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"Would you like a beverage?" Poole asked, as Teddy marveled at a lone spider hanging delicately from the kitchen ceiling. "How rude of me not to ask sooner. You must think me an awful butler, though you must understand now that it wasn't exactly my calling..."

It wasn't the first time Poole offered, and it wasn't the first time he'd apologized for not offering sooner, but before Teddy could answer, Poole was already on his feet. Nervous energy made his hands quiver as he fetched two glass goblets from a high cabinet. Low sunlight washed the room in a gold glow—the conversation following the morning's interview had lasted hours—though Teddy didn't seem to notice. Throughout the meeting, Poole had intermittently offered his guest food, tea, coffee, bathroom breaks. Though Teddy ignored the niceties—she was too enthralled in the discussion to notice her biological needs—Poole had placed a small lunch in front of her, which she picked at.

Teddy stared at the spider—its thick, hairy legs, its round abdomen, its shiny black eyes, tinged with green—as Poole left the kitchen to fetch a bottle from the cellar. She remembered the spiders from her childhood visit, how they should've been—would've been—gross, scary creatures in any other context, in any other house. But here, their strength and size looked oddly beautiful, the way they hung from their thin, silk webs, strangely graceful. It was like they were floating, suspended in midair, suspended in time.

"Here we are," Poole said as he re-entered the kitchen, carrying two ornate bottles. "Do you prefer whiskey or gin?"

When the question registered, it brought Teddy out of her spider-related trance. She shook her head. "What?"

"Whiskey?" Poole lifted one bottle, an amber-colored liquid sloshing inside. "Or gin?" he said, lifting the other bottle.

Teddy laughed and sank back in her chair—she hadn't realized how tense she'd been. "Mr. Poole," she said, the laugh reaching her belly now. "I'm only 18, are you sure you should be serving me?"

Poole stood, still holding out the bottles, a blank expression on his face. "Pardon?"

As Teddy's laugh fizzled away, dissolved in her stomach into a calm warmth, she pondered the thought of having a drink. Unlike most of her peers, Teddy would typically decline any chance to drink alcohol, if the chance ever presented itself. Being the daughter of addicts, she had witnessed the dark side of the stuff one too many times to get excited about getting a little tipsy. This time, however, seemed like an exception. When was the next time she would come across two vintage spirits? Teddy thought, eyeing the ornate bottles. She smiled, well, technically three vintage spirits. She looked up at Poole.

"Nevermind," she said, still smiling. "I prefer whiskey."

The butler returned the smile and poured a bit of the amber liquid into each goblet. Teddy took a sip, felt the cool liquid burn all the way down her throat. She fought the urge to cough, to vomit, and once the whiskey settled in her stomach, a caramel aftertaste exploded on her tongue. She took another sip, much smaller this time.

Poole took his place at the kitchen table across from her.

"Do you drink? I mean, are you able?" Teddy gestured vaguely to the butler's form.

"Oh, yes, of course. I can enjoy any food or drink that feeds the soul," he said with a sly grin.

"You sound like my dad," Teddy said.

She studied his face, marveled at his solid form. From what Poole had explained—which had been, thus far, a frustratingly vague and somewhat confusing explanation—he had separated his body from his soul many, many years ago. While his body lay rotted and decayed in the basement, his soul was free to move about the house.

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