Mysterious ghost might be the key between a young girl and what haunts her troubled father. Ghost story written by Samantha Frazer Gordon
I wasn’t like the other girls and there was never a shortage of those willing to remind me as to why. I was rangy, completely devoid of grace and just not pleasing to look at. The clothes I wore were better suited to boys, but they were better than nothing, I suppose, I was used to the name-calling and the tricks the other kids played on me, but still I felt cheated somehow. Cheated because I didn’t have anyone that I could talk to about it, someone to tell me that it would be okay, maybe even explain to me why people are so cruel. Daddy didn’t say much and I didn’t have a mother, so I was pretty much on my own. Daddy cared about me in his own way, but he didn’t have much left over for me, he was doing his own dance with what haunted him.
I loved the summer because it offered me room to breathe if only for a few short months. I could let the mean words pass through me and get myself ready for more in the fall. But things would change this summer, or at least I would. I’ve heard people talk about ghosts, and how they are really just a reflection of us or they represent our greatest fears. I’m not sure about that but I know that life is full of twists and turns and we go through things that change us along the way. Something went through me that summer, and it would cause me to believe in something I never thought I would, myself.
Some days I would walk down to the church and help Pastor Dan with the garden. I seemed to have a flair for gardening; at least Pastor Dan said I did. He would let me borrow some of his gardening books and over the years he had given me a rose plant or two. When I started the garden it didn’t look like much, the roses were as scraggy as I was, but things change. I planted each rose bush and took care of them and before I knew it they had grown into something beautiful, maybe there was hope for me yet.
I felt things that summer that I had never felt before, Pastor Dan said it was because I was turning into a young woman, which scared me because I wasn’t sure how to do that. How would I know what to do, worse yet, what if I did it wrong and people laughed. The other kids teased me as it was, being gangly only added to the problem. I tried to hold my head up but sometimes I couldn’t and it felt as though someone was stroking my hair, ever so gently, but when I looked there was no one there. Sometimes when I would sit in the swing with my eyes closed I would feel someone push me. I asked Pastor Dan about it, at first I thought maybe it was God. But certainly God has better things to do than stoke my hair and push me on the swing. I wanted to ask him what he thought about ghosts and if he thought a house could be haunted, but I could never work up the courage.
I didn’t think our house was haunted but something about it wasn’t quite right. I’m not sure why I kept going into the room, it was always so cold and still. Even in the middle of a Southern heat wave, the room was frightfully cold. I knew why it was cold but it had nothing to do with the weather, it had to do with love. There were mementos stored in tattered, cardboard boxes, meant to remain hidden from view, but there are some things you just can’t hide. Some things you can’t see even though they are right in front of you. The boxes contained pieces of a lost life and a love that refused to grow cold. Sometimes I would gather up my courage and look through the boxes that smelled of the past and of timeless hurt.
Some of the photographs were of my mother, I barely remember her because she didn’t stay long enough for me to get to know her. I was never sure if it was me or something else that drove her away, but I figured I would find out one day. Daddy never talked about it and I knew better than to ask. I guess they looked happy in the wedding pictures, at least they were smiling, but that doesn’t really mean anything. People always pretend and smiles seem to hide even the deepest pain.
There were scattered pictures of another woman in one of the boxes, I desperately wanted to ask who she was, but didn’t. Her long, straight hair covered part of her face and whenever I looked at her pictures I would get butterflies in the pit of my stomach. Her head was always down in the pictures and I wondered if she was sad or just camera shy, like I was. On the back of one of her pictures someone wrote, “It was because she was beautiful and I was not, and I had to die to make you notice”. I wondered what it meant. I wouldn’t have to wait too long to find out.
I always sleep with the window open, even in winter, mainly because I love the feel of the night air. The night air feels different, because it possesses those forbidden thoughts that only come out at night when no one could see who they belonged to. The summer nights in Georgia are blessed with a gentle breeze and I watch it dance through my curtains and in its wake it fills my room with the faintest hint of roses. Pastor Dan told me that the rose bush and their thorns symbolized courage and that white roses were a symbol of purity and eternal love. I guess everything has a meaning, a purpose.
Lately, I noticed that the rose bushes I had worked so hard on had some holes in it, as though someone had been cutting the flowers from the branches. It didn’t really bother me, it’s good to share; Pastor Dan always said so. But then it seemed as though every morning when I would look at it, more and more were missing. I also noticed that petals from the flowers were scattered out by the path leading to the woods, as though they were being dropped on purpose, and the stems were just left to die. Why would anyone take the flowers just to let them die? There were only a couple of neighbors close by and they didn’t seem to be the type that would take them just to toss them on the path.
