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 19 of 50 | Published Thursday, June 27, 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 19

So far: Laying plans for a solitary Thanksgiving.

After we had been dating a few months, Richard decided it was time for me to meet his sister, Susan. She was his only sibling and they were close.

When Richard and I first got together she was living in England. A few months later she moved back to the Twin Cities. As soon as she was settled, she invited us over for dinner. She had one of her many men over that night. I took him seriously. I didn’t know any better. Richard didn’t bother to tell me.

Susan answered the door dressed in a bathrobe with her hair up in a towel. I was sure we had come on the wrong night, but Richard appeared to be unshaken by her appearance and she invited us into her apartment.

After she had seated us on the couch and handed us each a glass of wine, she smiled and said, “Leonard wanted dessert first.” Then she left to dress.

Leonard came walking out of her bedroom fully clothed in a suit and tie. Richard was wearing one of his better flannel shirts — no paint, no holes. I had checked before we left the house. I had put on a nice sweater and a short black skirt.

Leonard walked up to Richard. Richard stood. They shook hands. Leonard was much taller than Richard. When Leonard shook my hand, I didn’t stand and I didn’t ask him how dessert had been. I was on my best behavior.

Susan came back out of the bedroom in a flowing orange caftan sort of thing. Few women could pull off such a garment, but she was tall enough that it suited her. With a flourish she produced a bowl of peanuts, then disappeared into the kitchen and started stirring around.

“I’ll go see if she needs any help,” I said. Leonard had asked Richard about the Twins and the poor guy was trying to keep up his end of sports talk. I was absolutely no help.

Once in the kitchen, I realized that Susan had done nothing for dinner. The counters were bare, nothing was cooking on the stove or in the oven. I wasn’t even sure she knew what we were going to eat. She was staring into the refrigerator as if trying to figure out what she could throw together to make a meal.

“Can I do anything?”

“Do you like pasta?” she asked.

“Sure.”

“How about anchovies?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I think we’ll have puttanesca.” She started pulling things out of the refrigerator and tilted her head toward a cupboard. “Why don’t you put a big kettle of water on to boil?”

I did as she asked and then she dismissed me. “Pour the guys some more wine. Leonard’s a little more tolerable when he’s slightly soused.”

Less than an hour later, she put a feast on the table: a green salad, a heaping platter of pasta puttanesca, and small baby artichokes. Leonard had started doing imitations of some politicians and we were crying we were laughing so hard.

After pears and chocolate, Leonard left with us. He mentioned he was off to Prague the next day. In the elevator going down, he looked at Richard and said, “That sister of yours is something else.”

• • •

I checked the phone when it rang and even though it was Lucinda, I answered it. “Hello?” I said as if I didn’t know it was her.

“Wendy, I’m so glad I caught you. Is this a good time to talk?”

“About what?”

“I need some help here.”

“What’s up?”

“We need to get on the same page about Rich’s show. I’ve been sensing that you aren’t sure about this show and I have to stress to you how important it is to Rich’s career.”

“He’s dead, Lucinda.”

Long silence. A sigh. Then she spoke very calmly, “I know. I really know that he’s dead. You’re not the only one who’s suffering. But his work isn’t dead. I loved Rich, but I’m responsible for his work getting out into the world. That’s my job. That’s what he hired me to do. I’m trying to do it. You need to understand this. I have a life that continues. I have a responsibility.”

I listened to her. “You’re right. I’m sorry I’ve been giving you a hard time. It won’t be long now and you’ll get what you want.” Although I was trying to be civil — I was sure it was what Richard would want — I started to burn with anger. I was going to slam down the phone, but I had to tell her one more thing. “I do not need to understand your problems.”

Gently, I hung up the phone.

Tomorrow: Chapter 19 continues.

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