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Fantasy Coming of Age Romance

It’s dark. Not just dark, an impenetrable, oppressive darkness. You walk along a dirt road, your new white shoes squish into the mud and come up brown. But you cannot see this because of the impenetrable, oppressive darkness. A light looms in the distance on your left. It grows closer and closer as you squelch through the mud. The light morphs into a house as the distance diminishes. A small, wooden, two story house with a covered porch and a screen door. It sits in a dusty, tidy yard with a garden patch behind it and a picket fence in front. Jack o’ lanterns line the front stairs gleaming in the impenetrable, oppressive darkness. A large window lies to the left of the door. Inside rests a dining room with a table surrounded by people. A woman and man at either end. An old woman to the left of the man, a young boy to the left of the woman. Two identical girls across from them and a baby in a high chair next to them and beside the man. A family eat together. Dishes crowd the table: roast beef, peas, carrots, mashed potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, gravy. Your favourite meal. The family eats and smiles and laughs together. Nobody looks at the window. Nobody sees you outside in the impenetrable, oppressive darkness. You lift a foot to move on your way. You want-- no need-- to get home to your own little house and hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters who will soon fill the night.

***

George clutches his father’s hand. His little palm sweaty and kept slipping out of it. Inevitably, he falls behind the man when this happens and runs and catch up to him again. His father pauses on the side of the road and waits for him. Placing down his suitcase and dusting off his worn jacket. This cycle had repeated for the third time along a dusty, uninhabited stretch of road in the country. George, trotting to catch up with his father, catches sight of a girl about his age perching on the steps of a little wooden house. She lifts one hand in greeting as he passes by. George flaps his hand in return. She smiles at him then goes into the house.

“Hurry up George. We need to finish this route before dark. Hmph. I knew bringing a 5-year-old along was no good.”

“I’m coming daddy! I’m coming!” George’s little legs pump along as he trots down the dusty road. His father grabs his hand and begins walking again. His steady, measured pace along the side of the dusty, sun soaked road. “Daddy, why didn’t you stop at that house there?” George points a chubby finger back at the house he had passed. The father glances over his shoulder in the direction of George’s finger.

“Nobody lives there anymore George.”

“But I saw a girl. My age. She smiled at me!” the father stops and turns back to the house inspecting it again.

“Maybe a caretaker’s daughter. Look here son, nobody has lived in the Mathers' house for years. Now let’s go. Your mother is expecting us home soon.”

“But daddy. I saw a girl! She went inside the house!”

“I don’t know George, maybe a new family moved in. Now let’s go!” 

***

George wanders down the road late one August afternoon. It's a hot day, hotter than usual, so he pulled off his shirt and had tied it around his waist. He has on a hat and carries a stack of books. No other people pass him on the road and no houses line its sides. The sun blinds him so he doesn't see a familiar little wooden house pop up beside the road. As he nears he notices a girl, about his age, working in this garden. She wears her hair in a long braid and had a large straw hat perched on her head. She carries a large basket with tomatoes in it. She inspects one large green one as he walks by. She seems to talk to someone, but no one else appears to be in the yard. Maybe they are bent behind a plant or around the corner where he can't see them. George pauses beside the picket fence.

“Hello there!” He waves at the girl. She jumps and drops the basket. Tomatoes spill out and roll away from her. George jumps over the fence and runs over, bending to pick up the nearest tomato when he reaches it. “Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Ah i-it’s okay. Y-you didn’t scare me much. I’m just so used to being alone out here. Wasn’t expecting company, that’s all. Thanks for helping.”

“No worries! Hey, are you new in town? I haven’t seen you about before, but you look awfully familiar”

“Ahhhh yeah, I’m new. Just rented this old place. I um moved here from Alberta? Yeah. Ah just ah starting a little farm stand I think. Oh! Are you reading Poe? Yet, if Hope has flown away In a night, or in a day, In a vision, or in none, Is it, therefore, the less gone?

“What’s that?”

“Oh. Just a line from a poem. Nevermind.”

“Sorry, I’ve just started reading it… for my English class. I’m studying literature.”

“Oh, I love reading. I’ve read all my family's books.”

“All of them? What about library books and stuff?”

“I’ve never heard of those.”

“Oookay. So how’d you afford the house…?”

“Oh I inherited it. From my grandma.”

“Lucky. Do you live here alone?”

“Y-yeah. Kinda. I mean yes.”

“So you do or you don’t?”

“I do. I live alone. Ummm I’ve gotta take these in to can now, before I drop more haha. Thanks for all your help!”

“Wait what’s your name?!”

