a summer haunting

by David Massengill

i was thinking i’m 17 and a half-hour train ride from paris i can’t be sitting in this chain hotel restaurant watching my parents and little sister eat burgers so gross so i told them i was going to the hotel gym to work out they totally swallowed my lie with their fries because they know how obsessive i am about not having baby fat

figuring i had like 2 hours to do whatever i ran up to our room and got my new french cigarettes from the secret compartment in my suitcase that’s when i heard “bonjour” which kinda freaked me out i turned around and saw a guy standing by the door which i’d left totally open

“um hi” i said

“i’m anton” he said

he was actually pretty hot definitely older but not creepy older black skinny jeans a big studded belt a tight very red t-shirt and cool hair dark longish romantic-ish with wide side burns

the moustache was the one thing i wasn’t sure about a little too black and curving around his lips making me think of a word my mom sometimes used


“i was looking for the how do you say drink machine” he said

“you’re staying here too” i asked

“across the hall” he said pointing to a door “room 33 i am here with my parents they like versailles”

“parents” i said in my most jaded voice i put a cigarette between my lips and flipped my hair and said “i’m like so over versailles and ready for something 21st century”

we were strolling away from the hotel when he told me he was an electro dj 27 and he lived in nice near the riviera i said i was a fashion stylist 21 and i was debating buying a place in la maybe in a neighborhood called silver lake

which wasn’t like a total lie since that was my agenda once i graduated and got the f out of suburban thousand oaks

“silver lake it is fancy yes” he asked

“no it’s hipster-ish” i said “like you”

“i like you too” he said and took my hand leading me into this park with a sign

fleur bleue

parc ancien

it was dark enough for me to wonder for a sec lara what the hell are you doing but then i saw anton’s face like totally beaming in the moonlight he was actually thrilled to be with me i remembered my picture in the yearbook and that awful caption

lara norring

girl guys want to protect like their little sis

“race you” i said running ahead into the shadows i told myself you’re going to be like a totally different person senior year

i stopped when i reached this old carriage lit up by blue spotlights at the edge of the forest as if it were waiting for me

“this i wanted to show you” anton said catching up “i know you were hoping for something modern”

“not really” i said “just something different we’re going to get in it aren’t we” i was kinda shocked by my aggressiveness but kinda proud too

anton was grinning he said “yes we go inside but first i want you to see something outside” he pointed at a little ripped hole in the side of the carriage and said “from the french revolution”

“do tell tour guide” i said squeezing his hand it was only after i felt his cold fingers among mine that i thought he’s a guest at the hotel so how would he know about this carriage

“the carriage belonged to a friend of marie-antoinette” he said “a rich young lady like you”

“i’m not rich” i said “i mean not really my family lives in a nice neighborhood but all the houses are mchouses with spanish tile roofs and a palm tree in every front yard”

anton didn’t seem like he was listening he brought my fingers toward the hole

“peasants surrounded the carriage one stuck a knife through making that hole and making the lady bleed”

i pulled my hand out of his and thought ok creepy i wondered if my parents were checking for me in the gym if my mom was maybe calling my name in the women’s dressing room

“but that knife only went into her leg” anton said “they grabbed her out of the carriage and finished her on”

“off” i said

“off” he asked

“off” i said “they finished her off”

“are you alright lara” he said “you look serious all of sudden i am sorry if i scare you i like scary stories they are for me how do you say turn-on”

“yes i’m ok” i said reminding myself i wasn’t going to be wimpy lara norring during my first and possibly only trip to france “and turn-on is the right expression”

i yanked open the narrow door of the carriage and said with a grin “i’ve been wanting to go back to paris with someone other than my parents is this going to take us there”

“no this never moves” he said nodding for me to step inside “unless we cause it to move”

the carriage had this strange musky smell the windows on either side of the door were wooden lattice making me think of cages moonlight came through those windows and i could see little faded flowers on the fabric of the seat across from ours

“i have no more stories for you” anton said kissing my neck

i liked feeling his lips on my skin and i liked that i would get my own story out of this night back in california i could tell my friends about my french “boyfriend” but then i kept thinking “man friend” when i felt his bristly moustache moving along the curve of my neck

i froze when i saw the other men just silhouettes suddenly surrounding the carriage

“some people are here” i told anton

“there is only us” he said

his moustache felt like it was moving under my shirt on its own i pulled my body apart from his and i saw a man coming up to the side of the carriage with the hole in it the man pulled something out of his pocket and slammed it against the carriage right behind anton

anton gave a painful grunt and jerked forward falling across my lap

“are you stabbed” i cried out i searched his back for some wound

anton laughed so did all the men

anton raised himself and kissed me hard “meet my local friends” he said “i sent them how do you say text telling them where we were”

totally annoyed i put on my poutiest face

“come on” he said “let us go to paris i know a cool discotheque where we can smoke hashish in the basement”

“i don’t know now”

