Would Cupid strike for Leonie, among the intrepid group of ghost hunters?
“It’ll be worth it,” Gran said with a smile, as we headed towards the entrance to the village pub. “There’s a rather lovely man in the group that I’d love you to meet.”
I stopped, refusing to move any further.
“What? You never mentioned any man, Gran. I’ve told you before, I’m never going down that road again.”
“Don’t be silly, Leonie.” She nodded, her bleached blonde curls bouncing. “You’ll love him. He’s absolutely perfect for you.” She looked towards the door. “And we’re here now.”
I sighed long and deep. If I’d had any idea she was bringing me along to set me up, I would have stayed at home.
I didn’t want a man in my life. Not after Sleazebag Sean, as my mother called him.
But Gran looked determined, so I took another deep breath, and opened the door.
The noise of happy villagers greeted us as we headed towards the bar.
“I just want you to be happy, sweetheart,” Gran said. “That’s all.”
“But I can be perfectly happy without a man in my life,” I said.
Which was true. I had a great job and great friends. And I was only thirty – I had time to find Mr Right if I ever wanted to look for him.
“A year is a long time to be sad and lonely,” Gran concluded, leaving me at the bar and moving towards a round table in the corner.
“I’m not sad,” I mumbled. And I wasn’t lonely.
It would have been nice to snuggle up with someone special. But I was fine.
I ordered wine, and glanced over at The Ghost Go Getters members sitting around the table, Gran now sitting amongst them, her grin far too wide.
If I was honest it hadn’t been a bad idea to join the group of ghost hunters. I’d had a keen interest in ghosts ever since I saw the ghost of our cat, Rusty, when I was six.
It had been followed ten years later by the sighting of a woman who’d died down our road.
She’d approached when I was mowing the lawn – Mum was paying me – and asked if I’d pass on a message to her daughter that only she would understand.
I did, and she cried happy tears over me for a full ten minutes.
I’d seen plenty of ghosts since then.
So to join a like-minded set of people would be fun, I’d agreed, when Gran suggested it – although if I’d known her motives, I might have thought twice.
“Leonie?” a stocky man with a bushy beard said, rising in a gentlemanly fashion as I arrived at the table.
He was wearing a sticky label on his tweed jacket that told me he was Big Alan.
“I’m Big Alan,” he said. “I’m the chairman of the group.”
“Nice to meet you.” I lowered myself onto a chair next to a man with round glasses, rather like Harry Potter’s, and dark curly hair.
His label told me his name was Ricky, and he appeared to be about my age.
But before we could talk, a man sitting on the other side of me nudged my arm. I turned to see he was in his fifties with grey hair, and small face that housed a large nose.
“Jack Wetherby,” he said. “You may recognise the name.” He nodded smugly. “Ghosts of our town, Our town’s ghosts, Spirits of our town.”
I guessed they were book titles, and found myself saying, “Yes, yes,” hoping I wouldn’t be quizzed on how much I’d enjoyed them.
“I’m Ricky,” the man on the other side said, and my attention was back on him, as he held out his hand, which I shook. “I’m the club’s cameraman.”
“That sounds like fun,” I said, meaning it. I imagined him trawling through raw footage of ghost hunts, and how exciting that must be.
“Ricky set up our YouTube channel,” a blonde woman in her forties said, in an American accent. “The last video he uploaded had forty-six hits and three comments. He’s brilliant.”
Ricky’s cheeks flushed pink. There was something unassuming about him.
“I’m Laura, by the way,” the woman continued, pointing at her label, which she’d laminated and pinned to her burgundy blazer.
“I used to be part of the Spirit Spy team in the US. Have you seen it? I think repeats are being shown on TV at the moment.”
“I haven’t, but I’ll watch out for it,” I said, taking a sip of wine, and smiling at Gran, who nodded approvingly.
Everyone was friendly, and I knew already I was going to love the group.
“We’ll wait for Mark, before we get on with the agenda,” Big Alan said, tapping his pen, and everyone agreed.
My heart pounded with sudden nerves, as the group lapsed into separate conversations.
Mark must be the man Gran had brought me to meet, I told myself. Ricky turned to me and smiled once more.
“So what do you do when you’re not ghost hunting?” he asked, brown eyes warm behind his glasses.
“I’m a teacher,” I said, and he smiled. “So have you ever seen a ghost? Caught any on camera?”
He shook his head. “If I’m honest I’m the group’s sceptic,” he said, reducing his voice to a whisper. “Do you believe?”
I nodded. “Yes, yes I do.”
“Evening, everyone.” I turned to see the most gorgeous looking man I’d seen in my life. He was sipping a newly purchased lager, and scooping slim fingers through his hair.
I glanced over at Gran, hoping she’d give me the thumbs up that this was “the one”, but she seemed lost in thought.
“Budge up, mate,” the man said to Ricky, who obliged, and the man dropped into the vacant chair next to me.
“I’m Mark,” he said, with a smile that dazzled, and my ridiculous heart raced.
He reminded me of Sean. Sure of himself, dressed immaculately, and so handsome.
He held out his hand, and I took it.
“Leonie,” I said. “Pleased to meet you.”
“You too,” he said, not releasing my hand, and locking me in a stare.
Big Alan tapped the table with his Biro. “Let’s get this meeting started,” he said.
Throughout the discussions, Mark flirted with me while winking at the woman behind the bar when he thought I wasn’t looking.
He even squeezed Laura’s knee under the table – admittedly she thought it was someone trying to contact her from the other side.
By the time the evening was over, I realised that Gran had got it dreadfully wrong. Mark wasn’t for me, simply because he reminded me far too much of Sean.
I just couldn’t understand why my gran would point me towards the same sort of man who had hurt me.
“Will you be coming again, Leonie?” Ricky asked as we headed through moonlit trees to the car park.
“Definitely,” I said. “It was fun.”
“Brilliant,” he said, raising his hand in a wave as he got into his car. “I’ll see you again next week. Looking forward to it.”
“Told you,” Gran said, sidling up beside me in the darkness, and I felt her floral perfume tickling my nostrils.
“Told me what?” I said.
“He’s perfect, isn’t he?”
“Who is? Ricky?” I stared into his car as he drove by.
“Of course, Ricky.”
As he waved once more, I realised she was right.
“He’s really rather nice, yes,” I said. “I like him. I like him a lot.”
“Good. Well I’d better go then. My job here is done,” she said, giving her curls a nudge. “Your grandad’s waiting for me.”
“Oh, OK, love you, Gran.”
“Love you too, darling.”
“Give Grandad my love, won’t you?”
“Of course.” Her smile spread across her face, cause dimples to form.
“Actually, I might pop up on one of Ricky’s films at some point, just to convince him there is such a thing as ghosts. We need you both to be on the same page, don’t we?”
“Thanks, Gran,” I said as she faded away, realising I couldn’t wait for next week, when I would be able to get to know Ricky better.
We’re sharing another spooky short story from our archives every Monday and Thursday during October. Watch out for the next one!