The crowds were thick tonight.The Old Town Tavern teemed with an unusual amount of guests for a Wednesday night. Millie Taylor couldn’t concentrate on making her normal ruckus up in the attic to surprise the few who frequented the bar. But then the regulars accepted the story that she was the one moving things about overhead.
Peeking from the stairwell, Millie noticed the tables and benches groaned with all the extra guests. The wait-staff were at a maximum and hustling around, trays laden with crusty crocks of French Onion soup and hearty sandwiches on fresh baked pub rolls. The barrels of fine ale emptied quicker than young Thomas Mather could keep them connected to the taps.
Now there was a fine specimen of man…young, dark-haired and filled out his breeches quite nicely, in both arse and crotch. She wished she could give him a go or two between the sheets. He reminded her of another man she’d known a long time ago, only this lad wasn’t as flirtatious as James Addison had been.
James could charm the stockings off of a poor girl without even giving her a what fore. His smile alone made the most prudish of women damp by the end of their meal. The rake had taught her a thing…or two. She never forgot the night her and Kiki made a public display of brawling over the likes of him in the middle of the tavern. Hank, the proprietor, was about to toss them out on their arses had it not been for James’ generosity to handle the situation in a gentlemanly fashion. Whether or not his solution to their problem was gentlemanly, still remained her biggest question after all these years. But he’d proved to her two could be better than one at times.
No, Thomas was nothing like the rapscallion, James Addison. The young man appeared a bit shy for her likes. She wondered if the lad ever had the pleasure of a lady’s charms.
Millie stood unseen on the stairs off to the side of the main room, admiring the young man’s grace and movements as he took up slack and prepared to help out the new tavern maid, Charity, with a table of twelve guests. The young blonde smiled, her cheeks glowing as she mouthed a quick ‘thank you’ before maneuvering around the crowded tables to place her order with the cook. Thomas nodded and blushed, but the turn of his head had him following every sway of the lass’s hips beneath her muslin skirts.
So that’s how it be? Millie smiled to herself and perched her hand on her hip. The lad had an eye for the gal. And if she read Charity’s looks, it just might be reciprocated.
Millie kept her eye on the potential ‘lovers’, noting each smile, innocent touch or casual glance as they served the large party of twelve, as she milled unseen through the crowded tavern. She loved spooking the guests with an occasional brush of her hand or whisper, sending cold chills up the guests’ spines. But tonight, her fascination focused on the youngsters. They worked well together, creating a unique dance in their delivery of beverages and first course platters. Charity did most of the talking to their guests and Thomas followed her lead.
Eh? Too young for her. Millie sighed with an indifferent shrug of her shoulders. A man who couldn’t converse with her didn’t hold her interest, no matter what he looked like. Was she turning soft? Two hundred and twenty years without someone to talk to had her eager for any company; her priorities might be a bit skewed.
A sudden lull in the murmurs of guest conversation caught her interest as the new proprietor; Dave jumped up on the old wooden bar.
“Ladies and gentlemen, can I have your attention please,” he called out in his loud, boisterous voice. “I have a special guest tonight who has been kind enough in all the celebration these past few days, to grace us with his presence. He’s not a stranger to Old Town Tavern and has been known to take a pint or two…too many…”
Laughter and ribald comments flew among the guests, as if they knew who Dave spoke of.
“The man needs no introduction but just in case you were born under a rock or not from Kings Mill, I will introduce him anyway. I’m happy to have my good friend, James Addison here with us tonight.”
Applause ricocheted around the room. James Addison here? Impossible! Millie remembered the day of his execution and the pall which had fallen over Kings Mill afterwards. She and Kiki had cried for days, neither one being able to console the other. They couldn’t believe he’d been a traitor to the crown. He’d been a blue-blood and would never consider disgracing his family in such a way!
She strained her neck to see a figure in tricorne and cape make his way into the room only to be blocked by a woman standing in front of her in the stairwell. She rolled her eyes, forgetting for a moment she wasn’t flesh and blood anymore. Floating upward, she seated herself among the original wooden beamed rafters where she had a birds-eye view.
“Thank you, my good man!” The man stepped forward and took Dave’s hand in his, giving it a firm grip and a hearty hand-shake. Dave returned the manly greeting before exiting with the excuse he needed to get James’s keg of ale ready.
The man launched into his spiel, as if he were the James Addison. People tended to dress in costume and try to act for the time frame. Why every weekend of late, a young man gave silly, ghost tours. She’d seen him and the groups of people when they came in, but he wasn’t correct in his speech or manners, though she did have to say he tried.
