A Blogovella by Ezzie Dryar (Anne Martin)

Posts tagged “ancestors

5. Realism


womanatdesk

OK.  I’ve given up on those rules.  Too many people says it’s hard to read.  It’s supposed to be, but I’ll give in – at least in this one…

I hate the holiday season.  It’s the travelling and the family part.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love my family, but they just don’t understand me, even my sister, J.  None of them can believe that I live in the UK permanently.  For them, it’s just this 16-year holiday, while I sow my wild oats.  Every time I come home for a visit (that’s where I am now), they ask when I’m coming back.  My parents are getting up there and my siblings resent that I’m not around to help out.  They (my parents) are still upright and compos mentis, perhaps even more than I am.  They get around and about, and although both have had health scares in the past few years, neither is likely to live to an age where they become feeble and need care.  That’s just the way it is in our family.  No one has made it to 80 in several generations.  My father is the oldest of his generation, and the only one still living.  Maybe I’m a pessimist, but he’s a realist.  He’s been preparing to die for over a decade, and he’s constantly making certain that all their affairs are in order.  They’ve even bought the plot.  I don’t do graves – I hate cemetaries.  I’d rather take a fast track to dust, myself, cremation.

The worst thing about the big family gathering is that all these feelings come back, like I’ve never left, and soon I’ll be wishing I never came back.  J is starting to understand me better, but none of them really understand what I do for a living, and why I’m living in a foreign country.  They also don’t understand why I’m not married, or why I split with my ex.  Technically, if I shack up with someone else, it’s adultery.  Frankly, I thought shacking up with my husband akin to adultery.  It was over almost immediately after it began – he was never the love of my life, unfortunately, and I think he sensed that.  He was fighting a losing battle and gravitated towards someone who didn’t have my hangups.  He was right, the bastard, but that was a long time ago.  It will come up again – probably on Christmas Eve.  That seems to be the usual pattern.  At least, I didn’t have to bring work with me this year.  They love using that for their attacks.

Time for some retail therapy.

(Just a reminder: this is a reprint from 2008, but very little has changed)

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5. Enter The Harem


My virginity is still intact. Nipples and I didn’t actually do anything, not even after we hopped into my bed together at six.

“I was worried about sleeping alone in a haunted house,” she whispered, her head cradled between my breasts.

“We’ll talk about it later,” I reassured her, “after we’ve slept a little.”

We didn’t speak about it right away. Honestly, I didn’t know how I felt about it. It was nice, but I wanted more than she could give me. I supposed both of us would have preferred male company, not that I had ever experienced it before. I’ve never even had a real boyfriend. Judging from her Facebook page, she’d had several.

The weather was rotten outside, a mixture of rain and snow, so I showed her around the castle, the modern parts, as well as the indoor sections of the ruin. As I had a recital to play in a month, I spent a couple of hours practising before dinner, while she composed.

Facebook: Sandra Claussen wants to be your friend.

It came in just as I was finished practising. Had Arlen really told her about me, or was she just friending me because I had posted on Arlen’s wall? I felt more loyal to Nipples, but I decided to accept anyway. I needed to learn more about Arlen.

Sandra Claussen: Are you free to chat?

I had a nasty habit of forgetting to keep myself invisible while I was online.

Eirica Johnstone: For a little while. Must cook dinner soon. Guests imminent.

Well, one guest.

Sandra Claussen: Arlen suggested I make contact with you. He says you 
are an up and coming pianist. A sure thing.
Eirica Johnstone: Well, here I am. What can I do for you?
Sandra Claussen: Can we meet sometime to talk? Are you ever near Leeds 
or York?
Eirica Johnstone: You may have to come up here, or to Glasgow. I have 
a recital coming up and don't have much spare time.
Sandra Claussen: How about after New Years? I could come up for a 
weekend. Would really like to meet you.

I wasn’t sure how long Nipples was staying, but I needed to be back on campus the second week of January.

