The ghost of the Comtesse de Marignac stares mournfully out the window, waiting for her husband, who she knows will never come back. It's a sight that would move anyone to pity. Except me. I’m rather sick of it.
It’s certainly easy to feel sorry for her. A young girl who was deeply in love with her husband, she watched the years pass by and began to suspect the love of her life was having an affair. She confronted him about it and he denied it. The next day, he left with his valet, giving no information about where he was headed. The Comtesse was alone in their chateau with only the servants for company (poor thing!). One day, there was banging on the door. The Revolution had finally reached her small town, and now the angry locals were going to attack the chateau and destroy everything inside it – including her. At best, the Comtesse faced a “trial” that would inevitably lead to the guillotine, unless she could hide or run away. Heartbroken and in despair, she decided not to take her chances. An account by one of her maids says that she was last seen sitting at an upstairs window, staring at the horizon “with such a look of sorrow upon her face that I am sure she would have died of it, had it not been for the mob’s attack.”
When my own time came, I’d thought dying in a historic chateau turned bed and breakfast was a pretty dramatic thing to do. But I hadn’t counted on the Comtesse's star power. With her tragic story and occasional apparitions at that window, she’s become the chateau’s pride and joy. Every guest hopes for a glimpse of her. But they never seem to think there might be other haunted souls here.
Of course, it’s not completely the Comtesse’s fault that we're not talked about by the staff. For example, I didn’t lose my life gazing sadly out of a window. Instead, I was found by a horrified fellow guest in the shared toilet, suffocated by my own vomit. That was the cause of death – brought on by food poisoning from the B&B’s own kitchen. A lesson I learned too late: if shrimp smells a little off, and all the other diners seem to be avoiding it, it’s probably not just some unusual French seasoning.
Though I’m famous here in my own way, being the only person who’s ever been killed by the chateau’s normally excellent cuisine, naturally my story and photo aren’t on the B&B’s website – unlike the Comtesse, whose tragic tale has its own link on the main page. Oh well, at least I’m in a nice place that’s both peaceful and exciting, with sometimes-interesting guests coming and going. I have my haunts, so to speak: the rooftop, with its beautiful vistas; the lobby, where I can check out the arrivals; a second-storey storage closet where I can go to be alone when I need to. There are books to read when no one’s looking, televisions to watch when guests turn them on, and even a computer with internet in an alcove near the reception desk. I rest, relax, and occasionally blog, saying only that I’m a francophile and traveler. I’m not exactly a liar. Unlike the Comtesse.
When I woke up here after my death, I was panicked, but once I settled into things, I figured – as probably anyone would – that I’d end up making friends with the famous lovelorn ghost. After all, a person who’s spent centuries waiting for her estranged husband’s return must be a kind, sensitive soul. Wrong.
When I approached the Comtesse, she raised her head and looked down at me. “I do not associate with people like you,” she’d said haughtily. I still don’t know what that means: Is it because I’m a foreigner? Because I’m a commoner? Because I died in such an ungraceful way? Whatever the case, I’m convinced the angry people of her village didn’t make a mistake: the Comtesse de Marignac is a perfect example of why the Revolution happened.
Fine, though, I can deal with the snubbing. I’ve always been a loner, and I haven’t felt much like conversation in my afterlife, either. But what bothers me is, she’s such a hypocrite! I see her wandering the halls, looking sad, but I’m pretty sure that’s just her neutral facial expression. Because usually Jacques, another unsung ghost here (he also died while spending the night, but in the late 19th century, and, unexcitingly, from natural causes), will appear from somewhere and they’ll start chatting and flirting – and sometimes more than that.
I’m not saying things can’t change after more than two centuries. In fact, I’m happy the Comtesse has found someone else. But to be glorified as a symbol of eternal love and longing! I spend my days wishing spirit photography was real, so that I could take a snapshot of the two of them and show everyone what a sham she is!
You might say I should be more assertive, and make a name for myself if that’s what I want. I don’t know if it’s what I want, but it’s now become a matter of principle. The only problem is, not everyone can see ghosts – and those who do see me, have been expecting to see her, and so that’s who they think I am. A few years ago, for example, I was able to be not only seen, but heard by someone, which was really thrilling. He was an old man with a bushy mustache. Late one night, I appeared in the room where he and his wife were staying, the room that had been mine when I’d left this earth, and he shot up in bed and said, in very accented French, “La Comtesse!” “Non,” I’d answered, “je ne suis pas elle” – “I’m not her.”
But even ghosts have to deal with selective hearing: the next morning, the whole B&B was abuzz with the fact that for the first time the Comtesse had appeared in someone’s bedroom, and spoken to them. “I asked her if it was really her, and she said “Je suis elle”, the old man repeated to guests, then local journalists, over and over again. Nevermind the “ne pas”, and nevermind the fact that I’m not dressed like someone from the late 18th century (I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror once, and saw that I was wearing jeans, hiking boots, and a sweater, which is exactly what I’d worn while out walking around the countryside the day I died).
Sometimes I think maybe I should find somewhere else to haunt. I’m not sure if I can do that, though; I’ve never felt the desire to leave the chateau. And when I think about it, I sometimes get filled with self-doubt. Is it the Comtesse’s fault I go unnoticed, or am I just an insipid ghost? When I start thinking like that, I end up deciding momentarily to become one of those awful phantom hitchhiker “white ladies” you hear about, who lure cars off the road. That will get you noticed. But you know, there’s even rivalry amongst them, maybe: there’s not one official White Lady, it seems.
No, when it comes down to it, I guess I don’t have it so bad. I just wish the Comtesse would stop that ridiculous, affected giggling when Jacques is around. She can’t lose, though: the people who can hear it think it’s the sound of heartbroken sobs. And so her legend lives on.
This week's Fiction Weekend prompt was suggested by Shiral: Write a ghost story from the ghost's point of view. If you'd like to check out the other Fiction Weekend stories, or would like to participate yourself (and everyone's welcome!), feel free to check out The OS Weekend Fiction Club blog. You can read the stories or post your own here.
Thanks for a fun prompt, Shiral - and Happy Halloween to all!