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Ghost Gallery © 2018 by Foxglove Lee


All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system.


This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead, organizations, events or locales is entirely coincidental.


Cover design © 2018 Foxglove Lee

First Edition February 2018


Ghost Gallery


from the series

Queer Ghost Stories


By Foxglove Lee






“Okay, people!” Dolina called out. “Gather ‘round, gather ‘round! I’ve got an announcement to make.”

Xan fell into place while the gallery director rounded up her employees like baby chicks. Baby chicks in identical black shirts and slacks. Xan didn’t mind the uniform. Way better than what he had to wear at his old job slinging tacos for wasted teens at two in the morning.

“Is everybody here?” Dolina asked the group. “I know it’s the end of the day and you’re anxious to get home, but I need to implore you…”

Everyone groaned. Everyone but Xan. They all seemed to know what was coming. Lucky them.

“Quiet down, now,” the gallery director went on. “As you all know, the infamously decadent Safiya Bhat has a show opening tomorrow night.”

Every cell in Xan’s body tingled when he heard that name. Safiya Bhat was huge in the art world, especially in his circle of friends. Being trans himself, he couldn’t help but root for a modern artist who’d transitioned in such a public way. Xan was a pretty private person. He could never have done what Safiya Bhat did.

Dolina went on to say, “This is a huge opportunity for us. With her work on show, we’re bound to draw in a younger, more avant garde clientele. Problem is, dear Safiya is known for delivering her product at the last possible second. We were supposed to have it days ago. We still haven’t seen a single piece.”

There were a few groans around the room, and for some reason Xan felt personally responsible for the artist’s failings.

“I just got off the phone with Safiya,” Dolina continued. “She promised me she’d deliver it herself, but she won’t get here until two in the morning.”

“Why doesn’t she bring it tomorrow—at a normal time, like a normal person?” some guy asked. Xan had been introduced all around, but he couldn’t for the life of him remember everybody’s names.

A pretty little brunette replied, “Artists aren’t normal people.”

That joke fell pretty flat, considering almost everyone who worked at the gallery was also an aspiring artist. Read the room, sister!

Dolina said, “Apparently Safiya’s got a plane to catch. She only has this brief window of time to drop off her work. It’s inconvenient for us, I realize, but she’s a big name, these days. We’re going to have to cater to her.”

Someone across the room said, “Let me guess: you’re asking one of us to stay late?”

“I would do it, obviously,” Dolina replied. “But I’ve got the baby at home. I’ve got family responsibilities.”

“Bring your baby here,” the guy across the room suggested.

Dolina popped a hip. “Are you kidding me? I ain’t bringing my baby to no haunted gallery.”

Haunted gallery? Wait, what?

Xan glanced around, but nobody else seemed surprised by this information. It was old news to them, from what he could gather.

“I’ll do it for double time,” someone offered.

Dolina raised a brow. “Keep dreaming, Dempsey.”

Xan stepped forward and raised his hand. “I’ll do it.”

The room fell silent.

“Oh,” Dolina said. “Xan, I couldn’t ask you to take on this level of responsibility.”

“But I’d get to meet Safiya Bhat, right?”

“Well, yes. You’d be taking the delivery.”

“Okay,” Xan said eagerly. “I can do that.”

Dolina didn’t seem so sure. “You just started working here, Xan. I’d have to give you the code to lock up.”

“You can trust me,” Xan replied. “I was a key holder at Taco Palace. And I worked the night shift, so you know I won’t fall asleep.”

“Nobody could fall asleep in this place,” somebody whispered. “Too creepy at night.”

The little pixie brunette came up beside Xan and said, “I’ll stay with him. I don’t mind the ghosts.”

Xan looked at the girl. She seemed young, but maybe that’s just because she was short. Her skin was very white and her hair was chestnut brown in a classic cut that curled just under her ears. She was dressed just like everybody else, but there was something about her that seemed a little different. All the other employees at the gallery seemed really cynical and narcissistic. This girl came off innocent in comparison.