Eirica Johnstone: How about in Glasgow on the 15/16? I don't have a 
spare room, though.
Sandra Claussen: Any chance I could come the week before? Arlen says 
you have a spare room at your home. Can't stay long. Term starts on 
the 11th. May I come there?
Eirica Johnstone: Is it urgent? If not, how about Feb?

I didn’t want them to overlap.

Sandra Claussen: Jan is better for me. Viva in Feb. Would like advice on 
portfolio. 
Eirica Johnstone: Can't Arlen advise you?
Sandra Claussen: We have a difference of opinion. You could mediate. 
Performability issues.
Eirica Johnstone: I have a guest, and I don't know when she is leaving. 
Possibly that weekend, if not before. I don't know yet.
Sandra Claussen: Would you let me know? I'd really like to meet. Arlen 
says I would like you, and that you would be good for me.
Eirica Johnstone: In what way?

That was disturbing.

Sandra Claussen: He says you have a level head and are not afraid to 
speak your mind.
Eirica Johnstone: OK, well, I'll let you know. Must see to dinner now.

I never expected to hear from her. I don’t know why I said she could come. While I had a few moments, I took a quick look at other emails, namely a couple from Arlen. I’d left him high and dry:

Arlen Stewart: Eirica, I'm a little uncomfortable about telling you my 
fantasies. Maybe some other time. A
Arlen Stewart: Eirica, Are you there? Why the sudden silence? Not 
tomorrow, maybe Tuesday.
Eirica Johnstone: 
Dear Arlen,
I'm sorry, I was interrupted by Nipples last night and we were 
up late with, you know, girl talk. I'll try for Tuesday night, 
but Nipples has been struggling with insomnia. We have ghosts here, 
and she is nervous about them. Will email if I can. If you will 
tell me one of your fantasies, I'll tell you one of mine. Deal? I 
know, you want to know what makes me tick. I'll think about that, too.
Love,
 Eirica

I took a quick look at Sandra’s Facebook page. Personally, I think Nipples’ opinion that she’s a lesbian doesn’t quite tell the whole picture. In the photos, Sandra was certainly free with her body, posting photos of herself that even I wouldn’t dare, although that doesn’t say much. Certainly, she shows off more than Nipples. I noticed also that Aoife Stewart was among her friends, and featured in some of her photos. Like Nipples, I suspected more than just an ordinary friendship. This was the first picture I’d seen of Aoife, and now I understood Arlen’s fascination with Sinead. They looked remarkably alike, as if Sinead was her younger, prettier sister.

Sandra’s website was much slicker than Nipples’, and she had won many more awards. I listened to a few of her clips, and resolved to help Nipples tart hers up, at least to Sandra’s standard, if not better. That was something I could do for her.

“What you doing?” Nipples asked, interrupting me.

“I think we need to whip your website into shape.”

“What do you mean?”

“I just had a look at Sandra’s. She’s obviously spent a lot of money on it. It’s rather slick.”

“Aoife set it up for her. She’s a web designer.”

“Well, I think you need to give her some competition. I can help.”

“You can set up web pages?”

“It’s amazing what you can teach yourself, kicking about alone in an old castle.”

“I’m up for it, if you are?”

“We’ve got a few weeks to get a good start on it. By the way, I just got a message from Sandra. She wants to come meet me. She seems to be in a hurry about it, too, something about her portfolio. Apparently, she has a disagreement with Arlen about it.”

“I think she’s heard that I’m up here. When doesn’t she want to come?”

“On the ninth, staying overnight. When were you planning on leaving?”

“The ninth. I have a tutorial on the eleventh, so I’ll need to give myself a day to prepare.”

“So you will probably overlap. Do you want her to see you, or not?”

“I want her to know that I’ve spent the better part of three weeks here, and she only gets two days. Maybe we could pretend we are lovers or something. Make her jealous.”

“We’ll see about that. You may tire of me in three weeks. Hey, I was just about to upload my pictures from last night, shall we trade?”

“Sure, let me get my laptop.”

Minutes later, I’d loaded up her photos on my computer. “Hey, you really have a good eye,” she said looking at mine. “I wonder if you could take some better pictures of me for my website. This is an ideal location.”

