Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Aug 25, 2021

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2021 #67


"Any Other Night"


Tanya Kapanui

Abby heard a slight rustle through her veil of sleep and thought she’d left the window open.

She hoped she was mistaken because she really didn’t want to get up and close it. However, when she opened her eyes, she saw that the curtains looked as if they hadn’t moved. 

Hmm, I guess not, she thought. She turned over to her side and was surprised to see Mike lying on his back next to her. She didn’t even hear him come in. 

Wow, I must be tired, she thought, although she actually felt very well-rested. But then, she saw that his eyes were open and realized something was wrong.

“What time is it?” she asked.

“About three,” he said through clenched teeth.

She didn’t know it was that late. It seemed like she only put her head down a minute ago. But, at least her headache was gone. She realized that, although the pain felt as if it would cripple her on the way home, she had no lingering discomfort. For that, she was thankful. 

“Did you have a good time?” she asked, still feeling bad about leaving him at the bar.

“What is that supposed to mean?” he said, a little louder than necessary. His body was rigid. He was clearly upset. Abby sat up then, completely confused.

“What do you mean ‘What is that supposed to mean?’” she asked. 

Mike sat up too, and Abby noticed that he didn’t even change out of his clothes. He was angry at something. Something must have happened after she left, she thought. Why else would he be acting like this? Abby cursed her weakness and regretted leaving him at the bar alone. 

“You know exactly what I mean!” he was raising his voice now. “You’re the one who told me to stay at the bar! I didn’t realize you’d put a time limit on it!”


“If you wanted me to come home with you, you could have just asked. I don’t need head games, not now!”

Abby stared at him, incredulous. It took a minute before she could react before she could even think of what to say. On any other night, she would have tried to figure out what was wrong. But something was bothering him, and Abby decided to leave it alone until he was ready to talk about it. That is if he was ever ready to talk about it. Abby was calm when she spoke, but her voice was barely louder than a whisper.

“Michael, I’m sorry. I know you’re mad because I left you there, but my head was pounding, and I couldn’t stand it anymore. I didn’t want to ruin your evening just because I had a headache, and I wanted you to stay because I hadn’t seen you smile like that in so long.” Abby sighed, “You’ve been so unhappy for so long….” 

She shook her head and whispered, “And I wasn’t trying to be sarcastic just now. I asked you if you had a good time because I love you. So I care whether or not you enjoyed yourself.”

Mike just lay there without looking at her. With no response, Abby got out of bed and walked towards the bedroom door. She glanced back at Mike only to see him still lying on his back, staring at the ceiling.

“All I’ve ever wanted was for you to be happy.”

As she descended the stairs, she looked back again, hoping to see him coming after her. He wasn’t, and she walked out the door wondering how this one happy night turned so sour all because of a headache.


On any other night, it wouldn’t have bothered her in the least when someone bumped into her, especially in a place like this with so many people dancing and having a good time. But Abby couldn’t remember when she’d felt this bad. Her head was pounding so hard it blurred her vision, and every time someone passed her with the slightest nudge, she felt as if her head would burst. She had to get out of there. 

She looked around for Mike. He was having such a great time with all of his old friends that Abby felt guilty about being sick. He hadn’t been home in years and, though he didn’t talk about it much, she knew he was happy to be back. The minute they’d walked in the door of the crowded bar, Mike was surrounded by people. These were people he grew up with, his childhood friends, neighbors, family. But Abby wasn’t from around here and had a hard time following the conversations that had much to do with his life before she met him. The pain in her head seemed to make things more difficult.

Finally, she saw Mike at the end of the bar talking to two girls who looked very much like twins. Their conversation seemed very animated, and all of them were laughing at something Mike had said. Abby smiled at this. She hadn’t seen Mike laugh so much in such a long time, not since before his mother died nearly a year ago. She knew Mike thought he was hiding his pain from her. He made an effort to be nicer, more thoughtful than he was before, but his smiles never reached his eyes, and his laughter was all but silent. If she’d known the effect that this homecoming would have on him, she would have made him come back months ago. 

The thought of telling Mike they had to leave made her want to cry. She couldn’t pull him away from his friends now. Not after witnessing the return of the man she fell in love with three years ago. Abby decided she would go back to his father’s house herself. Mike could stay here and enjoy being with his friends. Surely there was someone there willing to bring him home. 

