© Yankee Harvest, LLC
Yankee Halloween Presents
So Much Fun, It's Scary ...!
Welcome to Yankee Halloween Campfire Tales, an excellent way to spend Halloween...! The unusual is commonplace at Yankee Halloween Campfire Tales...! As darkness approaches, and the clouds cover the full harvest moon, a good campfire tale may help you to overcome the fear of the flickering shadows made by the candles inside the carved Jack-o-lanterns and the errie sounds of a nearby hooting owl.
Long shadows fill the room and you realize, quite suddenly, that you have tarried far too long. Not even another piece of warm, fragrant apple pie can keep you and you bid a hasty goodbye.
It is a long walk home along a path that you have walked more times in any given month than you have candles on your birthday cake, and is as familiar to you as your own bedroom. The meadow on the left has taken on a rich, golden hue, dotted by snippets of brilliant orange where unharvested pumpkins lay forgotten. The meadow spreads out and slopes upward to meet a cloudless steel colored sky. The smell of hay and damp earth lay heavy in the crisp, clean air and you stroll along without heeding the ever deepening shadows. It is a glorious sight...!
Maple trees, their crown of vibrant red and yellow leaves almost gone, mark the path as it winds deeper into the woods. The meadow is still visible beyond, however, and hourglass shapes of gathered corn sheaves hug the hillside as far as the horizon. To the right are thick, tall pine trees, their needles a blanket that silences the forest floor. There is still some color nearby, a haughty oak and some white birch with fluttering yellow leaves. Here the forest is so thick that little sunlight gets in, even at mid-day. It is very late. Twenty feet beyond the stand of pine trees, it is already night...!
As you approach the bend in the pathway that leads through an ancient grove of apple trees, an isolated puff of a breeze picks up a dozen or so leaves into a tiny cyclone, then drops them without ceremony at your feet. For the first time, ten minutes into the walk, you stop. The quickly setting sun has left a singular glowing ribbon of coral light along the crest of the hillside. Against that canvas the apple orchard looms, the trees appearing to sway without actually moving, knarled limbs reaching out in every direction. High above the hillside the sky has faded and a single star blinks hesitantly. The moon has not yet raised its head from the days respite. Just then, a new, stronger gust of wind spits leaves up off of the pathway and their rustling breaks the complete and utter silence. You continue, however, your footsteps sound much louder than they did a moment ago. You suddenly feel quite uneasy.
Is this the same path you have taken so many times before? What suddenly seems so different about it...? Is it because the visual perception has changed as night closes in...? Is it because you fell so completely alone...?
You begin to hurry along, hugging your coat tightly across your chest. You kick up stones and dirt in your haste, disturbing a flock of birds that bolt into the night sky right over your head. You stumble, crying out, but you regain your balance quickly. It's getting harder to see and you know, yes, you know you will never make it home before nightfall is complete. The hillside is still visible, just barely. There are more cornstalks jutting out of the earth and in the shimmering afterglow of twilight, they appear to be gently moving towards you. An owl screeches in the distance, forcing your quickening heartbeat into overdrive. Your steady, determined gait increases to a gallop. You focus on getting home, desperately trying to deny that the uneasiness you felt five minutes back has turned to a deepening sense of urgency, and fear. The scenic meadow and brilliant autumn colors are now just a fleeting memory. Your only companions are the black shapes that stand boldly in the quickly descending darkness.
Is it your footsteps thudding ominously in the night or is it your heartbeat pounding against your ribcage that you hear? Just behind you a twig snaps, then another, piercing the silence like a knife. Out of the corner of your eye something beyond the tree line flashes white. Your mind tells you that it's just a deer, returning from the evening meal. Yet something in the pit of your stomach tells you otherwise. You want to scream but you throat tightens painfully and a mere squeak escapes. . The hair raises on the back of your neck. It is a cool autumn night yet perspiration trickles down the sides of your face. You begin, driven by panic, driven by some subconscious knowledge that this old, familiar path is no longer the way home. You run, your lungs screaming for air, pain shooting up your legs into your hips. Ancient, twisted branches claw at your face and tear at your clothes. You should be coming out, but you're not...! You should be seeing friendly light where there is only blackness. Still, you run...! But there is no end in sight to the long walk home.