“Well, if you’ll take some of me, too. Most of what I have are arm’s length self-portraits. I could dig out my father’s tripod, and take some of us together as well. It’s in one of the attics, so it may take some time to find.”

“That’s great! Let’s take some tomorrow.”

After dinner, we sat down and worked on her website up in my bedroom by the fire until she fell asleep on my shoulder. Arlen wasn’t there, so I thought I’d catch up on my Facebook. I uploaded a few of the pictures that Nipples took outside, then noticed that Sandra was online.

Eirica Johnstone: Hey Sandra, do you have a moment.
Sandra Clausen: Hi, how are you?
Eirica Johnstone: I'm fine. 9th is OK if you want to come. You'll 
probably overlap briefly with my other guest, but that is fine.
Sandra Clausen: That's great. I'll need directions closer to the 
time. Should I bring anything? Some music, obviously. Anything else?
Eirica Johnstone: Nothing I can think of ...

At that moment, I noticed that Amelia was also online.

Tell me about yourself, aside from what's on your website. What 
do you think of Arlen?
Sandra Clausen: Give me a few minutes and I'll send you an email.
Amelia Solent: Mind if I bother you for a minute?

My heart raced. Not only was I being contacted by a famous composer, but she was one of Arlen’s old flames.

Eirica Johnstone: Yes. Nice to meet you.

Then I replied to Sandra that I’d wait for her email.

Amelia Solent: Arlen Stewart spoke very highly of you. Can I 
make a request?
Eirica Johnstone: Sure.
Amelia Solent: Don't hurt him. Many have.
Eirica Johnstone: Many?
Amelia Solent: You know what I'm talking about. Women. Students. 
He gets too involved and can't let go.
Eirica Johnstone: I'll try not to, but I'm not one of his students.
Amelia Solent: That makes you even more dangerous to him. I'm not 
trying to be mean, but I've seen it all, and he usually comes running 
to me when it all ends.
Eirica Johnstone: He said he didn't stray.
Amelia Solent: That doesn't mean he doesn't get involved. It's sweet, 
but it also leaves him a wreck afterwards.
Eirica Johnstone: But aren't you one of them/us, too?
Amelia Solent: I'm different.
Eirica Johnstone: How? Aoife must hate you for a reason.
Amelia Solent: She hates all of us.
Eirica Johnstone: Not Sandra Claussen, apparently.
Amelia Solent: She's different, too, I guess, but in a different way.

Eirica Johnstone: How?

Amelia Solent: It's neither of our business. You'll find out soon 
enough. Has she contacted you yet?
Eirica Johnstone: Yes. I was just chatting with her a moment ago.

Nipples stirred, but turned away from the screen.

Amelia Solent: She checks everyone out. That's her way. Don't be 
surprised if she gets physical.
Eirica Johnstone: Physical?
Amelia Solent: She may come on to you. Probably will. That's why 
we all hate her.
Eirica Johnstone: Why does she do it?

That partially explained Nipples attitude towards her.

Amelia Solent: It's a control thing. She's trying to break the bonds 
between Arlen and his other women.
Eirica Johnstone: How many of us are there?
Amelia Solent: About 20. Sandra's gotten to about half of us. Some 
are untraceable, and some are too far away. She got to me when I was 
invited out to a concert there. I felt so dirty afterwards.

Gasp!

Eirica Johnstone: You mean you gave in?
Amelia Solent: She took me by complete surprise, and I was having 
problems with my husband at the time. He didn't want me to come. 
(He doesn't like Arlen.)
Eirica Johnstone: What happened?
Amelia Solent: We went to the Slug & Lettuce after the concert. 
Arlen had assigned her to take care of me. We got plastered, and 
I awoke in her flat, naked, with her on top of me.
Eirica Johnstone: What did she do to you?
Amelia Solent: We had done something … sexual, but I don't remember 
what. One thing just led to another. She was very nice to me, though. 
I think that's the trick. She makes it hard to hate her afterwards, 
and then she reminds you of it for months.
Eirica Johnstone: I thought you said everyone hated her.
Amelia Solent: It's a weird kind of hate. I hate myself for it 
more than I hate her. Perhaps, it's fear.

