TWO SOULS: INTO THE FIRE
Inside the house, Steve came into the kitchen to see what was going on. "Hey, sisters," he said. "That sounds nice to say."
"Yes, it is nice to hear, too," Lisa said.
"So, what's the plan?" he asked.
They sat at the table, while Linda outlined her agenda.
"Ok, in the morning I have to really get busy packing some stuff, and separating what we're taking and what goes on the moving van. They'll be here tomorrow afternoon." She thought a minute. "We've already decided on what furniture I'll take, so I'll just point it out to them. Then, I guess the next morning, we can load up my car and the U-Haul that you'll be driving, Steve," she looked over at him. "We should go get one, sometime tomorrow. Seems like a lot to do, but I think it'll go pretty smoothly."
Steve nodded. "Ok, good, whatever you need done. We can map out our way home, and it'll take...oh...maybe four days, you think? We'll be staying in motels at night, right?"
"Yes, and I'm tired, already," Linda said, and laughed.
"We'll be fine, and I know Ghost will help with the kids," Steve said. "Where are they, anyway?"
Linda pointed to the back door. "See for yourself. They're out there having fun...and Kool-Aid." She and Lisa laughed.
"Kool-Aid? Man, that's a blast from the past. I haven't had that in years," Steve said. He went to the door and looked out to the back yard. Linda and Lisa joined him.
"We need a picture of this," Linda said. Lisa grabbed her phone, and snapped a few shots.
Ghost was still sitting on the grass, and Mandy had found a hairbrush in the playhouse. She was standing behind Ghost, brushing his long hair. She'd already put in a couple of braids, and pinned bows to the ends. Stevie was pretending to be a photographer, with a toy camera, taking shots at all angles.
They could hear Ghost talking, telling them how he'd been one of those papa guys once, for Halloween. They were all giggling.
"Ghost is such a good sport, letting them play and do his 'hair-do'," Linda said.
Steve smiled. "Aww, Ghost...he's amazing, Linda, and I braid his hair all the time. Well, I don't put bows in it, but he likes people messing with his hair. He told me once that it's relaxing."
Lisa handed Steve a cup of the Kool-Aid. "Here, this one if for you"
He took a drink. "Ahh, that's just like I remember it...so good."
"Well, I hate to break up their little party out there, but the kids have to come in for their baths before bedtime," Linda said. "We have to get an early start tomorrow."
You go get that started, and I'll wrangle them all in for ya," Steve said.
"You got a deal," Linda said.
Steve headed outside, and sat on the grass by Ghost. "Ya having fun?" he asked.
"Um-hmm, these kids are cool, Steve. I didn't know how I'd be. I mean, I never was around kids much, but really, they just want someone to play with them, and talk to them, and for someone to listen. They like my stories. And, they tell me make-believe stories, like I tell you...so yeah, we're having fun, and...we got Kool-Aid."
"I know, I had some, too," Steve said, laughing.
"Is my tongue red?" Ghost asked, sticking his out.
"Hah, yes...is mine?"
"Yep...hey, kids...stick out y'all's tongue. Let's see if they're red," Ghost said. They did, and they all started giggling. Lisa, from inside the house, started laughing, too.
They made funny faces at each other for a few minutes. "You kids are so silly," Steve said.
"Hahaha, Uncle Steve, we know," Stevie said.
"Yeah, we're silly," Mandy said.
They jumped on Steve, and pretended to wrestle him to the ground.
"Ok, ok, y'all win," Steve said. "And, now it's bath time for the both of you."
"No, no," they yelled.
"Yes, yes," Steve said, and stood up.
"Y'all get ready for bed, and I'll come tell a story," Ghost said.
"Ok," the kids hollered, and ran toward the house.
Steve looked down at Ghost. "You look silly, too. You have bows in your hair." He snickered.
Ghost smiled. "I don't care. They were having fun."
"Well, come on, let's go in," Steve said, holding out his hand to help Ghost up. They held hands, as they walked back to the house.
Inside, they could hear the kids splashing in the tub, and Linda talking, and an occasional squeal, as she got water splashed on her. Bill was still watching TV, but looked up as Steve and Ghost came and sat on the couch. He did a double-take at seeing Ghost's hair.
"What happened to you?" he asked.
"Kids..." Ghost said.
"Yep, that'll do it every time," Bill said, and laughed.
Steve began unbraiding Ghost's hair, laying the bows on the coffee table. Bill noticed that Ghost had his eyes closed, and that Steve was so gentle, untangling the braids. He flushed at the warmth that came over him, watching this. He really needed to find Lisa. Clearing his throat, he excused himself.
"Well, guys, I'm going to bed. Y'all can watch TV, if you want. It won't bother us," he said, as he left the living room.
Steve ran his fingers through Ghost's soft hair. Ghost leaned back into Steve. "Sounds like they're about done with their baths," Steve said. "You still gonna tell 'em a story?"
"Um-hmm," Ghost murmured.
"Ok, I'm going on to the bedroom then, gonna read awhile," Steve said, getting up.
Ghost leaned back on the couch, waiting. It wasn't long before Linda came in. "They said you promised them a story, Ghost," she said. "They're in bed, now."
"Ok," he said, getting up from the couch. As he went by, on the way to the kid's room, Linda put her hand on his arm.
"Not too long, and not scary, ok?"
He smiled. "Ok...you can listen, too, if you want."
"Oh, well, maybe I will. That'd be nice."
They went in, and the kids were on the bed, bouncing around.
"Ok, you two, Ghost is going to tell us a story, but first, you have to get under the covers, and be still, and pay attention."
When they were settled, Ghost sat on the end of the bed, and Linda sat in the rocking chair.
"This here is a story about me, and the stars...
The kids, and Linda, too, were smiling.
"When I was a little kid, like y'all are, I didn't have a brother or sister, or any friends either, for a long time...well, until your Uncle Steve and I met, anyway. So at night I'd be in bed crying, and there wasn't no curtains on the window, so the stars would shine and twinkle up in the dark sky. I always looked at them up there. Sometimes I'd even go outside...I wasn't supposed to, but me and my grandmother lived way out in the woods, so she didn't get mad or anything.
I'd look up at the pretty stars and pretend they was my friends. They'd always come to see me at night. I even got to know their special places up there, and I gave them names. Sometimes I'd see one going real fast...a falling star...and I'd make a wish. And, one day, my wish came true. That was the day I met your Uncle Steve. Of course, he was just a kid, too, back then. But we were forever friends from that day till now, even.
But, I didn't forget my star friends. They're still up there...every night, and every night almost, I still go out and say hi, and tell them how pretty they are. I say thank you for being my friends. So, I love the night time, and the darkness, because that's special for me and my shiny friends. I don't have to be afraid of the dark, 'cause they're watching and protecting me...even now." He was finished with the story.
The kids were transfixed, and Linda was wiping her eyes of tears. "That was a beautiful story, Ghost. Thank you."
"Can we look at the stars?" Mandy asked.
"Yes, for just a minute, I guess, but be very quiet and whisper hello to the stars. Then, back to dreamland," Linda said.
They went to the window, and stared out at the sky. "Good-night pretty stars...good-night friends," they said.
After tucking them in, Linda came out, shutting the door. She saw Ghost leaning back against the wall, there in the hallway, his head down.
"Ghost?" She went to him. He looked up, his face wet with tears.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"That was a true story," Ghost said, choking back a sob.
"Linda gathered him close, and hugged him, brushing his tears away. "I know...I know...honey..." she said, kissing him on the cheek.
Next part coming soon!
Peace, Love, & Writing