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I'm starting with the man in the mirror

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Jay reached into the fridge and pulled out the milk, the eggs, and a tub of butter. He set it all down on the kitchen counter, where it joined a thick loaf of bread, the cinnamon, and sugar bowl. After he hit the stovetop and settled a pan onto it, he began the work of a French toast breakfast.

"The best French toast I ever had," he said, not knowing if he had a ghostly audience and instead appeared to be a crazy man talking to himself in his kitchen, "was with Sam at like three a.m. at this hole in the wall diner in the East Village." Probably, he thought, there was a ghost or two with him in the kitchen. Sam had told him how much they liked to smell the food, liked to pretend that they could eat it.

Jay beat an egg with a form and shook in a spoonful of sugar and a dash of cinnamon. "Sam thinks the only reason it was so good was because they probably hadn't cleaned the griddle in a decade so the French toast soaked up all the other food on the menu," he kept saying, "but I don't like thinking about that too hard. I asked the waitress about the French toast, and she said there was a special ingredient in the egg mixture, but wouldn't tell me what it was. I've tried just about every spice in the world trying to figure it out, what that secret ingredient is, but I think that, now, finally, I have figured it out."

As he spoke, he went back to the fridge, pushing the almond milk and iced tea out of the way.

"Figured what out?" Sam asked from behind him.
He startled, smacked his head on the side of the fridge and spun around. "Sam, you can't do that. You can't just sneak up and start talking to me when I'm talking to them."

"To who?"

"Sam-"

"I'm just kidding. Thorfinn and Sassapis are here." She looked off past Jay and shook her head. "No, I don't think he'll leave cookies baking in the oven all day just so you can smell them."

Jay blinked. He fought the urge to shift his gaze to the empty space to which his wife was talking. "That's a fire hazard." He held the orange juice in front of him. "No, I figured out the secret to that East village French toast," he said. "It came to me in a dream."

"Orange juice?" Jay grinned. "Orange juice."

Sam shook her head. "I don't want to eat soggy French toast, Jay, but you do you."

Jay asked Sam once if any of the ghosts watched them in the shower, and even though she emphatically said no, there was something shifty in her eyes that worried him. For a while, he started wearing his bathing suit in the shower, but that wasn't a long-term solution by any means. Now, instead, every time he headed for the shower, no matter what time of day, he turned it into a show.

In the robe he bought specifically for this situation - it was a dark blue and very warm, though he hadn't yet gone so far as to lounge around the house in it - he stood in the middle of the bedroom. He tugged on the robe's tie to make sure it was secured tightly.

"Okay, hello, to any ghosts in here, I am going to take a shower. I don't want any company. I just want to enjoy a hot shower without worrying about being peeped on." Of course, he received no answer, which didn't comfort him despite the knowledge that he wouldn't get an answer.

Once in the bathroom, he closed the door and turned on the shower. "Taking off the robe now," he said slowly, turning in a circle. "So it's time to get out of here if you're still hanging around."

Sometimes, he imagined he could hear them all laughing at him, but he knew it was all in his head. What he didn't like, and never liked, was never knowing if he was actually alone or just thought he was. Jay always shut the bathroom door. Yes, he knew that didn't make a difference as the ghosts could walk through walls, but it gave him the relief of the illusion of privacy. Also, he always set the water temp at super hot, almost unbearably hot, so the bathroom filled with steam that Jay hoped was thick enough that ghosts couldn't see through it.

To try and keep his mind off of any possible ghostly shower companions, Jay sang in the shower. Loudly and decidedly off-key. Anything to keep unwanted guests at bay.

"Jay," Sam shouted from the other side of the door, followed by a sharp knock. He startled, smacked his elbow off the shower wall.

He thrust his head out past the shower curtain. "What?"

"Alberta has requested that you stop singing," his wife said. She paused, said something he couldn't hear. "She also said she's willing to serenade you while you shower if you'd like."

He spun around, used the shower curtain as a towel, water showering everywhere. "What? She's not in here, is she?"

"No, she's in the hallway. She just wanted you to stop singing. We all do."

He relaxed, but only slightly. "Yeah, okay, fine. As long as that means I can shower in peace. I need that promise from all the ghosts."