“Well, I’m in a jam,” Dolina said. “Okay, Xan, you’ll have to do. Thanks for the offer. Everybody else, you’re released. Enjoy your freedom, and I’ll see you tomorrow to set up for Safiya’s big show.”

Everyone took off except for Xan and the brunette, who stuck close by him while Dolina explained what to do when the artist arrived and how to lock up when he left. The weird thing was that this brunette girl had to have worked at the gallery for longer than him, and yet Dolina addressed all the instructions to Xan. Maybe it was part of his training. Maybe this pixie girl already knew how to take a delivery and lock up.

By the time Dolina left the gallery, the place was down to mood lighting. Other employees had turned out most of the lights. All that was left were the faint emergency ones in the hallways.

“Well,” his pixie companion said, bouncing forward on her toes. “I guess it’s just you and me.”

“I hope you’re right about that,” Xan replied.

She cocked her head like she didn’t understand.

“All those other employees. They didn’t want to work late. They said the gallery was haunted. Obviously you’re not too concerned or you wouldn’t have stayed with me.”

“Oh, I’m not worried about ghosts,” the girl said, hugging Xan’s arm flirtatiously. “I’ve got a big strong Xan to protect me.”

Xan rolled his eyes. Big and strong were not words he would generally use to describe himself. Tall, sure. Lanky, definitely. Beanpole, yes that too.

“This is really embarrassing,” Xan said, cautiously extracting his arm from hers. “But I don’t remember your name. I’m really sorry. I’ve just met so many new people in such a small space of time.”

“Oh, that’s okay,” the girl replied. “I’m not even sure we were properly introduced. I’m Gracie. I’ve worked here… oh, a pretty long time compared to some people. We lose a lot of employees here, because of the ghosts.”

Hard to believe she’d worked at the gallery for long. She looked like a teenager. Early twenties at a push. But, then again, some people looked young right into their thirties. Maybe Gracie was that type.

“If you’ve worked here for a while,” Xan asked, “have you seen these ghosts?”

Gracie shook her head so adamantly her short hair swung side to side. “No, never. Heard them, yes. Never seen them.”

An unexpected chill ran down Xan’s spine. “You’ve heard them? What have you heard?”

A faintly maternal smile crossed Gracie’s lips, like he was a little kid who’d just asked a stupid question.

“You’ll find out soon enough,” she said. “Nobody’s ever worked late here at the gallery without at least hearing something.”

The chill that had started in Xan’s spine moved down his thighs. Suddenly his skin felt very cold. Very cold. He tried to brush his hands down his sides, but his hands were even colder than his legs. This was massively weird.

“I heard someone say you’re trans,” Gracie told him. “That’s cool.”

Xan tried to shrug, but it turned into a shiver. “I yams what I yams.”

“Is that why you want to meet Safiya Bhat?” Gracie asked. “She’s trans too.”

To any other person he’d just met, Xan probably would have said he respected her as an artist, but Gracie didn’t seem judgemental in any way. She just seemed like a totally authentic, honest person. So Xan was honest too. He said, “It’s so cool that Safiya Bhat was able to transition publicly and she didn’t lose her fan base. If anything, she got more famous the more out she was. I find that really… encouraging.”

Gracie smiled the sort of smile that made Xan respond in kind. She then said, “I’m glad you get to meet someone who inspires you. I’m glad I get to be here for it.”

Xan couldn’t help wondering if this pixie girl had a little crush on him, but maybe he was flattering himself. Maybe she was just a nice person. You don’t meet a lot of genuinely nice people in an art gallery. Or at a Taco Palace, for that matter.

Just as he was trying to think up a question to ask about the ghosts that were supposedly haunting his new workplace, the distinct sound of footsteps echoed overhead. Hard-soled shoes on a creaky wooden floor. No mistaking it.

Gracie looked casually at the ceiling. Someone was walking around upstairs.

With a nervous laugh, Xan said, “I didn’t realize anyone was still here. I thought we were alone in the building.”

“We are,” Gracie replied.

She must have been pulling his leg. Right? He looked straight at her, and she looked back at him, her expression blank.