Sandra’s email came in.

Eirica Johnstone: I'll be careful. She's coming up here in 3 weeks.
Amelia Solent: Will Nipples still be there?

How could she have known? Of course, she was friends with her, and all Nipples friends would know by now. “Yes. They’ll overlap briefly.”

Amelia Solent: I feel sorry for Nips, she took it the hardest. 
They had an affair for several months. Now she's even more confused 
than she was before.
Eirica Johnstone: Nipples is a lesbian?
Amelia Solent: I really couldn't say. Before Sandra, maybe, now? 
I don't think so. You would know better than I. I haven't slept 
with her.
Eirica Johnstone: How did you know?
Amelia Solent: She told me this morning.
Eirica Johnstone: Nothing happened.
Amelia Solent: You surprise her, but she admires you, just like 
she admires Arlen. You can trust her, but don't believe everything 
she says. She's a little blind in some ways. She thinks you're 
beautiful.
Eirica Johnstone: Really?!
Amelia Solent: That's what she told me. Let her down gently, will you?
Eirica Johnstone: I like her, too, but I'm not … like that. I think 
we'll stay friends for a long time, though.
Amelia Solent: Must go. Hubby is calling. Be careful. If you hurt 
Arlen, I will hurt you. I mean it. I can do that.
Eirica Johnstone: I'll be careful.

That was intense. Nipples stirred again, rubbed her eyes and sat up.

“Time for bed?” I asked.

“Goodnight,” she yawned, kissed me on the cheek and left.

That left me alone to read Sandra’s message and to plant a seed. First, the seed. I sent the picture of Nipples in her nightdress to Arlen. I needed to see how he reacted before I sent something more racy, and maybe eventually one of me.

Sandra Clausen:
Dear Eirica,
By now you have read my bio on my website, so I assume you want 
a more personal story. I lived a fairly normal childhood, going 
to a girls school in Harrow, while studying music at the Purcell 
School with Alan Sickert. I've wanted to write music since as early 
as I remember, studying piano with my mother and then cello from 
the age of six. I've won a lot of awards, but I'm sure you don't 
want me to list them all – you've read them on my website, of course.
I write mostly for large forces, orchestra as well as chorus. I'm 
deeply moved by good vocal music, and with my instrumental roots, 
I'm hoping to write opera and theatre music. I don't know if you 
are aware, but Arlen's wife Aoife is a wonderful poet and writer 
(although unpublished), and I am hoping to collaborate with her 
some day. I admire her poetry especially. If you want to read her 
work go to her beautiful website (she earns her living in web design) 
at aoifeocallaghan.org. Arlen has been pushing me to write some smaller 
works for piano or cello, and that is why he directed me to you.
On the personal side, I am a vegetarian and into Celtic mythology. 
I'm also a witch, a real one. I hope that doesn't scare you. I'm a 
white witch, and that means that none of my spells are cast with 
malice. I have a familiar, too, a cat named Giuseppe. (He was a 
Trappist monk in a past life.) I will bring my tarot cards along, 
if you don't mind, but I'll leave Giuseppe at home. (He hates being 
away from familiar places.) Looking at your Facebook page and website, 
I can see you aren't a Bible-basher, but do tell me if you would rather 
I didn't bring them. The 9th is a full moon, which is good for divination 
and casting spells. Maybe I can show you what I do.
I believe that we meet various people in life for a purpose. I met 
Arlen four years ago, you just met him, as you've just met Nicole. 
You may have already had contact with Amelia Solent, who seems to 
shadow me, pretending to be Arlen's protector. I don't know what 
she holds against me, but do take what she says with a pinch of salt. 
Nicole and I are rivals within the department, so some animosity 
between us can be expected. She resents the acclaim I receive, despite 
being a year behind her in my studies. I have tried to be as nice to 
her as I can.
I would be happy to answer any of your questions. And do tell me more 
about yourself.
Blessed be,
Sandra

Phew! Dare I believe there wasn’t a subtext there? A tarot reading wouldn’t be a bad thing, and the ghosts will torment her if she tries to do anything nasty. They’ve always protected their kin. Reading between the lines of Amelia’s correspondence, Sandra won’t do anything worse than try to seduce me, luring me to want to do what she wants me to do. I can handle a grope, I guess, if that is what is needed to get me closer to Arlen.

