Seeing Dead People

A Spot of Tea

04 Apr 2011 17:41  |  by Zoe Wright
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IC Date: March 24, 2011 — Afternoon
This episode takes place following the log Ghost Busted

Getting out of London is always something of a relief. Zoe’s never defined herself as a city girl or country girl; she’s adaptable, easily as comfortable in one place as in another. There’s something though about watching the urban sprawl of London disappear in her rear view mirror as she drives her little Mazda toward a destination that isn’t within the confines of commercialism or industrialism. Zoe’s shoulders loosen a bit, the tight ball of rubber bands that’s lodged itself in her gut unwinds. Her legs stretch and flex, her foot pressed to accelerator as she zips through suburbia and beyond.

It’s another day, possibly two, of personal holiday time taken, and if she keeps this up, Zoe is going to be woefully behind. She isn’t yet, however, and while this conversation could be had over the telephone, Zoe needs the trip. The distance will help her focus and find an objective ground for those things she’s dealing with — increasingly restless spirits and the mystery surrounding a certain professor over at the University — and she’s always enjoyed taking a drive with the windows down and the music ripping through the radio.

Her first sight of the little country house sitting back off the lane brings a smile to Zoe’s face. This place has always had such warm and wonderful memories for her. It’s her home away from home and the place she’s always been able to go when the world feels as though it’s spinning out of control. It’s her own private paradise, her touchstone.

Zoe leaves her car in the parkway, not bothering to lock the doors. Springing the boot, she slings her overnight bag over her shoulder and walks up the cobblestone path to the small front porch, smiling as she opens and closes the kissing gate behind her. The path is starting to show signs of overgrowth, and Zoe makes a note that she’ll have to come out and tend to the garden soon if Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Joe don’t take care of it first.

The spare key is still hidden in a loose brick just behind the white wood rocker, and Zoe lets herself into the house with it. As soon as she crosses the threshold, she’s hit with the delicious scent of freshly baked sweet bread. Grinning, Zoe takes a deep breath, savoring it and letting it slowly.

“Nona?” Zoe calls. Her bag and purse are deposited behind the arm chair in the lounge and her feet carry to the small country kitchen at the rear of the house. “It’s me, Zoe.”

“You got here safe, then?” Zoe’s grandmother is a small woman who’s slight stature always seems to Zoe to be so much larger than it is. The woman has an aura of power and wisdom, and even in her early eighties she is still a force with which to be reckoned. When Zoe enters the kitchen, there’s already a ceramic pot of tea brewing in the center of the table, and an afternoon tea spread is neatly laid out. “A little birdie told me that you were coming so I set out tea for us.”

“A little bird?” Zoe smiles fondly and affectionately at her the older woman. Crossing the kitchen, she gives the woman a warm hug, which is returned with more strength than one would expect. “That little bird wouldn’t happen to be named Mariah would it?” It’s hard to keep the twinge of envy out of her voice as she asks. She’s not sure how her grandmother handles interaction with her late granddaughter, but Zoe does wish that Mariah would be as forthcoming and frank with her as the ghost is with their grandmother.

“Doesn’t matter who it was, only that they were right. C’mon lovey, sit down and have tea with your old grandmother.”

Zoe is sitting before she registers her legs hitting the back of the chair. Ruby Jones is just that sort of woman. People listen to her and seldom think of arguing with her or going against her wishes. Besides, it’s not as though having tea with Nona is a bad idea.

As always, with Ruby, the conversation is relaxed and easy. Zoe chats about work and her current projects, about the latest antics of Gwen’s brood — (and Gwen still counts Zoe as their aunt, because she’s still family as far as Gwen is concerned) — about current events, and her Nona’s favorite daytime television drama. Therefore Zoe nearly chokes on a bit of fruit when Ruby tosses out, “Tell me about this man you’ve taken a fancy to, then.” The older woman is in mid-pour on refreshing the tea in the cups, and the question is asked as casually as inquiry about the weather.

The automatic denials stops on Zoe’s tongue as her grandmother flashes her an indulgent smile. “I’m not judging, lovey. I think that it’s a very good thing that you aren’t going to stick yourself in widow’s black for the rest of your life. Harry was a fine bloke and he loved you and you loved him, but you’re young and you deserve another chance at happiness.” Ruby reaches across the table and pats Zoe’s hand. “I think Harry would want that for you.”

