I work for a ghost. He’s Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury and my silent Partner at Ruskin House, the philanthropic organization where we strive to aid the helpless.
The good Earl lived and died in the 19th century, but his spirit lives on guiding and financing the charitable work of the foundation. I was chosen for this task because the guiding lights in charge of this noble endeavor apparently saw the same light in me.
And, as if my life is not complicated enough, I’ve fallen in love with my phantom partner’s secretary who is also a ghost, but fortunately less rarefied.
It seems Jeannie Church, who passed prematurely during the decade of The Swinging Sixties is a territorial spirit—but can manifest corporeally as long as she stays within certain allotted boundaries.
I get dizzy dealing with a spectral associate who talks like Dickens and looks like Abe Lincoln—but I get dizzier still, romancing his ethereal assistant who looks like Elke Sommer, and whom I suspect is my soul mate.
“We have to explore boundaries, Jeannie.”
She smiles seductively in the filtered light of the crisp October morning. We’re standing between rows of apple trees in a local orchard filling up baskets and trying not to add to windfall scattered at our feet.
I’m getting flustered, and she’s enjoying it immensely.
“I’m talking about mapping a comfort zone,” I explain as I redden, “so I’ll be able to count on you staying physical, rather than dissolving into pixels.”
“So far, I don’t seem to have any trouble getting physical with you,” she drawls in a singsong little girl voice she knows disarms me.
“Argh! I’m trying to be serious here, and you’re teasing me. Now, you’ve done it—all I can think about is Olivia Newton John in a tight leotard.”
“That must have been before my time,” she smiles sweetly, batting her eyes.
“Actually, it was after your time, but before mine—Oh my God! This relationship is giving me bumble bees.”
“You’ll get used to it, Grant—I know I did.”
Suddenly, a thought hits me and my head starts spinning.
Jeannie’s face goes pale. “What’s wrong, Grant—are you okay?”
“Oh sure,” I grimace, “it’s not as if I just saw a ghost.”
She comes over and brushes away a stray strand of hair from my forehead. “I’m sorry if I teased you too much—I was just being playful.”
I shake my head, “ No, Jeannie—it’s not that. I just realized you and I are the same age, but you were born in 1935 and died in 1965. How the hell does that work?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, you should be eighty years old right now—Anthony’s over two hundred and talks like a Victorian novel. What the hell am I supposed to do with all that?”
“The same thing, I do,” she whispered.
“Accept it—like the way people have to accept getting old.”
“Yeah, right.” I turn away and gaze out over the fields.
She grabs me by the shoulders and turns me round to face her.
“Ah, that’s the problem, isn’t it?” Her eyes are bright, “You’re afraid of getting old while I remain young—that’s what’s really bothering you, isn’t it?”
I nod and stare helplessly.
“Well, you needn’t worry too much on that score,” she sighs.
“Well, because Mr. Prosecuting Attorney, I found that I can age too.”
“But you’re a ghost,” I sputter.
“Can a ghost touch you like this?” She gently caresses my cheek.
“Or, kiss you like this?”
She presses her soft lips to mine.
“You see, Grant, I’m a ghost, but not all ghosts are alike. When I go outside the village and dematerialize, I age a little—every time it happens.”
“Of course, Silly—it’s not like that old film Lost Horizon where Jane Wyatt leaves Shangri La and turns to dust—well, at least I won’t turn to dust all at once, just little by little, like you.”
“You mean you experimented with venturing beyond the village limits?”
She grew somber. “ I did venture out—and do you want to know why? It was horrid thinking of living out eternity trapped within these narrow confines. I made up my mind I’d try—even if it killed me—and some days I was so lonely, I hoped it would.”
Her voice trailed off and my heart melted.
I put my arms around her and held her tight, as if my embrace alone could protect her from the assaults of time and decay.
Despite tears glistening in her eyes, she was smiling, “But you see, I found you—and now I don’t care if I age and die—as long as I grow old with you.”
“So, you’d give up immortality for me?”
She touched my cheek and whispered, “You have no idea how desolate eternity would be without you.”
I kissed her—one deep lingering kiss, and when it ended, I saw forever in her eyes.
© 2015, John J Geddes. All rights reserved.