Rachel makes her move.
Thursday evening Rosie and Tony were sitting by themselves in The Nelson Hotel. They had almost finished their drinks and were about to leave for a drive out into the countryside when three of Tony's friends walked in. One was a motor mechanic and the other two were coalmen, none of them having Tony's normally placid temperament. "Hey up, Tone," the mechanic called. "Had any more trouble with the old car?"
Tony shook his head but didn't answer. The lads called at the bar before walking over, the mechanic sat next to Rosie, the coalmen sat opposite.
"Get us another drink, Tony," Rosie said.
"Oh, sorry," the mechanic said. "I'll get it."
"No, Tony'll get it. He knows just how I like it."
"Does he now? But I probably know exactly how you like it as well."
"I thought we were going for a drive?"
"There's no rush, we might as well stay here for a bit longer. Go on, get the drinks then."
"Yeah, do as you're told, Tone."
"I'll get them in a minute when I'm ready."
"You'll get them now, Tony, or would you like me to show you up in front of your mates?"
"Just one more drink then, and then we'll get off."
The mechanic watched him amble off to the bar; he looked at the two coalmen, raised his eyebrows and flicked his head slightly.
"Yeah, well we're off for a game of darts," one of them said and the coalmen walked off to the dartboard at the other end of the bar. The mechanic turned and grinned at Rosie as he offered her a cigarette.
"Players Bachelor. Is that some kind of personal advertisement?"
He gave a laugh. "Yeah, I suppose it shows that I'm never tied down and I'm always available."
"I'll bear that in mind," she said, slowly drawing a cigarette from the box. She ran her tongue around her lips before placing the cigarette between her teeth.
The mechanic flipped and lit the Zippo petrol lighter in one movement and reached across to light her cigarette.
Rosie eased forward slightly, moving her thumb and finger slowly back and forth along the length of the cigarette as she took a light. She took the cigarette from her mouth, blew out the lighter flame and took hold of his hand while looking at the ground-in oily grime on his fingers. "You should wear gloves at work, your hands are rotten."
"Hazard of the job. Can't wear gloves anyway, won't be able to feel the nuts."
Rosie glanced down to his trousers before looking back into his eyes. "Yeah, nuts always feel better without gloves."
Tony banged the drinks onto the table. "Brandy and Babycham," he said, "but then we're going."
Rosie still held onto the mechanic's hand. "Haven't you got fat fingers?"
Tony guzzled a large part of his pint. "Come on, Rosie, let's get a move on."
Rosie ignored Tony and grinned at the mechanic. "You know what they say about fat fingers, don't you? Fat fingers, fat..."
"Head," Tony interrupted. "Fat fingers, fat head."
The mechanic laughed. "That ain't nice, Tone, is it? And I thought we were mates. Anyway, look at your fingers, aren't they thin?"
Tony quickly finished off his drink and stood up. "Come on, Rosie, we're going."
"I'm not going anywhere yet, so you can stop rushing me."
"You fancy him, don't you?"
"Don't be so bloody stupid, Tony, he's your best mate, isn't he?"
"Well he can be yours now; you stay with him if you want to, but I'm going. If you want me I'll be in The Coffee Bar." Tony stormed off.
"Ooo, Mister Uppity. You know I think he's jealous," the mechanic said.
The coalmen walked back over. "Do you fancy a game of doubles? Us two against you and the bird."
The mechanic smiled at his assumed handicap. "Can you play darts, Rosie?"
Rosie moved her elbows up and down like wings. "Squawk, squawk," she called.
It was half-past nine when Rosie decided it was time to move things on a bit. She was getting bored with beating the coalmen at darts all the time. She asked the mechanic to run her home in his van, pretending she was afraid to walk home on her own. The mechanic didn't need asking twice and they were soon pulling up at her house.
She opened the front door and beckoned him over. "Come on, there's no one in."
"What time will your mum and dad be back then?"
"My dad pissed off years ago, went off his head, kept seeing ghosts and things. My mum's out playing whist, she's usually out until after eleven." Rosie had failed to notice her mother's handbag on one of the coat hooks in the passage. Her mother had returned home angry the whist drive had been cancelled. She almost came to blows with the club secretary when she left, even though the flood in the hall was nothing to do with him. She had gone up to bed early, taking a sleeping pill before retiring, but it had not yet had much effect and she was still very much awake when Rosie brought the mechanic home.
They walked into the living room and Rosie turned the electric fire on, switching on all three bars. "I don't know, sometimes it gets really cold in this room."
"Maybe it's your old chap's ghosts."
She smiled at him. "That's what he used to say. When the room's cold there was a spirit present." She gave a laugh. "Nothing to do with the draughty windows of course." She slipped off her coat and took hold of the large ring at the top of the chunky zip down the front of her dress. Slowly and teasingly she slid the zipper down, all the time looking straight into the mechanic's eyes. "You don't have to worry about anything. I'm on the pill, you know."
