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Hauntingly Generous

by Lucy Caplice about a year ago in humanity
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A Children's Story

Hauntingly Generous

A Children’s Story

By Lucy Caplice

The wind hit Jo hard as she walked briskly up the cobblestone road. The harsh London weather was constant, but she was used to it. Turning a corner, she was given some relief, both to be out of the wind, and at seeing of her little brick house. Her lips formed a small smile as she approached it, barely glancing at the other, identical houses, lined up either side. The door lock clicked, and Jo stepped inside. She breathed in the familiarity of home and walked up the stairs to her bedroom. Against a wall was a bookshelf filled with records and CDs. An old piano keyboard sat in front of the window, the sunlight pouring in reflected brightly upon it. In one corner stood a computer desk, in front of it a nice computer chair. A small wooden table beside it was covered in clothes, all neatly folded; warm hoodies in varying colours, soft leggings, and smatterings of denim. Jo took off her thick avocado winter coat and threw it on top of the pile, glancing at her reflection in a simple black framed mirror on the back of the door as she closed it. She was thin, athletic, and tall. Her black hair, cut short, made no impression, nor did her pale blue eyes. She was non-descript. A purple candle sat in the corner of the computer desk, and next to it rested a white electric guitar. Jo took out small silver earrings and placed them delicately on the desk and sat down in the chair. Looking down, she picked up a little black notebook, and flicked it open to a bookmarked page. Sighing, she re-read the page.

Tomorrow I will try at another gym. I’m sure I will be good at it teaching smaller classes. What I’m doing now just doesn’t offer people my best. It’s enough for me to get by, but not to really help anyone. And I want to help Sadie. She’s so talented. The people I love deserve more. To do that takes money.

Jo almost smiled, thinking how quickly this plan had failed that afternoon. She had the skills, and the confidence. They simply didn’t have the space for another trainer. They did not have the money to employ her. It was always about the money. She looked out the window and thought of her friend Sadie. Giving gifts was important to Jo. Sadie said it was her love language. She’d seen the perfect set of paints that she knew Sadie would appreciate and enjoy. Her friends deserve nice things. It wasn’t fair they couldn’t have them. It should be so simple. She wasn’t upset so much as frustrated. Jo kicked off her sneakers. They were more worn on the outside, from the way her ankles turned slightly when she ran. She slid her feet into slippers. It was too cold for bare feet. She clicked a few times on the computer, and a music documentary began playing. She watched for a minute or two, not really taking it in, and then pulled her phone out of her pocket. She scrolled through the updates. The music doc droned in the background, and she disappeared into a state of distraction.

Something flickered in the corner of her eye. A yellow, somewhat clear shape floating a few metres from her, near the bedroom door. It disappeared, then reappeared again, closer to her, and she saw it was the shape of a man. He faded out of view again, and then back. Jo stood up and stepped back as it drifted towards her. His face was see-through, but somewhat brown. It brought to mind an old sepia photograph.

“Hello. Can you see me?” the shape asked.

Jo’s eyes widened. She didn’t answer. She went to step back further but stopped herself, instead reaching out her arm towards it. It faded again, and then became clear. She could see him. He looked much older than her 24 years. In his 60s maybe. He had a strong jaw, and she could tell his hair and beard were dark, despite his translucence. She touched him, and her hand went right through.

“Who are you?” She breathed the question out, barely aware she had spoken.

“I’m King George, who do you think I am?” the ghost snapped.

Jo took a step back and a deep breath.

“I live here. I lived here. I still live here. I’m here.”

“You used to live here?”

“That.”

“When?”

“Does it matter when, young lady?” he began muttering. “Come try to help, just get bombarded with questions. I don’t know why I bother.”

“I’m sorry!” Jo interrupted. “I’m just interested. I’ve never seen a ghost before.”

“Well, we don’t show ourselves much, so not seeing us doesn’t make you special.”

Jo hesitated. She didn’t want him to leave, and he seemed to be regretting whatever choice he’d made to come forward. He was old. He seemed old fashioned. She tried to repress her excitement and curiosity and aimed for small talk level politeness.

“It’s nice to meet you, Sir. I’m Joanna.”

“I know who you are”, he responded haughtily, but he seemed pleased at the change of pace.

“Benjamin Gruffudd. Benji, my mates used to call me. Though you and I are not mates”. He narrowed his eyes at her, making sure she didn’t think their relationship friendly.

Jo kept her face impressively impassive, considering the shock she was feeling, and the ghost reacted positively; choosing to continue explaining his presence.

