attendant upon you, shaken by your beauty

Shaken by your beauty
–William Carlos Williams


I was sitting back enjoying a cold Carlsberg and savoring the hygge of relaxing with Mel on a sunny afternoon.

Melody Bride is my book shepherd, literary agent and at times, my secret passion—especially when she’s dressed to kill.

Other times though, she annoys me enough to kill her—but not today. Today, I’m feeling mellow.

“I want to go for a drive,” I say dreamily.

She looks up from her book. “Where?”

“Out in the country,” I sigh.

“Can you be more specific?”

I lift a hand and make a throwaway gesture. “You know—Big Sky country.”

She’s biting her lip now and growing impatient.

“C’mon, cowboy—we live in Canada, third largest country in the world—actually, second largest if you discount Antarctica. That’s a lot of real estate. So, where specifically do you want to go?”

I sigh resignedly, “Okay, I want to drive out to Willow Grove.”

Her face lights up with mock enthusiasm and she says drolly, “Um, would that be the same place you decided was your forever home?”

I grow uncomfortable.

She puts on her syrupy, sweet little girl voice and it’s dripping with sarcasm.

“You know what I’m saying, Jay—how you dragged me out there, only to turn around six months later, and drag me back here?”

I color with embarrassment. “Well, there were extenuating circumstances. C’mon Mel—my bloody house was haunted!”

“Right—and that’s why you intend to go back?”

She blinks her huge brown eyes at me.

Damn! This girl has missed her calling—as a prosecuting attorney.

I take a few deep breaths, calm down a little and try reasoning with her.

“Actually, the fact my house was haunted is exactly why I want to go back. That whole damn town is filled with ghostly manors. I need a spooky house as a setting for my next James Randall Murder Mystery—you remember that best-selling book series that pays your salary?”

I can’t resist giving her a little of her own.

“Don’t play coy, Jay—it doesn’t suit you,” she sniffs. “Besides, I may be your book shepherd, but I’m not your Muse!”

“Yeah—you sure about that?”

I give her my boyish grin—I’m told it disarms women, but Melody has always been immune to my charms.

I wait patiently for her to reply, but she’s gone silent and just when I figure I’ve lost the argument, she pipes up, “Okay, Jay—you win. Give me a half hour to get ready and we’ll go.”

I suppress my boyish grin and meekly nod.

She heads upstairs to use the spare bedroom as her wardrobe room.

Why women need a half hour to put on makeup to become gorgeous just to go for a ride in the country is beyond me—but chalk one up for the good guys.

But now I’m beginning to have second thoughts.

I really meant what I said about Melody being my Muse—she gets these vibes, and they always turn out right. So, if she’s feeling queasy about going, that’s probably a bad omen.

I’m thinking maybe we should stay home, but there’s no way I’m going to say that now, not after getting my own way.

If Mel is having second thoughts, I’ll gladly let her off the hook, and feel a whole lot better as well.

But within the half hour, Melody is dressed, if you can call it that—She’s distractingly beautiful in a skimpy tank top, jean shorts and flip flops. It’s not exactly hiking gear, especially if we have to get out of the SUV and go spelunking, or climbing over walls.

Yeah, well I probably won’t be doing that either—but just saying.

We take old Garden Ave. and head down ye olde Cockshutt Road—and, of course, Mel laughs hilariously at the rude-sounding name. She’s so immature sometimes, but yeah, it’s funny, so I play along.

“Take this side road,” she orders. I hate it when she acts like co-pilot, but even more when she turns navigator.

We drive about half a mile before she orders me to slow down as we crest a hill.

“There’s a historic plaque near that gate over there—I want to read it.”

She gets out and spends five minutes decoding every comma, dash and semi-colon. I’m drumming my fingers on the steering wheel.

She waves me over. “C’mere Jay, you gotta see this—it’s an old pioneer cemetery.”

I’m growing impatient. It’s hot and dusty on this side road, and I was hoping to drive into town and grab a cold beer—Okay, a soft drink, knowing Melody—not that she’d offer to be designated driver.

“Why do I have to see this?” I growl.

She links one arm in mine and smiles up at me sweetly, “Because we can read the dates on the tombstones and get an idea of how old the houses must be around here.”

