*I thought I would try my hand at a ghost story. While not my usual genre or style, it was fun to write! I especially enjoyed the research that went into it to make it as authentic as possible.
This story was delivered in parts, as it is a bit long and still needs a little work.
I try to use all of my own photos, but this proved difficult for this piece. For parts III and IV, and the conclusion, I was able to snag photos from my own stock! III and IV is a picture taken by my daughter’s friend, Sierra Palmer. The photo featured on the conclusion is my grandson.
Also, my editor is usually not on duty for my blog posts. If you happen to find any errors in spelling or grammar…I’m sorry! I do what I can, but often miss things. Thanks for your patience!
I truly hope you have enjoyed reading my first ever ghost story!
by Kristy Gherlone
San Diego California-Present Day
“You made your bed, you lie in it,” Victoria Combs griped into the phone. She lit a cigarette, though she’d just butted one out not even a minute before. She sat with a grunt in the cheap, aluminum lawn chair she’d thrown onto the beach and lathered on a glob of tanning oil with her one free hand.
“Mother, I’m not asking for a whole lot. I just need to get some sleep tonight. All I need is for you to come over and give me a hand for one stinking night! I’m not asking you to raise him!” Shelby Combs argued. Her mother was ridiculously selfish. She always had been, but Shelby was exhausted. She had to try. She never knew that having a baby would be so absolutely draining. She’d only been home from the hospital for a couple of days, but it was already taking a toll. Not that her mother would be a whole lot of help, but it would have been something.
“I told you having a baby was a bad idea. You know what the cards said. I don’t know why you never listen. They were pretty friggen clear,” Victoria scolded. She began to cough loudly and was forced to wait until it subsided before adding, “We both knew your man wouldn’t stick around.”
“Sometimes they’re wrong.” Shelby sighed. She knew she was fighting a battle that couldn’t be won. Born into a family of clairvoyants, Shelby had learned from a very young age to ask the tarot cards before doing anything of importance. They didn’t always give her the answer she wanted, but they were almost always right.
“Ha! Not in our family. Grow up, Shelby! Accept your responsibilities. Bye.” Shelby heard the phone click. Her mother wasn’t coming. She never could count on her and didn’t know why she expected any different this time.
“Damn it!” Shelby screamed into the air. She almost threw the phone, but stopped. She’d need it to call a nanny service if things didn’t get any better. She could deal with just about anything except for that incessant crying! That’s all Joshua ever did, it seemed. He was fine at the hospital, but as soon as she’d brought him home… day and night! It didn’t matter if he’d just eaten or been changed, or was being held. He cried until he lost his breath and Shelby couldn’t take it.
She wanted the baby. It was as simple as that, which was probably why she didn’t listen. She was getting older. At thirty-four, the chances that she was going to marry were getting slim. The chances of having a baby were even slimmer. She felt like if she didn’t do it, she never would. She’d wind up a childless cat lady even worse off than her own mother.
Shelby went to the freezer to take out a dinner that one of her customers had prepared for her for after she’d had the baby. She was grateful for the gesture.
Cecile Craig, the one who’d provided her with all the food, was a sweet lady, but a bit of a kook. She was a religious follower of Shelby’s, coming in to her office once a week to have her palm read, or in dire circumstance, to have the tarot cards read.
Shelby often wondered what went on in her head to think that she needed so much help from beyond. A woman of eighty years shouldn’t need so much guidance, but she’d come in and ask for advice about which brand of dog food she should get, which program she should watch on TV, or who she should vote for in the election. Shelby suspected she came in out of loneliness, but it wouldn’t have been good for her pocketbook to set her straight and she didn’t really mind the company.
As she stood waiting for the microwave to ding, she felt a whiff of cold air. She’d been feeling it off and on since she’d brought Joshua home from the hospital, but she’d been too tired to address it.
“I know you’re here and I want you to leave. I don’t need your kind of help,” Shelby called out with agitation.
The spirits often came to her in bursts of cold. It was how she knew they were there. If she didn’t ignore them, they’d get worse, bugging her all hours of the night.
Joshua began to fuss loudly. Shelby could hear him starting in, in the living room where she’d set up a portable bassinet. He’d hadn’t even slept an hour. She was tempted to let him cry it out. She’d fed and changed him before putting him down so he couldn’t possibly really need anything.
He wailed fiercely. It set her nerves on edge, but then he suddenly stopped.
Grateful, she went back to seeing about dinner but something about his silence bothered her even more than the crying.
The dinner forgotten she hurried into the living room. It was freezing! She could hear the whispers of a song. A lullaby lingered in the room so faintly, it almost wasn’t there at all.
“Get out!” Shelby screamed. She reached in to snatch the baby out. He was shivering, but relatively ok. “Go away. You can’t have him,” she said into the air.
A shot of frigid air reached out and touched her cheek. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling. Joshua began to fidget in her arms. His lips puckered into a horrible little pout before beginning to cry again.
“You may not know it, but you’re dead! This is my baby and you can’t have him.”
Dinner could wait. This was too important. This one meant business, and if she didn’t do something about it…
She set Joshua down and opened the drawer on the coffee table, pulled out the tarot cards and then ran back into the kitchen. She picked up the phone. “Cecile? Can you come over? It’s an emergency. I need to do a séance.”
Later that evening, after Cecile had left, Shelby placed Joshua in his crib. She turned on the baby monitor and went to lay down in her own bed. She wished she had someone to watch over him while she slept. She didn’t trust that spirit. Something about her aura seemed too desperate.
She’d just drifted off when the sounds of a lullaby woke her. She knew immediately what it was. She raced into the baby’s room.
Isabelle held her baby and gazed lovingly into its little face.
“Don’t you cry, now. Mummy is here. Mummy will never leave you,” she soothed.
“Isabelle? Isabelle Hackney?” Shelby called out into the freezing darkness.
Isabelle startled. She heard her name. Someone was calling her name, but it sounded so far away. So very far away. She ignored it, lost in maternal bliss.
“Isabelle? That is not your child. He is mine. Yours was lost long, long ago. You’re dead, Isabelle.”
It can’t be! Isabelle thought, continuing to rock. This baby is mine. Of course this baby is mine.
“Mummy will never leave you. Anything you need, I’ll be right here.”
“You’re dead Isabelle and your baby is long gone. Please leave before you kill him!” Shelby begged.
For the first time, Isabelle took her eyes away from the baby. She looked up and only then did she notice how very different everything was. How strange. This was not her house!
It was so cold there. She shivered despite the coat and scarf. She was so cold.
She gazed down into her baby’s eyes. It wasn’t hers. She knew then that it wasn’t hers.
Oh dear God, the morphine!
“You’re killing him. You’re stealing the warmth right out of him with your touch and I have a terrible suspicion that in your ignorance, you may have done the same with others. It’s cold where you linger. It’s always cold where the dead roam. Let him go, Isabelle, and don’t ever walk this way again. Your baby is gone. She cries for you from heaven.”
Isabelle knew then the mistake that she’d made.
“Oh my poor baby! Mummy is coming, little one. Mummy is coming.” She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.