Hearing Ghosts

Loni Lynne

Hearing Ghosts

A Crossroads of Kings Mill Short Story

Chapter One

Hard to believe she’d finally done it. The struggles of six years of a degree in elementary education with her focus on special education, on top of another two years of receiving her Maryland Certification in American Sign Language. Now she was going to be working her first internship at the Maryland School for the Deaf in Frederick, Maryland.

Since she’d been a young girl in middle school, Kasie Rider had thought of nothing else. She’d given up so much to pursue and focus on just this goal. And now here she was. Standing on the large front porch of the old Victorian home just off of the campus grounds she awaited the Dean of Admissions to stop by and turn over the keys to the newly renovated interns house the school had bought a few years back and restored as temporary housing.

“Hello!” An elderly lady rode up near the front curb on a classic bicycle with a white wicker basket attached at the handle bars and called out cheerfully. “You wouldn’t by any chance be Ms. Rider would you?”

“Yes. I am.” Kasie stepped a few steps down off the porch as the woman moved her kickstand into place and let her bike lean a bit as she maneuvered off. “Can I help you?”

“I’m Victoria Snyder, a friend of Dean Dorrine Koontz. She told me you would be here by now and that she was terribly sorry but wouldn’t be able to meet with you tonight to turn over the keys to you. She asked if I might be able to drop them off and make sure the house was okay for your arrival since I was going to be visiting a friend in the area this evening.”

“Oh. That’s fine. I appreciate it, Ms. Snyder.” Kasie smiled.

“Please, everyone around here calls me Vickie.” She walked up to the house and unlocked the old wooden, refurbished door with the skeleton key. “Dean Koontz made sure that everything would be ready. She was so excited for you to be here.”

“I don’t know why. I’m still an intern.” Kasie laughed.

“Yes. But one in which she’s hoping you might be able to work with one of her children she’s been having trouble with lately.” Vickie stated. “She mentioned you had a degree with special education, too.”

“I do. But I didn’t know she needed me for that.”

“Is that going to be an issue?” Vickie went about turning on the lights in the front parlour. “The house was fully refurbished with period antiques. I think it just adds to the ambiance of the old girl. Don’t you?”

“It’s absolutely beautiful! I noted the copper downspouts and gutters trimming the turret. I can’t imagine the cost but it will be beautiful even when it’s aged from the patina.” Kasie noted.

“Well, it’s yours during your internship here at Maryland School for the Deaf so enjoy and take good care of her. And if you need anything, just let me know.”

“Thank you so much Vickie. I will. I appreciate your help.”

Kasie thanked the elderly woman, who probably had more energy and spirit in her than most young people her own age. She wasn’t sure how old she actually was but had a feeling she was older than most people thought. Still, it was nice to have someone check on her who seemed to know something about the school dean and the house.

#

“He’s one of our youngest students but needs a lot of help. “ Tonya explained as she led Kasie through the hallway of the Maryland School for the Deaf. “Ms. Koontz wants you to work with him one on one, see if there is anything you might be able to help him with.”

“So I won’t be working with any other children at this time?”

“No, not right now. Ms. Koontz thought it would be a significant start to see what you did one-on-one with Jacob before sending you on to a classroom instruction.”

Kasie didn’t mind. She was being paid the same and had room and board, she really didn’t care. It would be nice to get her feet wet first. Though she had been excited about a room full of students.

The hallway ended. Kasie realized they were in a deserted wing of the school. The echo of their steps dominated the atmosphere. A sense of quiet and unuse surrounded her along with an eerie sense of being watched.

“Here you go. This is your classroom and office for now.” Tonya unlocked the old wooden door.

A small room with large windows that faced the row of houses on the street where she lived now, gleamed with a fresh coat of paint, the wooden floors glistened with a new sheen of lacquer. An old blackboard lined one far wall with the American Sign Language finger-spelling alphabet boarding over it. A wooden teachers desk stood in the far corner of the room and small wooden desks with attached chairs, like old time schoolhouse desks, made three smart rows for no more than fifteen students.

“I know it’s kind of dated and sparse but just let me know what you need to make the room yours and I’ll get it for you.” Tonya smiled warmly.

