Grave Stones – Part 8

spring

Angela turned to Adam. He was sound asleep, a little drool sliding from the corner of his mouth. She elbowed him and looked back to the girl. She was gone. Impossible!

Angela put her hand on the pew, where the girl’s hand had been: it was still cold and wet. Beulah’s daughter looked over her shoulder at Angela and gave her a toothy grin. Adam touched Angela’s forearm, looking questioningly at her.

“What’s wrong?”

“She was right there!” Angela pointed to the spot next to Beulah Mae. “I felt the wet where she put her hand, and my feet…”

Angela looked down—the water was gone. The floor showed no sign of being wet nor did her sandals. All of it was gone, everything but the fact that she had seen the girl again, a third time.

“Are you sure you didn’t doze off?”

“I did, but the water was cold on my feet and woke me up.” Even as she said that, she realized how foolish it sounded. Angela stood up.

“I need some air.” Her words coincided with a lull in the loud preaching and the whole congregation—as many as were awake—heard her. With all eyes on her, she walked the aisle back to the door and out. Adam waited about three minutes and with whispered apologies, followed her.

Outside, Adam found Angela leaning against an oak tree, out of the line of sight of the Chapel front door and windows.

“Hey, I’m sorry,” Adam said. “I was half awake.”

“I know. But Adam, it was real! That was no dream! My foot and my hand were wet, cold wet, not sweat! And was crying, and asking for help! Adam what do I do?!”

“If it’s just a dream, you don’t have to do anything. If it’s real….”

“It’s REAL! Don’t doubt me!”

“Ok, well, what can you do? How do you help a, a… ghost?”

“I don’t know! I don’t even believe in ghosts. Except for this one. This is different!”

They both laughed at that, and they held each other.

“I’m so glad you at least try to believe me, honey!”

“Yeah, well, it’s my old ghosts that brought me back here anyhow. Speaking of which, let’s go see what’s new and different in the graveyard, see if any more stones are turned.”

The graveyard was on the opposite side of the building and as they rounded the corner Billy and an old woman were examining the straightened stones.

From where they stopped, they could hear him reading off names as he walked the old woman down the aisle, sometimes the family names, sometimes just the first name. Each time she nodded. Once in a while she would murmur a few words, once she stopped and pointed, as if stunned at what she saw.

“That’s the Pastor’s wife. I didn’t think she was still alive. She has to be ninety-something by now.”

Adam led Angela over to introduce her. Esther Morgan was a gaunt, silver-haired scarecrow in a shapeless cotton gingham dress. Piercing blue eyes and hawk nose warned you to keep your foolishness and your distance or pay a price. But she was fragile now, leaning heavily on a cane or on Billy’s arm. When she recognized Adam, she smiled.

“Adam Brown. It’s been too long.”

“It has. It’s good to see you, Miss Esther. Didn’t see you in church earlier.

“Last time I attended, I had to be carried back to the house.” She paused only for a moment. “Was it you who pointed out to Billy here that the gravestones have been turned around?”

“Yes’m. My mom’s is one of them.”

Miss Esther looked at Billy. He nodded. “We didn’t get that far yet, but yes, Adam pointed it out to me.”

“Hmph. And who is this?” Esther kept her eyes on Adam.

“This is my fiancée, Angela Williams.”

“When’s the date?”

Adam blushed. “We haven’t set that yet.”

“Well, do it. I’d like to be invited while I’m still alive.” A shadow of a smile crossed her face and Adam laughed an easy laugh.

“Yes Ma’am!”

Miss Ester turned to Billy. “I see what’s happening here, Billy. It’s about time. I’ll have something to say about this to the congregation tonight, before the hymn sing. Tell the deacons. Right now I’m wore out and I need to go back to the house.”

As she took Billy’s arm to go, she turned and looked Angela square in the eyes. “I understand you’ve been seeing someone here, young lady. Don’t let that spook you. Stick with that boy—he’s worth it. And we need him!”

Angela smiled, unsure of what to say.

“Remember that!” Esther’s voice was emphatic, almost angry.

“Yes Ma’am! Angela replied.

Miss Ester nodded and turned to Billy. “Let’s go. I’m tired and my bones ache. I feel a storm comin’.”

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About Gordon DeLand

Author, speaker, ex-Navy and ex-preacher and ex-several other things. Grew up in the wilderness of Madison County, New York State. Officially retired, currently residing Chicago but have lived on all four coasts and Hawaii. Maybe someday I'll retire back to New York. But not yet.
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