The OED defines ghost as "an apparition of a dead person, which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image", and this is typically what we think of when we think of a haunting. It also, however, offers a second definition of ghost, as "a slight trace or vestige of something". Pulling from this definition what if ghosts are not shadows of those who have passed, but of those we create? And if they were, just what would they think of how we've created their lives? This vignette takes place on the Ingleside verandah where we find one character feeling just a little petulant about how one writer portrays her...
The day had been hot, ridiculously hot for October. The calendar, however, despite what the mercury was saying, said it was autumn, and was proved right once the sun set and the earth quickly cooled. Those who had lived in Four Winds for any length of time had the wood ready stacked in the fireplace to light as the last rays of sun disappeared into the sea and the mist began its slow creep from the harbour, up past the 'House of Dreams', through the village, past the school, Carter Flag's store and the Manse, up the hill where Ingleside sat, enveloping the gate, the walkway and the verandah, with an eerie glow as the light from the full moon shone through the mist.
As the mist settled, the figure of a young red haired woman in a blue nurses uniform began to clearly come into sight as she took a long slow drag on a cigarette and blew the smoke into the surrounding atmosphere.
"You know you were never on this verandah like this, and we can't really feel the cold" she said, addressing the tall, slim girl, "half-past sixteen," with serious gray eyes and hair that could only be called carrot coloured who stood next to her, shivering and pulling her shawl closer around as if to fight the fog that covered all of the Glen below.
"Besides", she continued "it's positively ridiculous that my mother is looking 'half past sixteen' while I'm looking almost 30 and...", she felt around her belly to confirm "...with child!" her voice was shocked but there was mirth behind it as if the situation greatly amused her.
"It's not my fault" rebuffed the girl beside her, "This is how She always pictures me". Her tone and attitude were that of the teenager she represented, though her next statement implied she had wisdom beyond those years, as she mused "I wonder if they know."
A dark haired gentleman, with grey in his curls hazel eyes and a roguish smile walked around the corner of the verandah and pulled her into his arms "I doubt it" He pauses to leave a lingering kiss on her forehead - it would never do to kiss someone looking so young on the lips "not everyone has your imagination Anne-Girl". As he pulled away she morphed from the schoolgirl to a woman of his own age, and pulled him back to kiss her properly. "Thank you" he murmured "not every man pictures themselves with a teenager, I've always preferred a more mature Anne, even if the some of the Creators don't."
"How does it work again Dad?" asked Rilla "Why are we here, like this, tonight?" she questioned looking down again at her WWI Nurses uniform.
"It's their imagination that keeps us alive" said Jem popping out to join them, trailing Faith behind him, her hand held firmly in his. "And once a year, on all Hallow's Eve, we are able to ponder our existence."
"We exist as the Creators write" continued his wife "which is why your mother her can be both the school girl and the mother of seven, why you are eternally pregnant, and why your brother Shirley only appears from time to time and has great big gaps where he can never appear"
"Well, not until someone writes me into being" smirked Shirley appearing out of the mist, his age wasn't at first apparent, but the uniform he was wearing was that of a WWII pilot so it was clear that he was in his forties.
"And we like how She wrote you, don't we?" said Carl. His arms were the first to appear, snaking around Shirley's waist from behind, but the rest of him soon followed, his hand reaching up to gently tilt Shirley's face towards him, enabling the planting of a long, loving, lingering kiss.
"I like what She creates" said Una quietly. Had she been in the corner the entire time, or was she just emerging from the mist no one could tell, no one could ever tell with Una, but when she spoke they listened. "She's certainly given me a rounder life, and at least there's a hope I'll get my own 'happy ever after'". As she spoke Faith leaned across and squeezed her sister's hand as if to say 'I really hope she brings you the love you deserve, happiness has eluded you long enough.'
"Hmmm" Anne was clearly not impressed "I do like the opportunities she's created for you Una dear, and we all like to see more of Shirley, but what this Sky-Creator has done...its a travesty, a great travesty" said Anne emphatically. "One minute she kills me, and has MY Gilbert marry someone else..."
