|It wasn’t as though she’d never seen a ghost before. Ghosts were,
as a rule, quite common in the environs of Tamson house. But this
one was different. Perhaps it was the way he sat on the dark stone
bench – unmoving, unwavering, as still as the stone itself. Perhaps
it was the hopelessness in the hunch of his shoulders. Perhaps it
was the way the starlight hit him, making him look like carved stone.
And perhaps it was just a gut feeling spawned by a long, hard day.
It was one-thirty in the morning, and Morena’s eyes throbbed, reminding her that she had missed her usual bedtime by more than a few hours. Tired as her eyes might be, however, her mind could not be persuaded to stop its ceaseless parade around a swirl of questions. Increasingly, as life filled with responsibility, she found that her only free moments were those stolen from the night. She had an idea for a new story -- well actually, it was an old story she’d never found the time to work on – and she was hoping that an hour or so alone in the East Garden would give an opening paragraph time to come and find her.
But the opening paragraph never had a chance, because he was in the east garden waiting for her.
As soon as she opened the wood-bound door that opened into the overgrown tangle of live-oak, scotch pine, and wildflowers she knew he was waiting for her. Knew with the same gut-jarring wrench that had alerted her to his presence in the first place. Noldor senses. She swore softly under her breath.
“Look like humans, live among humans, but the supernatural shit just homes in on us.”
Her bare feet making only a whisper of sound on the knot-work stepping stones, she crossed to the bench and collapsed cross-legged on the soft grass in front of its lone occupant. Before she could speak, she felt a soft tug on her shirt. Looking down, her eyes met a diminutive heart-shaped face looking back at her.
“We don’t like him.” The flower fairy declared solemnly. “He won’t talk to us. He won’t play with us. I think he has sy-co-log-ekal problems.” The small figure nodded sagely, then hesitated. “Can ghosts have sy-ko…those?”
Morena pressed her eyes shut, feeling the pounding of a headache begin hammering distantly behind her eyes.
“Yes, honey, I think they can. Now, can you run off and do whatever it is you little things do?”
“Are you grumpy.”
“OOOH.” The little fairy raced off in the general direction of a honeysuckle bush, and Morena heaved a great sigh. Maybe by the time they finished gossiping about the fact that she was in a bad mood and came back in numbers she would be gone. Garden fairies. They should be in bed, not trying to drive her out of her mind.
Looking up at the figure on the bench, she was surprised to find it looking back at her, a dim smile brightening its features.
“Good Morning.” The ghost smiled down at her. The softened curves of age coupled with the ghostly glow lent the smile a surreal, gentle quality that seemed to dampen the rising din of Morena’s headache. The gentle Irish burr on the words seemed to push it even further away.
“Good Morning, Mr?”
The ghost favored her with another illumined smile, “Just call me Joe.”
“All right, Joe.” She leaned back, resting her weight on her elbows, “You waiting on me?”
Joe nodded, pulling off a battered fedora and rubbing the ghostly sleeve of his worn suit across his forehead. “I wanted to find you, because when I was a boy, my mother told me you folk had a knack for finding things.”
“The fair folk.”
Morena shook her head, “Joe, I’m afraid I’m not one of your mother’s fair folk, and I am far better at losing things than finding them. I’m a Noldor – an entirely different breed of fae. Maybe my man, Farren could…”
Joe shook his head, turning the battered fedora between his pale, wrinkled fingers, “Nah, it’s you I was bettin’ on. I’ve been watching you while I’ve been here, and I guess I’m sort of attached to you. You’re about the same age my granddaughter would be now.” He shook his head again, and crammed the battered fedora back onto it. “If you can’t find it, then I reckon we’re all trapped here, and I should go on about my way.”
“The anchor that marks the doorway to this place.”
“Anchor? Doorway? What place?”
“The door to Tamson House. The place is always mighty hard to get in and out of, but now it seems mainly not possible. Haven’t you noticed all of the echoes in the house recently? I was hoping to go and look in on my family;” Joe contemplated the ground in front of Morena’s toes, “kind of a vacation, I guess. If ghosts can take vacations. But when I went to the main door, there was just a wall there. And the rodent said that’s been happening ever since the anchor went missing.”
Joe shrugged eloquently.
“I’ll look Joe,” Morena sighed. “But I won’t promise anything. I told you, I’m not that good at finding things, and I’m not very brave or athletic. But I will try. And maybe I can find someone else willing to help out.”
“Thanks.” Joe nodded, favoring her with another gentle smile as he began to drift into the rising early morning mist. “I knew you were like my granddaughter. Got a good heart like her, you do…”
Morena flopped back on the grass, watching the slips of mist drift across her view of the starry sky, ringing the bright dots in cloudy haloes. What the hell anchored a door anyway? A doorstop?
“Are you really grumpy?” “Can we help?”
A chorus of piping questions drifted across the grass. With a groan, Morena pulled herself to her feet, using the now-deserted bench for support. Damn pixie-fairies. Turning, she ignored the barrage of questions and headed back toward the House and bed.
Closing the heavy bras-bound door softly behind her, Morena slipped into the mellow glow of the Silkwater kitchen. She stood for a moment, listening to the comforting hum of machinery and crackle of fire. But