The apple pie is gone, eaten by a dozen or so men that have spent many hours searching the bleak forest. The townspeople are baffled; friends and family, frantic. But you can't tell them what you now know, that the familiar is not always what it seems and the long walk does not always take you home. And you can't warn them that the only difference between the familiar and the fantastic is the difference between daylight and darkness, things seen, and unseen.
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The war had been over for nearly six months. I had stayed in Italy to help rebuild some of the small, outlying villages that had been hit especially hard by Nazi intervention. The villagers, for the most part, were farmers and shopkeepers with a few artisans thrown in for good measure. The war had brought years of hardship, loss of homes and livelihood, and a circle of death and destruction that had left no one untouched. Being a GI, I felt some responsibility for the shambles that surrounded me, so when I was given the option to stay a while longer, I wrote home and told my folks that I was well, and that I would be involved in a short term restoration project. That project was nearing and end. One week from today I would be traveling by Jeep to Lavorgna, from there by transport to Rome. My discharge papers awaited me there.
There was a makeshift barracks about one mile from our last construction site. Although most of my brother GI's called it home, I preferred to call it simply a place to sleep. The work was hard, the mornings came early and the day was long. At night I stayed close to the village to soak in the flavor of the Tuscany hills and what little remained of the vineyards that once dominated the scenery. My evening meal was taken each night at a little ristorante owned by Mama Caliente, a robust woman in her mid-sixties who was glad to be cooking for the locals again and the remaining GI's.
Under another set of circumstances had kept herself, her daughters and her grandchildren alive. During the initial raid on her small village, Asunta Caliente lost her husband. A year later, a son and son-in-law. Another son was still considered to be missing and expected to return soon. It was the only hope most of these people had to believe that lost loved ones would come home. Her infamous reputation for the world's best food had not diminishes during hard times. While she kept the Nazi troops well fed, she also managed to pass much of it along to those that needed it. For this reason, her's was one of the first buildings to be rebuilt. It was from there that she prepared and sold handmade pasta, and served pots of fabulous sauces and other culinary delights to anyone that would sit down at her tables long enough. I was one of those people. I loved Mama Caliente and I loved the meals that she set down in front of me each night. She served them with a hug and a big dry kiss planted squarely on the top of my head. This woman would be the fondest memory of what was a hellish time in my life. Or, so I thought.
I was sitting at my usual table pondering the fact of my going home, back to the States, back to the small farm outside of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Doing steady, hard work had dulled the memory of my experiences and left me little time to think about it. It had bridged a huge gap for me. I felt confident that home would help distance those memories even further and I was ready to go. I was day dreaming a bit, settled back in the chair, when something caused me to open my eyes and look across the room. At a table in the far corner of what was a rather large room, was a very lovely young lady. A single candle burned on each table and in the candlelight, her face was like a pale portrait on a museum wall. She had wide brown eyes, sad and vulnerable. Her skin was like wax with the faintest touch of rose on her cheeks and lips. It was a face that one was not likely to forget so I knew that I had never seen her before, not here, not in the village. But when our eyes met and the corners of her mouth turned up ever so slightly in a hesitant smile, I knew I would never forget her.
