Author's Note November 3, 2011: After being gone so long, I needed to write a short story to get my creative juices flowing again for Refractions Of Light (in progress). So, inspired by Halloween, I came up with this goofy little story. If you haven't read Insights, no worry; this story stands alone. Insights readers will recognize another side of the story Margaret tells Spock in Chapter 13, about why Amanda fled to Earth with him in tow at age 8.
THE GHOST OF AUNT LILY: AN INSIGHTS TALE
Spock and Nyota sat together on a small sofa among his mother's family. His visit to his Aunt Margaret and Uncle Allen's was proving to be eventful. Tonight, Margaret and Allen had brought him and Nyota to Cousin Janelle's annual Halloween party. He had been less interested in the recreational aspect, more interested in observing his cousins. His cousins, however, refused to simply let him observe. They drew him into their lively conversation and activities. After plenty of food, carving and lighting pumpkins out on the patio, then refilling their wine glasses, everyone returned to Janelle's living room for some more lively conversation.
In the low orange-tinted light, the dozen or so Grayson cousins gathered around the glow of a single candle in the middle of a wide, low, square dark-wooded coffee table. The topic turned to crazy Halloween tales about spirits. Many of the cousins related the scary or silly ghost stories they had enjoyed as children, old favorites that scared their friends, or ones that they had heard at various summer camps or clubs.
"Do you believe there really are such things as ghosts or spirits?" Cousin Wyatt asked, pausing the flow of stories. "If so, why don't more 'normal' people see them? The only people who seem to see them are those who've had too much to drink."
"Ah, not so fast," Margaret cautioned. Then she gestured the circle of kin closer and nearly whispered, "Ghosts exist, even right in our own family…"
Margaret had caught their attention. The cousins leaned in closer. So did Nyota. Spock remained dispassionate, but he listened.
Margaret tilted her head, slyly infusing more mystery into the atmosphere with the same enigmatic smile that her sister had had. "Amanda swore that the spirit of our Great Aunt Lily went with her…to Vulcan!"
A Vulcan eyebrow rose as its owner sat up straight, and the Grayson cousins, whether on the floor, couches, and chairs around the table, rolled back in laughter. Nyota, sitting next to him, put her palm to her mouth, trying to hold in her own giggles to avoid offending her companion. Spock tilted his head and narrowed his eyes at his aunt.
Cousin Grace took a more direct approach. "Really? Margaret, maybe you've had too much of that Riesling."
"Really," Margaret confirmed. "She'd be embarrassed that I'm telling on her, but she swore that the spirit of Aunt Lily inhabited the old trunk she brought with her when she and Sarek married."
Spock remembered the trunk that Margaret referenced. Amanda had stored many of her Terran keepsakes within—blankets, mostly, but there was a teddy bear and a few of Spock's baby toys that she had insisted on keeping. As a child, no longer a baby, he had asked her why she insisted on retaining them. Amanda had assured him that it was "a human mother thing." Though confused, Spock, like his father, knew never to question "human mother things" further. They always led to more illogic.
"Lily always did like to travel," Cousin Janelle laughed. "But what made Amanda think that Lily was hovering around in there?"
"At first, she didn't think it was Lily. She thought she was having hallucinations, a reaction to an unfamiliar food, perhaps," Margaret said. "After one encounter, she went to the healers, then to the doctor at the Terran Embassy to have herself checked out. But the doctor, healers, and the test results always said she was fine."
"But it kept happening?" Nyota asked, now into Margaret's story. She looked up at her boyfriend who still stared at his aunt. Clearly he was not convinced.
"It did," Margaret affirmed, nodding, continuing slowly so that her audience hung on every word. "Oh, there was the time when she swore that she saw Lily's face form over the lid. Of course, she freaked out and ran out of the bedroom. Why wouldn't she? It's not every day that your deceased aunt haunts you! She made Sarek move that old trunk to one of the spare rooms."
Refusing to let Margaret draw her in entirely, Janelle looked at Spock for information. "Do you remember your mother having that trunk moved?"
"Indirectly," he replied, searching his memory, yet trying to retain his disinterested bystander status. "I noted its relocation; however I did not observe my father moving it."
"After a while Amanda noticed a pattern," Margaret continued dramatically, refusing to let her mood be broken. "Whenever she was most stressed, she was drawn to that trunk. She comforted herself by looking at the favorite things that she had stored there. In their presence, she sensed an emotional warmth, and she would always think of all the wonderful times she spent with Lily. She always felt better afterwards."
Now Spock paused, considering the possibility of human katras. Then he dismissed the thought. A human katra inhabiting an old storage container was too illogical to contemplate further.
"What did Sarek think about all that?" Nyota asked, despite the slight annoyance she sensed from Spock.
"He said nothing. He did what she wanted. She didn't tell him about Aunt Lily, of course. She didn't want him thinking that she was any more illogical than most humans normally appeared from a Vulcan perspective."
Spock reflected on the situation. Through their link, Sarek probably already knew what was troubling his mother. If moving the trunk alleviated her distress, then it was simply the logical thing to do. If she did not wish to discuss her reasons for the move verbally, Sarek would not invade her privacy on the matter.
"In a weird way, whenever Amanda needed it, she felt that Lily was with her, consoling her, making her feel that everything would be OK. As if that wasn't strange enough, on a couple occasions, she found the trunk lid open when she was sure that she had closed it. Sarek never went in that room, the servants left it alone, and Spock was still a baby, too small to have lifted that heavy lid."
"Lily always hated confined spaces," Cousin Celestine joked.
Margaret smiled, then scanned her audience, making eye contact with each person. "Ah, but another time, a few years later, the teddy bear made it out of the trunk and onto the small recliner in there. The thing was, the trunk was closed and locked."
Everyone looked at Spock.
"I did not move it," he stated, Vulcan dignity intact.
Margaret's voice lowered. "It's like Lily knew what Amanda needed and when she would need it."
"How long did this go on?" Allen asked his wife. This whole story was new to him. But then, Margaret and Amanda had kept many confidences between them.
"The years went by. She enjoyed her translation work, accompanying Sarek on some of his missions, being a mother…. But, at times, as a Terran woman, she still had difficulty adapting to certain aspects of Vulcan life."
Margaret did not elaborate on that last point. Spock was grateful for that.
"For some reason, after one really bad episode, she was again drawn to the spare room and that trunk. As she pulled out her favorite quilt, the one that Mom had made her, she suddenly felt the presence that she had felt many times before. She felt the comfort, but this time she also felt a strong urge, like she had to do something or go somewhere. Again, she heard no words, but she thought immediately of Aunt Lily and the month she and I spent at Lily and Uncle Pete's home on Cape Cod while Mom and Dad were on that multi-planet cruise. Oh, that was a childhood highlight for us, though! We played on the beach. Lily and Pete brought us to all kinds of museums. We went to the amusement park. We picked berries and made jam."
"She did that with me as well," said Janelle.
"Uncle Pete's cookies were the best," Wyatt said. "I bet he sent a bunch home with you."
"About six dozen," Margaret laughed. "So, getting back to the story before we all get hungry again…"
Everyone laughed except for the very confused Vulcan, who still was having difficulty integrating this story into what he remembered as a child. Yet his curiosity kept him listening.
"More scenes filled her head," Margaret's eyes darted, mesmerized her audience again, "all of them of places on Terra. Lily wanted her to go there, there was something that Lily also wanted her to do while she was here, and she wanted Amanda to bring Spock with her—immediately! This was the most direct message that Amanda had ever received. She thought she was going crazy. Between the strange message and the bad day she was having, it all upset her."
"So, did she go?" Wyatt asked.
"Yes, she called me immediately. She and Spock were at our home within three days."
At this point, Spock remembered that visit at age 8. Margaret had told him the story earlier that week. of how Amanda's patience with the prejudice against Spock had been exhausted. When Sarek had not stood up for either her and Spock in the latest altercation, it was the proverbial last straw. She fled with Spock to Terra, staying with Margaret and Allen until she could reevaluate her situation, then meditate on the next course of action between discussions with Sarek over subspace channels. When she told Spock the story, Margaret had left out details about the role of Aunt Lily's katra. Likely she thought that Spock would dismiss such unsubstantiated aspects. In truth, she would have been correct.
"I don't remember that visit," said Janelle incredulously.
"No, you wouldn't have," Margaret confirmed. "Because of the strange circumstances, she didn't want anyone to know she was here, not just yet, until she could work out everything she was supposed to do—or, at least, assess the state of her sanity. She figured she could have her head checked out at the hospital while she was here."
"My!" Cousin Grace exclaimed. "What did Sarek think about all that?"
"He was on a mission, so he never knew about Amanda's encounter and her turmoil," Margaret said. "Upon his return, he discovered that Amanda and Spock had gone. He looked through their home for clues. The one he found was a picture of Amanda and me. It was sitting square in the middle, on top of that trunk. That photo prompted him to check the comm records, and he discovered Amanda's call to me. So he figured out where she had gone. That's when he called. During the next two weeks, she did get a full check-up, and again she was fine. Sarek also figured out ways to help Amanda through her difficulties, and two weeks later, she and Spock returned."
"Wait, wait, wait!" said Wyatt, his former skepticism gone. "You've skipped something here: Did Amanda ever figure out what it was that Lily wanted her to know?"
"Ah, yes." Margaret sat back, a satisfied expression on her face as she was about to bring her tale to conclusion. "Amanda knew that she had learned 'the lesson' that Lily intended when Sarek told her about the picture of Amanda and me, that it had inspired him to check the comm records. The thing is, Amanda never stored a photo of us in that trunk, and the photo that Sarek described was not one that Amanda ever remembered having. When they looked around the room, they never found one."
"Oooo, spooky!" Celestine shook, acting afraid as her cousins all laughed again. "And the lesson Aunt Lily wanted Amanda to learn was...?"
"After being away from the planet and from Sarek, Amanda learned that, lumps and all, Vulcan had become her true home. Sarek was her true love. And, she truly belonged there, she truly did." Margaret smiled at Spock in reassurance. "Once Amanda realized that—then believed it with her heart and soul—Lily bade her one final good-bye and left. I guess that once Lily knew that Amanda was going to be happy once and for all, and she no longer needed Lily's consolation, Lily's spirit could finally rest in peace."
Wyatt's skepticism returned. "How would Amanda know that Lily had left for good if Lily had been haunting her all those years?"
"You remember that silver rose hairclip that Lily always wore?" Margaret said. "Amanda said that as she felt Lily's spirit depart from the room, that clip fell from the trunk lid's lining and right into her hands. She never felt Lily's presence after that."
"Aunt Lily's ghost…you have an imagination, Margaret!" Grace accused.
Margaret swallowed another sip of her Riesling. "I assure you, it's all true!"
"Riiiiiight," Wyatt shook his head.
The Graysons laughed again and moved onto other topics, but Spock sat quietly, slightly withdrawn. Nyota sensed his mind working on something very intently.
"Ashayam, what are you thinking?" she whispered to him in Vulcan.
"The rose hairclip of which Margaret speaks, it is in my quarters. I do not recall Mother giving it to me."
Nyota's brows shot up, and the two stared at one another incredulously.
Outside, on the patio, a candle flame blew out, leaving a wick to release a small string of smoke into the wind.