|SECOND PLACE in The Boy Do I Have A Story For You Contest, by Suze TEN YEARS with Writing.Co , February 2013
FEBRUARY 2013 SHINING STAR WINNERRising StarsCircle of Sistersby Tornado Day
It has been said that magic vanished from our world a long time ago and that humanity can no longer fulfill its desires through the power of wishes. Among many who didn't believe this was true was Meghan Anne O'Connor. She believed that nothing was more powerful than a heartfelt, sincere wish.
Meghan Anne lived in a small house in a quaint neighborhood in Mississippi. Hidden among white flowering Gardenia trees and Crape Myrtles, her yellow house, which once belonged to her parents, contrasted with all the other white houses on the quiet street. Her trees had many birdhouses hanging from its long branches and there were white, orange, pink, yellow, and red Bush Roses scattered around the front garden. The scented roses enveloped a yellow wooden arch in the front gate and sometimes Meghan had to bend her head a little in order to walk in or out of the arch, but she didn’t mind it. Her favorite one of all was called Brush Strokes because the orange and the yellow colors of the petals blended wondrously like a Van Gogh painting.
Her garden was flowery, and neat. Meghan was always in a hurry but sometimes she would sit on her yellow, wooden garden bench, and admire its natural harmony, and colorful perfection; passersby would stop and look at her garden, too. She loved her trees with their twisted roots. Meghan Anne always thought that people grew in different directions exactly like the branches of a tree yet they still remained the same.
Meghan lived alone. She was single and had been single for fifty-five years. Tall and slim, Meghan had light green eyes hidden behind her brown eyelashes. She wore her brown hair in a bun and she loved long, flowery dresses. Meghan was a handsome woman with a pretty, yet sad smile. She had unrevealed wishes, one in particular, which she kept hidden in the quietest shelf of her heart; maybe the reason for her unsettling melancholia. How must one find true love?
She loved her routine though, which kept her going, and it secretly made her sane. She would wake up with the birds, summer or winter. She made her bed neatly by folding the sheets in a perfect horizontal line and then she would place the pillows asymmetrically, over them. She had some… little habits; manias. She couldn’t go to bed without doing the dishes, closing all the closet doors, and placing her slippers right next to her bed, side by side, at night. Things had to follow symmetry, and order. She had little spots, where things should be put in order to be nice, like the right-hand side corner of her kitchen counter, which overlooked the dining room. That was the perfect place to put an orchid that recently blossomed, colorful Easter eggs in a small basket, a small Pumpkin in Halloween, a Thanksgiving decoration with red and green grapes, a red Poinsettia during Christmas with its red and green leaves shimmering by a scented cinnamon candle, and perfectly round fruits for good fortune in New Years Eve. She usually bought pomegranates; because their red color represented the human heart and their abundant, round seeds represented prosperity; all things that everyone wished for in any fresh new start.
She could not watch TV if something was hanging crooked behind her or in front of her. That was who she was, she needed neatness and detail; openness and efficiency. This order was her contentment, and joy.
She cleaned and dusted her home every other day and never forgot to take the trash outside. Her neighbors admired her cleanliness and tidiness, especially Gloria, who lived in a white house opposite Meghan’s. Gloria Emerit-Harp loved to sit on her front porch during the summer and sit behind her sheer white curtains during the winter, and observe her neighbors; mentally criticizing them or talking to herself about their gardens, clothes, dogs, habits and relatives, and never, ever smiled at anyone, not even to the mailman.
Gloria knew everyone’s whereabouts but what she liked the most was to observe Meghan. She had been doing so for years and had nothing better to do; as if it was part of her life. She would follow Meghan with her little blue eyes, envious of her garden, her house, her habits, even of her solitude, and she got used to seeing her pick stranded leaves up that constantly fell from her Gardenia trees. She would count till ten or fifteen or even twenty to see how long it would take until Meghan noticed and picked up that one lonely yellow leaf dancing on the grass, and which disturbed her garden’s pattern of orderliness. She would laugh at Meghan and think how sorry she was for her boring lifeless life.
