When I returned to Mrs. M. and sat next to her on the porch with the old wooden box in my lap, I almost didn't want to open it. I can remember having this sudden aversion to sharing what was inside, but this was Mrs. M, the keeper of secrets and the knower of everything, and I was safe with her. When Mrs. M was not Mrs. M but was just plain Clara, and was about my age she and her family came to live in the small town because of the lumber mill jobs in the area, and so Clara eventually wound up meeting the woman and they became friends despite the age difference between them. The woman more or less took the girl in as her own, since Clara's mother had died when she was seven, and she was the only girl in a house full of brothers.
I didn't know this, and was delighted when I realized that Mrs. M knew the history behind every piece of jewelry in the box! She would pick up a brooch and name the town it came from. She could tell me which event or season change would lead to a particular pair of earrings or bracelet or necklace being added to the collection. I listened to her every word as she shared little pieces of the lives of the woman, and wanted so badly to ask her about the necklace I was wearing, but I knew eventually she would get to it, and I was not disappointed.
As it turned out, the necklace was the very last piece of jewelry the man had given the woman before he died. He had been home for a couple weeks before he had to go out again, and had already given her one gift when he arrived (I think it was a Tiffany lamp, but can't remember), so the box holding the necklace was left on his pillow with a note. He died before he could return home to her. I asked Mrs. M. about the note, and instead of telling me, she pulled back the felt in one corner of the box (something I hadn't discovered under the house in dim light) and showed me the note.
His handwriting was magnificent. I remember that very well. The note was very simple.
Until I return. Love, Z.
Now, I need to say that I have not used either the man or the woman's name though I know it because there are still family alive and I would respect their privacy in telling this, should one of them ever come across this story here. Also, I know you're probably wondering why I kept taking the necklace out of the box and putting it back on when it would be removed and put back. Remember that I said the removal of the necklace only happened when my stepfather was home and the other things began to happen, so when he wasn't around, I could wear it in peace, and did so. There were times when I would lay awake at night, terrified, but at the same time determined to stay away to see who was removing the necklace, but it never happened. I even tried removing it at night and leaving it on the dresser or sleeping with it curled up in my hand, but it would still be in the box the next day.
Well, Mrs. M sat there turning the note over and over in her hand as I finally told someone what was going on, and I told it so fast, literally blurting it out, just knowing she was going to tell my mother I was crazy or something. Instead, she started giggling, which then turned into laughter. I was shocked. She patted me on the hand and told me the rest of the story.
See, when the man died so suddenly, the woman was grieving so hard that no one could console her. Their bedroom was the same one my mother and step-father slept in, which began to explain a lot about the stuff that happened when my step-father was home. But when the man died, the woman could not and would not sleep in their bed in that room again, so she had moved into what was now my bedroom, and that's where she stayed until her own passing.
She had worn the cross from the day she put it on until the day she died. Mrs. M had suggested to the daughter that she should be buried with the cross, but for some reason the daughter decided against it, which is why it was still in the box. She asked me if I had felt anything "bad" from the necklace and I told her no, it was just simply returned to the box every time the man came in the house.
Mrs. M and I figure that it was obvious that it was the man returning it to the box and the incidents with my step-father were because of the man's jealousy over his wife, and having had to leave her so suddenly alone.
Mrs. M. told me that over the years ladies in the church had whispered about the woman being "quite mad" because she would talk to the man as if he were there, and everyone else was crazy for not being able to see him. I asked her if she really believed in ghosts, and instead of giving me an answer, she placed a finger on the cross that was hanging around my neck and asked me what I thought. I told her I definitely believed.
Mrs. M suggested that I keep the jewelry box in my room and enjoy the pieces for as long as I lived in the house, but to be sure to take care of them. I thought about it for a bit, and did exactly that, but also took to removing the necklace whenever my step-dad came home and putting it in the box so that would be one less thing that would have the man upset in his own home.
Now, there will be one more part to this only because I don't want to put so much in one post that it makes it hard to read. So, bear with me while I finish my story.
"My Own Ghost Story"...Final Part: