Please go to this blog post (first) if you wish to read this story from the beginning.
“I guess I’m a real ‘cheecako,” Sally confessed to the tall, angular man in the khaki, guard’s uniform who had arrived shortly after she’d put all the diaries neatly on a ornate, antique desk of the parlor where she had her notebook computer open.
The man laughed softly, and shook his head. “Maybe so, but don’t take it personally. It’s what we call any greenhorn here in Alaska. It’s okay by me, I was just teasing.
He handed her tight bouquet of delicate, multi-hued, handpicked wild roses wrapped in newspaper. She smiled and took them nervously.
“Thank you. Really, you shouldn’t have,” she said, turning away and walking into the kitchen so he would not notice her expression.
She found a mason jar in a cabinet, half-filled it with water in the sink, and arranged the delicate flowers symmetrically in it, then set the jar on the kitchen table.
“These are beautiful, thank you -- so many subtle hues. It’s amazing how nature just flourishes here in the summer, here it is August and it’s like spring, a riot of flowers.”
“Oh, and I brought this disk from the university library that you wanted, the one with the oral history.” He handed her a flat, labeled box from the wide pocket on his open, khaki guard-uniform jacket.
“I know, I hate to give up this place, even though I never saw it until just this past week. It, and been rented for years. It’s a mess, and needs a lot of work. I couldn’t afford to refurbish it even if they hadn’t offered to take it off my hands.”
“Well, they will fix it up. But that doesn’t help you, as you told me last night, you’re only getting market value for it and that’s not much these days.”
“So, why are you doing all this research on the house? You gonna write a book or something?”
Sally looked at him for a long moment. “No book. I’m a nosy person. I’m like that. I love history.”
“Well, for you it’s gotta be more than history, right? Being family and all.”
“Yes, there were stories in our family, things about this house that haunted my grandmother, and in some ways bent my mother. I was sheltered from much of it, but I have a deep desire to know for real.”
“Okay, I’m going to ask you the question outright, because every gossip around here wants to know: Have you encountered the ghost of your great grandmother, Jenny M., yet?” Bradley said with a big grin.
Sally laughed, a little too loudly, and shook her head. “No. Don’t be silly. These old houses are full of creaks and other strange sounds.”
“Well, you know, it’s required in the lease that you give us at least one ghost story before you leave,” he said.
“I’m sure the Frontier World promoters already have plenty of them to tell tourists once they move the house over there,” she said.
“Last night was sweet. I love the flowers and I really enjoyed your company. I’m flattered, really, dear. But…”
She paused and looked up into his large, puppy-dog-brown eyes. She cocked her head and bit her lower lip. “I told you. I’m nursing a broken heart. I’m not to be relied upon. I’m sorry. But let’s be friends. Okay?”
She broke into a short laugh. “Now – the present, -- is all anyone has. Right?”
“I take that as encouragement,” he teased. “So how much more time shall I tell the commission that you need?”
“Oh, maybe a week. I’ve got to get back to Boston. I’ve got to take a lot back with me and not get bogged down in trying to digest everything while I’m here.”
“You must be used to doing a lot of historical research at the university where you work. Boston University?”
“College. It’s Boston College, and I’m a curator of their music collection, old manuscripts and memorabilia and writings of great composers, for example we have a lot of Aaron Copeland material. Not very exciting, given that I once thought I’d be a concert violinist…”
“Sounds fascinating. I love Copeland.”
“You think we only listen to lite rock up here in Alaska?” He laughed.
“No, I didn’t mean that. Just the coincidence. As a matter of fact, I find you quite a cultivated gentleman – as wall as a handsome trooper.”
“Not exactly. I’m just on the campus police here the university site. Remember? But thanks for the ‘handsome’ part, m’am,” He pantomimed tipping the hat that he wasn’t wearing.
“Sorry. Yes. Touché.”
He didn’t pursue the matter. After he left, Sally read the diaries all through that afternoon, stopping only to make herself a light supper. Afterwards, she went back to the diaries.
She curled up on in a high-backed, Victorian winged sofa and she read long into the night. Finally she fell into a fitful sleep, still not accustomed to the perpetual sunlight of the Alaskan summer that filtered in through the shades and lace curtains of the old house.
The ghost of Jenny M stayed away while she read, and out of her dreams as she slept.