I gathered my nerve, walked over to the table and introduced myself. Her English was very bad, but between her valiant efforts and my recently gained, but limited, knowledge of Italian, we managed to strike up a conversation. She motioned for me to sit across from her and I was glad to comply. For a moment everything scene in my head, every ache in my body, left me. It was so nice to have conversation with a young lady and talk about something besides the war or a carpentry project. I found myself telling her about America, my family, where I went to school and about some of my friends. She listened intently, leaning on her elbows, laughing at the telling of some of my antics as a youth. It seemed that it had been a long time since she had known laughter, it certainly had been for me. She was delightful and had that way of expressing herself that only comes with being Italian. Yes, her name was Maria and she was from the village. She had lost all of her family except for an aged grandmother with whom she resided. I asked why I had not seen her around. Her answer was that she stayed around home most of the time because her grandmother needed her. Her face turned solemn for just an instant, then the smile returned. It was just about then that I realized that the room was nearly empty. It had been over an hour since I had joined Maria at her table in the corner and all of the other dinner guests had left. Glancing at my watch I knew I had to leave. Maria promised to be here the following night. She was looking forward to talking some more and frankly, so was I. For the first time since coming to this isolated little hamlet in the hills, I felt I had a friend and had thoroughly enjoyed the entire evening. We said `goodbye' and I left her sitting at the table as she toyed with the glass of water, a glass that hadn't been touched during our conversation. In the dark stone vestibule that opened up from dining area, I passed Mama Caliente carrying a tray of dirty glasses. Her comment was that I had dozed, too much `vino', she teased. I shook my head and nodded back in Marries' direction.
Puzzled, Mama set down the tray and pinched my cheek while muttering something that I didn't understand. She was staring beyond my shoulder. It was she that didn't understand. Over there I told her, as I started to turn. Who? I don't see, she insisted with a frown and a shake of her head. Chaio, bona sera she said as she gathered up her tray and blew me a kiss as she passed. By this time, I had fully turned and was surprised to see that the corner table was empty. How had she gotten by me. I actually wanted to take her home so as to spend more time with her and see how she was surviving, and, her disappearing act was becoming exceedingly odd. My mysterious Maria, seated at her place at the corner table, had become an important part of my remaining stay in Italy. I was sorry that I hadn't meet her earlier but I knew that she would be in my heart for the rest of my life. She was a victim of war, of death, of untold hardship. She had touched a place deep inside of me and had changed me forever.
As it turned out, Maria refused that night and the next. Our conversation switched to my leaving Italy in two days and Maria appeared to sadden somewhat. She seemed paler and for the first time, she placed her hand over mine and squeezed, admitting that she would miss me. Her fingers were cool against my skin, her eyes deeper, her smile less apparent. The rose in her cheeks had faded and for an instant I thought perhaps she was ill. Maria declared that she was fine, only wishing that our circumstances were different. To my delight, though, her allowing me to give her a ride home brightened my last night, and I escorted her to my jeep.
Once in the jeep and under way, Maria complained of being cold and I pulled over to fetch my leather jacket from the back seat. She snuggled in and drew the heavy lamb's wool collar up around her neck. In horribly broken English she declared our friendship would stay with her always and wished me well on my return trip. I will always remember that short trek to Maria's house as being somewhat strange. She seemed to be fading away from me, being swallowed up within the folds of my army jacket. I saw her wipe away a tear, then turn her head to gaze out of the window. Her reflection was paler yet, her eyes wider and sadder. My heart was breaking. All of this time and after finally meeting someone special, I would have to go away. There is simply no accounting for the turns in life's road.
I dropped her off at a small stucco covered cottage about a mile outside of the village. The remnants of a garden and a few grapevines obscured the front pathway. I walked her to the door, hesitated, and then took her hands in mine. They were like ice, I recalled, and I knew now why she was complaining of being cold. The silence was deafening, so far away from the village. The night was a clear one, a distinct chill suddenly ran up my spine. We said our good-byes, yet I suddenly blurted that I would be back. Maria shook her head. No. I would not be back. She would never be the reason for my coming back. I pressed my lips to her cool ones and then quickly departed. As I climbed into the driver's seat I threw a glance back to the doorway. I was alone; the small courtyard was empty.
It was not until the next morning that I discovered my jacket was not on the back seat of the jeep, and then I remembered that I had loaned it to Maria. My heart began to race. It was just the excuse I needed to see her again, one more time. I had to leave by noon. There was time to drive out to the small farm and collect my coat and possibly visit for a short time. I was sure I remembered the way and I started out, eagerly looking forward to our last meeting.
