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All material copyright of Rebecca Rhielle

Friday, September 17, 2010

What We Hear - Chapter 9


What We Hear
Chapter 9
©2010 Rebecca Rhielle

  “Come, now. What’s all this blubbering?” A clipped British voice filled the room suddenly.
 Sadie answered without lifting her head, mumbling into her folded arms.
  “Go away, Phillip.”
  She really couldn’t deal with the narcissistic middle-aged man from across the pond right now.
  “Certainly not,” he retorted in a huff, “I am not leaving until you tell me what you are going on about!”
  Still sniffling, Sadie managed a sigh.
  Phillip was well-intentioned but insufferable. He had been an artist and poet, and was still given to the egocentric thinking of the creative personality that had cost him his life. During a nervous breakdown, he murdered his lover and then turned the gun on himself. Phillip had caused quite a stir in 19th century London society – a fact that pleased him to no end.
  He probably would have thought twice about shooting William though, if he had known they’d be stuck with each other for eternity, she thought with amusement.
  As if on cue, William’s spirit arrived just as Sadie was lifting her head to more clearly explain to Phillip exactly where he could go and how.
  “Stop badgering her, you brute!” he scolded Phillip.
  “There, there, love…” William soothed to Sadie, and she felt his cold, soft touch as he brushed the hair from her face. “Tell William all about it, now.”
  Phillip made a disgusted noise, but said nothing.
  “Well,” Sadie began, the tears starting again. “My uncle…he…he’s…” But she couldn’t say the word. Her mouth simply would not form the sounds.
  “Ah,” came William’s understanding sigh. “I see.”
  “Oh. Oh, dear,” Phillip said with shame in his voice. “I’m so sorry, love. I didn’t know.”
  William barked a laugh. “Of course you didn’t know, you self-absorbed ninny.”
  “See here, you…”
  “Guys!” she shouted over them. “Hello? Crying, despondent woman over here!”
  “Sorry, Sadie,” they apologized in unison.
  “Say,” Phillip said in a surprised tone. “Your uncle wouldn’t be Harold, would he? The new guy?”
  Surprised, Sadie nodded.
  “Well, fancy that!” William chimed in, laughing. “He’s a bit of a nutter, yeah? I say, he’s got the lot of them rollin’ over there! Oh, you must miss him terrible.”
  Sadie gave a choked sound, tears welling up in her eyes once more.
  “Now who’s the brute, you dolt?” Phillip said harshly.
  She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry over their bickering. They obviously cared and were trying to comfort her, but it was only making things worse.
  “Phillip, William, I really appreciate what you are trying to do, but if it’s all the same to you I’d like to be alone right now.”
  “Of course, love,” William answered kindly. “We’ll leave you be.”
  Phillip was not in agreement. “But she –“
  “I said we’ll leave her be. Come on Nancy-boy. Lets go haunt the football changing room. That always makes you feel better.”
  “Oh, all right. But if you need us…”
  “I’ll shout, yes,” Sadie finished for him. “Don’t worry, you two – I’ll be fine. I just need a little time to myself.”
  “Okay, then,” said William. “We’ll check on you later, love. Ta ta!”
  The room felt empty again, and a huge rush of relief flooded through Sadie. Before she could get too comfortable, however, she smelled the very distinct scent of Arnold’s aftershave.
  “Sadie girl, I just heard. I am so sorry!”
  Just as she was about to answer, Sadie realized the room was quickly filling with spirits, all presumably there to offer condolences, and all talking at once. She sighed deeply and realized she wasn’t going to have the option of solitude anytime soon.
  Life with the dead, she thought. So it goes.
***
  The next few days were filled with phone calls from relatives, plans for a funeral and more visits from the Spirit World. Sadie was exhausted, and although Gale tried to keep her strength up by cooking all of her favorite foods, Sadie realized she wouldn’t really have any peace until she heard from Harold himself.
  Wearing a loud shift dress and the biggest earrings she could find in honor of Harold (who always loved to tease her about wearing ‘dinner plates’ on her ears), Sadie stood in the funeral home, watching friends and family mill about aimlessly.
  “Horrible things, funerals,” William’s voice sounded softly in her ear.
  She had to smile. William was always there to give humor and comfort…like a favorite uncle. That thought had her tearing up again, so she quickly shifted into conversation mode.
  Where’s Phillip?
  Sadie didn’t dare speak out loud to him in the midst of all these people. Her family was already convinced she was a bit off as it was.
  “Oh, he saw something he liked in the locker room the other day, and now he’s off doing research on how to become an incubus,” William answered with a combination of disgust and amusement. “He’s an imbecile.”
  She found herself swallowing a laugh. Now would certainly not be the appropriate time for that.
  Shoo, William, she said affectionately. You’ll give me away.
  His laugh rang in her ears, and she could almost feel him smiling. “Okay, love. But I’ll be close by if you need me.” Then he was gone.
  The funeral itself was standard, with the preacher predictably abusing the opportunity to proselytize even though Harold hated that sort of thing. Sadie found her mind wandering back to all the fond memories she had of her uncle, and trying to reconcile those with the lifeless shell at the front of the room.
  As expected, the family and friends in attendance were led past the casket to view Harold’s body. Sadie had never liked this part, because it was so very obvious that the spirit was gone, but she followed suit out of respect. Pausing by the coffin, she took a moment to say her own personal goodbye. Only halfway through her mental speech, a new voice sounded in her head.
  “What’s happenin’, tiger? Nice earrings! Ooo, I look awful! Could have done a little lipo while they were in there, couldn’t they?”
  Sadie had to grab the edge of the casket to keep from fainting. Her uncle had finally come for his visit.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

What We Hear - Chapter 8 (a very special chapter)

What We Hear

Chapter 8**

©2010 Rebecca Rhielle


As they were clearing the dishes from lunch, Markie popped back in. She didn’t say anything, but Sadie could feel her in the room. Stopping to tilt her head, Sadie earned a confused look from her partner.

“Who is it?” Gale asked matter-of-factly.

Sadie was momentarily distracted from Markie’s presence by an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.

How many people get to live their lives with someone who accepts them so completely? I am a very lucky woman.

Aloud, she answered, “Markie. But it’s strange…she’s not saying anything. I know she’s there, though.” Shaking her head, Sadie called to her.

“Markie? What is it? You’re back awfully soon…everything okay?”

Gale patted her hand and gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.

“I’ll leave you two alone,” she said. “I’ll be up in my studio if you need me.”

Sadie was barely aware of her exiting the kitchen. She was too confused by Markie’s uneasy silence. Moving back to the table and taking a seat, she tried to talk to the girl again.

“Whatever it is, you can tell me, you know. After this afternoon I’m not sure anything will come as much of a surprise.”

Her attempt at humor fell flat, and she almost fell off her chair as the faint figure of a girl appeared across the table from her.

Mouth agape, she sat staring at the apparition. Sure, she had heard the spirits all her life, but had never actually seen one!

What the hell…?

Markie’s huge brown eyes were focused sadly on Sadie.

“I do have something to tell you, Sadie. It’s good that you’re sitting down, I guess.”

Her words should have gotten Sadie’s attention, but at the moment it was focused on her appearance instead. Short brown hair swung just below Markie’s chin, and she was still dressed in the worn blue t-shirt and faded jeans she must have had on at her death. She had freckles, which surprised Sadie a bit, because Markie didn’t seem like the freckly type. Forcing herself to rein in her thoughts, she finally responded.

“I’m sorry…I’ve just never seen…I mean, I didn’t know…”

“It’s okay. We don’t usually see the point in showing ourselves. Besides, it takes a lot of energy, and we don’t really look like this anyway. We’re all spirit, so it’s more like an amoeba than anything else.”

A small smile touched the corners of her thin mouth, but it faded quickly.

“Sadie, I need to tell you something, and it’s not easy for me,” she started to explain.

Sadie was still contemplating the thought of an afterlife full of amoebas, but she tried to concentrate.

“Okay, honey. What is it? I can see it’s upsetting you, so just let it out.”

“Well, you remember how I had to take off a little while ago? Because of the new spirit and all?”

“Yes,” Sadie answered patiently.

