TWO SOULS: INTO THE FIRE
Linda and the kids were looking at a large display of toys for sale. Steve and Ghost made their way over to them.
"We're ready to go, Linda. Ghost found what he was looking for," Steve said.
Ghost held up the locket so Linda could see it. "This here is what was calling to me," he said.
She took a close look at it, and the picture of Ghost inside the heart. "I'm glad you found it, but it is so strange that you sensed it was here. What does it mean?"
Ghost shrugged. "I don't know yet. Steve says maybe the other town we're going to might have a clue."
Nodding, Linda agreed.
"Y'all ready to go?" Steve asked.
"Yes, I'll go pay for the toys Stevie and Mandy want to buy," Linda said.
Steve pulled out his wallet, handing Linda some money. "Go pay, and we'll keep an eye on the kids." She headed over to the table where the couple were sitting, by the porch.
"What'cha got there?" Ghost asked Stevie.
"Just a baseball and mitt. Mama's buying it for me."
"Cool," Ghost said, and grinned.
Mandy was tugging on Ghost's shirt. "Look what I got," she said, holding up a toy tea set.
"You gonna fix me some tea, later?" Ghost asked.
"Uh-huh, and cookies."
"Ok, I'll teach you how to read tea leaves, too. It's fun," Ghost said. They continued talking about tea, all the way back to the van. Steve and Linda were following behind, listening.
"Steve, I've said it before, that Ghost is really good with the kids. He knows how to talk to them, for real, not just telling them how to do things, but being their friend."
Steve laughed. "I know...and it's because he's half way still a kid, himself. Every day is a new exciting world for him."
"I've noticed that," Linda said.
Steve frowned, and slowed his paces. "I've had some serious bad thoughts, lately, Linda."
"What? What about?"
Steve didn't answer.
"About Ghost? About you and Ghost?" she asked. "What's bothering you?"
"I don't know...I'm still wondering if it's me that's holding him back. I don't like to even think it, but Ghost has so much to give, so much love and talent...and, here I am dragging him all over the country, giving him stress...too much, Linda...too much." Steve sighed, and rubbed his face, shaking his head to try and get the thoughts out of his mind.
"You've seen him...the seizures, the hospital, and how tired and thin he's gotten. It's not good. And, it's because of me...I know it, but I just can't...well...sometimes I think I have to, you know...so he'll be better, feel better. Shit, I don't even know what I'm saying anymore."
"Steve...don't..." Linda started saying.
"You know that thing they say? The one that goes if you love someone you have to let them go, and not hold them back, and they'll come back to you if it's meant to be? That one? That's how I think. I don't want to hold on to him so tight that he'll break, and I see him breaking already. Oh, Jesus...how can I do that? I can't let him go, and I can't keep him." He choked back a sob, before it became a moan.
"Steve, stop torturing yourself over this," Linda said. "Ghost is going to be fine. He has a mind, a free will...if he didn't want to stay, he'd have gone already. Oh, crap." She clapped her hand over her mouth. "Sorry..." She realized what she'd said...Ghost had left before.
"I didn't mean to say or imply that, Steve. He came back of his own free will."
"I know, I know," Steve said.
"Now, you just shut up about it, Steve. You know he can read your thoughts. If he hears how you're thinking, well...I truly believe it would destroy him...for good...and you, too."
Steve sighed. "But, I don't want him to feel he's trapped, being with me. It's been just the two of us against it all. Yeah, we have a few friends, but is that all there is? Is this all we were meant to be, to do in life? Shit, Linda, I'm too old to be going on a self-discovery tangent. I should have it figured out by now."
Linda grabbed his hand. "Listen to me...nobody's got it figured out...nobody. The rich, the poor, the famous, the regular folks...everyone just does the best they can, and if you find happiness in your work, in your love, then you've got it all. As I see it, you and Ghost...that's what y'all have already. So, if I were you, I wouldn't go messing it up." She hugged him tight. "I love you, brother."
"I love you, too, Sis, and thanks for setting me straight."
They were at the van, now, and Ghost was buckling in the kids. He was teasing them about something, and they were laughing. Steve and Linda watched and smiled.
"See...everything...you two have it," Linda said.
Steve nodded, his eyes watching Ghost...wanting Ghost.
Then, Ghost turned toward them. His eyes found Steve's, and the look Steve saw in them, chilled him to the bone. He knew then, that Ghost had heard every word he and Linda had spoken. Steve started to say something, anything, to get the hurt look out of Ghost's eyes, but Ghost just shook his head, no, and turned away...walking away from them all. He didn't look back.
Linda was speechless, watching the drama play out, between her brother and Ghost, as Steve ran after him.
"Wait...Ghost...wait...damn it, stop." He reached out catching hold of Ghost's arm. Ghost jerked it away, but faced him.
"What? What'cha want me to say, huh? Yeah, I heard you back there. I get it. I understand what you were saying, and I'm not an idiot, Steve. And, I'm not your charity case. You don't have to feel trapped either. If you want out, fine, we agreed on that years ago. Just say it...it'll be over, but it will be you that has to do it." He closed his eyes, and took a deep breath.
"I love you, Steve, and I would let you go if that's what you wanted. But, I'll never leave again, unless you tell me to. I'll get mad, I'll hurt, but I won't stop you from doing what you want. And, you aren't stopping me, either. If I want to do other things, I will. I don't feel trapped, Steve...I feel loved and wanted, like I never was before. You're not my caretaker, you're my friend, my lover...my life..." He began sobbing. He couldn't go on, and fell into Steve's arms.
Steve held him close. "I'm sorry...I'm sorry, Ghost. I just want you to be happy. I love you so much, I don't ever want to drag you down. You are amazing, and I'm the lucky one to have you. I don't ever want you to leave me, Ghost. Not ever."
After another minute or so, they walked hand in hand back to the van. Linda looked back and forth at their faces, waiting to hear that all was resolved.
"We're good," Steve said.
She hugged them both. "I'm so glad. I love you both so much."
"So, we ready to go?" Steve asked.
"Ok, then, we have to go find the other puzzle piece, right Ghost?"
"We don't have to. I have the necklace, now. I...well, I'm kinda scared to go find out more weird stuff. I got a weird feeling..."
Steve rolled his eyes. "Well, make up your mind. Is it still calling to you, or whatever it does?"
"Yeah, but in a creepy voice," Ghost said.
"A creepy voice? What does it say in your head, this creepy voice?"
Ghost looked at Steve, with frightened eyes. "It says to come and find it, like some kinda game it's playing. But instead of me finding it, it will find me." He saw the way Steve looked at him, though. "What?"
"Nothing...if you don't want to go, we won't," Steve said, as if this was final. He knew it wasn't, though. Sighing, he said, "Come on, let's go find it, then. Guess we're going to Forrest City, Linda. You ready?"
"Yes, let's do it," she said, and started the van. She followed behind, as Steve drove the U-Haul out to the highway.
Next part coming soon!
Peace, Love, & Writing