“Yeah,” Zoe lifts her cup and takes a sip. “Gwen says the same thing.”

“Maybe you ought listen to her then. She’s a smart woman.” Ruby stirs her tea, her dark, wise gaze staying focused on her granddaughter. “He’s a professor of some type? Smart chap then?”

“Mariah’s been chatty, has she?” There’s a heavy sense of resignation to the words. She’s pretty certain if she tells the average person that ghosts gossip, they’ll look at her like she’s mad. That’s once they get past the point that ghosts are real.

“Oh, I didn’t let her tell me much. I wanted to hear it from you.”

The tea cup is held, but not drank from. It’s simply a prop to give Zoe something to do with her hands. She looks away from her grandmother, feeling the warmth rising up her neck to her face. “His name is Sean Watson, and yeah, he’s a professor of Antiquities and Humanities over at the University of London.” Zoe knows that a slightly goofy smile is painting itself across her face as she talks about Sean, and knows that it’s ridiculously silly that just talking or thinking about the man can make her smile and blush, make her heart race just a bit and her palms sweat. They haven’t even had a real date and everything is so platonic between them, but it’s that undercurrent of attraction, that Zoe at least is confident that she’s no longer imagining, that twists her up and fills her with anticipation at the thought of seeing him.

“Sean Watson,” Ruby says as though she’s committing the name to memory. Which, Zoe knows she probably is.

“But we haven’t — I mean, we’re friends, Nona. We haven’t even been on a date. We’ve gotten coffee and had lunch, and talked over beers at his best mate’s pub …” All right, Zoe thinks as she trails off, Maybe we have been on dates.

“In my experience, friends don’t make you blush quite like that, Miss Zoe.” Ruby smiles warmly, but then it fades to somberness. “Do you trust him, child?”

There it is, then. That’s always the big question, and the big issue. Zoe had so many relationships go south due to her abilities, before meeting Harry. She has it on good authority — namely the fact that Sean wasn’t alarmed by her ability — that this one isn’t going to go that way, if it should ever cross the realm from polite elbow bumps to something of a more … intimate association.

“I told him,” Zoe confesses. The lack of surprise on her grandmother’s face suggests that Ruby knew that already. Bloody Mariah. “We were having lunch and there was this spirit. He could sense her. He couldn’t see her or talk to her, but he could sense her. And he figured that I could sense her too.” He’d been pleasantly surprised to learn that it was more than just sensing on Zoe’s part. “So … I told him.”

“And he has a sense as well, you think?” Ruby asks quietly. Her brows knit together, and she’s studying her granddaughter like she’s reading a book. Zoe knows that look. It’s the look that says Ruby she’s waiting for the full story while reading between the lines.

“I … don’t know.” Zoe takes several sips of the now cooling tea and puts the cup down on the saucer. “I mean, I know that he could sense Ronnie — that was the spirit — but I don’t think it’s at all like what Aunt Sherry does.” A beat. “Ronnie said that he was … creepy.” Yes, Zoe does understand the irony of a ghost calling someone creepy, and if it had simply been Ronnie, Zoe wouldn’t give it another moment’s thought. However, Mariah seemed to share Ronnie’s idea on some level, ascribing Sean as his energy being ‘off’ and going so far to tell Zoe, ’He’s nothing like you, before disappearing into wherever it is ghosts disappear when they aren’t trying to talk to the living.

“There are so many things in this world, lovey. We might get a chance to see a glimpse of it, and we are the very few who are blessed with understanding that there’s more to the world than our five sense can share with us, but … we don’t know everything.” Ruby sits back in her chair, folding her hands neatly in her lap. “Your friend Sean might very well have a talent of his own.”

Zoe hadn’t thought of that. It pricks her mind and she nods, accepting that explanation. Her scone is half-way to her mouth when the implications of her grandmother’s words hit her like a ton of bricks. “Nona. You know something, don’t you?”

“Zoe, I don’t know anything.” Her grandmother laughs with a shake of her head. “I don’t know Sean Watson. I may have suspicions, but that’s all that they are. And I’m not going to start feeding you information that might very well be wrong about the first young man you’ve taken interest in.” The ’since Harry died’ isn’t spoken, but it’s quietly there.