“That new spirit was…I mean, he is…oh, stars, I don’t know how to say this…”

As Sadie watched the girl fumble for words, her skin began to tingle with apprehension. Somehow, she knew whatever came out of Markie’s mouth was not going to be good news.

Her spirit appeared to take a deep breath, then blurted it out in one quick word as only teenagers can.

“ThenewspiritwasyouruncleHarold.”

It took Sadie a moment to break apart and process what Markie had said, but when she did the tingles became waves of disbelief that flooded through her.

“Uncle Harold? My uncle Harold?” she managed to squeak.

But that’s impossible! I just spoke to him a week ago! I mean, sure…he wasn’t the picture of health, but who is? There must be some mistake.

“I’m not mistaken, Sadie,” she answered sadly. Her form began to shimmer and then just disintegrated. “I’m sorry,” her now-disembodied voice rang out. “It just takes too much to stay solid like that.”

Tears welled in Sadie’s eyes. Her uncle was one of those people whose voice could fill an entire room, and whose stories could always make her laugh. He was one of the lucky ones who lived life with joy and love, someone who was actually happy to be here on this planet, and always brightened any space he occupied. The idea that he could be gone from this world was intolerable to Sadie. And incomprehensible.

But she had come to know Markie quite well over the past few years, and she knew the girl wouldn’t lie to her…especially about something like this. She took a deep breath to steady herself, and tried to focus on logistics.

“So, if you helped him, then he’s okay now, right?”

Markie’s tone brightened considerably. “Oh, yeah. He’s got everyone in Admin rolling right now. He’s quite the storyteller!”

Sadie had to laugh, despite the pain in her heart. That he is, indeed.

“And he’s already caused a hilarious uproar in Acquisitions, too. We get to choose the physical form we take when we visit this side, and most of us choose our regular selves. That makes it easier for our loved ones to recognize us, you see…whenever they actually let down their walls and see us, that is. But your uncle!”

Markie laughed loud. “He agreed that taking the physical form he had in life would be the best choice, but he absolutely insisted that be given a full head of thick hair, and a specially-made jersey that has the Texas Longhorn logo on the front and the Houston Astros logo on the back! With sweatpants and house shoes, of all things! He said he died in a hospital johnny, and that if the shock of one of his family members seeing his ghost didn’t kill them, the shock of seeing his bare ass hanging out surely would! I swear Sadie, I haven’t laughed that much in years!”

Her voice turned solemn again. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make light of something so tragic.”

But Sadie was smiling and laughing, too. “I’m sad, Markie, yes. Of course I am. But I am also glad to hear that he’s the same old Harold he always was, and that he’s still making people laugh. That was his most favorite thing.”

“Oh!” Markie exclaimed. “I forgot to tell you…Harold also said that he would only hang around his Spirit Space if they piped in show-tunes and doo-wop music.” She laughed out loud again. “Can you imagine their faces? I mean, we all get to pick out the d├ęcor and stuff for our Space, but show-tunes and doo-wop? From a big man like that? I tell you, they’re really getting a kick out of him over there.”

Sadie grinned again. But the reality of the situation was beginning to descend on her.

I’m never going to get to hug him again, or hear him poke fun at me. I’ll never see those baggy sweatpants and slippers shuffling into a family gathering. Anger bubbled inside her.

This isn’t fair! We weren’t done with him! I want him back – here – not there. We’re his family, not them! Dammit-all-to-hell, how did this happen?

Markie answered her last thought.

“He hit his head, Sadie. It was bad, and he tried to hang on, but you have to understand that his Spirit was out even before he passed away. He didn’t hurt, and he wasn’t afraid. In fact, he thought the whole thing was kinda cool, like a movie or something. Well, that’s what he told me, anyway.” She paused for a moment.

“I know you’ll miss him, Sadie,” she said quietly. “But he’s happy now, please believe me. He has no pain, no fear. What he does have is hair, comfy slippers, and supernaturally piped-in doo-wop music. And he seems quite content with his afterlife. So please don’t be angry. He tried to hang on for all of you because he loved you guys so much, but it was time.”

Sadie didn’t know what to say. She heard Markie’s words…she even believed them. But it didn’t stop the hurt from pounding through her body with a sickening rhythm.

