Author's note: Well, what do you know... I really considered the story as it was as complete, now that Candy had finally made the Captain's acquaintance. But upon reading your reviews, and more importantly a few fateful lines in Violet Stella's story "Anniversary" (read it if you haven't yet!), a seed germinated in my mind that prompted me to continue this story – simply because I began to realize that the adventure of Candy's essay was not likely to have ended here. For surely in a town the size of Schooner Bay, claiming to have a Captain for a father when your father really is dead would not remain without consequences...
But I do have to confess one thing. It's easy to write people into a mess. Getting them out again is something altogether different. And to be honest, for now I'm still as much in the dark as the story's protagonists as to how to solve the problem that begins to rear its head in this chapter, so I'll be blundering right along with them in trying to find a solution. But if you don't mind that, I think you might enjoy this piece of psychological warfare in Schooner Bay!
Continuing this though, I really feel I ought to dedicate this story to my own father. He, too, died many years ago, and writing this story seems to be bringing back all kinds of memories of him. Much like Candy's contact with the Captain now brings back memories of her own Dad.
But of that, you will find out more once you continue reading the story of An Essay with Consequences. I hope you will enjoy the continuation as much as the one chapter original!
"I noticed Mrs. Muir coming in to see you again this morning," Mrs. Winter said when Mrs. Henderson entered the faculty room with her lunchbox and an arm full of copybooks. "What did she have to say about her daughter's essay?"
Mrs. Henderson sighed and carefully dropped her load on her desk. "Merely that Candace had found it difficult to write about her real father, because it's been so long since he died that she has trouble recalling what he was like. So concocting that story about a seacaptain was merely a fancy way of dealing with her homework assignment. According to Mrs. Muir, Candace doesn't really believe that her father is a seacaptain – she is well aware that she made it up herself."
Mrs. Winter tutted her lips. "If she says so... If you ask me, she's simply denying the problem. No child can deal with the loss of a parent without consequences. Remember the Roper boy?"
"I didn't say I agreed with her," Mrs. Henderson pointed out.
Mrs. Winter shook her head. "So sad that we can't order them to get counseling. They all need it – badly if you ask me."
On her other side, her daughter Mrs. Wilkins looked up. "The Muir kids? What's wrong with them? Jonathan in my class is a delightful boy – lively and imaginative."
"Imaginative – oh yes!" Mrs. Winter raised her eyes to heaven. "Remember when he first started school here last year, and he was always talking about that ghost of Captain Gregg? It's all the fault of their mother, if you ask me. Fancy moving into that haunted old house – with two young and impressionable children! No wonder those kids got a little queer in the head."
Mrs. Wilkins shook her head, and decided to come to the defence of her pupil. "Jonathan hasn't mentioned Captain Gregg since long before Christmas, mother," she pointed out.
"But he's always talking about all this... this... seafaring stuff," her mother retorted.
"Hardly surprising when a city-boy moves to an environment like this," friendly Mrs. Wilkins palliated.
"But his language!" Mrs. Winter closed her eyes in horror, and even Mrs. Wilkins couldn't help a sigh. Jonathan's language – inventive and colourful though it may be – really was a problem.
"You really are too soft on him, Hilda," her mother admonished. "When I'll have him in my class next year, I'll make him wash out his mouth with soap – every time he lays his tongue to such horrible expressions. That'll teach him soon enough."
"You know..." a pensive Mrs. Henderson cut into the argument. "Now that you mention it, I realize that this story of Candace's bears a certain resemblance to the tales her brother used to tell about his imaginary Captain friend. There is – how shall I put it – a certain continuity to it. Almost as if they were talking about the same person."
Mrs. Winter snorted disdainfully. "So Candace has taken over her brother's imaginary friend. It only strengthens my plea that they should get counseling. The sooner, the better, if you ask me."
"If you ask me..." Mrs. Wilkins grimaced as she realized she had taken over her mother's catchphrase, but continued nonetheless. "If you ask me, we're making a mountain out of a molehill here. I dare say Jonathan has pretty much grown out of his imaginary friend phase, and apparently Candace is well aware that the Captain she wrote about is not really her father, so..."