The mechanic stared at her wide-eyed as his chest and arms starting to tremble nervously. His stare followed the opening zipper as it peeled apart her dress. Her breasts seemed to expand and fall forward slightly as they lost the constraint of the material; her navel appeared like a bull's eye on her flat waist. Then the bottom of the zip was released, her dress spread apart like some superhero's cape, revealing her tiny briefs which were barely fulfilling their task; the flesh between them and her Pretty Polly hold-up stockings, smooth, creamy white and unblemished. He considered himself experienced after having sexual encounters with a few of his past girlfriends as well as some girlfriends that were not his, but he was shocked at the way Rosie lunged at him. She hastily undid his belt and buttons and soon had his trousers and briefs round his ankles before pushing him down and onto his back on the floor. Forcing herself on him in a frenzy of lust, she seduced him. However, their lovemaking didn't last long and she became angry and began to verbally abuse him for his early release, because he had always given her the impression that he was a skilful lover.
The living room door suddenly burst open. "What the hell's going on?" Her mother's voice was loud and agitated. Rosie jumped up and tried to zip up her dress as her mother ran across and struck her, knocking her off her feet and sending her sprawling across the floor. The lad was in a state of fright as the mountain of a woman reached down and grabbed him by his hair. She dragged him down the passage oblivious to his cries from the pain of her pulling at his hair, his hands trying ineffectually to release her grip. She dumped him unceremoniously onto the pavement; his trousers still around his ankles. He hastily dressed and hurried off to his van as Rosie's Mother slammed the street door and went back after her daughter. Rosie tried to run past her, but her mother's huge hand caught Rosie in her stomach. Winded and in pain Rosie fell to the floor again knocking over and landing on the electric fire. She screamed at the pain of the three bars searing her flesh and she scrambled back to her feet. Her mother was coming for her again and Rosie tried to dodge her, but the woman caught her shoulder, spun her round and punched her savagely. Rosie fell onto the sofa unconscious. The woman looked down at her daughter.
"You'll learn one day you filthy little bitch." She felt the cold as if there were a chilling breeze in the room. She thought that there must be a window open, but she was not too bothered, no one would dare to break into her house. She left Rosie lying on the sofa, went back to her bedroom and took another sleeping pill before getting back into bed, unaware of the unwelcome visitor in the house.
Downstairs, Rachel's ghost was in the living room. She thought it would be foolish to let this opportunity pass again. Perhaps it was time to stop playing games with Gloria and Ellis, and anyway she just might convince Rosie she should take revenge on them. She also remembered how this was a special house, built directly over the site of her old cottage. Best of all this would be an easy task to perform and could not fail. There was a copy of the Radio Times on the floor and Rachel directed her energy into moving the paper onto the overturned fire. The paper caught fire and began scorching the side of the sofa causing it to smoulder. It was not long before the imitation leather cracked and split as the smoking foam rubber burst into flames and in a matter of minutes, the house was filled with thick black smoke and ferocious flames.
Rosie sat up suddenly with her hair and skin on fire, but she felt no pain as if the flickering flames that covered her were not real. She leapt off of the sofa wondering why she was not choking from the smoke, why she could breathe, totally unaware that she no longer had a body, only an image of one. She looked back through the smoke at the flaming sofa and could just see the shape of someone lying there. She got closer and shock swept through her as she realised it was her own body burning there. She heard a laugh, a young girl's laugh. She looked round and the smoke parted leaving a clear path like a tunnel towards the young Rachel in the corner of the room. This was no illusion; Rachel had now lost the hideous image and had reverted to the ghostly form of her youth.
"Welcome, welcome to your new world. There is a lot I must tell you, of things that you can do and of things that you cannot, but first I feel I must tell you that it should have been Gloria that was to take my place. Because of her stubbornness, you are here instead. Your mortal body has perished because of her and if I were you I would seek revenge and take the one she loves. Take Ellis, take Ellis for your companion and repay her for your years of future depression and frustration." Rosie's spirit was still as if she had been paralysed. Rachel told her how to use body possessions and other skills, but Rosie could only look and listen until Rachel had finished. "Use your strength well, for you will not have it long." Rachel gave a laugh and then faded away.
When Rachel had gone Rosie was free from her paralysis. She ran from the room and out of the house full of panic and disbelief. She was still burning, hitting her hands against her body she knocked some of the flames out, but they re-lit immediately. She began to run along the road and the headlights from an approaching police car dazzled her. She stood in the road and put her hands out, but the occupants could not see her. She screamed and closed her eyes, but there was no impact, she turned and looked behind her as the car drove away from her. She looked at the house, ablaze with thick smoke pouring from the windows. As the police car stopped opposite the house, she turned and ran towards the field. She jumped through the fence and ran across the field towards the woods, making for the private swimming pool at Carver's Hollow; she needed the water, thinking that was the only way she could put out the flames.
She dived into the pool and extinguished the flames. It only seemed like seconds, but she realised that she had been there some time because the dawn was breaking and the songbirds were in full chorus. Her clothes appeared to dry as she left the pool and they were now unspoilt by the fire.
She hurried back across the field, needing to know how her mother had faired in the blaze. All was quiet at the house, the fire was out, the brigade had gone and there was just a solitary police officer in a car waiting for the council to come and make the house secure.
Rosie went inside and up the stairs to her mother's bedroom. The room was scorched and blackened and she knew that her mother could not have survived. Her mother was not there in either body or spirit and Rosie wept for her tragic loss. She was full of resentment, remembering the words from Rachel that Gloria must pay for the tragedy that she had forced over onto her and her mother.