Authors: Karen Cantwell
i Grampy,” I said. “I need some love.”
“What’s wrong, Muffin?”
I grabbed onto him and he squeezed me tight. He always gave the longest, most heartfelt hugs. They were hugs that said I love you without words.
“I’m just having a bad day,” I sniffed.
“Sit down, I’ll get you a glass of milk and some cookies. I made ‘em just yesterday. Maybe my best batch yet.”
I pulled a chair out from his small kitchen table. There were a lot of memories at this table. Grampy was a grandpa and grandma all rolled into one. When my mother’s mother died far too early, Grampy filled her shoes without missing a beat, according to my mom. She was only fourteen when her mother died. Grampy was there for her emotionally and physically. He was her chef, her chauffeur to dance competitions that were sometimes hours away, her champion, her counselor, and her shoulder to cry on when she needed it.
And when my brother and I came along, he was the best Grampy ever. He cooked hearty meals and tasty desserts one day, then would teach us to fish the next.
He placed a cold glass of milk and a plate of chocolate chip cookies in front of me. When he sat, he gave me his undivided attention. “Tell me about it.”
A tear fell onto my cheek. I didn’t want to cry. I wanted to be stronger than that.
“Cal and I broke up,” I said, letting the tears give way. They spilled out in torrents. “And I thought he was the one. My one true love. You know, like you and Grammy.”
His big warm hands covered mine. “I’m sorry, Muffin,” he said. “Do you want to talk about what happened?”
Now, the thing was, I’d never told Grampy about Marmaduke. As loving and supportive as he was, I just never had the courage to bring it up. Shane and Amy’s reactions early on had burned me from trying to confess to anyone else that I’d met a ghost in a bar. I always figured I’d tell him one day, it just hadn’t happened yet. No time had ever felt like the right time.
“We had a fight,” I said. “Well, not really a fight, I guess.”
“A misunderstanding?” he asked.
“Yeah. Kinda. Kind of like a misunderstanding.”
“Do you still think he’s your one true love?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Then be patient. Everyone has misunderstandings. Turning them into understandings is how you learn to love each other more.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m the one who broke it off. A lot has been happening. His ex-wife has been wheedling her way between us. And he’s having trouble...I don’t know. It’s kind of hard to explain.”
“He can’t deal with the ghosts?”
I nearly stopped crying from surprise. “How did you know?”
“Your Grammy saw them too. I’ve suspected for a while now that you were like your grammy.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I wasn’t sure. And that’s not the kind of thing you just blurt out. ‘Do you see ghosts?’ I did that to your mother once, certain she was seeing spirits like her mother did. Turned out she was just having a bad case of puberty. But I freaked her out there for a while.”
“Wow.” I pondered this new bit of information. “So, did you have trouble with it? Her talking to people you couldn’t see?”
“Ha! Are you kidding me? It nearly did us in. She was a firecracker, your grandmother. Always had to be fixing things and helping people. And ghosts. Sometimes I felt like they were more important than I was.”
“But you worked it out. You figured out how to live with it?”
“I did, darlin’, but it takes two to tango. She had to meet me halfway.”
I munched on a cookie and gave that some thought. “Do you believe in soul mates?” I asked him.
“Nope. Not in a million years. There’s just too many souls out there for two to be meant for each other alone. What I believe is that there are a whole lotta souls out there that could be meant for each other, given the right ingredients. They feel the spark, the magic, but it’s the work you put into it once you decide to be together, to be a team, that’s what keeps the magic alive.”
“So why didn’t you look for another person to be a part of your life? Why do you choose to be alone?”
“I’m not alone,” he said quickly. “I have you.”
“Not every day. You know what I mean.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I dated a few women, but none of them matched up to your Grammy in my mind.” He shrugged. After we sat in peaceful silence for a while he asked, “Are there any spirits hanging around here right now?”
I wasn’t sure if there were. I thought I felt Marmi and Myrtle’s presence. “Marmi, are you there?”
“Present and accounted for,” he said, making himself seen.
“I just love your grand pappy,” Myrtle said. “Those cookies look delicious.” She sighed. “I miss eating cookies.”
I smiled. “Yeah, there are a couple hanging around. They say ‘hi’.”
Many hours and two meals later, I left Grampy’s house feeling better than when I had arrived. I was still confused and doubting what I’d done, but not entirely lost in a sea without hope.
Detective Sigmund called me as I was getting into my car. “Thanks to Myrtle and the news coverage, we didn’t have to go searching for Victoria Poplawski. She came to us.”