“You’re joking, right? This is a trick you play on the new guy? Get him to work late, tell him the place is haunted. Haha, very funny. You got me. Now who’s upstairs?”

“No one,” she said in all sincerity. “We did a sweep of the building with Dolina. You know there’s no one here.”

He couldn’t be absolutely sure of that. Someone could easily have been hanging out in the bathroom all this time, just waiting for a chance to scare the new hire.

The gallery turned quiet. Too quiet. Xan couldn’t even hear the buzzing of those emergency lights in the hallway. They were on. He could see them glowing. But he couldn’t hear them like he could before. He couldn’t even hear traffic noise outside. He glanced toward the window. No cars on the road. No people walking the street. Like the whole world had just disappeared.

A terrifying squeal cut through the silence. This time, Gracie jumped too. She clutched at her chest. Xan grabbed her arm. Maybe too hard. He felt her flinch and let go, but asked, “What was that?”

Gracie held one finger against her lips. She didn’t move. Neither did he.

There it was again! A screeching sound overhead. Xan knew just what it was, this time. That was the sound of furniture moving across the floor. Heavy furniture, like a dresser or a bookshelf or a bed. The noise was coming from directly overhead. And yet, when he pictured the rooms on the second storey, he couldn’t envision one with furniture in it. Had to be one of the cases. One of the cases that contained smalls, like tiny statuary or pottery or jewellery.

“Someone’s gotta be up there,” Xan said.

“Nobody else is here!” Gracie told him. “Everyone’s gone home!”

“Then it must be a burglar.”

“You mean an art thief?”

“Whatever!” He tugged her arm. “Come on, we’ve gotta go confront the guy before he makes off with the gallery’s stuff!”

Gracie held her ground, stayed put, but Xan had so much adrenaline rushing through his veins that he took the stairs by twos. His heart pounded in his throat as he gazed down the second floor hallway. There was a major viewing salon at the front end of the gallery. That was the room that would have been directly over their heads downstairs. That was the room where they’d heard heavy footsteps, where they’d heard furniture scraping the floors.

He was scared as hell. No denying that. But he prepared himself for confrontation as he marched down the hall and into the second floor salon.

What was he expecting to find?

A cat burglar dressed all in black.

What did he actually find?

Nothing.

No one.

An empty room.

And, what’s more, the salon was completely unfurnished. It didn’t contain any of those viewing cases he’d been picturing. Not even a bench for art lovers to sit on while they observed the paintings. Just moonlight bouncing off white walls, and modern art absorbing absent gazes.

What could have made all that noise?

Xan turned sharply. He gasped when he saw a figure standing in the salon entrance.

“Sorry,” Gracie said. “Did I scare you?”

“No,” he lied. “I just didn’t hear you coming.”

“I know,” Gracie told him. “These floors are all underpadded or reinforced or whatever it’s called.” She walked across the room to show him what she meant. “See? No squeaks, no creaks.”

She was right. She barely made a sound as she walked around the room.

“So what were we hearing downstairs?” Xan asked.

Casually, she said, “I already told you: it was the ghosts. They’re really noisy up here.”

“But that makes no sense. How can we hear their footfalls on a reinforced floor? How can we hear them moving furniture when there’s no furniture in the room?”

“Because,” she said simply. “They’re living in their time, not ours. They’re interacting with the world as it was, not the world as it is.”

“When?” Xan asked. “Who are they? When are they?”

Gracie walked quietly to the window and pressed her forehead against the glass. The moonlight caused her skin to glow a spectral bluish tone. Her hair looked much darker than it had downstairs.

Forlornly, she said, “Most people think the noisy ghosts are the ones who first owned this house They had it built in the 1800s as a summer retreat.”

“And they loved it so much they never left?” Xan asked.

Staring out the window, Gracie said, “Who knows? This building has passed through so many hands across the decades. After the first owners died, it became a convent for a while.”

“Like with nuns?” Xan asked.

The look she gave him told him that was a stupid question. “Then after the First World War, it served as a recovery hospital for soldiers with lung problems—you know, because of the mustard gas and all that.”