Her logic is impressive—that would never occur to me.

I creak open the rusted Iron Gate and we enter the cemetery. It’s more an abandoned wreck than an abode of the dead.

For some reason it strikes me as a swamped ocean liner, listing on its side. The out-of-kilter tombstones are the ship’s masts, and the whole rotten structure is on the verge of slipping into oblivion beneath green waves of windblown grass.

Everything about this cemetery seems surreal.

I picture Mel and me as deep-sea divers moving in slow motion, inspecting a shipwreck. That’s how it seems in the windy field as we’re swaying like seaweed, and plodding through rocking wreckage, reading inscriptions.

It’s obvious these are the graves of the people who built the haunted manors in Willow Grove—the names of these dead people just happen to be the street names of the town.

It chills me being here, even though it’s sunny and the sky is piled high with fair weather clouds, It feels eerie as if I’m twenty thousand leagues under the sea, and in danger of being attacked by giant sea eels.

I’m about to ask Melody if she feels the same vibe, when she starts screaming. My blood freezes.

I turn and look back at her and all I can see is a slithering mass of wriggling snakes gliding out of the long grass and heading right toward her.

She’s frozen to the spot, and half bent over as if she’s about to puke.

I grab her from behind and carry her, kicking and screaming, to the edge of the cemetery and unceremonially, dump her over a crumbling stonewall.

I look back to see the snakes—hundreds of them, streaming toward us—quickly covering ground by using an undulating, sidewinding motion.

I jump the wall, grab her by the hand and pull her toward the SUV. Once we’re both safely inside, I floor the accelerator and leave the ghost ship graveyard to rot and rock in silence for another hundred years.

We barrel down the dusty road raising a ghostly cloud behind us.

Finally. Mel gets her voice back.

“Oh my God,” she gasps, “why did those snakes attack us?”

I look over at her skeptically, like she’s the one with the forked tongue.

“Are you crazy, Mel—why the hell do you think they attacked us? They’re bloody carnivores. Think about it—they tunnel in the ground—so what do you think they’ve been feeding on in that rotting graveyard for the past centuries?

“Stop—Stop!” she shouts.

“All right—all right!” I yell, my ears ringing from her shrill voice.

There’s a small stone bridge over a creek, so I hit the brakes and the SUV skids to a cloudy stop in the dusty road just before it.

“Satisfied?” I hiss.

She grabs her water bottle, jumps out, and rushes over to the wall of the bridge and pukes into the water below.

I roll my eyes and gaze heavenward.

“Great—just great, Mel!” I call out. “That’s probably some poor farmer’s drinking water you just contaminated.”

She’s still spitting like a snake, trying to get rid of the awful taste in her mouth.

Finally, she’s chugging back mouthfuls from her water bottle and loudly gargling. I’d hate to listen to that every morning for the rest of my life.

She stomps back to the car bristling with anger. “Don’t say anything, Jay—just don’t. You’ve said quite enough for one day.”

“What—what? Am I talking?”

The cold dead stare in her eyes is menacing as a snake’s, but I wisely shut up and continue the drive into town.

Just another Pleasant Valley Sunday, I muse.


Ten minutes later we’re at the Chinese restaurant in town having lunch—Well, actually I am—Mel’s sipping on a huge glass of ice cold lemon tea and still grumbling about the bad taste in her mouth.

“We’ll stop at the pharmacy and get some mints,” I tell her.

Why does everything become a drama with us?

Mel takes a long sip of lemon tea and nods docilely. Maybe we’ll be able to rescue something from the trip after all.

I’ve seen a huge, old, abandoned manse on a hill nearby and plan on exploring it. As far as I’m concerned, Mel can wait back in the car if she still has qualms about snakes.

Sure enough, as soon as we pull up to the side of the road, she puts her foot down. “I am definitely not going up there,” she declares.

I shrug. “Suit yourself. I’ll just scope out the house and grounds and take a few photos—maybe make a few notes.”

“Why not use the voice memo feature on your cell phone?” she suggests.

“Good idea!” I smile.

Mel comes in handy sometimes, when she’s not screaming shrilly in my ear.

I get out and climb up the steep slope toward the house. The grass is dry and littered with downed tree branches, and so I have to be careful as I pick my way to the top.