Eirica Johnstone: 
Dear Sandra,
Yes, I've been in contact with Amelia, but I actually met her several 
years ago in Paris. She doesn't remember that, though. She had written 
a competition piece, and I had a half hour with her tutoring me on it.
It doesn't matter to me that you are a witch. I've lived my entire 
life in an ancient castle with more ghosts than you can count ...

Out of the corner of my eye, I spied Nipples slipping in through the servants’ entrance again. “I left my nightdress in here last night,” she said, sniffling.

“You’re afraid to sleep alone?” I asked, sensing the real reason for her visit.

She stared down at her hands. “Yes.”

“OK, but I just want to finish this email … you don’t mind if I sleep nude, do you? I didn’t exactly ask last night. I wasn’t expecting company.”

“It doesn’t matter to me. You do what you like.”

“OK, just hop in bed, and I’ll join you in ten minutes.”

“Do you mind if I just lie on the sofa until you are done?”

“Sure. Go ahead.”

As I turned my attention back to the email, I watched Nipples undress, and then slip on her nightdress. Her movements were supple and catlike, something I found aesthetically pleasing. She was a kind soul in a waif-like body … with big nipples. Facing towards me as she took her blouse off and then her bra, she allowed me a good view of those nipples. They were as if she were permanently aroused, with large purple aureoles. What would they be like if she really were aroused?

Her milk-chocolate skin was shiny and smooth with little body hair, while her hair hung to her shoulders in loose small curls, and I suspected that one of her parents was white. Lying on the sofa, she watched me with a pleasant, but apprehensive smile. What was she thinking?

I had to finish off my email:

... They keep me company at night when I am alone here, which is 
almost every night that I stay in the castle. I look forward to 
the days when children will play here again. In the meantime, I 
spend as much of my time as I can at uni. As I am just finishing 
my D. Phil., I have little contact with the other students, so 
there isn't much in the way of rivalry. I don't play the same 
repertoire as the others anyway.
As you undoubtedly know, I love new music and hope to spend my 
career performing it at every opportunity. I'm also the Chief of 
my branch of the Johnstone clan, so I have inevitable duties from 
time to time. We're outcast, so we don't have much to do with the 
main clan itself. There was a feud several centuries ago, the reason 
for many of the ghosts here. My offspring will inherit my title as 
well as the castle, but that's far in the future.
As far as religion goes, organized religion doesn't begin to explain 
our world, not with my experience of the supernatural, at least. We 
can discuss if you want, but it is something I live with every day.
I'm not sure what else you want me to say. I like Arlen because 
he's so shy, but has so much boiling under the surface. And I 
really enjoy his music. I'm looking forward to playing his piano 
pieces next month, and if he can swing an orchestra for his piano 
concerto, that too.
I'll see you in a few weeks.
Love,
Eirica

Was that soupy enough? I closed my laptop and looked at Nipples, who still watched me, wide awake. “This is a lovely fire,” she said, “so warm and comfy.”

“I always have one in here during the winter. I often have trouble sleeping without the dancing light and the soft crackle of the embers.” I stood and pulled my jumper off, stripping down as she watched.

“Sandra and I used to be lovers,” she said bluntly, as I sat on the end of the bed, waiting for her.

“I know. How did you know I was writing an email to her?”

“You mouth the words when you type, and I just guessed who might want to know that kind of information about you.”

“I hope you aren’t upset. I’m just playing her at her own game. I think she wants to know why Arlen is so obsessed with me. I suspect you do to. Amelia just wants me to back off.”