The farm came into view. No, I was not mistaken. It appeared horribly neglected, worse than it seemed the previous night. Tentatively I approached, half expecting to see Maria dashing from the house to my waiting arms. No such thing happened. It was a gloomy place, silent and forbidding. There was no sign of life except for some graying sheets swaying from a clothesline outback. I knocked on the door and waited what seemed like a very long time. I knocked again. This time I heard someone moving about inside, and a curtain in the window at my right fluttered. I called out. I called Maria's name and identified myself. Still, the nervous puttering of a sole figure behind that ancient door caused me to be a bit impatient as I continued to knock. Finally, The door cracked open and the wizen face of an elderly woman peeked out at me with wide brown eyes sunken into a pocket of leather-like skin. Her voice cracked as she rambled something in Italian and attempted to close the door. By this time I was losing more patience and stuck my foot in the door to keep it from closing. I repeated myself, asking once again for Maria. The old woman's eyes widened even further and she let the doorknob fall from her hand. I took the opportunity to elbow my way into the tiny hallway. An instant later, she began to wail and carry on, pushing at me, trying to get me back outside. I began to pick out some words as she screeched and pounded her chest; words that began to send a cold chill down my spine. I want to see Maria, I shouted, she has my coat. From last night, I continued as she rushed me and started to pummel me with her aged fists. NO..! NO..! NO..! She was quite out of control. And could not believe what I thought I was hearing. This dream was turning into a nightmare. The grandmother's hysterical rantings translated into a fantastic tale of death and destruction, which included Maria. The woman searched frantically in her head for the right words as she pushed towards the jeep. Morte, she kept repeating. Dead. Dead. Maria is dead...!
All at once a drenching sweat replaced the cold chill and I began to tremble uncontrollably. I allowed the Grandmother to push me into the driver's seat and she climbed in beside me. She motioned for me to turn the ignition but I hesitated. Turning to the woman I spoke very slowly, very softly, explaining that we had been together just the night before and that she had borrowed my jacket. Maria could not be dead. We had been together every night for a week.
Grandmother settled back, still shaking her head. Go, GI she commanded, pointing a bony finger. I will take you to her.
The drive was short, perhaps ten minutes. We rounded a corner and passed through a grove of neglected olive trees. Just beyond there was a small cemetery with an abundance of new graves mixed in with the ones that had been there for many years. A feeling of dread closed around me as I passively followed the old Grandmother into that silent place.
There was a rock in the pit of my stomach and I felt quite ill, suddenly. However, nothing, nothing could ever have prepared me for what happened next...! Grandmother pointed the way, picking through the tall grass and bunches of dead flowers. Then she stopped and pulled me front of her, her voice becoming shrill and disjointed as she began her tirade once again. Then without warning, the old woman fell to her knees and shrieked, her handing tearing at her hair and pounding her forehead. I felt lightheaded, my mouth too dry to speak. I came up beside her and for an instant, I knew fear and disbelief unlike anything I had witnessed during the entire war. Then, directly in front of me was a bright, new headstone, neatly chiseled with a name and two sets of dates. MARIA FERRANTE. She had been only twenty-three when she died, one year ago this very day. And on the ground in front of the headstone, was my jacket, folded against the earth that was her grave.
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Brush away the cobwebs and see what is lined up on the old Graveside Store Aisles. Everything you will need to decorate yourself, the house, and your favorite pumpkin. Things to make you silly, things to make you safe, things to spook up the spookiest of nights. Ooooo ...!!!
After stopping for directions in the tiny seaside village of Eastgate, I drove very carefully along the ever-climbing coastal roadway that would barely let two cars pass. The scene before me was breath taking. This afternoon, the ocean was an angry, pounding wall of water, frothing and wailing in the aftermath of this mornings' sudden storm. The sky, however, had receded from the color of icy steel, to a pale, robin's egg blue dotted with cottony clouds. At the rocky ledge to my left, short, scrubby pine jutted from wide cracks in the granite. Gulls circled overhead. If it weren't for the waves breaking against the solid cliffs ahead, I would have noticed how completely silent it was. It was a silence I would soon learn to cherish...and to dread.
