Return to Me
Determined to find the source of the nightly creaking she alone can hear, Sam Reading discovers Harrison Benning, a ghost who becomes corporeal for one night of the year; the summer solstice. Their warm friendship soon becomes powerful love that lasts through decades, tragedies, and even beyond death.
Why was it always at midnight she heard the repetitive creaking, Sam thought, eyes snapping open. And why had no one else in her family ever admitted to hearing it, when she’d asked them? She never heard it during the day, or even in the evening. But as soon as she snapped off the light, there it was; the slow, measured creaks in the hallway that brought to mind footsteps. Footsteps that always came towards her, until they stopped right by her bed.
A soft creak sounded in the hallway, then another. There was a pause, then two more. The sounds were coming towards her, like always.
But this night was going to be different. This night she was going to turn, as she’d never dared to before, and face her fears. This was her family’s summer home, a place for laughter and good times, not a haunted house.
The creaks continued, edging closer, until a step sounded at her bedside. Sam was wound tight as a spring, holding her breath, telling herself to turn and face it, but scared out of her mind of what she might see when she did.
A minute passed, then two.
She gathered her courage, then whipped around. There was nothing there, just the heavy shadows rent by the light of the moon shining in her windows.
Relieved but also oddly disappointed, she lay back down and went to sleep.
* * * *
The next night was the same. The sounds began at midnight, the footsteps edging closer. Irritated instead of scared, she lazily turned her head, looking for visual reassurance.
A male figure stood there, his outline faintly shining.
Sam let out a shriek, and rolled away, smacking her head on the wall. Cursing, she looked up to see the figure walking away.
“Stop,” she called. “Please.”
The figure stopped and turned around to face her. It was a man in his early forties, his face rough with a beard, his clothes an old style elegant suit.
“Who are you?” she asked tentatively.
“Harrison Benning,” he replied, his voice like the whisper of the night wind in the trees. “I lived here once.”
“You died here?” she prompted.
Harrison nodded. “A long time ago. It was…rather messy. And you are…?”
“Samantha Reading. But you can call me Sam.”
Harrison took her hand in his, and kissed it. “It’s an honor, Sam.”
“You can touch me,” she said in wonder, her hand touching his. “Aren’t you a ghost?”
“Yes,” he said and
“Then why haven’t I seen you before now?” Sam asked.
“I’m always here, watching,” Harrison replied. “You just can’t see me. But you can always hear my actions, and you feel my presence, when I’m close—”
“But why can I see you now?” Sam interrupted.
“Because it’s a special night for me, as I’ve said,” Harrison said. “The summer solstice.”
“Wouldn’t Halloween be more the norm?” Sam ventured. “Isn’t that the night spirits become visible?”
Harrison shrugged. “I’m not sure, Sam. I only know that this is the one night I’m visible, the one night I have to be careful.” He flashed a smile. “But most people only see me as a misty outline. You must be special.
“You weren’t very careful tonight,” Sam teased.
“What I am is a cad, for invading a lady’s bed chamber,” Harrison said, offering her a bow. “If you’ll excuse me, Sam—”
“No, come back,” Sam said quickly. “Stay and talk to me, Harrison. I’m wide awake now.”
Harrison paused. “How old are you, Sam?”
“Eighteen,” Sam lied, telling herself that adding two years wasn’t a major crime. “I just had a birthday in May.”
“Then I suppose its okay, provided we maintain distance,” Harrison said formally, easing into the nearby rocking chair. “What did you want to talk about?”
“Tell me about your life, about what life was like when you were here,” Sam said eagerly, settling herself on a pile of pillows. “Tell me history.”
Harrison nodded. “Well, I was born in 1818. My father originally built this house in 1816…”