"That's what her mother says!" Mrs. Winter raised a warning finger. "The question is, can a mother be trusted when it comes to her own child?"
"No, she can't," Mrs. Henderson filled in. "That is one of the first rules of Keystone Teacher's College, remember? 'The parent is by definition biased and ignorant. Never rely on a parent's judgement regarding his or her own child'."
"And especially not when that parent is an artist!" Mrs. Winter added emphatically.
The rest of the week passed quietly, and at least at Schooner Bay Elementary School no more was said about the incident.
But at Gull Cottage that Friday night, the bedtime ritual was a little different than usual.
"Jonathan," his mother said as she waited for her son to scoot under the blankets. "What do you say we go to Keystone tomorrow? You're badly in need of new sandals, and I'm sure if you wear those wellingtons a day longer, your toes will curl up for good!"
"Oh, Mu-um...!" Jonathan whined.
"Nix with the 'oh Mum'." Mrs. Muir put the covers over him. "You need new sandals and new wellingtons, so that's it. And if you keep your whining to a minimum, we can spend the rest of the day at the Marine Museum in Keystone."
"The museum?" Jonathan shot upright again. "We're going to the museum? Oh, I so want to go there! Captain Gregg says it has some of the finest sea charts in all of New England!"
Instantly the Captain appeared in the room, making Candy jerk in surprise, and then settle down with a welcoming smile for him.
"Indeed it has!" the Captain confirmed Jonathan's words. "As well as a collection of nautical instruments that were considered antique already in my day!"
Jonathan's eyes shone with anticipation. "Can't you come with us, Captain, and tell us all about it?"
"No, lad." He smiled at Candy. "I have other plans for tomorrow."
"What kind of plans?" Jonathan demanded.
"The Captain is going to spend the day with Candy," his mother explained. "They need some time alone together to get to know each other. To catch up on what you and I have been sharing with him for nearly a year."
"Oh!" Jonathan lay down again. "So she's not coming to Keystone with us then?"
"No, she's not. Besides, she doesn't need new shoes – you do."
"But can't you buy those shoes without me? I'd much rather stay home with the Captain, too."
"And miss out on the Marine Museum?" Captain Gregg straightened himself to his full height. "Ensign Muir, I hereby order you to investigate every nook and cranny in the Marine Museum and to report your findings back to me upon your return tomorrow evening."
Jonathan chuckled and saluted. "Aye aye, sir." He snuggled up under his blanket and shared a hug and a kiss with his Mum.
And when she went over to Candy, the Captain sat down at the edge of Jonathan's bed to tuck him in properly. "Sunday we can all be together," he told the boy quietly. "Just grant your sister one day, alright, lad?"
Jonathan nodded. "I understand. Good night, Captain."
"Good night, Jonathan."
But when he approached Candy's bed after her mother had kissed her goodnight, he did not sit down as he had done with Jonathan. Instead, he remained well out of the range of her outstretched arms. "I am sorry, Candy," he said quietly. "Much as I would love to get a hug from you, I fear the experience would be extremely distressing for everyone in this room – most of all you."
"Yes, I know, but I've been thinking," Candy put forward. "You say you're not solid, so if I'd touch you, my hand would go right through you. Right?"
"But you are able to touch things – papers, the quill, a book. You can pick them up, and you can use them. Jonathan says you can even throw people out of the house. So if you can do that without these things going straight through your hands, you should be able to touch us, too!"
Aware of Mrs. Muir's suddenly peaked interest behind him, the Captain shook his head. "It's a little more complicated than that, I'm afraid. I shall try and explain it to you tomorrow, if you like. It would take too long now – it's time for bed."
With a sigh of disappointment, Candy lay down. "This ghost business is weird."
"Unfortunately it is, yes." Now the Captain sat down at the edge of her bed and tucked in the covers around her.
Candy paid careful attention to his hands. There wasn't even a hint of the covers going through them. Nor did the Captain fall straight through her bed, and on through the floor. This ghost business really was weird.
"Good night, Candy," the Captain wished her. "And tomorrow you may ask me anything you want about this 'ghost business', and I promise I will explain it to the best of my abilities."
She smiled. "Thank you, Captain. And good night to you, too."
