He finished the ghost story and watched as several of the younger campers huddled under blankets in groups of three and four. A wry smile came to his face as he stood and stretched out his legs. Andrzej Charron wasn't much older than the campers, but he was 16 and had attended Camp Jumping River for eight years, so he filled the requisites to be a "Teen Counselor."
"Tell us another one, Andy?" a young girl asked.
"Sure, Tammy," he said, returning to his blanket. He took a sip from his soda can and thought for a moment. He looked around at the assembled faces around the campfire. All eyes were on him, wide and ready for a tale. One of the reasons why he was hired was for his quick ability to come up with campfire stories.
Eight candles circled "Happy Birthday" on the white frosted, vanilla cake. There were light blue and pink flowers made of sugar on it. It was round, two layered, could feed six if the pieces were small. Since there were only two of them, it was perfect.
It sat on the dining room table, waiting for her return home. Cindy was late, but she did tell her mother that she might go over to a friend's house to play. That would mean she'd be home by six, but that was an hour ago. Her mother, Maria, sat in her chair, looking at the door, waiting. So did the cake and the candles, waiting for the eight-year-old to come home.
A knock at the door awoke Cindy's mother. She took a quick look at the clock on the wall: It read 10. She quickly moved to answer. Her heart sank when she saw the officers.
"Mrs. Phillips," the taller and older lawman began. "We don't want to tell you this, but your daughter Cindy, along with her classmates, were killed this afternoon when a gas leak in their school ignited.'
Maria Phillips passed out, unable to handle the terrible news.
They recovered Cindy's body. Her father, a man that long abandoned Maria because he could not understand the woman's abnormal devotion to their daughter, came back and with the help of his sisters, planned the little girl's funeral. Maria was inconsolable, neither her parents nor her siblings could get her attend the service and burial. All she wanted to do was sit in her comfortable chair and wait. Sit and leave the cake on the table.
"Cindy's coming back," she would say when someone would try to take it away.
They found Maria in her chair a few days later, dead, having died of a broken heart. The birthday cake had remained on the table where she had originally placed it, still pristine, untouched since she removed it from the box.
Mark Phillips arrived at the house after burying his wife next to their daughter. He wanted to clean it up, move Maria's clothing out and move his daughter's belonging out, donate them to needy families. He went to the refrigerator to grab something cool: He knew Maria liked her beer cold. On his way, he saw it, the cake, still in the middle of the dining room table. He reached for it, to throw it away.
"No!" an unnatural yet familiar voice echoed throughout the house. "Don't move it. Mark felt the room's temperature fall. He could see his breath.
Though shaken, he took another step towards the table. He felt an ice cold hand touch his shoulder. He spun around, looking for the person. He saw the ghostly form of his dead wife standing, looking at him.
"She'll be home soon," her ghost whispered. He shook his head in disbelief as Maria's form sat in a chair. He reached out to grab the pastry.
"No!" Maria's voice shouted in both ears. He felt ice cold hands grab his shoulders. He was spun around and pushed backwards with such force he was off his feet. His body landed against an oak desk, his head snapped back. His neck was snapped like a twig.
The ghost sat in the comfortable saying, "She'll be home soon."
Some say that to this day that you can see the cake in the middle of the dining room, even though there's no furniture in the house, let alone a dining table. And it's said that if you're foolish and walk into the house to take it, Maria's ghost will throw you against an invisible desk, just like what happened to her husband.
A few campers nervously laughed, some shivered, huddling together under blankets.
"Andy, that's so not scary," a boy said, showing off his bravado to the older girls. He screamed when he felt a hand on his shoulder pulling him down to the ground.
The other male counselor looked down at him and smiled.
"Nate, nice job," Andy told his cousin.
Twenty years later...
"Why do we always get these jobs?" Andrzej Charron asked his partner and cousin Nathan Wright.
He shrugged and said, "Lucky, I guess." He sighed, checked his flashlight again, and chuckled. "Ready to get the cake?"
"As ready as I'll ever be." The private investigators, two men with a knack of solving the before unsolvable, steeled themselves and walked onto the abandoned home's porch. The front door was opened by a kick of Nathan's right foot, and they entered.
They ignored the form of an angry woman in the picture window to their left.