I hate being naked in public.
I’ve mentioned in other blog posts how I obsessively reread and edit my entries before posting them, so uploading something without changing anything is making me a bit crazy. Okay, crazier. *grin*
But as promised, I have an excerpt of my NaNoWriMo scribblings. This bit is from day 4, and involves my main character making a ghostly discovery. It has some basis in reality – I do have a friend named Gayle, and we really did see this woman over twenty years ago. Since this is still in rough draft form, I haven’t changed her name yet – hope she doesn’t mind!
So after I hit the “publish” button, I’m going to run away from the ‘net and hide, so I can’t hear people snickering at my unadorned verbiage. Next entry, I promise to cover up.
She turned around to take in the scenery one last time for the night, like she couldn’t just turn around and come back here after dinner. As she turned, she caught something moving out of the corner of her eye – it looked like a late day sun bather was still lounging on the rocks in front of Shore Cliff, over to the right of where she was standing. But as she tried to focus in on the sun bather, the image of the woman (why she immediately knew it was a woman wasn’t clear, but she just knew in her gut it was a female), suddenly disappeared. She stared for a moment, thinking at first she imagined it, but then straining to see if maybe there actually had been a woman there and she’d fallen and Maeve would be her last best hope at being rescued, but the longer she stared, the more she realized there was actually nothing to be looking at.
She walked slowly back to the Inn Magnolia, trying to process what she saw, or more accurately hadn’t seen, and decided she really didn’t want to eat dinner solo tonight. She decided to call a few different friends in the area, hoping someone would be home last minute. She hit it lucky on the first try – Gayle picked up the phone on the second ring (and she knew she was in town, visiting family after relocating to California with her husband) and said she’d be happy to join her for dinner. They decided to drive back into Gloucester and have a bite at the Pilot House – over steak tips and French fries; they got caught up on their lives since the last time they’d spoken in person.
Gayle had gotten married (which she knew) and moved to perform with her husband at venues all over California. She sounded so excited when Maeve mentioned her suspicion that Charles might be proposing sooner rather than later. She tried very hard to match Gayle’s level of excitement, and for a short time, she actually felt she was looking forward to the day she was going to be Mrs. so-an-so. She decided to ride this high for as long as it lasted, so on the way home, she asked Gayle if she should take the long way, for old time’s sake. Gayle laughed and said, by all means – besides, the moon is full and it’s far too beautiful to head home yet.
They drove slowly along Shore Road – for a minute, they thought about parking at the beach parking lot (a tiny little square of asphalt at the top of the road that overlooked the beach) and walking Magnolia beach, but after a whiff of the seaweed that had been fermenting all day in the sun, they decided to continue driving. When Maeve got to the point that she was where she’d been sitting earlier in the day, she pulled over, and she and Gayle went quiet for a minute and enjoyed the view of the moon beams dancing over the waves.
After a few minutes, they started to talk again, but as Gayle was discussing something wedding related, all of a sudden, Maeve saw that sun bather again – only now, given it was closer to ten at night then mid-afternoon, Maeve began to doubt the whole sun bather thing. She squinted, trying to see the thing more clearly, and realized that it was the figure of a woman, but she wasn’t in a bathing suit, she was in some type of garb that looked more like the 1800s than present day. Suddenly, the hairs on the back of her neck and arms stood up, but given that she still wasn’t sure what she was seeing (and the fear that her friend might decide she was certifiable), she decided to keep quiet.
After maybe two or three minutes of Gayle’s continued discussion on all things wedding, she suddenly broke off from what she was saying, and said, “Okay, I know this is going to sound crazy, but do you see that thing over there on the rocks?”
Maeve suddenly felt like there was a rock on her chest and she couldn’t breath – she was dizzy and disoriented as she tried to process that maybe Gayle was seeing the same thing. Two milliseconds later, she laughed to herself and realized she was letting her imagination get the best of her – she said to Gayle, “I think so – what is it you think you see?” feeling confident that Gayle would describe something like an animal or a piece of trash, and Maeve could have a good laugh at how paranoid her brain was getting.
Instead, Gayle said “Again, I know this sounds crazy, but I would swear I could see a woman over on the rocks in front of Shore Cliff.”
As soon as she said it, Maeve felt the blood in her veins go cold. Gayle, sensing Maeve’s reaction, said, “Oh, don’t even tell me you see her too!”
Maeve slowly nodded the affirmative, and Gayle let out a scared little noise. Gayle said in a very tight voice, “Okay, so what does she look like?”
Maeve, hoping against hope her answer was the wrong one, said “she’s dressed in something old fashioned, like a hoop skirt and tight bodice kind of thing – I want to say, even though she’s all white, that originally the dress was black and she’s in mourning.”
She turned to look at Gayle, and realized her face was as white at the apparent ghost (although neither one of them had used the G word yet). Maeve said, “So, you’re seeing the same thing I’m guessing?” and Gayle slowly nodded.