When I crest the hill, I’m awe-struck by the grace and beauty of the old manse. It has obviously been deserted for years though—the windows are all boarded up, and the white, pillared portico that shelters the main entrance door is sagging from decay.

Still, it is impressive and must have been a beauty in its day.

I snap several photos and add some observations by using the voice memo function on my phone.

“You’re trespassing on private property, you know.”

I recognize Mel’s whisper, and decide to ignore her.

I take another photo of the old glassed-in conservatory—such an elegant wreck.

“I know you can hear me. Don’t you think it’s rude to ignore me?”

“Okay, Mel, excuse me for being frustrated,” I shout.

I turn around to face her, and my jaw drops.

Standing beneath a huge oak tree is a girl who resembles Mel, but is eerily different. Her red hair is longer and tied back with a black ribbon into a loose pony. She’s wearing a period dress that looks like it’s from the 1890’s.

Great! They must have turned the house into a historical museum.

“I’m sorry—I thought you were my literary agent,” I mumble.

“Oh, well that explains everything,” the girl smirks. “Women who work for you obviously don’t matter.”

My face falls. I must look like an insensitive dolt. “Naw, It’s not like that—Mel and I are friends—sort of.”

“I see. I suppose it’s all right then to be impolite toward her.”

I’m digging myself in deeper.

“Look, I’m sorry I trespassed—I thought the house was abandoned.”

The sunlight filtering through the leaves lights up her hair and ignites a fire in me—she’s so feminine and elegant she makes me feel boorish and crude in her presence.

Suddenly my charm deserts me and I feel as awkward as a common laborer encountering a sophisticated lady.

If I had a cap on my head, I’d remove it, and wring it in my hands with eyes lowered. As it is, I’m so ashamed I hang my head in embarrassment.

When I finally look up, she’s gone.

I stare dumbly at the deserted patch of sunlit grass where the girl stood—and then, I come to my senses, spin wildly around, and gaze furtively in every direction looking for her, but to no avail.

The lady has fled.

I approach the spot where she stood and inhale a faint scent of lavender—it seems elusive and haunting as if the air itself were scented with the distilled essence of her.

I slowly descend the hill and return to the SUV.

Melody is curled up in the back seat sleeping—her red hair a copper and gold alloy in the sun.

She looks so lovely sleeping in sunlight that a pang of regret stirs in me.

I realize how desolate I feel.

I want to awaken every morning to her soft whisper—her fiery hair scattered on the pillow—her breath gentle as snowflakes.

I sit sideways in the front seat, shaken by her beauty—shaken, but still wise enough to let her sleep.

© 2016, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

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Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.


I’m an academic—in other words, a timid soul.

If you saw me you’d know my type—skinny, bearded face, glasses and Harris Tweed jackets with leather elbow patches.

I’m a Professor of Literature teaching courses on love and romance. For fun, I edit a literary review. See what I mean? Caspar Milquetoast on campus.

I’m a lot bigger on the inside than on the outside, but I’m not sure women see me that way—in fact, I’m not sure they see me at all.

I once penned a book of poetry published by Anansi Press.

I thought the love poems torrid, but the black and white photo of the fragile poet probably belayed the idea in the minds of female readers.

I teach beautiful women. I’ve been among the mermaids and came up covered with seaweed.

They have trailed their beauty across my path—sat on ocean rocks listening—but haven’t lingered long.

That’s why I chose a sabbatical by the sea.

I’ve listened to them sing—now I want them to sing to me.


“So, Prof, what brings you to Anna Maria Island?”

The twenty-year old sales clerk looks like any of my students and just as cocky. He’s got wavy blonde hair, blue eyes and a surfer body. Probably a beach bum, I muse.

“I came here to get away—look at the waves—maybe write.”

“You came to the right place for that—but if you’re looking for chicks, I’d have picked Fort Lauderdale.”

“Yeah, well—this suits me.”

He smirks and hands me my new beach wardrobe. “I’m sure it does.”

I’ve got knee-length khaki shorts, a couple of cool tees, and a pair of turquoise plaid swim trunks that are fashionably mid-thigh length.

I’m all set except for my bone-white pallor.

“Have you got any self-tan bronzing mousse?”