Markie spoke up again. “Hey, I know…once he gets settled in, I’ll bring him to see you. Would that be okay?”

“Oh, yes,” Sadie said, hope blooming in her heart a little. “Oh, please. Do that. When do you think it will be? How soon?”

“Pretty soon. He’s adjusting rather well, I would say. Speaking of, I really need to get back. Are you sure you’ll be alright, Sadie?”

“Yeah,” she answered, although she wasn’t. “You just go take care of my uncle.”

“Will do!” the girl called out. “I’ll check in later, okay?”

Sadie turned suddenly in the direction of Markie’s voice.

“Oh – and Markie?”

“Yeah?”

“Thank you. For everything.”

“No problem. I’ll be back soon!”

Sadie felt Markie’s presence leave the room.

Alone with this new knowledge, and struggling to comprehend a world without Harold in it, she laid her head down on the table.

And she cried.

***

**In loving memory of Hal Corley, 7/26/46 – 9/10/2010…beloved father, husband, uncle, grandfather, brother-in-law, co-worker, friend, and fellow traveler on this journey. I really hope you got your hair back, man. We love you.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What We Hear - Chapter 7

What We Hear

Chapter 7

©2010 Rebecca Rhielle

“Now then, Mrs. Davis,” Sadie said as they sipped their tea, the picture safely covered. “Is there anything else you want to know from your daughter?”

The woman considered for a moment. “Yes,” she said finally, setting down her cup. “I want to know what happened the day she passed on.”

It was all Sadie could do to keep from rolling her eyes.

“We’ve been over this, Noreen,” she said patiently. “The spirits don’t like to talk about their deaths. They let that pain and fear go when they cross over.”

“I am not interested in her pain and fear,” Mrs. Davis snapped, then quickly changed her tone, voice becoming sickly sweet. “I mean, of course I care about her feelings –“

“Yeah, right,” Markie interjected.

“– but what I really want to know is what she was doing on that side of town to begin with. And at that time of night! I think I deserve an explanation at the very least. After all, can you imagine how embarrassing it was for me when the officer came to my door? I told him there must have been a mistake – my daughter was sound asleep in her bed! But lo and behold, he was right. I was so humiliated.” She sniffled again, reaching for her hanky.

Sadie was floored. At the time this woman was told her daughter was dead, her thoughts were all for her own embarrassment.

“Welcome to my life,” said Markie ruefully. “Now you see why I like being dead so much?”

I understood that the moment I met her, honey.

“So I think,” Noreen went on, “that I deserve to know the truth of what she was doing that night.” She paused for a moment, staring at Sadie with a haughty expression.

“Well, let’s have it, then!”

This is just not worth the money. I think I’d rather live under a bridge.

“Okay, Mrs. Davis. Just give me a minute to talk to Markie.”

Mentally she reached out the girl, asking for something – anything – to tell this woman. Strangely, her question was answered with silence.

Markie? Are you still here?

“Yeah, I’m here.” Her voice was sullen, and Sadie was immediately sorry that she had put her on the spot like this.

I can just make something up, you know. She’ll never know the difference.

“No,” Markie replied. “Might as well tell her now, maybe it will get rid of her for good.”

Sadie’s brow furrowed in confusion, and she noticed Noreen staring.

“What? What is it? Did she give you a good reason for why she humiliated me like that?”

“You know what?” Markie spat angrily. “Fine, you want the reason? I’ll give you the reason. I was visiting my girlfriend!”

It should have been a no-brainer for Sadie to accept this, but it shocked her beyond words.

“So put that in your pipe and smoke it, Noreen,” the girl added venomously.

Um, Markie? Just so we clarify…you mean a girlfriend as in…?

“As in I was in love with her. As in her kiss was the only thing that made life with this harpy bearable. As in girlfriend.” Markie explained.

Oh, dear.

Noreen was watching her expectantly, and Sadie was wrestling with what she should tell her. The truth? It would get rid of her, that much she was relatively sure of. But could she really sully Markie’s memory like that?

“I don’t care, Sadie,” came Markie’s soft reply. “I’m happy. I know who I was, I know who I am. I don’t need her approval.”