“Amelia just wants him for herself,” she hissed more vehemently than she intended. “She’s never been able to let go of him. They correspond at least weekly, daily if she is upset about something. More often in the last couple of years, since Sandra has been around. She doesn’t trust her?”

“You don’t either.”

“Not any more,” she shrugged. “I loved her once, but she tried to wedge herself between Arlen and me.”

“What is there between Arlen and you?” I asked bluntly. No sense in beating around the bush.

“I think we’re kind of soul mates. He lusts after me. I like to think we were lovers in a past life.”

“But not this one?”

“It can’t happen. I’m not really sure about what I want in a relationship. Sandra showed me what I didn’t want. Sandra will pretend to be a dyke as long as it suits her. Eventually, she’ll want a man to give her children, someone with enough power to help her career. Besides, I’m not sure I want to date someone who is older than my father. I want to fall head-over-heels in love. It doesn’t matter who that is.”

“Me?” I asked, nervous that I was leading her on.

She hesitated. “I could never give you the children you want, and besides, behind that uninhibited exterior hides a raging heterosexual. If I were to give myself fully to you, it would be with the knowledge that I only loved part of you. OK, maybe I love you, but I have my feet planted firmly on the ground.” She paused and then asked, “What is there between you and Arlen?”

It was my turn to hesitate. Did I trust her enough to tell the truth, or even a variation of it? The truth might send her packing. The truth might hurt Arlen, but like Sandra, I needed to teach him to want me enough to give me a child or two, without leaving his wife. “I’m still playing it by ear,” I answered. “I don’t want to get in the way of his marriage, but I like him a lot. It’s a physical thing, as well as intellectual. I admire the way he thinks, but I have this intense desire to get inside him, to be part of him.”

“I’ve never heard it put that way,” she remarked. “Most want him inside of them?”

“Even you?”

“At one time, I did. Sandra does, Amelia does … I think she has, actually.”

“Really?”

“Take a look at the pictures of her two boys. The younger one looks like her, but the older one … you make your own judgement.”

That put a twist on things. “He said he never strayed.”

“I think it might have been before his marriage. She was already dating her husband, but I think something happened. She became pregnant just as she finished her degree. I don’t think he has strayed since, but I could be wrong. He knows what it could do to his career.”

If that were true, could I trust Arlen? Thinking about it a moment, I realized it didn’t matter. Unprotected sex with a man who slept around didn’t thrill me, but I would deal with the fallout afterwards. “What about his marriage?”

“I think he worries about that, too, but you know what I think about Aoife and Sandra. If he did stray, it would just make them even. I think getting out of that marriage would be good for him anyway. She controls him too much.”

“Sandra says Aoife is a great poet, and she wants to write an opera with her.”

“So? It doesn’t mean they aren’t sleeping together.”

“Maybe.” I looked at the clock: 2 am. I spun around, chose a side of the bed, and flipped off the light. Nipples walked over and lay on the other side, facing me. She was still wide awake. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she smiled, looking me straight in the eyes. “I just like looking at you. Do you mind?”

I wouldn’t look away … five seconds … ten … thirty. She smiled wider. A ghost passed the foot of the bed, but I dared not look. If I was in a nightdress, I would say that Nipples undressed me with her eyes, but they bore deeper, way down to my sex. Touching her would have broken the spell.

Another ghost floated behind her. Mum had told me that when they had sex, the room was full of ghosts. Intimacy drew them close; sex drew them closer. Nips didn’t need to touch me, as my body submitted to her gaze. Did she feel as I did? Could she feel my breath, hear my heart racing? What was she doing to me? A minute … two … ten. I flushed as a bead of sweat dripped across my chest. More ghosts … female. I felt one let her hair brush my back. Could Nips not see them?

The breath of a spirit circled her head, glowing eerily in the half light of the fire. A male ghost cupped my breasts in his hands, squeezing lightly. Nips would see the indentations of his fingers if she chose to. He caressed my hips, my thighs.