Xan nodded along. He probably should have paid more attention in history class.

“And during World War Two, it was a school and a residence. Like, you know how London was being bombed by the Nazis? A bunch of kids from England were sent over to spend the war years here. That way they’d be safe. No bombs.”

“Wow,” Xan said. “I never knew that was a thing.”

“It was,” Gracie replied with a nod. “See, this building went through a lot of incarnations before it was an art gallery. The ghosts could be anyone: homesick kids, a nun with a secret… there’s no way of knowing who’s haunting the place.”

“I bet it’s the nuns,” Xan replied, and as soon as those words left his mouth, a bang sounded from across the building. “What was that?”

Gracie didn’t answer. Instead, she said, “This is why nobody works at night. This is what you have to contend with.”

“Noises?” Xan confirmed.

“Noises if you’re lucky.”

What was that supposed to mean?

“Come on,” Xan said, pointing in the direction of the bang. “We should go check it out.”

Gracie sighed. “If you insist.” She trailed far behind him as he crossed the hallway. She only caught up when he’d reached the second major gallery space on the upstairs level. This one did have seating and cases for smaller displays. It also housed some of the larger sculptures, but they didn’t seem to have been moved. Anyway, the sounds they’d heard downstairs were directly over their heads, not all the way on the opposite side of the building.

Xan and Gracie wandered the entire floor together and didn’t find a single thing out of place. After that, they wandered the first floor. Nothing else to do but wait for the artist to arrive.

They hung out in the staff room for a while. The lights in the rest of the gallery were on timers, so the staff room was the only place where they could get a reasonable amount of light. Xan used the gallery’s wifi to watch Fullmetal on his phone, and Gracie watched over his shoulder, but she’d never seen it before and she kept asking questions, which was mega-annoying.

He’d just about put the ghosts out of his mind when a huge sound echoed throughout the building. Xan put his phone away and leapt to his feet, waiting to see if he’d hear it again. When he didn’t, he tried to replay the noise in his mind to figure out what it might have been and where it might have come from, but he just wasn’t sure.

“What was that?” he finally asked.

“I don’t know,” Gracie replied. “It sounded like… like… I don’t know.”

“Where did it come from?”

“Upstairs, I think. Most of the time when people hear noises, they come from upstairs. From that same salon we were in before.”

Decisively, Xan marched toward the staff room door. “Come on,” he told Gracie. “Let’s check it out.”

He wasn’t ready for the darkness outside. Sure the hallways were lit with those emergency lights, but he’d forgotten how dim they were, especially compared to the full light of the staff room.

As he stood in the threshold between light and dark, he could feel Gracie standing just behind him, her chest almost touching his back. “Well?” she asked. “What are you waiting for?”

He couldn’t answer that question. He honestly didn’t know.

“Mister Big Stuff,” she said, shoving him forward. “Let’s go.”

He didn’t feel like Mister Big anything once he’d set foot in the darkened hallway. The staff room door snapped closed behind them, shutting them out of the light. It was spooky in the gallery at night. He’d forgotten that pretty quickly.

How easy it is to escape into stories. They make the real world disappear.

Gracie’s fingertips met Xan’s back, and she pushed him toward the staircase little by little. “You’re the one who said we should check it out, so let’s check it out. Or did you change your mind?”

“No,” he said gruffly, trying to re-establish his macho cred in front of this pixie chick. “I’m just listening for that sound, in case it happens again.”

“Oh,” she whispered. “Good idea.”

Gracie shut her yap after that. They both did.

The gallery turned eerily quiet as they crept up the stairs. Their shoes barely squeaked as they ascended, but someone’s did. Well, not squeaked. That’s the wrong word. Somebody’s shoes echoed. Those same hard soles they’d heard earlier in the evening. And Gracie was right. The noise was coming from that front salon, the white room.

That’s where they headed.

Following the footfalls.

Not knowing what they would find when they arrived.

But the salon was every bit as empty as it had been earlier. Moonlight bounced off the white walls. Paintings absorbed the glow of the street. Nothing had changed.