All of my friends and relatives had said I was crazy for making this impulsive move. How ridiculous, buying an old house three states away, sight unseen, out of a real estate magazine. The price was oddly low, a fact my brother insisted in reminding me, even as I was attending to my final details. My sister worried that it was too far away from anything. What if there was an emergency of some sort or perhaps something as simple as my car not starting? And how would she be able to contact me? I explained very delicately that they did have telephones in Maine and I would be sure to hook mine up ASAP. However, it was the reason for the move that worried them most.
After nearly two years, I was still actively mourning my husbands' sudden death. Nothing helped, not my family, not my friends, not grief counciling, not therapy. My job, a high stress, big city, corporate management deal paid very big bucks. But, the money couldn't change that fact that I was unable to cope any longer with the path my life had taken. It didn't change how desperately I missed him or how my world had been shattered. Actually, money was the least of my problems. I needed solitude and a change of scenery...and to find a constructive outlet for my creative energy. I began poking around in various real estate magazines, not really sure what I was looking for or why. Then I saw this picture and I couldn't take my eyes off of it. High on a cliff overlooking the ocean in coastal Maine, was this gray, shingled house built in 1845...a sea captain's house with a widows walk, picket fence, and everything...!!! According to the article, there were gardens, sea roses, an old potting shed, detached garage and a small barn. The house needed work. The price told me that. It had been family owned since it was built and the family had simply run out. Something about this house called to me. Before I knew it I had my lawyer on the phone and right after that, the agent in Orchard Beach. That was a month ago. Now I was driving towards my new home, and hopefully, a new life.
I saw it in the near distance as I rounded a gentle bend in the road. It was, indeed, an old, gray lady that had seen a lot of wear. The continuous, unrelenting coastal weather had beaten it pretty badly. I knew now why the locals that were standing by when I had asked for directions watched me with raised eyebrows. It was, still, the quaintest little place I had ever seen, beaten or not. My heart raced as I pulled off of the road behind the barn and shut down the engine. This was it! All mine. And if I wanted solitude, this was certainly the place. The village of Eastgate was barely visible across the storm tossed inlet below. Other than that, there was no sign of life anywhere nearby. For a split second my stomach knotted. I was more alone now than I had ever been in my entire life.
As days turned into weeks, I kept busy whipping my Gray Lady into a livable roof over my head. Frequent trips into the village kept me in contact with other human beings as I bartered for various contractors to do carpentry, plumbing etc. It got considerably worse before it got better, yet as I danced around the piles of debris and swept away the dust, I knew I would fall, deliriously exhausted, into bed each night and sleep right through till morning.
I awoke one gloomy Sunday morning determined to take the day off. As I stood in the 'kitchen' and waited for the coffee maker to finish brewing, I heard a dog barking. Rather close, I thought, with curiosity, for I had never heard one before. I peered out across the yard and then stepped out onto the deck that had just been completed a few days earlier. It gave me a sweeping view of the inlet, the Atlantic Ocean and the rocky beach below. This was, weather permitting, where I intended to have breakfast every morning. The dog, though out of sight, persisted loudly, as if in panic. It was then that I saw a man dressed in dark clothing strolling along the waters' edge with a long stick in his hand. He was drawing aimlessly in the wet sand and looking out to sea. He seemed young, perhaps in his early thirties and was no doubt familiar with the area as he stepped over rocks and side stepped the surf. It was when he turned and looked up at me that I felt a jolt just under my ribcage. Beneath that wind swept hair and pale skin was an Adonis...with the saddest blue eyes imaginable. He waved at me as if he had already known that I was there, watching. Without hesitation, I waved back. It seemed right and natural. I felt myself smiling and he saluted me with a teasing grin. I walked around to the front of the deck just as he disappeared behind the cliff wall, which was a column on which my own home stood. I strained to see where he had gone, but to no avail. With a shrug I re-entered the house and poured my coffee. This odd routine persisted for two more Sunday mornings and then on the third; I picked my way down to the beach along a steep staircase that had been carved out of the cliff decades earlier. Steel rings and heavy rope eased the way as I descended to the sand below and prepared to wait.
