“I think they’re lost,” Milo says for what might actually be the tenth time.
“And I’m telling you they are not.” Leonora rolls her eyes.
They have both been standing at the edge of one of the annoyingly long aisles on the supermarket looking at the two kids walking aimlessly through the alcohol section.
“Why else would they walk like that?” Milo hisses, pointing to their quick feet and nervous glances.
“Oh, gee I don’t know,” Leonora whispers. “Maybe because they’re sixteen and about to steal a six pack of beer?!”
Milo stares at her insulted, like the notion of two sixteen year olds stealing booze out of a shitty supermarket at one in the morning is utterly unbelievable.
Eleonore knows that if someone were to see them, her with her colorful clothes and multiple pins on a faded DeareeMart vest, and Milo with his scuffed sneakers and bright green jeans, leaning over the side of a cereal aisle to look at kids they’d be a bit freaked out.
“Maybe they are lost,” Milo says, this time with less conviction.
Eleonore looks at him, raises an eyebrow and then looks back at the teens after hearing Milo squawk. Sure enough, the smaller one seems to have grabbed a six-pack, one of the cheapest and geared toward the truly desperate and or thoroughly sloshed beers. It’s a pack so bad, Eleonore and Milo grimace in pity before finally stepping into the next aisle to call out, “Oi!”
It would be funny to see the two kids jump and turn in every direction in sudden fright of it wasn’t for the fact that the smallest one started so bad he dropped everything to the ground -a couple of sweets and bottles of soda were also part of their loot- and made a mess of the floor.
Milo’s wince was followed by an exhausted “What do you two think you’re doing?!”
Both the thieving pair and the strange spies turn their guilty faces to the suddenly tired and irate supermarket worker. His name tag reads ‘Steve’, his face reads ‘done with everything right this second’.
“Well you see–” Milo starts, as it’s his habit.
His anxious and pained voice makes ‘Steve’ close his eyes with a resigned sigh and the kids startle once more. They turn in every direction before settling their gaze on Steve’s entirely too gentle facade.
“I-uh-eh there was,” the taller one stammers out while the other, frantic, tries to find the source of Milo’s still anxious reply.
“Why don’t we just make it easier for everyone and we pretend you weren’t stealing while you pretend you are not hearing voices right now?” Eleonore cackles, purposefully pushing a stray piece of glass towards the terrified kids.
Steve groans and mutters something about his pay grade. “Look,” he says. “Just go away. And don’t tell anyone about this.”
“The beer,” the small one says in what clearly is an attempt at negotiation.
“This beer?” Eleonore offers one of the unharmed cans to them. They both startle, trying and failing to avoid her. “You want this don’t you? Your silence for cheap beer, is that your deal?”
“Jesus, mother, and lords! Could you please stop being so- so- you?!” Milo bursts out jovially before Steve even has the chance of opening his mouth.
“Please,” Steve says instead of his usual tirade.
He looks so tired and defeated this early into his night shift that it takes less than normal for Milo and Eleonore to comply with his wish.
“Okay fine,” Eleonore sighs.
She motions with her hand for Milo to move toward the kids. He still spared a moment to look for her permission before reaching out and grasping suddenly tense and shaking arms in his cool hands.
“You were caught stealing.” Milo’s words precede the eyes of the kids turning hazy and lost. Steve looks up to the ceiling, uncomfortable but still grateful for the intervention. “You got scared and ran away. You will not steal alcoholic beverages ever again.”
They leave on a daze, swaying from side to side with every step until they reach the poorly parked car right where the security cameras have trouble identifying numbers and features. Once there they suddenly spring back to life and rush to leave the parking lot.
“Thank you,” Steve says, calmer.
“No problem.” Milo turns to smile brightly, if a bit drained to him.
“Least we could do is deal with the pest.”
Steve frowns at her. “The least you could do is try to behave and let the appropriate personnel deal with these situations.”
“You mean Sully?” Eleonore scoffs. “That old fool would check the security footage and say there’s nothing he can possibly do to stop them.”