“i was playing” anton said pinching my cheek

i was still irked but i thought at least nothing horrible really happened

“it better be good hashish” i said “because we’ll have to leave the club right after we get there my parents will be searching for me soon”

“it will be very good” anton said looking serious

he was stepping out of the carriage and i was following when i felt a hand on mine and heard someone whisper “don’t go with them”

i gasped from surprise and looked back to see a woman sitting on what had been the empty seat at first i thought the rich lady from olden times but then as she scooted out of the shadows i saw she had on a gold necklace someone from today would wear

she wore nothing else completely naked and her throat was slit blood had crusted along the gash

“come through the door lara” anton said “what did you see”

i looked at him and all his friends still silhouettes

“nothing” i said as we walked i looked back once and thought i saw a pale finger poking through the hole

anton’s friends were entering the staircase tunnel leading to the train station when i stopped

“i’m sorry” i said “i’ve got to go back to the hotel i totally forgot my wallet”

anton frowned “i have francs” he said

“no” i said “it has my id and everything else in it i’ve gotta have it with me” i hoped he wouldn’t sense my fear or see the bulge of my wallet in my jeans pocket

“now you will have no time for paris” he said

“i’ll see my parents at the hotel and ask them for more” i felt beads of sweat forming on my forehead and wondered if i could outrun him if it came to a chase

but he’d caught up to me in the park

“i will go with you” anton said

“i’m fine alone” i said

“bad things have happened to american girls around here” he said

i nodded and didn’t look him in the eyes

i peeked out the hotel window and saw that anton was still on the street 20 minutes later pacing back and forth glancing up at the hotel i’d asked him to please not come up because if my parents spotted me with a guy they’d never let me go back down

i wondered how long it would be before he tried to fetch me and ask what was my problem

i didn’t know if that woman in the carriage was real but she was definitely freaky and her words to me even freakier

the door to our room opened and i flinched

my little sister entered on her own

“where’s mom and dad” i asked frantic

“the hotel was playing some old black-and-white love story movie so they went”

“well get in here and lock the door” i said

“you’ve become a weird one” she said she sat on the couch and turned on the tv watching both it and me

i looked out the window again and saw that anton was gone

“shit” i said hurrying to the door i placed my eye next to the peep hole waiting to see his face that red shirt

“oh my gosh” my little sister squealed she was laughing and pointing at something on the tv

“what” i said annoyed

“sex” she said

i walked over to the tv and saw my sister had somehow started one of the pay-per-view pornos a naked woman wearing a blindfold was bouncing on the lap of a naked man with a big brown moustache

i immediately turned the tv off and said “no”

“why” she asked

“you’re 13” i said “not old enough” i went back to the peep hole and added “you need to wait and wait and wait some more”

i woke up to my dad rummaging through my suitcase

he looked at me probably expecting me to pull the bitchy teenager thing and said “sorry hon your mom wanted to borrow your hair dryer the foreign electrical outlet fried hers”

“it’s fine dad” i said

when he left i went to the sunlit window of my room and saw the versailles palace grounds in the distance there were the rose gardens and those huge hedge rows my family had walked past yesterday afternoon for some reason i was relieved versailles would be there like that probably unchanging for tourists for hundreds of years

in the living room my mom was pouring orange juice for my little sister she smiled and said “lar are you going down to the cafe to get yourself espresso again today”

i sat in a chair and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes i thought everything was so normal there was no way i really saw that woman last night i suddenly felt ashamed for ditching anton like i did

“yeah mom” I said “i’ll get espresso again today”

after dressing i left the room but instead of going right toward the elevators i went left toward anton’s room i hadn’t really thought of a good apology other than maybe i was just being immature

i saw that the door to room 33 was partially open i knocked

“anton” i asked

no one responded

“anton” i said “it’s me lara i just wanted to say-”

a woman wearing a maid’s outfit opened the door “no one here” she said

“did they leave for the day” i asked disappointed i imagined anton shuffling along the town’s cobblestone streets with his parents feeling rejected i’d never even kissed him back

“non” the maid said

“they didn’t already check out did they” i pushed the door open and stepped past her the room had no furniture and smelled like fresh paint

“non” the maid repeated “no one here no one stay here entire summer”

i was sitting with my family on a train just starting from versailles toward the paris airport when i saw anton again

he stood at the end of the platform next to a digital billboard for russian vodka he was wearing his studded belt but in the daylight it looked cracked and dirty next to him were a couple of the men i’d met the other night

anton punched one in the middle of the chest grinning playfully the man punched back and anton punched harder looking like he enjoyed inflicting the pain

i looked down at my fashion magazine frightened of making eye contact

a line of french girls my age came along the aisle of the train wearing tight denim skirts and smelling of perfume one discreetly pulled a joint from her purse

my mom looked up at them and then at me and said “you can wander a little if you want lara the train does have a dining car”

i closed my magazine and smiled at my mom my eyes staying on her

i said “i’ll sit here with you guys for just a while”