“Thank you. It’s charming in its old fashioned way. But yes, I think some colorful warmth to the room, a few plush things for texture to add some softness and welcoming feel would go a long way.” Kasie stated. “Perhaps some happy displays of the basic fundamentals up on the bulletin boards.”

Nodding, Tonya smiled. “I was thinking that, too. No problem. I will let Ms. Koontz know and we will get them for you. In the meantime, Jacob should be here shortly. Oh, by the way--just a word of warning, Jacob can be a bit flighty.”

“You mean disruptive or unfocused. That’s natural in any child.” Kasie dismissed the issue. She knew kids could be easily distracted, unruly at times, even the best behaved.

“No. I mean flighty. He’ll be here one minute and gone the next...physically. He does that. That’s why we need you to help.”

“What can I do to help that?” Kasie found it rather odd. Would she be chasing this boy up and down the hallway to get him to learn and understand?

“You have the ability to talk to him, on his terms, with his disability. You have a special gift, Kasie. That’s why Ms. Koontz hired you.”

None of this made sense. Suddenly confused Kasie felt a bit uneasy. Tonya wasn’t making much headway.

The other woman laughed. “It’s alright, Kasie. You’ll figure it all out. You’ll be fine, I promise.”

Chapter Two

Sitting alone in her classroom, Kasie waited for Jacob to show up. What did Tonya mean by all of it? It sounded oddly cryptic. Now she wasn’t sure what she had gotten herself into. Still, she had been hired specifically by the dean as a number one choice. How many could say that? And what she was about to undertake was selected by Ms. Koontz herself, based on the resume she’d sent in when she’d applied.

Staring out the window she could see the other kids playing. It was recess time. The quiet fun they shared was enlightening and she wondered if Jacob was out there with them and would come in later. She needed to prepare. Turning around to do just that she encountered a boy sitting on her desk. Neatly combed hair, a pair of black slacks, button up shirt with a black tie--he looked like a young, business man or on his way to a wedding--or perhaps a funeral with the sour look on his face.

“You must be Jacob--” she started to say only to remember he’s deaf.

She walked to him, making sure her feet vibrated the floor to announce her presence.

He looked up, swinging his feet against her wooden desk. Smiling, Kasie signed an introduction and spoke verbally in case he read lips, as some had the ability to do.

“Hello Jacob? My name is Ms. Rider. I’m going to be your teacher this year. Perhaps you would like to choose your desk?” She pointed to the neat rows of desks.

Jacob cocked his head at her, watching her hands fly using symbols to represent words she spoke. He stared at her with confusion, his brow knitted. Repeating herself he only looked away and went to the window instead.

They stood there for moments looking out at the children playing. “Do you want to go outside and play with the others?”

He only looked up at her with disinterest, returning to his fascination with the other kids outside.

“Would you like to play a game?” She pantomimed.

He didn’t respond, just sat there staring at her with the blank look.

“Okay, well--I’m going to go make some pictures. Join me if you want.

Kasie went over to the blackboard and began drawing. She didn’t know what she wanted to draw or what Jacob might find fun. He looked rather intelligent for a boy of possibly ten years old so she drew simple animal cartoons, something she used to draw all the time using simple shapes to make the animals come to life.

Soon she had the results she wanted. Sensing his presence more than hearing him she didn’t turn around or make an indication he was there watching her, she wanted him to make the move without fear so she went about her drawing, leaving him room and chalk to join her.

Picking up the piece of chalk, Jacob began to draw. Watching from her peripheral vision, Kasie didn’t say a thing, just let him draw peacefully beside her. She didn’t even care what he was drawing, as long as he felt comfortable enough to participate. Moments went by, probably a good half hour, and not wanting to interrupt him as he was so engrossed in his work, she went to her desk to find some other tasks to accomplish once Jacob grew tired of drawing. Smiling to herself, Kasie took pride in being able to find some small way to get to the boy with not too much effort. It made the day worth her while.

Her original assignment she had planned for the day was shot. She had a feeling with Jacob it wasn’t going to be an easy ‘daily planner’ kind of teaching routine. That was fine. Kasie liked a challenge.

