Tuesday, December 25, 2012
“Steve, settle down. You are making me nervous with your fidgeting,” said Holly as she was attempting to straighten her husband's tie.
“I can't believe you are so calm, Holly. Tonight is your first time on stage and you act like it's just another ordinary show at the old opera house.”
“It is just another ordinary show. Just because I'm in it doesn't make it special for the folks who are in the audience. This is something I have thought of and planned for many years now. I'm going to enjoy myself and that's all there is to it. Besides, our friends and neighbors make up the audience and they will forgive me if I flub my lines.”
“You won't flub your lines. You will be brilliant tonight.”
“If I'm going to be brilliant, why are you so nervous?”
“Because I love you. Now, let's get going or we will be late. I promised Andy Logan I'd be there early to help set the stage,” Steve said as he gave his wife a good luck kiss.
Tracy was already at the theater when Holly and Steve arrived. “I'm just here for moral support. I know you will be great tonight. You'd think I was the one performing. I'm as nervous as a cat.”
The cast and crew had all arrived. Melanie assured them everything would go smoothly. “Holly, remember there will be applause when the curtain opens unlike in rehearsal. Wait until it begins to die down and then pick up the telephone receiver and speak your first line.”
At exactly 7:00, the curtain opened. Just as Melanie said, the audience was applauding. Holly walked to the table, reached down to pick up the receiver and froze in place. She couldn't move her legs. She forgot her line. She wanted to run and would have but her feet seem to be glued to the floor. She had never known such fear.
The audience was silent.
Holly heard her name being called. It wasn't a voice that was familiar to her. Her eyes followed the voice without turning her head. Millicent Merryweather Stout Harvey was standing before her.
“It's not possible, you can't be here.”
“I'm here dear, I have been watching you since the day you and Tracy decided to turn my lovely home into a place of activity and joy. I will always be grateful to you for that. I will stand right here beside you as you speak your lines this evening. You can do it, just open your mouth and the words will flow.”
“It's too late, I had my chance and now I look like a fool. I don't know whatever made me think I could act. I'm a middle aged woman who has no business up here on this stage.”
“Nonsense, you and your friend built a successful business when you were barely out of your teens. Everyone said you couldn't make it work, but it did. This is no time to give up.”
The vision of Millie disappeared, but Holly could feel her presence by her side. She picked up the receiver and spoke her lines clearly.
What seemed an eternity to Holly had only been a moment, the audience thought it was an intentional pause.
Holly delivered an exceptional performance. She would finish the run of the play but decided it would be her last. She had accomplished what she set out to do on stage and now she wanted to concentrate on being an innkeeper with her good friend Tracy. She still couldn't believe what happened this evening. She found herself looking around for Millie to appear.
Tracy hosted a small celebration at The Merryweather after the show. When the crowd began to thin out and Holly had a chance to speak with Tracy alone, she told her about her visit with Millie.
“I know you will think I have lost my mind, Tracy. I have never seen a ghost who looked so real. Not that I'm an expert at ghosts, mind you.”
“If you have lost your mind then I'm afraid I've lost mine too. Last Wednesday, when you were at rehearsal, I walked by the gallery. I heard a voice and turned around. There was no one there. I looked up at the wall and Millie's lips were moving. She called me by name and told me I'd better check on the gentlemen in the Taylor Suite. It was like I was in a trance. I went to the front desk, unlocked the safe and pulled out the pass keys. I didn't even knock, just unlocked the door and walked in. There was Mr. Carmichael lying on the floor. The water in the tub was just beginning to overflow. I called 911 and the paramedics came shortly after that.”
“I remember, you were shaking when I got back. Mr. Carmichael was a diabetic, wasn't he? He was so grateful to you for helping him. I asked you how you knew the man was in trouble and you said you didn't know, it was like someone had told you to check on that room.”
“Holly, do you think our imaginations are playing tricks on us? I wonder why Millicent Merryweather is talking to us after all these years.”
