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Saturday, October 30, 2010
Haunting of Handley Station by Liz Lafferty
"You really shouldn’t be out so late, miss. It’s a bad night to be out alone.”
“I’m here for the same reasons you are,” I said. My skin tingled with goose bumps. I hadn’t really expected anyone else to be here on such an unusually bitter cold Halloween night. And it was three in the morning. I huddled deeper in my coat.
He laughed, deep and masculine. “The story isn’t true.” His face remained hidden as he leaned against the corner of the train station building, one hand in his pocket, pushing his trench coat back to reveal a tailored suit. He wore one of those interesting hats from the fifties, a dark fedora. Talk about role playing.
He stepped into the light.
“You. I know you,” I said. The fear in my voice couldn’t be helped. The night was kinda creepy and I was foolishly alone. But I was sure it was him.
“Have we met?” he asked.
“No, not officially.”
“Could we, officially?” he asked. His crooked smile put me at ease.
He craned his neck, looking down the track line to the north. “Well, I’ve gotta go. My train’s coming in.”
I jerked around looking behind me for a train I didn’t hear. There was nothing, only eerie night air swirling around me and an unusual dampish mist. I shook inside my coat. When I turned around, he had disappeared.
The Haunting of Handley Train Station was true. I’d just been talking to a ghost.
I backed away. In spite of my bravado, I was new at the ghost-buster game. I couldn’t help it. I lived three blocks from the station and had grown up on its myths and legends. I wanted to see for myself.
I turned to run. And ran into him. His hands clutched my shoulders to keep me from falling. My hands were braced against his solid chest.
“Don’t hurt me. I know you’re just a ghost, but please don’t hurt me.” He seemed like a reasonable ghost. I patted his chest again just to be sure he was really there.
“I’m not a ghost,” said he of the masculine voice and strong, hard body.
“I was just talking to you over there.” I pointed lamely to the corner of the building where I’d been scouting.
“It wasn’t me. You saw him, didn’t you?”
“I saw you.” I pushed against his chest with both hands. He felt real enough. Even his breath against my ear felt warm compared to the odd chill of the air. His strong hands at my shoulders held me in place like no ghost could.
“No, my grandfather. He’s the ghost. He was killed here over fifty years ago.”
Yes, I knew the story. I’d never given a thought to the dead man’s family before.
“So, the ghost is real?”
“Very real. Only he never talks to me. Only women.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“I found out only recently, after hanging out here for the last fifteen years wanting to learn the truth.”
“What happened?” I said, now feeling an odd need to comfort.
“I don’t know. I keep hoping he’ll tell me or tell someone, but people don’t come like they used to. He doesn’t like crowds. He especially doesn’t like men. If it’s quiet and lonely, he’ll show up, walk around a bit and then at 3:07 disappears. Sooner if he doesn’t like the company. One night a year. What did he say to you?”
“Nothing. Just asked my name.” The warmth emanating from him drew me closer.
“What is your name?”
“Ashley,” I said again, feeling a creepy déjà vu, reminded of the ghostly introduction a few minutes ago and the vaporous attempt to meet this very man six months ago. He probably didn’t remember that I had approached him when I braved potential rejection and faced him on this very platform. Because he’d given a weak greeting and walked on, I vowed never to talk to him again. We’d remain platform acquaintances. Still, every morning I didn’t see him, I wondered about him.
He whispered my name. The goose bumps came back in full force. “I’m sorry,” he offered.
“About what?” Even at this late hour, I knew how to do innocence. He probably couldn’t see me batting my eyelashes.
“You’re still mad at me for not talking to you, aren’t you?”
“You remember?” I wasn’t mad. Humiliated, yes. Okay, I was mad.
“I had a girlfriend then. I don’t anymore. I’m David.”
His face was so near, mere inches, as he gazed down into my eyes. Interpreting that statement would require broad daylight and several cups of coffee. “He looks exactly like you,” I mumbled, trying to keep the conversation going, instead of falling in head first.
“I’ve seen pictures.”
“If he won’t talk to you, why do you keep coming?”
“For my mom, I think. She always wondered why her dad didn’t come home. Wanna grab some coffee?”
“Sure.” That wasn’t the only thing I wanted to grab.
“You’re going to have to take your hands off my chest now.”
“I’m not sure I want to.”
“I guess the coffee can wait.”
BIO: Liz is a hard working wage earner by day and a romance writer caught up with strong heroines and handsome heroes by night. THE HAUNTING OF HANDLEY TRAIN STATION is part of a series she wrote about familiar strangers, people we see every day, but don't know a thing about.