“Way I see it,” Milo added gently. “We were doing you a service.”
“You two do realize I’m the only person who can actually see you, right? If anyone sees the footage they’ll see me fed up talking to a pair of kids who then left in a daze. How do I explain that? Again.”
“Same way you did all the other times?” Milo asks hopefully.
The glare Steve sends him would’ve made Milo tear up four months ago. Now he’s actually built a resistance to it.
“It is actually common knowledge that this place is haunted, though. Trisha will believe you.”
“I’m tired of everyone looking at me like I’m a freak or asking if I’m a psychic.”
“I’ve offered to help,” Milo reminds him.
“Yeah, me too!” Eleonora pipes up, cheerfully ignoring their winces.
“I don’t need you to compulse someone into doing something for me,” He tells Milo. “And I certainly don’t need you to threaten someone either, Leo.”
Eleonora pouts while Milo shrugs. The conversation is held regularly enough that they do not feel the need to drag it out into a full on argument, yet.
“At least let me tamper with the footage.” Eleonora smiles hopefully. “I finally figured out how to make the recording howl or cry with the static,” She singsongs. “It was easier than I thought.”
Steve grimaces but nods.
Eleonore drags a reluctant Milo away and into the security room where currently only a jacket and three pieces of gum had a residence.
The DeareeMart was really not much of anything. It was a local “Supermarket” brand that remained in town simply because of nostalgia. The owner of the place hardly ever visited if not for monthly check ups that mostly ended up with large checks being written to take care of the many ailments of the building. According to Trisha most of them could be easily taken care of for good if only Mrs. Reynolds finally agreed to modernize the place instead of allowing it to bask in it’s decadent 70’s glory.
But no one wanted that. If the people in Sumpton really wanted a modern supermarket where the freezers didn’t suddenly stop working and bored ghosts made the lights flicker every couple of hours, then they simply could go to the bigger brands on the town.
The DeareeMart was a reminder of times past, and a quirk of the town. No one cared if they sold an obscure band of ice cream pops no one even remembered the name of half the time, or that it was the only place still run by one person at all hours. And certainly no one cared about the moving shopping carts and the vanishing words written in the frost of the freezer doors.
Mostly because Steve and the others were always right there to take care of it before anyone could notice.
And Eleonore and Milo were more of a nuisance than a menace. As long as they weren’t actively hurting someone -other than Steve’s will to sit through his entire shift- they’d be allowed to stay there.
Apparently the duo needed the place to keep some of its original characteristics in order to remain attached to it. They could change a bit according to time and place and people’s gifts or offering, but it often took an amount of energy they could barely spare.
Steve remembers the first time he saw them. He might’ve confused them for very lost clients of he had not seen Eleonore hovering over the ground and Milo’s legs fade into nothing before they reached the tiled floor.
Back then Eleonore was still wearing a slightly faded chiffon dress that reached a bit over her brown shins with a dark maroon sweater thrown on top of it. Her hair was done up in a complicated set of messy curls pinned into place with metallic flowers. She was shoeless because of some strange altercation she was still too embarrassed and proud to talk about. Milo on the other hand had been wearing jogging pants and a loose black hoodie that covered the splash of ginger curls over his head. What he remembers most about them from that first day, though are their faces.
Milo looked entirely out of place with his sank in cheeks and dark freckles underneath passive brown eyes, and Eleonore looked like the world had stopped spinning simply because she demanded it did. Her dark brown eyes looked like the bottom of an ocean full of secrets and her thick lips were twisted in a pensive frown as she perused the aisles.
“What do you think,” she had said. “‘Mad woman cackling at one in the morning’ or ‘mysterious sound whenever you turn around’ for the new guy?”
Milo then had stared directly at Steve and declared with utmost confidence, “I think he might enjoy ‘mysterious music coming from nowhere’ maybe every two hours?”
Eleonore had nodded her agreement with a serious face. “Agreed.”