A few minutes of searching for a new task he might find interesting she turned back around to see if he was finished drawing or if he was still diligently creating his masterpiece. Jacob was no longer there. That was impossible! He hadn’t passed by her to the door and there was only one door in and out of the classroom. Had she been so engrossed in not wanting to disrupt or scare him away that she hadn’t seen him leave? That was impossible. She wasn’t someone to just ignore a student to the point of being distracted. But he was gone. Plain and simple.

All that remained was a detailed chalk drawing of a house, as if drawn by a skilled architect. And not just any old house--her house across the street.

#

The rest of the week Jacob hadn’t appeared in class. By Thursday of her first week Kasie was beginning to worry. Should she call his home? Or social services?

“Good Morning, Kasie!”

Looking up from her daily planning Tonya had walked in carrying a box and loaded with some grocery totes full of supplies draped over her arms.

“Tonya! Oh Lord, let me help you with that stuff.” Kasie said, coming out from around her desk.

“Oh don’t worry. I’ve got it. I’m just going to set it here on the table for you.”

“Is there any more I need to help with?”

“Nope. This is all on your list for now.” Tonya went to the chalkboard. “Wow! Did you draw this?” She asked in excitement.

“No. Jacob drew that.” Kasie smiled proudly and went on to explain their first interaction together on Monday.

“...and then he just disappeared!” Kasie finished, looking at Tonya questioningly.

Shrugging Tonya sat on the corner of the table. “I told you he’s flighty.”

“Um, yeah--no, I mean he ‘disappeared’ like poof he was gone.” Kasie reiterated.

“And now I’m worried, I haven’t seen him in a few days. Should I contact his home address or social services?”

Puzzling over the issue, Tonya nibbled her lip. “No.” She sighed. “It wouldn’t do you any good. There is nothing they can do.”

“Why not? His parents should be taking control of him.” Kasie said admently.

“It’s not that easy. They can’t communicate with him.”

“Because he’s deaf?”

“Yes...but it’s a bit more complicated than that. This is why you are here. We need your help in helping him.”

Kasie threw her hands up in the air. “I can’t help him if he’s not willing to be here for class. I don’t think he wants to work with me. I was only able to get him to draw the other day--a house that no boy of ten years old should be able to draw that well, with such detail. I don’t think AutoCad could have created a better drawing.”

“Oh, I agree.” Tonya mused looking back at the drawing. “You have to be patient. He will come around to you. We are hopeful. Just looking at what you got him to accomplish the other day--again, Wow! It’s so much more than anyone else has ever gotten him to do.”

“I don’t know--”

“Please, Kasie. Give it some time. This is only your first week.” Tonya begged.

“I know. I shouldn’t give up this easily.” Kasie sighed, shaking her head and laughing. “I’m not one to throw in the towel without a valiant effort, and you’re right, it’s not even been a full week yet.”

Tonya winked. “That’s the spirit!”

Chapter Three

The gloaming settled around her as she sat on her front porch swing. The fall night was a perfect combination of crisp air and the smells of the earthiness of mulch. Her neighbors and the landscapers taking care of the property had just prepared the flower beds for the upcoming season.

Kasie loved the fall. Always had. She looked forward to the crisp days darkening early, the leaves changing color, the smell of wood smoke as people prepared their fireplaces or backyard fire pits for family gatherings of roasting marshmallows and drinking warm cider, or tea, as she was now.

Looking over to the school building she felt a deep pride in achieving the goal of actually having her dream job. She just wished working with Jacob had been easier. She hadn’t seen him in a few weeks. Tonya kept telling her to ‘have patience’ but she was just worried about not being able to do her job to the best of what

The reflection of the street lights and security lights around the building cast shadows across the brick walls. Kasie could tell her room from the others in the empty wing due to some cut out clings she had placed on the four windows to depict fall. Just a tree on the far left followed by various leaves--oak, maple, elm, and birch. But the far window to the right, she left bare...but it wasn’t empty tonight. A lone figure stood in silhouetted relief staring out across the way. Perhaps it was the custodial crew. She looked at her watch. No, they would’ve been gone by now. She looked back up. The figure still stood there. Perhaps it was just a shadow from the light...but no...the figure moved, placing his arm up against the window as if to lean on it or...wave? But then he disappeared.

Jacob?

#

It took Kasie a while to fall asleep that night, thoughts of what she might have seen or did see in the window of her classroom echoed in her head. She must’ve fallen asleep at one point though because she woke up to the sound of a door slamming.

