Ghosts are made of regret, hope, rage, joy, sadness, and confusion, the same as everyone else. The living have a constant barrage of physical sensations and the blissful ignorance of a doubtless existence to shield them from the near constant metaphysical breakdown a lonely soul like Grace Kinder faced every second. Feeling needed can be a powerful addiction, it's even more powerful to the dead who only have emotional pursuits with which to occupy their time. For the first time since her icy crash, and maybe for a long while before that, Grace felt needed.
She resented this shift at first, no addiction
comes without the price of the life lived before. So for that reason
alone she resisted the kinship that had accidentally arisen between
herself and the very small Tim.
The boy's father spent
more and more time away, and his mother spent more and more time away
in her own way. Either asleep on her bed or staring silently at the
treeline from the porch swing while the busy ghost lured the curious
strong baby away from this or that danger, Grace's rage at the usurper
subsided every day. There was no point in hanging on to any of it, she
had no target for her rage and jealousy and without a target it spiraled
out and away. The young wife and mother just wasn't home anymore.
was too busy with her tiny fat friend to wonder if she'd had anything
to do with the mother slipping away. Maybe if she had thought about
that, she'd feel more guilt than pride.
didn't last through the boy's third summer, he ran off with a mistress
and seldom sent for his son. Grace hardly noticed his leaving, he'd
been an absentee so long and she was very busy with the care of both her
sweet boy and his sad mother.
She could remember the
moment her feelings had shifted in the latter respect. Grace had long
since ceased feeling rage towards the woman, the sad creature appeared
to have given up her own ghost and Grace was not a cruel enough spirit
to batter the nearly dead. On one particular night shortly before the
boy's father left, this young mother had almost met her son's ghostly
nanny in person.
Grace had been sitting with Tim in his
room watching the television show that lulled the boy to sleep
generally and realized that her young charge's mother hadn't checked on
the boy in hours. The woman appeared mostly bereft of maternal
instincts but she wasn't an altogether terrible mother, she made sure
her son was cleaned and fed and generally saw to his well being. She
cared enough that her prolonged absence was noted by the ghost.
Grace glided into the sleeping woman's room nothing appeared amiss at
first, Tim's mother was sleeping on her side in bed and Grace thought
she must have lost track of the time. This was something the novice
parent was prone to from time to time. Grace felt something, though,
what we might recognize as a live presence. A live presence was
impossible for Grace, she knew then that the young mother's spirit was
separating itself. And then she saw the pills.
employed every ghostly trick at her disposal to get the young woman to
vomit the contents of her stomach onto her pillow, a macabre
impressionist clump of hopelessness. When she was through she used all
of her strength to pull the covers up around the sleeping woman and turn
the light off. As she slipped out, she felt the woman's lost eyes on
her in that expressionless understanding and acceptance that only the
nearly dead or already gone can have. In the morning the woman arose
and cleaned up and made breakfast for little Tim with renewed vigor.