Chapter 2. The Way Home...
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Looking from the outside there was nothing to tell you what had just happened. Maeve and her mother were just two ordinary women out for the day getting into the car to go home. Nothing to see here.
Ada, Maeve’s mother, got into the car and nodded as if they had just had a conversation. “Shall we go? We want to get going before we are caught in the traffic”. She was right, it gets sticky around rush hour even at the weekend.
Maeve didn’t know what to say so just started the car, pulled out of the parking space and moved into the one way system. It was hot enough to have the windows down and hear the sounds of summer, seagulls and amusement arcade electronic jingles. Maeve waited till they were on the main road to Folkestone, much quieter now, sea air had changed to green countryside with the smells of cow parsley and fresh cut hay. She had taken the coast road via Sandwich because she knew it like the back of her hand and they would be able to talk without fear of taking the wrong turning.
“What just happened?” Maeve was trying to keep the tone normal.
“What do you mean, love?” Was Ada trying to be evasive?
“I mean, that woman was dead! She spoke to me and then she seemed to talk to you! In my very normal, very ordinary, everyday world this doesn’t happen, it just doesn’t, so tell me what happened.”
“Well dear, you have had a moment of realisation, that’s all.” Was Ada being patronising? The history of their relationship was likely to lead to misinterpretation, or at a minimum, over sensitivities on both sides.
Maeve did not want to be patronised. “I need more than that.” She said, still trying to control her voice.
“You have always been able to see and communicate with those who have passed over, and today you understood that.” Ada’s tone was normal conversational.
“I haven’t, it's never happened before, I don’t have the gift!” Louder than intended, Maeve’s upset and frustration was now clear.
“See now you are getting angry again. That’s what happened before when you were a child, so rather than cause an upset I let you think that the spirits were real. You didn’t want to think that they were ‘ghosts’. The other kids told you that ghosts were bad, evil or frightening. You wanted to be normal, just like your school friends, so I went along. Do you remember your little friend Katie? She used to come around after school when there was no one else around?”
“Yes, what about her.” The answer was sharper than intended.
“She was a spirit, poor little thing, just wanted a friend to play with. Like you she was lonely. You suited each other. She wasn’t looking for anything and you didn’t want to ask questions. Like any other kids of that age you both wanted to get on with having fun, sharing, laughing.”
This was a shock. “But she was real! She was my friend.” Maeve was having difficulty processing this latest revelation.
“She was your friend. She was a sad soul who died on her own, I think it was carbon monoxide poisoning because she always wanted the windows open. Katie was looking for a playmate and you made her happy. She just needed to laugh, to feel that someone cared, and that she wasn’t alone, then she could be at peace. And so she was.”
Not knowing what to say Maeve focused on her need for some practical explanations. “Okay, this is a lot for me to take in. I know that I have grown up with all this and you have gone on about it forever but in the past I wasn’t really listening. Now I need to know things. First, do the spirits find us or do we find them?”
“You were listening,” Ada replied, “but you didn’t want to believe, so you shut your ears and decided that I was a little touched. Now, your question. There are ways to call those on the other side, you know this, because you know about seances and many other ways that people in this world try to call their loved ones. You attended lots of special sessions, you played at the back or under the table and didn’t look because you didn’t want to see!” Her voice had traces of the disappointment this had caused. Sighing, she went on, “They also find you. Those who have a need will seek a ‘friend’ on this side to help them solve whatever their problem is. You seem to be sensitive to unhappiness. The lady you met knew that you would make the effort to talk to her daughter, she was most grateful and wanted to say thank you but you didn’t see her until you felt her unhappiness again. There may be other things that trigger it for you and the more you do the more things will trigger spirits. Word seems to spread in the spirit world so don’t be surprised if someone contacts you pretty soon.”
They had left the side roads and joined the M20, Maeve always loved that stretch of the M20 at the tunnel bypassing Folkestone because she could accelerate feeling the power of the car after the stop start of the minor roads then sweep off the motorway swinging down towards Cheriton. Slowing down at the lights meant, nearly there. Just by the lights at the turnoff there was a woman with her thumb out for a lift. Ada said, “we are not in a rush, why not give her a lift?” They did, she got in behind Ada and said she hated that walk in the rain. As it was a glorious evening, Maeve glanced over to Ada, who was smiling and nodding. There was something odd about it all, nothing that Maeve could specifically put her finger on more of an uneasy feeling. Going round by Folkestone West train station Maeve turned to ask their passenger where she wanted to be dropped off but as she had begun to expect their passenger wasn’t in fact in the car! She’d gone, disappeared, or had never been there.
“See, you are getting the hang of it.” This seemed to cheer Ada up. “That lady often asks for a lift, she was killed by a car that didn’t see her and drove smack into her, but always appreciates it when someone stops for her. Lots of people can see her.” Ada seemed to think that made it normal.
They dropped down to Sandgate. This had never been Maeve’s home, but she had a feeling of home-coming. After Maeve’s father died, Ada made the decision to move to the South Coast, luckily it was at the time when Sandgate was no longer fashionable and before it was rediscovered. She had managed to buy a house on ‘the Riviera’ right on the seafront. It needed work doing to it but it was an amazing location. The back garden opened directly onto the beach, and fabulous sunsets over the sea. The house is worth a small fortune now, but Maeve didn’t think that Ada would ever sell, she loves it.
They hadn’t spoken for the last section of the journey. Maeve hadn’t finished taking in the news that she had already communicated with spirits without even being aware of it. Then meeting the ‘hitchhiker’ had really thrown her. What would happen now? Clearly it wasn’t a once off.
Ada was watching the thoughts pass across Maeve’s face and when she spoke it was in a voice that was sincere and serious. “Look, I can’t prepare you for what’s going to happen next. Only you can do that. Know that I am here, call me, talk to me, I can help. You will be fine, you are strong, you don’t have to go through this alone. It can be harrowing or it can be trivial. It’s all better if you share it and I know how to keep a secret when need be.” Maeve didn’t answer, she wasn’t ready.
The sun was going down as Maeve did her familiar but ridiculously tight three point turn in front of Ada’s house. Ada watched on, always nervous that she might hit something. By the time Maeve stopped and turned to wave, Ada had already disappeared inside, she didn’t linger over goodbye’s. Maeve headed back up the hill back to Canterbury, home. She needed to take stock, she needed a refuge in the familiar, it was Saturday so pizza night with her girls, She imagined that glass of red wine, jazz on radio 3 and everything would be fine. Or so she thought.