One Monday morning a white truck parked in front of Meghan’s house. Three men opened the truck’s back doors and carefully carried a lovely light brown, rectangular table, and six chairs - one of them a Captain’s chair, into her front door. Shortly after, they brought out an old square table and four chairs and placed them inside the empty truck. She noticed that one of the table’s legs was bound with duck tape. Curiously, she went to her front porch, sat on her favorite chair, and listened to what Meghan was saying to the tall driver, who wore a gray uniform with “Darlington Antique Store” written in big, blue letters on the back.
“Thank you for taking my table. I think that it is completely taken by termites, and I cannot deal with that, Mr. Darlington.”
“Not a problem, Miss Meghan, don’t you worry now.”
“I really, really loved the table you brought me. Is it really that old?”
“Oh yes! It’s about ninety or a hundred years old, Miss Meghan, so it’s a real antique. My wife, Irene, is a specialist, and she knows all about old furniture. It’s a real George III Mahogany table. It has been sitting around the antique store for months, as if it was just waiting for you, when you called asking me for a Mahogany table. I think it is the nicest piece in the whole store. I am happy you liked it. And the price was just about right, wasn’t it?”
“Oh yes, it was. I am very pleased. You know, Mr. Darlington, agitation swept over me when I looked at the table the moment you brought it into my house, but then I felt emanating warmth… like flashes of light coming from my new table, as if sun-rays had penetrated my heart. How weird, isn’t it, Mr. Darlington? But what I liked the most about the table was that it has no scratches on it yet it’s so old.”
“Yes. I always felt as if that table had a personality of its own. I am happy you liked it, Miss Meghan, but … beware: my wife thinks that the table is... haunted.”
“Because she once saw a strange man sitting on the Captain’s chair, then he was gone, but she might have been wrong. So many people walk in and out of the store, you know. Besides, she’d seen that man before, looking for something else in the store but she couldn’t remember what it was.
“My, how curious, Mr. Darlington.”
“Do you mind? Would you like me to take it back?”
“Oh no. No, not at all. I like it the way it is. I like the idea of… trail of memories left behind.”
“Oh. Well then, thank you for doing business with us. Have a good day!”
“Have a good day too, Mr. Darlington. Thank you.”
Gloria watched as the truck drove along the road, opening its way through the leaves on the pavement. She watched as Meghan slowly walked into her house not before picking up a stranded Gardenia leaf, silently lying on the lawn.
After closing the front door, Meghan Anne walked toward the table. She placed each chair neatly under it. She took some steps back; liked what she saw. It was a real quality Georgian Mahogany twin pedestal table with one extra leaf, which was secured with brass clips. Each pedestal had turned support; four down-swept legs with shiny brass paw feet and castors. The table was really very elegant and substantial, had a superb color, and a wonderful patination, which only comes with age, and it was one hundred years old.
She sprayed some wood polish on the table’s surface and with a clean piece of cloth, polished and revived the table’s natural color and look. The fresh orange scent penetrated her nostrils and made her take a long, deep breath. Thoughts of her mother invaded her lonely heart, and some tears ran down her face. Some fell on the table’s surface but she quickly polished them away. Why was it that scents made us go back in time? Why was it that the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee, freshly baked bread, and warm chocolate cake always made you feel homesick?
She went to her room and walked into her bathroom. She was going to get ready for dinner; she decided to use her new table tonight so it deserved a special meal. How about a traditional Irish Shepherd’s Pie and some crispy bread? Maybe she would even have a glass or two of red wine. She smiled; yet, again, another one of those sad smiles.
After placing the Shepherd’s Pie on the table and serving herself a glass of wine, she sat on the chair opposite the Captain’s chair. Her table shone like a recently cleaned window, reflecting multi-colored lights coming from the crystals on the antique chandelier, which was hanging over the table. She drank some of her red wine and made a wish; the one hidden in an abandoned shelf full of dust in one of the corners of her little heart. She heard the tic tock of her Grandfather’s clock and thought that maybe everything was forever set in time.
