Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Sep 23, 2021

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2021 #38

 38

High school came and went forty years ago.

Life after graduation was a stark reality check that the most unlikely people adjusted well too, and thrived. Others, who lived for the social clubs, the cheerleading, the athletics, and the parties didn't do so well. The social school life was all they had; what was left after was life as it really was. It was the life they didn't want for themselves because that was the life their parents lived and constantly shoved down their throats. Merci Gracia was such a person. Vibrant and full of life in high school, forty years later, she works as a department supervisor for the state of Hawai'i. Which is just a fancy title for stuck in the corner of a basement large enough to fit three cubicles. There were no windows in the basement, so Merci's sense of time was told by the clock on her phone or on her computer. It wasn't what she hoped for in her life, but she had job security, health benefits, and a solid retirement plan. Her relationships came and went over the years. They were mainly meant to fill her loneliness. It was only when things got serious that she ended things. She couldn't bring herself to consider marriage. She still held out for her high school flame, Micheal Gomes. She'd see him at every high school reunion, mini-reunion, picnics, and funeral services for classmates who passed throughout the years. Being the events coordinator, she created excuses for any function that would bring her classmates together. Michael always attended. He aged well and stayed fit. Unlike everyone else who got fat, bald, and divorced several times over, Michael was still a God. Although Merci gushed all over him and made it evident that she was always available, Michael always laughed sweetly and gently rubbed her arm. "You're still funny after all these years Merci buckets," he'd say. "It was good seeing you, but I have to get going."

It was five in the afternoon already; her clock watch told her so. Where did the day go? She'd done it again. She spent a whole workday living in her class reunion mind again, lost in 1980. Luckily, all her reports weren't due until the end of the week. After that, she'd have to stay overtime to get it done; she couldn't afford to put it off. It was eight in the evening by the time she walked out of her building. Hers was the only car sitting in the parking lot. The old Camry had been good to her all these years. She was mindful of changing the liquids, checking the mileage, changing out the tires every few thousand miles. She waxed and detailed the car herself because she couldn't bring herself to trust anyone else to do it the way she wanted. She also kept her vehicle out of the sun so that it wouldn't affect the upholstery. Merci had only gotten behind the wheel to start her car and head home when her phone rang. The screen showed who the caller was, "Michael Gomes."

"Hello?"

"Merci? It's Michael Gomes," 

"I know it's you silly; you don't have to be so formal," she giggled like it was 1979. "I'm surprised that you're calling me? To what do I owe this honor?"

"Always funny, Merci Buckets," Michael laughed sweetly.

"Only for you, Mikey," she swooned ever so obviously. 

"The reason I'm calling is that I wanted to ask if we had any of our class reunion events coming up anytime soon?" Michael asked.

"I have nothing on the calendar for another three months," she looked through her iPad. "Why do you ask?"

"Well, Merci, you're the sweetest person I know, and you're always there for everyone whenever they need you," Michael said. "Right now, I need you Merci buckets. So I thought if you had one of those events coming up, that I could do something special, you know? Something meaningful, to show my appreciation."

Merci wasn't prepared for what she just heard, but she wasn't going to shrug it off either. " I can make something happen, Michael. I'm the events coordinator; all I have to do is wave my magic wand,"

"Thank you, Merci," Michael sounded as if a significant burden was lifted off his shoulders. "I'll promise to make it worth your time."

~

Merci created a miracle in a matter of weeks and managed to gather thirty of the core group of the social elite from high school, Michael Gomes included. In the days previous, she bought a new dress and had her hair done. In addition, Merci got out her best jewelry from Zales but never used it until now. There were a million questions to ask Michael, especially the one question about what it was that made him suddenly realize how much she meant to him? She could only assume that that question might have been the reason for the event she put together. It was precisely eight in the evening as everyone gathered at the side banquet room at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. The appetizers came around first, and then the main course. Once everyone had their fill of fine dining and liquor, Michael Gomes stood up and began to bang his fork against the champagne glass to get everyone's attention. The room followed suit. Everyone quieted down.