Or had it?

Gracie gasped, clutching Xan’s arm with one hand while she pointed across the room with the other. “Look! The window! It’s open!”

She was right. The lower portion of the front window was up. But maybe it had been like that before and he just hadn’t noticed. He tried to think back, picturing Gracie leaning her head against the window. No, it had definitely been closed. He was sure of it.

Maybe his mind was playing tricks on him. He said, “Maybe it’s been open this whole time.”

“No, you don’t understand,” Gracie said, still clutching his arm. “This is a climate-controlled salon. Those windows have been sealed shut for years. There’s no way… there’s just no way… oh, I gotta pee!”

Releasing her hold on his arm, Gracie fled the room, stomping down the staircase and disappearing onto the first level. Wow, was that girl ever scared. Not that Xan wasn’t. This gallery was creepy as hell. No wonder the other employees refused to work at night. No wonder Dolina wouldn’t bring her baby here.

Xan crossed the room, wondering if the open window was some kind of optical illusion, but when he got close enough, he could feel the cool night air wafting in through the opening.

Gracie said these windows were sealed shut years ago, so maybe the seal had been broken somehow. The salon had six windows in total: three larger ones at the top and three smaller ones beneath them. It was the small one in the middle that was open. To see if the seals had broken, Xan tried to lift the one next to it. No go. Even with all his strength, he couldn’t get that one up. He tried the window on the other side, but same story. It wouldn’t budge.

After breaking a sweat trying to get those windows open, Xan leaned against the window frame, fanning himself with both hands. He could hear the gentle squeak of Gracie’s shoes approaching the salon, but when she arrived at the entrance, she didn’t stop there. He watched her overshoot the room, go past it without so much as glancing inside. Weird. Where was she headed? There was nothing in that direction but the emergency exit. And why was she walking in that strange fluid way? Almost seemed like she wasn’t lifting her feet, just floating past.

“Gracie?” Xan called out. “I’m in here. Where are you going?”

When she didn’t answer, Xan hopped across the salon and poked his head into the hallway.

There was no one around.

No sign of Gracie.

That was impossible. Where could she have gone? He’d just seen her walk by, and there was nowhere to go in that direction. Just the emergency exit, and if she’d gone out that door, it would have triggered an alarm.

Where was she?

He stepped into the hall. “Gracie?”

Slam!

Xan whipped around just in time to see the open window bang closed. His first instinct was to rush to it, try to open it again, but as soon as he set foot in the salon he felt as though his entire body were enmeshed in floor-to-ceiling spider webs. He was caught in a sticky sort of darkness he’d never experienced in all his life.

“Gracie?” he asked, but his voice felt muted. He could barely hear himself speak.

And then he saw it. The scene that must have been playing out in this comfortably appointed bedroom every night for more than a century.

A big man.

A little woman.

Their voices were muted too, but he could tell by their clothing they lived in the 1800s. He couldn’t see their faces clearly. It was like someone had smeared the lens with Vaseline. He could just make out the gist of them.

But he knew exactly what was going on.

The man was yelling.

The woman was cowering.

He raised his bottle.

She covered her head.

It was too late. He brought that bottle down on her like a bolt of lightning. Struck her with it. She crumpled to the ground, her billowy blue gown surrounding her body like a lake. The big man kicked her, but she didn’t move. She lay motionless as he circled her contemptuously.

“No!” Xan cried, fighting off the sticky spider web feeling. He had to get to this woman. “No, don’t die!”

It was like swimming standing up. Swimming through wet cement. He fought so hard to get to her. She was so close, and yet it felt as though it took hours to get to her. When he arrived at her side, he fell to his knees and grabbed hold of her heavy head, placing its dead weight on his thighs.

“Don’t die,” he said. “Stay with me. Don’t die.”

The blood seeping from her wound adhered her dark brown locks to her pale bluish skin. Xan swept the clumps of hair out of the way to get a clear look at the tiny woman’s face. When he caught sight of it, his heart nearly exploded.

“Gracie!” he said. “It’s you!”