“Gwen.” The woman shouts over her shoulder as she dashs into the house. George stands in the yard staring at the swinging door, holding a tomato he just picked up.

“Was it something I said…?” He places the tomato down on the bottom step and continues down the road.

***

The small squat library perched like a book about to teeter off the edge of a shelve just outside the town of Wainswright. Inside the bookshelves created narrow hallways and tight corners, crowding out the patrons with their heaviness. The afternoon George entered it appeared empty, but it always appeared empty. A lone librarian perched behind the desk reading a book, she glanced up when George entered and smiled at him.

“Hello George. Here for more Poe?”

“Yeah I reckon I’ll find the poem I’m looking for one day.”

“Good luck to you, dearie.” The librarian went back to her book and George disappeared into the stacks marked poetry. It did not take him long to realize he was not alone. A young woman also browsed the poetry section. Today, she wore her hair down and a neat, though dated, dress. She had a book open in her hands and read it, her mouth moving, but no sound escaping her lips. He watched her through the stacks for a moment before going around to speak to her.

“I thought you must’ve moved or something. Haven’t seen you around since that day in August 2 years ago.” The woman jumped. Dropping her book on the ground.

“Oh bother. You’re always surprising me, aren’t you!”

“What’re you reading?” George bent down and retrieved the book. “The complete works of Edgar Allan Poe. Ah I should’ve known.”

“I didn’t know he’d written so much.” She took the offered book from him and clutched it to her chest.

“Is this your first time here?”

“Yes… I don’t have time to get into town much. I just come in for some essentials once in awhile. Can’t leave the house unattended for long, out there all alone.”

“Reckon you need someone to live with you then. Maybe a relative or friend?”

“I don’t know anyone here or have any family left.”

“Oh I’m sorry. Well, anyhow, you know me now. Name’s George Towers.”

“Nice to meet you George Towers.” She held out a hand for him to shake and smiled a little.

“And what’s your name, pardon, me miss. I thought you said Gwen last we spoke, but I couldn’t be sure…”

“Ah yes. I’m Gwen Mathers.”

“Ah makes sense given you’re living in the old Mathers’ house.”

“Oh. Is that what people call it around here.”

“Yep. Hey, can you give me that name of that poem you quoted last time. I tried to look it up, but he just has so damned many poems. It was Yet, if Love has flown away In a night, or in a day, In a vision, or in none, Is it, therefore, the less gone?

“Hope.”

“sorry?”

“The poem goes yet, if hope has flown away in a night, or in a day in a vision or in none, is it therefore, the less gone?” Gwen began shuffling through the book she held.

“Oh right. That makes more sense. I thought it sounded off. Well, can you tell me what it is?” She thrust the book at George. “A Dream Within a Dream

Take this kiss upon the brow!

And, in parting from you now,

Thus much let me avow-

You are not wrong, who deem

That my days have been a dream;

Yet, if Hope has flown away

In a night, or in a day,

In a vision, or in none,

Is it, therefore, the less gone?

All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream.


I stand amid the roar

Of a surf-tormented shore,

And I hold within my hand

Grains of golden sand-

How few! yet how they creep

Through my fingers to the deep,

While I weep- while I weep!

O God! can I not grasp

Them with a tighter clasp?

O God! can I not save

One from the pitiless wave?

Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream?

“That’s it.”

“Oh. It’s a bit sad isn’t it?”

“I think it’s beautiful.”

“I mean, it is that, but so sad.”

“Well. I must be off. I have chickens to feed and dinner to make. Perhaps I’ll see you around again George.

“It was nice bumping into you here… can I at least walk you home?”

“It’s five miles outta town…”

“It’s okay. I live not far. I can walk you.”

“Didn’t you come here for something?”

“Nah. Not really.”

“Well that’s rather strange.”

“Nah. I got what I came here for. Let’s go.” George and Gwen left the library together.

“Bye Mrs. Carter!”

“Bye George.”

“You know her?” Gwen asked once the door swung shut behind them.

“Hmmmm fancy that.” Mrs. Carter watched the pair head through the door and into the dim winter afternoon light.

***

Gwen rolls over and opens her eyes to the clock face staring back at her. 10:30 am. She pushes back that covers and jumps out of bed grabbing at her clothing strewn about the room and tugging it on.

“What’s the matter Gwen? Why are you getting dressed, it’s Sunday, it’s okay if we sleep in, my parents won’t be back till well into the evening. Come back to bed my dear.”

“No no. I must go home now, before it’s gets any later. I’ll call you tomorrow, George, okay? Promise. Goodbye!” Gwen runs out the door still pulling on her cardigan.