This man though spoke exactly like James Addison! Closing her eyes, she pretended he was alive again and enthralling the masses with his amusements. That was James. He charmed the ladies and still drew the utmost respect and camaraderie from the gentlemen. He’d known how much to talk, when to listen and never spoke a mean word about anyone. He was a man of good character in her book. When England had put a pinch on things, he’d kept his prices fair over at the mill, even ran credit to those who might be a bit strapped for coin. He hadn’t deserved the horrible punishment he’d received.
She listened intently to the man. He spoke of times in this tavern which no one here would ever know. He mentioned names, told their stories with reverence and even if they’d been slimy-geezers she’d had to deal with, he put a kind light on them in memory. The people ate him up, listening, commenting and enjoying the show. Someone yelled up from the back.
“Tell us the infamous story of you and the two tavern maids!”
“A gentleman does not kiss and tell, my good man! But since it’s written in the history books, I shall regal what is socially acceptable…just so I can set the record straight once and for all.”
This man had the gall to reveal what he thought he knew of their tryst? Millie sat down in mid-air and crossed her legs, showing her upper calves and didn’t give a damn. Who would see her anyway? Of all the nerve! This man thought he had the know of it? She snorted. This she had to hear.
“I had come into town on a Friday for my usual provisions for the mill. My foreman, Daniel would bring the cart, load it and crate it back to the mill. I would offer him a pint at the tavern each week, but the man couldn’t hold his ale and wasn’t one to socialize much. So I would have a pint for him…then one for me…and a toast to the town and anyone who might be celebrating a wee babe being born healthy and right. Then I always made another pint toast to my tavern keep. Ol’ Hank was a good friend, God rest his soul… and of course there was Millie, I always raised a pint to her.”
Millie found herself sitting up even taller, waiting to hear what this man said about her. So far, he was uncannily accurate of what James would have done. He was good. She watched as he removed his tricorne and placed it over his heart, looking up towards the ceiling.
“Millie…Millie Taylor—ah yes. A good night was had by her lusty smile alone. She made a man dance a jig just so he had an excuse to adjust his breeches. Fair of skin with dark blonde hair and the eyes the color of a clear sky in spring. Robust and full-bodied, that one…”
“Like your ale?” Dave came back with a full pint in a silver mug.
Taking the pro-offered cup James continued. “Ah… a man who knows what I’m talking about.” James raised his mug to Dave and took a healthy sip, wiping the foam from his mouth on his sleeve.
Oh dear God! This man was excellent! He had James Addison’s mannerisms down to a fine point needle, even the way he wiped the froth of his ale from his upper lip. She sat enthralled as he continued.
“I had a thing for Millie, she’d been my girl for many months, but my libido got the better of me when she took ill for a few days and I befriended a new tavern maid…” he thought for a moment, “Kiki. Feisty as the summer was hot! She didn’t take no for an answer either. Not that I would ever begrudge the company of a young woman’s charms.”
Of course not! Not James, never James. But the laughter ensued. Millie snorted, if they even had a clue!
“Well, as fate would have it, the following week both young lass’s were working the tavern. Millie being my usual found it odd to see Kiki muscling in on her territory. You all know how women can be. I won’t mention the words exchanged, in honor of such fine ladies and for the delicacy of you good folks here tonight. A great amount of hair pulling and finger clawing like two cats in heat commenced. I must admit it brought more than a few men to attention, if you get my meaning.”
“Hank broke up the fight, ordering both girls to pack up their belongings and leave. I felt the punishment much too harsh and being the cause of the skirmish I took it upon myself to handle the situation in a gentlemanly manner. Now, what I will say is the suggestion was mine and I could have been well in my cups already. I’d recently come from a friend’s house in which I’d partaken of a splash or two of his fine rum. But yes, truth be told, I offered to appease them, as the legend goes.”
He paused, took another healthy sip from his mug, letting the audience, including her, wait with baited breath for him to continue. Would he go into detail? Millie sensed a ghostly flush rising over her spirit. Could the one night be the reason for her still being here, the true cause she’d not been invited to Heaven?
Her father had always scolded her for her loose morals and if she didn’t repent she’d go straight to Hell. She’d never regretted the night so she never repented. Well, she’s still here in Kings Mill—not quite Heaven or Hell but somewhere in between. What would the people think of her if they knew the truth? Did this man really know or would she be shamed by a deception?
James Addison wiped his lips again on his sleeve. “You are still asking yourself if the two women agreed to my request…ah well, that my dear friends is for Millie and Kiki to tell, if they so choose.”