"You can always shwoer in peace, Jay," Sam replied, her voice growing fainter as she walked away.

Jay let go of the curtain and tipped his face up into the hot water. He tried to finish his shower without worrying.

Sam agreed to one Dungeons and Dragons session a month, to last no longer than four hours. He had tried to get five hours - Pete had to be on his side too - but Sam wouldn't budge.

So one four-hour session a month was it. Jay lived for those afternoons, and he was determined to pack as much into them as possible. He spent the whole week leading up to it prepping for it. He sat at the long dining room table, a stack of books, his DM notebook, and a bowl of dice spread out in front of him.

Only once he did all of that, did it occur to him that maybe he should be doing this in the car or at the coffee shop like he did last time. "Pete?" he hush-whispered. "Pete, if you're here, or any of the other players are, can you go? You're a good guy and I know you want D&D to be fun so…"

"Who are you talking to?" Once again, his own wife scared the crap out of him. "Why are you always so quiet when you come into a room?" he asked, shoving his arms over his notebook in case Sam wanted to take a peek.

"Sorry," she said. "I'm always just walking normally. None of the ghosts are in here. It's movie night so I put on Star Wars. I'm sure they'll have a thousand questions later."

Jay breathed out a sigh of relief. "I just wish there was some way for me to know if they were here," he grumbled.

"I know," Sam said, rubbing his shoulders. "I wish there was a way too. But I guess for now, you've just got to keep assuming someone's always around. Except not right now, because they're all upstairs."

"A house as big as this, shouldn't it be the opposite?"

She shrugged. "There's a lot of them. Hey, since they're all preoccupied with the movie, wanna have some Sam and Jay alone time?"

He looked out over everything spread out before him, the notes and the books. "I was getting ready for D&D," he said.

Sam sighed. "Yeah, all right…" But that look on her face, the one with the eyebrows and the quirk of her lips and the dark eyes.

He cleared his throat. "It can wait," he said, getting up from the table so quickly that he banged his knee on the underside. "Ow," he groaned.

"Poor Jay," Sam teased. "Let's go upstairs and I'll kiss it better."

He didn't have to be asked twice.

Jay wasn't really a popcorn guy, not while watching movies or TV like other people do. He was more of a chips and dip kind of guy. And he was definitely a 'let's talk through the entire show about the show' kind of guy. Luckily, since he lived in a haunted house with ghosts that, according to his wife, also loved watching tv, he had a built-in audience for his running commentary.

"So look, I know that we're all supposed to hate Marty," Jay said, gesturing at the television, where one of his favorite reality tv shows - the one where a bunch of people were locked together in a house and then vote each other out one by one - was on. "But I love her. She's great. Last week, she pranked the downstairs toilet, which is very Sims-esque, but it was hilarious. Also, how did Paul not see the plastic wrap before he started going? Come on. It's Paul people shouldn't like. He's so dumb, sometimes."

He didn't know which of the ghosts were watching with him. Probably Isaac and Trevor, he figured. Maybe some of the others. It probably depended on the show. This one had a lot of drama and enough attractive people that he would bet that those two were definitely here. He just wished he could also hear their commentary, because he was sure everyone was talking around him too.

At least, knowing he had company watching (Sam hated this show, and most reality tv, and Jay had never been able to convince her to join him), he enjoyed the show even more.

He swept a potato chip into the french onion dip just as a fight broke out on the tv, complete with hair pulling and pillow throwing. "Yes! That's what I'm talking about. There's no way Tim's staying after the next vote now." The dip slipped off the chip and plopped into his lap. He didn't care; he globbed it up with the side of his finger and stuck it in his mouth.

When Sam had to leave the house in order to work on an article because she couldn't go anywhere in the house and have any kind of privacy and peace and quiet, Jay promised to take the time to air out and clean one of the upstairs bedrooms, getting it ready for their future B&B plans. Sam pulled him aside before leaving to warn him that the bedroom was Hetty's, and even though he couldn't hear her constant critical monologuing. Jay kept that in mind, still slightly on edge about the whole Hetty-possessing-him thing.

