Jane stuffed popcorn into her mouth as her eyes stared at the movie theater screen. She was watching "Haunting-in-Law," a movie about a man's deceased mother who haunts his wife. The movie itself was awful, but Jane was entranced nonetheless. Jane was very easily scared, whether the movie was good or not. While the crowd was laughing at the bad special effects and poor quality, Jane was trembling with fear.
Jane's little brother, John, was laughing during the car ride home. He was mocking the scene where the mother-in-law was reaching toward the girl's shoulders, saying, "You should never have married my son," in a scratchy voice. He may have been laughing about the movie, but Jane was shaken. She found that scene particularly frightening. She clutched her popcorn bag, begging in her mind for the mother-in-law not to attack the woman.
John moved on to make fun of the ending, where the mother-in-law ghost is finally defeated by her son. The son gives some corny confession of his love and the apparition goes away. The exact words were, "But mother, you can't do this! You can't separate true love!" Of course, John was laughing his head off. Jane, on the other hand, was clenching her fingers in anticipation of the outcome.
That night, as Jane was drifting into sleep, she heard a voice. The voice was as quiet as a mouse, as startling as a scream, and as screechy as nails on a chalkboard. It said, "You should never have married my son." Jane reacted instantly. She switched on her light and looked around. There was no one there. The voice must have come from the ghost of the mother-in law.
"Why would she want me?" Jane whispered to herself. "I did not marry her son!" However, Jane knew the reason. The ghost was confused and forgetful. She must have forgotten her daughter-in-law's face and found Jane's face instead. That was the only reasonable explanation. "Go away! Go away!" Jane whispered to herself. However, the invisible apparition remained.
"You should not have married him!" the voice said. "For marrying him, I will haunt you for the rest of your life!" The ghost was restless and needed to haunt someone, and the only one available was Jane. Jane was puzzled, though, about how to get rid of the apparition. This time, the ghost's son would not be able to save her. She needed to find an alternative plan.
Jane made a plan inside her mind. She would tell the ghost of the mother-in-law that she, Jane, had in fact not married her son. She was not even old enough to marry. It was all a misunderstanding. Hopefully the ghost would understand what Jane was saying and go away. If not, well, Jane decided to put her faith in the hope that the ghost would understand.
Jane put her plan in action. "Mrs. M-m-mother-in-Law," she said, for of course you never call a ghost "ghost." It was not politically correct, Jane thought. "I did not m-marry your son and I really hope that you will leave me alone." Jane's words slurred from exhaustion. It must have been midnight. "Please." You are supposed to be polite to ghosts, right? Jane thought so.
The ghost did not respond. Jane assumed that it had left. Her heart soared from relief. However, her eyelids drooped, and Jane knew she needed sleep. She tried to remove the ghost from her mind. Eventually, she was able to fall asleep. As she was falling asleep, Jane wondered if she heard the door close.
The next day was remarkably ordinary. Summer provided nothing to do, so Jane was left at home all day. She told her family about her encounter with the ghost over dinner. Her parents dismissed it as nothing, but John piped in, "I believe you." He grinned and said, "Although, if you think he left, you are wrong." These words haunted Jane. Did the ghost leave? She heard the doors close. Was that evidence enough? Jane hoped so. She guessed she would find out that night.
Jane settled herself in bed, her head swimming. Would the ghost return? She desperately hoped not. The ghost left last night, right? John did not think so. How would John know? John knew nothing about ghosts. He was a year younger than Jane, after all. Jane had a whole extra year to accumulate more knowledge. He could not be an expert on ghosts. He had to be wrong.
Suddenly, Jane began to hear taps and bumps on her wall in the night. Small moans were coming from somewhere in her room. "That is not the ghost," Jane told herself. "She went away. John was wrong. She went away." The taps and bumps became louder. Next, a cold hand touched her neck and she let out a scream.
Jane reached over and turned on the lights to find John rolling on the floor in a fit of laughter. "Y-y-you screamed!" he said. "'Go away! Go away!' You were so scared!" This was followed by another paroxysm of laughter. "I cannot believe you fell for it!" He wiped a tear from his eye. He was hysterical.
Jane was hysterical in quite another way. She sat on her bed, crying, "You are such a horrible person, John! I was scared to death!" Jane could not hold back her sobs like John could not hold back his laughter. Jane's parents came into the room to see what the clamor was about.
"What is going on?" their father demanded in a stern voice.
"John was being awful!" Jane cried.
John could not even manage to say a word through his laughter.
"I want all of you to be quiet NOW!" yelled their father. In an instant the room was silent. "Now go to sleep and do not make me come down here again!" His face was red. "We all need some sleep." He turned around and walked out of the room. Their mother followed after, pulling John's ear to make sure he was in tow. John did not leave the room without sticking his tongue out at Jane. Jane returned the gesture, turned off her lights, and went to sleep. That night, there were no ghosts to upset her, and she slept in peace.