Graveside Closure (A Short Story)

The owner of the bed and breakfast had no skeletons in his closet, Linda hoped. But he did have a number of them buried close to his backyard. The B&B was right next to the Western Cemetery in Portland, Maine. 

At the moment, the cemetery was haunted by an androgynous teenager dressed in black. From her first-floor room, Linda peered at this specimen of adolescence, who reminded her of herself as a teenager, 14 years ago. Teen Linda had dressed like an honorary member of the Addams Family. She had thought of herself as a cynical witch, drawing black magic out of the wellspring of the world’s miseries. She had been so innocent then.

Adult Linda’s trip from Staten Island to Portland, Maine had no innocence. She hefted her suitcase onto the squealing four-poster bed and fished out a red silk tie belonging to her lover, who had recently died. She hadn’t killed him, though after his death she wished she had. To find out from an online article that he had been survived by a wife… that revelation had robbed Linda of peace.

Soon after his death, she had started to see the ghost of him all around Staten Island: by the fish tanks at the ferry terminal; at the beauty salon responsible for making her a blonde; at Alice Austen House, where, much as she liked the old photos, she liked even more to sit on the lawn, drink beer, and watch the ships pass under the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. He had also popped up repeatedly at her home, a roach-friendly studio over a Chinese restaurant.

And damn it if she hadn’t cracked apart in tears at nearly every sighting of his ghost, her one-weekend-a-month lover (sometimes two weekends!), a businessman who was regularly on the road. Even now, she wore the pendant necklace he had given her one year into their two-year relationship, after she had landed her first gig as a part-time jazz oboist. The pendant was a gold treble clef with garnets.

She missed him. But she also wanted him to stop haunting her, the lying SOB. His ghost had never said a word, and she hadn’t figured out how to make him disappear. Not until her upstairs neighbor, a palmistry expert, recommended visiting his grave. “Bring something that belonged to him,” her neighbor recommended. “Leave it there as a parting act.” Apparently all a ghost and his betrayed lover would need was some graveside closure.

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