As he had expected, Mrs. Muir stopped him the moment the door of the children's bedroom was closed behind them. "That was a very interesting theory of Candy's, Captain. Why is it that you can pick up and manipulate things as if you're solid, but it doesn't work with people?"
Silently, he led the way to the Master Cabin, and still without a word, he poured them both a glass of madeira.
"Well?" Mrs. Muir prompted when he sat down and toasted to her.
He took another pretend sip of his madeira, and contemplated the glass in his hand. "Madam," he began at long last. "Being a ghost is not as easy as it looks. The ability to pick up and manipulate objects when you're not solid yourself is an advanced skill. A skill that has to be learned." He suddenly chuckled. "It took me years to perfect it to the point that I could do it without thinking."
She smiled at the image his words brought to her mind. "So you were a rather clumsy ghost in the beginning?"
He grunted. "I hate to admit that I was, yes."
"So how do you do it? Picking up objects and stuff?"
"Concentration and coordination, madam," was his reply. "It's telekinesis really. I merely move my hands to match the object's movement that my mind causes. But I don't actually feel the object in my hands." He sighed. "It took me years and years of practice, but by now it's become so routine that I do it without thinking. Without conscious thinking, that is. Much like you put one foot in front of the other when you walk."
"I see." Mrs. Muir sipped her madeira, too, before continuing, "Then how come it doesn't work with people?"
He shook his head. "I don't know why it doesn't work – I just know that it doesn't. And believe me, madam, I've tried." He laughed bitterly. By George, had he tried... And all the more fervently since she had moved in here. Watching her sleep in his own bed, he would quietly summon up every scrap of concentration he could muster, just to be able to stroke her golden hair. Or to touch her hand. If only for a moment, if only once...!
But every time he tried, his fingers went straight through her, and she didn't even flinch in her sleep. It was almost as if she wasn't really there – as if she were a delusion. As if she were the ghost...
"Too bad," Mrs. Muir mused in the meantime. "Candy was always very physical with her father. Climbing up on him, hugging him, being carried on his shoulders, piggyback rides, playing horsey, romping, tickling..." She swallowed with a sudden difficulty. "Their laughter used to fill the house from top to bottom. Yet many of those things I've never, ever seen her do again since he passed away. I've never..." Another gulp. "I've never realized before that it may well be what she missed the most after her father died."
The Captain watched how his lady wiped away a lonely tear. "No wonder the lass is trying so hard to recreate something similar with me," he observed quietly.
Martha had raised her eyebrows when Mrs. Muir told her of the day's arrangements the following morning. "So you're going off to Keystone with Jonathan, and you let Candy go down to the beach all by herself?"
"Well, she's quite a big girl now. I think she's responsible enough to be on her own on our private beach for a few hours. And besides, you're only a few minutes away."
Martha had shaken her sage head. "Well, if you say so, Mrs. Muir. Mind you, I will cast a regular glance down that rock path to make sure she's alright indeed."
Mrs. Muir had laughed. "That's very sweet of you, Martha, but I'm sure she'll be alright."
And alright she was. Together with the Captain she had waved the car with Jonathan and her Mum goodbye, and as they climbed down the rock path together under the cloud-covered sky, at her request he explained to her what he had explained to her mother last night.
Candy continued to clamber down with a frown on her face, using her spade as a walking stick. "Maybe," she stated tentatively when they reached the wet sand of the beach. "Maybe it's got something to do with us being alive."
The Captain tilted his head. "What do you mean?"
"Well, you're dead..." Anxiously she glanced up at him, but he didn't even bat an eyelid, so she continued, "And things like paper and the door and books and stuff – they aren't alive either. So you're in the same realm... kind of. Maybe that's why you can touch and use them, but not us." Her frown deepened. "That doesn't make much sense, does it? For it would mean that we couldn't touch those dead things either. And yet we definitely can. At least we should be able to touch you then, too, even if you can't touch us."
The Captain smiled at her earnest attempts to grasp the intricate laws of his existence. "I wouldn't worry too much about it, lass. It's just the way things are, and even if we did understand how it works, we wouldn't be able to change it."