It sounded like it came from downstairs. Looking at her alarm clock it was only three-sixteen in the morning. Creaks of the old house settling had her anxiously listening for any other noise. Maybe she dreamed it. The sounds of someone moving around downstairs had her hackles up. Should she investigate? Call the police? Stay here and hide under the covers?

Oh get real! Take your baseball bat with you and go investigate.

She kept her softball bat, “Wicked” with her beside her bed. She didn’t believe in owning a gun, but “Wicked” could take out someone in a heartbeat--a clean blow to the knees, the head...yeah. And she’d been a champion softball player in college, one thing Kasie Rider had going for her, she was a hard hitter. When she struck, she made solid connections.

Slowly, cautiously she made her way with “Wicked” at the ready out into the hallway. Looking over the banister to the main floor below she thought she saw a shadow cross the hallway, the light from the outside street lamp on Market Street shining in from the living room.

“He..Hello?” She called out tentatively. Maybe if she called out it would either send whoever was there running, if they were a thief, or they would answer back if they were a friend. Who’d be visiting at three o’clock in the morning though? Her feet made creaking noise on the old wooden steps definitely alerting anyone of her approach. “Who’s down there?”

She waited. No reply.

Making her way down the steps, her heart pounding in fright, her adrenaline going off the charts, she stealthy made her way to the far wall of the archway into the living room. “Come out now!” She called out. Her fright turning to anger as she wanted to confront the trespasser on her own terms, “Wicked” held high ready to battle.

Nothing. Finally she got enough nerve and peeked around the corner.

Jacob sat in his same dress clothes he always wore, on her Victorian sofa, waiting as if nothing was wrong, his legs swinging with the impatience of a ten year old boy on a church pew. Putting “Wicked” behind her and setting it in the corner of the hall she walked into the room. Jacob looked up.

“What are you doing here, Jacob?” She asked as she signed. “It’s three o’clock in the morning.”

As usual he didn’t respond or even acknowledged her talking. He looked at her hands making the gestures but wasn’t in the least interested. Kasie sighed. She was at a loss as to what to do, how to communicate with him. Then she remembered his chalk drawing of the house. Could she maybe communicate through drawing?

Going into the study across the hallway she found a notepad and pencil and gave it to him. He only looked at it in confusion and handed it back. She made the first gesture and drew a crude picture of herself and pointed to her chest.

“Kasie.” She signed handing the pad of paper and pencil back to him.

Understanding, he took it and began drawing. The details that flew from his young fingers were astonishing. He drew a very precise likeness of himself and spelled out Jacob in rough handwritten letters. Kasie was ecstatic! They had a form of communication. She pointed to each letter in his name and showed him how to make the letters with his fingers.

They sat there for a good long time drawing things back and forth while Kasie instructed him on finger spelling and writing the words down. How long she didn’t know until she looked up at the clock. Her heart skipped a moment when she realized she’d forgotten about class but then she was here working with her one and only pupil.

Stopping to get some brunch Kasie figured they should both be hungry. Going out and preparing some grilled cheese sandwiches and chips she brought it back out with a couple of colas. But Jacob was nowhere in sight. She put down the tray of food on the coffee table and went in search of him. He was nowhere in sight. She hadn’t heard him leave, no closing of the doors or stomping off.

Sitting back down in the living room/parlour where they had been all morning she noticed the notepad. He had drawn another picture before leaving--it was that of the living room, she could tell by the bowed out windows in the turret room and the cozy fireplace along the wall. But seated in the smaller Victorian sofa were a couple who looked like husband and wife seated as if watching them from across the room. She looked up at the sofa in question and no one was there. But she had the odd sense of feeling like they were--or had been.

Chapter Four

“...I dare you to walk up there.” Kasie heard the sounds of a gaggle of kids below the open window in which she was sitting.

“It’s just an old house. What’s the big deal?” he continued in a bullying voice.

“Yeah, but I’ve seen lights on inside there at nights as if someone is there.” Someone else cantered.

“No one’s there. It’s been abandoned since the fire forty years ago. Everyone who’s tried to renovate it has encountered the ghosts.”