She walked through the crowd of people, trying to avoid bumping into anyone, but by the time she made it to the end of the bar, she was fighting back the tears of pain. She took a few deep breaths to calm herself before interrupting Mike and his friends. There was no sense in making him worry now.

Standing behind Mike, she put her hand on his shoulder, and he turned to smile at her putting his arm around her waist.

“Abby!” he all but yelled in her ear. “This is Sarah and Shelly. They grew up in the house next door.”

“Hi, it’s so nice to meet you both,” Abby replied. 

She remembered Mike mentioning the girls next door who both had crushes on him at different times during high school. He said he’d always thought of them as his little sisters and wasn’t interested in dating either one. It caused a rift between them during his entire senior year as both sisters refused to speak to him after his rejection. They’d become friends again when he graduated, but they were never as close as they were “prior rebuff,” as he termed it.

“Do you both still live in town?” she asked them.

“No,” the one with the longer hair said. Abby thought she was Shelly but couldn’t be sure.

“I live here in my parents’ house, but Sarah lives in L.A.”

Ah, I was right, that’s Shelly, thought Abby. This is perfect. Maybe Shelly can drop Mike off.

“Mike, can I talk to you for a minute, sweetie?” Abby asked.

Mike smiled at the sisters and told them he’d be right back. They took a few steps to stand next to the brick wall covered in various neon signs dedicated to alcoholic beverages. The bright lights hurt her eyes and made her head throb. Finally, she turned her back to them to look directly at Mike.

“You look like you’re really having fun tonight,” she said, smiling.

“Yeah, this is great,” he replied, his grin stretching across his handsome face, this time reaching all the way up to his eyes.

Her breath caught in her throat as she realized how much she missed this smile, the way it lit up his face and made his brown eyes seem to glitter. It’s been far too long since she’s seen it, and she didn’t want to spoil it now. But the pain in her head was too much. She couldn’t bear to be here much longer, afraid she might pass out.

“Honey, if you don’t mind, I’m going to head back to your father’s house.”

Mike’s smile faltered a bit. This is what she wanted to avoid.

“Is everything okay,” he asked.

“I just have a really bad headache, and it’s starting to drive me crazy,” Abby explained. 

“Oh, okay, let me just say goodbye, and we’ll go,” he said. He was always so thoughtful and would never have considered Abby leaving without him.

“No, please stay! I know you’re having fun and I don’t want to take you away from your friends. Besides, I just need to lie down for a while.”

He looked like he couldn’t understand a word Abby was saying. He stared at her for a minute and then shook his head.

“I’m not going to let you drive yourself home if you’re not feeling well, Abs. You know that.”

“Really, Mike, I’m a big girl, and your dad doesn’t live very far away. So I want you to stay, seriously.”

Mike seemed to think about that for a few seconds, a slight frown beginning to form.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

“Definitely,” Abby said and then leaned forward to kiss him.

Mike walked Abby to their rental car parked in front of the bar asking all the way if she was sure she didn’t want him to leave with her. She knew he’d worry about her until he got home, but she still wanted him to stay and try to enjoy the rest of the evening. She felt a pang of guilt again at being the reason for his smile to disappear, but she couldn’t stand it anymore. If she didn’t find a place to lie down soon, she was sure she’d pass out.


It was light out. He didn’t know how long he laid there waiting for… well, something—waiting for Abby to come back—waiting for the urge to go after her—waiting for something to distract him from his current mood.

Mike felt terrible about snapping at Abby when he came home. He didn’t mean to sound angry, and he knew he’d hurt her. None of this was Abby’s fault. The past year had been so hard for him, and nothing he did made Abby want to give up. 

After his mother passed away, Mike saw himself becoming more and more detached from the rest of the world. Everything that happened since then was his own doing, but replaying over and over in his mind, he felt helpless to stop any of it. 

He wished Abby hadn’t left him at the bar. In the three years he’d known her, she’d rarely been sick, and even then, her illnesses were never that bad. A headache. He wondered if she was telling the truth. Maybe she was just mad because he was getting along so well with everyone and she felt left out. As soon as the thought entered his mind, he was ashamed. Abby’d never done anything to hurt him. How could he think of her like that?