Millie wasn’t sure if the guests were disappointed he didn’t reveal all the details. But she had to admit, she was relieved. She’d enjoyed the moment immensely but it would remain private and personal, even after all these years.
“I would like to make a toast…’To Millie and Kiki, may they be at peace in their eternal rest. God Bless ‘em.” He drank the rest of his ale and slammed the mug down on the bar behind him in joviality. “Now enjoy your evening and remember to tip your hard-working servers, fairly.” With that he thanked them and gave a dashing bow, securing his tricorne back on his handsome head. It amazed her how much the man looked like her James.
A boisterous round of cheers followed from the guests and servers alike and Millie felt a tear of happiness escape and watched in awe as it plopped down onto the young woman’s auburn head below her. Biting her lip she waited as the woman tilted her head up to study the rafters. A comely lass with stormy green eyes and hair weaved into a braid over her shoulders. But her facial muscles tightened as if wanting to start a fight. Millie knew the look intimately. She’d witnessed it the night she fought Kiki.
The guests returned to eating and talking among themselves. The man portraying her James Addison manuvered out of their line of vision and made his way towards the woman, pulling her to his side in the shadowed servers entry. Millie floated above, hovering in the background. She watched as the man stroked the woman’s cheek and kiss her like a tender lover.
No. This couldn’t be the same James Addison. James was never one to linger publicly with such a display of affection. He’d been a behind the door kind of lover. The woman pulled him close, removed his hat and whispered something in his ear. Millie missed the moment to find out what the lass said. In a split second she’d wrapped her muffler around her neck, placed her cap on her head, and stormed out the side exit of the tavern, leaving him holding his tricorne and looking forlorn. The words must have been heated for the door to slam so on its hinges.
Millie floated down to earth and stood just behind the man, feeling the need to say or do something. He appeared troubled and yet eager. Like a man torn. But he’d been wonderful tonight and she wanted to somehow tell him how much his story meant to her. He toyed with his hat, looking around the tavern as if searching for something.
“Millie…I can feel you in this place. I look around and I think I sense you in every corner of the room,” the man whispered as he stood alone in the narrow doorway between the back kitchen and the outside server’s entry. “I always thought of you as I’d pass by in the two hundred thirty-eight years of hellish limbo, but I never saw you. If you are here I wish for you to find the happiness I’ve found of late with April. It’s funny how ironic death would lead me to the right woman. Fate brought her to me. I hope fate is as good to you, my old friend.”
Stepping forward she gasped realizing this might be James. Could it be? Was he really here, in the flesh? She placed her hand on his shoulder but she couldn’t make solid contact. He did turn around but his eyes closed as he breathed in the musty tavern air.
“Rose water. I can almost smell your scent.” He opened his eyes and she could see the tight movement of his Adam’s apple bobbing; a sheen of moisture crossing those dark, midnight lover’s eyes. “Kiss me good-bye, Millie. I’ve been blessed with a second chance. And if there is a merciful God in heaven…one I don’t want to give up.”
“Thank you, James, for everything back then and for tonight,” she said, not knowing if he heard her or not but saying it all the same. She bused a kiss on his mouth, not touching in the physical sense. Feeling lighter, Millie delighted in knowing he was okay after all these years.
A slight smile played across his lips when she stood back. He wiped his eyes with the back of his sleeve. Had he been removing a tear? She couldn’t tell. Clearing his throat with a husky cough, he slammed his tricorne back onto his head and hurried out the door in which his young woman, had exited through, only moments earlier.
Millie watched him leave with a mixture of contentment and loss. James had never been hers, not really; even back in the day. Sighing, she floated back into the dining area to check on her young lovers. Thomas and Charity were still working together, bumping elbows and hands as they cleared their large party’s table after they had left. The subtle laughs and Charity, biting her lip at something Thomas said to her had Millie eager to see what these two potential love birds were up to. It would cheer her heart even more if they paired.
“…I can’t, I’m dating someone,” Charity whispered.
“Oh.” Thomas’s nervous fingers knocked over a glass with a small amount of liquid in it and they scrambled to take care of the mess.
“I’m sorry.” Charity looked up at him but his eyes didn’t meet hers. “I really am.”
Thomas shrugged her off with feigned indifference and took the tote of dirty dishes to the kitchen as if nothing else mattered. Charity sighed.
“Silly girl, you would let a fine man slip right through your fingers?” Millie stood next to the girl’s shoulder.
