Molly woke to the uplifting sounds of the song thrush, the best alarm clock ever. Lying in bed, it made her smile. What a lovely way to start the day. Will was still in Wellington and she was home alone, well, kind of. She decided to do some yoga and a meditation outside under the trees before breakfast. It was going to be a hot day, the breeze coming through the back door was warm already. After stretching her body outside in the beautiful garden, she boiled the kettle and made a large pot of tea. On a tray she placed this together with a jug of milk, two cups, saucers, some freshly toasted raisin bread and took it up the stairs with her to The Attic. Molly wondered what Grace had in store for her today. On the table she found a handwritten note which read:
Beautiful day, have gone for a picnic. Enjoy xoxo.
Next to the note was a plate of freshly baked cookies, the aroma of which was still in the air. Molly did not have time to contemplate what Grace may be up to, as there was a knock at the door. Surprised and curious, she opened the door to be met by a young woman, not much older than a teenager. There is an odd, unearthly appearance to her, as if slightly translucent. Molly knew immediately she had a visitor from the Spirit World.
“Oh thank God you are here, at last, someone who can see me! May I?” the young woman asked permission to come into the room.
“Oh, of course, I beg your pardon,” apologised Molly stepping back from the door, allowing the young woman to join her.
“Oooh, tea! “ she exclaimed excitedly, “May I ?” She asked, pointing to the tea pot.
“Yes, let’s do. Would you like some milk?” asked Molly, as she poured the tea. Nodding, the young woman took a cookie from the plate, inhaled the delicious aroma, contemplated the biscuit closely and savoured the first mouthful, mumbling and rolling her eyes in delight, “Mmmm, oh this is sooo good, this is the first food I have come across since I have been here.”
“Oh really? Have you not been here long? Molly asked, encouraging her to begin her story.
“Long?” The woman enquired, slightly puzzled by the concept. “ I have no reference to how long I have been here. It is an odd feeling of timelessness – quite different, but I suppose I have become accustomed to it.”
Molly sat back in her chair fascinated, and took in the woman’s attire looking for clues as to when she may have passed into Spirit. She was well dressed in a long, tailor-made dress, of finely striped blue and white fabric, a bodice top and the skirt had neatly ironed pleats which fell to the top of her polished black leather lace-up ankle boots with a small heal. Over the top of this was a woollen dress coat and neat hat sitting primly atop of her well groomed hair pulled into a French twist pinned into place at the back of her head. The style indicated the mid to late 1800’s. She was very well spoken and very confident in herself. The young woman sat politely on the edge of her chair.
“What is the last thing you can recall of your life?” Molly prompted the woman.
Enjoying her biscuit, she contemplated Molly’s question. “Well, let me see…..I was on the horse drawn coach on the way to my Aunt’s house. Mother would not allow me to travel by automobile, she being such a ‘nervous nanny’. It was term break, and I was on the coach from boarding school in Christchurch travelling west across the Mountains to Greymouth to stay with Aunt Camille. I loved staying with her, she was much more adventurous than Mamma. She had her own automobile,” she grinned enthusiastically. “The morning was incredibly cold, and there had been heavy falls of snow on the mountains. The road had only recently been cleared, which had delayed our departure. The dirt roads were treacherous this time of year, and there were still high banks of snow along the roadsides. The mud had frozen, but as it began to thaw the roads became hard work for the horses and the carriages were sometimes almost axle deep in thick mud. I recall an awful sound like thunder, a very loud rumble and I could feel the carriage shaking from the ground up as we drove along. There were three other people in the carriage with me and they all seemed alarmed. The last moment I remember was the carriage being hit by a landslide of snow and mud. It was pushed over the edge of the road, down into the steep ravine. I was terrified, being thrown about the carriage and I was unable to tell which way was up or down. Then the carriage ground to a halt and I felt unable to breathe. Everything suddenly went dark and then I felt as if I had woken from a nightmare, finding myself in a very different world. It felt very strange and yet oddly familiar, the similar sensation of travelling to another country, somewhere exotic where they all speak a different language and wear different clothes.” Distracted for a moment by the plate of cookies, she asked, “Oooh, may I have another?”
“Certainly, and some more tea?” Molly offered, pushing the plate towards her. The woman nodded in reply, and not so politely devoured another cookie, quietly moaning with the simple pleasure of eating.
“How did you find your way here into my house?” Molly asked, pouring a fresh cup of tea for herself, intrigued by her new visitor’s story.
