Horror LGBTQ+ Romance

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

"Mabel, honey, come look at this."

Mabel tossed aside an empty cardboard box, joining Celia on their brand new, second-hand couch.

"What is it?"

"I don't remember taking this one."

Celia passed her a photograph from the previous day's moving in photoshoot that she'd insisted upon to test out her new film camera. The photo was blurry, like the camera had been shaking violently.

"Maybe it took this when you knocked it off the counter?"

"Yeah, but… look at this." Celia pointed to something at the top right-hand corner. Mabel brought it close to her face.

"Is that…"

"A person?"

Mabel met Celia's worried gaze, then squinted at the photo. She had a point; it looked like a figure, oddly distorted, like it was glitching. And if she looked really hard, she could just make out something that could have resembled a face…

She stuffed the photo back into Celia's hand. "It's probably just a trick of the light. Film camera magic or something."

"That's not how it works," Celia said, squinting at the photo herself. Mabel noticed that her hand was trembling.

"Look, love." She slid closer, taking Celia's free hand. "There was no-one else here last night."

"Then who's in my photo?" Celia brought the photo within an inch of her face, then held it at arm's length.


"What if…" She turned to Mabel, pale as a sheet, the orange freckles scattered across her face standing out like a constellation on a cloudless midnight. "What if it's a ghost? What if we bought a haunted house—?"

"Cece, don't be silly. There's no such thing—"

"That's why it was so much cheaper—"

Mabel gently pulled the photo from her grasp and placed it on the stool they'd been using as a coffee table. "Forget the weird photo. You'll just be scaring yourself." She got up and tugged at Celia's hand. "Come help me unpack and you'll forget all about it."

But Celia didn't look convinced, her eyes still darting to the photo. Mabel gave her hand another tug, and when Celia still didn't move, she knelt down in front of her, cupping her cheek.

"Cece, nothing bad is going to happen. Even if this house is haunted, that ghost isn't going to hurt you."

"How do you know?"

"Because I won't let it."

Celia let out a little laugh, then gazed down at Mabel. "You'd fight a ghost to protect me?"

Mabel grinned. "I'd fight God Himself if I had to."

This sent Celia into a fit of giggles. Satisfied, Mabel got to her feet, pulling Celia up before planting a small kiss on the tip of her nose.

"Now will you help me unpack?"

Still giggling, Celia nodded.


It began the following morning, when Celia shook Mabel awake and dragged her into the bathroom.

"Cece, what is it?"


She pointed to her arm in the mirror. Just above her elbow were a series of purple bruises, four on the front, one on the back, almost as though…

"Don't they—" Celia took a jagged breath— "don't they look like finger marks?"

Mabel stared, incredulous. "I— well— I mean, a little, but you must've gotten them from all the unpacking, right? Unless, I— I didn't—"

Celia shook her head, her hand jumping to Mabel's cheek. "No! Mabel, you didn’t do this. Look."

She stared pointedly at her arm. Trembling, Mabel looked too.

No bruising. Just skin, and more little orange freckles. Hardly daring to breathe, she turned back to the reflection.

There they were again, those horrible purple marks. Mabel's blood ran cold and she locked eyes with Celia, whose lower lip was quivering.

"I think you might have been right about that photo."

A tear slid down Celia's cheek. "I really wish I wasn't."


The next time was in the kitchen two mornings later, as Mabel sat at the counter opening their mail. A loud smash, and she looked up to a horrified Celia, staring at the shattered remains of a plate on the stove, shards landing in the pancake batter she had just finished mixing. Mabel joined her, lightly touching her arm.

"Are you okay?"

Celia's eyes were wide with terror. "Did you— did you see that—?"

As if on cue, another plate came spinning out from the now-open cabinet, smashing against the wall between them. They jumped backwards. The sound of a drawer sliding open, and they snapped around as a knife rose into the air—

Mabel grabbed Celia and dragged her to the ground, the knife whistling over Celia's head to stab into plaster.


Keeping their heads low, they dashed out of the kitchen, knives and forks zipping over their heads and past their ears, a steak-knife somehow managing to stab into the front door just above the handle as Mabel gripped it. She slammed the door behind Celia, and they listened to the thud, thud, thud, of their cutlery stabbing into the other side.