"You wouldn't want me lonely, would you Anne-Girl?" interrupted Gilbert with a smirk as he pulled her towards him and nuzzled into her neck.
"...Then she has me ostracize Shirley, its not my fault the Great Creator didn't bring to life the parts of me where I was an excellent mother!, and of course, Shirley, I would embrace any life you have and any love you choose to live it with."
No one mentioned that she didn't look directly at Shirley and Carl as she said this, nor address Carl by name.
"I always liked how she portrayed me" said Susan appearing briefly with the tea things, then disappearing equally as fast as if her opinion may upset a delicate balance.
"Good ol' mother Susan" chuckled Shirley under his breath.
"Don't get too cheeky there bro" said Jem, "I hear rumours that McFishie-Creator has an idea for how you came into the world that that you may not like!"
"I've heard that rumour too, and don't like the implications about me at all, but we all know she has ideas, but rarely puts them to pen and ink," said Gilbert, defusing the situation, "we can all hope that she continues to ignore her literary gene and that reality won't eventuate."
"Good chance of that" interjected Anne, now looking her 40 plus years "she is a great procrastinator, where is your other wife, what's her name, Molly?"
"Mary," Gilbert responded, "as well you know. She's not here, two universes can't sit together. I can slip between them as I belong to both, but others can't"
"Do you love her more than me?" the question may as well have come from a child, so primal was the voice.
Gilbert tossed his head back and laughed, then he pulled Anne into his arms, "don't you get it Anne-Girl? You're the same. You both represent the best of my love. You're different people, different times, but you are both love."
"She let Mary's Joy live," continued Anne petulantly
"Yes," responded Gilbert " but she lost other babies, her life wasn't perfect. We have our family here"
"Almost," said Anne looking round at Jem and Faith, Shirley and Carl, even Nan and Di were there on the side, but Joy had never grown beyond the babe that only lived a day and Walter was forever in grave in France. "I don't see what Walter at least can't join us on these misty nights."
"You know it's not possible Mum" said Jem "That conflict was far too real for them, they write to try to make sense, but once someone is lost there, they are lost forever like Walter and..."
"...Jerry" Nan continued . The tears in her eyes matched his own as they all paused and thought of the cost of a conflict that occurred 100 years ago not only in their world but on a greater stage, one all the worlds were still reeling from.
"I could have done so much if I had the ability to magically heal in that universe" mused Gilbert. The silence continued for several moments.
"I wonder what Aunt Marilla thinks of her revised relationship with Grandpa" pondered Rilla, turning the conversation away from thoughts of war and death
Anne closed her eyes and in that moment left the Ingleside verandah and appeared on the Green Gables verandah, taking a moment to enjoy the breeze the hilly position allowed before opening her eyes.
"I wondered if I'd see you tonight" said Marilla, looking down at her needlework as if she'd been working on it before Anne arrived, the corners of her mouth giving the tell tale sign of the pleasure she had in seeing her, "And I've seen you've added a verandah to Green Gables?"
"McFishie-Creator insists that all these conversations happen on a verandah so I had to either wait for you to come to Ingleside or add a verandah to Green Gables, do you like it?"
"More than I thought I would" replied her adoptive mother "and the heightened position adds a lovely breeze."
"If you're going to have a verandah you may as well put it somewhere to catch the breeze" said Anne dismissively
Marilla smiled, Anne always was romantic, in all- well most - incarnations.
"Did you just come to visit, or is there something I can help you with?" she asked looking for where she had left off her needlework that had clearly not been attended in some time.
"The children wondered what you thought of Diva-Creator marrying you and John."
"I was just visiting that universe" said Marilla, giving up the pretense of needlework and putting it down with her left hand while her right hand reached up to touch her bodice as if to check that the buttons were all done up correctly "It is most...pleasant there..." Marilla stared off into the view as if pondering her life with John, "All the incarnations of my being married were very special, but I especially liked that John and I found each other again."
