All Stories, General Fiction, Story of the Week

Ella’s Ghost by Nik Eveleigh

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“Please. Can you stay just a little longer?”

Ella holds my palm to her cheek and smiles. Her radiance pushes through the withered dilution of her past glory and warms me as her skin no longer can.

“I’m lost without you.”

“Hush.” She lays light against me.

“I’m sorry. You should have had so much more. So much more than I…”

Ella raises her head and grips my hand in hers. “You were always enough for me Charlie. Always. Don’t ever think that.” She is crying now. “Promise me.”

I nod and say nothing.

“You need to learn to be enough for yourself.”

And then I wake up.

*

She is everywhere and she is gone. The material things are long departed. Most of them at least. Boxed and packaged. Some kept, some given away. Her memories stain the fabric and soul of our home with light and move me to both laughter and tears. On Ella’s side of the bed I stoop to pick up a red dress that isn’t there. It’s the one she wore the day we moved in and threw to the floor laughing after a supper on boxes. The old cliché of fish and chips in paper and Chardonnay from plastic cups, me covered in paint and dust and Ella in her red dress that even the dirt chose to sit back from and admire.

I dress and walk to the kitchen. I scramble eggs and put the toast on too late as always. I wait for an espresso to judder its way into my cup and change the strength from strong to normal with the same unconscious surety that will guide me to change it back tomorrow morning. I refill the machine with a handful of beans and grab a second from the jar. I remember. I put them back in their container and turn on the radio. The tap still needs fixing.

Work passes without incident. It’s better now that the slow torture of uncomfortable, well-meaning silences have abated. I smile at the irony of drawing solace in the embrace of a building I spent years trying to get away from on time. I stay behind for a drink and leave when I’m ready.

I cook supper and flick through a dozen sports channels with bare attention. Washing up is quick, leftovers to Tupperware to fridge even quicker. I settle down in front of the computer to write. Words come, words go. Some get second-guessed and others remain. It’s a love story. Something I always wanted to write but wasn’t sure how. It’s easy enough. Write about the insignificant shards of magic that connect two people down to their bones. And make it funny. If there isn’t any laughter there isn’t any point.

I manage a full chapter before wine-fuelled weariness overtakes me. Two more to go and then out with the red pen of justice. Ella always knew what worked and what didn’t. I’d argue but she was always right. She was right about most things. I turn off the light and go to sleep at peace.

When I wake tonight she will still be gone and in the morning I will still be here.

But it will be enough.

 

Nik Eveleigh

22 thoughts on “Ella’s Ghost by Nik Eveleigh”

    1. It’s a real compliment to know I’ve written something that makes you stop and appreciate what’s around you and those who matter – thanks Tobbe, means a lot to me.

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    1. Thanks Vic – I’m so pleased to know that by stripping this down it added more weight rather than removing it. There’s always such a danger when tackling loss that it can become wallowing, so it’s great to know you enjoyed reading this. Cheers, Nik

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  1. Hi Nik, mourning is a process that can only be understood through personal experience and can be manifested in a sense of being lost and alone. You captured this helplessness so well.

    James.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for such a positive comment James – this is a simple little piece and my hope was that by keeping it restrained and understated it would convey the loss more fully. It seems from your kind comment and others that I’ve managed to achieve this so I’m really thrilled. Cheers, Nik

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    1. June – you are a treasure. Thanks for your generosity both in terms of the time you take to read all the stories and the positive comments you dispense so wonderfully. Best, Nik

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      1. Thanks you, Nik. My cat, Lucy, and I get up at 6:00. I feed Lucy, make my coffee, and sit at my computer to read the latest story. All is peaceful and quiet. I enjoy my every day and my every story and am happy to comment. I consider myself a very lucky lady. I love you all, June

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  2. Hi Nik, I have no new observations but would like to mention the ‘laughter and tears’ line. This is so observant and shows an acute understanding of loss.
    You have crafted a story that those who don’t understand, unfortunately will some-day.
    To hit a nerve with all who read is a wonderful skill.
    All the very best my friend.
    Hugh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Hugh – you have a knack for picking out lines in my stories that I’m always secretly hoping get a mention! It’s such a great feeling when someone, particularly a fellow writer, gets what you are trying to convey so this comment means a lot. Cheers, Nik

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  3. Hi Nik,
    Great stuff, you brilliantly dwelt with a subject no one really wants to look forward to, I certainly don’t. Your writing voice is getting stronger by the minute and I can only wait for the day I see your name in ‘The lights’, it’s gonnae happen believe me. keep it going, you’re doing really well.

    All the best, take care yours, Sandy W.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sandy – you’ve given me such great encouragement since my first forays into short story writing on Shortbread and it really gives me a boost every time I hear from you. Glad this is another one that you enjoyed and look forward to reading more from you soon. I’ll keep working on the “up in lights” part 🙂 Cheers, Nik

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  4. Lovely story Nik, only just spotted this. I need to learn from you about how to write something short but so full with meaning. The temptation to overwrite in a piece like this would be very strong I fear. I thought the touches about his work colleagues and routine seemed particularly well-observed, and do make you think ‘what if?’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Rebecca – lovely to have a new comment on this one and I’m glad you enjoyed it. I think you are spot on regarding the ease with which a piece about loss can be overwritten and I’m glad I managed to avoid that. Perhaps I’m fortunate that I’m not drawing on an actual experience, rather, I imagined the exact ‘what if?’ scenario you mentioned. It was nice to read back over this story as I haven’t looked at it in a long while – thank you giving me the excuse to do so by taking the time to read and comment.

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  5. Hi Nik,
    I think this is even more poignant now that it was when I first read it.
    I said in my initial comments that it resonates and that recognition is ongoing.
    This story is timeless.
    Brilliant to see it being highlighted once again.
    All the very best my friend.
    Hugh

    Liked by 1 person

  6. The protagonist was lucky to dream of his dead companion. For my own reasons, I found the woman’s words truly haunting. I like the way the MC decides to write, after moving through the long day. What did it all mean, he seems to be asking…. and trying to find out by working it through. This is never enough, but it’s something. Good 1.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Harrison – much appreciated. Ella’s last line is something I was told once and the advice it contains still haunts me on occasion. Stay safe and well, and thanks for all the time and thought you put into LS.

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