(where we complete the worlds begun in Timeless and Memoirs)
"Oh sure! That's what I want! To turn out exactly like you? NEVER! That's never happening," Candi's shrill shout echoed through the air even after the door had slammed behind her.
Leaning against the entryway to the parlor, Carolyn stood a mix of rage and heartbreak on her face. "Back to the battle again?" she heard from the stairs. Looking up, she smiled to see her husband Daniel Gregg, standing with a compassionate look on his face. "I'm sure sometimes," she said wryly, walking over to the railing, "you must regret your choice to leave a ghostly world behind. I know I'd like to be able to disappear on days like this."
"Wouldn't matter," he said with a slight grin, "something like that? I would have heard it anywhere, any state of being. I hate to admit it, but I recall slamming that very door the same way when I was a bit younger than Candi is now." "Really?" Carolyn asked curiously, "how would that be possible, you built Gull Cottage as an adult, didn't you?"
"Here, come sit with me," he said taking her hand as he met her at the bottom on the stairs, and walked into the parlor together. Settling down on the couch, he poured her a cup of coffee from the pot Martha had left for them on the coffee table. "It's true you know, I did build the house, but the door is much older." "Older?" Carolyn asked, sipping her coffee. "Of course, you may remember my telling you about my great grandmother Charity? After my father's death, I lived with her here in Schooner Bay until I went to sea at 13. I built Gull Cottage where her home originally stood. I kept as much as I could, but only the kitchen, a few furnishings and that door were salvageable." Leaning back, he closed his eyes, as if reliving a moment, "I vividly recall a rousing argument with her, ending with my assuring her that she'd never understand me, and giving that door a solid slam on the way out. I regretted it instantly, but of course no one in their teenage years can admit to being wrong readily."
"Good, so you agree Candi is wrong too?" Carolyn said hopefully. "How do we get her to calm down and admit she needs to apologize and change her behavior? She was such a wonderful child, I can't figure out why she is such a terror these days." Smiling gently, he took her hand again, "M'dear, I don't think I said she was wrong exactly. True, she should apologize for losing her temper, but don't you know what prompted her outburst?"
"Daniel," Carolyn began, the exasperation clear in her voice, "all I told her is that I understood her confusion, after all she's about to begin her senior year, and I know exactly how hard a time that is, as you begin to plan for those first steps of being an adult. College is a big change, I can't understand why she won't talk to me, let me help?"
"Carolyn, you see her first through the eyes of her mother, and that isn't how she sees you right now." She turned, puzzled, but after all these years together, willing to wait for him to get to his point. As frustrating as it might be, she had to admit he almost nearly had a point and usually an excellent one, if she could wait through the detailed story he needed to tell before arriving at the message. 'Just once in a while, couldn't he get to the point and leave all the Victorian niceties behind?' she thought.
"Actually no I cannot," he answered aloud. "Wait! You told me you couldn't read thoughts!" she said concerned. "Hardly necessary after a decade together with you my love. The frustration on your face says it all, but I am still going to tell you the whole story and THEN get to the point, as you like to call it."
Taking the pillow she had been gripping in frustration, she whacked him solidly. Still stunned after all these years it was even odds if it would go straight through him, or if it would hit what appeared to be a solid, mortal man. It was nearly 10 years since he risked the wrath of the spectral fraternity to be with her. Despite all the unknowns, and what seemed like never ending reporting to them each year through their friend Geoffrey Collingsworth, there still seemed to be no definite answer about what their 'experiment' meant on either side of the physical plane, and so the questions and reporting continued.
Laughing, he tossed the pillow back to her, "Now, as I was saying?" "Yes my Captain," she grinned, "as you were saying?" "M'dear, Candi is very much your daughter, yet she needs to find her own way, create her own path to become an adult. Surely you know you represent a daunting role model, a difficult person for her to, shall we say, 'compete' with as she struggles to define herself."
"I'd never do that, I've never asked, never even thought. . ." Carolyn blustered. "And you never would," he said pressing a finger to her lips, "Candi has already done all that and more in her own mind. Think for a moment what you represent to her. What possible trait, skill or ability is there that you haven't mastered? You are quite the imposing person for a young woman to compare herself to, as she begins her adult life."
"Are you nuts?' Carolyn said wide-eyed, "I've scrambled, fought against my upbringing, all those expectations, all those false ideas of what my life was supposed to be about. Heavens! There were days I was sure I'd go mad. Bills, repairs, never enough money for the longest time. A sad excuse of a first marriage, starting over and massively disappointing my parents. There wasn't a plan, I was guessing at each step, making it up as I went along. Daniel what in any of that is imposing?"
"Come here," he said gently, wrapping her close, "you are just too close to see what is evident to the rest of us. My dear Mrs. Gregg, you succeeded – you struggled against rather dramatic odds and survived, and did it well. With every step you moved forward with confidence, courage and charm. You know the doubts, the fears you faced, but you did it so well your uncertainties were largely invisible to everyone else."
Leaning into him, she looked up and sighed, "Nice to know I fooled everyone, everyone but you apparently." "And even I still get fooled by your calm demeanor, your unshakable confidence that things are never too much to handle," he offered, giving her a squeeze. "Remember that first national interview on NBC? That young fellow Tom Brokaw, chatting with you about the challenges of being a famous woman author, mother and feminist? No one would have known how anxious you were, not even I, if you weren't prone to talking in your sleep."
"Fine, fine, so I'm a daunting role model," she said in mock frustration, "what do we do now?"
"Do? I might suggest you let Candi have her temper squalls. She needs to see you as less than perfect right now. Let her pretend so she can find some space, some room to not always compare herself to you, to someone who in her heart, she deeply loves and admires. You could tell her that she is wrong about you, but she wouldn't believe you today. As she gets older, and becomes the wonderful woman we both know she will be one day, she'll see you as the complete human being you are, but you need to give her time love, just give her time."
Closing her eyes, letting his words settle into her mind, trying to let her anger dissipate, Carolyn leaned back, wrapped her arms over his, and let out a long breath.
"Oh for heavens sake," Jonathan sneered from the entryway, leading the way before his herd of hungry friends followed him into the house. "Can't the two of you ever sit in separate chairs like normal people?" Without a pause, eyes still closed; in unison, they both called out a joyful "No!"
"Come on in guys, ignore my parents, "Jonathan warned his friends, "they're just weird," as he waved them into the kitchen. "Martha, got anything for some hungry sailors?" "Might as well leave off the hungry part Jonathan," Martha muttered, "when have you and your friends ever NOT been ready to clear my kitchen of every scrap of food?"
Listening from the parlor, the couple chortled together, "and yet, some things never change," Carolyn murmured. "Don't we have another chapter to begin?" she asked. "I still think we should reconsider Redbook's offer," he said, as they headed upstairs. "After all, you've been a Gregg a long while now, and the fictional accounting of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir would be timely, don't you think with all the interest in the eternal, the afterlife as it's called?"
"Not in my lifetime mister!" she said leading the way, "what you do after I'm gone in 40 or 50 years is out of my control. But living 'The Ghost and Mrs. Muir hyphen Gregg is more than enough for me today."
Standing on the landing for a moment, listening to the happy boys clearing out the refrigerator, and watching his love head into their master cabin, he paused thoughtfully. "It's true," he murmured, "who'd ever believe it anyway?" and he turned to join her and begin their next chapter together.