Panting, Mabel turned to Celia, who looked about ready to drop to her knees. Then she noticed the tear in Celia's sleeve, red seeping into fraying cloth…

"Cece, your arm."

Celia's gaze met hers before she dragged it down to her arm and visibly paled. She gingerly lifted her sleeve. Mabel peered closer as two drops of blood slid down Celia's arm and splashed onto the pebbled ground.

"Looks like it's just a scratch," Mabel said, trying to keep her voice steady. "I can bandage it up." She cupped Celia's cheeks, thumbing away the tracks of tears on her face. "You'll be okay."

"The first aid kit is inside," Celia whispered.

Mabel glanced at the door. Swallowed. Took a breath… "I'm sure the neighbours will have one."


The third time was the following Saturday, exactly one week after they'd moved in. Mabel was upstairs, unloading books from cardboard boxes and arranging them in the bookshelf they'd picked up that afternoon, when—


Mabel jumped, dropping a handful of books to the ground and clambering to her feet.

"Cece?!" She careened down the corridor. Celia stood in the doorway, her hand held up in front of her.

Blood, dripping down her arm, forming a small puddle at her feet.

Mabel flew down the stairs, staggering to a halt in front of Celia before following her horrified gaze to her hand. Her stomach lurched.

A large gash crossed Celia's left palm, blood gushing out. Celia swayed and Mabel caught her, reaching over to grab a kitchen towel before shepherding her out the door.

"We're going to the hospital."

Celia's breathing was shallow as Mabel flattened the accelerator, speeding them through the countryside and towards Hillside Town.

"What the hell happened?!"

"I was— I was just plucking roses—" Celia began, then her sobs took over, shoulders shaking, tears streaming down her face and splashing onto the already-soaked kitchen towel wrapped around her hand. Mabel reached across and squeezed her knee. Celia took a ragged breath and tried again. "I just got a little prick— in the middle of my palm, one tiny drop of blood, but— the blood just kept coming, and then— there were more pricks, and they were— they were getting bigger, like— like…"

"Like what?"

Celia's voice was strangled. "Like thorns were being dragged through my flesh."

Mabel clutched the steering wheel tighter, her knuckles turning white in a vain attempt to still the trembling in her hands.

They reached the hospital five minutes later.

"What do I tell them?" Celia asked as Mabel locked the car and wound an arm around her waist.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I can't tell them that the angry ghost haunting our cottage dragged a phantom rose across my palm, can I?"

Clarity struck Mabel like a speeding car. There was an angry ghost haunting their cottage, and it had it out for Celia.

They couldn’t stay.

"Maybe I'll just say I tripped, and— I don't know— grabbed on to the roses to break my fall…?"

Mabel blinked, then nodded. "Y-yeah that sounds… yup."

The nurses rushed Celia into a room immediately upon their arrival, cleaning her up and stitching up the gash within minutes, before wrapping her hand in a bandage and sending her on her way with a prescription for painkillers and one course of antibiotics.

They were pulling back into the driveway of Rosebud Cottage within the hour.

Celia opened her door— Mabel grabbed her hand.


"What is it?"

"We can't stay here, Cece."

Celia shut her door. "Why not?"

Mabel raised her eyebrows. "Look what's been happening!"

"Mabel, this is our house! We took out a loan—"

"God, Cece! Your life is worth so much more than a loan!" Celia stared at her. Mabel shook her head. "Don't you see? It's after you! Everything that's happening, it's happening to you!"

Celia's cheeks flushed red. "Well, I'm sorry you've gotten caught in the middle of it!"

Mabel gaped at her. "That's not what I'm saying! We've been here a week, Cece! And look what's happened! We've gone from a— a weird silhouette in the back of your photo to your hand being sliced open! How long more until it just kills you—?!"

"We can't give up on this house!"

"Dammit, Celia! Now's not the time to be stubborn!"

"I'm not being stubborn! We bought this house, Mabel! Together! The next step in our relationship!"