It took Steve about a month and a half to finally had enough of them to admit that he could see them and that he’d known every single one of their plans.
Unlike his expectations, the two ghosts were delighted to have someone to bounce ideas off of. “Dinah tries and all, but you know there’s only so many things you can communicate through knocks and flickering lights,” Milo joked.
Ever since then they have tried to make his life more interesting by raising hell on his shifts.
“Hey boss.” Milo bumps into him, gently. “Leo kicked me out. Says I’m distracting.” He added at Steve’s inquisitive stare.
“Mhh,” Steve hummed. “That means I’m stuck with you?”
Milo nods solemnly, but it’s not too long before he breaks into one of his beaming smiles. His hair looks longer than it did last summer when he went through an Ed Sheeran phase, but Steve knows that it is simply his brain trying to make sense of his friend’s lack of aging.
This is not the first time he’s seen things where there is nothing, like a new mole in Leo’s neck or a wrinkle where there’s only smooth and slightly see through skin.
“I heard you broke up with Ella.” Milo’s uncomfortable voice brings him out of his musings. “Sorry about that.”
Steve shrugs. “It’s nothing we didn’t see coming.”
Milo stares at him for a second and then squints at him. “Alright, okay. I’ll play your game for now, but we’ll talk about this later.”
Past experience tells the poor worker that the ghost is not indeed joking.
“Sure thing,” He agrees, almost too easily. “But not this week.”
Milo scoffs, “Who do you take me for? Lucas? No, no no.” He carries on before Steve can ask for clarification. “You need time to mourn and heal and all that jazz. We’ll talk two weeks from now. Once Leo and I come back from our trip.’
Steve frowns at the reminder but keeps his mouth shut.
“We’ll be back by Saturday, which I know will be your shift again.” At Steve’s inquisitive stare he adds, “Beka is going out with her mom that night. She’s going to ask you during the week to cover for her. She’s afraid you’ll say no or get upset. But we both know you won’t.”
It used to bother him before, to be known so intimately by someone who had been dead longer than Steve himself had been alive. Now he just sees it as another part of his life.
“You leaving on Friday morning?” Steve asks, not because he doesn’t remember but because it feels like the logical thing to say.
“Yup, right before your shift. And then we come back Saturday night as you take your place on the register.”
“It’s-uhm… It’s too soon for a new meeting, isn’t it?”
“Not at all.” Milo smiles. “We decided to change them into a weekly affair. It sees like Kento is about ready to move on and we want to have some time before we have to part. Also we need to settle some things between us.”
He doesn’t say that the meeting is about their place in this little world and how things are starting to change in a scary and dramatic way. He doesn’t tell Steve about Eleonora’s fears and the way it is taking them too much energy just to be present enough for most conversations.
Instead he says, “Besides, I think those paranormal investigators will be coming to visit soon and we want to give them the welcome they deserve.”
The evil grin on his face doesn’t look like it belongs on a 19 year old kid, but Steve knows better than that.
“Those the one that hurt Ro?”
“Exactly the ones,” Eleonora replies from inside the security room. “We’re all conspiring to give them the welcoming of their lifetime.”
Milo nods. “No one messes with one of ours without the rest taking any sort of action. What kind of dead family would we benif we allows thag to happen?”
“A bad one,” Steve recites easily, already used to the conversation.
“Exactly.” Milo and Elonore beam at him.
Steve huffs in amusement and allows them to drag him into a long conversation about security risks, key words, and why the word chivalrous sucks.
They spend most of the night leaning against the counter outlining everything, occasionally a client will walk in in need of various products but no one attempts to steal anything again.
The next morning, when Sully calls Steve to his office it is to show him how the security take freezes exactly at two fifteen in the morning only to be followed by a two hour blank and a childish giggle.
“Them machines. They’re broken all of them,” The fifty year old man announces with a frown.
Steve agrees to talk to Mrs. Reynolds about it and then goes home to catch up on some very well deserved sleep.