“What year is it now? It doesn’t matter.” He waved off Jo’s attempt to answer. “I lived here a long time ago. I have existed here for a long time since. Machinery. That was the Gruffudd business. Not always, no no. My father himself, he took an interest. Then the country took an interest. Then the world. We did well for ourselves. My brother inherited the business, yes yes. Though I was still made comfortable.”

He gazed past Jo, out the window, lost in thought. She shuffled her feet, the blue slippers twisting on the floorboards, and Gruffudd’s attention returned. He appeared to have lost his train of thought.

“That’s very interesting, Mr. Gruffudd.” Jo said, truthfully. It took a lot of self-control not to ask a thousand questions, but she worried he would disappear if she bothered him like that.

“May I ask why you are appearing now? I have never seen you before.”

Gruffudd frowned, irritated. He had been in the middle of explaining! Why must she be so impatient? He remembered why he’d chosen to come into focus – for her, for this reason, and he decided to continue on.

“I never married, you see, but money was set aside for my wedding. For my children. Though they never came. As I grew older, I knew my chance was gone, but the money was still mine. I didn’t want anyone else to have it. Oh, I convinced myself I could use it in the future, but I knew, truly, I did not have much future left. I hid it away. All £20 000 of it.”

Gruffudd paused and gazed upwards. Jo followed his eyeline. Her eyes widened.

“It’s here? In this house?”

“Yes. Yes yes. They never found out. I suppose, no one ever looked. It’s in the attic, behind some bricks. It’s not a particularly clever hiding place, but I wasn’t really trying that hard.”

He looked at Jo, right in the eyes. He gently floated in front of her, seemingly on the precipice. She looked right back at him.

“I want you to have the money, Miss Parr.”

Jo couldn’t speak. A million thoughts ran through her mind. Why would he say that? Does he mean it? I could do so much with that money. I could help Sadie. I could start my own fitness classes. I would have more time for music lessons of my own. Why would he say that? Why me? Why me?

“Why me?” she finally managed to say aloud.

For the first time, Gruffudd smiled. It was warm, and gentle. It changed his whole face.

“I appreciate your passion, Miss Parr. You try so hard, you are so determined to help others, and do to what’s right. I see you putting others ahead of yourself. Your passion is impressive. It should be rewarded.”

Jo stared. She thought of Sadie. The paints she could get her! She would never have to worry again.

“Thank you, Mr. Gruffudd”. She didn’t know what else to say.

He raised his left arm slowly, pointing upwards, and Jo followed the directed.

“To the attic, then, Miss. Parr.”

Jo walked into the hallway, Gruffudd following behind her. She approached the rope hanging from the ceiling, where the attic entrance was, and pulled down hard. The ladder unfolded in front of them. Jo took a deep breath. She wasn’t superstitions. I suppose now I will be, she thought to herself. The attic had always had an eerie feel to it though. As she clambered over the landing in the room, Gruffudd floated gently up behind her. She turned to look at him, and he pointed again. She saw it immediately; three bricks together, not connect by mortar. Simply loosely shoved in their place. Jo hesitated.

“Are you sure, Mr. Gruffudd?”

“I am, Miss Parr.”

He smiled as he answered. Jo felt the generosity and warmth coming from that smile, and she returned it. They looked at each other for a moment, smiling. Then Jo turned towards the bricks. She shuffled forward, and dislodged them from their place, one by one. The empty space behind the wall wasn’t large, but it was enough. She saw a small hessian bag and pulled it out. Gruffudd’s sepia form was floating slightly behind her, but she knew he was there from the corner of her eye. She should have said thank you again, but her excitement had finally overtaken her politeness. She pulled open the bag and turned the contents out onto the ground. There it was - £20 000. Eyes widening, smile widening, Jo stared at the money, almost unbelieving, but somehow, she knew in her heart that this was real. Her mind burst with possibilities. The equipment she could buy to start her own fitness classes! The paints and canvases she could buy for Sadie! The old record shops she could support with purchases of old classic albums! Her mind swam. She grinned.

A thousand thoughts had occurred, but only a minute or so had passed. The feeling of gratitude filled her whole body, and she turned around to thank Gruffudd. To thank him endlessly, to thank him for the rest of her life.

There is no one there.

Jo blinks. Her smile slightly fades. She glances at the money again, and then back at the place Gruffudd had just been. He’s done what he wanted. She knew, somehow, that he was free now. His afterlife was complete. It was the best thanks she could have possibly given. Jo smiled, broadly, gazing at the place in the air where this generous ghost just was, tears of joy brimming in her eyes.

humanity

About the author

Lucy Caplice

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