He still worked hard, mending things about the place, though you wouldn't know it to look around.
      He remembered the big garden.
      Chickens in the back yard.
      Taking pigs to market.
      He liked to stroll along the banks of the cow pond and doze sometimes in the heat of the day under the big sycamore on the far side of the pasture where Jessie couldn't see from the house.
      At night he slid between worn cotton sheets to lay next to his wife.
      He seldom woke her, but thought she was somehow aware of him.
      It was, he felt, where he belonged.
      On that land, in that house, next to Jessie.
      So it was a relief that she hadn't remarried.
      Selfish thoughts, he knew.
      Because she needed someone.
      He imagined that if he left she might have a chance. She was an attractive woman. Somebody would see in her what he saw and win her heart.
      And take care of her.
      Because hard as he tried, he couldn't.
      And yet he stayed, as though anchored, and the place just seemed to grow up around his beloved -- the yard going thick with laurel and scrub oak.
      Paint peeling off the siding.
      The roof leaking.
      The plumbing slow.
      She wanted to hire a man to clean the place up but money was tight, and it frustrated her. Sometimes, as the day faded, she sat on the dusty old sofa and cried while the television droned and her supper went cold.
      And, God, it tore at his heart. And he would try to comfort her.
      On bended knee, pleading, his hand resting on hers, saying anything he thought might ease her pain.
      But she didn't hear a word.
      And the night would finally come, and the two of them would rest awhile and then, too soon, the sun would rise.
      And so it was through years that passed like days.
      The place disintegrating.
      The barn falling in.
      His old truck rusting in the driveway.
      And Jessie slowing down. Going grey. And frail.
      Tiny, he thought.
      So thin.
      And inevitably they showed up, their little bean-shaped vehicles waking him from a deep sleep, stirring up dust -- a woman and a young man from the Department of Health and Human Services. Notified, they said, by the boy who delivers groceries.
      And the next day a van arrived to pick her up.
      And just like that Jessie was gone.
      He wasn't sure how long ago.
      A week?
      A year? Last summer?
      And he was so lonely he ached, and he wanted to look for her but didn't know where to begin.
      And so he often set out with her in mind, walking down the dirt road toward Highway Six, hoofing it in the heat for what seemed like hours yet always ending up there.
      At the abandoned house.
      Or by the cow pond.
      Under the sycamore.
Written by javalini
Author's Note
A ghost story.
All writing remains the property of the author. Don't use it for any purpose without their permission.
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