He scans my pale skin. “Here—St. Tropez—it’s on the house.” He tosses the bottle into my bag.

“Don’t stay out in the sun too long, even after applying this stuff—you’ll look like a mixed grill.”

“Thanks, Man,” I murmur, trying to appear cool.

“No prob,” he winks.


I like the Florida Gulf side and particularly Holmes Beach—came here with my folks in high school and fell in love with it.

What I told the sales clerk is partly true—I want to look at the waves and maybe write—but the other part, I didn’t tell. I want to look at women and have them look back at me.

That’s not too much to ask, is it? I don’t think so.

The cottage I’ve rented is on a narrow lane, just steps from the beach. It’s got a garage filled with every possible beach toy imaginable.

I explore the garage and select some items. I spot a wheelbarrow. Great! Into it, I throw a beach umbrella along with a folding chair, a beach towel, a cooler and my binoculars.

I wheel the whole damn lot down to the water and sit there for an hour.

The ocean and sky are wild and beautiful, but I’m restless. No mermaids are calling.

I go back to the house and come back with a kite I bought at the surf store. I fly it until it reaches the end of its tether. I’m bored and tie it to the aluminum frame of my chair.

I walk down the beach looking for shells.

I come back in time to see my red kite break free and line trailing, head off across the Gulf on its way to Mexico.

I follow it with my binoculars until it’s a speck on the horizon and lost beyond the waves. Maybe a mermaid will find it on the opposite coast. I hope so.

I’ve sent my cosmic SOS. Now, all I have to do is wait.


By four o’clock, I’m bored.

I pack everything up and decide to go into town. I’ll have an early supper, come back and shower and then carry a glass of wine down to the beach and watch the sunset.

I spot Harry, my neighbor from the cottage behind. I shout to him, “Hey, where’s a good place to eat?”

He shouts back. “If you like ribs try Mr. Bones on Gulf Drive.”

Name sounds creepy, but you always ask a local where to eat. I wave back in acknowledgment. Mr. Bones it is.


Fifteen minutes later, I’m standing outside the eatery, looking up at a dancing skeleton on a slate gray sign. It even looks creepy, but I go in.

The décor is more reminiscent of Haiti with its Voodoo atmosphere. A life-sized clothed skeleton effigy guards the door—hell, even the beer is stored in ice in a coffin.

Like I said, creepy, but the sign above the door says New Orleans Trained Chefs—so, what’s not to like about that?

I pick a window table where I can stare out at the road and wayside parking lot. Sure enough, a biker gang shows up.

My heart sinks, but I already placed my order. I make up my mind to eat my meal and quietly leave.

I’m watching them horsing around in the parking lot and my gaze is drawn to one biker chick. She’s wearing road-tarnished leathers—both jacket and stovepipe chaps.

She’s heartstoppingly beautiful. She draws my soul right out of my body.

“Can I put this down, hon?”

I look up to see the waitress. I color and make room, pushing my beer aside.

Soon, the party spills into the restaurant, and I relax somewhat. The waitress knows the gang members and jokes good-naturedly with them.

Every table quickly fills. I’m staring outside wondering where my girl has gone, when I hear a soft voice.

“Do you mind if I sit here?”

It’s the biker chick in all her tooled leather glory. “Sure—please have a seat.”

She sits down and her dark hair spills across her shoulders. She smiles at the antics of the pack leader—an older grizzled guy named Hoss.

I try to go through the motions of eating. Suddenly, she swivels around and smiles at me, “I’m Hettie.”

“Paul Rutledge,” I mumble through a mouthful of ribs.

“That looks good,” she laughs.

I’m feeling self-conscious and lift the napkin to wipe sauce from the corners of my mouth.

“Here,” she says, taking the cloth, and brushing it lightly across my cheek. “That’s got it.”

I’ve never been this close to a mermaid. My head feels like a bathysphere and my ears are singing like the sea.

“You’re not scared are you?” she asks.

I’m not sure if she means her or rat pack friends.

“No,” I lie.

“Some people don’t understand motorcycle culture.”

I nod. I’m one of them.

“Are you visiting?”

I nod again.

“I figured. You don’t look like a local. Where are you from?”

“Toronto. I teach university there.”

Her eyes dance. “Really? What do you teach, Professor?”

