Okay, I changed my mind – I fixed some typos, and I’m sorry for the unpolished nature of the following excerpt. *grin*
This is part of my current NaNoWriMo project, tentatively titled “Submerged” (it was “Tangled” for a week or so, but this seems more apropos). Even though I fixed typos, this is the mostly unedited way it landed on my computer screen.
Hope you enjoy!
Her first day back to work passed smoothly, and Maeve almost began to relax. Maybe the ghost thing was a fluke when she was stressed, and now that her stressors were mostly gone (Charles), the ghost thing might quietly go away. She almost got herself to the point that she believed it. Then she went shopping Friday after work, to get things for Jack’s visit the following day.
She usually preferred to shop at the Market Basket either in Epping or Lee, because their prices were the lowest of the area grocery stores. However, she much preferred the deli and the fresh produce at Hannaford, so she decided to take the trek into Raymond (the Hannafords in Dover tended to be much busier) and grab stuff for sandwiches and munchies. Since almost a week had passed since her last ghost sighting, it was the furthest thing from her mind, and her brain was resolutely running over every possible scenario with Jack the next day. He planned to arrive late morning, they’d probably have lunch at her apartment, then they were going to walk around campus and she’d show him the sights. After that, they’d play it by ear – there were a few concerts and such going on at the campus MUB, and a couple of movies she’d been wanting to see playing at nearby theatres, but she didn’t want to over schedule their first New Hampshire date.
She made it through the deli counter and produce department in short order, and was slowly perusing the beer cooler, debating if she should buy some or if she’d be silly to, since her boyfriend worked at a liquor store, when a woman in her late 20s walked past her, saying quietly, “Excuse me.” Maeve looked up to say, “Sure, no problem,” when she noticed the woman had a shadow. A ghostly shadow, to be more precise. Maeve could see from the family resemblance that it must be the woman’s mother, walking along behind, near enough to trip her if her feet were corporal. Maeve cleared her throat and started to call out to her, then immediately realized how ridiculous it would sound.
“Why would it sound ridiculous, dear?” Nana asked quietly in her ear, and Maeve shrieked and jumped back a bit. The woman whipped her head around to look at Maeve, who stammered and pointed at the beer cooler door, “Sorry, there was a spider on the handle.”
The woman smiled and said, “I completely understand. I would’ve yelled too, “ and Maeve felt marginally better. She turned and gave her grandmother the evil eye, then muttered under her breath, “Can you hear me if I talk inside my head?”
“Yes, I can, and it might make you look less insane if you start doing that right now.” Nana said, chuckling. “Nice cover with the spider story though – good you can think quickly on your feet.”
“Looks like I’m going to be doing that on a regular basis,” Maeve grumbled in her head, and Nana just laughed. “So, you disappear on me for days, and you show up now? What gives?”
Nana walked around in front of Maeve, and motioned to the woman disappearing around the corner. “You need to go talk to her, and I’m here to make sure that you do.”
Maeve started with, “But, she’s already too far away – what if I can’t catch up with her?” and noticed that the ghost woman hadn’t followed the girl around the corner. Instead, she was looking at Maeve as if she just noticed her, and a sudden wave of despair blasted Maeve from head to toe.
“Whoa,” she couldn’t help saying out loud. “What was that?”
“The spirit is sad because her daughter grieves and she can’t reach her to help her. She needs you to do it on her behalf.”
“Or what, she’ll keep sending grief waves crashing on top of me?”
Nana had a sad look on her face. “No, she’ll eventually return to following her daughter around, unable to ease her pain. But how would you feel, knowing you could’ve helped her, but you chose to turn your back?”
“I’d feel a lot better being guilt ridden but free of a padded cell,” she said in her head, while looking Nana square in the eye.
“You don’t know that they’d lock you up for offering a stranger advice,” Nana scoffed.
“Yeah? Trying reading the papers or watching the news in between scaring the bejesus out of me in the beer aisle. Tell me I wouldn’t get put away.”
“Not if you approached it the right way.”
Maeve sighed, knowing she wasn’t going to win this one. “Okay, what should I do?”
“Speak from your heart.”
Maeve waited a half moment, then said, “And … ?”