“I don't know. Her voice was very pleasant. It was as though she was a mother speaking to her child. I remember thinking she sounded like people must have one hundred years ago. She said she was grateful to us for what we did with her home.”
“Are you going to mention this to Steve? Jack will tell me I need a vacation. Maybe we should both think about doing just that. The ghost of Millicent Merryweather Stout Harvey is speaking to us from the great beyond.”
“What are you two talking about?” asked Melanie. “You look like you have seen a ghost.”
“What if we told you that is exactly what happened? Maybe you should call Joe, I'm sure he knows of a couple of padded rooms somewhere.”
“I'm not sure either one of you is imagining ghosts,” replied Melanie. “Do you remember when we first came to Camden Corners and Samantha was mesmerized by Iris Taylor's photograph? Iris warned her that Julianna was in danger. Thanks to Samantha's screams, Rick Marino was able to pull Julianna to safety and saved her from drowning. I still shudder when I think of what could have happened to her.”
“I'd forgotten about that,” said Tracy. “How are Julianna and Rick? I hope they are planning another visit soon.”
“Better than that, I just received a letter from Julianna this morning. Rick has decided to retire from his job at the newspaper. Julianna says the traveling is getting old. She and the twins used to go with him often when they were younger but it had become more difficult as they were growing up. Lacey and Erin were both accepted at the university here in Camden Corners and Rick suggested they move here too. He's planning to try his hand at writing.”
“That's wonderful news,” said Holly. “I know Julianna has often said Camden Corners felt more like home to her than anywhere she has lived. It's hard to believe those little girls are all grown up and ready to start college.”
Meanwhile in California, Julianna is sorting through her kitchenware deciding what items she will pack and what she will give to the thrift store. She hears the car pull into the driveway and a few seconds later Erin opens the back door.
“Hi Mom,” she says cheerfully.
“Hi Dear, is your sister with you?”
“Yes, she's coming, she's sulking, as usual.”
Without a greeting, Lacey opened the door and with a scowl on her face said, “I'm not going. You can't make me. I hate Camden Corners.”
“Lacey, you know you can't stay in California by yourself. I know your friends have offered to put you up but they are all going out of town to school. You would be on your own in a month. What would you do to earn a living? You have never held a job before. If you think you will be able to support yourself on minimum wage, think again.”
“Ross will let me move in with him and his buddy,” she said with a satisfied look on her face.
This was the first time Lacey had mentioned living with Ross. Julianna tried not to show the panic she felt. Ross McCoy was an auto mechanic in town who had worked on Julianna's car. She sent the girls to pick up the car about a month ago. When they returned, Lacey was smiling broadly and seemed to float through the air.
“What's up with your sister?” asked Julianna.
“She's in love,” Erin replied. “The minute she saw the mechanic, she fell for him. He didn't pay any attention to her until his buddy whispered in his ear. I didn't hear what he said, but I didn't like the look in his eyes. He started flirting with her and Lacey fell for every line. He said he'd be by to pick her up after he got off work. I don't like it Mom. This guy is way out of Lacey's league.”
The evening came and went and there was no sign of Ross McCoy. Julianna was relieved. She trusted Erin's instincts and hoped that was the end of the Ross McCoy.
Lacey cried herself to sleep that evening. The next day, she borrowed her mother's car and drove to the garage.
“Look kid, you are cute and all that but you are too young for me. I'll bet you aren't even out of high school yet.”
“I am too, I graduated in May, I'm eighteen.”
Ross wasn't a bad guy. He enjoyed life and never took anything or anyone seriously. Lacey wasn't his type, but he knew she was from the country club crowd. Maybe, through her, he could broaden his horizons. “Tell you what, kid. I'm off for lunch in thirty minutes. I'll let you buy me a burger in the joint down the road.”
“I'll wait for you Ross,” Lacey said with stars in her eyes.
Forty five minutes later he came out of the garage. Lacey was afraid he would get grease on the seat of her mother's car. Instead, he told her to get out of the car. He hopped on his Harley, and she hopped on the back. Lacey couldn't believe she had her arms around Ross McCoy's waist as he drove the few blocks to the tavern. It was like no place Lacey had ever been before. The air was thick with smoke, there was a strong odor of beer, it was so dark her eyes weren't able to focus. She could hear the sound of people playing pool. Ross led her to the bar and they sat down.
“You can't sit here honey. Ross, you know better than to bring a kid in here. At least sit at a table out of the way,” said the well endowed barmaid.
“I'm not a kid,” argued Lacey.
“Are you twenty one?”
“Come on kid, we'll sit over here. Don't try to argue with Ruby, she'll win every time.”
Ruby smiled at the couple. That poor kid doesn't know what a mess she's gotten herself into, she thought to herself.
Ross didn't know what to make of Lacey. He'd had his share of women, but none as innocent as this kid. She was a looker, that was for sure. He knew she would be an easy conquest, but somehow he felt protective of her.
They continued to see each other. Lacey lived for the time she spent with Ross. She was content to just be in his company although she dreamed of the day he would take her in his arms and make passionate love to her. She had never exchanged more than a few kisses with a boy, but she knew she would be a willing partner with Ross.
Rick called his family every time he had an opportunity. He was usually on the other side of the world reporting the latest disaster.
“Rick,” said Julianna during one of the calls. “I'm worried about Lacey. Erin says she is seeing the mechanic where we take the car. I have yet to meet him. Lacey thinks he's wonderful but refuses to bring him by the house.”
“It must be Ross McCoy. I've met him. He seems like a decent fellow. I can't picture him with someone like Lacey though. He's a little rough around the edges. I'll pay him a visit when I get home.”
Julianna couldn't wait for the day she would have Rick all to herself. They had been separated more often than they'd been together in the last few years.
“Ross, what are you gonna do about the kid?” said his roommate, Louie. “She's getting to be a pest. She told Ruby the other night that she was hoping you'd let her move in with you. You know how I feel about chicks being here. I don't care if they come over but I don't want to live with them.”
“Yeah, the kid's beginning to be a real problem. Her folks are moving back east soon. She was all set to go with them but now she thinks she wants to stay here. I'm gonna have to let her down easy. I like the kid and I don't want to hurt her feelings.”
“You're just a softie, right?”
Lacey slammed the door to her room. She wasn't moving to Camden Corners and that was the end of it. Ross loved her, she knew he did even though he never said the words. She packed a few of her clothes. She'd come back for the rest after her mother realized she was not moving with the rest of the family. She quietly walked down the stairs, out the front door and around to the side of the garage where she kept her bike. It took her almost an hour to reach Ross' apartment. Her excitement kept her pedaling even though her legs were tiring. She knocked on his door. Ross, Louie and Louie's girl, Annabel were in the kitchen. Louie was the closest to the door, he opened it and without greeting Lacey, yelled for his friend. “The kid's here and it looks like she's here to stay.”
Lacey had never been to the apartment before. Ross knew he had to do something to put an end to this. “Annabel, play along with me will you?” He took off his shirt and loosened the buckle of his belt. He threw his arm around Annabel and walked to the front door.
“What do you want, kid?” he said taking a swig of his beer. “I'm kinda busy.”
Annabel played her part well. She nuzzled his neck. Louie understood what was happening and said. “Hey kid, I'm not busy if you want to come in, you and I can have some fun.”
Lacey's stared at them in disbelief. She felt her legs go weak. She turned and ran down the stairs still clutching her overnight bag. Tears were streaming down her face.
Ross started to go after her. “Let her go, buddy,” said his friend. “It's better this way.”
“I know, but I feel like a louse.” Ross McCoy finished his beer in one swallow and reached for the bottle of scotch he saved for special occasions.
Lacey reached the intersection. There was a pay phone outside of the drug store. She dialed her home. “Mommy, will you come pick me up?”