"First of all," Michael began. "I want all of you to know that, without Merci Gracia, a lot of these reunions and mini-reunions would not be possible if not for her hard work and years of dedication. Neither would this evening have happened without her. I realized in my heart just how valuable someone like Merci is in our lives today. So, Merci, would you please do me the honor of coming up here, please?" Micheal had brought a medium-sized briefcase with him, and now he grabbed it from under the table and set it out before him. He removed beautifully crafted plaque made from Koa wood on the borders, and the rest was finely made black marble. It was hefty, to say the least. Merci, not fully seeing the plaque at first, walked up to Michael as if they would have their first dance at their wedding. She was all smiles and beaming happiness. Michael gathered her in his arms and gave her a warm embrace. Merci soaked it all in as if her life had begun anew from this point forward. Everyone clapped while Michael stepped away and presented Meci with the plaque. "Thank you, Merci, tonight was important to me, and you made it happen." Looking at the heavy plaque that lay cold and lifeless in her arms, she saw the inscription. "To Merci Buckets, All of my thanks. Michael Gomes."

In the second, Michael turned his attention to the rest of his old high school classmates."Lydia Alcantara, would you join me, please?"

Lydia Alcantara was as tall and as wispy and beautiful as she was in high school. Nothing about her had changed, now crows feet, no sagging of the skin anywhere on her body. Her hair hadn't been dyed the way Merci had dyed hers for this special evening. Lydia seemed to be pleasantly surprised while walking up to where Michael stood. As soon as she was close, Michael knelt down on one knee while simultaneously removing a little box from his coat pocket. Opening it, Lydia saw a seven-carat diamond ring sitting perfectly in the small lambskin cushion. "It's forty years overdue, Lydia, and I'm sorry it's taken so long, but will you marry me?"

Lydia threw her head back and let out a gut-busting laugh as if she were sitting among a bunch of sailors at a bar. "Michael, I like my life the way it is. I live on my own, and I come and go as I please without having to answer to anyone; the last thing I need is to be tied down to someone. So I'm sorry, Gomes, but the answer is no." She walked back to her spot at the table and continued drinking with her old friends from the cheerleading squad like nothing had happened just a second ago.

"Michael," Merci tapped him on the shoulder with tears ready to fall. 

Looking completely wrecked, he turned around and looked at Merci as if she were the last person he needed to be looking at. "What is it?"

"You have the name on the plaque wrong," she sobbed. "My last name is Gracia."

"Oh really?" He squeaked. "It's not Buckets?"

"No!" She cried. "It's Gracia! Do you mean to tell me that throughout school, you thought my last name was buckets???"

"I mean, yeah, that's what I heard your friends call you," Michael shrugged.

"That was a joke between my friends and me!" She screamed. "If you even bothered to find out, you'd know that!"

"Uh," he smirked. "Sorry, I guess!"

Merci gripped tight on the heavy marble plaque and held it over her head so suddenly that Michael had no time to react. She brought straight down on his forehead and fractured the skull. Michael went stumbling back, and Merci went after him, bringing the plaque down on his head and then his face, again and again. Her old high school classmates emptied the room and ran out toward the lobby, screaming for security. Others were already dialing 911. When the police arrived, they found the plaque still buried in Michael's skull. Merci was nowhere to be found. Well, not that night anyway. Come Monday morning, when Clara Romento and Sarah Onishi entered their basement office at the state building, they heard typing on a keyboard from Merci's cubicle. She was never early. The two were horrified to see Merci sitting at her desk, finishing her reports for the coming week. From head to toe, she was covered in dried blood all over her face, body, and arms. It reeked of urine and feces. She'd been there the whole weekend, not once leaving her seat. Finally, when she needed to go to the bathroom, she relieved herself right where she was sitting. "Oh hey, you guys!" She chirped. "I'm almost done, and I'm heading home!"

"Merci?" Clara asked with fear and revulsion. "Merci Buh..."

"DON'T FUCKING CALL ME THAT NAME!!!" She screamed. "Or I'll cave your head in, like how I had to do with Michael."






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