It was nearing midnight, Lilly again checked the sky, clouds covered the full moon. She smiled and sat back down, she had time. At around 3 the clouds would move on, and she would be at her destination. She had walked the trail several times in the past week, always while the clouds covered the moon, it took a bit less than an hour to get there, Lilly moved slowly these days. At three forty the tide would be coming in and she would be waiting.
Having finished her rounds, placing a frail hand on each door to ask a final blessing on each resident in her wing of the nursing home Lilly watched for the janitor. He propped the door open at this hour to avoid using his keys to get back in when he emptied the trash. She had told him that a bit of nail polish would identify the right key, but he had continued to do it his way, now Lilly was glad he did.
Soon she slipped out and behind the pool shed, still moving slowly. She wondered if Sally Dean would see her tonight, she had reported a ghost every night that Lilly had made this walk. She smiled and assured herself, ‘soon, yes soon she would know all about ghosts.’
She looked down and placed her feet carefully, having left her new slippers for Annie who had no one to send her nice things. Her thin and pale feet padded softly in the grass path. Once on the jetty her pace slowed further. Each step was measured and placed carefully in the pockets of sand filling the hollows in the rocks. A misstep and the coarse and jagged rocks would easily tear her almost translucent skin. The past years of living in a catatonic state have left her frail and with the loss of all color of her skin and almost no muscle strength.
For eight years she had lived that way, barely able to function. Her nurses and aides led her around like a living robot unable to think for herself, washing and feeding her and sitting her in the parlor, then doing the same and putting her to bed. Two years ago, Annie came to work on the night shift. She was doting and fun and told endless stories, calling her the grandmother she never had. One night the nurses had a fill in and medications were very late when Annie tried to give it to her Lilly shook her head and a single tear rolled down her drawn cheek. It was that night that Annie discovered Lilly was being held prisoner by the medication and never again made her take it.
By day Lilly resumed her stoic, unresponsive self, at night she and Annie formed a wonderful relationship. They hid away from the other staff members and had tea and told stories. Lilly read and wrote while Annie did her rounds. This was when Lilly decided to write her letters.
The clouds were thinning now, and the moonlight bathed the jetty in soft white light. Lilly’s sheer, white nightgown fluttered in the breeze. The lace at the bottom now skimming the rocks. Lifting one edge Lilly placed a foot in a familiar pocket of sand, the pockets were hollowed out of the rocks by unseen hands over the ages and led to a large smooth seat of which Lilly was extremely familiar. She had spent many an hour her waiting for her lover to return to her from his ocean voyages. The last one, the one he promised to retire from, he never arrived. Tonight . . . she would find him.
Memories flooded in and she watched the points of moonlight dance like diamonds on the swells of the clear blue-green water. Intricate patterns emerged and reminded Lilly of the dances under the disco ball as it shimmered and spun slowly. She only danced with Jacques, she had fallen for him at first glance.
A small school of fish fluttered through her vision, and she came back to the present. She knew her son would grieve but not so much as he would if he knew she was lucid and had been for some time. Lilly left a large part of her estate to the young aide that she had befriended, the one that never insisted she take her medicine, the one who helped her hide her pills and kept her secret. Lilly was sure in her heart that her son would agree to it after the letter she wrote him.
She had left a pile of letters on her very properly made bed, one each day for nearly two years. He was sure to be upset that he didn’t know but then . . . his life was so demanding he rarely had time to visit. After the nursing staff had told him she no longer knew anyone he had stopped coming at all, he had volunteered for every mission the Army had available, it kept his mind off of losing both his father and mother he had admitted on the rare visit two years ago last Christmas. That was when she began writing the letters.
She had carefully written instructions for all her things. Annie had kept the journals hidden. By day Lilly was unresponsive, she ate one third of each meal and stared blankly at anyone who tried to speak with her. Her time, was night-time, and her ally was Annie. She fulfilled her promise to share her grandmother’s secret recipe for apple butter.
Lilly had shared the story of when she was a child and her mother and grandmother sent the children out to gather apples, promising to help them make apple butter as a reward. The boys dutifully brought in two large baskets of apples, Lilly and her sister Caroline found it much easier to pluck pears from the heavily laden pear tree. Their mother admonished them and said softly, “Silly girls you cannot make apple butter from pears.”
“Pish Tosh” her grandmother had said, “Just who says we can’t?” Soon the pears and apples were pealed, cut, and cooked. After that event Grandmother was known for having the sweetest apple butter ever made without adding sugar.
The water was now swirling at Lilly’s knees and would soon reach her waist. Happily, she watched more fish darting and playing just below her toes. Toes that seemed lost in the moonlight and swirling water, her nightgown now floated about her.
Once more her son’s sweet face came to mind, he looked so much like his father, dark hair, dark eyes, straight nose, not Italian at all. She smiled he was so gentle, so sweet, she wondered at his choice to join the military. He had arrived late in their marriage. She was in her late thirties when Jason was born, he was now thirty-two. She would miss having grandchildren, he had not found a love to settle down with.
The warmth of the water surprised her, and it was now reaching for her waist, high tide had arrived. Lilly called out for Jacques and soon his smiling face appeared below. He reached for her, and she tossed the silk scarf upon the highest rock then slid gracefully from her perch into his waiting arms.
Early the next morning searchers found the scarf and then her body floating, in a peculiarly vertical position, toes pointed, arms outstretched and silver hair floating in a halo. She had a smile on her face. When her son arrived, it was Annie who delivered the letters, and it was she who held him as he wept. It was Annie who sat with him as he read and remembered and it was she who shared her stories.
Together they shed light on the nursing home doctors who over-medicated to create less work. There were several doctors let go and senior staff changes. It was Annie who fell in love with Lilly’s son and was the reason he settled down and raised his own family.