His real problem was guilt. It’s just that it had been so long since he’d had so much fun. So much to drink. All of his old friends were there, even Shelly. Mike didn’t realize how much he missed her. He hadn’t seen her in years and thought back to those days in high school. 

He’d known Shelly and her sister, Sarah, all his life. Shelly was only a year younger than he was, while Sarah was three years his junior. He and Shelly had even been best friends at one point. That is, until his last year of high school. 

One night, when he was a junior, the younger sister had confessed her love for him in an awkward, semi-public announcement. Waitressing at the diner, she brought him his check attached to a big, red Valentine’s Day card. Half the basketball team was there. Someone snatched the card from his hand and read it aloud. As Sarah stood there, her face turning redder and redder with every line, Mike could feel the gaze of every person in the restaurant on him. Then Rich asked him if he would go out with the “little girl.” Out of embarrassment, Mike laughed and teased her. She hadn’t spoken to him for over a year, finally mumbling a few words of congratulations when he graduated.

Shelly’s situation, he realized, was his fault as well. She was intelligent and funny. She was his best friend and knew everything about him. But she was also unpopular. They spent a late night watching an old movie at her parents’ house. It was a silly comedy that had them both laughing so hard they had tears streaming down their cheeks. The next thing he knew, he was kissing her. They were interrupted by lights flashing through the window, signaling the return of her parents and sister. He left quickly to avoid an uncomfortable run-in with Sarah.

Monday morning at school, Shelly walked up to Mike in the hall and put her hand on his arm. He was with the rest of the basketball team and quickly shook her handoff. The look on her face embarrassed him, and he turned and walked away, muttering something mean that he thought she couldn’t hear. Mike knew he’d hurt her, and she’d refused to talk to him the rest of the week. Finally, when she did speak to him, he messed it up even more by asking her to keep their kiss a secret. Only when it was too late did he realize what he’d done and that he’d lost his closest friend.

None of that mattered when he walked into that bar. He had a great time reminiscing with everyone and enjoyed being the center of attention as stories floated around the room featuring him and his high school basketball glory. It had been years since he’d seen Shelly, and Mike was surprised that she didn’t seem to hold a grudge over the mistakes he’d made. 

Abby shouldn’t have left me there, he thought. On any other night, he wouldn’t have drunk as much. If Abby were with him, she would have made sure he didn’t go overboard.

But overboard he went, ending up doing something he shouldn’t have. 

Yes, this is as much Abby’s fault as it is mine.  


They’d taken turns buying rounds, and he realized that Shelly didn’t drink very often. The alcohol made her brave, more confident. And more amorous. By the end of the evening, they had their arms around each other and ended up in a booth at the back of the bar. He felt a pang of guilt as he thought about Abby but quickly pushed the thought away, deciding that he was going to enjoy himself.

Just then, a tall man wielding a dishrag and a frown told them it was time to leave. Realizing that it was two in the morning, they didn’t hesitate when the man pointed at the door.

By the time they got to Shelly’s house, worry had completely sobered him. They were parked in the Woodward’s driveway. Shelly leaned over and quickly kissed him on the cheek before getting out of the car and walking very steadily to her front door. She seemed to have sobered up quite a bit too.

He just sat in the car. The night seemed to replay in his mind. He thought about Abby and regretted being such a jerk. What was I thinking? I should have gone home with Abs. They’ll find out for sure.

He didn’t know how long he sat there until he looked at his watch and noticed the time. Wow, I’ve been out here for almost an hour.

He walked across the lawn to his father’s house, let himself in with the key hidden above the door, and quietly walked upstairs.


There was a knock on the door. Mike looked out the window to see a police car sitting in his father’s driveway. He rushed to the bathroom to wash his face. A glance in the mirror showed a tired-looking man with dark purple bags under his eyes. He took a few deep breaths, ran his fingers through his hair, and went downstairs. 

When he opened the front door, a uniformed officer was reaching out to knock again. He apologized and introduced himself. He then asked Mike if he knew an Abigail Forrest.


“Yes, she’s my fiancé,” he answered.

“May I come in?” the officer asked.

Mike stepped back to make room for the policeman to pass. He wondered if the cop could tell he was sweating. He was sure the man could hear his heart pounding. It’s nothing, he thought. There’s no reason to be nervous.

