has to hold onto him to keep from being knocked over. “Susan,” he breathes into her ear like her name is a prayer, his voice ragged with emotion.
And then abruptly, he pushes her away, his gray eyes turbulent as the thunder booms overhead. “Forget me,” he pleads, and she can see the fear on his face, hear it in his voice. “I’m sorry. Please, forget me.”
And the elevator doors close before Susan can think of a single thing to say.