My ears are roaring now and my pulse is racing.

“I teach courses on love and romance.”

“Well then, you must be an expert.”

I color up to the roots of my hair.

“I’d hardly say that.”

“Do you believe in soul mates?”

“We get into that with Bronte’s Wuthering heights,” I hedge, “but I suppose I do—I’m idealistic enough.”

“I thought you were,” she smiles. “I saw you through the window and thought you looked interesting.”

I look around and see there are other seats available. I begin to tremble inside and can hardly breathe.

“It’s really noisy and crowded in here—do you want to go to the beach?”

“Sure,” I reply.

I ask for the bill and pay at the cash register. She’s waiting outside, leaning on her Harley, her long legs accentuated by the tight leather chaps.

“Here, put this on,” she says, handing me a helmet.

I’ve never been on a motorcycle, but I’ve also never been with a beautiful girl. Who am I to deny the universe?

Once I’m securely seated behind her, she roars off down the narrow road and heads for the beach.

Soon, we’re lying side by side on the white sand in the shade of a tree. I watch the long white waves come rolling in.

The wind gently teases her hair.

“It’s kind of lonely,” she sighs, “ don’t you agree?”

“It is.”

“The sound of the sea,” she whispers.

She leans over and kisses me, softly at first, and then, deeper and longer. I close my eyes and drink her in—satiate myself with her essence.


We lie there in each other’s arms until the sun sets and the pale moon rises.

The ocean becomes a black wall of undulating water—just looking at it, gives me vertigo.

I inhale the jasmine scent of her hair.

I like Jasmine—it releases its fragrance while the world sleeps unaware of its beauty and truths.

And I like her.

Just being with her makes me dizzy and giddy.

“You are so beautiful, as lovely as the night.”

“Could you write a poem about me?”


“What would you say?”

“I’d say your hair is like dark trees of night that move upon the sky.”

“That’s beautiful, Paul.”

I stare at her lovely face barely visible now in the gloom.

“Why did you stop writing?”

I’m confused. Did I tell her that?

“I think I stopped writing when I stopped believing.”

She props herself up, leaning on one elbow, and looks sadly at me.

“Stopped believing in what?”

I’m swept into a vortex of rustling leaves and leathers.

“Stopped believing in mermaids, I guess.”

“You know, women will find you attractive, Paul—you draw out the soul through your words.”

I couldn’t see her distinctly in the darkness. Her words were some dark alphabet of letters obscuring her face—hiding her beauty.

If I saw her at all, it was through a trellis—a latticework of lines.

“The dreams you stir in women may be the only reality they’ll ever have.”

Did she say that, or did I think it?

Her dark mouth was on mine again and we lay back to the sound of the pounding surf and the cool night breeze soughing through the trees.

When I awoke in the gray dawn, she was gone.

I walked for half an hour back to my car and drove home.


I’ve been back to the restaurant. They don’t know her.

The waitress knows the motorcycle gang, but they never heard of Hettie or anyone matching her description.

“I wish a cool Mama like that would ride with us,” says Hoss, with a rueful smile.

I’m perplexed. I have no explanation.


I’m back in Toronto now, and some nights I spend writing poems and others I spend on dates with beautiful women who say they like my tales.

They say I bewitch with words—I wish it were true, though they insist it’s so.

Sometimes, late at night, I drive to the lake and watch the long white waves rolling in.

I think of white sand, sea oats and chaps.

I think of the mermaid who gave me my beginning in this enchanted world.



© 2016, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

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the ghost


Bethany’s first encounter with the ghost

She wasn’t sure what awakened her, but she could sense a presence in the room. She felt the hair on her neck stand on end as she lay on the couch holding her breath and listening. There was no sound, except for her heart ponding in her ears. As she strained to see in the darkness, she could discern an indistinct form gliding down the stairway. It appeared to be a man holding a candle in his hand. She let out a gasp and sat up on the couch. He was an older gentleman, with reddish hair and beard, dressed in turn-of-the century style clothing. The specter appeared to be equally alarmed at seeing them too. All three were frozen in time for a moment as if in a tableau vivant, then, the man slowly began to fade and disappear.

