Friday, October 31, 2014

Was He, or Wasn't He? October Ghost Story

Please feel free to visit the other blogs on this blog hop and read their take on the custom of ghost stories in October. Just click on the link below the image...
The old wooden house looked ready to cave in on itself, yet it still stood, worn and weary, against the havoc of time. It still sheltered. Calling the house hard-headed would be appropriate since an age had passed from when it had been built. It called to me like a beacon through the forest surrounding it, or maybe it was the colors that did that, those of the folks that inhabited it now. I don’t know if they were of the family that built the place, but they inhabited it like a worn old shawl over the shoulders, comfortable in the thin shell that exuded age yet comfort.
Red was his name, hers was Violet. They had no children but it didn’t bother them. They had time, they said. I visited them only that once. I couldn’t go back. Not after… well, anyway. The minute I walked up to the place I felt different, like the air had shifted and I breathed someone else’s. Like time shifted and the oxygen was as old and parched as the house. A faint hint of Rosemary settled in with mint as its sidekick, like there was a garden somewhere close that I couldn’t see.
Out on the back porch that afternoon, after a tour of the tiny three room cabin, the main room—with a kitchen running along one side of it—a bedroom and newish indoor bathroom, I sat drinking iced tea with Violet and my mother, who was Violet’s friend and the reason we were there. Violet had asked Mother for a reading. Mother reads tarot cards, but not like most folks would. She doesn’t “see” the cards the same way one is taught to. She sees only what the person she reads for wants—or needs—her to see.
So Mother did the reading, with confusing results. Mother had seen what she thought was a split, a fork in Violet’s path, one shadowed the other bright; a decision Violet seemed to understand, but wouldn’t explain, as was her right. Mother had also seen a great change coming. Violet wouldn’t talk much about her understanding of that either, until later. The air I breathed still held the taint of rosemary and mint, and a hint of pumpkin? It mixed well with the iced tea but did nothing to alleviate the strange awareness I’d had since we’d arrived. “Do you have a garden, Violet?” I asked because I’d seen all sides of the house and found no garden.
“No, not yet. We’ve thought about putting one in over there,” she said, “just past that old tumbledown shed.” She pointed past a heap of dead boards.  That’s when I saw him.
I sat up and placed my glass of iced tea carefully on the table. I didn’t want to spill it or break the glass. A small boy, perhaps four or five, stood just past the deadwood pile looking down at his feet. He wore jean overalls with a faded red shirt under them and a blue sweater. He was blond, like Violet was. Same shade, same wave to his hair, which grew down to his shirt collar. I looked at the ground wondering what he was staring at with such intent. A small orange pumpkin lay at his feet. He stooped down and picked it up, tugging with resistance against the vine still attached. He glanced toward the house as if looking for help. “Do you see him?” My voice came breathless and low.
“Who? See who, darling?” Mother’s tone said she knew not to move. Violet didn’t move either, but she glanced toward the pile of wood.
“The little boy right past the deadwood.” No answer from either of them. “He’s trying to pick a pumpkin but it’s still on the vine.”
The little boy stopped pulling and looked at Violet, grinned as if he saw her, and then disappeared. No boy, no pumpkin, only the pile of grayed wood remained.
“Whoa, that was weird,” I said.
 Mother asked me to explain so I did. Violet started to cry.
“Perhaps it was someone who lived here before. A child that died or something.” I took a sip of tea. “Is that why you’re crying Violet? I don’t think he’ll hurt you. He didn’t seem malevolent.”
“No. I think he is my son.”
“What?” Mother and I asked at the same time.
“I’m pregnant, but haven’t told Red yet, because we’ve already lost two babies who never made it past the second month. I don’t want to hope, but I felt him when you saw him.”
“Hm,” Mother sounded thoughtful. “Well, the cards make a little more sense, still...”
She looked perplexed but smiled when Violet said, “Until this moment I feared to lose another child and so kept my heart on hold. Now I know he is here to stay.”
“Yes,” I said. “He was quite at home. You’re going to have to burn that pile.”
“We will, right away. Obviously that’s where the garden has to go.”
“You’d better tell Red.”
Violet smiled, really smiled and wiped her face. “No more indecision. No more forks in the road. I’ll tell him as soon as he gets home.” Mother and I left. I was happy thinking of Red and Violet and their new little son on his way. Mother still pondered some greater issue. Turns out she was right to ponder. I couldn’t go back with Mother when she returned, though I knew why she had to.
Because early on the morning after the reading, that ancient tinderbox of a house burnt to the ground. Red and Violet, their bodies burned beyond saving, were found together outside, on the other side of that deadwood pile, which lay untouched by even one spark. By all accounts, Violet held a small pumpkin in her arms.  A perfect, healthy unburned pumpkin.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Just for the fun of it...

