• I remember growing up surrounded by the walls of my grandmother’s cottage. They were faded and yellow with age, and the oak shelves lined with expanses of books were always welcoming. My grandmother had grown up in that house and although it was old, it was the perfect place for me. It was where my childhood was formed and where I had grown up and dreamed. My most cherished memories were of this place, and none more so then the memories of her old piano.

    It was a lovely old piano and when I was young, I would spend endless hours at it. I had no talent for playing and like all children; I would press my fingers against the keys in random order. The music was nothing like the classic artists that so many people enjoyed but to me it was wonderful. My grandmother would stand in the doorway and watch me with a familiar smile on her face before she would walk across the oak floors to sit beside me. Then she would begin to play. I would close my eyes and listen to her wonderful music, imagining princesses pressed tightly to the arms of handsome princes.

    One day the music stopped. I was 24 when my grandmother passed away and the “For Sale” sign stood up in front of her house. Movers were taking everything out of her house, reading to send the furniture away to some distant cousin. The shelves that had once stored all of my grandfather’s favorite books were empty, the workers carelessly dumped the old sofa on the curb, and in that moment I feared what would happen to the beloved piano. One of the workers suddenly tapped my shoulders and I turned around to face him. There was sweat appearing on his forehead, and he removed his blue hat in order to push back his wet hair. “Are you Miss Walker?” he asked me.

    I nodded my head. “Yes I am. Tell me . . . what’s going to happen to the piano? Please tell me that someone is taking it!” I could not hold back the fear in my voice and there was a pitiful sob in it. I was about to speak again before he smiled and spoke.

    “Yup, someone is going to be taking the piano . . . if she wants it.” He pulled a clipboard out from under his arm and handed it to me, pointing to a line with his pen. “This here says that it’s yours. You gotta get it out of the house before tomorrow or else it’s going to get scrapped.” He frowned then and put his hat back on. He looked me over quickly before he smiled again. “It’s nice instrument. I’m glad that it’s going to someone who’s worried about it. The other lot might not care for it like you might.”

    I was immensely pleased and I quickly started to make calls. I needed to find someone who would be willing to move the old piano 20 miles south to my house. The man was stilling standing by me and he whispered to me, “You get a truck big enough to haul it and I’ll be more than happy to help you move it in. Hope you have big doorways.”

    Unfortunately, I did not have big doorways, but somehow they managed to fit it into my house. It was a welcomed site to see it sitting on the floor in my spacious den and I almost cried. I turned to thank them for everything they had done but they had already left. I wondered how long I had been sitting looking at it. If I had not noticed the movers, leaving it must have been a while. The day had been long and it was then I went to bed.

    I woke in the middle of the night. I looked at the blinking green lights besides my head, blinking 12:00 at me rapidly. Then my ears picked up a faint sound; the sound of music resonating from downstairs. I quickly got out of bed and started for the stairs. Not knowing what I would face, I grabbed an umbrella in the front hall and started for the den. Something was screaming in my head that I was little threat to a burglar, but the music captivated me too much for me to care. I pressed my back against the cool wall that leads to my living room, and I listened to the careful notes of the music. It was beautiful and I didn’t want the music to stop, but it was my piano and I did not want someone touching it that had soiled their hands with ill deeds. “Is it even possible for someone bad to play music that . . . nice?” I whispered to myself. I quickly pulled away from the wall and shot into the doorway, expecting to see someone dressed in black.

    There was someone playing, but he did not look like a burglar. His hair was fair and blond, tied at the nape of his neck with a black cord. His clothes were fine too; a white shirt and slim fitting pants. His feet however were bare, which I found most odd. I took in a deep breath, wondering what in the world he was. “Your playing . . . is beautiful.”

    He looked up when he heard my voice, but not once did he stop playing. “I woke you,” he said solemnly. “I did not mean to.”

    “And you still play?” I asked him back. He stared at me blankly and I shook my head. “Never mind, what are you doing in my house playing my piano? I pulled my robe closer, suddenly cold staring at him.”

    “This is your house,” he said quietly as he turned back to the old piano. “But the piano is not yours. It belonged to her, the old woman.” He tilted his head and closed his eyes, continuing to play, and I continued to listen. It was wondrous how he knew but I was slowly figuring out why he knew so much.

    “Are you a spirit?” I asked then. “You’re not wearing shoes and you know about this piano belonging to my grandmother. Does it belong to you?”

    “No, it belongs to you now I suppose,” he answered. “My soul is very attached to this instrument and I cannot find my way. The first time she saw me she knew I was a spirit too. However, neither one of us could find a way to get me back home. I made a promise with her that I would teach her to play if she did not call a priest.”

    “You don’t like priests?”

    “I don’t enjoy getting wet,” he replied. He sighed then and stopped playing before turning to look at me. His eyes were dark with purple bruises around them. Now that I had a better look of him, he did look like one of the dearly departed. “I suppose you’ll be asking my name next.” He actually smiled, probably because he was conversing with a living person who was not at all afraid. “It’s Richard.”

    “I guess you being here isn’t all that bad,” I started, hoping not to offend him. “You meet people like my grandmother and myself who are interested in ghosts and things like that.”

    “There were other homes before hers,” he said after. “Shall I teach you as well?” he asked, after a moment.

    “You’ll teach me?” I wondered. “I always wanted to learn, but I never had the time. My parents always thought it was a silly hobby too.” I paused then, realizing I was rambling on about unimportant matters. So instead I nodded my head at him. “You’ll teach me how to play and I’ll figure out how to make you go to heaven.”

    “Heaven,” he repeated. He turned his pale eyes to me and looked skeptical for a moment. Perhaps being dead and earthbound for so long had made him forget about the afterlife or he had stopped believing. It must have been so difficult for him lingering between the boundaries of Earth and the afterlife. He did not belong to either world. Looking at his pained and doubtful expression, I wanted to help him even more. “If you want to try feel free. Teaching you gives me purpose. It will keep me busy.”

    “I’ll find a way,” I told him, “to get you to pass on.”

    “Like I said before, ‘If you insist’.” He slowly blinked, turning his eyes from me back to the piano. “If you insist, I won’t stop you from trying.” He brought his finger against one of the piano keys, a rich note ringing through the room and bouncing off the walls. His body turned to smoke and his disappeared, the note still lingering even if he did not. “Call my name,” a voice whispered. “I’ll come.”

    I nodded my head in the silence of the room, and then turned. It all felt like a dream but the lingering cold of the ghost’s presence told me it was not. My racing heart and the coldness of my skin was enough for me to know I had not imagined it. He would be my secret. It was not as if anyone would believe me otherwise. I went back to my room, closing the door quietly behind me. “I promise you,” I whispered to the midnight air. “I’ll find a way. I’ll finish what my grandmother started.”