The look on Celia's face, mingled fear and determination and bullheadedness, was starting to scare Mabel. "Where are you going with this?"

"There are two ways we can take this." Celia held up a finger on her non-bandaged hand. "One, we go back inside, and we fight for our house. And we come out stronger on the other side. Two," she added a finger, "this is a sign that we should never have moved in together—"


"—and that we should give up on this house, and us."

Mabel shook her head, tears prickling in her eyes. "No. Cece—"

"That's why we can't leave! It has to be the first option!" Celia gripped Mabel's trembling hand. "Mabel, I love you! I want us to survive this!"

"What if you don't?" Mabel said, her voice barely louder than a whisper.

Celia tore her gaze to their hands entwined in Mabel's lap. "I'm not giving up, Mabel. Not on this house. Not on us." She pulled her hand away and opened her door. "I'm going inside."

She got out and shut the door.

Mabel watched, tears running down her cheeks as Celia strode up the driveway and to the front door—

"Dammit, Cece, wait!" She threw open her door and jogged up the driveway. Celia spun around, her key hovering over the lock. Mabel let out a long sigh. "I can't let you go in there alone."

A look of relief washed over Celia's face and she smiled, reaching up to wipe the tears from Mabel's cheeks. Mabel leaned into her touch. Then, Celia twisted the key in the lock, and the door creaked open, sending a chill up Mabel's spine. Celia reached for her hand.

"Still up for fighting a ghost to protect me?"

Mabel met her gaze. "I think it's time we evicted the freeloader."

Celia beamed, pressing a kiss to Mabel's cheek.

"Unless, of course, it starts helping us pay off our loan—"

She laughed and swatted Mabel's arm.


Thus began the research.

"Mabes, look at this." Sat behind the computer at their local library, Celia zoomed in on the front page of a newspaper. Mabel marked her page of Ghostbusting 101: A Beginner's Guide to Ghost Hunting by J. E. Smith and leaned over her shoulder.

"'The Haunting of Rosebud Cottage'."

"'Mysterious deaths dating back to the 1930s have residents of Hillside Town speculating that Rosebud Cottage, located within the town's bordering hills, might be haunted. According to Hillside residents, couples who moved into Rosebud Cottage were plagued with strange occurrences that continued until they either moved out, or until one in the couple died due to mysterious circumstances.'" Celia scoffed. "Would have been nice to know this before we took out that loan."

"No wonder Rosebud was so much cheaper than everything else."

"Haunted house and we still needed a loan."

"That's what we get for living during a housing crisis."

"'The first documented deaths at Rosebud Cottage were of Bonnie Beverley, aged 35, and Caroline Beverley, aged 10, wife and daughter of Richard Beverley, killed by Richard himself during a domestic dispute in 1931. During the investigation, neighbours reported the couple's history of violence. Richard Beverley was reportedly beaten to death in prison in 1963. The bodies of Bonnie and Caroline Beverley were originally buried at Hillside Cemetery, but were later cremated when part of the cemetery was demolished for housing purposes.' Look. There're pictures."

Mabel peered at a black-and-white photo of the Beverleys stood on the familiar pebbled driveway of Rosebud Cottage. She frowned.

"Cece, do you have that photo with you? The one from your photoshoot?"

"The one of the ghost? Yeah." She pulled it out of her purse and handed it over. Mabel held it next to the photo in the newspaper. Celia gasped.

"You see it too, right?"

"I see it."

The distorted silhouette seemed much clearer now that the photos were side-by-side. The same frilly dress, the same braids, each tied with the same ribbon.

"Oh, God, Mabel. We're being haunted by a ten-year-old girl."


"It says here that ghosts haunt places that they're tied to by some kind of object," Mabel said, flipping through Ghostbusting 101 as they walked home from the library. "Like their body, or some kind of sentimental item."

"You're really going to believe a book that has a Scooby-Doo-esque haunted house on the cover?"

Mabel raised her eyebrows. "Since when did you judge a book by its cover?"

"Since this one has a gigantic werewolf moon on the front."

"Well, it's either this or Buzzfeed."

Celia rolled her eyes. "It can't be Caroline's body because the newspaper said she was cremated."