“Oh my freaking word – are you serious?” Maeve exclaimed, hoping that Gayle would laugh and say, ‘Nah, just kidding.” Instead, Gayle again slowly nodded and said, “I wish I was kidding, but that’s exactly what I’m seeing.”
“Okay, so just to prove we’re not crazy”… they took a minute to laugh a bit hysterically, then Maeve continued, “what is she doing right now?”
Maeve looked and noted that the ghostly figure looked like it was standing on the edge of the rock, gazing out at the ocean intently. She figured there was no way Gayle would say that. Instead, she felt cold chills going up her spine as Gayle said, “It looks like to me that she’s standing there on the rock, looking out to the sea, like she’s waiting for a ship to return.”
“Okay, so that makes sense given that we live in the town that honors ‘they that go down to the sea in ships’, right?” Maeve tried to grasp at any straw available.
“Yes, that’s true – this is part of our history as a fishing village, so it’s probably just something we’d expect to see, so no surprise our minds are playing tricks on us in such a similar way.” Gayle said, trying also to grasp at straws.
Maeve said, “So, just to see if we’re crazy, or really crazy, how about we sit here for a few minutes and see what happens?”
Gayle said, “I’m game” and their chatter about weddings, marriage and cool engagement proposals quieted down to nothing as the two of them squinted at the rocks not so far in the distance and tried to see what the ghostly figure was up to.
After about five minutes, Maeve noticed that the figure seemed to be moving back on the rock, like it was preparing to sit back down. She waited to say anything, and in very short order, Gayle said –
“did you just see her move back on the rock?”
Maeve’s stomach bottomed out, but she nodded the affirmative. “Yes, I saw that – what does it mean that we both saw it at the same time?”
Gayle said, “Damned if I know – so you did see her move too?” And Maeve said “yep”.
Gayle said, “Okay, does it make sense that I want to stay and see what happens, but at the same time I want to run screaming back home, so I can jump under the covers and hide for the next thousand or so years” And Maeve said, “yep, unfortunately I’m right there with ya!”
They watched for a minute as the figure turned, looked like it was spreading a blanket out, and sat down. They spoke in quiet but frantic whispers about what they were watching, and it completely matched each time. After the figure sat on the blanket for a few, with her hands clasped in front of her knees, she stood up, brushed her skirt off and got herself settled at bit, pausing for a moment to tuck a stray hair behind her ear, then she walked to the edge of the rock again, hands folded across her chest as if it were either chilly, or she was trying hard to comfort herself, and stared out again towards the horizon. She stood statue like for a moment, the quietly started to pace back and forth across the edge of the rock, always keeping her eyes towards the horizon.
After about ten minutes of pacing and staring, the figure would seem dejected, like the object she expected to appear – assuming a boat – wasn’t going to make an appearance after all, and she’d slowly make her way back to where it seemed there was a blanket, and she’d slowly sit down, settle her skirts around her feet, cross her arms around her legs, and continue to stare. Then there was a strange feeling of the scene resetting, and she would suddenly spring to her feet, as if she’d spotted the boat, and adjust her shawl around her shoulders as she eagerly gazed at the horizon. The slow pacing and eventual giving up and sitting back down would then replay itself.
“Gaylsies, are you seeing what I’m seeing?” she asked, half hoping that Gayle would say no.
“If you mean it looks like we’re watching a widow watching and waiting in vain for her love to show up, then yes, I’m seeing what you’re seeing” Gayle said in a voice that sounded very far away.
They sat in the car and watching for at least an hour as the woman repeated her ritual over and over. They took turns at first describing in detail her movements, but after a short time, they just watched in awe as she repeated her motions over and over.
“Should we get out and go over there to see if it’s just a trick of the light or something?” Gayle asked in a hushed tone.
Maeve thought for a moment, and then said, “I don’t know. Somehow it seems like we might be intruding on her privacy, if that makes any sense.”
“Makes perfect sense to me”
“Besides, I don’t know if my jelly legs would cooperate at the moment,” Maeve said wryly.
Gayle laughed, and they decided they should quietly (or as quietly as possible, given they were in a car) drive away. On the way back to Gayle’s mother’s house, they talked about how bizarre the whole thing was – Maeve said, “I know this sounds melodramatic, but the hairs were standing up on my arms, and I was almost shaking”
Gayle said, “Not melodramatic at all – I felt the same thing!”
They discussed the possibility that it was the moonlight reflecting on something, but given how long they watched, and during that time how the moon kept disappearing behind the clouds but the figure never disappeared, they ruled out that possibility.
When they got to Gayle’s moms, Maeve thanked her for a very interesting dining experience and Gayle laughed. “Yes, we should definitely do this again while we’re both in town – but maybe we should skip on taking the long way home next time”
“Works for me,” said Maeve, and she waited until Gayle got to the front door before backing out of the driveway and heading back to her hotel room.