“Hmmm. I noticed a lot of people sort of wandering about, looking a little lost and disorientated, like when you first alight from a passenger ship in a foreign land. Then I saw someone I recognised, through the crowd. It was my grandmother! Oh bless, I thought, how wonderful to find Granny. But how could that be? Granny died several years ago. Then I began to realise what must have happened to me. I pushed my way through the crowd and collapsed into her arms, relieved. As you know, Time has no meaning here, so what happened next I am unable to relate to, although I am getting accustomed to the difference in how things happen here. Walking amongst the crowd, we came across a queue and not knowing what else to do, we stood in line to see where it may take us. Granny was a little more familiar with how things seemed to work here and she insisted that it would be safe for us to do this. We chatted on for what seemed like forever, catching up on all of the family gossip, and then we found ourselves walking up the stairs. I recall feeling a tingle run through me, almost a zap and then I saw you walking past us.” Pausing for a moment to finish her tea, she looked deep in thought. “But now what?” she enquired.
“This is a very good question. Let’s start with your name, what shall I call you?” Molly asked.
The young woman stands promptly, and says almost apologetically, holding out her gloved hand, “Oh I do beg your pardon, I am Amelia Jane Barton-Smith. Pleased to meet you, er…..?” She prompted Molly, to which she replied “Molly, Molly Ferguson”
“And where is Grace Forrest? Someone on the stairs told us to ask for her.” said Amelia.
“Grace has gone on a picnic, seeing that it is such a beautiful day outside. Unlike her to leave me here alone, I am quite new to this level of spirit communication. I guess you would say I am her apprentice. Although I can sense her around here somewhere, I do feel like I am being watched…” Molly’s voice fades as she looks over both shoulder enquiringly. It was then that she noticed a new painting on the wall. Within the painting, on closer inspection, she can see the detailed scene of a dappled, sunlit countryside, a picnic by the river set in the Victorian Era by Monet. Beneath the shady grove of trees is the figure of a woman under a parasol in a cream linen and lace dress, who waved her gloved hand at Molly, smiling, wanting to get her attention. Molly chuckled and brought her attention back to Amelia.
“Now, Amelia, what can I do for you?”
“Well, when I first arrived here I was not quite sure. Then, after meeting up with Granny I thought it would be most beneficial if I could contact my family somehow, and was hopeful that maybe this woman Grace Forrest, could help me. Seeing that she is not here and you are, I do hope that you can help me to do this.”
“Considering that you have no awareness of the passing of Time and keeping in mind the era in which you were alive on earth, you must realise that the people you had been sharing your life with will also be here in the Spirit World.”
“Oh gosh! I had not thought of that,” Amelia replied surprised. “So what can we do?”
“Hmmm, maybe we will need Grace to help us with this one. Grace?” Molly called towards the painting on the wall, from which a small voice replied, “Alright, alright… I am coming.”
A translucent image of Grace begins to appear in The Attic, increasing in density until she appeared just as solid as Amelia. She is dressed in a cream linen and lace summers dress, similar in style to Amelia’s, who raises an eyebrow and smiles, recognising the quality of Grace’s outfit.
“Thank you for coming back so quickly. What do you suggest here Grace?” Molly enquires, unsure of what to do herself.
“Invite the relatives in of course! Can you name a few Amelia? And where is your Granny, have you left her down the stairs?” Grace replied.
Amelia turned to Grace, “Oh gosh, yes! Poor Granny! Well…there is James my older brother, and of course Aunt Camille, Mother and Father, our pet dog P.P.”
They are interrupted by a knock at the door and Grace answers it. On opening the door, in march the family members Amelia had just named, and a small Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who’s tail wags excitedly like a flag in the wind. There was much excitement as Amelia leaps across the room in energetic bounds, very unladylike, but the enthusiasm is too much to be contained. The family huddle in around her, so pleased to see her again. The room fills with an iridescent light, embracing them all and in a blink of an eye, they were all gone.
Grace turns to Molly, dusting her hands with satisfaction. Molly has the look of astonishment on her face, her mouth agape, speechless. “Just another day in the office, isn’t it Molly? Shall we make some fresh tea? I can see you have polished off all of the cookies,” Grace glanced out of the corner of her eye accusingly.
Molly embarrassed at Grace’s playful accusations, justifies herself, “It wasn’t me! Amelia ate most of them!” Grace smiles and laughs knowingly at her, “Be a dear and go pop the kettle on,” Grace requested as she sat down in the chair removing her laced up boots and rubbing her feet. “Any chance of a foot massage?” she pouts, pointing her feet in the air towards Molly.