Kasie laughed. Kids! Ghosts? Really. She remembered being that young and naive at one point. She’d been dared to do silly things, everything from Spin the Bottle and Truth and Dare to taking a chance on riding the craziest roller coasters around. She still loved roller coasters.

“Come on! Scaredy Cat!”

“I’m not scared. It’s private property. What if we’re caught by the police?”

“Really? You think they care. Hell, they probably did the same at one time.” The bully said. “Okay, I’ll bet you my Zulu cards that you won’t do it.”

“Only if you have the Mega Zul.” The other said. Kasie knew the trading card game the kids played these days. She’d played some in her day--Sailor Moon and Pokemon. “Otherwise, forget it!”

“Fine. I’ll bet you my Mega Zul that you won’t.”

Kasie got up from the chair near the small table she was sitting at reading and followed the sounds of the kids coming to her front porch. She was all for this. She wanted to have some fun with them.

“Fine but if I do and nothing happens?”

“You get your card.” Bully shrugged.

“What will you do?”

“I’ll ring the doorbell, too...after you do it. That’s the deal.”

Oh this was going to be so much fun! Kasie couldn’t wait. Hiding behind the foyer wall she anticipated what she was going to do, trying not to bust out laughing.

The first kid, a red-haired boy of about thirteen stepped up to the porch. It creaked under his steps. Odd. She’d need to get that checked out. Didn’t sound too stable.

He came up to the door and rang the old doorbell. A sharp ring echoed through the great home. Not moving Kasie waited.

“Ring it again!”

“No! That wasn’t the deal...you said once!”

“I’ll throw in a Hecta card if you do it?” Referring to another prized and rare collecting card in the game.

“Fine…” Red rang the bell again. Still, Kasie did nothing. “Your turn, Turdball!”

“You are such a baby, Richie.” Bully, “Turdball” stepped up to the door as Richie the Red head scampered back down the porch steps, but keeping his eyes on his friend and the door.

The bully rang the door in consecutive patterns letting the shrill, old sounding ring overlap. He laughed at his frightened friend.

Kasie pulled open the door so quickly and with such force that the bully fell in, flat on his bottom into her foyer, he screamed like a sissy girl. She laughed so hard tears streamed down her cheeks.

The boy freaked out and looked around as if she wasn’t even there and then got up and ran like hell, jumping halfway down the steps of her front porch before running with his friend all the way down the street. She thought she heard them scream something about ghosts. But she ignored them and closed her door and walked back to read her book.

#

Every few days, sometimes at the classroom and sometimes early morning at her house, always around three, Jacob would be there waiting for her. Either on the corner of her desk or the sofa in front of the window, just sitting here swinging his legs impatiently. Sometimes she heard him come in, waking her up--other times he’d make noises to alert her that he was there and she would wake up and join him.

He was learning quickly with the help of his drawings and every time he disappeared, only when she left to take a break or get them food, which once or twice he stayed for cookies and milk, he would leave a picture of the couple he’d drawn the first time he’d shown up at the house.

The woman had a loose bun on top of her head, rounded cheeks and a classic figure. She was always dressed impeccably but had a sad look upon her face. The man was sturdy, handsomely attired and had warm eyes. She had no clue who they were and when she asked Jacob about them he either pretended he didn’t understand or ignored her completely by changing the subject of drawing.

“So how is it going with Jacob?” Tonya asked when she’d stopped into the Kings Mill Historical Society to visit.

“Slow but I think we are getting somewhere. I haven’t seen him for a day or two and I’m always concerned when he’s gone. He just disappears--it’s strange.” Kasie sighed, sitting down heavily as Tonya went through some old photos she was carefully restoring from the county areas she’d been sent by various patrons wanting to share their family history with the Historical Society.

“Yeah, I figured. Ms. Koontz told us he’s an illusive tyke.”

“But his artwork--he’s an amazing artist. So much talent in those small hands. It’s the only way we can find to communicate. It works though.”

“Ms. Koontz.” Kasie scoffed. “How is it you can communicate with her but she hasn’t even had the decency to introduce herself to me. I’ve been here for two months and I haven’t seen her once.”

“She’s been away for sometime--on sabbatical.” Tonya looked up from her work. “She comes and goes. All I know is that she was impressed with your resume and wanted you for the job on hand. She knew you’d be able to help Jacob. She’s very attached to the young man.”