“I wish I’d met him sooner,” Charity mumbled to herself as if angry with the choices she’d made.
Millie jerked her head back. Were those Charity’s thoughts or had she involuntarily coerced her into thinking those things? She would have to keep an eye on her tonight.
The rest of the evening turned uneventful. Just the same regular customers, after the hubbub of James Addison died down, coming in for their nightly brew. The bar prepared to close when a last group of clientele arrived and sat down at a large table.
Didn’t they know it was last call? Millie thought she knew of the one burly muscled, man. When Charity came out to take their orders, she realized who he was. He grabbed Charity by the hip and forced her closer to his side, burying his face in her voluptuous, corseted breasts.
So some things didn’t change much. But this was the guy she dated, if Millie remembered correctly. Dear God, the girl’s daft to be paired to the cad! If it were her, she’d drop this beastly idiot for Thomas in less than a sober thought.
“Mark, please—not here.” Charity tried to move away from him. “You’ve been drinking.” She waved her hand to ward off his smell.
“Yeah, so? You my mother now?” He pinched her bottom. “I’m claiming you so no one gets any ideas.”
“I am not your property!” Charity threw out her hip and leaned on it.
Huzzah girl! Stand up for yourself.
The other guys made disgusting comments telling him to ‘show her who was boss’, ‘who wore the pants in the relationship’ and ‘how he needed to keep her in line, if he were a real man’.
What a disgraceful group of arses! Millie glared through narrowed eyes as Charity took their orders and dealt with the gropes and pinches Mark allowed his friends to get away with. She walked away in a huff, retreating to the kitchen as they threw random changes to their food orders.
Thomas worked silently behind the bar, washing the glasses as the customers finished their last mugs of ale. Millie caught the tick in his jaw as he eyed the group harassing Charity. By the looks of things, he didn’t give a rat’s ass who Mark was, he’d love to punch the guy out and take out the rest of them, too.
She waited to see what the young lad would do. Finally he grabbed a bar towel and went to wipe down the tables and chairs before stacking them for the night.
“Hey,” Mark called to him, “aren’t you Steve Mather’s kid brother?”
“Yeah, why?” Thomas admitted.
In the muffled voices from Mark’s friends, someone said something about an ‘ass kicking’.
“Your douche of a brother took out my knee during homecoming game ten years ago. It was the last play of the night, too. Cost me my ride to Penn State.”
Millie rolled her eyes. Don’t apologize to this sop! How is his knee your fault?
“Sorry? Sorry!” Mark stood up from the wooden table, scraping the chair against the floor. Some of the regulars at the bar turned around but then went back to their last drinks. “Do you hear this, guys? Little Mather here said, ‘Sorry’,” he mimicked in a tone which in no way represented the deep baritone of Thomas Mather’s more mature voice.
Mark lumbered towards Thomas. His friends were right there behind him. Charity picked this time to enter the dining area again knowing without a doubt what Mark was about to do.
“Mark, knock it off! Just leave him alone?”
“Stay out of this,–” he ended the comment with a derogatory slur. Mark cracked his knuckles against his palm and popped his neck.
Millie gasped at such a word. An ungentlemanly remark in any era of time. The tick in Thomas’ face intensified, his hands weren’t sure whether to ball into fists or not. Would he turn the other cheek? She thought he might…until Mark had called Charity the “b” word.
“Don’t ever call her that!” Thomas said in a low, throaty growl.
Mark retaliated. “Whatcha gonna do to me? Hit me with your bar towel? Bring it on, Mather!” He got in Thomas’s face. Mark dragged the foul word out again, in regards to sweet Charity, in front Thomas and turned to smirk at his friends, figuring Thomas would be too weak to make a move. Wrong!
Thomas clocked Mark with a right to his jaw, but the big brute only rubbed his face and raised an eye brow at him. The fighting ensued. Only problem, poor Thomas was out-numbered and Charity wouldn’t be able to fight off all the other guys. Searching her surroundings, Millie tried to find something to use. Her energy to maneuver solid objects drained her most of the time. She’d kept toiling to perfect her art and had been getting pretty good lately, moving things in the attic, spooking the current owners and customers, to let them know she was still here. But would this be a viable alternative?
While she busily looked around, Mark went in for a punch. Charity screamed, bringing Dave running in from the back. Thomas feinted and avoided the hit that would have knocked him cold. Instead, Thomas caught Mark’s forward momentum and took him down in a headlock, somehow securing the beefy guys arms under his own weight and not letting him up.
