Ghostly Love Story
October 29, 2015
What a perfect fall day for a Halloween party I thought as I placed leather bound mystery books on the wooden shelf. Picking greeting cards up off the counter and sliding them into the wire racks my thoughts drifted back to the events which brought me to the small coastal town of New Haven two years ago…a broken marriage, a bitter divorce, a need for anonymity, a need for solace. Almost as if the town had beckoned me; I started a new life here.
Shaking off the past, determined to enjoy the few hours before evening festivities began, I caught a glimpse of a woman outside my shop window. Dressed in Victorian fashion she was young, beautiful and walked with a gaiety complementary of her exquisite costume. Crossing in mid street, mindless of oncoming traffic she strode briskly toward the park. Admiring her, my gaze followed, unaware no one on the street appeared to notice her. Disappearing behind Miller’s Drug I quickly finished closing the what-not shop I had purchased when I arrived years earlier. Not the huge nest-egg builder I’d hoped for, however, it carried its weight in faithful customers and gave me the solace I once desperately craved. Locking the front door, suddenly overcome with melancholy, I climbed the stairs to the small apartment I call home.
Tossing clothes in heaps on the bed I realized I had not given much thought into wearing a costume that evening. Frantically searching the closet I recovered a Cat-in-the-hat hat leftover from a previous party…another life ago. Deciding I was neither in a feline mood nor a mood to relive my past I tossed it on the closet floor, absentmindedly kicking it into a corner. “Come on, be your amazingly creative self!” I ordered. For Pete’s sake, I had a closet full of vintage clothing and had even added a mildly successful line in the store. Not everyone appreciates days-gone-by apparel, but it brought in younger clientele who thought it was cool. “Now if I could just figure out what to…
…Yes!” Seeing that young woman today gave me an idea. Hmmm…now what could I pull together that would effectively pass as Victorian chic? Yards of silk ruffles, lace and two hours later I felt ready to make my grand appearance. Except what was I thinking? Honestly, I was a bundle of nerves for some reason. Summoning courage I entertained myself by imagining no one would recognize me. After all, I’d stayed home last year. However uncertain about socializing beyond the store I simply told myself a costume party was, perhaps, one of the best ways to break the ice. Slowly closing the door on the now disheveled apartment, my refuge for two years, I commanded my legs to take me to the party.
Arriving within minutes I walked toward the punch table and was immediately handed a cup. “Thank you for coming, Miss Eleanor.” The young lady dressed as Raggedy Ann said smiling. So much for hiding behind old lace and new curls, I thought. Taking a sip while scanning for familiar faces (why not, I’d already been recognized) I realized everyone was dressed in costumes. The collection of personal tastes ranged from wicked to whimsical. Ghouls chased zombies, while vampires made victims of princesses. I spotted a clique of Star Wars characters, musing that that faze had fizzled out already. Then I realized the reason I chose New Haven was because it was so far off the beaten path; it was years behind the big cities and charmingly perfect. However, I quickly discovered I’d rather observe than participate and abandoned the music and bright lights for a park bench.
Walking slowly toward the north side of the park I noticed that same Victorian dressed woman on a swing at the edge of the clearing. Heading her way I heard her humming an unfamiliar tune.
“What’s that tune? If you don’t mind my asking.” I gently inquired after she finished. It was so beautiful, I had arrived and seated myself on the bench waiting for her to quiet before I spoke.
““Sweet Adeline,” its Henry’s favorite song. Adeline is my name too. Henry said the song reminds him of me.”
“It’s a very pleasant tune.” I offered, although I didn’t recall ever hearing it. She continued talking about how she and Henry met and how they’d fallen in love. She spoke for several minutes as I admired her dress. It was pale violet with accents of black lace and remarkably tailored. Low on her brow she wore a matching hat as her honey blonde hair cascaded down in perfect tendrils around her alabaster skin; I, again, was taken by her beauty. A golden locket hovered over her small bosom and rocked gently when she spoke. Suddenly, I realized she’d asked me a question.
“Henry could sing it for you when he arrives. His voice is like that of a nightingale. Would you like to hear it?”
“A...yes. Yes, definitely.” I said.
“You know, he’s going to own the mill one day. He works very hard there. And when we come back we are going to live past Raven Meadow and have lots of children and…”
“Come back? Aren’t you meeting Henry here tonight?” I inquired.
“Yes. We’re going to be married. Our families don’t approve, so Henry asked me to meet him here. Then we’re going into the city and get married. Oh, I’ve never been to a city!” She excitedly gasped.
“Well, you’re not missing much.” I interjected, suddenly regretting my comment. She bubbled with such bliss I didn’t want to spoil her mood. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have. If you’ve never been then I’m sure you’ll find it fascinating.”
“Oh, I can’t wait to see everything! Henry says people have motorized carriages there…” Her voice trailed off as she spoke so fondly of him.
Motorized carriages? She couldn’t be that unexposed to progress. There were cars, buses even, right here in New Haven.
“When will Henry be here?” I inquired. It was getting late yet she intrigued me and now I wanted to meet Henry too.
“He’s late. But I’ll wait. I love him so. I’ll wait as long as it takes.”
Suddenly a bright yellow light flashed in the sky followed by a series of explosions. Startled, I rose and tried to see what part of town the noise came from. Strangely everything was vastly different. The park was a pasture and the town was just a series of wooden structures. Horses were everywhere and I could hear people shouting the mill was on fire.
“Henry works at the mill!” Adeline shrieked as she jumped off the swing.
I tried in vain to remember where the mill was. There was an abandoned mill on the edge of the river but it burned down in the early 1900’s and never reopened. There simply wasn’t another mill in town.
“Adeline, can you show me where the mill is?” I asked turning toward her.
Adeline was gone. All that was left of the swing was a tattered rope hanging from an old oak bough.
Shocked, I stared at the gently swinging rope. Sounds of children laughing filtered through my confusion as I turned toward the town where the Halloween party was in full swing. Hearing the band begin to play I decided to go straight home. Rationalizing what just happened I assured myself I simply dozed off. Not totally convinced, however, I skirted the party and headed toward Hilltop Street. Reaching my store front I paused, looking at my reflection. Staring back at me was Adeline. She smiled. Surprised, I stepped backwards and bumped into a gentleman dressed in long black coat and top hat walking toward the party.
“E-e-excuse me.” I stammered.
“No, pardon me. I was lost in thought and walked right into you.” He countered. “You’re dressed very festively and from the same time period as I. How wonderful! You must be going to the town’s big bash.”
“No, I was just… I…a…I”
“Then please, join me. I’ve just arrived in town and don’t know a soul. It would be my pleasure if you accompany me. Besides, it’s not Halloween unless you stay out till the stroke of midnight!” He added with a dramatic flair.
Laughing at my utterly flustered speech he said softly, “Please, my name is Henry. Yours?” Gently taking my hand and kissing it as he spoke.
“Adeline. I, I mean, Eleanor.”
“Well, Miss Eleanor, Happy Halloween.” He smiled broadly he placed my hand on his arm and started humming as we walked. No need to glance back at the window to sense Adeline smiling. Henry had finally arrived.