All My Ghosts
In the end, I decide not to meet up with a random man I just met in the middle of the night. It wouldn't really have been out of character for me, but I do have enough self-preservation to realize that in this small town it is probably not the best move.
However, I do not have enough self-preservation to resist the gravitational pull of finding a bar with alcohol and music and bright lights to get lost in.
I had spent the afternoon by the river, which isn't actually too far away from the inn. Mariana had pointed me in the right direction--down the road until you see the rusting pickup truck, past the house painted baby blue, and through an archway of trees to the dirt road. From there, it’s just a view of the indomitable water, unobstructed. Grass, trees, rocks, water, all of it. I’d found a bench and sat with my laptop, my fingers hitting keys even though the sun’s glare on my screen rendered my words unreadable. I still haven’t looked at any of it, but I’m sure none of it’s any good, or even comprehensible.
And now all of that is irrelevant, because I’m in some tiny, tiny little bar and everything is sticky and I’m glad I brought cute outfits (all of my outfits are cute) but they’re also totally wasted on this very lame, small bar. I wish Jamie was here, at least, to tell me my matching top and skirt look cute. I haven’t talked to Jamie, I bet he’s at a club that’s a thousand times more fun than this right now.
“Come here often?” When I blink the fluorescent sign I’d been staring at out of my vision, it’s none other than Walker standing beside me, one arm on the bar counter. He’s smirking.
“You wanna buy me a drink?” I ask, facing forward again.
He’s silent for a moment. “You didn’t want to see what I was going to show you?” he asks. Even a few drinks in I can decipher his tone: it’s I’m not disappointed because I’m a man and men don’t feel emotions.
I wave down the bartender and point at my empty glass. “Walker, if that is your real name, I’ma let you in on a secret…” I lean in nice and close, and my eyes flutter closed when our faces are only inches apart. “I’m leaving tomorrow morning and I’d rather not be chopped up and murdered before then.” Then I pull back, watching his face. His dark eyes don’t give much away, other than a faint amusement.
“I was going to take you on a ghost tour,” he tells me after ordering a beer. He still hasn’t sat down, and is just standing there with his probably nicely-toned chest beside me like a wall. Like a warm wall. I pull a piece of hair off the back of my neck; sweaty.
“Ghost tour?” I scoff, but that sounds very fun. It sounds like something Bram would like, too.
“Nyx owns the local paranormal museum-slash-shop. She gets decent business, but visitors love her ghost tours.” The bartender has gotten both of us our drinks, and Walker takes a long swig of his. “Sorry I thought you’d be interesting, I guess.”
His mess of dark hair is in his eyes, and I tip my drink down my throat. “It’s still a no.”
He shrugs. “Well, if you’re leaving tomorrow, I should at least give you your shirt back.” He pushes off the counter, and I look at him. “Coming?”
Headache not quite formed but definitely in the works, I slap some money on the counter--probably too much--and follow him. Outside, it’s cold, so cold I can feel it in my eyes. “You don’t want your shirt back do you?" I ask him. "Hey, maybe we can trade.” His legs aren’t that much longer than mine but he walks very fast.
Walker breathes out of his nose: a laugh, and slows down a little to keep pace with me. “You think I’d look good in your tiny golden crop top?”
“Depends what you have to show off,” I tell him, gesturing at his midsection.
He raises one eyebrow. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” It makes me grin.
I’m kind of tipsy and would like to be more drunk, if I’m honest. I don’t want to have to think about tomorrow. I’m not thinking about tomorrow. I’m focusing on Walker, who’s handing me my shirt back.
“You should see the water at night,” Walker says. He’s leaning against the cafe’s doorframe, looking all mysterious. I love a mystery.
“Ok,” I put on my best I-challenge-you face. “Let’s see it.”
He laughs, and I’m learning the way that his mouth slants. “Ok,” he agrees, and again he’s leading me through the empty streets, stopping at the inn first to drop off my shirt and then off to the river.
It’s not the same spot that I’d been earlier. It’s further down, out where the sky is so black it’s heavy and the buildings across the way look like paper shadows. There’s a dock or a pier or whatever you call a wooden thing you stand on. I like the way the moon dances on the water, but I’m even more mesmerized by the stars. Fireballs in the sky.
“You’ll break your neck staring up at the sky for too long,” Walker tells me.
“What did you want me to look at?” I pull my chin down, and find him looking at me, dark eyes intense. He’s closer than I’d thought.
“Me,” he breathes, and his hand comes up and wraps a finger around a piece of my hair. My heart goes all haywire, I mean my body, I mean does it matter? He’s very distracting. “I don’t want you to go, not yet.” Walker says this very quietly, his gaze on my lips the whole time.
I’d been waiting for him to kiss me, but now I put a hand on his chest to keep him away. “You’re supposed to be the mysterious brooding guy who never ever reveals his feelings unless it’s raining or it’s too late,” I inform him.
He glances at the sky, and the skin on his neck is stubbly and nice looking. “Not raining." His voice is low. "Is it too late?”
“For this,” he says, and suddenly he’s holding up two phones: one of them mine and the other must be his. My brain’s slow to process, and I watch him set them both down on the dock. When he straightens up again, he steps closer, and my body buzzes as his arms close around me, it’s that fear plus excitement that makes your vision go blurry.
Then: cold. I’m frozen, my ears feel funny and my mouth’s full of water.
Everything is dark, and Walker is gone, and flies are buzzing in my head, and cold, cold, ocean.
My head surfaces, my gasping just as loud as his laughter. My feet kick underwater, trying to launch myself out, the fuzzy warm drunk feeling gone. My vision is dark, all I can do is focus on air, not water. Burning nose.
“I got you.” Laughing. Arms locking against my body, cage. Black water, night sky. Breathe. “Masie?”
“Get me out!” Words barely make it out of my lips, teeth chattering. Flies buzzing. Sea monsters grabbing at my legs somewhere.
Something drags me out of the water, and I am too weak to resist. I am screaming in my brain, and I find my feet but they’re unsteady.
“Masie? You ok?”
It’s not Bram’s voice, it’s not anyone’s. I remember to reach down and snatch up my phone. Water everywhere. And I run, even though I don’t know the way.