Giving up the Ghost

A novel by Mary Logue published in installments each day in the Star Tribune from June 9 to July 28, 2013.
Day 48 of 50 | Published Friday, July 26, 2013
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The story: Wendy was just 25 when she met Richard, a Minneapolis artist, at the New French Café. They fell in love, married, bought a cabin in northern Minnesota where they spent their summers. But when Richard died unexpectedly, Wendy found it difficult to move on. Because she kept seeing Richard’s ghost….
Mary Logue
Mary Logue is the author of more than twenty-five books, including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, mysteries and children’s stories. She has won a Minnesota Book Award, the Charlotte Zolotow Honor Award, and many other honors. She lives with her husband, writer Pete Hautman, in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

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Giving Up the Ghost

Chapter 37 continues

So far: Gary and Wendy discuss whether the ghost is real.

Since I was a kid, the first snow had always seemed like the gods were sending us down letters from the sky, or manna, or Kleenex, something kind and gentle to cover the harsh, gray landscape we’d been living with since the leaves left.

“This calls for champagne,” I said and went downstairs to find a bottle.

• • •

When Richard reached the bed, he had a bottle of champagne in one hand and the most lovely champagne glasses I had ever seen in the other. Instead of being in the shape of a flute, they had small round glass bowls with the whole stem hollowed out.

Richard poured them full to the brim and carefully handed me a glass. I watched the bubbles rise up the stem and break right in the middle on the surface.

“To us,” he said.

I held my glass at the bottom as I had shown him. “To us two.”

We clinked out glasses together and a note of pure delight rang out.

Little of the champagne was consumed as we started kissing after our first sip.

“That was a wonderful dinner,” I said.

“Hmm,” he said as he kissed me again.

“I like your loft,” I told him.

He kissed me harder and in new places.

“I like you,” I said.

“Shut up,” he said.

It took us a while to find our rhythm. I wanted to move faster than he did and he kept slowing me down with his hands, with his mouth. But at some point, we slid off the bed and ended up on the floor, on his sheepskin rug, which was conveniently placed at the end of the bed.

My toes pointed and his head flew back at the same time. Shivering.

And then I started laughing. He joined in. We rolled around on the floor laughing at the best joke we had ever heard.

Bubbles floated everywhere.

Chapter 38

Two champagne glasses sat on the table, the champagne was outside being chilled on the deck, the fire flickered. I stood back from it all and wished.

The snow kept falling.

I fetched the champagne, popped the cork without getting sprayed, and filled both glasses. The bubbles hit the surface like small gasps of air.

I took one glass in my hand, clinked it against the other, and leaned back into the couch to drink the bubbly liquid.

The snow kept falling softly.

Richard used to say that snow was almost impossible to paint. So much was in the movement, he said. The flakes didn’t fall straight down like rain, they lilted and fluttered. “You can’t catch them,” he said. “Impossible to capture.”

After finishing my glass of bubbly, I started on the other glass of champagne. Cloud purred and sat up next to me, staring at the fire as if she too were remembering some long-gone event.

I was surprised by how cold it had gotten.

When I finished the second glass, I realized that, even with the fire going, I was freezing.

Digging around in the hall closet, I found Richard’s old button-down cashmere sweater hanging on a hook. He had had it forever. Since before I knew him. I pulled it on and still felt chilly so I pulled his L.L. Bean windbreaker over it. Then I got down his favorite Irish tweed cap and stuck it on my head.

Goddamn Richard, I thought.

I started ripping every garment that was his out of the closet: his old scarves, his rubber gardening clogs, his Red Wing boots, the down jacket that he had patched with duct tape, the polar fleece vest that my dad had given him for Christmas last year. All the coats and jackets came out, the shoes and gloves, the hats and sweaters.

Goddamn peanut.

I swore I would never eat another peanut as long as I lived. However long that would be.

A pile of Richard’s old clothes mounded on the floor. I was sweating under all his clothes. I would have to do something with his stuff.

I fell down into the pile of clothes like it was a pile of leaves raked up from the lawn.

Goddamn Richard, how could he leave me with all this stuff?

How could he leave me?

Tomorrow: Chapter 38 continues.

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