Will he show? Or will he decide it isn’t worth the risk, as she had almost done. And yet here she was sitting in the little café they’d once frequented every day. Ah, those college years. They didn’t feel very far away but the slight strands of gray starting to appear in her auburn hair professed the truth. Twenty years gone. She’d done so very well for herself, a successful career in journalism, traveling all over the world, winning honors, but in the process, losing lovers. She’d given up having a family to help bring attention to the places in the world that most people wanted to forget existed.
Now she was tired, burned out, and the recent gruesome deaths of two of her colleagues had, she felt, been God’s 2x4 on her head, telling her it was time to take a break, to sit back and analyze, restructure and revise her life. Oh she still wanted to travel and write, but when Rupert had called, well, she put it down to good timing. At least she hoped it was good. He still hadn’t shown up. Fifteen minutes wasn’t that late, but each moment ticking by made her more nervous and she wondered if this rendezvous was such a good idea after all.
In college Rupert had sported a full head of wavy dark brown hair, startling sky blue eyes and an easy smile. His charm oozed from every pore and she had no trouble falling for him, hard, all those years ago. Those four glorious years had gone so swiftly she’d hardly felt the breeze, until he’d told her his plans had changed and he’d left her.
And now he’d called. How he’d found her number she had no idea and meant to ask him today, if he showed. But he’d been so insistent that she’d given in to his request to meet him here. Even after so much water under the bridge, she hadn’t been able to say no. Besides, she was curious. Had he kept his looks? Had he married? Did he have the family she’d given up? Had he gone on to be the research scientist he’d said he wanted to be? The one that had taken him from her world because the research he wanted to work on was top secret and government protected? Would he have been able to have a family in that environment?
Alicia glanced at the clock on the wall of the tiny café one more time. Half an hour gone. She sighed, took a sip of the water she’d ordered and gathered her things.
“You haven’t changed a bit.”
From behind her, Rupert’s voice washed over her body like sun-warmed water. He came to stand in front of her and answered at least the first two questions she’d pondered. Sparkling blue eyes and thick dark brown hair, with more than a smattering of gray mixed in, made her relax. She knew this man. He was no stranger to her, even after so much time. “You never were a good liar.”
He laughed and memories smothered her as would a thick down comforter. She stood and they hugged, long, rocking each other gently and she felt such a great longing that tears stung her eyes. Which would not do. She pulled away and waved to the seat opposite hers while wiping at her face, hoping he hadn’t noticed, but sure her face was red.
Once seated, he leaned toward her, “I won’t waste time, Alicia. I’ve already wasted too much. I know how long it’s been. I know I was, well, unkind to you to leave you like that.” He didn’t look away, but kept her trapped in his fierce blue gaze. “I’m so very sorry I was such an idiot, no, worse than that. I’ve, I’ve followed everything you’ve done. I know all there is to know about you publicly, and what I have to say comes down to two things. One, I still love you. I never stopped, and never stopped kicking myself for letting you go, for pushing you away after all we’d—”
Her mouth dropped open. She had no idea, had never dreamed…
“After all we’d shared. I’ve never been closer to another person in my life. I’d like the chance to explain to you, to, to get to know you again. If you want, of course.” Then he rushed on as if afraid to hear her answer, “And the second thing is, I have a news story for you, if you want it, that will make your name.”
Shocked at the twist she'd not expected, Alicia sat back and stared at him, this man who had meant the world to her was telling her literally every single thing she’d ever wanted to hear from him, except one.
“I never take on a story to make my name, Rupert. You should know that by now if what you say is true.”
He shook his head. When he looked at her again he seemed, what, scared? “I’ve done this all wrong. I’m not used to, well, this. Talking about these things.”
“No, Alicia,”
She didn’t thank the delicious shiver that went up her spine when he said her name.

“Will you listen to me, about us, I mean? And then if you want, I’ll tell you about the other and you can decide if you want it or if you want to give it to someone else. I don’t really care what you do with the story. All I care about is you, and if you’ll agree to us getting to know one another again, slowly, or however you want. Please, give me a chance to talk with you?”
Alicia closed her eyes against the pleading in his. Things like this didn’t happen in real life. He wanted to see her again? She breathed in deeply, holding it as the light went off in her brain. She saw the 2x4 hanging over her head, she saw the blue of his eyes and the curve of his smile as he’d spoken the words she’d waited all these years to hear. “Yes,” she said, opening her eyes again. “I want to hear what you have to say.
That’s when the tears she’d held back began to fall from his eyes. 

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