"Right," he was saying as he started stripping the quilt and sheets from the bed, "I realize this is probably not very ideal for you, seeing as it's your bedroom, Hetty." Though why ghosts need or want to sleep, especially in a bed, still didn't make any sense to him. "But if we're going to be serious about this working as a bed and breakfast, the bedrooms have to be updated."

He imagined she was arguing with him in that hoity-toity way that Sam said she had. Despite having no real idea what she looked like, he also imagined her pacing the room, talking sternly at him. Maybe it was a good thing that he couldn't see or hear her.

"Sam wanted me to start here, with your room, to give you more time to get used to it. Of course, once we have people in here using the room, you're probably not going to be sharing the bed with them, right? Doesn't it hurt when one of us livings touch you?" He shoved everything into a laundry bin and left it by the door. He crossed to open the windows, glad for the sudden burst of fresh air. It would help with the musty smell, at least.

"I know you ghosts don't want us to do this B&B thing, but it's really going to work, so everyone's just going to have to cohabitate and get over it." He turned around and looked at the room as a whole. It was wide and long, and he thought that maybe they could add a sitting area, maybe even section off the area, make it more private.

He nodded to himself as if deciding that was exactly what he thought they should do. "Don't get too comfortable, Hetty, things are changing!" He swept the laundry basket up and headed out of the room.

 

The night Sam went to the city for a friend's bachelorette party, Jay fell asleep early, white noise machine on, eye mask on, and the bedroom door firmly closed. Before she left, Jay told Sam that he was looking forward to an early, quiet night.

In the upstairs tv room, the ghosts stood, crowded around the television. "I thought we'd decided on Top Gun," Trevor said. "Sam got it all ready for us. I'm not going to try and switch the channel again. It takes too long."

"Oh, but that masked singing show is on," Alberta piped in. "I want to watch that."

"I want to watch show about my people," Thorfinn boomed.

"Hey, everyone, come on. Trevor is right," Pete said in that mediative way he had. "Top Gun's all ready to go. It'll be easiest if all Trevor needs to do is push play. I thought we all already decided on this."

"I certainly never agreed on a moving picture about guns," Hetty said, chin set.

"Come on guys. Top Gun's a classic - " But Trevor was cut off when the electricity went out, the tv cutting to black and all of the lights snapping off.

Alberta gasped. "What's happened?"

"I think the power's gone out," Pete said.

"It was like this for many years," Sassapis said. "You get used to it."

From downstairs, they heard a thunk, then a door open and close. "Is Samantha back already?" hetty asked. "I thought she had planned to be out all evening."

"No," Thorfinn said as he made his way over to the window.. "It is a new land boat outside, one I have never seen before." The rest of them all hurried over to the windows with him.

"Who's that man?" Hetty asked. "I don't like the look of him. Very sinister, yes," They watched as he opened the back of a van and was then joined by a second man from inside the house who was carrying what looked a lot like the bronze bust from the downstairs hallway.

"Did Sam say anything about visitors tonight?" Sassapis asked.

"They are intruders!" Hetty exclaimed. "Look at how they are leaving the house with our things! We need to notify the authorities at once!"

"And now are we going to do that, Hetty?" Isaac said, exasperated. "It's not like we can get on a horse and seek out a constable."

"Trevor can call them on the phone," Pete interrupted.

"And who's going to talk to them?" Alberta snapped. They all looked at her. She stepped back. "No, no, all I can do is hum. No one's going to know what I'm trying to say.

Isaac held up a hand. "We should go wake up Jay," he said. "Jay will know what to do." No one argued or asked how they were going to do that until they were all standing in a semi-circle around his bed.

"Blow on his nose," Alberta suggested. They all tried, but it didn't work.

"Isaac, hit him with your fart smell," Trevor suggested.

Affronted as ever, Isaac refused.

"Wait," Pete said. "I've got an idea. But I have to make sure - Trevor, do you think you can turn on the shower, as hot as possible?"

They all looked at the closed bathroom door and nearly came to the same conclusion all at the same time.

"The mirror!" Alberta shouted with a clap.

"That's not going to work if we can't wake him up." Trevor pointed out.

