Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 15, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #77


Out of respect, the names of the people in this story have been changed.

Carla Thomas crooned ever so painfully about her perfect man. Her heartfelt description of his attributes culminates in two words, 'Gee Whiz.' The percussive tempo of the piano and the freestyle of the violin give the song the romantic undertone it needs.

At the same time, the four-part harmony of the background singers crescendoes the heights of teenage emotions. The song played on repeat on the smartphone while Sunshine and Burton held on tightly to one another. The months were hard what with him being deployed in the middle east for nearly a year. She always kept herself busy so that the loneliness would not creep in. 

Burton wanted to surprise her at home. There was a pause of disbelief before she realized it was him standing in the kitchen. They'd been dancing there ever since.

"I don't want to call anyone yet," Sunshine told him. "I want this time to ourselves first."

"For as long as you want, hun," Burton agreed.


THAT EVENING Sunshine called her parents and her in-laws to come over for dinner. She had an important announcement. Later that evening, the food ordered from #1 Chinese restaurant lay spread across the large kitchen counter in separate containers. Everyone filed in with greetings and genuine curiosity. Sunshine promised that she would share the news once the food was blessed. With heads reverently bowed, Sunshine asked Burton's father to give the blessing. With eyes closed, Mr. Bernard held his wife's hand and invoked the prayer. The amen was given, and everyone chimed in together.

"Well? What's the news, Sunshine?" Burton's mom asked.

Sunshine said nothing; instead, she turned and gestured to the dimly lit living room behind her, walking into the kitchen came Burton. Everyone erupted in screams and cries of surprise and happiness. Naturally, the tears came very soon after. Everyone clamored around Burton to hug him and share their excitement at seeing him after so long.

"Did you come home just now?" Burton's mother asked.

"No, I got in this afternoon," Burton replied.

"Why didn't you call us then? What, you can't call your parents?" Burton's mom slapped him on the shoulder.

"Shirley," Mr. Bernard interrupted. "Sunshine and Burton haven't seen each other for almost a year. They needed time together...alone."

"Oh," Shirley Bernard got the hint. "But still.."

"Still nothing, just let it go," Mr. Bernard insisted.


Sunshine's parents asked Burton about his plans now that he was home? Burton could only reply that what happened next would depend upon the chain of command. "There's always a job at my place if your Dad doesn't already have you fixed up at the hotel," Tim Robinson offered.

"I won't know until I hear from command," Burton shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, what about babies?" Lei Robinson asked.

"One thing at a time, ma." Sunshine groaned.

"We're not getting younger," Tim joked.

"Then you make the babies," Sunshine walked away and poured herself a drink.

"Believe me," Tim called after his daughter. "Your mom and I practice all the time!"


1:00 AM

The house was quiet while Sunshine and Burton cleaned up in the kitchen and put the food away. Shirley Bernard washed plates and forks in the sink while Mr. Bernard made sure that all the labels on every can of food faced outward where everyone could see them. "You guys mind if I take home the pork eggplant?"

"Sure, take the pan," Burton nodded to the item on the table.

"No, your father is not supposed to be eating pork or any kind of meat this late. You trying to get a heart attack and leave me alone? Is that what you're trying to do?" Shirley gave her husband that unblinking stare, which almost always made him give in. "Save it, we can come over and have lunch tomorrow if you guys aren't busy?"

"We don't have any plans as far as I know," Burton replied.

"We'll be here," Sunshine agreed.


Burton and Sunshine lay in bed and spent the remainder of the night talking about everything and nothing. When she asked him about what he did daily during his deployment, he had only one answer, 'sweat.' She anticipated that there would be things that he would not want to talk about, so she avoided those questions. She lay her head on his chest while rubbing his shoulder with her fingertips.

"You want to enjoy your life before you have kids, right?" Burton said.

"How did you know that?" Sunshine looked up at him.

"You shouldn't have gotten mad at your folks, that's what potential grandparents want," Burton shrugged.

"I mean, I want kids, but I don't want to feel like I missed out on my life," Sunshine shared. "That doesn't make me a horrible person, does it?"

"Without or without kids, you can still enjoy your life. You only miss out if you don't try either way," Burton nodded.

Sunshine moved up and kissed Burton for a long time before gazing into his eyes. "Who are you? How did you get to be"

The two fell asleep, and it was noon by the time Sunshine woke up to the sound of the front doorbell. She saw the light coming from under the bathroom door, which told Sunshine that Burton was in there. More than likely, he was about to take a shower.

Opening the door, Sunshine apologized to her in-laws, "Mom, Dad, sorry we overslept."

"No, we have to apologize," Shirey began. "I forgot to turn off the bathroom light upstairs last night."

"She's more OCD than me," Mr. Bernard winked.

"Oh, it's alright," Sunshine reassured them. "Burton's in there right now."

The three were interrupted by the sound of the doorbell again. Mr. Bernard, who was closest, pulled the portal back and said, "Hello?"

Standing outside on the porch were two army sergeants in their dress uniforms. Both were decorated with medals and wore a set of hash marks on each of their sleeves, years of honorable service on the left, and time in combat on the right


"Folks, I'm sorry to disturb you," the taller Sergent began. "Is Mrs. Burton Bernard Junior present?"

"I'm senior," Mr. Bernard spoke first. "How can we help you?"

"Wait, Dad," Sunshine stepped in front of him. "I'm Mrs. Burton Bernard Junior, how may I help you?"

"Mam, I'm sergeant Fernando Luis. The Secretary of the Army has asked me to express his deep regret to you that your husband Burton was killed in action outside Kandahar Afghanistan. The Secretary extends his deepest sympathy to your family in this tragic loss..."


Today, Sunshine Bernard (not her real name) and her family are still trying to figure out just how they were able to interact with Burton when he had already passed on while deployed a half a world away? Or were Sunshine, her parents, and her in-laws having a collective hallucination?