When she looked at her shiny table again, her heart missed a beat. She saw the reflection of an eerie figure of a man who was sitting on the Captain’s chair right in front of her. Taking a deep breath, she looked up and there it was, transparent; a ghost --- a man, staring at her. She placed both hands on the table to keep herself from fainting, the knuckles on her fingers becoming white, and she just sat there, breathing deeply; emotions running like fire under her skin. Oh dear! Will I faint? No, I will not. Was he the apparition that Mr. Darlington’s wife had seen in the antique store? Oh my. How should she handle this? What should she do? She swallowed the rest of her pie in her mouth, and calmly took a sip of red wine from her crystal glass. She said nothing. He must be hungry, poor man. With her heart drumming on her chest she got up and walked towards the kitchen feeling his eyes on her back; watching her every movement. She opened the cupboard, got another wine glass and plate. She opened the cupboard drawer, selected a knife, and fork and slowly walked back to the living room yet her legs refused to walk; numb. Come on, walk! As she approached the Captain’s chair she shyly looked at him.
He was tall, calm, and handsome. He seemed to be in his seventies. His eyes, dark gray, were deep and looked back at her with a charming, sincere stare. His hair was gray; somehow the same color of his eyes. She could see the Captain’s chair right through him, and finally understanding, and knowing that she was going to have dinner with a ghost, carefully placed the plate in front of him, set the knife and fork alongside the plate, together with a clean napkin. The fragrance coming from him smelled of sandalwood; she felt as if she was among tall trees bending silently in the woods. This made her feel comfortable, and calm. She cut a piece of Shepherd’s pie and placed it in his clean plate, careful not to spill crumbs on her new table. She served red wine for her unexpected guest, and placed the bottle near him; walked back to her chair and quietly sat down. Oh dear. The eerie silence in the living room was only broken by the Grandfather’s clock rhythmic sounds - tic tock tic tock tic tock. She looked at him intensely, trying to read information in his eyes but what was she doing? He was a ghost. It’s---He’s a ghost! What am I doing?
“Hello. My name is Frank. Frank Mahoney. Please don’t be scared of me, I mean---of what---who I am.”
“H—hello. My---my name is Meghan O’Connor. I---I am not scared.” Her heart was beating fast. It had been a long time since she talked to someone in her dining room. When was the last time this happened?
“I am happy that you can see me in my visible form.”
“Y—yes I can --- see you.”
“I am sure that there is a powerful reason.”
“Yes, I am. The spiritual world works in mysterious ways.”
“Where are you from? Why are you here?”
“I’m from Ireland. I came to this country with my family, our trunks and furniture, and with this table in a big ship… well at least this is what I remember. I was a little boy. I d---died on this very chair, many, many years later.”
“Why are you here?”
“I am part of this table; a solitary essence I guess. Maybe it is what’s left of who I was; what I had, or have. Lost memories, perhaps, or unfulfilled desires. I don’t know; I’m not sure. I somehow got stuck between this plane and the next. Yet, I continue to exist somehow.”
“I---I don’t know what to say. I don’t know much about apparitions…
“I am sorry I disturbed your life; showed myself to you. I couldn’t help it. You looked so lonely. I---I wanted so much to be part of your life.”
“Oh don’t be sorry! I guess I was --- I was waiting for you, somehow, to come into my life, and for a very, very long time.”
“Do you mind that I am this way, you know, from the other side of reality, the phantom of a man I once was? Do you want me to leave? I can disappear but I’d still be … around you.”
“No! Stay. Please.”
“Good. I will then.”
“Please, tell me. What is it like where you… are, Frank?”
“Well… it’s like being in a foggy, undefined place all alone. I sometimes hear voices of others. There is no sky nor clouds but there’s peace. I guess I haven’t crossed over, besides, I don’t know how to, so that’s why I remain near my... your table.”
“Did you figure things out, you know, about the afterlife?”
“Not really. I thought I could but it’s impossible. No one can figure out the magic of death. Or, when you’re dead, like I am now, how to become really dead. Maybe I’m a zombie, a spiritual errant of the unearthly, I don’t know but now, after I saw you I don’t want this to ever change. There must be a reason for everything to happen in life."
“W---would you like me to help you to cross over? I don’t know how to… but I could help you if you told me how.” Meghan asked with a poignant pain in her heart. Please say no. Stay with me.
“Oh no. Not anymore. I want to stay.” Frank said, looking deeply into Meghan’s anxious eyes and enveloping her heart with a warm stare; a tenderness never felt before. Her eyes; full of tears.