“She confessed. In a manner of speaking. She claims her then-boyfriend killed Myrtle. Smothered her after the baby was born. He sold the baby to a broker. They did it for the money, obviously, but she never thought the boyfriend would kill Myrtle. I’ve got no reason to doubt her since she came forward, but we’re talking to the boyfriend tomorrow. He’s in a prison down south. A real winner, this one. I’ll keep you posted when I learn more.”
“Thanks, Ed.” I backed my battered Honda out of Grampy’s driveway and headed for home. Marmi and Myrtle had talked me into watching another movie. I felt an urge to rub Uno’s head and to let Peter Pan out of his cage for some good snuggle time. Halfway there though, I had a change of heart. Instead of turning left at the light ahead, I decided I’d go straight through. Cal’s house was just a few minutes away.
I clicked off the turn indicator. “One stop before home,” I said.
“Are we still going to watch a movie?” Marmi asked. “I had Myrtle pumped off for
. Draws more tears than
“I think you mean pumped up,” I said. “We’ll get to the movie, don’t worry.”
“I think she’s going to see the doctor,” Myrtle said.
I smiled. The light turned green just as I approached the intersection. Relieved because I knew it to be a long light on red, I accelerated. “Good sign,” I said.
“What is a good—” Myrtle started to say.
“Oh Sophie!” shouted Marmi. “Look out!”
I looked. The headlights of a car were heading straight for me. The driver was running his red light.
I remembered thinking that Marmi’s warning had come too late.
pinning. I was spinning and spinning. People were shouting and I heard sirens.
My eyes opened to fog.
“Sophie!” someone hollered. “Sophie! Stay with me.” The voice sounded far away.
“Shane?” I asked. But he didn’t answer.
“Oh my God, where are they?” he said, sounding even farther away than before.
Then he was clearer to me and the fog was receding.
“Hello, Sophie,” Marmi said.
The ground I stood on felt uneasy, almost like there wasn’t any ground at all. “Do you see me?” he asked.
“Yeah. What happened? I feel so strange.”
“As if you have a bad case of influenza?”
Sounds around me grew louder and my gaze fell to a figure on the ground.
“Marmi, am I...”
“I’m afraid so, my friend.”
“That’s Shane,” I said.
“Yes. He’s most desperate. He was the first one here.”
I watched Shane move out of the way for another man in a uniform.
“Are they trying to save me?”
“I believe so. Do you see a light, Sophie?”
“There are lots of lights. From the cars.”
“No. A brighter light. A warm and comfortable light.”
“That is hopeful,” he said.
The man hovered over my body while I watched helplessly, feeling disconnected from Marmi’s world or mine.
“I don’t like this feeling, Marmi.”
A fog settled around me again.
I found myself hiking a trail I’d hiked many times with Cal. The trail along Ridge Falls Park. Only I was alone this time. No Cal, no Marmaduke. Just me. At first, the hike was nearly effortless and I gazed upon endless fields of wildflowers in bloom. Blues and pinks, yellows and purples dotted the landscape, and I sighed at the stunning glory of the moment. And then I remembered it was fall. There shouldn’t have been wildflowers blooming in fall. But I quickly dismissed the thought because I didn’t care. Their beauty made me happy anyway.
But soon the hike became difficult and more treacherous. Each step felt like my feet weighed a hundred pounds. And I grew upset because ahead was a lookout over the falls. I wanted to make it to the lookout, to gaze upon the falls and the rushing water and the blue sky as it hung over the majesty.
I stopped moving. I was never going to make it. I was simply too tired to walk another inch. Snowflakes began to fall and I hugged myself for warmth. The air was so cold.
I huddled against a tree, feeling more and more despair as the world darkened around me again.
Voices in the darkness stirred me. I opened my eyes and through a blur saw two people talking. I was in a bed and felt warmer, but now worried about the blinking lights all around and the constant beep, beep, beep.
Darkness surrounded me again until I felt a familiar warmth on my hand. I opened my eyes to see Grampy sitting beside my bed, holding my hand. He had his head bowed in prayer.
I tried to talk, but I couldn’t. I needed to know where I was. Where was Cal?
Then I remembered being out of my body and talking to Marmaduke.
“Marmi?” I said in my thoughts, “am I alive?”
“You are,” I heard him say.
“Why can’t I see you?”
“I do not know.”
“Shane went to find him,” he said.
I drifted into darkness again, too weak to stay awake.