The words are both comforting and confusing. Whatever her grandmother thinks Sean may be able to do, it’s obvious she still approves of Zoe’s developing friendship with the man.

“I suggest,” Ruby says, pulling Zoe from her thoughts, “That if you want to know more, you should ask Dr Watson.”

Zoe’s brows lift in surprise as she stares at her grandmother. She knows she never told Ruby that Sean has a doctorate. Yes, it was implied but never stated. I am really going to have words with Mariah the next time she graces me with her presence.

“You might also want to look around the city and do your own research. The world’s a big place and the supernatural world even more so. There’s this bookstore I like to visit when I’m in London …”

There rest of the visit goes amicably, with nothing more being said about Zoe’s relationship — whatever it is — with Sean. Though it’s the first time in a long time that she leaves Ruby’s house thinking that there was so much more there that was left unspoken.

Zoe’s not sure if that’s good … or bad.

Looking Up

11 Feb 2011 20:57  |  by Zoe Wright
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Mariah is back, though I suppose that saying such is a misnomer. Saying that Mariah is back implies that Mariah left. Mariah never truly leaves. I’ve often wondered where she goes and what she does when she’s not flittering about and upsetting my life, but asking her is a lesson in futility. Probably for the best. Odds are good that it’s something that I don’t want to know.

Surprisingly, she didn’t interrupt my work as much as she usually does; hardly at all, really. She lurked about and then popped out and didn’t pop back in until the library was completely devoid of patrons. I’m sure I was imagining things, but it almost seemed as though she didn’t particularly like Drs Watson and Wainwright. I know, it’s batty to think such a thing, and those two hardly seemed the dangerous sort. I’m sure that there’s something else going on where Mariah is concerned and I just have to continue on, business as usual until she decides to provide me with pertinent information. If she chooses. This is Mariah, after all.

Speaking of Drs Watson and Wainwright, they were quite the surprising pair of academics. They showed a genuine interest in Buchner’s beliefs, seeming to think that something helpful might be buried in his writings and recordings. It’s rare to find someone who will at least consider the fringe beliefs of those like Buchner worth conversation and reading, even if they’re not believed. More’s the pity really, because I might have liked to be able to discuss Buchner’s thoughts with someone intelligent who isn’t totally pissed by the time the conversation comes round.

Times like this I miss Harry. It isn’t the same as it used to be, the raw, sharp ache that felt as though it would never heal. There’s an empty space now, but I can think about him without bursting into inconsolable tears. It’s easier to remember the good times, and the wonderful things about him. Like how he accepted me (and everything that goes along with me) in stride. Seeing after images? Never phased him. Talking to ghosts? Didn’t bat an eye. Finding out that the monsters in horror stories really do exist? Took it without missing a step. Would be nice to have him about again, to come home and say that Mariah’s lurking about again and see that look of sympathy on his face. I don’t fancy calling Nona over it. I love her dearly, but the older she gets the less she lives in this world and the more she seems to be in another.

And all this digression is keeping me away from the one topic that I’m really not sure I want to broach just yet. Gwen and Liz have been telling me that it’s time for me to “put myself out there,” and “get back on the horse.” It’s not pressure, but they say it’s what Harry would have wanted for me. Even Marc and Thomas say that Harry wouldn’t want me live the rest of my life as a nun. No one seems to believe that I simply haven’t been interested. (No one believes me, of course.)

Today, I was. I met a man and I was actually interested in him. Dr Watson is intelligent and handsome and his eyes are absolutely amazing. I know, I sound like a school girl, and I’m going to look back and read these words later and wonder what the bloody hell I was thinking. The worse part of it is that I’m so out of practice, I don’t even know how to flirt properly anymore. I don’t know if I was too subtle or he just wasn’t interested and … sadly, I’m probably never going to see him again. Unless I look him up — he’s an academic which narrows the field — but that’s truly turning school girl. Waiting by the doors after last bell because you know the bloke is going to walk that way? Yes, definitely teenage school girl.

It’s cute when you’re sixteen and your skirt comes to your knees and you wear loafers and knee high socks. It’s just creepy when you’re a thirty-something professional.

I’m going to have to chalk this one up to a lesson learned, I think. And better luck next time. I’m actually optimistic and feeling good about myself, so it can’t have all been a wash, yeah?


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