What is this feeling? Am I falling in love with a ghost who is sitting right in front of me, in the Captain’s chair of my table? Is this really happening to me? Oh yes, please! Let it be so. Make this moment last forever.
Meghan and Frank looked at each other; a look that seemed like a burning fire spreading its warmth all over your body, soul, and heart; penetrating each and every little dark space. The only noise in the room came from the Grandfather’s clock. Tic tock. Tic tock. Tic tock.
When Gloria Emerit-Harp woke up from her afternoon nap, she looked out of her window. Gloria noticed, again, that something was really wrong but her impatience, and eagerness, prevented her from reasoning. She had been impatient for a couple of days. She looked out of her window once more; glanced around. The same gray clouds, and rain. Lots, and lots, of rain. She was bored and annoyed but what upset her the most was something coming right across from Meghan’s house. Yes, the problem that was driving her mad was right there, right in front of her. Meghan’s perfect lawn was covered in leaves, especially brought by the rainy weather, and the wind. What was wrong with Meghan? Was she out of her mind? She never saw her lawn looking this way, completely taken by yellow, red, and brown leaves. It was so disturbing. This had been going on for days. Yet, it somehow even looked nicer this way… How odd; strange. Was something wrong with her? Meghan could be sick. She could have fallen, broken a leg. She could be dead; she lived alone. Since her new table had been delivered, a week ago, she had not seen her outside or cleaning her precious garden. Should I call 911? Thinking that it might be a bad idea and more curious than worried, Gloria put on her rubber boots, her hat and a raincoat and walked out of her house.
She crossed the wet street and threw her hands inside the coat’s pocket. She opened the gate and it squeaked noisily. She walked under the yellow arch and her hair got stuck in one of the branches and cold, tiny drops of rain fell on her head, and hair --- running down her back; Goosebumps all over her body. Darn it. Annoyed, and already sorry for her decision, she walked up the front steps not before pushing angrily away the so many dry leaves lying around the front steps with her small foot. She should take better care of her lawn, and house, and the front porch as she always did. What it wrong with her? Was she insane? She rang the doorbell, moving one foot, then the other, from one side to the other, to keep warm from the cold wind. Darn weather. Darn neighbors. Darn Meghan.
Meghan opened the front door. She looked at Gloria curiously. Gloria noticed that Meghan looked somehow, somewhat younger, and prettier or was she wrong? An indescribable warmth came from inside the house, and scents from far away, unknown places enveloped her heart. She wanted to walk right in and smell, feel and touch whatever it was attracting her so mysteriously, like a magnet. Undisturbed by the wind, the rain, the weather, the leaves blowing inside her front door and by Gloria, Meghan asked politely:
“Oh Hello, Gloria. Can I help you? Anything the matter? Are you all right?”
“Yes, yes, I’m all right. I haven’t seen you for some days… you know, around your garden. It is full of leaves, as you can see, so I wondered if something was the matter. You seem to be all right, though. Are you all right?”
“Oh yes, Gloria, I am. Thank you for worrying but I am fine. I have never been better, believe me.”
Meghan turned and looked behind her, then faced Gloria again. It was then that Gloria noticed that there was someone inside the house; a tall man. She tried to move and look inside but Meghan walked closer to her, preventing Gloria from looking inside. Who is he?
“So… I guess I’ll be leaving then. All is all right… right?”
“Yes, Gloria. Everything is just fine. Thank you.”
She slowly closed the front door while Gloria’s curious eyes desperately tried to catch one more glimpse of the fascinating strange man that was calmly sitting on the antique table’s Captain’s chair. He was holding a glass of red wine and his head was slightly bent. His long legs were crossed. He seemed relaxed. He was admiring the fireplace, where the blue, orange and yellow flames sparkled on the bright red pieces of wood, illuminating the room; peacefulness. Then all was gone when the door closed.
Meghan Anne slowly walked back to the dining room thinking what should she cook her special guest for dinner tonight; contentment filled her heart. No hurry. She had all the time in the world. Meghan smiled. It was a big, happy smile for the first time in many, many years. A smile that came from the fulfillment of desires, through the secret power of innermost sincere wishes … like dandelions when you blow the seeds in the wind, the stars and much more.