“Still, I don’t think it’s fair that she hasn’t even called me to talk to me or say hello.” Kasie groused watching Tonya separate old, dog eared photos, nearly faded with age.

A small picture faded with aged patina caught her attention, she nearly grabbed it in her curiosity. Tonya smacked her hand with her cotton gloves she wore to keep oils off of them.

“Who is that?” The picture was of a couple sitting on a Victorian sofa. Her hair coiffed on top of her head, the lace dress an impeccable Victoria era dress with a high lace collar. Beside her sat a debonair man around the same age, a bowler hat on his lap and sharp tuxedoed suit.

Tonya picked up the photo carefully and examined it. “It’s faded but there's some print on the back...let me see.” She retrieved her magnifying glass. “The Angelo’s...Charles and Linda...no Lydia.”

“So those are the Angelo’s!” Tonya gasped. “Small world. They built the house you live in now, the one in Frederick.” She looked up at Kasie. “Why did you ask about them? They familiar? Have you seen a photo of them before?”

“Yes…” Kasie slowly nodded. “They are the couple Jacob draws, sitting across from us in the parlor...every time he’s there.” A chill ran through her. Was her house actually haunted?

#

She didn’t want to think about them. Kasie didn’t feel as comfortable in the house now when she went back. It had been days since Jacob had been around and she expected to see him tonight, or in the morning at three. True enough he was there, sitting on his sofa, staring across the room at the other sofa--the one he drew with the Angelo’s sitting there.

Feeling a bit ill at ease she still had a job to do.

“Good morning, Jacob.” She signed. Kasie hoped he’d been practicing his hand gestures enough to communicate.

“Good morning, Kasie.” He signed back.

He had been practicing! Good. They sat there together and communicated back and forth, no longer drawing pictures and not quite strong enough to quickly communicate but enough that he could get the gist of her words and phrases. She was ecstatic! He’d come so far in such a short time.

They worked on their skills until Kasie thought her hands would cramp up but it didn’t matter. She was just thrilled that he’d picked up on the signs. He would get quicker as he associated with others. Perhaps next semester he could attend a regular classroom and not a one-on-one.

“I’ll be right back. I got some brownies the other day and thought we could have one or two.” She went to retrieve a few of the fudge brownies Tonya had brought her from the bakery along with some milk. He’d probably be gone when she got back but maybe he’d stay for a brownie. She couldn’t imagine anyone giving up the opportunity for a chocolate fudge brownie.

Kasie returned carrying a glass platter with the brownies and two cups of milk. What she saw as she rounded the corner was enough to stop her in her tracks.

Jacob stood in front of the Angelos couple, Charles and Lydia, signing to them. Lydia smiled, tears streaming from her wide eyes as she signed back--tentatively but communicating. Charles added to the conversation. Kasie didn’t catch it all but managed to make out ‘son’.

Jacob turned around. “I have to go now. It’s time.”

Kasie was astounded. He spoke plain English...a bit formal for a ten year old but he spoke it planely.

“Go? Go where? What’s it time for?” Looking from Jacob to the older couple.

“Home. Now that we can talk, I’m not afraid of going.”

Shaking her head, Kasie wasn’t sure she understood--a deep, part of her did but she didn’t want to believe it was happening.

“I have to go, Kasie. You taught me what I needed to know. Thank you. I can go home now and be with my family.” He smiled moving towards the couple standing by with smiles on their faces. They brought him closer to them until they stood there as a family. Jacob smiled and so did Charles and Lydia as they signed ‘thank you’ over and over--until they disappeared.

Kasie dropped the tray . Glass shattered into various pieces mushed with fudge brownies floating in a riverlet of milk.

#

“She’s in shock.”

“Well of course she is Dottie! For goodness sake what did you expect?”

“Grams! Aunt Vickie, would you two stop!”

Kasie came to and found herself sitting up in her wingback chair in the study.

“I didn’t know what else to do.”

Kasie knew that voice. Tonya. And Vickie? Was that Victoria Snyder from her first day here?

“Is she going to be okay?” A ragged voice called out. Kasie could barely make out the words but knew it was someone with a hearing impairment due to their ragged speech.

“Yes Dorrine, I believe she will be fine in a while.”

