Danica leaned against the doorframe and reflected on the various stages of childhood and adolescence she had gone through while occupying this room. The rainbow-painted walls her mother had painstakingly decorated for her had been replaced with posters of boy bands and television heartthrobs until her mother had died. After the funeral, Danica had come home and removed all the posters in a fit of rage, wanting to be surrounded once more by her mother’s rainbows. The last year she had spent in this room, she had felt comforted by those rainbows, as if her mother’s love had been forever sealed beneath the paintbrush strokes on her walls.
"I missed this old place," she whispered.
A sudden rush of cold air moving down the hallway caused Danica to turn away from the bedroom door and peer into the darkness behind her. She took a few steps further down the hall until the aroma of cigar smoke mixed with a hint of brandy wafted in the air around her. Danica remembered that smell. It had always filled her bedroom whenever the dark man would appear.
"Is it you?" she softly called into the hallway. "It’s me, Danica. I’ve come back. Just like I said I would."
Danica walked briskly past the entrance to the master bath to the final door at the end of the hall. Without hesitation, she pushed the cypress door open and walked inside the master bedroom. The light from the large picture window overlooking the courtyard shone into the room, accentuating the deep burgundy color of the carpet beneath her feet. She stepped into the center of the room and observed the ceiling fan above. Danica waited, straining with every breath to hear the slightest stirring.
"Welcome home," a man’s wispy voice resonated around her.
A hopeful smile curled the edges of Danica’s heart-shaped mouth. "Thank you, Gaston. It’s good to be home."
A few minutes later, Danica returned to the living room, where she found Pat scrolling through messages on her cell phone.
"Let’s sign the papers," Danica happily announced. "I want to get moved in as soon as possible."
Pat gave her a wary going-over with her brown eyes. "You positive about this, Danica? I need to make sure you’re aware that other tenants have had problems—"
"It’s fine, Pat. I know you said the place is haunted and people have had some bad experiences, but this…." Danica waved to the room around her. "Just feels right."
Pat gave a skeptical shrug. "I have the papers ready back at the office. The rent is eight hundred and fifty a month. Mr. Caruso wanted me to charge you the same rate he charged your father. He insisted I make this as appealing to you as possible. You must have made quite an impression on the old man when you were a kid. He never cuts anyone a deal."
"Please tell Mr. Caruso I appreciate it."
Pat replaced her cell phone in her front jacket pocket. "Let’s turn off all of these lights and head back to the office."
Suddenly, from the shuttered window beside them, three loud knocks reverberated across the room.
Pat grabbed at her chest. "Jesus! What in the hell was that?"
Danica smirked as she watched the color drain from Pat’s perfectly made-up face. "Just someone outside on the street banging on the wall…happened a lot when I was a kid. Drunk tourists would often bang on the shutters at all hours."
Pat regained her composure. "Of course, you’re right. I didn’t think of that."
Danica motioned to the pocket doors leading to the kitchen. "Let’s get you out of here, Pat, before you have a heart attack."
"Gladly," Pat offered and rushed to the doors. "I never liked this place. I just hope you know what you’re doing, Danica."
"I know," Danica asserted with a grin. "I’ve always known."