Authors: Karen Cantwell
“Sophie! Are you all right in there?”
It was Mr. Franklin from across the hall. He was also the building manager and had a soft spot in his heart for me. He never admitted it because he displayed a tough guy exterior, but I knew he was always looking out for me.
I opened the door. “I’m fine, Mr. Franklin. We’re just having a little misunderstanding. I’m sorry.”
“Doesn’t sound like a little misunderstanding to me. You’re not seeing that pretty boy, Shane again are you?” He poked his head into the apartment. “Cal, you okay?”
Cal nodded. “Sorry about that. I’ll keep it down.” He sighed. He picked his jacket up from the back of the chair where he’d laid it. “In fact, I’ll just be going.”
“No!” I pleaded with him. “Stay and let’s talk this out.”
“You should always talk things out,” said Mr. Franklin.
I’d like to say that Cal listened to Mr. Franklin and that Cal stayed and we talked things out and kissed and made up and got to the even better stuff that comes with making up.
But I can’t say that. Because kissing and making up was apparently not on the agenda for this particular night. Nope. Instead, Shane stuck his head into the doorway. “Soph,” he said, “is this a bad time?”
hane’s brains were always slow on the take, but since the Lust Spell, it seemed they’d moved entirely south of the border.
seeing Shane again?” Mr. Franklin asked incredulously. “Sophie, I thought you had better sense than that. Cal is obviously a much better choice for you.”
I threw up my arms in frustration. “I’m not seeing him!”
“She’s just lusting for him. Full of lust. Lust, lust, lust.”
“You told him?” Shane asked.
Mr. Franklin shook his head in astonishment. And it was pretty difficult to astonish Mr. Franklin. “You three aren’t into some kinky threesome kind of goings-on are you?”
“I promise we’ll stop shouting,” I told him, “but this is sort of personal. Can you give us some privacy?”
He nodded, looking relieved. “Sure, sure. Just keep it down. Don’t need tenants complaining.”
“Absolutely,” I said.
Shane waltzed into the living room without an invitation as Mr. Franklin returned to his own apartment across the hall. Myrtle floated in behind Shane.
“Shane,” I snipped. “I didn’t invite you in. This is a bad time. It’s a very bad time.”
My pulse was beginning to race and the familiar urges were returning full force. I needed to make him leave so I could handle things with Cal.
“Shane, you need to go.”
“No, no,” said Cal. “Let him stay. I’ll go. You two have at it.”
“You don’t mean that,” I snapped at him. He was beginning to piss me off. This was a crisis for both of us, and he was acting like a baby. “You stay here, damn it, and keep me away from him until we can work this out. You’re my boyfriend. It’s your duty to protect me from these things.”
“From being in lust with another man?”
“I’m with her, man,” Shane said. “I want her so bad I can taste it. And I’m engaged. I love Amy. You gotta keep us away from each other.”
“Why don’t you just stay away from each other? Why do I have to do the dirty work?”
“It’s out of our control. You have no idea. The thought of her skin against mine, her lips on mine. Her hands on—”
“Stop it right there!” Cal yelled. “Stop it before I punch your lights out.” He stood between us glaring at Shane. “And yes, by the way, I do have every idea. I never stop thinking about her soft skin and the delicate curve of her neck and the sweet scent of coconut shampoo in her hair. And...other things.”
“Aw.” My anger softened instantly. “Really?”
He turned to me. “Really. You’re unforgettable. You’re the woman of my dreams.”
“That’s so beautiful.” I hugged him. “You’re the man of my dreams.”
“So right now, when you’re hugging me, you’re all hot and bothered for that guy, aren’t you?”
Spotting that the door hadn’t closed fully, I released my hug and shot him an angry frown. I stepped toward the door to shove it closed. “Why did you have to go and ruin the moment?”
My hand was barely on the door when someone knocked, pushing it open again.
Amy poked her head into my apartment. “Hello? Sophie?”
Amy was a petite thing. Short in stature and thin boned. I always wondered how she managed the bulkier patients in the ER ward. She had blonde hair with a touch of wave and a ruddiness to her cheeks year round. Her beauty was natural inside and out. It was no wonder that Shane fell for her. Most men she met did to one degree or another.
“Amy,” I said, surprised. “What are you doing here?”
“I...” She spotted Shane. “Shane? What are you doing here?”
Myrtle had become immediately interested in Amy, circling her with intense curiosity. “Well, I’ll be shucked like an ear of corn in July. Darned if she ain’t the spittin’ image of my mama. Is this your sweetie, Shane?”
“Your mama?” Shane asked Myrtle, although to Amy it probably looked like he was talking to my ceiling. “Is your memory returning?”
“What are you talking about?” asked Amy, obviously very confused by Shane’s odd comment.
Something needed to be done and done quickly.
“Amy,” I said, grasping at straws for any believable reason for why Shane would be at my apartment. “I asked Shane to come over for a few minutes so he could help me plan a surprise engagement party for you. What are you doing here?”
“We already had an engagement party. You were there.” She cocked her head at me suspiciously. “And I stopped by to show you some pictures of dresses.”