Mike closed the front door but remained in the foyer, trying to avoid bringing the man further into his home. He was distracted, his mind still on the events of last night. He wondered where Abby was and why the cop was asking about her.

“Wait, what?” He missed what the officer was saying until he mentioned Abby’s name again. 

“Sir, I’m trying to tell you that your fiancé was killed last night in a hit and run.”

Mike stared at the cop, speechless. The man looked uncomfortable and took a step back, perhaps thinking that Mike would react violently.

When he was finally able to speak, all he could say was, “When?”

Reading from a little notebook in his hand, he said, “An eyewitness said that he found Miss Forrest parked on the side of the road at about two o’clock this morning. She was sleeping in her car, said she had a headache, and he convinced her to let him drive her home. When she got out of her car, the witness said he leaned in to take the keys out of the ignition. Ms. Forrest took a step backward away from the car, or maybe she lost her balance. Either way, when she stepped backward, she was struck by another vehicle. She made it to the hospital but was pronounced dead at two forty-eight a.m.”

Wait a minute! Two forty-eight? But how? Abby was here. He spoke to her. He pretty much yelled at her!

“No,” he said, “It’s not Abby, can’t be. Abby was home when I got here, at about three a.m.”

“I’m sorry, sir, but we’re sure. The time is correct. I was there, at the hospital.”

Mike just stood there; he didn’t know what to say. The officer paused, unsure of whether he should continue or not. He seemed to take Mike’s silence as approval and continued to read from the little book, but Mike no longer heard him. A ripple of confusion worked its way up to his spine as he tried to recall exactly what Abby had said before she left.

The officer excused himself and moved towards the door. Mike didn’t hear what he said but moved out of the way, assuming the man wanted to leave. When he opened the door and looked out across the yard, he was surprised to see another police cruiser in the Woodwards’ driveway next to Shelly’s car. He stared, puzzled, as he watched another policeman put a shocked, handcuffed Shelly into the back seat. He realized that the cop next to him was still talking.

“The witness was able to give us a description of the car and the license plate number. We traced it to your next-door neighbor, Miss Woodward,” he said, pointing to the patrol car sitting in the neighbor’s driveway.

Mike could feel the blood draining from his face. He recalled the ride home last night with perfect clarity. 


Mike was too drunk to drive. He knew this. On any other night, he would have caught a ride or a cab. But Shelly was even worse off than he was. It was only a couple of miles up the road, and he figured he could at least get them home. Shelly willingly gave up the keys to her car. 

She was leaning heavily on Mike as they made their way to her little Honda parked across the street. He successfully put her in the passenger’s seat and buckled her seat belt. She made it difficult for him to concentrate on the road as she sat sideways in her seat, looking at him and running her fingers through his hair.

“I’ve missed you, Mike,” she said, “How can it be that we fell so far apart?”

Mike turned to look at Shelly, trying to gauge her level of intoxication. “You’re drunk,” he told her.


“So maybe we can talk about that later.”

“Later when? Tomorrow we’ll go on with our lives, and I won’t get a chance to tell you.”

“Tell me?”

“That I still love you. That I always have.”

He turned his head to look at her and was about to say something when she screamed.

“What was that?” she yelled.

Mike had hit something. He looked in his rearview mirror. Was that something on the road? He couldn’t tell, it was so dark, and the windows were starting to fog. Afraid to stop, Mike pressed his foot down a little harder on the accelerator speeding up a bit. 

“What are you doing?” Shelly cried, “We have to go back! What if you hit someone?”

“Who would be out here this time of night? It’s probably a dog or something!” Please let it be a dog or something!

Shelly began to cry, and he snapped at her telling her to shut up. He immediately felt sorry but didn’t dare turn his head to look at her. They rode the rest of the way home in silence.


He recalled that last moment with Abby in the bedroom. He remembered her smell wafting towards him as he walked in. She was lying on the bed, and he quietly lay down next to her, trying not to wake her. But she was up. And he was a jerk. She wasn’t upset or angry or impatient. It was Mike who wanted to argue. 

Mike fell to his knees. His tears were blinding, and he couldn’t breathe. The pain in his heart was nearly unbearable. On any other night, Abby would have stayed. She would have touched his hair and kissed him softly on the head. She would have told him to calm down and then waited until he did.

“All I’ve ever wanted was for you to be happy.”

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