A door in the hallway squeaked shut, distracting Nips, and unleashing my molten ecstasy.

“What was that?” she gasped, but I was too far gone. I couldn’t catch my breath. “Are you OK?”

“Rather,” I whispered in my best Oxbridge tongue. I couldn’t fake Scots now. “What did you just do?”

“Are you all right? Do you have a fever?”

“I’m fine,” I said, rolling onto my back. “Better than fine.”

“What was that noise?” she asked.

“Just a ghost closing a door.”

She shuddered.

“The room was just full of them. Couldn’t you see them?”

“I was just lying here thinking of you, looking at you.”

“You should be careful how you look at me. You attracted the ghosts, and they joined in.”

“Joined in what?” she asked, frowning.

“You didn’t feel it?”

“Feel what?”

“I just had an orgasm.”

“Hmm. I didn’t,” she replied, sounding disappointed.

“You gave it to me, with a little help from one of the ghosts. He was doing what you were thinking.”

“How do you know what I was thinking?”

“I don’t, but the ghosts did. There was one circling around your head, a woman behind me, and a man touching me. There was another near then end of the bed.”

“Are they still here?” she asked, looking around.

“I can’t see any, but you don’t see them if you are looking. They are here … watching. Ghosts are great voyeurs. My mother said this room was full of them when I was conceived. The women of our clan are sensitive. We can feel them, sometimes even hear them. They like it when I wander the castle with no clothes on, so they can touch me. They won’t touch my clothes. I’m one of their kind, a Johnstone.”

“What’s it like to see ghosts?” she asked.

“They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some, I can see in their full form, although translucent. Some are just a shimmering, like the one that floated around you. The one by the end of the bed was a shadow in a dark room. The one behind me was just a brush of her hair, but I couldn’t see the last one at all, the one that groped me.”

“Groped you?”

“There are many here, but I recognized the touch of his hands. I’ve felt them before, while replaying a fantasy in my head. He’ll come to you if you invite him.”

“How do I invite him?” she asked. I wasn’t sure she believed me.

“Firstly, you have to be friendly. If you want to feel his touch, you’ll have to strip down. If you are under the covers, you might feel the press of him against you, but you won’t feel his skin, nor will you feel him inside you.”

“Should I do that now?”

“If you want him now, yes, but you will attract others, so you mustn’t be afraid. That’s when a pleasant encounter can become a nightmare. You may sense others, and you may hear things, a distant scream, a door closing or opening, a shadow or a shimmer. They are just ghosts, but they are my family. They must become your friends.”

“Are they tortured?”

“Some are, they died a hideous death or of loneliness. The one who dances around you lost a love in childbirth.”

“How do you know?”

“I just do. If you open yourself completely to him, you will learn more about him. It may be that he will think you are his love come back for him, or maybe a little of her soul will find her way into you. Perhaps it was the touch of her hair I felt on my back. There may be others drawn to you by the colour of your skin. There have been black servants in this household. Maybe one of them will come to you instead. I can’t be sure.”

“How do I know he won’t be violent?” she asked.

“The others will keep him in line. They will defer to my authority. They remain here under my sufferance.”

“You could banish them?”

“Yes, but they keep me company. You are safe here as long as I breathe.”

She sat up. “OK, I’m ready,” she sighed, pulling her nightdress off over her head. “You said I had to be friendly. How do I do that?”

“Just don’t start if you hear or see things. Keep your eyes open so you can see them if they want you to. Don’t be afraid. Go with the flow. Now lie back and tell me about your fantasy, just until you sense them. You are sharing a secret pleasure with them, and they will come.”

“Does it need to be someone in particular?”

“Not necessarily, but have a good image in your mind.”

“Would you mind if it was Arlen?”

“Whatever turns you on.” I did mind, but I thought maybe it might give me more insight into her feelings about him.

