Though there's definitely a spark between them, David is gone when Nick wakes. When David's claim of working as an apprentice at the glass shop doesn't pan out, Nick begins to wonder about the guy he's met and the ghost stories circulating around the colony, stories he always believed untrue ...
|Publisher:||JMS Books LLC|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
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A Haunted Love
February. The sky darkened later now; the days weren't quite as short as they used to be. We already put away the candles and greenery from our 'Christmas in the Colonies' bit and hired a few new employees in anticipation of the field trips schools usually do in the spring.
I wasn't really looking forward to summertime; each year it seems to get hotter and hotter. I didn't know how I managed in the cotton breeches and starched shirt I wore at work, but it could've been worse.
I could've been Angela over at the inn, with her bustle and her ten yards of fabric and her tight-ass corset. Or Thad over at the capitol building in his ironed breeches and polished shoes and long-tailed coat. Or Jeremy at the smithy's, shirt sleeves rolled up to his elbows, bent over a hot furnace all day long, hammering out horseshoes and bits of iron for the tourists.
It could've been a lot worse.
Me, I was just a stable boy. Nothing glorious, but back in Colonial America most jobs weren't. At least I could wear my shirt open, unlaced to the middle of my chest, and I didn't have to worry about mopping the sweat off my back because I was supposed to sweat while I worked. Part of the ambiance, I guess. Made it real.
I spent my workday carrying crates from one end of the stable to the other, brushing down the three horses we kept on site, rattling off my spiel about how my master's steed is the fastest in the thirteen colonies, once owned by Patrick Henry himself, and no, before you ask, it wasn't the one he rode that fateful night.
For a small tip I could even recite the poem, though I'd been known to hunker down beside a little girl and whisper it to herfor the price of a smile as she watched me with wide eyes. The kids ate that re-enacting shit up. "Listen my children and you shall hear..." They loved it.
After the sun went down, the cobbled streets thinned out a bit as the tourists caught the bus back to the hotels. I sat on one of the benches in the square until the lamp lighter made his rounds. Greg was a short fellow with a quick laugh; how he got the lighter position when he could barely reach the candle inside each street lamp beat me. In the gloaming, his footsteps echoed off the stones and I would watch the lights flare to life one by one.
When he got close enough to where I sat, he'd always say, "Hey, how you doing kid?" Like he was so much older than me. He couldn't be forty, if that, and he had to wear a cap to cover short, spiked hair dyed an un-Colonial shade of blue. The management didn't like their re-enactors to be out of character.
They liked my hair, long blonde unruly curls I was itching to cut, but then I'd be unmarketable. Who shaved all their hair off back then? I mentioned it once and my boss said I'd have to wear a powdered wig if I did. Those things were itchy and heavy and hot. And whoever heard of a stable boy wearing a powered wig? I'd have to move up to government, so I said no thanks and kept my curls, pulling them back in a tight ponytail while I worked but letting them loose the minute I was off the clock.
There was a slight breeze rustling through the bare limbed trees like a sigh. A mild winter gave us nice weather during the day, and faint pink buds already bloomed on the tips of the branches like dots of icing decorating a cake. At night, the temperature dropped but not much, bringing in a thick fog that clung to the buildings as if it rose from the empty cobbled streets themselves. In the stables a few yards away, the horses neighed softly and further down the street came Greg's steady step, even though I couldn't see his light yet.
It grew colder now that the sun had set. My bones ached from another long day spent tending the horses and cleaning stables. How colonists managed to eke out a living was beyond me. I couldn't do it if I didn't have the luxury of a well-lit and heated apartment downtown to return to each night, or weekends away from all this. It was hard work even if it was only play-acting.
Slipping off the bench, I stretched out on the damp grass beneath one of the large oaks around the square. The last bus into town left a little before midnight. I had time to catch a quick nap, unwind a bit ... folding my arms behind my head, I stared up at the sky through the fog-laced branches. The breeze breathed into my open shirt, tickled its way around my chest, hardened my nipples to make me shiver as it cooled my sweat. Wisps of clouds scurried across the moon, chasing the stars. When I closed my eyes I could imagine that it must have felt like this hundreds of years ago, because I can't hear city noises like music and traffic and people. I can't hear anything but the leaves and the horses and Greg's footsteps, distorted in the foggy night.
At times like this it was so easy to pretend this really was a colony, a whole new world with the rest of history stretched out before it, all the wars and the politics and the stuff we learned in school yet to come. With my eyes closed I felt the years peel back, layer after layer. I imagined I lay on a colonial knoll, not some grass covered spot in a historical park. We still hadn't explored beyond the Mississippi, were still British subjects, weren't America yet. Here on quiet nights, alone, the past melded with the now and I wasn't even sure what year it was anymore. It could be the 1800's just as easily as it was the 21st Century.
I wasn't wearing a watch, but my shift ended at seven and there was still a tinge of rosy sunlight clinging stubbornly to the horizon. If Greg has begun to light the street lamps, one of the last tasks before the colony shuts down for the night, then I guessed it was probably a little before eight o'clock. Time enough for a quick nap.
I knew Greg would wake me up when he passed. He did it before, when I napped after work. Marie in HR would have a fit if I stayed the night at the colony, snoozing on the bench like a homeless bum. Greg has warned me many times. But it was so peaceful here, after dark, and I was suddenly so tired, I couldn't move if I wanted. I felt myself drift in and out like the breeze that blew intermittently. Just a few hours, that was it. Plenty of time left to catch the last bus into town.