“Oh. I forgot. I meant your bachelorette party.”
“You needed Shane for that?”
“She sounds like my mama, too,” said Myrtle, walking circles around Amy and inspecting her from head to toe.
“Do you feel that breeze?” Amy asked, pulling her sweater tightly around her.
“Why lookee there. She’s gonna be a mama herself,” said Myrtle. “She’s got a little bun in the oven.”
“You’re pregnant?” Shane gasped.
Amy gasped back. “Who told you? I just found out today.”
“It’s comin’ back to me now,” shouted Myrtle. “I’m rememberin’ things. My name—it’s Babcock. Myrtle May Babcock. I left home ‘cuz I was ‘in the family way’ but didn’t have no wedding ring on my finger. Oh my.”
Myrtle stood in front of Amy and scrutinized her more intently. “Hello there, Amy,” she said finally. “I think I’m your grand mama.”
my fainted in the middle of my living room floor.
At the same time, Myrtle clutched her middle and let out a yowl. “Oh! It hurts!”
Shane was on the floor with Amy. “Baby, baby, are you okay? Get me a cold cloth!”
“Right,” said Cal. “Cold cloth. Coming up.” He ran to my bathroom and returned, handing a wet washcloth to Shane.
Myrtle clutched her stomach again. “Oh! I can’t believe how bad it hurts. Make it stop!”
Amy was rousing from her stupor. “Shane? What happened?”
“I’m not sure,” he said.
“Who is that woman and why is she screaming?”
“You see her?” he asked.
“Of course I see her.” She sat up. “She sounds like she’s in pain. Maybe I can help her.” As Amy rose to assist Myrtle, she paused, startled again. “What is she?”
“So Amy,” I said, trying to lighten the effect of her possible terror, “how do you feel about ghosts?”
“She’s a ghost?”
“So you really see her?” Shane asked incredulously. “Why can everyone see her except me?”
“This has turned out to be an interesting night,” said Cal. “Not exactly the evening I’d planned, but I guess this was another way to go. Now, was it my imagination, or did that ghost just say she was Amy’s grandmother? And speaking of ghosts, where’s Marmaduke? Am I the only one who thinks it’s odd that he isn’t here giving us his running commentary?”
“You’re doing a good enough job all by yourself,” I said.
“You’re being awfully churlish toward me. It seems that if anyone has the right to be churlish around here, it’s me. Miss Full-of-Lust.” He buried his head in his hands and moaned. “Churlish? Did I really just use that word? I’m starting to talk like Marmaduke.”
“Oh!” cried Myrtle. “How can this hurt so much?”
“What’s wrong with her?” asked Shane. “Can’t someone quiet her down?”
“If I didn’t know better,” said Amy, “I’d say she was in labor.”
“Can ghosts have ghost babies?” Cal asked. He stood and began to pace. “Ghosts. Witches. Lust spells. This is more than I signed up for. I went to optometry school, not Hogwarts.”
“Why does Cal keep talking about lust?” Amy asked.
Geez, this night was firing all kinds of bullets at me to dodge. “I’m not sure. I think he hit his head earlier. Is she the ghost of your grandmother, Amy?” I asked.
“I don’t know.” Amy put a hand to her forehead, looking a little woozy again.
“You never met your grandmother?”
“Not my real grandmother. It’s kind of a long story. Can I sit down? I think I’m going to faint again.”
“I’ll get you some water.” I stepped sideways to avoid the path of Cal’s pacing while Shane helped Amy to the couch. “Myrtle,” I asked while getting the glass, “what can we do for you?”
Myrtle didn’t seem to hear me. She was lying in the middle of my floor crying. Every few minutes she’d stop to cry out in pain.
I handed Amy the glass of water.
Cal whispered in my ear. “Is it just me, or are you and Shane less, you know, hot for each other?”
“The distraction of the chaos does seem to help.”
My cell phone rang. It was Tara Wiley. I was relieved, hoping she might offer some ideas on Myrtle’s condition.
“Hi Tara,” I said. “I’m glad you called.”
“Sophie,” she said, “if Marmaduke wasn’t already dead, I’d be ready to kill him myself. He’s over here bawling like a baby and he won’t leave.”
pparently I’d upset Marmi so badly with the insinuation that his infatuation for Myrtle was spell-induced that he’d gone to Tara in a fit.
When I told Tara about our situation with Myrtle, she sighed. “This may require a trip to Spencer House sooner rather than later,” she said. “Let me make a phone call. I’ll call you back in a few minutes. Try to keep Myrtle calm if you can.”
Meanwhile, Marmaduke had materialized upon hearing of Myrtle’s plight. “My sweet Crepe Myrtle,” he said, holding her hand. “Fear not. Your Marmadoodle has arrived. I shall not allow any harm to befall you. Myrtle? Oh Myrtle! Do you think she hears me?” he asked with deep concern. “She does not respond to my words.”
“I don’t know, Marmi,” I said. “She’s been like this since just after she told Amy that she was her grandmother.”
“She’s your grandmother?” he asked Amy.
