The why – over 40 years ago the complex story of a young widow, who fell in love with a sea captain, caught my imagination and fancy. The fact that he was a ghost, who had passed nearly 100 years prior to their meeting, seemed inconsequential. It is oddly comforting that these two characters prompted my first long story, and all these years later, still compel me to imagine their world today. My thanks to the spirit of all who created these characters, the actors, now gone, who also gave them life, and hopefully everyone who loves them enough in the future to continue exploring what their love represents to us all.
Chapter 1 - Workarounds - Between a wish, love and a dream
Between the rushing of the on-coming storm and the crashing of the surf, it was surprising that anything else could be heard. The angry voices of a man and woman sailed out through the upstairs window.
"Not again", sighed Martha from her kitchen corner. "Again?" Candi asked her brother Jonathan, "What can they keep finding to fight about?"
A good question – but the wrong one.
Captain Gregg stood one hand on his telescope, eyes raised to the heavens. "You are the most exasperating, emotional female I have ever met! Why in creation must you make even the simplest discussion so frustrating?"
"Frustrating!" shouted Carolyn, "FRUSTRATING! You talk to ME about frustrating! You cannot even comprehend the word!"
Silence held for a moment, "Really?" he sighed, "I think I have the world best example standing in front of me." They stared straight into each other's eyes. Carolyn panting in anger, the Captain steely eyed and unmoving.
"You know NOTHING of frustration", Carolyn said through gritted teeth – her anger mounting even higher. "Frustration, true frustration is being completely, totally, passionately, hopelessly in love with someone you can never have, never touch . . ." she paused green eyes wide in shock at her sudden revelation. Looking down, she continued, "never hold, never kiss, never love the way you so desperately long to - never" she finished in a whisper mainly to herself, but aware that she had opened a gate that they both must go through, no matter the consequences.
Despite the wind pounding at the doors, and the rain starting to splatter on the windowpanes, sound dropped away as she looked up into blue eyes, bluer than she had ever seen in any other man. What was he thinking, she wondered? Not moving, she watched emotion after emotion cross his strong, yet gentle face.
He shook himself, as if to clear the thoughts away and stepped directly to her side. "M'dear, my dearest, please don't cry", a handkerchief appeared in his hand and she felt her unrecognized tears dried with immense tenderness. "Is that what has been driving you into such a fury of late?" he asked. He laughed softly to himself. "Heavens, you would think I might have understood, having had all the exact thoughts, feelings and wishes myself."
His eyes grew tender as she looked up, green eyes meeting his. "Surely", he paused and for the first time said directly, "my dearest Carolyn, my own love, I always thought you knew; I believe you did. Let me tell you now. Since you've arrived, each day I've longed to feel your hand in mine, to wrap you in my arms and to show you in every way I might, how much I love you."
"I must admit, it seemed better to leave all this unsaid. Despite that, I know I failed; I could not restrain myself entirely. I hoped; I believed you felt as I did – as I DO. I am not sure it is wise to say the words, yet I must admit the absolute joy I feel just hearing you, being brave and saying the words aloud. I have loved you Carolyn, and always shall."
Smiling with more than a touch of sadness in her eyes, Carolyn curled up at the foot of her bed. A break in the storm allowed a few rays of sunset to filter into the room, the rosy glow surrounded her and the Captain allowed himself a moment to appreciate the beauty of the woman who just claimed him for her own. "Daniel Gregg?" she smiled up at him, "tell me, what are you thinking just now? I have seen that look on your face a hundred times and never was able to ask. Tell me."
He settled near her on the bed, his hand moving to her face, and she felt her hair swept away from her eyes. "Tell you? M'dear I've said so much more, as have you, than we should. It's this I've always feared, the moment when if I had been human, I would bring you close, cover your eyes with soft kisses and know what it is to hold you at last. And to know none of that is possible".
Carolyn gasped, suddenly aware that the power of his words, the images he created had caused her to hold her breath in anticipation. "Feared?" she said softly, "Sounds to me like the beginning of perfection."
"It would be my wish, my darling, yet here we are again between a wish, love and a dream. I do not know of any way, any step to, as you say to 'make this work'."
They sat quietly, side by side. She had the impression that he was breathing with her. In perfect rhythm, aligned in even this simple thing. But she knew that was another part of the illusion. It had always been one of the most difficult things to understand. How could he appear SO very real, able to do so many things? Yet, still not exist in a way that would bring them together at all.
