The Spirit In The House
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This story, as all my stories, are dedicated to my mother, Leona Tice, who was my first inspiration of imagination and creativity... and to my father, Russell Tice, who was also proud of me! :) (I will love them both dearly... forever.)

This story is also dedicated to my stepmother Marylou. Who taught me that life can be loved regarless of all. And that a teabag can offer not only a sense of comfort, but a found strength.






The Spirit In The House


Written by: Barbara Ann Hall


Marylou listened to the endless ticking of the clock as she lay awake desperate for sleep. She had been restless for weeks, although nothing seemed out of the ordinary. As she lay in bed, she drifted through the rooms of her life.

Silently, she crept down the stairway of the old home her Great Grandfather had built well over 100 years before. How many times have I descended these stairs? She wondered. As she imagined probably a trillion, she could almost hear his laughter, her Great Grandfather, from a time when she and her siblings would race up those very stairs and slide down the prestige, hand carved banister. Each night, after Pawpaw kissed them goodnight, he would set the mark, count to three, then cheer them on as they all raced full speed ahead for the stairs! Then he would let out a hearty laugh as all four children came tumbling down the banister over one another as they slid to the bottom landing! The very same place she found him slouched in a forever sleep one sad December day.
Her father’s family, from her Grandfather to her own children, was born and raised in that little country home that sat ever so handsome and proud on a beautiful stretch of farmland, just beyond the river. The family cemetery, which slept a hop outside the backyard, could silently in itself paint much of the family’s history. A happy place, plush green grass with garden benches, large oaks and willow trees, and lavished with a rainbow of roses and wild flowers. Marylou always cherished the rich land of her roots. From childhood, she envisioned herself growing as one of those perfect flowers, from its’ very soil.
Reaching the landing, Marylou could smell the rich aroma of yellow daffodils. The delicate flowers would grow in clusters starting as early as late February and bloom richly throughout the season. Often she would pick batches to bring indoors to brighten up her life, placing a vase in every room. As she sat there, she allowed herself to enjoy a memory of long ago when she planted little daffodil bulbs in the ground.

Rising over the sweet memory, Marylou could now smell the heavenly aroma of freshly baked biscuits and without hesitation she drifted to the kitchen. She had prepared handmade biscuits almost every day of her married life, and the fresh hot bread with homemade marmalade was always among her family’s favorite.

After spreading a dab of jelly on a warmed biscuit, Marylou took a long, deep sip of her hot tea, and as the clock struck midnight, she could hear the laughter of her family on a Saturday night gathered around the long oak table. She embraced every memory. As the laughter faded, she felt exhausted, but sleep wouldn't come.

She walked to the back porch, sat on the wooden swing, and pulled her robe tightly around her shoulders. Feels like rain, she thought to herself as the winds picked up. Back and forth, Marylou swung, listening to the rhythmic squeal of the swing's chain. I must oil this old thing, she thought, as she had probably thought hundreds of times over the years. But the truth of the matter was, she had grown quite fond of the old familiar annoyance. One that had lulled her babies to sleep, established the perfect tempo for her father’s singing, and encouraged many a dog to scratch their ears. That old swing, hand built by her grandfather, held priceless memories. It was made from an old oak that had graced the very mark for the heart of the home. Artistically carved into the wood were the names of her father’s family starting with her Great Grandmother and ending with her father. Her father had often wanted to add the names of his children and grandchildren, but felt perhaps it should be left as the hands of his father had left it. Marylou understood his feelings, although she had often wished her name had been added.
The chain's squeal turned back to ticking as the clock beside Marylou's bed marched forth. Rising from the swing, she opened the screen door and stepped out into the yard. The night air was slightly misty as Marylou strolled through the gardens. They were more beautiful than ever, she thought, even in the chill of winter. Although the fruits of the gardens slept, delicate yellow and pink roses bloomed everywhere, Pussy Willow and Rose of Sharon, and of course, thick patches of yellow Daffodils!

Past the gardens, she strolled through the family cemetery, remembering the times she spent there as a child. It was her favorite place to spend hours, cleaning headstones, trimming weeds and wondering about the roots from which she had grown, like the flowers she so loved. She walked to the large old Willow and traced her finger over her name that was skillfully carved upon its’ trunk, then knelt to pray at her parent's grave. As she scattered a handful of rose petals the mist turned to rain.

Marylou pushed the swing gently, as she glanced once again at the names of her family past. Walked slowly back through the kitchen and living area, breathing again the faithful aroma of homemade biscuits and bright yellow daffodils! Just beyond, she reached a small library filled with hundreds of books of which she had read every one over the years. In the midst sat an old plush chair, small table and antique floor lamp. She clicked on the lamp, flopped into the comfortable old chair and picked up the book that lay on the table. My Bible! Isn't that funny how it lay right here? She thought aloud, as she turned from familiar page to familiar page. The clock flashed 2:28 PM. Marylou placed the book back on the table, turned off the light and closed the door.

Perhaps if I wash my face with a warm cloth it will help me sleep, she thought. Shuffling to the bathroom she turned on the faucet and allowed the water to warm. I should sleep now, Marylou thought, as she pressed the wet, warm cloth over her eyes. But, unlike the many times before, the clock only grew louder, tick... tick... tick... tick...

When have I last explored the attic? Marylou’s curiosity blotted out her exhaustion. When have I last looked through the photos of my life or fancied my wedding dress? A heavy mustiness filled her nostrils as she slowly opened the attic door and anxiously ascended the stairs. The hot air lay heavy on her skin as she cautiously felt her way to the center of the room and pulled the long rusty chain that turned on a single light bulb, casting shadows into the far corners of the long, narrow attic. Once her eyes adjusted to the dimness, she spotted the old trunk that held her beloved wedding dress. Gently, Marylou lifted the dress out and held it in front of her as she drifted back in time. Wonderful memories filled her spirit as she twirled round and round the room. Oh how we danced on the night we were wed... la la la la la... Then, just as quickly as the memory came, it was gone.
Marylou tucked the dress neatly back into the wooden trunk and glanced around hoping to find her photos. Squinting brought into focus several photo albums stacked on a shelf in the far corner of the room. She quickly made her way over and began to flip through the pages. She reminisced with herself; laughing, crying, dancing, dreaming, as she studied the photos of her yesteryears. Marylou breathed deep the pages of each album as her heart returned to every memory.  When it began to feel as though she had been sitting there, lost in a far away time, for an endless eternity, the ticking of the clock began to emerge in her soul once again.

Stacking the photos neatly back on the shelf, Marylou made her way to the center of the room, glanced around once again at the overflow of her life, and turned off the light.
Back down stairs, she sat on the edge of her bed, even more desperate for sleep than before. Taking a small sip of sherry; an entrusted sleeping companion of many years, Marylou laid her head comfortably on her pillow. Then almost instantly, the faithful ticking of the clock finally lulled her restless mind into a peaceful sleep.  
Through the lullaby of her own breathing, she heard the soft whisper of her daughter’s sweet voice… momma... momma? Ah my sweet little angel, mommy is here. Is it time to bake the biscuits already? Marylou tried to wake, as she once again heard the ticking of the clock.

Please, don't wake her, a nurse interrupted, she's been awake most of the night. In fact, every night since she arrived. I know, the daughter replied, I can feel her spirit in the house.

Then she gave her mother a gentle kiss on the cheek, arranged the daffodils in the vase by the side of her bed, and quietly closed the door behind her. As Marylou lay tucked into bed, she smiled at the old familiar aroma of sweet daffodils as once again she began to drift through the rooms of her life.