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by J. Dean Casey





"He was listening to the music box," Olivia told her visiting sister Audrey over tea one day. She was referring to the ghost she had seen in the parlor.

Audrey, thinking her sister was becoming dotty in her old age, replied, "That music box has been broken for most of your life."

Olivia's bright mood faltered. "I suppose you should know," she said.

The music box had been a present on Olivia's twenty-first birthday from Mr. Charles, a kind-hearted old gentleman who was a friend of the family. He had placed the gift in her hands almost shyly, his blue eyes twinkling the way they would when he was happy. Olivia had been his favorite, even over her more outgoing sister.

Because of Audrey's carelessness, however, the music no longer played. The broken music box eventually found a permanent home on the fireplace mantle when Olivia refused to part with it. The loss was only the first of many her older sibling would be responsible for.

"You know it was an accident," Audrey said, scowling in irritation. "It simply slipped from my fingers."

Despite her sister, Olivia continued, determined to tell her account. "The music woke me just before dawn. When the sky is that odd mixture of grey and blue--not really night, but not yet day. I found him sitting on the chaise at the bottom of the stairs. He was a rather pleasant looking young man, though I knew he was a ghost because I could see right through him."

Audrey's gaze turned to the chair, as if imagining the apparition sitting there.

"He didn't speak, only listened to the music that played perfectly, though the music box hasn't plucked a single note in all these years. I watched him until he faded away with the morning light."

"Posh," Audrey said. "You were just having a dream." And they spoke no more of it.

That evening Olivia woke again to the music, which, until the previous night, had lived only in her memory--now it seemed more beautiful than ever. With trembling hands, she descended the stairs and as before found the ghost seated on the chaise. But this time he was clearer, more substantial. He stood and called to her.

"You know my name?" Olivia said.

"I would have spoken to you before, except you wouldn't have heard me." He held out his hand in invitation as the music swelled, filling the house with its lilting melody.

Olivia blushed. "You want to dance? With me? I'm so old." But when she hid her face in modesty, she felt her skin, soft and uncreased as a young woman's. Her confusion turned to recognition as she took his hand timidly, surprised by his warm touch.

"I've wanted so long to dance with you, Olivia," he said. And his blue eyes twinkled as they waltzed to the tune of the broken music box--two pale twirling figures that faded like mist with the morning sun.

J. Dean Casey, 2005
All Rights Reserved



BIO: J. Dean Casey is an aspiring author from the state of Wisconsin. Most recently his short stories have found their way into such online publications as Kenoma, The Sidewalk's End, and Laughter Loaf.