“And nothing. That’s all you need. Speak from your heart and you’ll know the right words.”
Maeve groaned. “Will you visit me in my padded cell?”
“Don’t be a brat. Just get going before it really is too late.”
Maeve looked at the ghost, still waiting at the top of the aisle. She wasn’t sure if the ghost could hear her in the same way as her grandmother, but figured it couldn’t hurt to try. “Okay, lead the way.”
The ghost nodded and Maeve thought, “Cool, one question answered.” She followed along behind.
The woman had managed to get to the last aisle with the cheese and butter – the next stop would be the checkout. Maeve figured this was actually the best spot in the store. Not too many people were there, but in a moment she’d be heading towards the courtesy booth and the checkouts, which definitely had a number of people around. Maeve walked up to her, cleared her throat again by means of announcing her presence, and said, “Excuse me.”
The woman turned and looked at her, and half smiled, recognizing the crazy beer spider lady. Maeve opened her mouth to say something, and started to think, “What would John Edwards or The New Jersey Medium say to introduce themselves?” and she drew a blank.
The woman looked at her for a moment, and finally said, “Did you want something?”
“Um, yes actually. I want to give you something… well not something physical, I want to give you a message.” Maeve stammered, trying to remember how the TV psychics phrased it when they approached total strangers.
The woman looked confused. “Do I know you?”
“No, no, you don’t know me. I mean, I don’t think we’ve ever met, but I’ve met your mother. Well, not when she was alive. I mean I met her ghost, just a few minutes ago in the beer aisle.”
The woman’s eyes widened and her face went pale. “Is that why you screamed? There wasn’t a spider was there?”
“No, actually I didn’t scream at your mother, I screamed because my grandmother whispered in my ear and startled me, but she’s a ghost too so you couldn’t see her next to me…” Maeve trailed off as she saw the look on the woman’s face. She wondered if she’d be able to request a color scheme for her cell, or if the pads only came in white.
The woman started to back away. “Okay, umm, thanks for letting me know. I need to get going now.”
Nana commanded in her ear, “Stop being such a pain and trying to sound like a psychic! Do what I told you!”
Maeve took a quick, deep breath, and said, “Please don’t go. I’m new to this, and I’m messing it up, but don’t let my inexperience get in the way of letting your mother be heard.”
“What do you mean, new?”
“That’s not important. What is important is your mother says she knows. She saw you in the hospital, and she knows you were there with her until the end.”
If Maeve thought the woman was pale before, she now made the milk display behind her look positively tan. “How could you know that?”
“Are you okay? I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you with this – would you like to go sit down at the courtesy booth?”
“No, I’m fine – okay, maybe not fine, but I’ll be all right. How could you possible know about my mother?”
Maeve looked sideways at the sad ghost starting at her daughter, and said, “It’s a long story. I only know she’s very sad that you’ve been so miserable, and she wishes she could wrap you in your brown teddy bear blanket and hug all the sadness away.”
The tears came on so fast that Maeve couldn’t even offer assistance. The woman tried to speak, but all that came out was a sobbing noise. Maeve looked around, not sure if she was hoping to find someone or not – as luck would have it, a manager was walking by, and after a quick look at the scene in front of him, he made a beeline over.
“Is there a problem here ladies?” He addressed them both, then said to the crying lady, “Is this person bothering you, ma’am?”
The woman tried hard to make herself understood between sobs. “No, not bothering me, she’s helping me. I’m just a bit in shock, is all.”
The manager still glared a bit at Maeve, seemingly certain she was somehow to blame for all the ruckus. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
The woman had her hand on her chest, as if she were willing herself to stop crying. Maeve jumped in and said, “Is there a place she could sit for just a moment? And maybe get a small cup of water?”
Glad to be given a way to resolve this, the manager said, “Certainly. Follow me.”
They left the carts behind, and walked over to the courtesy booth. There was a small bench there, for people waiting for prescriptions from the small pharmacy counter, and the manager led the woman over and asked the pharmacist to bring over a bottle of water. Maeve hung back a little, eyeballing the exit, which was tantalizing close. The manager looked up and noticed, and inquired, “So, what happened to her?”