The words coming from Mark weren’t fit to mention. But Millie noticed the other guys approach as Dave went to call the cops. He knew better than to get involved. Millie still felt bad about the chair she’d thrown at him a few years ago during a similar brawl; she hadn’t realized her strength at the time. But Dave had gotten in her way.
Sighing she went for the only things she could control. Chairs were too heavy and cumbersome but glass mugs would work. Hurrying to the bar, she began tossing them from the rack hanging overhead. The regulars sat back in shock, seeing the glasses magically fall and launch themselves towards the group of trouble makers.
Charity ducked as one mug after another came flying towards them and smacked two of the young men in the head. She turned around and squinted in her direction. Could the girl see her? Thomas looked up from securing Mark, whose mouth needed a good soaping, to see Charity’s gapping mouth. He stared, too.
The few guys who hadn’t been hit crouched in protective stances, covering the heads with their hands, rising to full height as Millie realized she’d run out of mugs. Dave returned to the main room as the wail of sirens filled the quiet night. Everyone stared in her direction. Dear God! Could they all see her?
An officer walked through the door, taking in the halted chaos. He turned his focus on their bewilderment. Millie looked at him; he looked at her. Now there was a handsome cad! Her heart gave a lurch of excitement when the blond, uniformed man cocked his eyebrow and studied her thoroughly before rubbing his eyes and laughing. Momentarily drawn to the sound of his laughter and the heat in his eyes, Millie forgot those around her.
“ Holy Christ! Unbelievable! Is she for real?” he uttered, breaking the spell he had on her.
The situation finally dawned on her. Their shocked expressions were from seeing a ghost, namely her. Looking across the room into the mirror, she saw her reflection. She sat on the bar, half formed, in a shadowy outline of her former self. She shimmered like rising mist. The whole incident might have been only a moment but to her, it felt like an eternity as the people around her stopped and gaped. Biting her lip she disappeared all together, letting the mortification take her back to the safety of her attic room.
She didn’t dare go back downstairs for fear of being seen. How had she been able to manifest? Had working with physical objects given her the energy to do so—after all these years? She waited in the eaves under the roof to watch the remainder of the night’s activities. The handsome officer led Mark and his friends away in handcuffs. She couldn’t help but feel a tingle of awareness when she saw him being all ‘in control’. Maybe it was the uniform? She wouldn’t dwell on it, she was a ghost.
Millie cocked her head as two figures emerged from the shadows of the server’s-entry below; Thomas and Charity. They talked.Unfortunately she was too far away to hear what they were saying. Still, the way the lass let Thomas help her with her coat and walk her to her odd horseless carriage showed promise. But the quick kiss Charity planted on his lips had Millie sighing with delight. The night had not been a waste!
Turning back to her dusty attic dwelling she frowned. There was a presence here. Looking around in the shadows she didn’t see it right away. A hand came out and grabbed her around her throat. Gasping, Millie couldn’t believe it, but then a weakness engulfed her soul. She knew something wasn’t right in her world.
“Where is he? Where is James Addison?”
“I don’t know. Who are you?” she gasped. She shouldn’t be able to feel anything, right? She was dead.
Millie stumbled as her assailant shoved her across the room. A man stepped out of the shadows. Henry Samuel! His clothes bespoke of her time period, his familiar periwig askew on his large rounded head.
“You know who I am. I want to know why James Addison is alive!”
As a prominent citizen of Kings Land, Henry Samuel had been the land commissioner even before the town name changed officially to Kings Mill. He’d presented himself as a man of good character to the public, but it was all a façade. He was evil and treated women with a harsh hand. Millie never had him in her bed but knew of others who had. They’d come back from his bed with shattered souls and angry bruises. There’d been rumors he’d been the one to have James executed.
“I…don’t know anything. James was here tonight? But he’s dead…it couldn’t have been him,” she lied, stuttering. Somehow she knew it had been the real James Addison she’d seen tonight.
“It was him.” He glared at her with his beady eyes. “And yes, he is very much alive and I want to know how.”
“I can’t help you. I can’t leave the tavern.”
“Figures! You’re a weak and simple woman. You can’t do anything! You’re still just a tavern whore.” He turned and walked away.
He disappeared before she could react. Millie sat in the darkness cringing in fear from the ghost of a man. Was it true? She had seen James Addison! Was James really alive? She’d encountered two ghosts from her past in less than a night, and she’d partially materialized; something she’d never been able to do. What was going on? Was it possible she could be brought back from the dead, too?
Let fate guide you to April and James in their story, Wanted: One Ghost, coming June 2013, from Crescent Moon Press