She had always been terrified of ghosts. …
There. She saw it again!
The small table overlooking the lake was her favorite spot and she often took her lunch there. She could hear the murmuring wash of the waves, quietly kissing the shore, and off to her left were the mallards, feeding serenely. Overheard, a pair of jays hopped from limb to limb, hoping for a handout.
She missed Paul, and wondered why he had not come around. She supposed that he was busy with the shop, and in the economic crisis, he was probably trying to drum up business. She smiled at the thought. Paul could sell sand in the Sahara, so his business would survive anything. But she still missed him.
The male jay, with his brighter colors, dropped off the limb and landed lightly at the far end of the table, his head cocked to one side and watching her intently. She broke a piece of bread off her sandwich and started to toss it to him, but then stopped. Instead, she held it in her fingers, and extended it in his direction. He hesitated only a moment, and then took two hops, deftly taking the crumb from her fingers. He stared at her for a long minute and then flew back to the limb overhead. He offered the snack to his mate, and as she smiled in delight at his generosity, she suddenly saw it again.
Out of the corner of her eye, she distinctly saw a figure, a man, briskly walking by. But when she turned to look, he was gone, and she was alone under the trees. Then she felt the same odd sensation…a warm breeze, and, as always, it had the city smells of car exhausts, steamed hot dogs, and pizza ovens
In a panic, Janet Dodd came to her feet, and the jay swerved on his return descent to her table, darting to his left and then back to the safety of the tree limb, where he perched next to his mate, and eyed the table.
The first few times, she had dismissed it as mere imagination, but the shadows and fleeting glimpses of movement had persisted, and more than that, each time there was the blast of unmistakable, warm city air, as if she had opened a door somewhere. But this time it was more than a fleeting movement. This time it had the distinct shape of a man, and it was real.
Or was it?
Perhaps it was this place. She had moved into the bungalow on the hill two, no…three weeks ago, to recuperate from the accident, and she had seen the first furtive shadow, almost immediately. “Perhaps it is just this place,” she told herself, “Perhaps I simply need to go home to Paul and the city.”
She picked up her small lunch and began to make her way back up the path to the bungalow. Behind her, the jay called plaintively, and she hesitated, smiling at his impertinence. Sighing, she dug the remains of her sandwich out of the lunch bag and turned back to the table, intending to leave it for her jay friends. She had just placed it on the table when something caught her eye to her left. She turned, and a small child was looking at her curiously. She was about to speak when a harried looking young woman appeared and silently scooped the little girl up, never so much as giving Janet a glance. Then both simply faded away, and she was alone again.
Now thoroughly frightened, she hurried up the path. The serenity of leaf dappled sunlight on the woodland floor, and the puffy clouds adorning a serene blue sky spoke of safety and comfort, but she knew something was terribly wrong.
At last, the woodland tree line gave way to the meadow, and on the far side, she could see the cluster of bungalows, and safety. She realized that she had been running, so she slowed to a walk. She was scarcely fifty yards from home when a running cottontail swept in front of her, followed closely by a silently barking beagle, and a small boy, running barefoot. Then, just as suddenly as they had appeared, they were gone.
She felt better once she reached the safety of her bungalow, and put on a pot of tea. She closed all the blinds and put on some music. There were a few dishes, so she washed them, grateful for the soothing work. She had just finished drying when the knock sounded at the door. She wiped her hands, and waited. The knock came again, and she crossed to the door, hesitated for a moment, and reached for the knob.
Mary Marply lived next door and was in her seventies. She held a plate covered with a cloth, and the delicious smell of fresh baked cookies wafted out from underneath.
“Hello, my dear! I thought I’d pop over and trade a cookie for a nice cup of your tea.”
She peered at Janet closely, and a small frown appeared.
“Are you well? You look a bit peaked. I can come back another time.”
“No, no! Please, come in. I’m…I’m a bit confused, that’s all. I’ll explain.”
For the next hour, Janet poured tea and explained the visions, as Mary Marply listened silently, nodding now and again. At last, Janet finished, and sat silently, waiting for the older woman to comment.
“You have been given a gift, my dear. You have been granted the ability to see into another world. You are seeing the spirits of those who are not here with us. You are a seer.”
Janet sighed. “Well, I’m not so sure I want such a gift. I don’t like seeing ghosts. I’ve always been terrified of ghosts.”
Mary laughed, and it reminded Janet of the merry sound of small silver bells. She smiled in spite of herself.
Mary leaned over and patted her hand. “You needn’t be frightened, my dear. They’re not ghosts at all. They’re very much alive, but not of this world.”
She paused, taking a sip of tea. “You see, my dear, you and I are the ghosts. I thought you knew.”