I looked over the mountain of paperwork left me by the last supervisor. Even after two weeks in my new job I still couldn't find the top of the desk. Paper less company my ass. I was buried in an avalanche of print outs and carbon less forms. It was a good thing my wife was still in North Carolina. Working late is easier when the person you love is living four and a half-hours away. Add to that I was staying in a place that gave the word condemned a good name.
But then again, I had the good luck to run into Mrs. Frederick while doing job inspections on my new crew. She was a nice older widow. She was looking for a couple to rent the upstairs rooms of her house. Her husband died a few years back. Family checked on her now and then. She was alone and I needed a place without cockroaches.
I really think she took pity on me like the village idiot who would leave sunny Florida to North Carolina then Southern Virginia. She offered me two bedrooms, a very small kitchen, a bath, living room, and what she called an upstairs parlour (I called it a 1920 style living room). The price $200.00 per month, WITH UTILITIES and it was furnished.
I moved in a couple of days later. It really was great. Evelyn, Mrs. Fredricks, had a couple of her grand kids help me move. The only thing missing was my wife. OOP's, I hadn't told Alias about the move.
"Hello this is Alisa, I'm not available." Alisas' voice came over her voice mail. "Please leave me a message, thank you."
Gods above I loved everything about her, especially her accent.
"Hey, Hon, You're not going to believe this but I found us a house to rent. Actually it's the upstairs. It's older, but well maintained. I've sent some pictures to your work e-mail. Take a look and tell me what you think. I can't wait till you see it next month. Call me tonight love you, bye." That went well.
Alisa down loaded the pictures and we had a long talk that night. She couldn't understand why someone would rent a flat, her term for the apartment, for so little. Really neither did I. I liked it and I was here and she was in North Carolina so that was settled. Next month she would drive up for a few days and check things out. I couldn't wait.
Evelyns grandkids and great grandkids seemed to be all over the place the end of August. It was one last visit before school started. The noise level inside was equal to a major airport.
I was on the back porch still trying to catch up on the employee evaluations due yesterday when she came walking through the yard. I noticed her strolling up to the house without a care. Her summer dress bouncing up and down with her steps (nice). As she got closer to the porch light I saw that her breasts also bounced, very nice, as she walked towards the back door and me.
I didn't want to be known as the new pervert in town but she was cute. She wasn't a breathtaking baby doll or someone you would see turning heads at a movie premier. But the brown haired cutie got my attention. She looked to be high school age.
The closer she got the more I wanted to talk to her.
"Hi, how are you?" She was about ten feet away and I thought she saw me under the back porch light. "Hello," I repeated. "I don't remember seeing you here before?"
I guess she was in a daze because she suddenly turned to my voice stared at me.
I looked at her and smiled.
She looked at me and screamed. I mean really screamed. She turned and ran back the way she had come. Now I'm no Paul Newman, more Joe six pack, but I'd never had a girl look at me, scream then run away. It was a bummer. Besides I thought I should tell someone that a girl was walking around in the back forty.
"Mrs. Frederick?" I said as I walked into the downstairs parlour.
"Please Evelyn, Tom. You've met my boys and their young'ns?
"Yes Mrs... Evelyn. I'm sorry to intrude but someone was just in the backyard, a young girl.
"Where is she now? One of her sons asked.
"She ran toward the drying barns. Didn't you hear her scream?"
"No. Why did she scream?" Vern, her oldest asked.
"I guess I scared her. She was walking toward the house I said hello, she looked at me and she just let it rip." I was still trying to sort it out.
"Must of been the Yankee accent." Vern always thought he was the funny one.
"Hush Vern, be nice. Go out to the barns and see if you can find her. Evelyn turned to me. What was she wearing Tom?
A summer dress with red pinks and yellow flowers on it. She had a gold chain around her neck.
Evelyn just stared at me for a moment then turned to her family.
"I want everyone to get out there. I've seen her around here before. All she does is sniff around here like a bloodhound looking for tracks. When you find her call the Sheriff. Now get out there before she gets away again. Tom please stay here please."
