"Isn't this great?" I beam at Corb as we enter our room. It's number 40, located on the top floor, and the traipse up the long winding stairs with our luggage had been a hot mess. Still, the effort was worth it.
Unlike my stay with Josie, this room was truly a family suite, with a large bedroom that opened up onto a small deck, and another bed in the living room, which also had a large kitchen area. The room could be entered by two different entrances, although one could only be entered by a long shadowy set of stairs. (Coincidently, the internet reception was the best at the bottom of the stairs.)
"Dad, do you know if this place is haunted at all?" asks Ashes, looking around.
"Hmm, I don't know. Let me check!" Quickly, I grab my iPad and type in "The Salem Inn." "Well, let me see...oh, hmm..."
BIG STUPID TED ALERT. Why do I stupid things sometimes? Why do I open my big mouth and volunteer to do things I just know are going to bite me in the ass later on?
First review I pull up: "Well we just returned from an eventful stay at the Salem Inn. If you are looking for a paranormal experience than stay at the main house. I won't even go into to details but to make a long story short we changed houses!! After asking around our 1st room was not on the "most haunted room" we heard #17 was. Well if it was more than ours I would never make the night!"
I frown. "Oh, it doesn't say that much, hun."
Ashes is not falling for THAT. "What exactly does it say dad?"
It's at this point that Corb runs to us with a book in his hands. "I stole this from the library on the third floor. All these people wrote talking about the ghosts they saw in this place. This is great!"
I clear my throat, trying to call his attention to Ashes. "But only...in room #17...right?"
Corb ignores me. "Oh no, room #16 is just as bad. Although Room #17 is where the murder supposedly occurred. Oh, and they have a few entries about THIS room, too! Did you know that people have seen glowing orbs in here?"
4:00 in the morning, later that night.
"Ashes, please try to get to sleep."
"I can't! I'm scared."
"There's nothing to be scared of."
A whimper. "But you said you'd stay up with me and..."
"I did say that! But it's four in the morning! Ashes, you have to get up early for the testing..."
"Can't you just stay up and watch another show with me?"
I could feel my agitation growing. "Ashes, you have got to get over stuff like this. How are you going to handle college if you freak out at things like this...when everyone is here around you..."
"Daddy, I'm just too freaked out...it's too dark in here."
"All the lights are on! Get to sleep!"
Twenty seconds go by,
"That's it! I'm calling the college tomorrow and canceling your admission!"
Ashes starts to cry.
Theo's voice is heard, a calm, steady voice. "Dad, don't worry about it, I'll stay up with her."
I love that kid.
Eight o'clock rolls around soon enough. Ashes needs to retake her Math Equivalency test at 10:30, in order to avoid having to take a basic math class for zero credits at Salem, which is the whole reason we had made the trip to begin with. And despite the fact that Ashes neglected to bring with her any form of Identification (which I had asked her to do) and she has only had about three hours of sleep, we're able to get some additional study time in (me teaching math, of all things) and it's enough to boost her score by ten points, allowing her to secure a passing grade.
I credit the room. In the wee small hours of the morning, I had called out for help, and a spirit had answered. A motherly spirit, and maybe I'm making the whole thing up, but she somehow allowed me to find the strength to stop being grouchy and tired and mean daddy-like, and instead by caring and helpful, and Ashes to be open to learning and less quarrelsome. She listened, I helped. We worked together.
As we are packing up to leave, Corb stares at the ceiling and says, "There's something stuck in that brick. A note of some sort?"
"Really?" Corb moves over to the brick and after a few tries, manages to extract a little yellow piece of paper. He unrolls it and laughs. It read:
"Clue number one: Keep a light on. They only come out in the dark."
We all laugh, and it sparks a treasure hunt for more clues. I look at Ashes, who is still scared, even in the light of day, and had refused to even take a shower in the bathroom. She shakes her head, a sleepy smile dancing across her face, turns away.
It's just a good thing we had discovered the note at the end of the journey!