"A sentimental item, then. There must be something of hers somewhere on the grounds that her soul is tied to."

"What do we do when we find it?"

"According to J. E. Smith, we burn it."

They strolled up their driveway, Mabel already surveying the garden, searching for anything that looked like it could have been there since the 30s.

"You keep looking out here," Celia said, unlocking the door. "I'll start inside."



"Be careful."

Celia smiled, leaning up to kiss Mabel softly before slipping through the door.


It was almost an hour of scouring before Mabel spotted something odd sticking out from the rose bed. It was caked with mud, but it seemed… unusually textured. Mabel poked it. Soft. Fluffy, even. Heart racing, she pinched it, and tugged. Out from the soil emerged a teddy bear. It had one eye and was missing a leg, a combination of stuffing and soil spilling out of the hole in its side.

A shuffling noise from behind her; Celia must have finished searching the house. "Cece. I think I've got it." Mabel turned around.

The eyes that met hers weren't Celia's. She shrieked, stumbling backwards into the rose bushes, pain prickling and tearing into the flesh of her arms as she sank to the ground, the flickering form of Caroline Beverley looming over her… and then, just like that, she vanished.

Mabel gasped for breath, hardly daring to move, the teddy bear still clutched in her hand.

Then, from inside the cottage, a blood-curling scream.

Mabel's heart stopped.


She ripped herself from the rose bushes, hardly feeling the thorns dragging at her skin, before launching herself through the door.


"MABE—" A strangled shriek from the living room, and Mabel froze, the blood draining from her face as she forced herself to focus—

She stumbled into the kitchen, rummaging through the drawers until she found the gas lighter. Then, she sprinted into the living room, lurching to a halt at the sight of Celia, her back against the wall, feet hovering above the ground, her face slowly turning red as Caroline's sharp fingers squeezed her throat—


Mabel pulled the trigger of the lighter and held the disfigured teddy bear over the flame. Caroline's head rotated to face Mabel, who, suppressing her scream, lowered the teddy. The fluff of its remaining leg singed in the flame.

Caroline let out an inhuman screech and tossed Celia aside— Mabel gasped as she crashed into the wall and crumped to the ground— but Caroline had already glitched in front of her, her bony fingers reaching out, digging icy nails into Mabel's wrists—

Mabel wrenched her hands away, ignoring the tracks of blood, then thrusted the lighter into the hole in the side of the teddy bear.

Caroline screeched, staggering backwards, eyes bulging, chest heaving. In Mabel's hand, the teddy bear glowed from the inside, before the flame licked its way to the surface— a sizzling pain at her fingertips and Mabel flung the bear into the fireplace.

It burst into flames, Caroline's screams getting louder and higher pitched as flames erupted around her, growing taller, engulfing her completely, until finally, it all died away, the fires, the screams, leaving nothing but the smell of smoke in the air and a ring of ash on the wooden floor.

Mabel dropped to her knees beside Celia.

"Cece?" She shook her gently by the shoulder, a sick feeling in her stomach when she noticed the red marks on her neck. "Celia, wake up. It's over. We did it."

Celia stirred, and it was like air rushing into Mabel's lungs.



Mabel gathered her in her arms, sitting her up and leaning her against her chest. "Caroline's gone," she whispered, pressing a kiss to Celia's forehead. "Rosebud Cottage is ours now. Just ours."

Celia's smile was brighter than any flame Mabel had ever seen. "Just ours," she repeated, and pressed her lips to Mabel's.

April 03, 2024 10:47

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Paul Simpkin
07:41 Apr 11, 2024

Great story. I liked the way you increased the tension as the story developed. It is a very original approach to this prompt.


Kirti Rajwekar
04:54 Apr 12, 2024

Thank you so much!!


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Patricia Casey
12:38 Apr 07, 2024

Hi Kirti, I like how your characters fought for what was theirs and became stronger not only in their ability to survive, but in their relationship. orange freckles scattered across her face standing out like a constellation on a cloudless midnight (nice metaphor).


Kirti Rajwekar
10:20 Apr 09, 2024

Thank you so much Patricia!!! I really appreciate your comment!


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