She shot up from the couch, turned on the lamp and stood. Jude went over to the staircase, sniffed the carpeted step and then walked back and curled up at her feet. Could I have been dreaming? She was cold and shivering. She rubbed the goose bumps on her arms nervously as she contemplated the possibilities. Jude yawned up at her, apparently satisfied there was no threat. It was just a dream she assured herself and forced herself to lie back down. She waited until she felt calm enough to turn off the lamp.

It wasn’t easy for her to control her racing thoughts, let alone relax enough to get back to sleep. At one point, she turned on the lamp to check the time on the grandfather clock—it was half-past three. She got up, rummaged around and found a baseball bat in the corner near the fireplace. No sense in taking any chances. She returned to the couch, turned off the lamp and with the baseball bat clutched to her chest, soon fell back to sleep.

The next time it happened she was prepared. This time she heard a distinct scraping noise coming from the direction of the hallway. She carefully slid off the couch bat in hand and silently made her way toward the front door. She could hear Jude panting behind her, nose on her right calf, clinging to her as if attached by a leash. Then a hand came out of the darkness and clawed at her face. She screamed and lashed out with the bat, flailing blindly in the darkness.

A great roar filled her ears as the dark form toppled back into the foyer. Panic gripped her and she groped madly along the wall until her hand found another light switch and snapped it on. On the floor of the foyer lay Griff, propped up on one arm and staring at her with glassy eyes. He was rubbing his right shoulder.

“Beth?” He tried to make sense of the spectacle of the blonde-haired girl, back-lit by the hall light, standing over him, baseball bat in hand.

“Griff?” She dropped the bat and ran to him. “I’m so sorry.”

“S’fine,” he replied, floundering around on the floor.

“I feel so bad—I could have killed you.”

“Naw, you couldn’t—you swing that bat like a klutz.”

She held out a hand to help him up and he glumly managed to get to his feet. She helped him over to the nearby sofa chair.

“Lucky for you, I grew up in the country and never played baseball.”

“Yeah, lucky me,” he hissed, as he tried pulling his coat off his sore shoulder. He was having no luck, so he stood up and tried pulling harder.

“Let me help you with that. I’m so sorry—I thought you were an intruder. ” She gently lifted the coat off him.

“An intruder—what made you think that?”

“I saw an old man on the stairs earlier—at least I think I did. Maybe I was dreaming. Anyway, when I heard a noise again in the hallway, I thought it was him.”

He stood dumbly staring at her glassy eyed and then burst out into hysterical laughter. “You tried to kill George?”

“Who the heck’s George?”

“S’okay, don’ worry ‘bout it. My fault. Lost my door key—always do that.” He wavered unsteadily on his feet.

She realized not only was he slurring his words, he was stinking drunk.

“Need to sleep,” he muttered and started to curl up on the sofa chair.

“Wait, you can’t sleep down here—it’s freezing. Let me help you up to your bed.”

“Sorry babe, don’ feel like foolin’ round—just want to sleep.” He turned over with his back towards her.

“How dare you! What do you think I am—one of your cheap dates?”

“Gotta sleep now,” he murmured, putting a cushion over his head.

She was so incensed she had to struggle against the urge to plant a kick directly into his backside—which offered a very tempting target at that moment. Instead, she threw both hands in the air and uttered, “argh!” grabbed her jacket and stormed out of the house.

All the way back to her apartment, she was suppressing the urge to swear. Such a frustrating night! First, the dream, and then Griff. It was four thirty by the time she got home, stomped up the stairs and slammed the door in a fury. Samantha looked up dreamily and leapt off her window perch, rubbing up against her. She bent down and swept her into her arms. “Sorry, Sam, I should’ve spent the evening with you—it would have been much more pleasant, I’m sure.” She headed off to bed.

Bethany agrees to live in the carriage house and finds out more about the Ghost

She awakened with a start. She lay there, heart pounding, unsure of where she was. Then Jude turned over and licked her chin and she remembered. The doorbell sounded. She wondered if it were the bell in her dream. She leaped to her feet, almost falling back down, but put out a hand to grab the sofa back and steady herself while her body recovered. She could make out the profile of a woman. She motioned for Jude to wait and then, opened the door so suddenly it startled the visitor. “Can I help you?”