They looked at Isaac again "Oh all right, but only the once, and only after Trevor does his part. Besides, we should also go downstairs and watch out for these intruders, try and catalog everything they're taking, just in case." Sassapis, Alberta, and Thorfinn volunteered.

Once they were gone, the others crowded around in the bathroom. There was just enough light coming in through the window, from the full moon, that this might actually work. Trever rubbed his hands together, sucked in a deep breath. "All right, here goes." With a grunt, he pushed his fingers forward and yelled with determination until the faucet turned on all the way and hot water poured out.

"Yes! You did it, great job, Trevor," Pete cried out.

Trevor sagged against the wall. "I need a break."

"Only until there's enough steam to write on the mirror," Isaac said.

It didn't take too long, in fact. "Isaac, you're up!" Pete directed.

He grimaced.

"You're the only one who's going to be able to wake Jay up."

"1 I know, I know. The entire plan comes down to me," Isaac sighed dramatically. He slipped back out into the bedroom.

"Well-" Trevor started to argue, but Pete cut him off. "Go, Isaac. Trevor, get ready to write on the mirror."

It took Isaac, unfortunately, two tries before the stench woke Jay up. He woke, gasping, and flailing, and pushed his eye mask off, "What the - oh god, why?" he asked, gagging a bit.

"It's not very pleasant for me either, Jay," Isaac snapped.

It seemed to take Jay a moment to realize the shower was running. He got out of bed quickly, nearly tripping on his way to the bathroom.

"You're up, Trevor!"

In the bathroom, as Jay lunged for the shower, Trevor got to work. He yelled, holding his wrist as he started to write. He was onto the first R of INTRUDERS when Jay spotted the letters forming on the mirror. His eyes widened, and he looked around. "What? You're trying to say -" He sounded it out. "Intr - Intru - "

Just as he figured it out, Thorfinn and Sassapis came rushing in, Alberta right behind. "They've started packing up all the plates and spoons and things!"

"Not the good china!" Hetty gasped.

Jay stumbled out of the bathroom and went for his phone. He called 911 right away, stammering his way through the call with the dispatcher. Even though the dispatcher suggested that he stay put, he didn't. "All right, guys," Jay said "I know, you're all here or some of you are and that's great but I need your help. I'm gonna call Sam, and you're going to have to tell her what's going on while I take this -" He grabbed the first thing he saw, an old, heavy lamp they hadn't gotten rid of yet. "Lamp and go downstairs to try and stop the robbers."

He dialed Sam and didn't wait for her to pick up before hurrying out of the room.

"Jay? Hey, what's going on?" The background noise on Sam's end suggested she was at a party, or maybe at a club.

"Sam, are you at a club? Are there any hot chicks there?"

"Trevor? What are you? Where's Jay?"

"There are intruders, Samantha," Hetty said, voice in panic mode at the same time as Pete tried to more calmly explain what was going on. "Making off with the good china!" she continued, her voice carrying.

"What? wait, one at a time," Sam said.

"Jay's already called the police," Pete said. "There are robbers downstairs. Jay's gone after them with a lamp."

"Intruders!" Hetty exclaimed.

Sam said something to someone in the background and soon the noise behind her changed, dampened. "Did you say there are robbers? Is Jay okay?"

"Jay called the police," Pete repeated.

"! warned him," Trevor said proudly.

"I woke him up," Isaac said quickly.

"I'm on my way home right now," Sam said, and then she was gone, ending the call.

Later, once the intruders had been apprehended, and it was confirmed that no one had been injured (although the lamp had shattered when Jay threw it at the back of one of the robbers as they were running out the front door, and Sam was back home, Jay and Sam laid in bed together, the ghosts surrounding them.

"You know," Jay said, "that we could have been a lot worse if we didn't have all these ghosts here."

Sam smiled.

"Pretty cool that I got to talk to them too," he said.

"Well, not really. Trevor just drew some letters on a mirror."

"Hush," Jay said. "Let me have this."

Sam laughed and tipped her head against his shoulder, not arguing.

Jay mouthed "thank you" at the empty room. He pretended he could hear a chorus of "you're welcome"s.