I followed her to the unlit fireplace as my eyes followed hers. She was looking at framed pictures of her family. Her parents and her husband, all long gone. Then there were her children, grand kids, and even the two great grand kids. Then I saw her again. An old black and white 8X10 in a black frame hidden behind the others. She was a couple of years younger in the picture but it was her. The girl I saw in the picture had denim jeans and a shirt that probably belonged to her father. She was standing in front of what looked to be a perfect 1950's Dodge pickup.
Reaching over I picked up the picture and Evelyn sighed. "I knew it was her," she said.
"Who is she?" To be honest I was looking at her and a perfectly restored early 50's Dodge.
"That's Maryellen, my oldest child. The dress you saw her in was her favorite. Did you really talk to her?"
"Well I said hello. I guess she saw me cause she screamed and ran away, why?" Something was really starting to make my skin crawl.
"I've seen her now and then. I tried talk'n to her but all she'd do is keep right on walking. I've never talked to her."
"If it's a family problem and you want to talk about it, I'm a good listener." I thought she confused dates. People who are in there 80's will do that. Her grandchildren were that old.
Evelyn looked at me and gave me a sad smile. "You don't understand Tom. Maryellen died in a car wreck in 1957 when she was 18. The State Police said it was instantaneous. That picture you're holding was taken when she was 15 in 1954.
Now I was the confused one. I saw her plain as day. Subtract 1957 from 2004 equals 47 years ago, plus age 18 would make this teenager 67 years old now. Walking with a bounce in her step toward the house and not a wrinkle. "I don't understand." I needed to know why she was taking my seeing the ghost of her long dead daughter so calmly.
"I see her maybe two or three times a year. I see her shrouded in a light mist, I talk to her but she doesn't see me or hear me." The words were getting more painful. "That dress she was wearing was the one we buried her in. I know it's not right for a funeral, but it was right for her. I've never told the children I talk to their sister, I guess I'm afraid they'll put maw-maw in the funny farm."
So now what?" I asked. "Either we can figure this out or hope there's room for two at the farm. Tell me how Mary died."
Her name is... was Maryellen. Her and her boyfriend Tim Bridger were driving back from Lynchburg one night on 501 when a truck pulled in front of them. Timmy had both legs amputate one at the hip. He's still alive but in a wheel chair. He still thinks it's his fault and won't talk to any of our family. Forty-seven years in a wheel chair. That's worse than dying quick for most. We knew they had made plans to get married after Maryellen graduated from High School. Its been killing him for all these years. Dying real slow, one day at a time.
We talked until Vern and the family returned. Of course they didn't find her. How do you look for someone who's been dead for 47 years?
I went to bed.
Over the next week I kept going to the back porch at night hoping to see her again. Even Evelyn joined me the first couple of nights. I think she was hoping to see her deceased daughter again. Finally I gave up and went back upstairs and got ready for my wife to come up for her visit that weekend.
I was doing some vacuuming one night. (Yes I know how to vacuum a rug. Not well but it will pass the test.) I thought I heard voices but the TV was on. It wasn't till I turned it off that I knew it wasn't the TV.
Excuse me, sir. I'm trying to talk to you." It sounded like one of Evelyn grand kids. How had she gotten in?
Well here I am..." Suddenly I stopped. It was Maryellen.
There she was in my living room. Hands behind her back. Looking like she should really shouldn't be where she was. The same dress, the same hair, same necklace. I could see her chest rise and fall with each breath. That's probably how she looked when she was waiting to go to the movies.
"Ya'll can hear me?" She said.
"Sure, why not? You heard me at the back porch last week."
"Last week?" There was major confusion on her face.
"Sure. Your family was in the parlour and you were heading for the house to join them."
That didn't help her confusion any. "You gotta be a Yankee. You sure don't talk like you're from the Commonwealth. What are you doing in our bedroom? Does mama know you're in the girl's room? My brother Vern would woop you if he knew. He may be in seventh grade but he's tough."
"This is my bedroom now. In fact I'm renting the whole upstairs." I must be crazy, I thought. Here I am arguing with a ghost.
"You really shouldn't be here, Sir. How come you know my name?"
.... There is more of this story ...