Candy sighed. "But now that you're my surrogate father, I'd like to be able to hug you when I feel like it. Just like I did with my Dad. And you do look like a huggable person." Her tone turned pensive. "It's so strange. Since I've met you, it's like there's this big chest in my mind that has suddenly sprung open, and all my memories of my Dad are suddenly coming back. Things I didn't even remember that I knew. Like they've been in hibernation."
The Captain merely nodded, and slowly began to walk towards the floodline.
Candy fell in beside him and continued, "I remember again that we went to the zoo on my last birthday with my Dad, and that I was a little scared of the elephants because they were so huge. But he held my hand and together we gave the biggest elephant a peanut. And I felt like a hero the rest of the day."
The Captain chuckled. "They must have seemed huge indeed when you were still so small yourself."
Candy nodded. "And I also remember the games my Dad used to play with me. But most of them I don't think you could do if we can't touch each other."
"Your mother told me about those, yes. But we can do other things together," the Captain carefully pointed out, and continued, "Candy, no man will ever be a copy of your Dad. You'll have to learn to judge each man on his own merits – without measuring him up to your Dad. And if your mother were to fall in love again one day, please try to rem..."
"I don't want her to fall in love again," Candy interrupted him with uncharacteristic bluntness.
"Why not?" Captain Gregg was obviously surprised at the vehemence in the girl's words.
Candy just shrugged a little, and avoided his eyes.
"Why not, Candy?" the Captain repeated gently.
Another shrug. "I just don't want things to change anymore." And after a short pause, she added, "It'd be all wrong. Like she'd betray my Dad. She belongs to Dad, and I don't want someone else taking Dad's place."
"Ah. I see." The Captain scratched his ear. He really did 'see' what she meant. But where did that leave him in his own - admittedly odd - relationship with her mother? "Candy." He cleared his throat. "Does it bother you, too, that your mother and I are... well... such good friends?"
A shake of the head, and suddenly Candy snickered. "That's different. You're not real – I mean, not really real. I even think it's kinda cute that you fell in love with her the moment you saw her. But you're no threat to how things are now, if you know what I mean. You can't marry her or anything. So as long as she likes you so much, she won't be marrying anyone else either."
The Captain wasn't sure if he should be flattered or offended by the sneaky way his new surrogate daughter 'implemented' him in her scheme to keep her mother from getting a replacement for her father. But his vanity demanded that he'd ask for some clarification of that last statement. "So she likes me, does she?"
Candy smiled up at him. "Well, I think she does. The way she talks about you... And besides, she seems far happier here than back in Philly." She stopped walking, and added, "And I wanted to thank you for that. For taking care of her, I mean. I'm sure that helps to keep her from crying when I have to be at school."
"My pleasure, lass." The Captain smiled.
They walked on in silence until they reached the waterline, and Candy suggested they'd build a sandcastle and defend it against the incoming sea. "At least I hope the tide is coming in." She looked up at her companion. "Is it? Do you know?"
"It's about two hours to high tide," the Captain confirmed.
"Then we better get started." She picked a good spot and started digging a moat and piling up the sand in the middle, meanwhile inquiring with the Captain how come there was such a thing as high tide and low tide.
Accompanied by explanations about the influence of the moon on the seas and about the birth of waves and tsunamis, they constructed a large mound of sand, and as they continued on to the difference between hurricanes, tornadoes and cyclones and how to survive those when you're at sea, a network of groynes and diverting channels were created.
"You know," Candy said as she surveyed the result of their hard work at the first attacks of the sea. "We could have saved ourselves a whole lot of work if you'd just spirited the sand where we wanted it."
The Captain chuckled. "An instant sandcastle, you mean? But where is the fun in that?"
Candy had to admit he had a point there. Doing things yourself was far more fun than watching someone else do it. "Unless it's something you don't like to do, that is," she quickly amended. And she proceeded using the back of her spade to hammer in a piece of driftwood as an extra barricade in front of their sandfortress.
As usual, the waves had little trouble levelling their castle no matter how many distractions, breakwaters and barricades they had set up. But the game ended abruptly when an unexpectedly high breaker broke over Candy's knees, filling her wellingtons to the rim.
