Olivia took her time getting ready on Wednesday night. She tried on three different outfits before settling on her usual jeans and a tight black t-shirt. She had sneakers, but wasn’t sure if that was the most appropriate thing to wear. On one hand, it wasn’t the most professional addition to her outfit. But on the other hand, what if she had to run away from a ghost? Could that be a possibility tonight?
After agonizing over it for much longer than she knew she should have, Olivia settled on her broken-in work shoes. They were black, simple, and no-slip. So even if running from ghosts wouldn’t be the most comfortable in them, she wouldn’t slip and fall like she might in more professional shoes.
Now that that very important situation was out of the way, she sat down to fix her makeup. Sure, it was just Iris. But this was an exciting possibility, and she wanted to look and feel her best.
She hadn’t mentioned anything about tonight to anyone besides Andrew. Not that she’d told anyone about her newfound power beyond him, Celine, and Iris. And Noah, who likely didn’t remember the conversation. She felt a little guilty still keeping it from Cleo, but she hadn’t had an opportunity to sit down and tell Cleo everything, and it didn’t feel right to text her about something like this. But if tonight went well and she decided that this might be something she wanted to pursue, she’d tell Cleo and her mother before quitting Keegan’s.
Hell, she’d tell Bret too. Tell him that working with dead people was far better than trying to run his dying business for him. Maybe she could also tell him to fuck off. She deserved that satisfaction as much as Noah did.
Makeup done, Olivia started brushing her hair back into a high ponytail. Another decision, she realized. Would a ponytail be enough? She’d need her hair off of her face, but could an evil spirit grab it and pull her back into its grip? Maybe she’d be better off with a bun.
This could be it. She’d never considered a career change like this, even in her most outlandish fantasies. But maybe she could make it work. She had the ability after all. And clearly Iris was able to live off this and her shop, so the money was pretty good. Probably not buy-a-house good, but get-her-family-afloat money was pretty attractive as well.
Buy a house money. She paused for a moment, wondering where that thought had come from. It had never occurred to her that she would ever live anywhere else. But with the way things between her and Noah were disintegrating, maybe someday she wouldn’t have a choice.
Olivia suddenly remembered Andrew’s story of Noah explaining why he hadn’t killed himself, and her stomach flipped. Erin had texted her last night saying their talk had not gone well. Noah had stayed on the line just long enough to tell her they all needed to mind their own business. She had told Olivia she doubted their mother would do anything, but if she wanted to talk to her, it probably couldn’t hurt.
That was for tomorrow night, Olivia told herself firmly, standing up and reaching for her jacket. Tonight was for her and the ghosts.
“How are you feeling?” Iris asked.
Olivia looked away from the imposing mansion and back at Iris, who was watching her from the driver’s seat. “Good,” she said, nodding maybe a little too rapidly. “I’m good. Excited to try this out.”
“Remember, you only have to go as far as you’re comfortable with,” Iris said.
Olivia had a not-so-witty retort for that, but decided to remain professional and let the moment go. So instead, she pulled on her jacket and nodded again. “Alright, I’m ready.”
The bed and breakfast’s owners were gone for the night, allowing Iris and Olivia space to work. Olivia hadn’t spoken to them at all, but Iris assured her that they were two very nice women who were absolutely fine with Olivia joining Iris on this case.
A few minutes later, they were making their way up the stairs to the building’s top floor, where the ghost was supposed to be. It was a normal looking stairway, like anything Olivia thought she might see in any luxurious hotel. Her shoes sank into deep green carpets and there was intricate gold trim along the walls as they walked.
As they reached the fourth floor, the lush carpet abruptly cut off at the top of the stairs, leaving the scuffed hardwoods of the top floor exposed. Iris stepped into the hallway ahead of Olivia and set her bag down on a wooden table beside the stairwell doorway.
“So this is where the activity seems to be localized,” Iris said. “I’m going to set up some protective wards, then do you want to try to contact it?”
If not now, when? Olivia nodded, trying to breathe through her jitters. “Yeah,” she said. “I’m good with that.”
It had to be better than Keegan’s on a Saturday night, right? The ghosts she’d interacted with so far hadn’t been bad, especially now that she was getting used to them being there. She could treat them like customers. Be polite and respectful, but keep her boundaries firm.
Olivia closed her eyes and tried to center herself as Iris did her work. She felt like maybe she should be watching, but that could wait until next time. She’d focus on her part for now and, depending on how things went, she could start studying the other aspects of the job afterward.
“Alright, that should do it,” Iris said a few minutes later. “How are you feeling? Grounded?”
“Yeah, I’m good,” Olivia said.
She sat down in the chair beside the wooden table and closed her eyes. After a couple of breaths, she tried to push her awareness out into the room. It was awkward and slow, but after a second, she felt something inside herself shift. The energy hummed in the way Iris had told her to expect and it was stronger than anything she’d yet felt at home or at Keegan’s.
Open…think open thoughts, she thought to herself. Open. Open to messages, to energy, to communication.
Olivia opened her eyes. She wasn’t sure what to expect as she tried to project a message of welcome, of wanting to communicate. Mostly the ghosts just showed up in front of her, looking more or less solid and giving their opinions on what was going on.
Whatever she expected, it certainly wasn’t the feeling of being abruptly yanked backwards from somewhere behind her navel, her head snapping back and eyes rolling up so far that she couldn’t see. Olivia distantly heard Iris’s concerned voice from somewhere nearby, but it was drowned out by the electrical humming now filling her ears.
The pressure pulling her backwards abated, but she was still trapped, still pressed up against the back wall of her awareness. Olivia couldn’t see, couldn’t hear anything beyond the crackle of electricity surrounding her. Iris was talking, but Olivia couldn’t hear what she was saying. She wanted her mother, she wanted Mia, she wanted Noah, she didn’t want to die here. What had she been thinking doing this? She had a daughter to take care of. Mia.
Olivia’s mouth was moving, she could feel the vibration of her vocal cords as words formed without her input. She was faintly aware of the way her body was locked against the back of the chair, heart pounding like it was tearing itself out of her body. Tears streamed down her face, but she was frozen in place, unable to wipe them away.
And as quickly as it started, it was over. Olivia fell out of her chair, landing on the hardwood, panting.
Iris was kneeling beside her, pulling her up. After a second of scrambling, Olivia sat with her back against the wall, gripping Iris’s hand.
“It’s okay,” Iris said, squeezing her hand. “It’s okay, you’re okay. You were channeling the spirit, Olivia. She’s gone, she agreed to leave. You’re safe.”
Olivia nodded, her entire body still trembling. “Take a minute,” Iris continued. “Just breathe with me. In…out…in…out….good, keep going.”
Olivia focused on her breathing, trying to only think about that. “I’m so sorry,” Iris said. “I had no idea it was going to be that intense. That’s not something you should have been able to do without a lot of practice.”
“Is it gone?” Olivia finally managed to choke out.
Iris nodded. “Yeah. I’ll catch you up once you’ve had a chance to rest. But it’s only been fifteen minutes. She talked to me through you and agreed to leave. Olivia, I’m so sorry.”
Olivia wiped the tears off her face with the hand not currently gripping Iris’s.
“I want to go home.”