Maeve certainly didn’t mistake the accusatory tone, and immediately went on the defensive. “I was only trying to help her… “
“It’s okay, I’m alright and she’s right – she was trying to help me, and I just got overwhelmed for a moment. I’ll be okay.” The woman’s face was already regaining her normal color, and her voice was sounding much less shaky. Maeve was about to take the opportunity to make her excuses about melting ice cream and having to leave when she said, “Please, could I speak to you for just a minute more? And thank you sir, this water is helping me tremendously.”
The manager said, “You’re quite welcome,” and left to tend to a paper or plastic controversy. The woman looked at Maeve and said, “Is she here right now?”
Maeve couldn’t help but glance over at the sad ghost, now standing in the corner behind the chair, and the woman gasped. “You’re looking at her right now, aren’t you?”
Maeve felt she’d been caught looking at an issue of Playgirl and blushed. “Umm, yes I am – she’s behind your right side.”
The woman tentatively reached her hand behind her, and for the first time, the sad ghost smiled. She also got a tiny bit brighter, and the woman said quietly, “Oh my god, I can smell her perfume.” The ghost looked at Maeve, and she knew she was saying thank you and goodbye. But the woman looked so happy and at peace, Maeve didn’t want to destroy it by saying she was leaving. Turns out she didn’t have to – after the ghost sent one last loving glance at her daughter, she turned and disappeared into the wall. The woman said, with a slight catch to her voice, “She’s gone now, isn’t she?”
Maeve nodded, and the woman began to cry again – only this time silently, and with a smile on her face. “My mother was in a coma before she passed,” she said to Maeve, “And I spent hours at her bedside, asking her to please come back to us, and to not leave without saying goodbye. She never regained consciousness, and I always wondered if she knew.”
“Now you know.” Maeve said and the woman replied, “Yes, now I know – thank you for that. What’s your name, by the way?”
Maeve panicked. The last thing she wanted was for people to find out she was the crazy lady who talked to dead people. She found herself babbling, “That’s not important. What is important is that your mother had a message, and I was in the right place and the right time to pass it on for her. I hope she’s given you some peace of mind… now I really should get my groceries before they melt all over the store.”
“Oh, of course – sorry to have kept you. And thank you again. You really have no idea how much this means to me.”
Maeve smiled, said goodbye and went back over to her cart. She quickly made her way through the checkout, keeping an eye on her new found friend to make sure she didn’t follow her to the parking lot. She was just making her way to the checkout as Maeve left, so she faked a half smile and wave at her. She was beginning to think she might want to start shopping at the Dover store after all.
“You did the right thing, you know.” Nana said, falling into step next to her.
“Right thing, crazy thing – apparently it’s all the same thing.” Maeve muttered under her breath, no longer caring if anyone heard her talking to herself.
“That might be true, but you made a difference for that poor woman and her daughter. You shouldn’t hesitate when the opportunity comes along to ease someone’s pain and to help someone cross without something weighing on their soul.”
“I’m all for making a difference, Nana.” Maeve didn’t know where this anger was coming from, but she was about ready to take a swing at her grandmother. “I do nothing but put other people before me, and try to make a difference. But you’re asking me to do something crazy. I’m no Lisa Williams, with her own TV show, walking up to total strangers and saying, “Does the name Robert mean anything to you? He’s showing me pink flowers, it’s their way of letting you know they’re here.”
“John Edwards says the bit about the flowers, dear.”
“Whatever! You’re asking me to walk up to people, no camera crew to give me credibility, and just tell someone that their dead relative wants to have a chat? What about me, and how that’s going to profoundly affect my life?” Maeve felt on the verge of tears at that point – getting angry almost always guaranteed a flood of tears to follow. Nana shook her head slowly and said, “I know it’s a lot to process. We can talk more about it later.”
“And what do you mean, a lot to process? And how do you know who says what on those psychic shows? You always claimed you didn’t watch them. How do you know so much about them?”
Nana patted her hand – Maeve would almost swear she could feel her touching it – and said, “We can talk about that later as well. You need to clear your head and drive home. No need of getting into an accident because you’re paying more attention to the thoughts in your head instead of the road.” With that, she blinked out of sight once again.