“Yeah,” said a voice at his back. “Who else would it be?”

Xan swivelled around to see Gracie standing in the doorway. Not Gracie in a blue gown. Not Gracie with a head wound. Not Gracie gushing with blood. Just Gracie in her black top and trousers with her neat chestnut hair in a classic cut.

When Xan looked into his lap, there was no one lying there. No 19th century Gracie in her death state. No abusive husband looming over her. No bed, no wallpaper, no furnishings. Just those same white walls adorned with modern art.

“This was a bedroom,” Xan muttered.

“When the house was first built, sure.”

“There was a bed there,” Xan went on. “And over there, a writing desk.” He looked up at Gracie. “And you were there.”

She laughed, placing a gentle hand over her heart. “Who, me?”

It all made sense now: why Dolina had addressed the staying-late instructions to him and not her, why none of the other staff members reacted to anything she said. They couldn’t see her. They couldn’t hear her. Because she was a ghost.

“This was you,” Xan went on, his legs so weak with fear he couldn’t stand. “I saw you die. I saw your death. I know what happened.”

Gracie cocked her head suspiciously. “What exactly were you smoking while I was in the bathroom?”

“You don’t have to pretend anymore,” he assured her. “I know who you are—who you really are.”

That got her. She blinked about a thousand times and clutched her collar. “You know? How do you know? How did you find out?”

A loud banging sound resonated throughout the gallery. It seemed so real Xan’s whole body stiffened. There it was again! Where was it coming from?

Gracie didn’t seem so shocked, but ghosts were like that. They didn’t scare easy. She said, “Come on, let’s get the door.”

“The door?” Xan stammered. “The door to where?”

To heaven? To hell? To another dimension? Where was he taking her?

“You are acting so weird,” Gracie said as she faded into the darkness of the hallway. From somewhere out there, she went on, “That’ll be Safiya Bhat with her art delivery. Don’t want to keep her waiting.”

Xan’s heart raced when he realized the actual world and the ghost world were somehow fusing for him. He was seeing this ghost, Gracie, like she was just another living being. Meanwhile, one of his biggest heroes was knocking at the door and he was supposed to act like nothing weird was going on. Oh God, his legs barely worked. He had trouble just rising to his feet.

By the time he managed to work his way downstairs, Gracie had already opened the door to Safiya Bhat and greeted her warmly. When Xan reached the bottom of the staircase, he watched the two women hugging and kissing on both cheeks like Europeans.

“It’s so good to see you again,” Gracie was telling Safiya. “You’re such a busy, busy bee these days. Let me make you a cup of tea so you can sit and relax while Xan helps me bring in your art.”

“Xan?” Safiya asked, glancing across the hall as Gracie indicated his presence. The great artist stuck out her hand and went to him. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”

Gracie said, “He’s brand new. He just started here. But he’s a big fan of yours. You two talk amongst yourselves while I put the kettle on.”

With that, Gracie disappeared into the staff room, leaving Xan alone with an artist he’d only ever dreamed of meeting face to face. Any other day, he’d have gushed about the amazing impact of her art, of her very existence. But tonight, the first words out of his mouth were, “You can see her too?”

Safiya Bhat brushed her highlighted hair over one shoulder and offered a nervous chuckle. “I can see… who… Gracie?”

“You know her?” Xan asked in confusion.

With a generous smile, Safiya Bhat said, “I’ve known Gracie since she was five years old. If you want to get anywhere in the art world, the Fairacres are the people you need to know. I got in good with them right out of art school and look at me now.”

Xan should have said her art was so good she would have made it big anyway. Instead, he asked, “The Fairacres? What do you mean? This is the Fairacre Gallery.”

“Right,” she said. “And Gracie is a Fairacre.”

Safiya Bhat quickly covered her mouth with one hand. Each of her nails was painted a different colour, and Xan wondered if it was nail polish or if she was just a messy painter.

“Oops,” she said. “You didn’t know about Gracie, did you? I always forget she keeps her identity secret around here. As soon as people find out she’s from this big art family, they suck up to her like crazy. Everyone seems to think that, if they’re buddy-buddy, her parents will buy a bunch of their art. I should know. I’ve kissed more Fairacre butts than I care to admit.”