I had not ventured down to the beach...other occupations had taken up all of my time since arriving here to save my Gray Lady. I gazed absently across to the horizon. England was out there somewhere, I thought, amused. So was the wreck of the Titanic. The early morning sun shimmered gold and coral on the rim of the unusually placid waves. I day dreamed. And I realized that for the first time since coming here, I hadn't thought of my husband at all, in several days. Swallowing hard I tried not to feel guilty. Lord knows he would have wanted me to get through this long ago. But as the tears began to swell, I felt myself engulfed by a long, cool shadow. Oddly, I was not afraid. Turning, I found myself staring into eyes the color and brilliance of topaz and responding to a warm and dazzling smile." Do you walk here every Sunday morning?" I asked as he sat on the rock next to me.
" Every Sunday." He replied.
" Even if it is rough...?"
He gazed out across the ocean and squinted, shielding his eyes with his hands. " It's better when it's rough. More of a challenge. I suppose you are finding that house to be a challenge, are you not."
" Nothing I can't handle. I have found out that I am rather qualified to do a lot of things." I opened my hands, palms up, to show the calluses and broken fingernails. " See? I can swing a mean hammer."
He smiled a bit wistfully, while I noticed his clothes...black, rather snug fitting trousers, black boots that looked like they might be homemade, and a flowing white shirt, possibly silk. His hair was also black, thick and wavy and clinging to the collar of his shirt. He turned to me just as the smile faded away and I saw something in those deep, blue eyes, something just beyond my reach. His gaze was one of recognition, however, I knew that was impossible. What was strangest of all...the fact that I felt completely comfortable sitting beside this handsome stranger, so comfortable that I had all I could do to keep from reaching over to grasp his hand. Instead, he slipped his hand beneath mine and inspected the condition of my hand. " Hard work never hurt anyone. I see you are not afraid of work. It is an outlet for you." Feeling suddenly self-conscious, I pulled my hand away, yet he continued: " What do you know about your house...?"
" Only that it was built by an old family, from what I can tell, perhaps a sea captain. That family has owned it for over one hundred and sixty years and there were no heirs to keep it. It was a ruin. An indoor bathroom was added at some point, other than that..." I trailed off, noticing my companions' knitted brow. He gazed back over the horizon and slowly shook his head.
" A special room for the bath..." he said softly. " How odd."
" It's looking very odd, right about now. I will have things up and running real soon. What I wouldn't give for a long, soaking bubble bath." I replied, noticing his comment, itself was rather odd.
" You are correct about the sea captain. His name was Aaron Drake, captain of the Diana Lee, a frigate out of Gloucester." He continued suddenly. " Three trips a year to England and one to South Carolina, and then to winter here. The village of Eastgate was his birthplace...and it was where he met his bride."
" Don't tell me...Diana was his bride."
Another soft grin turned up the corners of his lips ever so gently. " Yes. His beloved. However, a sea captain has a fickle mistress, and when she calls, he must listen. One month after their wedding, Captain Drake stepped aboard the Diana Lee and sailed away for the last time. Upon his return trip, a monster gale straight out of the northwest swallowed up the Diana Lee and all hands were lost..." he pointed at the ocean, " not a quarter mile off shore. That house was the house he built for her as a wedding gift. She paced the walk for weeks, awaiting his return, waiting to tell him the news of his impending fatherhood. Her child was born and still she waited. Only when she died did the waiting end. Some have said her spirit lingers still."
" If she is in that house, she has never made herself known to me. How quaint, to live in a haunted house. My family would find that hardly amusing. At least I know what to call her if she should appear to me."
" And what should I call you, mistress of the Gray Lady...?"
I started, frightened for the first time. How did he know the pet name I had given my home? Still, I told him my name without hesitation: " Jesse Blake...originally from New York."
" I am what you might call...a...distant relation to this family. Their story is known in these parts, very well. Captain Drake's demise was a tragedy but he left behind a precious daughter named Emma. She married John Calvin. I am named for him. Calvin Corey. Call me Cal."
