I never wanted it to be this way... You have to believe that! I was just lonely, and I wanted my friends... But I got selfish. It's so easy to see now. Now that I'm standing here, looking out at what used to be the rookery in the back yard. It's apartments here now, just like Martin always wanted. It doesn't matter that I killed him... The world is filled with Martins, who say they're on the side of progress.

What's progress, other than the death of old ways?

I want my house back... I know I didn't keep it well, but Mother made me so angry sometimes and... It just didn't seem worth it, back then. I know better, now that it's much too late.

There's new tenants in here again. It's hard for them to keep this specific apartment occupied. It's just about where Father's study in the cupola used to be... They built a kitchen where the window was... The window that I died in.

I can move things a little when I'm angry enough, and once again I'm furious at what a waste it all was! I pull all the pots and pans onto the floor, waking up the little family with a start. I'm always moody like this at around 10 or 11 o'clock at night... Around the time I died. I don't think the Realtor ever mentions me when he brings prospective tenants in to inspect the place.

I do my best to spook them at the outset, so I can have at least one place on my property to myself. Especially since I haven't been able to leave in decades. Before they rebuilt everything, I could still take walks around the rookery. Now I can't even step outside without fading to a point of discomfort.

It just isn't fair! I spent almost my whole life being invisible, and I'm still stuck here, with no one to see me. And the rats... There are none left of the generation who knew me, which may well be for the best. Ben was very angry when he killed me, and after I'd been dead long enough to realize what was going on, I could see clearly how I'd treated him just like Martin treated me. It wasn't right... I wasn't right, in thought or action, and I hadn't been for a long time.

I try to stay out of the way while this Mom cleans up her dishes. It feels strange to be walked through, and I don't particularly like it. It happens fairly often too, especially when I'm just trying to mind my own business.

It's strange, because when I'm alone, the room goes back to looking just like Father's study. I can sit in his chair and leaf through the papers at his desk. It's comforting in its own way. But as soon as someone enters the room, the present forces itself on me, and I find myself floating on nothing at about the height of Father's chair. Which in the new design leaves me knee-deep in the floor.

It makes me wander around angrily for a while every time that happens, and the people living in my space tend to get chills when I walk by. It makes me wonder why I've stayed here... While I was alive I was under the impression ghosts weren't real to begin with, and that even if they were they had unfinished business to attend to. I thought that I'd accomplished all my dreams with the help of the rats, but apparently this wasn't the case.

Sometimes I spend so long just thinking, trying to piece together why I'm still around, that a new family can get full settled before I even know they're here. It makes me angry that people are always bothering me... I just want to be left alone! I've always wanted to just be left alone, to have my house and my friends the rats and... And it all went wrong, even when I did have things my way.

I knock all the books off the shelves in the living room and sit grouchily on one of the new family's chairs. Or at least, I sit on the air in the vicinity of the chair. For some reason, even after years of being insubstantial, I always feel better when I'm using a piece of furniture.

This time, it isn't a timid-looking housewife who emerges from what they've made the bedroom area, but a girl who looks about the age I was when I died.

"God damn! I know there wasn't an earthquake, so what the f--" I'm surprised when she stops short. For some reason it feels like she's looking right at me. "Oh. I guess you knocked over my books, then, Mr. Ghost." What the hell?! Is this woman seriously speaking to me calmly? As if it's the most natural thing in the world for a ghost to be sitting as well as it can on your furniture?

"You can really see me?" I ask her lamely as she reorganizes her books.

"Yeah, plain as day. What you're lucky about is the fact that I can hear you too. A lot of psychics have real trouble with that... 'S where you get automatic writers from: their ears are just too filled with everyday life." She nods in approval at her books and sits in a chair opposite me.

I'm agog... It's the only word I can think of to fit this strange awe. I've never had a conversation sound this natural in my entire existence! And I've been dead for at least thirty years! "Wow. I thought I'd just have to wander alone, knocking things over for however long I'm here," I sort of joke with her.

She grins. "Not as long as I'm here, pal!" she tells me cheerfully. "My name's Gracie, and I'd ask to shake your hand but I don't think you're that sort of ghost."

I chuckle, the first time in God only knows how long. "No, I'm really not... I've barely got the hang of sweeping things off shelves. My name's Willard... This used to be my family homestead," I sigh a little. It's strange talking without any air... Sometimes I still feel like I'm breathing, even though I know I can't.

"Ah, the old Stiles estate, right? Never got to see it in person, but I saw pictures, and heard stories..." she just sort of trailed off. So she knew who I was, apparently. That could put a real damper on things.

Still, no sense in being anything but honest. "Most of 'em are probably true, I'm afraid. I wasn't well by the time my life ended..." If I still had eyes, they would've glazed with the memories. "But the rats were my only friends... I just wanted them to go away, so the health department people wouldn't kill them all..." I shake my head to take myself out of it. For some reason, a lock of my hair still falls in my eyes from time to time. To me, it still looks like the blond curl it had always been, but I can only imagine what I must look like to her. I clear my throat and move my hair out of my eyes, two very old habits that are dying harder than I did, as I apologize. "I didn't mean to startle you, really. I just get angry when it's evening... Plus I'd been so busy thinking for, I guess a few months there, that I didn't even notice you move in. It upsets me when I don't get to meet my, erm, new roommates on their first day."

She smiles a little at me. "Don't worry, I never keep a consistent sleep-pattern when I can help it. Besides, I'd heard from my cousin that something weird had been going on here, and I wanted to find out what it was. I didn't expect you to be this amicable or easy to find, Willard, but I was hoping to at least meet you."

I feel good for the first time since I last held Socrates! Someone came here looking to meet me! I never thought anything like that would happen to me... I thought I'd just be a legend that died out as soon as the house was gone. Sure, while it was still my house, and for legal purposes abandoned, the children would run to the other side of the street, or dare each other to touch the door, or ring the doorbell. One summer a young junior high student was dared to stay the night inside... I remember it well, because I did everything I could not to scare the poor boy. He was trembling enough at it was... but this!

"I'm honored..." is all I can think to tell her as she stands to leave.

She giggles at me. "Oh, don't be silly! I'm the one who's honored! You're my hero, Willard! But for right now, I need to get some sleep for my exams tomorrow. I'll see you bright and early, alright?"

It wasn't so much a question or an invitation as a statement that her feelings would be hurt if I weren't here to tell her good morning. "Of course, this is my... uh, haunt, after all." My humor was notoriously bad while I was alive... I don't think death's done much good for it. But miraculously, she chuckles.

"Just promise me one thing..."

"Sure Gracie, anything you want." Perhaps I was a little too quick with that answer... But I can't help liking someone who declared me of all people their hero.

"Stay outta my bedroom, alright?" She flashes me a sort of impish grin as she disappears down the short hallway. She doesn't even leave me time to answer, but I do anyway. It feels good to talk again after so long...

"Anything you want, Gracie... Anything."

((A/N: It's not really supposed to be a romance story, but I'll admit it is sort of leaning that way . At worst there'll be a conversation about how different things would've been, blah blah blah. I'm pretty impressed with myself, considering it was around 4 in the morning when I started on it, and it only took me about an hour to work this much out. Lemme know what you think, cuz I love the feedback -JJ))