The woman was in her early fifties and beautiful. Her long gray hair was luxuriant, swept into a loose chignon that perfectly complemented her violet eyes. Her chalk-striped navy business suit was elegantly tailored and she was carrying a thin, black leather attaché case. Upon first opening the door, Bethany felt intimidated, but when the woman turned and saw her, she exuded the warmest smile Bethany ever saw. She felt instantly accepted as if she had just been wrapped in an embrace.

“Hello. You must be Bethany.” The voice was so kind it almost took her breath away. “I’m Roz, Griff’s assistant. We spoke on the phone.”

“Oh, right! Pleased to meet you,” she stammered. “Won’t you come in?”

The woman followed her into the living room where Jude had been obediently waiting and as soon as he spotted her, he made a beeline for her yipping and bounding like a pup. Bethany tried to intercept him, but to no avail. He dodged beneath her out-stretched arms and placed both paws on the front of the woman’s suit, trying to lick her face.

“Jude, no!” Bethany cried in vain, but instead of pushing him off, the woman crouched down and hugged him, stroking his head and eventually letting him rest his chin on her lap.

“Guess you’re friends, eh?”

Roz smiled up at her. “Jude is my little boy, but I’m afraid I spoil him—don’t I pup?” She gave him a playful tug at his ears and he licked her cheek. She got up and sat on the couch where Bethany joined her. Jude was now content to stretch out at Roz’s feet with his chin on her foot. She placed her attaché case on the coffee table and snapped the locks open.

“Griff tried phoning all morning, but I guess you were out with your other clients. He had to fly to New York, but we’ve drawn up the agreement and cut you a check for three month’s salary in advance. He asked me to meet you here at five and get you to sign the documents, but the traffic was horrendous and I’m not used to the rush hour commute.”

Well, at least he made an effort this time to act responsibly, she thought. She looked at Jude and made another of her mental notes to train him not to jump up on visitors.

“His bark’s worse than his bite, you know,” remarked Roz.

“Oh, I know he’s just rambunctious,“ she said, patting his head, “but he still needs to be trained.”

The woman laughed. “I was talking about Griff—but I guess the comment still applies.”

Bethany flushed a little and Roz took note and smiled inwardly. “Here are two sets of keys to the carriage house—all the locks have been changed and the maid service has been through and tidied it all up.”

“There was no need…” she started to protest, but Roz raised a hand. “Nonsense. I’m sure Griff hasn’t been in there in months, not that he’d lift a finger to clean it.”

“Griff allows you to make those decisions?”

Roz looked at her sympathetically. “He’s a very busy man, Bethany, and doesn’t always have the time to consider all the things he should. Anyway, that’s where I come in.”

“Then you’ve worked for Griff for a long time?”

“Ten years this February. Griff took over the family business when his Dad passed away.”

“I see. I’m sorry—I didn’t mean to pry.”

“You weren’t prying. It’s only common sense to know about the person you’re working for. Lytton Gifts and Cards is one of the largest companies in Canada. It’s a huge responsibility for Griff to handle.”

“I can imagine how it must be a burden to employ so many people and have them depend on you.”

“Lytton Gifts and Cards is like a monster that can devour you and make so many demands on your time. I know it all too well, and Griff has also paid a steep price. He’s also had some difficult patches the past few years—his mom passed away soon after his dad—and now this business with Mandy.”

Roz looked out the window at the snow and blinked away a stray tear. Bethany saw the older woman was obviously quite attached to Griff, probably stepping into the void left by his mother. After a few moments, Roz composed herself and turned back to face Bethany. “You know the one commodity we prize at Lytton Gifts and Cards? —Loyalty. I know it sounds trite, but you’d be surprised how often people disappoint and ruin not only a business relationship, but a personal one as well. We’re like a big family here and when people let us down it affects everyone.”

Bethany wasn’t sure if Roz intended this remark for her or not. Suddenly, Roz’s face brightened, “But when I spoke to you on the phone, I knew you were the answer to prayer.” She patted Bethany’s hand and smiled kindly at her. “I just know we’re going to be friends.”

“I feel the same way,” she smiled back.

“You seem to be fitting right in—Griff told me you even met George.”

“Oh, I suppose he’s the family ghost,” she laughed. “Actually, it’s more like he bumped into Jude and me. I still find it hard to believe I wasn’t dreaming.”