I shook his hand, surprised by the coolness of it. I had not noticed earlier as he appraised my own. " Hello, Cal. Nice to meet you."
The summer slipped quickly away. Each Sunday morning I meet Cal out on the beach and he filled me in on all of the local history and lore. It was quite apparent that the sea was his first love. He gazed upon it only as one would look upon a lover and trailed his long fingers through the water as if he were stroking the hair or skin of someone very special. Our weekly meetings became longer and more meaningful as time went on and I found myself anxiously awaiting each Sunday with zeal I hadn't felt since...since that horrible day when the police called me. The house was quickly taking shape and I found that I was pleased with my home, my solitude and my new friend.
This Sunday in early September was cool, the sky was white and the sea was restless. I could smell rain, something I wouldn't have actually believed was possible until moving to rural Maine and meeting Cal. I had arrived ahead of him this time and discovered that my attention was completely on the vast seascape before me. Something was wrong. I could sense it. I began to pace and as I did, the ocean became more unsettled. Suddenly, Cal was beside me, his cool fingers resting gently against my elbow.
" What do you see?"
" A storm is brewing." I said softly.
"This is when it happened...a freak storm in early September. It was horrible. The waves grew and grew and swamped the Diana Lee, washing the deck hands overboard and filling the hold." Cal' s voice had a noticeable edge to it. " Captain Drake and a few remaining hands got the sails down and stood by helplessly as the ship broke apart. Do you think he was calling her name as the ocean covered him...? "
" I think he was." Was my answer. " I think he loved Diana more than his mistress."
" Perhaps he had made the decision to stop sailing and stay home. It is possible. That would make any mistress jealous, don't you think?"
" Cal, How do you know all of this?" I wondered aloud.
His arm draped over my shoulder. " Family stories die hard. Aaron Drake died at the hand of his mistress; Diana Lee Drake died of a broken heart before her fortieth birthday. " He brightened somewhat and turned me, gripping my shoulders. " I have something special for you, something that should go with your house."
" A surprise?"
" A-yeah, a surprise. Here."
In the palm of my hand was a gold and enamel broach with delicately painted pink and coral roses...just like the ones against my newly painted picket fence, that I had been tending all summer. I couldn't suppress the gasp that spun out of my throat. It was lovely...and quite obviously, very, very old. " I couldn't possibly..." I began as Cal pressed his fingers to my lips.
" Who better, might I ask? I was told that this belonged to HER and that she wore it on her wedding day. Now this is your house and I have no one who would cherish this bauble, as would you. Take it please. If for no other reason that to remember your first summer here."
I was near tears. Cal's declaration sounded more like a 'goodbye' than an attempt at gift giving. My voice rose as I tried to he heard above what were now, crashing waves. The spray coated us like a second skin and I knew that our time together was drawing to a close. Cal was more distant than usual and the sadness that I had always seen in those riveting blue eyes was intensified ten-fold. I clutched the broach possessively to my chest and searched for the words that would say what these few weeks had meant to me. He had given me the strength and peace of mind to start over. At least this time, I would be able to say 'goodbye'." Don't." Cal whispered loudly. " I never want to hear the sound of that word ever again."
" Why do you always know what I'm about to say?" I shouted above the roar of the waves. A few drops of rain splattered against our cheeks as he began to move away from me. " Cal, please...!!!"
The mist rolled in and suddenly Cal had disappeared. I began to run towards the stairs and pull myself up. By the time I reached the kitchen door, I was soaked to the skin and thunder had begun to roll in the distance. I had no sooner dried off and wrapped my hair up in a towel, when the storm broke in all its fury. I stared hopelessly out of the kitchen window, trying to imagine what it would have been like on a three-masted frigate being tossed about in ocean swells deep enough to swallow the ship. What were his last thoughts as the ship broke apart beneath him and he watched his shipmates wash into the sea? Did he think of her...Diana Lee? Was it her name on his lips as he drew his last breath?