"That's it," the Captain said as she came sloshing back to drier ground with a big grin on her face. "We're going back to the house right now. The castle is nearly gone anyway, and I could never face your mother again if I'd let you catch pneumonia out here."
Candy sat down on one of the boulders and emptied her wellingtons. "Well, at least we had fun, didn't we."
He smiled. "We sure did. But how about we go up to the attic now, and see what we can find there for us to pass the afternoon together? Or perhaps you should have some lunch first?"
Despite his own exciting afternoon at the Marine Museum, Jonathan couldn't help feeling a twinge of jealousy when he heard of all the fun things his sister had gotten to do with the Captain that day. Imagine building a sandcastle together, and making your own quill, and learning calligraphy and how to use a compass when you're lost! And then dressing up in clothes from a hundred years ago, and the Captain telling you tales from faraway countries while you're sipping Martha's sweet hot cocoa!
But when peace and quiet finally descended on Gull Cottage once the children were safely tucked in bed, the Captain remarked to the lady of his house that she truly had a wonderful daughter. "Perceptive, smart, a good logical mind, inquisitive about a wide range of topics... She'll make an excellent scholar one day, I'm sure."
Mrs. Muir beamed with maternal pride.
"And believe me, madam," he continued softly. "There is no need to worry about her forgetting about her father. Based on what she told me this morning, I'd say the case is quite the opposite. And I can assure you she still loves him very, very much."
The last hour on Monday afternoons was art class. Candy liked art. Her hands couldn't always execute what her mind came up with, but she had a good eye for colour, and a lively imagination that made the creative class truly enjoyable.
They had been painting today, and since it was her turn to be the teacher's helper this week, she had her job cut out for her in properly cleaning the paintbrushes and the waterjugs after school.
She wasn't the only student left in the room though. A handful of girls were flocking around Mrs. Henderson to see how they (and everyone else) had done on today's math test. But that was business as usual, so Candy paid little attention to them.
Until Alice's voice suddenly addressed her over the chatter of the other girls. "Hey Candy, I thought you always said your father was dead?"
"He is." Candy looked back to where Alice's voice came from. And froze.
Her classmate – not an unfriendly one, but certainly a nosy one – stood by her desk, where her books lay ready to be taken home for her homework... and she held her red essay notebook open in her hands!
She felt a fiery blush invading her cheeks, and with as much anger as she could muster, she barked, "Put that down, Alice Miller. It's none of your business."
Alice dropped the notebook back onto the desk and held up her hands. "I'm sorry – I was just showing a little polite interest in what you'd have written for last week's assignment. After all, you always say your father has been dead for years. Or hasn't he?"
But there was Penelope Hassenhammer at her side – the hateful Penelope Hassenhammer. "Let me see." And before Candy could do or even say something to stop her, Penelope gasped, "But Candy's father isn't dead! She writes here that he's a seacaptain!"
"What? A seacaptain?" came the surprised cries from the other girls in the room, drowning out Mrs. Henderson's stern, "Now, Penelope..."
And totally ignoring her dripping, paint-smeared hands, Candy rushed forward. "Mind your own business!" she hissed as she tried to snatch her notebook from Penelope's hands.
But Penelope was quicker and held it out of her reach. "'My father's name is Daniel Edward Muir'," she read tauntingly as Candy made another failed attempt to recover her notebook. "'He is a very nice man, with blue eyes and lightbrown curly hair and a beard.'"
"Stop it, Penelope!" Candy yelled, close to tears.
But the girl read on. "'He is a seacaptain, and that is why he is hardly ever home with us.'" She smirked. "Doesn't sound very dead to me."
"Now, girls," Mrs. Henderson's voice intervened.
But her intervention came too late – Penelope was already screaming as Candy smeared her wet, paint-smudged hands all over her nemesis's pretty yellow frock.
"Candace Muir!" Suddenly the teacher's voice rang out over all the horrified gasps and screams in the room.
But Candy didn't wait for the teacher's wrath to come down on her. She finally managed to grab the fateful notebook out of Penelope's hand, pushed aside one or two of her classmates and the next moment she was running down the hall, blinded with tears, and into the sunshine outside.
To be continued...