“OK, here goes,” she whispered, laying back. “When I first started studying with Arlen, he used to stare at my breasts. I’m not even sure he knew he was doing it, and for a while it bothered me, although I became accustomed to it. Men have stared at my nipples since puberty. One day I had a particularly frustrating lesson. He was berating me for how little work I had prepared. I’d had a tough week and just couldn’t produce anything. I came in a nervous wreck, and it wasn’t long before I was reduced to tears. I don’t blame him; I was fragile and just crumbled. Putting a hand on my shoulder, he said, ‘I’m just pushing you because sometimes one needs a little shove.’ I was wearing a halter that day, and I caught him glance into my cleavage. I think he saw more than he expected. Perhaps it was that he realized he had a hand on my bare skin. I can’t be sure, but he turned beet red and backed away. Maybe it was my reaction to his touch. It was before my relationship with Sandra and completely unexpected. He tried to hide it, but I know he had an erection, and that made me even more excited. That’s when I put my hand on his arm. I don’t know what I intended. It was late in the afternoon, and we had lost track of time. Aoife was away on a course, and the building was more or less empty. No one would have known.”

Nipples stopped for a moment. I sensed a shimmer in the corner, but then she continued.

“He stopped as if he didn’t know what to do, so I had to show him. Lifting my hand from his arm, I touched his thigh, sliding it up and down his leg, closer and closer, until I found his zipper. He sat paralysed, waiting for what I would do next. I unhooked the clasp and pulled the zip down slowly. Still frozen, I began to unbutton his shirt from the bottom up. Opening it, I caressed his nipples, then leaned over an tasted them. Only then did I feel his hands underneath my halter, search for my breasts, my nipples …”

She gasped. A ghost had touched her. One shimmered around her head caressing her neck. Nips eyes were open, but she wasn’t seeing the room.

“I … he … pulled my halter over my head and licked circles around my nipples. I don’t know …” another gasp, “… I don’t know how we made to the floor, but I’d removed his shirt, and found myself kneading his bare buttocks … ohhhh … my panties … ughnnn … skirt … we kissed … his hands … I stroked his … I held him tight … legs locked around him … he …”

Nipples could go no further, as her ghosts took her into orbit. The room shimmered with an assortment of shades, twinkles, and as she approached her climax I heard a scream (perhaps of ecstasy) come from the ruin. She opened herself completely to him, as he kneaded her breasts, throbbed between her thighs, culminating in a long high-pitched squeal of pleasure from the deepest reaches of her soul, and a wet orgasm, leaving a small puddle on my duvet.

After a minute, she sighed. Turning to me, I saw a tear dribble down her cheek. “I’m not sure I want to do that again,” she sobbed.

“It’s too late,” I said. “Once you open yourself to them, you can’t go back. They will be curious about you. What happened?”

“I was a servant girl, perhaps a slave, born in Africa, somewhere near the east coast. My master loved me, but he knew that I could never be anything more to him that just a servant. I was 14 years old when I died in childbirth. My son lived and went to work in Kingston.”

“Did the girl possess you as the spirit pleasured you? Was he her Master?”

“I don’t know, but it didn’t matter. My son was a white boy with Johnstone blood.”

“I don’t understand the significance,” I said.

“That white boy was an ancestor on my mother’s side. My mother’s name was Irma Johnson. We’re related.”

“Sister!” I declared, putting my arms around her. It didn’t change anything. “What did you find unpleasant?”

“I learned too much about myself, and about them. They prodded and poked me, and found my Johnstone blood. They wanted to know too much, and I couldn’t stop them while my Master distracted me. I’m scared.”

“You’re kin. They won’t hurt you. They were just curious, rediscovering an unknown line. They are still all around us watching. Have a look.”

Nipples turned and gazed around the room. She found a shimmer in the corner, a shadow by the fire, a light breeze near the window. If she would have looked in a mirror, she would have found a twinkle dancing around her head. I knew there were more, but they didn’t betray visible manifestations. The woman with the long hair was behind me, as she often is.

It took me a short time to calm her down enough to fall asleep, again nestled between my breasts. I was in the line of her Master, a man who probably raped her ancestor in the name of love. I should have cried in shame, but I knew there were many men like that in my lineage.