Tonight I decided I would watch, just to see if I saw any rose thieves prowling about. I decided to wait up in the old willow tree where I would get the best view. I started to dose off around about midnight when I heard something. I looked down at the rose bush, but there was no one there. When I turned around I could tell by the sound that someone was walking on the path, but not walking the way most people would walk, it was almost as though the sound was lagging behind.
Something came into view but the image was faint and I couldn’t make out what it was. It was walking towards the house and I wasn’t sure if I should jump down or stay where I was. Then I remembered Pastor Dan and his talk about courage and decided if roses symbolized courage I could show some. I jumped down and watched it slowly approach me and as it got closer I could tell it was a she and she was dropping rose petals as she walked and the stems along the path were not dead, but in full bloom. I realized that I could see right through her. The butterflies in the pit of my stomach were back and as I saw her long, black hair I knew she was the woman in the pictures. I wasn’t afraid, but I was mesmerized and couldn’t move, but then, I didn’t want to. As she passed through me the butterflies took over and my entire body was tingling. I felt something in my hand and when I looked down I saw the most dazzling white rose I had ever seen. When I looked up, she was gone.
Pastor Dan sometimes talked about “the in-between place and the in-between people” in his sermons. I was certain she was one of those “in-between people,” but this wasn’t an “in-between place,” so why was she here and why was she taking roses? I wasn’t sure if I should tell Daddy that I saw the woman in the pictures or not. I didn’t know who she was and he might be upset. I didn’t think I should tell Pastor Dan, at least not yet, so I decided to wait and see if she would appear tomorrow night.
I waited in the willow tree again, and at exactly the same time, there she was. Would I be able to talk to her, could ghosts talk to the living, could they talk at all? What was it like in that “in-between place? I took my position to wait for her and as she approached I reached out to touch her, but I didn’t feel anything and when she walked through me this time I felt her stroke my hair, the way she had done all those times before. The tie I had in my hair came loose and my hair was flowing the same way hers was and in my hand was another white rose, more dazzling than the other. I wanted her to say something to me, but I guess in her own way she had.
The next night I decided to tell Daddy about the ghost because I wanted him to see her, I think he needed to see her, for reasons I didn’t know yet. He resisted and tried to shun the idea.
“I don’t ask you for much, Daddy, I just go about my business and stay out of your way. I do the cooking and the cleaning and take care of us the best I can, but you need to do this, not for me, for us.”
I guess he knew by the look in my eyes that the timid little girl who stayed out of the way was not going to give in this time, so he walked with me to the path of dead roses and we waited for her together.
“I like how you’re wearing your hair Charlotte; it looks really pretty loose like that. My little girl is growing up and I feel as though I missed it all.” He said the words with such anguish, as though he wasn’t sure what had happened. I didn’t want him to feel that way; there had been enough of that.
“I think we did okay, considering.” He reached over and took my hand and it felt good.
We both heard the rustling and looked. I never fully appreciated the phrase “you look as though you’ve seen a ghost” until I saw the look on his face, but then I saw the tears, he wasn’t seeing a ghost; he was seeing the woman he loved and somehow lost. He wanted to go to her, so he did. Right there on the path, she looked up at him and embraced him and for a brief moment she looked alive. But she faded and walked through him, the same way she did with me. She didn’t leave him with a rose though; she left him with something far greater, life.
I knew that she was my real mother and that she was willing to die to get back to us and I wondered how long the journey had taken her, I’m not sure what happened between them, or what tore them apart. I was certain it had to do with Daddy’s parents, because we never saw them and he never spoke about them. The woman he married was not the woman he loved, I guess she knew that and that’s why she left. Daddy just stood on the path looking; I know he was thinking he could see her every night, if only for a brief moment. I didn’t know if she would be back or not, I didn’t come back to the path of dead roses to wait for her, but he did, every night. It seemed as though Daddy wanted to talk about all sorts of things and we did, but not about that, as it should be. I did notice that he always had a vase of white roses in his bedroom and it made me smile. For the first time I looked forward to school and I knew that things would be different from here on out. There is so much to this thing called life, all the things we go through and especially the things that go through us. Ghosts don’t haunt us to scare us to death; they haunt us to scare us back to life.
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