"There you are Mar" John wandered in from around the corner of the verandah. "Like what you've done with the place Anne, " he said admiring the verandah they were on with a smirk that could have belonged to his son, "Come back inside love" he said reaching out to Marilla with a look in his eye that Anne recognized from his son. Not wanting to witness anything remotely marital, and satisfied that Marilla was happy with married life Anne allowed herself to fade from Green Gables and reappear on the Ingleside verandah.
"I'm fairly sure she approved" said Anne, responding to Rilla's question
"I do too" said Gilbert, "Though I wasn't happy about her killing off Ma"
"Roseamund was a great loss" acknowledged Anne, "She was always such a good mother" The sign that followed indicated that Anne was still not impressed with the sort of mother she herself had been created to become.
"Roseamund?" said Gilbert "Ma's name wasn't Roseamund!
"It could have been" said Anne raising up to her queenly stance, "The Great Creator never gave her one and I think Rosamund is a lovely romantic name."
Gilbert shook his head "I'm certain Ma's name was plain and sensible, why didn't you ask Dad when you were there?"
"He was being incorrigible Gilbert," Anne responded, "he was practically kissing Marilla in front of me."
"Nothing wrong with a bit of kissing" murmured Shirley , grabbing Carl and kissing him once more.
"Do you two mind?" asked Anne clearly peeved
"You said you'd be okay with it" replied Shirley innocently, "perhaps Sky-Creator was right after all!" he teased
The moon, by now had risen, and the mist was starting to clear. Rilla held her hand up to watch as it increasingly became transparent. "The time betwixt the day and the dark on all hallows eve is fading." she said sadly, "I don't suppose we will be able to talk like this again until next year, I wonder how much will change in the next year. Maybe I'll have this baby," she looked down and patted her stomach as she spoke.
"I might be married" smiled Una, a dreamy expression on her face.
"I hope I come back from what is being created for me in England" mused Shirley
"You better", said Carl defiantly, "She won't kill you, she can't, she's brought us together, she won't tear us apart again" His voice wavered revealing that he wasn't as confident as his words, he knew She had no qualms about maiming or killing characters. He held tightly to Shirley's hand as if to hold him to this world for all time.
"Maybe I'll had another wife!" teased Gilbert, at Anne's look of horror and frustration his chuckle turned to a look of tenderness as he gently stroked her cheek, leaning in to kiss her deeply, as they faded into the mist waiting for the Creators to bring them to life once more.
Down by the shore the mist held a little longer. A tall girl looked up at the shadowy movements on the Ingleside verandah and sighed, part of this story, but not, Joy was only ever able to watch from the sidelines, She turned and wandered back to where Captain Jim was waiting for her "We're always part of them" he said, "even though we can't interact".
Joy smiled "I'm glad you're here with me, it would be terribly lonely otherwise."
"I couldn't think of a better first mate", he responded together they walked across the sandbar and faded into the mist below.
If this story doesn't make a lot of sense, you're not reading widely enough on this site! I've referenced some amazing work. Kslchen has not only developed Rilla beautifully but has written an historically accurate appraisal of WWI in 'Through the Dark Clouds Shining', you'd never guess that English isn't her first language! Elizasky has the ability to challenge preconceptions I didn't know I had and to shake up the world as I know it, only to put it back together in a way that I find myself loving more. 'In a Forest Dark' and 'Glen Notes' and it's sequel 'The Happiness We Must Win' have become such a part of me that I now thinking of them a canon in their own right. Oz Diva has showed us that the real heroine of the AOGG world is Marilla and her work develops this character superbly 'Forever and a Day', 'No Only but Also', 'Marilla's Diary' are just a few where we learn to love Marilla for her own journey. Excel Aunt has created a wonderful world where Gilbert has the ability to magically heal in 'Being a Blythe'. And there are more that I wanted to reference in this story it would have made it too unwieldy. The word 'betwixt' is in homage to MrsVonTrapp's 'Betwixt the Stars', and there are lots of other writers that inspire and amaze me with the wonderful worlds they create I know if I list them I'll miss out someone wonderful so look at the authors I've favourited and read their work.
Oh, and The Great Creator is Lucy Maud Montgomery, obviously, to who I'm eternally grateful for creating such wonderful, adaptable, believable characters.