Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Ghost Stories: Words left unsaid, Sharon Hajj

“Birthday Present” by Sharon Hajj

Virginia Maple laid her book on the side table. The frayed cover left speckles of dust beside it. The book, still her favorite after all these years, reminded her of better times. It had been a gift from her husband for her 45th birthday. He had arrived home early from work to find her folding laundry.

“Honey, come downstairs for a second,” George called from the kitchen.

Virginia left the laundry on the bed and puffed up her hair. She walked down the stairs hoping he’d brought flowers home for her special day. When she turned the corner towards the kitchen, she caught him smoothing his hair and standing up a bit straighter. She smiled at how debonair he looked. After all these years of marriage, her heart still skipped a beat when she saw him.

He greeted her with a kiss and held up his hand which had been tucked behind his back.
In it, a thick navy book with elegant gold lettering was tied with a red ribbon.

“Happy Birthday! I wanted to find something special for you. Since you love books, I thought you could keep this forever. It’s a first edition from 1940. It has been kept so well it looks new.” George’s face lit up. He reached out to Virginia’s hands and placed the book on her palms.

Virginia looked down at the book and let her hands move and grip the edges.

“You should have seen the older woman there who helped me. She must be in her 80’s and knows every book in her store. I told her all about you and she found the book. I hope you love it.” George reached out and hugged Virginia, feeling the book pressed between them. When he let her go, tears streamed down her cheeks.

“Thank you, George. This means the world to me.” She wiped her cheeks and moved to her favorite chair. She opened the cover of the book, and after a few moments, looked back to George. “This is perfect.”

The book had always been there for Virginia, through the loss of their grandson, George losing his job, even when she had to sit with her mother, comforting her in her final days of life. The thick heavy book brought some stability to her life, a sturdy foundation even when she felt her world crumble around her. She carried it with her when she got the call her husband was in the hospital. She squeezed it under her arm when she had to face him lying in the bed with tubes coming out of his arm.

“Virginia… I have to confess….”

Virginia leaned over his body and pressed her lips to his forehead. “I’m here. I love you.” The beeping on the monitor played in the background while she waited. “George?”

The beeps slowed. He struggled to take a breath. An alarm rang on the machine and nurses ran into the room jumping between the two of them.

“George!” Virginia held tight to the book. Her head spun and the lights in the room swirled around her head. Suddenly, the scent of astringent stung her nose. She moved around the nurses and slumped into the chair in the corner. In an instant, her life changed right in front of her eyes.

When the doorbell rang bringing her back to the present moment, she patted the book, as if putting her memories away with it. She lifted herself from the chair and held onto the edges of the furniture as she moved towards the door. She grimaced when her arthritic hand gripped the handle. With the door open wide, she peered out to see an empty porch. She stepped out the door to get a better look. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a small light flash right above the rail. When she focused on the spot, the only thing moving was a small butterfly.

“George? Have you come to check on me?”

The door slammed shut behind her. She stepped to grasp the rail and look at the chrysanthemum her daughter had brought over to brighten up the front of her house. “You never did like chrysanthemums, did you, George?” She lifted the pot from the small table and with care, stepped down the front steps. “You sure would laugh at me walking without shoes!” The moist grass felt cool on her feet. She kept going until she could place the flower pot down next to her neighbors porch.

When she turned around, the scent of astringent startled her. After all these years, she recognized it immediately. It was the exact same scent as in the hospital room that day.


Her name sounded inside her head. It was immediate and intense.

“I have to confess….”

Virginia moved her frail legs as quickly as she could until she reached her front steps. Reaching out to catch herself, she collapsed hitting her ribs on the edge of the porch.


“No, George. I don’t want to know. Let me keep the good memories.” She realized she yelled when the neighbor across the street looked up at her.

“Are you okay, Mrs. Maple?” He asked.

Virginia nodded. “Yes, I’m fine. Thank you.”

“I have to confess….”

Unable to control herself, Virginia burst into tears. “I didn’t want you to leave me, George.”

“I have to confess….”

Virginia shook her head and lifted herself up from the steps. She made her way to the front door and twisted the handle. Before stepping into the house, she turned back. “You keep an eye on me from out here. That’s good enough.” She walked in and shut the door with a firm push. After making her way back to her chair, she picked up the navy book and hugged it, the stiff cover making her feel safe and secure once again.


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  1. Love it! So much said and unsaid and yet it is enough. Excellent/

  2. Terrific! I love how you let the reader fill in the blank with their own confession. Brilliant.