“Have you seen his portrait yet?”

“His portrait?”

“George was the man who built this house and lived in it until he died.”

“Oh, I see.” Bethany didn’t really see the point at all, but she didn’t really know what to think or say.

“Well, come on. Let’s have a visit with the old guy.” Roz grabbed Bethany’s hand and led her up the staircase. They stood together on the carpeted landing in silence staring up at a framed picture of the very man Bethany had seen on the stairs. Beneath the ornate frame was an engraved brass plaque that read: George Bowden. 1854-1934.

It seemed so surreal, looking at the face of a man who once inhabited the house and evidently still did. The dying rays of the sun through the leaded window cast a rainbow of red and green hues on the wall.

“It’s lovely isn’t it?” Roz commented. “According to Elizabeth, Griff’s mother, George Bowden poured his heart and soul into this house. After it was completed in 1891, he moved in here with his wife and spent the rest of his life living in seclusion in the house he loved.”

“That’s sad,” Bethany observed, “but it probably explains why he’s still here.”

“Elizabeth saw him all the time. She loved the house probably as much as George did—as a matter of fact, she thought he was watching over the house and only appeared to those who had the same love for the place as he did.” After saying this, Roz looked directly at her, gauging her response.

“I was wondering, why me, but now I see. From the first time I drove up here, I fell in love with this house and its beauty.”

“Mandy hated the house—referred to it as ‘the museum’ and made Griff buy the condo in Manhattan and the house in Turks and Caicos. She was hardly ever home and when she was, she didn’t like spending time here. She always felt the house was judging her.”

She gave a short, embarrassed laugh, as if trying to soften her remarks. “I never was a fan of Mandy’s. The only thing she ever did, of which I approved, was to get Jude. Strangely enough, she was really good with him—when she was here.”

A fleeting look of disgust crossed her features and then was gone. It was as if she stumbled across something foul, quickly removed it, and now continued on again. She smiled at Bethany as if to reassure her, and then grasped her arm, guiding her back down the stairs to the living room.

When they sat back down, Roz remarked, “There are only a few papers requiring your signature—I’ll only take a few more minutes of your time.”

“I don’t mind—I’m enjoying our visit and talking about the history of the house.”

Roz looked at her quizzically. “You really do like it here, don’t you? It’s as if George designed the house with you in mind.”

“I really do love this place. If I owned it, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Did you hear that, George? Roz sung out to the house.

They both broke out laughing.

“Yes, I think you will fit in,” Roz said in a detached way that seemed to hint at a deeper meaning.

Then, a change came over Roz, as if a coin had fallen into place, setting in motion a whole new poetry of gesture. Suddenly, she was all business, briskly shuffling and arranging papers on the coffee table in the order in which she wanted Bethany to sign them. After each signature of Bethany’s, Roz added her own flourish. When the process was complete, Roz handed her several documents neatly folded in three as copies of the transaction.

“Griff told me to arrange movers for you. Here’s their card—feel free to phone and make arrangements whenever you’re ready.” She got up and held out her hand to Bethany.

“I don’t think movers will be necessary,” Bethany laughed. “I live in a furnished apartment and all my possessions can easily be brought over in my van. I’ll get my friend, Carly to help.”

Roz gave her a warm hug—not a polite hug, but a real hug, such as her mother would give. “I’m so glad we’ve found each other and if you need anything at all, don’t hesitate to phone.”

Bethany nodded and lowered her head so Roz couldn’t see the tears in her eyes. She didn’t know why she reacted the way she did, but Roz was so kind she made her want to cry. Somehow Roz understood and as she was leaving, touched the side of Bethany’s face with her hand. “Don’t worry. Everything will work out fine.” Then she was gone.

Bethany went back into the living room accompanied by Jude, his nose pressed against the side of her knee all the way. “Are you just being a typical Aussie, boy—or are you afraid I’ll leave you too?”

His eyes said it all, so she crouched down and hugged him until he licked her ear.  “I guess your master will be late home tonight, eh?” She decided to stay and spend the evening with Jude and go home about ten.

The Ghost is an excerpt from Epiphany by John J Geddes Reply w/ #AmazonCart for a free sample via @amazon


© 2016, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.

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