Emma was ragged and worn, desperate to get to her hotel room and get a few, frantic hours of sleep before leaving on in the morning, when she felt a tug on her ponytail. She cried out, dropping the ice bucket she had been filling from the common machine in the nook by the soda machines. The bucket made a dull crack noise, and crushed cubes of ice scattered all over the dull and stained carpet. She heard a little girls laughter.
Emma spun around, wandering who was letting their mischievous brat out to run about at this dark and dire hour. But where ever she looked, down both directions of the hallway, and down the stairway just passed the ice and soda machines, their was no child, no one at all.
Emma, sighed, and stooped down to scoop up the spilled ice, when there was another tug on her ponytail. She again spun around, falling awkwardly falling to one knee, and thrusting cross chest with the plastic ice bucket. Again, their was the childish laughter, which she know realized was that of a little girl, though there no little girl, or anyone else around.
Emma fell back on her haunches, kicking away the scattered cubes at her feet. Exhaustion and stress of leaving home, of things having gone so wrong so quickly, of the desperate hope for her so far north in Rochester. She just felt wrung out, as if all her strength was squeezed out into nothing, and still, she had so far to go.
Emma, again, felt a tug on her ponytail. She sighed and turned around. And she saw a little girl, giggling into her cupped hands. But the girl was ethereal, thin and translucent like morning fog in the chill of October. The little girls clothes were easily thirty years out of fashion. But she was still playful and mischievous, like any other little girl.
Emma laughed with this spirit, laughed and held her middle as all the last weeks troubles fell out of her, her and the ghostly child playing at their game in the dead of night, in an old hotel in the dead of night.
Emma looked up, but the girl was gone, leaving only echoing giggles as the night grew still again. A child’s game, now over. Emma collected up the ice and went back to her room.