In the closeness and stillness, they became aware of the storm that grew in power outside, and the one that had quieted within the two of them. "It's quite a blow this evening, eh?" he said smiling at her. "Oh yes, in many ways I think." she responded. "I am sorry" she continued, "so many arguments, so much anger. Not at you, but because of you." "And", he said gazing at her with rapt attention, "because of YOU as well." "True, all true" she said. "There is no going back – so I suspect the real issue is what do we do now?"
"And, by the way, you are wrong." she added. "Wrong?" he laughed, "too many choices there madam, wrong to respond, wrong to speak, wrong to want, wrong to love? Which wrong did you have in mind?"
"Wrong that you aren't human," she answered. "You, my dear Captain, my own, are one of the most human people I have ever known – it's the alive part that's missing." She stopped, eyes wide, looking at him with lively curiosity. She smiled to herself, the thoughts coming quick and fast. Waiting he watched the ideas churn, content to see what her clever mind might be building, what fancy she was creating.
"We admit the human, we admit the feelings?" she questioned. "Indeed, if you insist, quite human, intense, overwhelming feelings M'dear" he responded. "Then all we need" she continued, "All we need?" the Captain interrupted. She rose to her knees – their faces close, she continued, "all we need is a workaround".
"Workaround? I don't believe I'm familiar with that – illuminate me." "Perhaps it's not exactly the right phrase, but let me explain. In a workaround, you recognize the way to achieve a goal, a result that bypasses the normal and expected way to get to that end." Interested and intrigued, he raised an eyebrow, "Go on."
"Indulge me – and no don't interrupt, I can imagine what you were going to say," she chided as he looked with innocent eyes and with what can only be described as a lascivious grin. "We know that you can interact with live people, with objects and you can touch the living world, but not in the same way living people do, is that right?"
"Indeed, there are rules and restrictions, but essentially that is correct."
"So . . . it's a matter of changing our expectations. Rather than missing what two living people might experience, we need to adjust, define our own workaround for this world, for the two of us in our own unique situation, yes?"
"I begin to see. So if I can do this," he paused, and raised a hand to move a strand of hair away from her face. "Then, we must be able to do more, if we are patient and take the time to. . ." he stopped and with a roguish grin went on "feel our way along?"
With a twinkle in her eye and a small nod, she continued, "but perhaps even more?"
"How so, my dearest?"
"A combination, taking the best of what we can fulfill here and continue with your talent of creating dreams. But in this case, special, detailed and private dreams for only the two of us?"
"M'dear, that is not enough for you. I have had my life, and you have years ahead in the real world. I cannot deprive you of all the world provides. This . . . this compromise is not enough." He swallowed hard, knowing he was right, and yet had left the choice to her. It seemed incredible that after so many years, so many nights filled with longing that the ending or perhaps the beginning would be decided now.
"Carolyn, you know I cannot."
"I know" she quietly continued, "it will not be the same as two living people would have, but this is the 'workaround' – just because it isn't the same, doesn't mean it cannot be perfect." She leaned close and closed her eyes.
With deep trepidation, yet intense desire he brought his hand close to her face. "Help me," he whispered, "tell me what, if anything you feel."
The wind pounded the walls, the glass rattled with the storm increasing in intensity. With infinite attention, he focused on Carolyn's face. Slowly, very slowly he brushed the back of his hand across her cheek, traced his fingertip around her lips, first the top and then the lower. Intently he watched as with each effort, she responded. Sighing, quietly, deeply, "I feel you." Opening her eyes, she gave him the answer they both sought, "I felt every touch!"
"Madam, is that your 'workaround'?"
"Oh, only the beginning, I hope!" she sighed and closed her eyes again. "It, it wasn't exactly like touching, but it was you, I could tell without a doubt. Daniel. . . it feels so strange to use your name. Does it work, could it have the same feeling for you?" "My darling, I have no understanding of what we may accomplish, but it seems there is but one way to find out?" "Close your eyes", she prompted. Watching carefully she came close to his lips, and gently, softly pressed her own to his. Willing it to happen, she opened her eyes and whispered, "anything?" "No beloved, nothing I can sense – I know you wish for it to be otherwise, but no"
"Well, then let the experiments continue", she grinned. He looked into her eyes, and matched the amusement there. "If you insist, M'dear."