Sadie was touched by the girl’s strength, and awed at her confidence. Then again, she was dead. Not much to fear after that I suppose.

Smiling, mostly because she realized it would be the last time she saw this horrible woman, Sadie decided to tell her the truth. The whole truth.

“Markie said she was visiting her girlfriend.”

Not comprehending, Noreen looked confused. “But she can see her friends during the daytime. Why would she sneak out just to visit one of them?”

Sadie shook her head. “No, Mrs. Davis. Her girlfriend. As in lover, partner, soulmate. Girlfriend.”

Her smile grew wider as she watched the woman process the information, her mouth opening and closing but no sound coming out.

“But…but… That can’t be right! My daughter was not a…les…les…”

“The word is lesbian, Noreen. And it seems that she was.”

“That is sick!” the woman screamed, standing up suddenly. “It is a sin in the eyes of the Lord. A first-class ticket to hell!”

“I’ll save you a seat,” Markie laughed.

Sadie laughed too. What did she have to lose now? “I think not, Mrs. Davis. Markie hasn’t mentioned a single thing about eternal fire or torturing demons.”

“I cannot believe you are making light of this,” the woman said seriously. “It is no laughing matter. My daughter is damned for all eternity because of this…sick perversion!”

Now Sadie just sighed. “Um, didn’t I just say she was not surrounded by the fires of hell?”

Noreen was pacing back and forth across the room.

“If she thought she was embarrassed before…” Markie said wickedly.

It seems the woman was thinking along the same lines. She turned to Sadie sharply, her eyes feverish.

“How much will it take for you to never let this get out? I’ll pay whatever you ask.”

Disgusted, Sadie shook her head. “It is nothing to be ashamed of, Mrs. Davis. And I will not take hush money from you.”

Noreen’s face colored with anger. “Fine, then. Spread your nasty little rumor. No one will believe you anyway. I am an upstanding member of society, my church, and the Quilting Guild. Do you really think they’ll take some dried-up old maid’s word against mine? A woman who couldn’t find a man to put up with her, so she lives with her sister and talks to dead people?”

She laughed cruelly. “Your word will be no good against mine, so go ahead and try it. I, for one, am done with this whole business.”

“Yippee!” shouted Markie, and Sadie laughed again.

“Well by all means, let me show you out, Mrs. Davis.”

She followed the woman as she stomped down the stairs, then paused with her hand on the doorknob.

“Oh, one more thing, Noreen,” she said sweetly.

“What?” the woman bit off.

“Gale? She’s not my sister. She’s my partner. As in lover, girlfriend, soulmate. Partner.”

The look on the elder woman’s face was worth every penny she would lose. Caught somewhere between astonishment and fury, Noreen grabbed at the door handle and let herself out, scurrying down the walkway.

“Have a great day, Mrs. Davis!” Sadie called out as she closed the door.

“Woohoo!” Markie yelled. “If you could see me right now, you’d know I’m doin’ a happy dance!”

Sadie chuckled.

“Uh, oh,” came Markie’s voice again. “Gotta fly. Someone just kicked the bucket, and I’m up for orientation. Thank you, Sadie. Seriously. You just made my afterlife. I’ll come visit later after I get the newbie settled. Give Gale a big smooch for me!”

And with that, she was gone, off to help a new soul through those first furious moments after death.

Gale appeared in the foyer, smiling wickedly.

“Hey, baby. How’d it go? Did she like the tea tray?”

Sadie laughed again, pulling her close, and planting a big, wet kiss right on her lips.

Pulling back, her partner grinned wide. “Well. To what do I owe that pleasure?”

“A very brave little spirit named Markie,” Sadie answered, proud of the girl…and of herself. “Now, how about some lunch?”

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What We Hear - Chapter 6

What We Hear

Chapter 6

©2010 Rebecca Rhielle

Pulling open the door, Sadie’s vision was filled with the wonder that was Noreen Davis. She was dressed in a dark, navy blue skirt set, with pearls at her neck and wrist. A navy blue pillbox hat rested atop her perfectly coiffed hair, completing the Jackie O look. Added to all of that were her impeccably manicured nails and sensible pumps. Navy blue, of course.