The lights began to flicker ominously. I grabbed a flashlight and realized that I had packed away several oil lamps up in the attic. I certainly couldn't keep a flashlight burning indefinitely if the power went out, so I picked my way upstairs and set two lamps and three bottles of oil into a box. Upon returning to the stairwell, my eye caught the piles of furniture and boxes that had been left by the previous owner. What appeared to be pictures, leaned against the wall covered by sheets. Suddenly, my curiosity got the better of me. As I began poking through some boxes and moving bits and pieces out of the way, I couldn't get my mind off of my last visit with Cal. Not mindful of the raging storm outside, I thought, instead, of the young lovers and their unfortunate fate. I knew I might be now be touching something that they had touched, something that they had used. I moved from piece to piece, lifting sheets and studying the somber portraits that stared back at me, unsmiling. Then I pulled out the last...just as the lights flickered erratically and extinguished. In the half dark, I filled a lamp and lit it. Luckily, I had trimmed the wicks before I put them away. After making my adjustments, I found that I was immersed in long, wavering shadows. I held the lamp high, getting my bearings. As I turned, the last of the large portraits came into view and a squeak of terror escaped from somewhere deep inside of me. I was staring at a portrait of ME...dressed in nineteenth century garb with my dark hair pulled up into a chignon at the nape of my neck. And at my throat was the broach, the very same broach that Cal had given me only hours before.
I dragged the portrait down the stairs and studied more closely. No, it was certainly not me; however, she could have easily been my twin. I sat, cross-legged, in front of the painting for what seemed like hours. The wavering light from the oil lamp caused her to appear to be breathing. A chill had settled in and I wrapped myself in a chenille throw and continued to stare. Truly, it was as if I had sat for the artist, dressed in the costume of the era and wearing my broach. How was that possible? Could they be one in the same? After a while, I fetched the broach and held it next to the one in the portrait. Exactly identical. They were one in the same. And then, the lights went on.
The quiet after a storm is like no other. Yet, not even the quiet could still my pounding heart. I knew that something was amiss here and I tracked back on every detail of my unusual visits with Cal. His strange attire...which didn't appear to change from visit to visit. The coolness of his touch, the ease with which I could relate to him. The initial wave and that smile which had completely entranced me. And the gift of the broach. That, of course, topped everything else. Even the fact that it seemed as if he could read my mind. Then I realized that we had NOT said goodbye. Just like before.
With the power back on a most of the day to kill, I traipsed back up into the attic and poured over the stacks of papers and journals. There were pictures and smaller portraits done in pencil and some colored material that I couldn't identify. I went from one to the next to the next and suddenly, my hand stopped, paralyzed with awe and yes, fear. Staring back at me was Cal. But not Cal...Captain Aaron Calvin Drake, captain of the Diana Lee. And the man with whom I had shared my Sunday mornings for the entire summer. Upon further investigation, I discovered that the ship went down on September 6th, 1848 in a horrible gale right off of the coast, less than an hour from port. Pieces of the ship and its cargo washed ashore for days afterward. It was how the Diana Lee was identified. Of the Diana Lee's forty-man crew, only six bodies washed up, none of them was her captain. I also discovered that Mrs. Drake had given her husband her broach to wear until his return, and that he had vowed to place it in the palm of her hand as soon as his feet touched the sand.
I shivered. Trunks full of history lay strewn at my feet. With a start, I brushed myself off and fled downstairs. Although the pounding rain had turned to gentle drizzle, the wind was persistent and the sea was churning angrily against the cliffs. I stepped out onto the deck and peered through the raindrops and heavy mist that floated eerily against the beach. I could see something beyond the cascading waves... torn sails and a broken mast. The sea lifted what appeared to be a broken and battered, centuries old, ship tossing it like a dog tosses a bone. It faded into the jagged horizon and just as quickly was spit back into view, further broken. The wind began to howl relentlessly and once again the rain pummeled the coastline. And just as suddenly as the ghost ship appeared, it vanished into the sea carrying its spirited sailors to the ocean's floor.
It was today, September 6th when the Diana Lee was lost. Yet, Captain Drake had kept good a promise made those many years ago.
The broach was home.
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