We met three weeks after my family moved in. I kept bothering my mother for extra blankets in my room—it was always too cold, and though the window was locked tight, there was always a draft in the air.
“You already have every blanket we own,” my mother called from down the hall. “Just throw on an extra sweater.”
My sweaters were still in my suitcase—creeped out by the hotel’s musty (“rustic,” my mother would call it) furniture, I kept mostly everything I owned in the boxes and bags I’d dragged in, afraid to settle, I guess, into whatever The Universe had planned for my crazy parents. I walked across the creaky floors and dug through a giant purple duffel bag that held most of my bulky stuff, finally settling on a fleece sweatshirt with a picture of a penguin on the front. “CHILL OUT” it said. It was a dumb sweatshirt, whatever.
As I turned around to head back to bed, I noticed a translucent girl in a lavender gown hovering by the windowsill, a smile on her face and a bouquet of lilies in her hand.
“Don’t scream,” she said.
“What’s going on?” my father yelled.
The girl in the lavender gown started to fade away, her sad smile disappearing into the wallpaper. “Don’t be scared,” she whispered.
“Are you all right?” my father asked. “What the hell are you screaming at?”
“Mouse,” I called back. “I thought I saw a mouse.”
“Go to bed, Moira,” my mother said. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
I spent the rest of the night waiting for the girl to return, realizing that I was afraid—afraid that she’d never come back.
My job at the hotel was to be adorable and to tell tourists where they could get the best cider donuts or see the prettiest trees, or where the best place was to ski. It was fun for the first few months; after that I just started pointing to a tower filled with self-explanatory brochures.
Augustine started appearing regularly sometime in November, three weeks after she’d first shown up. I’d been leaving her offerings: pictures of lilies that I’d ripped out of my mother’s Martha Stewart magazines, fun-size Snickers bars left over from Halloween, a mood ring I got from a gumball machine while waiting for my mother to check out at the grocery store. I kept the pile on the floor near the end of my bed, hoping she’d recognize that I was a friendly person who wasn’t afraid of her. The pile never moved, but upon inspection I noticed that the Snickers bars, which had been fine while sitting on my desk, had completely frozen over.
She showed up at 2 AM on a Saturday, floating over the pile, examining every picture and gift, but touching nothing.
“Hello,” I said, sitting up from under approximately 800 blankets.
“My mother never let me have candy,” she said. “She was afraid I’d lose my teeth.” She smiled. All of her teeth, which looked to be lit from underneath by a sea-green glow, looked to be in place.
“Do you want some?” I picked up a Snickers and held it out to her.
She shook her head. “Can’t,” she said.
“If you can’t eat candy when you’re dead, then I’m going to live forever.”
“Shouldn’t say that,” she said.
“You are dead, aren’t you?” Suddenly this felt like a rude question. And I also felt kind of dumb. But I mean, aren’t ghosts dead? Or are they the undead, which technically makes them, uh, un-dead? Here was a real-life possibly dead or undead person, right in front of me, and I had no idea what the rules were.
“I’m something. Did a boy give you that ring?” she said, looking at the mood ring a top the pile.
“That thing? Nah. Got it out of a gumball machine.”
“Will you tell me if you see a boy here?” she said. “He’s supposed to meet me here.”
“Yes, I think so. I think it will be today.” She smoothed her gown and flew toward the window. “But then,” she said, “every new day is another today.”
The boy’s name was Peter, I learned over the years, and he was 18 years old, three years older than Augustine. They’d fallen in love after meeting at a school dance. She was wearing her best lavender gown; he was wearing a navy suit jacket and brown corduroy pants.
“He loved this gown,” she said, twirling around in our shared space.
During the day, when she’d disappear, I’d search the Inn for any information I could find on her, but came up with nothing. Google was equally ineffective. I finally decided to go to the library to see if any town records or newspapers had anything to say about a Miss Augustine Roberts.
“You’re the Bryar girl,” the librarian said when I walked in to the tiny building. “How are your parents finding the Forsythia?”
“Do you want to sign up for a card?” She readied a form on her desk. I noted that her name plate said “Carolyn Moller-Green, Head Librarian.”
“I actually wanted to know if there was any information on a girl who used to live in my room.”
“You mean Augie Roberts?” Carolyn Moller-Green said, sighing. “Is she still up there, poor thing?”
“What do you mean, ‘up there’?”
Carolyn Moller-Green unpacked her lunch as she explained. “Oh, she’s been haunting that place for 60, 70 years now, waiting for her boyfriend to meet her, like he said he would.”
“What happened to him?”
“He died in France, World War II, like so many others. When she found out, she jumped from the window of what I assume is your room.” She took a bite of her sandwich and shook her head. “Tragic, really. Would you like some of this sandwich? It’s very good.”
“No thank you.” I was so sad that I didn’t want to eat anything, like ever again.
“We have an archive of their letters in the basement. You’re welcome to look at them if you like. Just make sure you take care with the paper and return the box to me afterward.”