A few minutes later I was walking back towards the library, feeling silly. Once I had gotten on the bike and tried to bike again, I’d realized that my front wheel was deflated. The sound I’d heard hadn’t come from a ghost, but from my own wheel, which had ruptured in an explosion, probably caused by a sharp stone, or a shard of glass…or maybe the rubber had just been old?
I didn’t feel silly. Not at all. I felt like a raging lunatic who, at the age of seventeen, had suddenly become frightened of her own shadow. In the past 24 hours I’d met two extremely friendly ghosts and now, as darkness fell, I’d turned into a chicken. Even if the voice in the library had come from a ghost, why would it have been dangerous? It was just a voice! Josephine and Mr Crinkle had both been nice and neither had said anything about the possibility of running into nasty ghosts. I must have read too many ghost stories.
As the library wasn’t far from the town center I was by Mr Crawley’s Outdoor Gear in ten minutes.
Mr Crawley is one of the residents that I was hoping had had a cactus accident the other day. The more spikes into his bitter old bottom, the better! He is old and grumpy and generally never pleasant to deal with. I wouldn’t describe him as evil, but having to put up with his grumpiness is painful enough. My aunts always take it upon themselves to tease him by displaying good humor no matter what he says. He pretends to be sulking even then, but at times I’ve seen him almost smile at Hetty. I think he quite likes her — she’s a firecracker in the right sort of way, he in the worst sort of way.
His terrible mood and snarkiness aside, his shop is well stocked and it is, furthermore, the only outdoors gear shop in town, which also so happens to sell and repair bikes. He also owns one of the slopes on Gold Mountain and is therefore one of the richer residents of our little town. More than that, we need him as we all rely on those slopes for tourists, who bring in money. Kids don’t tend to contemplate this very much though, so they dress his trees with toilet paper every Halloween as he doesn’t have candy in his shop when people come calling.
As I entered the shop a little bell rang, but I couldn’t see anyone around that had noticed me — the place looked empty. It’s actually a really nice old chalet with an interior completely in wood. I even enjoy being there sometimes when other sales assistants than Mr Crawley are around, but as it wasn’t high season I suspected I’d have to deal with Mr Crawley himself.
I ventured further into the shop and finally saw Mr Crawley behind the counter. He was muttering to himself and looking at some old poster. When I moved closer I could make out what he was muttering: “There’s gold in the mountain…”
I froze as I heard the words and dropped my bike keys to the ground.
Mr Crawley looked up at me, startled, then quickly rolled up the poster and put it away.
“Shame on you Louise, startling people like that. What do you want?” He stared at me angrily as he spoke. I felt as if his piercing blue eyes were making dents in my face. At the age of sixty, or so, he looked worn — his skin wrinkled and parched — and the little light there was in the shop cast shadows across his face, making him look monstrous.
“Uhm,” I squeaked out, feeling frightened for no good reason. “My bike broke. One wheel practically exploded. I need to get a new one fitted as that one is pretty much gone.”
“Right, bring it into the workshop next door and I’ll fix it up for you. I guess you want it right away?”
I nodded. I didn’t want to walk home, or trouble my aunts to come pick me up.
A few minutes later Mr Crawley had fixed my bike and I’d paid. He might be grumpy, but he’d always been efficient.
As I left and got on my bike I felt a wave of relief. I’d had enough of spooky encounters and whispers about gold in the mountain for one night. I wanted to go home and I wanted to go home now.
Before I managed to get the speed up, I heard voices ringing out from one of the alleyways to my right. They sounded upset and I spiked my ears to try to hear better.
“I don’t care about your silly schemes, mom. I don’t care if you ever become mayor. Why do you care? You don’t even know anyone here yet. I hate this. I really hate it!”
I could hear another voice responding, but it was lower and as I was biking away I couldn’t make out the words. I’d never before heard anyone arguing about becoming the mayor! For almost eight years Mr Crane has been the mayor and he’s done a good job as far as I’m aware. No one has even seriously tried to win the post from him in recent years. On the town committee there are a few…interesting characters who like to have their voices heard, but none who would be troubled enough to run the town.
I shrugged my shoulders — town gossip can be interesting if it affects you directly, but good luck to whoever had ambitions of becoming the new mayor!
Once I was home I finally had a chance to curl up in my favorite armchair by the fireplace and read Romeo and Juliet after eating a hearty meal. As I drank my hot chocolate and got lost in Shakespeare’s wonderful world, I felt the tension of the past few days melt away. I was going to be Juliet and that was the only thing that mattered.
Inside my mind I started imagining Juliet’s life in greater detail — her surroundings, the people around her, the scents that rose from the kitchen and what it felt like using a bedpan instead of a toilet (not pleasant).
After reading through the play I popped out into the office (in a chalet some fifty odd meters away from the house) to do some research online and started piecing together a picture of what everyday life would have looked like back then. Later I would have to figure out how Juliet’s mind worked — her memories, her hopes, her dreams and everyday dilemmas — but the starting point was her external world and the overall ideas of her time.
Finally, around ten-thirty or so, I felt it was time to head to bed. I put on my PJs and, after brushing my teeth, sleepily walked up to my bed, ready to sink into my pillow and dream. Only, I saw someone had gotten there before me. A note, to be precise, was resting where I intended to rest my head.
Lazily, I leaned forward to read the note, thinking my aunts must have put it there. I noted that they had picked up some new fancy paper, because it looked like it was from Shakespeare’s time — old parchment.
As I got close enough to read the words I stiffened: “There’s gold in the mountain, but it is guarded well by a fiery fountain. Beware, beware my dear.”
Now, that woke me up! I stretched my hand out to pick up the note to inspect it, but as I touched it, it disintegrated. Startled I jumped back. What was this all about? Why couldn’t I have a moment alone without any ghosts anymore? And why on Earth was everyone on about gold in the mountain?