Last night I dreamt I went to the White House again. Like all who sleep to dream, I moved both lazily and at once. Suddenly possessed with the powers of the spirit world, my body passed through the iron gates and over the lush green lawns. I floated over the Rose Garden, once vibrant and full of life in better years, now renovated, bloomed muted and hazy in shades of beige and grey. I touched my fingertips to a dewy blossom, and it crumbled into ash and blew away. I felt her presence even after all these years. Melania. Always Melania. I should never be rid of her.
It was winter when I first arrived at the White House. The election had come and gone, and I had stumbled into a prestigious internship, uncomfortably above my breeding and station. Despite her recent departure, Melania’s presence could be felt in every corner of the estate. Her portrait watched me as I went about my work. I would look up and be paralyzed by the glare of those black hawk’s eyes, that smile that was like saran wrap pulled too tightly over a hot bowl of soup.
In the library, I idly selected a volume — Healing the Broken Brain — and opened the front cover. There she was again, the distinctive slanted looping M of her script. “To Donald, From Melania,” the inscription read. I turned the page and leapt with horror. Where pages should be, the book had been hollowed and now housed hundreds of wretched black spiders. In my fright, I dropped the book and watched the creatures scramble and spread across the floor like ivy.
“Spiders!” I gasped. “She’s filled it with spiders.”
The winter shouldered on, and the ghost of Melania haunted me still. Once I took a wrong turn down a corridor and ended up in the First Lady’s suite. When I was certain I was alone, I crept to the wardrobe. Her clothes still hung from the rack as if abandoned in haste. I fingered an olive mackintosh, tracing the letters on the back. “I Really Don’t Care Do U?” Her powdery skin cream and her disdain still fragrant and lingering. I startled at a voice speeding past my ears like the howling winds licking the Cornish coast. It caused the hair at the back of my neck to stand up.
“Beeeeee besssssssst,” the voice hissed again. Closer this time. Suddenly, a bony hand, cold as ice, gripped my shoulder. I screamed and clutched the jacket to my chest as if it could offer any protection.
“Be best. That’s what Ms. Melania used to say.” The old woman before me was a gaunt skeleton — sunken cheeks, eyes dark liquid pools.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I’m Mrs. Danvers. I was Ms. Melania’s personal maid.” She took the jacket from me and smoothed its wrinkles lovingly. “Zara. Size XS. Tall. Ms. Melania had such a lovely figure.”
“Uh, yeah I guess,” I said.
Mrs. Danvers continued, “Can you believe that there was a time in history when people had no idea what a First Lady’s labia looked like in her twenties? Ms. Melania changed all that. She did things her own way. At the fancy dress ball, she costumed as a North Korean general, just for a laugh. The Christmas theme each and every year was “Hans Christian Nightmare.” And such exquisite beauty. Her feet were so delicate and narrow. Here, put your hands inside these slippers and feel how narrow her feet were.”
“No, I’m not going to do that,” I said.
“Then you shan’t ever know how narrow her feet were,” Mrs. Danvers said.
“Yeah, I’m good,” I said.
Mrs. Danvers came towards me, an unbridled, sinister gleam in her eyes. Her icy fingers gripped my forearm tightly.
“You should jump out the window,” she said to me.
“Do it. No one will much mind. You will never measure up to Ms. Melania. Go ahead now. Jump to your death. Jump.” She smiled that crazed skeleton’s smile.
“Look, Mrs. Danvers, I don’t know what the fuck has been going on in here for the last four years, but I’m just on the transition team. I was told to clear out some of this stuff…”
“Don’t be afraid. Be best. Be best forever.” Mrs. Danvers was chanting hypnotically.
I ran down the stairs, breathless and as fast as my legs would carry me. Dr. Jill was mistress of the manor now, and she would handle Mrs. Danvers. As I ran, I took only one last glance back, knowing I would never return to the White House. I could never afford an unpaid internship. I saw Dr. Jill through the window, filling the house with books — real books that weren’t packed full of spiders. I knew then that Melania had lost her power. She would haunt me no longer.