She was clutching a handkerchief in her left hand, already blotting at her eyes, though Sadie could see she had clearly not been crying.

“Hello, Mrs. Davis,” she said cordially.

“Hello, Sadie,” came the sniffling reply.

“Hello, Harpy,” Markie chimed in brightly, causing Sadie to fight down a grin.

“Won’t you come in?” she asked the elder woman.

“Yes, thank you,” Noreen answered, voice quivering.

It was all Sadie could do to not roll her eyes. Academy Awards, here she comes.

She heard Markie giggle at her thought.

Together they walked up the stairs to Sadie’s office, Noreen taking a seat in one of the plush club chairs as Sadie shut the door behind them.

Sitting across from the woman in the other chair, Sadie began their session.

“What is it you are wanting to know today, Noreen?”

“Well,” she sniffed. “I just know Markie’s been trying to contact me. You know how it is…certain songs come on the radio, signs that I’ve passed by on the road. Why, just this morning I heard a commercial for the Almand Center. You know – that place downtown that helps out wayward teens? And I knew, I just knew it was Markie trying to tell me how much she wished she could have turned her life around before she passed on.”

“Oh good grief,” Markie said. “Don’t they have medication for delusional people now, Noreen?”

Shushing the girl mentally, Sadie spoke aloud to Mrs. Davis.

“Now, Noreen, we’ve talked about misinterpreting signs before, remember? Sometimes the mind wants to believe something so badly that it latches on to anything that could support its theory.”

In an instant, the woman’s demeanor changed. “I do not pay you to tell me what I am doing wrong, girl. I pay you to talk to my daughter. So let’s get on with it.” Her mouth set itself into a firm line, the handkerchief routine all but forgotten.

Sadie sighed inwardly. Not for the first time, she wondered why she couldn’t have just gone into something simple, like brain surgery.

“Okay, Mrs. Davis. Let me see what I can do. Did you bring something of Markie’s for me to hold?”

Of course this was completely unnecessary, but Noreen had insisted that this was the way psychics did it on television, therefore it was the way Sadie was to do it, too.

Fishing through her purse (navy blue), Mrs. Davis brought out an elaborate cameo necklace.

Sadie could hear Markie chuckling. “That thing wasn’t mine. I never even touched it! She gave it to me for my fourteenth birthday. I left it in the box and shoved it in a drawer behind my underwear.”

Trying desperately to maintain her composure, Sadie took the item from Noreen, holding it in her left hand and pretending to concentrate. After a few moments she opened her eyes, telling the woman her daughter was now here.

“Ask her if it was her giving me all those signs. Ask her if she wanted to tell me she wished she could change,” Mrs. Davis asked greedily, eyes hungry for validation.

“No, and no,” came Markie’s reply.

Reminding herself how much she needed the money, Sadie worked up a smile and told Noreen, “Well, she says she has been trying to communicate with you.”

“I knew it!” the woman shouted. “Didn’t I tell you? I know my daughter, Ms. Johnson. I told you not to question me on that. See how wrong you were?”

Before she could reply, there was a knock at the door, and Gale entered with a tray full of tea things. As she placed it on the small square table between the chairs, Sadie was mortified to see it was one of her art pieces…the one with the Greek urn design around the edges and women enjoying various sex acts illustrated in the middle. Shooting a sharp glance at her partner, Sadie had to smile a little at the knowing wink Gale shot back as she shut the door.

Mrs. Davis picked up the teapot and began to pour. Much to Sadie’s chagrin, Noreen was studying the center of the tray.

“Is that…?” she asked, confused.

Laughter echoed again in Sadie’s head.

“She wouldn’t know what to do with that if she had a handbook,” Markie said.

“Why don’t you let me pour,” Sadie interrupted quickly. “It’s only proper for the hostess to serve the guest, after all.”

She reached for the teapot, surreptitiously pushing the cream pitcher with her elbow into the middle of the tray to cover the pictures.

“Well,” Noreen answered with a demure smile, “you do have a point. Sugar please, no cream.”

Thanking the gods for small favors, Sadie poured.