Sleepy Little Township
As the rest of the team was involved with either restoring the town to normality or personal research projects, Nikoli focused on Miss Stephanie and her fragile mental state. He was relieved that Mary and Dr. Miller’s explanation had calmed her, and that she was responding well to the medicine they had prescribed.
He decided to stay and help her with the ghost children who were unable to move on, regardless of how long it took. As the days went on, he more fully understood his own personal interest in helping Miss Stephanie, realizing that he was, in fact, in love with her. Stephanie remained friendly, but aloof; yet this did not dissuade him from trying to win her affections. Slowly, she grew more fond of his kind and gentlemanly ways – these were traits she was unaccustomed to seeing in all the other men she had ever met. “I’m going to stay until we help all the children,” Nikoli told her. “Only then, will I head back to Williamstown. And when I do, I hope that you’ll come with me. Please, say that you will.”
Nikoli would teach some nights, while Stephanie would teach other nights – in this way, they were both able to get enough rest while maintaining the daytime school hours, as well. In addition, Sister Ellie became increasingly friendly with Nikoli, spending more and more time at the school and helping to prepare (and sometimes deliver) lessons during the day.
Together, Nikoli and Stephanie helped many of the ghost children move on to the next realm. But no matter how many children passed on, more children kept coming; it seemed that they would never be able to help them all.
It was the night of April 23 when Samantha and her two “body guards” approached both Nikoli and Stephanie. “It’s time for you two, now,” Samantha said. They didn’t understand, but Samantha explained: “the children will always come. There are so many, you’ll never be able to help them all. But, you’ve done enough. It’s time for you two to move on, now. I’ll be their teacher. I can prepare the lessons. I’m not a child anymore, and mean old Mrs. Graytooth is gone. I can do this. I can help them. It’s what I want to do!”
Stephanie was apprehensive and talked to Ellie, but Ellie told her she should go. She would stay on as the new teacher, and she would keep in touch and even visit Stephanie from time to time. After much debate, Stephanie finally agreed, and after much planning, her and Nikoli headed off to Williamstown together.
Stephanie got an apartment near Nikoli’s, and landed a job as the teacher at the new Portchester Open School House. Ellie sent letters and often visited – especially when Nikoli was away on business. The three of them would often have dinner together – drinking, laughing, and sharing stories about their jobs and the interesting things that were happening in both towns.
One night in late July, they had all drank a little too much while playing cards. It was a very warm evening. Nikoli was loosening his collar, and Ellie and Stephanie began joking about a risque game called “strip poker”. He remembers they all laughed at the idea, especially when Ellie jokingly unbuttoned the top three buttons of her blouse after losing the next hand, and then handing him another drink and giving him a playful wink.
He awoke the next morning with a bit of a hangover, and was shocked to find himself in bed with Stephanie and Ellie lying on either side of him – and all three were scantily clad. He struggled to remember what exactly had happened and how they had ended up like this; but unfortunately, it was all a blur.