“They should be kissing your butt,” Xan offered. “Your work is amazing.”

“A lot of people’s work is amazing,” Safiya said. “Trust me, it’s all about who you know. I mean, look at this gallery. Little Gracie’s great-great-great grandparents built it in the 1800s, and even then it was filled with gorgeous pieces. In those days, collectors bought from Paris. The family was big on art even back then.”

The image of what he’d seen in the upstairs bedroom flashed across Xan’s field of vision, and he quickly asked Safiya, “Do you know what happened to them? Like… I mean… how they died?”

Safiya cocked her head and smirked ever so slightly. She said, “Gracie and Norman Fairacre. Our Gracie was named for great-great-great grandmother. This house was built as a retreat, but the pair of them didn’t spend too many summers here. One year, Gracie disappeared. Poof. Gone. Norman told the authorities she disappeared in the night, but rumour has it he killed his wife somewhere in this house.”

Upstairs, Xan thought. The upstairs bedroom.

“Who knows?” Safiya went on. “Her body could be buried on the property. Her remains were never found.”

Xan’s mouth fell open. In his mind’s eye, he saw that window. He watched the big man haul the little woman’s lifeless form off the floor and through the gap. She tumbled onto the gable and rolled down its incline, landing in the fresh garden earth in front of the house.

Rushing past Safiya Bhat, Xan crossed through the front entrance.

“What is it?” she asked, following him outside. “Are okay? Are you going to be sick? This gallery, it’s so haunted some people can’t stand to be here.”

There in front of the gallery was a garden of roses. In his mind’s eye, Xan could see the first Gracie Fairacre lying very still in her deep blue dress. With her eyes closed and her hands crossed over her chest, her body sunk into the ground, like the earth was swallowing her up, taking her home.

“What are you seeing?” Safiya asked.

Xan pointed to the rose garden. He told her everything. Told her what he’d seen upstairs, how that woman in the blue dress looked exactly like the Gracie they knew. He told her the vision he’d just seen, of Norman, the husband, pushing her body out the window.

“He buried her there,” Xan said. “He buried her where she fell. You probably think I’m crazy. I don’t even care. Maybe I am crazy.”

“Maybe we all are,” Safiya said, taking hold of his hand and squeezing it tight.

Gracie appeared in the doorway and asked, “What are you doing out here?”

They jumped in tandem, then laughed at their overreaction.

“Tea’s ready,” she said. “Xan and I should get started moving your pieces.”

“We were just admiring the rose garden,” Safiya said. “Beautiful, aren’t they? Yellow roses. There’s something soft and comforting about them.”

“I think so too,” Gracie agreed. “When I was a kid, I used to plant my face in those roses. Almost got a bee up my nose one time, but I just loved the feel of those soft petals against my skin. It’s like the feeling of your mom kissing your forehead when she tucks you into bed. Such a peaceful, calming feeling.”

They stood together, all three of them, admiring yellow roses in the moonlight. Xan knew this was a moment of silence, of respect and reflection, for the dearly departed. Safiya obviously thought so too. What was Gracie thinking in that moment? Was she reflecting on the ancestor she never knew? Or was she just admiring the roses?

“Well,” Gracie said after a moment of peace. “Let’s get this art in, Xan. Safiya’s got a plane to catch.”

Xan had never handled anything with such care, but the last thing he wanted to do was ruin new works by a respected artist. They say you should never meet your heroes, but sometimes they turn out to be even more amazing than you could have imagined.

Safiya stood by the rose garden, tea in hand, and said to Xan, “You know, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out what to work on next. All my projects lately have been so brash and contentious. Part of me thinks it’s time to stop and paint the roses. Is that too cliché? Has it already been done to death?”

“Sure it’s been done,” Xan told her. “But it’s never been done by you. That’s the thing I love about art: if you have a hundred people trying to depict the same rose, you’re going to end up with a hundred different versions of that rose. Everyone’s take is just a little bit different. And that means there’s always room for more.”