Kasie’s eyes finally focused on all the women belonging to the voices. Most were standing around. One was on her knees fanning her but the other sat in a chair across from her.

“Well, look who’s awake!”

“Jacob! He...he…” Kasie began but her mind couldn’t grasp the concept of what she remembered.

“Yes, we know--” an elderly woman patted her hand. “It was time, poor thing.”

Tonya stepped forward nibbling on her bottom lip. “I’m sorry, Kasie--I didn’t want to tell you and have you freak out. We needed your help to get through to Jacob...so he could move on.”

“Are you saying he was a ghost?” Groaning, Kasie wasn’t sure if she was going to be sick or not.

“No. At one point he was a young boy--Jacob Angelos.” The woman across from her said with a warm smile as she signed her words rapidly. “My father.”

“Your father? But he was only ten?” Kasie shook her head slowly so it didn’t explode, signing back.

“He was ten at the time his parents died--in the fire.” The woman said. “He always regretted the fact he couldn’t save them. He couldn’t communicate with them--couldn’t wake them when the fire struck. He went to get help that morning--three o’clock,,,”

“Of course. Three o’clock in the morning. “ It all made sense now. “So you had Ms. Koontz hire me to work with Jacob. But that’s impossible. How can I work with a ghost?”

“You have a special gift, Kasie.” Another woman, Tonya introduced her as April Miles. “And Ms. Koontz knew you were the one to help.”

“I communicate with ghosts?”

“Not everyone can.” The elder woman, Grandma Dottie Wilton stated.

“I hired you for my fifth grade class because of the resume you sent me. But then we had an issue that kept you from teaching a full class of students. But the situation became a blessing in disguise and I knew you could help Jacob.”

“You’re Ms. Koontz!” Kasie laughed. “I wondered when I would meet you, Dean Koontz.”

The other lady laughed. “Yes, well--unusual circumstances I suppose.” The other ladies nodded.

“So now that I’ve helped Jacob to learn to communicate and move on--what do I do now? Will I get my own class?”

“Well yes but not here at Maryland School for the Deaf. There is another school that could use your skills. It’s one I’ve become associated with lately--and I would like for you to join me--if you would like. It’s a great place with a heavenly campus--there’s so much love and joy to be found there. You’ll fit right in.”

“I don’t know...I’ve always had my heart set on working for the Maryland School for the Deaf--but if you think I’ll be more suitable at this other school, I trust your knowledge, Dean Koontz.”

Kasie thought she sensed a collective sigh from the other women around her but they all just smiled, Dottie Wilton had a sheen of tears in her old eyes. “Let me know when we need to be there.”

“We can leave whenever you are ready.” Dorrine Koontz said.

The women around her gave her hugs and blessings, saying good-bye to both of them as they made their way to the door.

Kasie raised her arm over her face to shield herself from the bright sunlight as she walked away with Dean Koontz.

Epilogue

Tonya folded the page of the four month old, Frederick News Post back sighing as she carefully cut out the picture and small article for the archives that had been :

Dorrine Anne Koontz passed away late Sunday night from a long illness. Born Dorrine Anne Angelos, to the late Margarat Marie Toole-Angelos and late Kings Mill artist Jacob Andrew Angelos of Kings Mill and Frederick, Maryland. She was the long time Dean of Admissions at the Maryland School for the Deaf retiring shortly before her passing. Dorrine was surrounded by friends and family in her final days. A memorial will be held for her at the Maryland School for the Deaf on Wednesday at three o’clock in the afternoon. Donations to the Maryland School for the Deaf are greatly appreciated by the family.

Tonya hoped the Dean was at peace now. She’d been working so long to help her father find the peace he so needed after such a long time. Placing the obituary of Dorrine to the side Tonya looked longingly at the other picture. So young...so much to look forward to.

Kasie Marie Rider, 28 was killed in a car accident between Annapolis and Frederick, Maryland early Tuesday morning. A recent graduate of University of Maryland she had completed her internship at Gallaudet and been accepted to teach at Maryland School for the Deaf as her first full-time teaching position. She was to have started teaching the fifth grade class starting next Monday. She is survived by her parents and two brothers and sisters. A memorial donation to Maryland School for the Deaf has been set up in her honor.