Having avoided eye-contact with that library aide, Jael was more calm than angry at that guy perpetuating a ghost myth as she sat in the taxicab waiting to arrive at the Four Point Sheraton. Jael had booked a room there after reading about the atrium lounge. As a general nature lover, the idea of atrium was such a nice highlight for her as she had never been to Lubbock before. Now that she knew trees were a rare thing in this city, she figured the atrium was about to be another rare oasis of trees.
After checking in and dropping her bag off in her hotel room, Jael immediately returned to the lobby to check out the atrium. Jael had not realized there would be a piano there, too. Not that she could play the piano, but she had always wanted to learn. She chose a seat close to the piano which was not difficult as no one else was around, well, except a few snickering teens who had just ordered Shirley temples and sodas at the bar. Jael got up and ordered herself the drink she had often heard her boyfriend Kaven order: a gin and tonic. The lady who presented Jael her drink when the bartender finished stirring asked why she was still in town.
“Well, it’s summer break. Most students take off unless they have events planned or summer school.”
“Oh, I am here as a visitor. I came to get a book from the Texas Tech library and stay one night. This place had an atrium, so I thought it would be a treat.”
“Nice. Coming to Lubbock, TX as a sort of vacay is not something I woulda expected.”
Jael shrugged when the bar server giggled and tipped a dollar. The drink was cool to the touch though it had no ice which was a pleasant surprise. She walked towards the table that was now occupied by the teens. Jael smiled at them, and then made her way up to the piano where a lady sat popping her knuckles.
“I don’t take requests, sorry. One has to keep tabs on the latest hits for that. I am going to play Fuer Elise by Beethoven, though, hope you enjoy it.” She began to play. Jael thought it was lovely and stayed standing there by the piano desperate to tell the piano lady she was not going to make a request just scout a table to sit at. Almost like piano lady read her mind, the playing stopped.
“I’m Mrs. Doak. Here sit down by me and maybe I can show you how to tickle out a tune.”
Jael sat down carefully and whispered her own name in the quietest introduction ever, “My name is Jael.”
Mrs. Doak smiled. “Pianos make me feel like I have to whisper, too.”
The teenagers at the table Jael had originally wanted to sit at called out, “Is it an automatic playing piano?”
“No—“ Jael began with eyebrows furled, but Mrs. Doak started to tell her that she was going to show her how to play the melody part of Ode to Joy by Beethoven, then tickled out the notes ‘e-e-f-g-g-f-e-d-c-c.
Jael imitated the keys pushed as best she could but stumbled after the second g. Mrs. Doak played the tune one key at a time indicating with gestures that Jael should copy each note an octave down on the keyboard. After a few practices like that, the two played the melody in unison to the applause of the small table of teens. Mrs. Doak had stood up with Jael at the applause.
Reaching for her gin and tonic that she had set on the ground by the piano bench, Jael sighed out, “Whew, wow, thanks!”
Mrs. Doak smiled, and sat back down at the bench and using the foot pedals with her right foot, chords with her left hand, and keys with the right, played all of Fuer Elise. Jael stood wide-eyed watching and listening still on the piano stage. She paused only to take a sip of her drink which she actually found to be quite the pleasant cocktail. Only when the song finished which coincidentally coincided with her finishing her drink, did Jael take a seat at the table just cattycorner to the teens’ table. They sat staring wide-eyed at Jael instead of at the piano and player, not cheering this time at the performance bartender, hotel receptionist, and some of the lobby assistants had filtered in with heads turned toward the piano. They then looked around at the only people in the room and walked up to the teen table to ask them who had been playing. “It was so beautiful!”
The teens looked at Jael with one of them pointing, so the group moved to her. Giving the teens a shocked expression, Jael raised both hands just in front of her. “Whoa, no, I only played the little ditty Mrs.Doak taught me…Mrs. Doak played the rest,” Jael turned her eyes toward the piano, but Mrs. Doak was no longer there.
“Oh! She must have…powder room? Or maybe she went to get a drink…” Jael looked pointedly at the bartender, who straightened his shoulders and headed back.
“Well, tell her it was nice, and thanks from the hotel team,” One of the lobby assistants offered.
“Oh, you can tell her…she’ll probably be right back. I’m gonna wait here in case she’s willing to teach me some more.”
They didn’t stay, but Jael did. She was earnestly hoping to see Mrs. Doak again. She wanted at the very least to stare down the teens and the slightly older guy sitting with them that were whispering and peering at her. Finally, Jael realized Mrs. Doak was not returning.
So, Jael got up and stomped right up to the teens assuming all the while that Mrs. Doak had not returned because of the lack of applause to a flawless performance.
“That was rude, you could have at least applauded when the Beethoven piece concluded.”
The one guy who had joined the table in the middle of the Fuer Elise performance was the only one to answer. “The keys and peddles were being pressed with no one there actually playing. You just stood there with your drink gawking. I don’t know what you’re playing at, but if I was looking for a ghost show, I woulda taken these champs to stay at the Pioneer Hotel.”
“Wh—?” Jael began to question the outlandish accusation, but the man turned his back to Jael and started directing the teenagers to gather their things and return to their rooms.
“Don’t forget to set your alarms and wear the team shirt for the competition tomorrow,” he said while escorting them out of the atrium and toward the elevators.
Distraught and indignant, Jael looked around the atrium and steadied herself. She took the stairs to her room planning to plop down on the bed right away, but there was a note taped to her door. Jael ripped it off to take inside with her. She sat on the edge of the bed and unfolded the piece of paper that had a business card was stapled to the inside under a hand-written note:
Hi. I think you were playing piano with a ghost. It is strange even for me this case of yours. I think the ghost was from Texas Tech’s Doak hall. The piano there is randomly played it is rumored by Mrs. Doak whom the building was named after. Anyway, if I’m right, you may be a ghost magnet. This is not me trying to scare you; I don’t think you scare easy anyway even with a gin and tonic in you. Oh, yeah, I’m the bartender. Name is on the card with my number. Give me a call if you want to find out just how many ghosts you can wrangle. I’ll record and diary it. I am hoping to become a paranormal investigator and a partner like you would be awesome.
Jael did not know how to react. Mrs. Doak of Doak Hall at TTU?! Is Lubbock full of pranksters desperate for fiction? God or ghosts, either way, Jael was happy she was leaving in the morning. She folded the paper and card back up and placed it in her purse for a conversation piece with Kaven later. She had not even checked the name on the card. It was all so weird. Funny weird. Jael chuckled a bit as she fell asleep.