I didn’t for one minute think they’d follow through with their promise, but they have. I stand and look straight ahead in amazement. It’s huge, much bigger than I remember. My heart is beating fast, my legs are trembling, and my mind is going crazy. This is it. “This is the great house,” I whisper. I walk towards it, knowing it’s the moment I’ve been waiting for. It’s been so long. My mouth feels dry and I have a funny tingling feeling running all over my body. I feel truly alive.
“Are you okay?” asks Dave.
I jump onto a stone flowerpot and look through the window, excited at the prospect of seeing Betsy.
Stan climbs onto the pot, too. “Bainbridge?”
“It’s different inside. It’s very, very different,” I say. I look all around the room. “But I don’t see her.” A lump forms in my throat. All I can see is a family, I don’t recognise, huddled together. I feel a sharp intake of breath. “I shouldn’t have come. Betsy isn’t here. I was stupid to think she would be.” My heart aches at the realisation that she doesn’t live here any more, and I don’t think I have ever felt this sad. I look towards my friends. “Stan?”
“What is it?”
“I’ll never see her again, will I?” He doesn’t have to answer me. I know I’ll never get the chance to look in my Betsy’s eyes once more. I won’t hear her laughter, and I won’t feel the softness of her skin. I am now choked with tears.
Stan puts his paw onto my back. “Go in,” he says.
“I can’t,” I reply.
“Why?” he asks.
“It’s not my home any more.” I jump down from the flowerpot.
“I’m sorry,” Dave says, hanging his head low.
I try to smile through my tears. “Oh well.” I swallow hard. “It was always going to be a long shot, wasn’t it?” I turn around. “Come on.” My voice quivers as I speak. “Let’s go home.” I start to walk down the long gravel drive.
“Wait!” Stan pulls at my tail. He jerks me back.
“Oi!” I scowl at him. “What’s that for?”
He puts his paws onto his hips and looks me straight in the eyes. “You’re not going anywhere, Bainbridge.”
I rub my tail. “What are you talking about?”
“Stan’s right,” says Dave.
“I am.” Stan winks. “Aren’t you just a little bit curious? Don’t you want to let that old familiar feeling wash over you again?”
I look back at the house. Another lump forms in my throat. For some reason, it does still feel like home. It has a lovely warm glow about it. Even though there is another family inside, there are memories of us in there, too. They are floating around. I smile. The soul of the house smiles back and my memories of Betsy are more vivid now than ever. “Maybe I could go in and have a look around.”
“We’ve not come all this way for nothing!” Dave slaps me on the back. “Shake your tail, Bainbridge, and go and make the most of it.”
Nervously, I reply, “Okay. I’ll do it.” I step forward one pace and look up at the windows on the first floor. I can see one is open.
Stan furrows his brow. “What are you doing?”
“Looking for a way in, of course.” I hear the pair of them laugh. “What?”
“You’re a ghost!” Stan says. “Do what you do best.”
Chapter Nine will be available to read from June 20th 2015.