Maren hesitated at the edge of the backstage, and nearly turned around and left the Theatre via the front lobby. She’d had enough of these strange visions or hallucinations and she had this creepy little prickle at the base of her neck that said he would appear if she went that direction. The show was tomorrow night and more stress was the last thing she needed. Cal felt confident in her, but her confidence in herself remained fragile. Maren turned around to go to the lobby. Better safe than sorry… She thought.

And came face-to-face with her ghost.

“Leaving?” he asked coolly. Maren shuddered and backed up. He pursued her.

“Just heading home for the night,” she said defensively. She tried to edge around him, but he followed her like a strange, glowing shadow.

“Funny, I would have thought you would be practicing,” he said. “Oh Maren, you’re so good.” His perfect mimicry of Cal’s words stopped Maren cold.

“That’s none of your business,” she growled, feeling her face get hot as she remembered her intimate moment in Cal’s office. They’d been making out, and it was lovely and and tender and right, but the ghost made it sound so much… Dirtier. It pissed her off.

The silvery apparition solidified in front of her until he looked as real as anyone else. “It’s completely my business when it takes you away from the music!”

His sudden flash of temper frightened her and she backed up again. The ghost followed her until she was pinned against the wall with his arms forming a cage around her head. Veins made a delicate tracery of blue under his skin. “You would sound stunning on that stage. You know it, I know it. I can feel your hunger for it as keenly as my own. I even offer it to you on a platter. And you prefer to give your time to that buffoon?!”

Maren didn’t even know she’d slapped him until the sharp crack of her hand against his cheek took on an echo in the space. His head rocked to one side and she watched as he worked the muscles of his jaw. Slowly, he turned his head to face her, and his mercury eyes had taken on a peculiar green glow. Maren’s stomach twisted itself into a knot.

“Make. Your. Decision.” He hissed.

Maren looked in the direction of the stage. The curtains were parted and she could see the piano and the seating beyond. She thought of her fear, of all the years lost from it. She envisioned herself as this ghost saw her: a queen of the stage wreathed in golden light, playing lovely songs for impossible audiences. Alone, a dynamic solo act. Just what she always wanted…

Then she saw Cal at her side, playing for their friends and the people of Brisby. She remembered their laughter, their fun. How she felt comfortable on the bench next to him, how she was busy rediscovering her love for music, seeing it through Cal’s eyes. Maren hadn’t realized how burnt out she’d been, until Cal asked her to play with him.

“No,” she said, feeling her old dreams crumble and re-form into something new.

“No?” the piano-man echoed, and his expression was vicious.

“No, now let me go,” she said fiercely. When he didn’t move fast enough, she slammed her hands into his chest and shoved him back. He growled and made a grab for her but she flipped a curtain in his face. Maren barreled toward the front of the Theatre.

The ghost threw the curtain off. He sneered at her running figure. “You will be mine…”

* * *
This is part of an ongoing story — catch up via the Serials page!

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