“I don’t want to.”
“Stop your whining Dru and get in the box.”
“But it’s hot in there.”
“It’s your turn. I did it last time.”
“Fine,” I say grudgingly and start to climb in. “Wait. I need to go first.”
Ana rolls her eyes but doesn’t protest.
I know what she’s thinking. Perhaps I oughtn’t to have drunk so much water.
“Took you long enough,” Ana says when I finally return.
Ignoring her remark I say, “Don’t you think it’s too early?” Though I hear the clip clop of hooves as a carriage pulls up to the house.
“No,” she says and pushes my head down to make her point. “Now remember, two knocks means yes--”
“I know.” I sigh and drag my boots along the hardwood floor.
“Because last time--”
“Well, do it right,” Ana says crossing her arms in that way that only older sisters can. “And no sleeping.”
I’m jealous. Ana always gets to be in the pictures and tonight there would be pictures. Tall, willowy, like a dancer and with a pale, almost translucent complexion she was a natural. Sometimes Mother used Joseph. He was good at adapting his appearance. He could make himself look ugly or old or remain young and handsome. He could don a suit of fine cloth with a top hat and look like a proper gentleman though mother said he was nothing of the sort.
“Come on Dru, stop stalling and get into position. The guests will be arriving any moment.”
The grieving (and wealthy) Mrs. Jones and her husband have become regular patrons of the circle, seeking to make contact with their daughter. They will not be disappointed.
The widow Farley, Dr. Marshall, along with Lord and Lady Wingate will also attend tonight’s spectacle. Their presence a testament to mother’s success as any spectral visitor could ever be by raising her standing in the eyes of both her followers and critics alike.
“If mother comes in and catches you there’ll be hell to pay.”
I sigh, again. “Fine.”
Ana squeezes my hand, surprising me. “Here, use this.” She’s left me a clean handkerchief to wipe away the sweat.
With the trap door under the table now closed, the space is cramped and I must lay flat on my back. I pick up the rock and heft it in my hand. I’ll use it to knock on the floor above me. I can kick with the toe of my boot on the other end. It is hot down here and there isn’t much space but there are holes and I can breathe. I can’t see though, so I close my eyes. Still, I know my sister is out there and has taken her position behind the curtain. She hasn’t lowered the veil yet. It’s too hot tonight. But when she does emerge, she will make a formidable ghost indeed.