>”Don’t trust ghosts,” Gram always said. “They’re stupid. Can’t even get being dead right.”
Meriweather watched the clouds pass below, watched the silver wing spin contrails like will-o-wisps behind her. The man next to her snored robustly. At least she had this small slice of privacy — a window and the great blue yonder ahead, with Sweetwater, Georgia far behind, far below.
“And don’t truck with no middlin’ spirits either,” Gram warned. “That Ouija board nonsense. Any spirit that’s got nothin’ better to do than spell out stuff letter by letter is not a spirit with high quality information.”
Meri smiled, then started to cry, then made herself stop. Gram would have pinched her for getting so sloppy about the funeral — if Gram hadn’t been the one in the casket.
“Dust,” she would have said. “Fancy box full of dust. And only two people with sense enough to send plants with roots, and one of them your Aunt Edna, of course.”
Score one for Edna, Meri thought. Her grandmother’s sister had brought a spearmint plant to the funeral home, an explosion of tangled green tendrils that looked ridiculous amid the mums and roses and unnaturally pink carnations. But Gram would have loved the wild and weedy plant, even if Edna had stuck a ridiculous red bow on it. It was a real thing, a living thing, not a showy used-to-be thing that would wilt and go brown.
Meri sent a gardenia in a pot. Love, peace and healing.
But now it all was behind her — black dresses and visitations and that sad dry grass at the cemetery — and she was headed home, back to Boston, back to the crisp comfort of a real fall. She looked forward to sweaters again, to breathing air that wasn’t heavy with moisture. To her book club, which was doing The Left Hand of Darkness at the new tea shop. And to her altar — she missed her crystals and her candles and her tarot cards. It was a relief to wear her pentacle untucked from her blouse again, silver against her skin, obvious once more. She traced a finger over its contours.
So why did she have this tender achy spot, just below her breastbone, when she thought of home receding behind her? She rubbed the spot with her fingers, but it didn’t abate. Squash casserole, she told herself. Too much Velveeta in it, which she shouldn’t have had, not on top of the fried chicken and biscuits, not with such copious amounts of sweet tea.
Heartburn, she decided. Pure and simple.
Back in her apartment once again, she sat down her suitcase and stood in the dark. Such a relief, her apartment. All hers, all quiet. Tasteful and elegant, as befitting a newly hired English professor at a suddenly interesting university that US News and World report called “emerging.” Well, soon enough anyway, she reminded herself, once spring semester started. Less than three months left to plan, to buy clothes, to finish decorating the large-ish closet that was to be her office . . .
She took a deep breath. There was time. Plenty of time.
The phone rang, startling her. Her palms tingled. She frowned and shook them violently, as if they’d fallen asleep, and picked up the telephone.
It was her mother. “You’d best get yourself back here,” she said. “Your Aunt Edna’s done gone off the deep end.”