“Tell me what you see, Elizabeth.”
For God's sake, please don’t encourage her, Henry. It will only lead to tears!”
Henry Whyte turned in exasperation to his wife and lowered his voice. “Look Margaret, you can’t go on ignoring that this is happening. I believe there is a perfectly logical and natural explanation for it, even if your flaming religion wants to convince you it’s got something to do with devil worship!” Henry knew his wife's world was crumbling around her and she was losing control; being in control was the only way she knew how to live.
I don’t want either of you talking about it outside of our house, nor to anyone else do you hear me? I’ll wait for you both in the car,” she turned in a huff and walked away her auburn hair swaying with disapproval.
Henry Whyte sighed. He loved his wife above all others. Anything she wanted, if it was within his power to give, was hers. He understood about the scandal in her childhood, how hard her earlier life had been and that the scars had never healed. He was careful never to say anything cruel that might rub salt in her wounds nor would he ever permit anyone else to do so. He was not prepared to fail his daughter though.
“Don’t worry about Mummy, Elizabeth,” he said crouching down to her level and smiling. You’re not scared are you?”
Elizabeth shook her head. "I'm not scared, Daddy."
“Good! So... tell me what you see.”
“A lady, Daddy. A lady wearing clothes from the olden days,” she whispered with wide excited eyes.
“What is the lady doing, Elizabeth?”
“Watching us,” she paused, and Henry could see that she was seeking further reassurance.
“I... don’t think she's the same as me or you, Daddy.”
“Why do you think that, Elizabeth?” Henry asked casually, standing up and taking her hand in his own. They walked on slowly.
“She doesn't talk to me when I talk to her and...”
“Go on, Elizabeth.” He smiled encouragingly.
“... she walks through us.”
Henry calmly considered what his daughter had just said. He did not believe in ghosts or the supernatural; the world he lived in was black and white. He did think it quite feasible, however, that buildings could retain residual images of people who had lived in them. He chose his words carefully, “Do you know when you go to Grandma's and you play with that old record player of hers?”
“Although the people on those records died a long time ago you can still hear their voices because they were saved onto the records. Sometimes, even some buildings and places can save voices and pictures but only special people can see and hear what they have saved. The special people are like the record player and they can play back what happened a long time ago. You’re one of those special people, Elizabeth. Do you understand what Daddy is telling you?”
Elizabeth was even more excited than before. She let go of her father’s hand and skipped down the long, wooden panelled gallery of the stately home they were visiting, her skirt bouncing with each hop.
“I’m special!” she sang, and then raced back towards her father whose own laughter joined hers in an echo.
“Yes, you are special, sweetheart, and don’t ever forget it! Not everyone is special, though, and some people can get a little bit jealous of those who are. How about we keep this just to ourselves for now?”
“Like a secret, Daddy?”
“Yes, Elizabeth, it will be our secret for as long as you want it to be. Now, let’s go and find Mummy and have an ice cream.”
Elizabeth patted the Springer Spaniel that had just run up and placed a ball at her feet. Henry watched on as his daughter patted thin air.
“This doggy can see us daddy,” she said innocently.
"This isn't going to be easy," Henry thought as they made their way down the stately home's grand staircase and to the waiting car beyond.
Labels: 1960s, Elizabeth, Refuge of Delayed Souls, Web Fiction