Sometimes Emily wanders into our bedroom late at night while we’re sleeping. Could be a bad dream. Thunder. A pain in her leg. She puts her hands on the bed and calls our names until we stir, then climbs up. Eventually one of us will carry her back upstairs.
I turned off the water and opened the shower door. I was toweling off, thinking I was alone at home. Emily was in bed, my wife out for a run.
Hello, she stated flatly. I jumped, shouted Jesus. I thought she was trying to scare me. “Don’t do that,” I said.
It was my wife. She tilted her head and asked, “What are you doing?” Sometimes my wife says things that makes sense to her but not to me. Sometimes I respond with sarcasm, but today she seemed beside herself.
“I thought you went for a run,” I said.
“Were you just in Emily’s room?”
I was dripping wet, naked, and on record as wanting to get my four-year-old off to college without her seeing my junk. “Do I look like I was just in Emily’s room?”
Still in her running clothes and shoes, still perspiring, she blinked, crossed her arms. With a nervous laugh, she scratched her chin. “Then I just saw a ghost.”
I wanted her to be kidding. She wasn’t. She was frazzled. My wife sees things, knows things, that other people don’t see, don’t know. She’s sensed them before, ghosts. Known they were there. But she tended to share this after the fact, as if in afterthought. And she’s never claimed to have seen one.
“Then I’m not sleeping in the guest room anymore,” I said, only half-kidding. I slept in the guest room when I worked late so I wouldn’t bother her. But I never felt alone in there.
“I’m serious,” she said. “I saw someone in her window.”
Emily’s room had custom blinds that fit inside the window sill, and a heavy curtain. “How could you have seen someone?” I asked.
“I was coming in from the garage and I looked up and the blinds settled back towards the window. I thought it was Emily looking out and I went up there.”
“Why did you look up?”
“That’s my point,” she said, hands to hips, car keys jiggling.
“Why would I look up?” She was exasperated, and so was I. Our conversations can be frustrating. To clarify, I said, “You don’t normally look up at Emily’s room.”
“But today you did.”
“And it wasn’t Emily you saw.”
“I thought it was, but she was asleep.”
“How do you know?”
“I went up there.”
“Did you touch her?”
She blinked and shook her head in frustration. “What?”
“Was she warm, like she’d been under the covers for a while?”
“Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”
“You touched her pajamas to see if they were, like, perspiry or stuck to her. She wasn’t out of bed goofing off and got back to bed before you got up there.”
“That’s what I’m saying. She was dead-to-the-world asleep.”
I looked at my wife and my wife looked at me. We kind of laughed, but not really. Not a real laugh. The I-don’t-believe-it kind of laugh.
“We’re moving,” I said. Even though we’d just moved in.
For the next few days, I couldn’t come in from the garage without looking up. I didn’t want to look up – I was afraid of what I might see. It was especially bad when I worked late. In the dark, alone, what you imagine is all but real.
A few days later I’m in bed. I’m watching a movie on my tablet in the dark. Earbuds in so as to not bother my wife asleep next to me. As I said, sometimes Emily wanders in. The height was right, and the length of her hair. But the dress was old, out of fashion. Plaid, I think. I barely saw it out of the corner of my eye. When I turned to look, she was gone.
I swiveled my tablet out towards the room like a flashlight, cold blue light falling on the walls and floor. Nobody there. I flipped the cover closed and lay there in the dark, alone but for my sleeping wife. Letting my eyes adjust, I had that feeling I got upstairs in the guest room. Of not being alone.
Next day I’m telling my wife while making a sandwich in the kitchen. “I thought it was Emily,” I said.
“I told you,” said my wife, flipping through her magazine at the kitchen table.
“Told me what?” I said, putting the knife down.
“I told you I saw a ghost. Now you’ve seen her.”
“You said ghost, not little girl.”
“I told you I thought it was Emily,” she said. And for a moment, we just stared at each other, as it sunk in. Finally, she said, “I guess we’re not alone.”
“We’re moving,” I said.