Choose Your Partner
by Beverly Forehand

I have always heard that the air is cold when spirits are present. That may be true for some people, but I have never experienced it for myself. When I walked into my room at Talbot’s Tavern, the air was dry and hot. Someone had turned the air conditioning unit down to its lowest setting. I immediately adjusted it to 70 and felt the cold air hit me with a jolt. I was already hot and tired--a crumpled mess after having ridden several hours in the car. One of my husband’s childhood friends was getting married tomorrow, so we had decided to make a trip of it reserving a few nights in a historic hotel. Talbot Tavern, despite having two fires and several renovations, still maintained the ambience of an 18th century tavern. The white bricked outer walls were wound with ivy and vinca and the window panes had the heavy-paned waved glass of Colonial America.

I collapsed on the canopied bed, dropping my suitcase and duffel bag on the floor. “I’m about to drop,” I said lying on the bed with my hanging suit-bag draped across me like a comforter. “Well,” said my husband, “It’s only three hours until the reception dinner.” I rolled on the bed in complaint. “I’m going downtown,” he said, “to see if I can find some film for the camera. I don’t suppose you want to come with me?” I threw my hand over my eyes dramatically, and was rewarded with the sound of the door closing as he left. I got up, hung the suit-bag on the shower curtain rail and curled up under the white knobbed afghan for a good sleep. I don’t know how long I slept, but I awoke suddenly—the way you do when you hear a sharp noise or a baby’s cry. From the light falling through the window, I knew it must be close to sunset or maybe a little after dusk. Motes of dust danced on the air and the room felt heavy. The windows were closed but I could smell something sweet, like honeysuckles after a rain-storm or roses crushed underfoot. I looked around, the door to the hallway was still closed and everything looked the same as I had left it.

I opened the door and went down the hallway. Leaning over the spiral stairwell in the center of the upstairs parlor, I could see the bustle of the lobby below and smell food from the dining room. No one else was in the hallway or the parlor, so I decided to go sit on one of the swings on the outside balcony. The heavy door leading to the balcony creaked when I opened it and a rush of hot, sticky air hit me. I hung off the balcony and watched the people in the street--mostly summer tourists laden with cameras, diaper bags, and small dogs. Someone was watching me. I spun around, but I couldn’t see anyone in the hallway. I opened the door and stepped back inside, but no one was there. I called out. No answer. Still, I had the distinct impression that I was not alone. I walked back down the hallway to my room and pushed open the door. No one was there. Half-asleep as I was, I thought maybe I was nervous about the wedding or still groggy from my long car ride. I decided I
would take a shower.

I grabbed my bath things and my dress for the reception dinner, a long pale sundress that swept the floor, and went into the bathroom. After a steamy shower, I put on my dress and make-up and went into the main room to find my shoes. The floral smell was even stronger, as was the feeling of being watched. I opened the window with some effort, causing a small bird to vacate a chink in the brick where she had been nesting. Startled, I pulled back from the window into the room. The hot air from outside mingled with the heavy flower scent and I felt dizzy. I could hear, no, almost hear, music. It was light and melancholy. I swung myself around and my full skirt flared as if caught by a wind. I felt something dry brush my cheek
featherlike. The music was louder now, but still faint. I stood still and smelled the flowers and heard the music of another era, and I did the only thing I could do. I lifted my right hand and clasped the air and then I danced. Eyes closed, feet bare, skirt swirling in rhythm, I danced. My hand, starting empty and grasping air, soon felt another hand, and I was guided
around the room for I don’t know how long—until the door opened, the music stopped, the air was still.

“You’re already dressed,” my husband said, “Good, we need to go down to the reception dinner and I thought you’d still be asleep.” I nodded. “I’m ready,” I said and down the stairs we went to dinner. Later, we found out that we were the only guests staying upstairs this weekend. “Don’t be surprised if you here knocks and doors slamming in the night, though, “ the hostess warned me with a smile, “We have a few resident ghosts.” Of course, I already knew that. As I also knew that one of them was a very good dancer.

Beverly Forehand is a freelance writer and painter living in Nashville, TN.  Her short stories and poems have been published in Atriad Press' Haunted Encounters, FATE, Quantum Muse,, Waxing Waning Moon, and Zephyrus.  She recently published a pet recipe book with Dawson Progressive and is a monthly columnist for Critter Exchange.  Her hobbies include cultivating her medieval herb garden and begging her cats (unsuccessfully)
to stay off the sofa. Contact Beverly.