I can make it to the bathroom. I kick the covers off one foot. Oooh, that's cold air. Okay, just go. Maybe she won't be there tonight. Maybe she won't turn around this time.
Last time she turned around. If she turns around this time, I won't make it. I can't.
It's starting to hurt. It's now or never. I kick off the rest of the covers and run. Out the door. Don't look. I look. She's not there.
It's next time.
Check the window. No sun yet. She wasn't there last time. I look toward the door, it's almost shut. Who shut it? I look hard at the door. Green light. Gotta hold it. She's definitely there.
Morning. Made it.
Turned down that second glass of milk with dinner. That should help.
Wake up. Here we go again. I try to remember her pattern. Was it there, there, gone, or was it gone, there, gone? Can't remember. I don't see any green light. What am I scared of anyway? I'm eight now. Big enough not to be scared of ghosts. I slip out of bed. I'm not scared, I think, as I force my legs to walk. I close my eyes as I round the corner into the hall. Entering the hall with eyes still closed, I know I'm in trouble. The green light penetrates my eyelids and I feel a cold air that can only be her dead breath. She must be right in front of me.
I freeze. My eyes open. She's there, but in the chair by the desk where she usually is. She turns. I pee. She stands. I cry. She comes. I run. Forward, because the bathroom door is closer. I slam the door in her face. Green light under the door. Will she come in? She's never come in before. The light fades. I get in the tub and stare at the crack under the door.
This started when I was six and continued until my family moved to Arizona seven years later.
I never told anyone.
Then, one night over dinner, about a year after we left Missouri, we began to discuss reasons why we were glad we had moved. Without thinking, I blurt out, "Well for one thing, there's no ghost at the end of the hallway." My dad and mom both look at me, somewhat amused.
"Ghost?" mom asks with a smile in her voice.
"Yeah," I reply, already wishing I had kept my mouth shut.
"What did this...ghost...look like?" she chuckles.
"Well...she was green."
"Yeah, and she had a big head!" chimes in my eleven-year-old sister. We all turn to her.
"What did you say?" I ask.
"She had a really big head, and when I would come out of my room at night she would turn around and look at me."
In that instant, I realized there are times when you must tell your heart to beat. Times when you must remind yourself to take the next breath and let out the previous one. No more of this involuntary stuff.
My dad adds, "Well, we did live on a cemetery, you know."
Beat...Breathe in...Beat...Breathe out...Beat...
"Honey, it was not directly on the cemetery. It was more like our backyard was next to the cemetery," mom corrects.
"In, next to, on. What's the difference? The fact is the kids were being haunted and we lived on, sorry, next to a cemetery."
Of course! The cemetery. This obvious detail had never crossed my mind before now. The ghost must have been from the cemetery. Maybe our house was built on her grave and, in order for her soul to be set free, she had to get us out and burn the house to the ground. Or maybe it was her baby's grave, and she thought my sis and I were little Timmy or Tina. It made perfect sense now. How could I have overlooked the cemetery?
My sister says, "I thought ghosts were afraid of churches. That old church across the street from our house shoulda scared that ghost away."
The church! I forgot about the church. What else had I missed? A creepy motel on the corner run by a guy and his mother? A driverless car with a girl's name terrorizing the Buicks and Chevys left out at night? Did I ever really get to know the neighbors to our right, the ones who painted their house black and the front doors orange? Whoa. What la la land was I living in?
As usual, the conversation turned into an argument between my parents about whether the likely stomping grounds for a green ghost would be a church or a cemetery.
It's been twenty years since that conversation but I still get the heeby jeebies when I think about it. Sis and I bring up the lady in the hall sometimes, but I like to keep it way down deep. Down with all the other things that should not be. A lot of my friends say they would love to visit their childhood homes. Unh uh, no way. Not interested. Thank you very much, but I'll pass.
As I sit here writing, alone...in the dark...I look at the street in front of my house. No ancient abandoned church, no weird neighbors, well, not that weird and the only thing dead in the back yard is the ferret buried next to the swimming pool. All is quiet. I yawn, turn the computer off and stand up. Stretching my arms, I turn and walk away from my desk, glad to have gotten the demons out. As I reach the door. I hear the whine of my computer restarting. Funny, I thought I shut it down. Before I can turn around, I feel cold air on the back of my neck and the room is flooded with light...green light.