“Gwen, wait!” George runs out after her. Gwen runs down the lane towards the main road. She glances back and waves.

“I’ll call you later!”

George goes back inside the house, dresses, drink some coffee and eats cereal. All morning he keeps one eye on the phone, waiting. It never rings. After lunch he pulls on his jack and walking shoes and heads towards the main road. He can only think of one reason for Gwen’s frantic behaviour. She's still hiding something from him. They’ve been together for two years now and she has never once invited him over to her house. Never. And she refuses to spend Halloween with him, despite it being his favourite holiday.

***

It’s dark. Not just dark, an impenetrable, oppressive darkness. You walk along a dirt road, your new white shoes squish into the mud and come up brown. But you cannot see this because of the impenetrable, oppressive darkness. A light looms in the distance on your left. It grows closer and closer as you squelch through the mud. The light morphs into a house as the distance diminishes. A small, wooden, two story house with a covered porch and a screen door. It sits in a dusty, tidy yard with a garden patch behind it and a picket fence in front. Jack o’ lanterns line the front stairs gleaming in the impenetrable, oppressive darkness. A large window lies to the left of the door. Inside rests a dining room with a table surrounded by people. A woman and man at either end. An old woman to the left of the man, a young boy to the left of the woman. Two identical girls across from them and a young woman with an auburn braid sits next to them and beside the man. A family eating together. Dishes crowd the table: roast beef, peas, carrots, mashed potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, gravy. Your favourite meal. The family eats and smiles and laughs together. You watch for awhile, and with a jump realize what bothers you about the scene: everybody at the table expect Gwen appears translusent and paper thin. Nobody looks at the window. Nobody sees you outside in the impenetrable, oppressive darkness. You lift a foot to move on your way. You want-- no need-- to get home to your parents and hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters who will soon fill the night.

***

Gwen watches the road from the wooden porch. The house snug behind her nestled beside the little vegetable garden she tends morning and evening. Gwen tugs her auburn braid. A straw hat perches on the back of her head. She’s wearing dirty overalls and a pair of sturdy boots. Jack o’ lanterns line the front steps of the little wooden house. She continues watching the road.

A man nears the house. Eyes unwavering from the porch. Gwen jumps down the steps and runs out to the road to greet him. He takes her face in his hands and kisses her with warmth and tenderness then they embrace in the road. When they both let go Gwen drags him into the little house. Scratches and dents mark the floors, but they shine and sparkle despite them. Although faded and stained, the wall paper holds no dust or cobwebs. The railing upstairs gleams and the rugs plush. Coziness and comfort surround the couple. They enter the kitchen. A young man washes dirt from squash and an old lady plucks feathers from a chicken by the door.

“Why hello George. It’s nice to see you again, son.”

“Hi sir. It’s good to see you too.”

“Everything set for the ceremony? Grams and I are just getting supper started. Your ma and sisters have gone to find the family gown in the attic.”

“Ahhh da I told her I didn’t want to wear that! It won’t fit anyway. Ma is so much smaller than me!”

“She says she can work some magic on it or something… I dunno maybe it’ll be alright. It means a lot to her that you wear it Gwen. So much.”

“Okay okay. I’ll at least try it on. I’m going to look for them. George, you stay here. My ma will have a fit if you see the dress before the ceremony.”

“Yes m’dear. I’ll help with the dinner.”

“You will do no such thing young man! Not on your wedding day! Mark and I shan’t here of it. I’ll sit by me just there and entertain us with stories of fine modern folks and these unusual modern times.”

George obeyed Grams and pulled a chair up next to her at the table.

“Well now, where do I begin?”

“Tell us about the television again, George.”

Meanwhile, Gwen left the room to find her mother and sisters in the attic and help them hunt for the family wedding gown.

***

You're married in the backyard. Under an old apple tree. Gwen's parents cry and her grandma doesn't stop smiling. The twins are your flower girls and the boy is the ring bearer. Her father walks her down the ailse in her mother's old dress. The day is perfect and sunny despite being October 31st. Gwen's mother marries you.

When the final vow of the ceremony leaves Gwen's lips her family fades away into the afternoon sun, laugh and crying with joy.








October 24, 2020 03:57

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1 comment

Sam W
15:31 Oct 29, 2020

This was so sweet, Terri! It was amazing how Gwen's family basically adopted George-it doesn't often happen that way in ghost stories. Was the family waiting until Gwen found her place among the living? You made a couple grammar mistakes, such as "a family eat together." I'd check that out.

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