Amy’s eyes widened. “Sophie, who is that?”
“Amy, remember when I told you about Marmaduke?”
“The Irish ghost? I thought you were joking.”
Shane rested a hand on her shoulder. “He’s British, honey.”
“It wasn’t a joke. Amy, meet my friend, Marmaduke.”
Marmaduke nodded to her. “Greetings.”
“This is getting more and more bizarre by the minute,” said Amy.
“You see Marmaduke too?” Shane whined. “I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I’m starting to feel a little left out.”
Amy took Shane’s hand. “I think I should go home.”
“I’ll take you,” he said. “You shouldn’t be driving.”
“Good idea,” Cal agreed quickly. “Great idea. Here, let me open the door for you.”
Shane helped Amy up and guided her to the door. When they stepped over the threshold, Myrtle let out the loudest wail yet, then floated along behind them.
“Where is my Myrtle May going? She can’t leave!” Marmaduke wailed.
Shane turned in horror. “I still hear Myrtle. Is she following us?”
I shrugged. “She’s attached to you Shane, she always has been.”
“It’s okay,” said Amy, looking very deer-in-the-headlights. “I drove here myself. I’m fine to get home. It’s only five minutes away.” She kissed him on the cheek.
“But you’re having my baby,” he said.
“Not right now I’m not.” She smiled.
“Listen,” said Cal, “I’ll take her home.”
“I’m fine,” Amy insisted. But when she took one step down the stairs, Myrtle moaned again and floated toward her. Amy’s eyes widened. She took another couple of steps and Myrtle moved right along with her. “Shane? What’s happening?”
“I don’t know.” Shane threw his arms up. “Ask Sophie. She’s the ghost expert.”
“She seems attached to Amy now,” I guessed. “I’m no expert either, but she’s probably following you because she thinks she’s your grandmother. Take a few more steps, Amy, just to be sure.”
Amy stepped down to the landing on the way to the first floor. Myrtle floated behind her the entire way. “This isn’t funny,” she said. “I want to go home and I don’t want this...thing going with me.”
“She’s not a thing!” shouted Marmaduke.
“Marmi,” I said, “calm down. This is new to her.”
“Still, that is no way to speak about a person. My poor Myrtle Blossom is in a dire state. Command Amy to return this minute.”
I certainly wasn’t going to command anyone to do anything. But it didn’t appear that she would leave successfully without Myrtle in tow. “Amy, I’m sorry, but you’ll probably want to come back up here until we have a plan.”
She trudged back up the stairs, frowning. She plopped down on one of my dining set chairs. Myrtle floated along and rested on the floor beside her, disoriented.
“So what now?” asked Shane.
“I’m waiting to hear back from Tara. She thinks we might need to go back to Spencer House.”
“Why?” he asked. “We tried that already and it made things worse.”
“Who went to Spencer House?” Amy asked. “You and Sophie?”
Myrtle wailed loudly again. I wasn’t happy for the poor ghost’s pain, but I was glad we didn’t have to answer Amy’s question at the moment. There were too many other issues to confront.
“Oh, can’t something be done for her? She’s suffering so,” cried Marmaduke. “Amy, you are a nurse, correct?”
“Well, if she were alive, I could do all sorts of things. But she’s...see-through.” Amy made a face. “I can’t even hold her hand to comfort her. I suppose I could talk to her. Calm her that way maybe.”
Tara called as Amy crouched beside Myrtle.
“Tara,” I answered, “tell me we have a plan. Things are tense here in my tiny apartment.”
“It wasn’t easy talking the manager into this,” she said.
“Was it Mr. Haviland?”
“Yes. You didn’t tell me Marmaduke broke things.”
“He won’t let us in until the midnight tour is over,” she said. “Tell Marmaduke to watch himself this time. If he breaks anything, we have to pay for it.”
Amy had managed to soothe Myrtle to some degree. “I was right,” Amy said. “She’s in labor. Or thinks she is anyway.”
Four people, two of them under the influence of a lust spell, and two ghosts, one of them in labor—all in one car. Let’s just say that the drive to Spencer House was memorable.
We found Tara waiting for us on the sidewalk in front of Spencer House. “The last tour is just wrapping up,” she said. “But we can sit and wait on the benches around back near the ticket booth.”
“How long until this insufferable tour is over? My Sweet Biscuit is in dreadful agony.”
“She’s already dead, Marmaduke,” Tara said. “She’s not going anywhere. Wait! Where is she going?”
Myrtle had awakened from her trance-like state, stood, and was walking toward the house.
“Myrtle May!” Marmi followed her quickly. “I say my love, are you quite well again?”
The two of them disappeared into the walls of Spencer House.
“I don’t hear her anymore,” said Shane. “Is she gone?”
“She and Marmaduke went into the house,” Cal explained.
“Come on,” Shane said to Amy, “let’s escape while we can.”
He was pulling her away when the ground shook and the streetlights flickered. Screams could be heard coming from inside Spencer House.
Marmaduke materialized a moment later, panicked. “Quick!” he said to Tara. “You must come now. It is frightful. Positively frightful.”