Before setting off for the airport, Safiya Bhat thanked Gracie and Xan, and kissed them both on the cheek in that European way of hers. Xan would never forget this night. So much had happened. So much he’d never anticipated.

“Come on,” Gracie said. “Let’s grab our stuff and get a move on. You need a ride anywhere? I’ve got my car here.”

For some reason, now that he knew Gracie was from this rich and important family, her kindness touched him really deeply. Maybe it shouldn’t make a difference, but it did. He said, “Yeah, a ride would be great.”

Gracie made a bee line for the staff room, but Xan stopped along the way to tie his shoe. When he looked up, he was shocked to see a woman standing in the hallways about ten feet away from him. She looked every bit as real as Safiya or Gracie, but he knew she couldn’t be real. Because he knew who she was. He knew by the blue gown, by the brown locks, by the familiar pixie-like features.

Though the hall was fairly dark, he could see her perfectly clearly. A silvery blue light shone like it was coming from inside of her. She lifted a yellow rose to her face and buried her lips in the petals, relishing the softness. When she brushed the rose down her chin, she gazed in Xan’s direction and smiled softly.

He’d never felt such peace in all his life.

The door to the staff room opened and Gracie emerged with her purse over one shoulder and Xan’s backpack in hand. “Is this all you brought?”

“Uhh… yeah,” he said, gazing past her legs. There was nothing to see. The vision had gone.

“So you’re ready to call it a night?” she asked, handing over his bag as he rose.

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s been a long night.”

Gracie left the gallery before he did. Xan sort of dragged his feet on his way out. A part of him kept hoping something else would happen. He’d experienced so much already, and it made him greedy for more.

As he pushed open the door, he gazed over his shoulder and down the long hallway, but he didn’t see a thing. Maybe the Gracie he’d seen upstairs was gone for good. Or maybe there was a part of her, the battered and bruised part, that would return to her death every night forever and ever.

Either way, Xan wouldn’t find out the truth tonight. It was time to go home.


Also in the Queer Ghost Stories series:

The Witch of the Winter Woods

By Foxglove Lee


The Future is Deadly

By Foxglove Lee


Ghost Radio

By Foxglove Lee


The Moths

By Foxglove Lee


Underground Spirit

By Foxglove Lee

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Foxglove’s fiction has been called SPECTACULAR by Rainbow Reviews and UNFORGETTABLE by USA Today.


Foxglove Lee is a former aspiring Broadway Baby who now writes LGBTQ fiction for children, teens and young adults. She tries not to be too theatrical, but her characters often take over. Her debut novel, Tiffany and Tiger’s Eye, is set in the 80s and features an evil doll! Other books by Foxglove Lee include: Truth and Other Lies, Sylvie and the Christmas Ghost, Rainbow Crush, Rainbow Elixir, Top Ten Ways to Die, You Can Never Go Home Again, plus children’s titles The Secret of Dreamland and Ghost Turkey and the Pioneer Graveyard.


* * * *


You Might Also Enjoy:

Haunted Lesbian Young Adult Fiction

Two Supernatural Teen Novels

By Foxglove Lee


Want to stay up late with a spine-tingling supernatural story? This chilling new collection includes two teen novels featuring strange small towns, historical hauntings, and lesbian main characters!


In Tiffany and Tiger’s Eye, it’s the summer of 1986. Rebecca meets Tiffany: a water-skiing blonde who dresses like Madonna, makes her own jewellery, and claims to see auras. Strange things happen when the girls get together. Everyone thinks Rebecca’s the one setting fires and destroying property, but she’s convinced the culprit is a creepy antique doll!


Sylvie and the Christmas Ghost transports us to December of 1994. Sylvie's spending Christmas in the creepy old house her father grew up in. The place is haunted, according to local lore. When an unusual girl named Celeste convinces Sylvie she can communicate with spirits, will they unearth ghosts from the family's past... or is something far more sinister going on?


Every family has its ghosts, and they’re out in full force with two supernatural lesbian novels by Foxglove Lee!



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