Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 31, 2019

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2019 #63


For the past ten years, my friends and family have told me that it’s a morbid habit for me to visit the place where my daughter died but I do it because I wasn’t there when it happened. I left her with her teacher and her classmates. Even though she had asked me for one more hug before I left, I had a pressing meeting and I left without giving her that last hug.
The meeting ended up being postponed because of our client’s inability to keep a calendar.

When the call came to my office that there was an emergency and that I needed to come to the school as quickly as possible, I ran the entire three blocks in no time which saved me from having to fight through traffic. There was an ambulance in front of the school and my heart sank. I bypassed security and went straight to where the crowd was gathered at the playground. According to the teacher and her assistants who were present at the time, my daughter slipped from the jungle gym and fell and broke her neck. She died on impact. I was not in the right frame of mind to hear any kind of calm or rational explanation from anyone, I wanted to see her for myself. I was finally let through and the EMT prepared me for what I was going to see once they pulled the sheet away from her body. Her skin was an almost pale purplish color and her body was stiff and some of her hair was stuck to her forehead. I loved watching her while she slept, it made me feel so protective over her but this was a kind of sleep that she was never going to awaken from. Once that realization hit me, everything went black and that was the last thing I can recall. Everything else was just a haze. I can’t even remember her services or her burial; what I do remember are her last words to me, “Daddy come please, give me one more hug.”

Ten years later and the school is no longer there and all that is left of that once busy institution is its playground which is perpetually empty. Children never play on it, joggers never stop to drink from the water fountain fronting the single swing set. Picnics are never had on the finely manicured patch of grass. I normally arrive close to sunset and leave at seven to go home and have a quiet dinner. On this night I was already leaving the playground when I realized that I had forgotten to leave something for my daughter on this occasion. I walked back and left a little dinosaur doll at the bottom of the jungle gym, she loved those things for some odd reason.

“You’re usually gone by now,” a female voice said from behind me.

I spun around to see a young local girl wearing a work apron over her clothing. “You startled me,” I said surprised, “I’m sorry what were you saying?”

“You’re usually gone by now, by the time I get here you’re already walking to your car,” she smiled.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt,” I said.

“There’s nothing to be sorry for, I’m just like you, I come here once a year also,” she smiled. “I’m Lara by the way, you’ll forgive me but I can’t shake hands.”

“No problem,” I said, “ I’m Micheal Lorenzo.”

“You’re Bethany’s father,” she said it more as a statement than a question.

“Yes, how do you know that?” I asked.

“I was there the morning it happened,” Lara said.

“I’m sorry? The morning WHAT happened?” I asked.

“Bethany, your daughter,” Lara replied. “It was my fault.”

“It wasn’t anyone’s fault,” I reassured her, “The reports said that there were only two teachers on the playground and that there were too many kids.” I don’t know how many times I must have told that story and I still didn’t believe it.
“No,” Lara shook her head. “That report was falsified, there were two teachers and three assistants on the playground that day, I was one of them. Some of the kids were chasing me and I suddenly took a turn and ran under the jungle gym. It happened so fast that I didn’t even see Bethany swinging across and I ran right into her and knocked her off of the monkey bars. That’s when she flipped in mid-air and landed on her head. It was my fault but they tried to cover up for me.”

“Is that why the school closed down?” I asked.

“No, no one ever found out about that report,” Lara began to tear up.

I shook my head in disbelief at what I was hearing. “And you never bothered to come forward and say anything?!” Now I was furious.

“I couldn’t,” she replied.

“You couldn’t? Why not?” I screamed.

“I committed suicide two days later, I hung myself from those monkey bars,” she said matter of fact.

“This is too much to take,” I told her, “Now I know you’re full of it!”

“Shake my hand, Mr. Lorenzo,” She asked.

“I’m not shaking your damned hand!” I shouted.

“You don’t believe I’m dead so shake my hand and you’ll see.” I was hesitant at first but I finally extended my hand to take hers and it passed right through her open palm. 

She could see the horror in my reaction but she quickly reassured me that there was no fear to be had. “The guilt over what I did to cause Bethany’s death was too much for me, I couldn’t live with myself. I’m not here to harm anyone, Mr. Lorenzo, what I did was a sin. Taking my own life bound me here to this place and I can’t pass on until I make things right, that’s the reason why you’re here a little later than you should be."

“So you need me to forgive you so that you can pass on?” I asked.

“No,” she said, “ I needed to come to you so that you can see this.”

Lara pointed toward the jungle gym and standing next to the structure was Bethany. “Baby,” I whispered, my body went numb and I fell to my knees, I wasn’t sure what it was that I was seeing, “Baby...”
My arms opened wide and she was in my embrace before I knew it, she was warm and full of life. Her familiar natural scent filled me with memories of changed diapers, horse-back rides and hours at the beach or in the swimming pool. Sneaking into Chuck E. Cheese during some other kids party and eating for free. All the, 'I love yous' that came at the cost of nothing but could fill Fort Knox to its capacity. It was all there again. I kissed my darling little one and held her tight while I cried uncontrollably.

“That’s my one more hug Daddy, I love you,” she said.

“I love you so much baby, I miss you every day, every day,” the words wouldn’t even come anymore.

“Don’t cry daddy, I’ll be fine. You’ll be fine too because you know what it means to love with your whole heart, the same way you love me.” Her smile was radiant and so mature.

“Her time is short Mr. Lorenzo, she has to go. So do I.” Lara said.

“I love you, daddy,” Bethany kissed my forehead and I let her go.

“Thank you, Lara,” I said.

“Thank you for letting me bring her to you,” Lara smiled. Bethany joined Lara and took her hand, they both waved as they walked toward the jungle gym and slowly disappeared.

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