A sculpted eyebrow arched, challenge in her eyes. Do it. Ask the question no one else has been able to. I couldn’t help but be intrigued, hooked by the suggestion that I might get an answer to the mystery that had consumed us all.
“Are you Emily or Amelie?”
A vacuum appeared in the wake of the card; Lawrence paled. Paul shifted uneasily on the beanbag, turned makeshift chair. Zowie’s hand hovered over the remaining deck, waiting for the next question.
“Did you send the letters we found?”
“Hearts, yes.” We all stared at the six of hearts. Moments before we’d been playing chase the ace, the cottage had been filled with laughter. It had been almost as though we hadn’t found the handwritten letter, hidden behind the tin pressing of a ship.
“Are you here with us now?”
Where I dropped the thread of inquiry, Paul picked it up. The response was a club, a maybe.
“If you’re here with us, give us a sign.”
Usually yes, no, definitely, maybe was the highlight of the holiday. This time, though, there was an edge to the atmosphere. Shadows danced just beyond the hatch, crawling up the kitchen walls. Crash! A jump rippled through the room. Dave was on his feet by the time Bessie had reached the door.
Nothing had been displaced. Only our sense of security.
It took some time before we all settled back into our seats, feeling anything but settled. Unease drew us closer, Zowie resuming her position at the head of the table with the pack of cards in her hand. Without prior conversation it was obvious that the game had drawn to a close. All that remained was to close the game down, superstition dictated that any spirits had to give their blessing for us to leave.
“We’re going to leave now, do we have your permission to leave?”
“We’re leaving now…”
As the pack dwindled to the last few cards the atmosphere suffocated the remaining frivolity from the room. Hairs along my nape rose, aware the room seemed suddenly vast and filled with a presence that was not our own.
“Right, I’m pulling rank, we’re leaving.”