Sunday, December 7, 2014

Sophia's Carol

“Hello, my name is Sophia Gardeen and I am a nationally recognized medium here to answer all your questions about spirits and ghosts on this Christmas Eve.”  I sat there, looking into my laptop camera hoping someone would ask me a question so I wouldn’t feel so alone. It was December 24th for God’s sake and here I was - once as big as the Long Island Medium, hoping someone was watching my little webshow which to date had gotten a whopping 200 views in since I started doing it three weeks ago.  The chatroom seemed flat until I saw a question from one of my 10 viewers at the time.  
    SkinFlute69 typed in “Merry Christmas - would you suck my—“  
    “Oh my God,” I gasped realizing I had finally hit rock bottom.  Just then an apparition appeared next to me.  He looked like a college professor - his gray hair and goatee were messy. He wore a plaid button down shirt with a pen in his front pocket and khakis.  He still had his glasses on of all things - apparently he didn’t  think his sight would improve in the afterlife. 
     “I’m Bob and I have a real question.  If I were dead, would I know it?  I mean I’m an atheist so this is impossible right?”
     The last thing I wanted to do was to spend Christmas Eve with another ghost - seeing how ghosts had done nothing but ruin my life. 
     “Bob, I’m in the middle of my web show with my audience,” I said gruffly trying to shake him off. 
      “Your audience of 10, nine of which I’m pretty sure are SkinFlute under different screen names,”  he said matter-of-factly. “Look I just walked through a wall - solid matter to get here.  No one can do that and frankly I’m a little freaked out,” he continued.  I looked at him and my lackluster number of viewers. 
     “Okay, you’re right - nobody gives a shit,” I replied as I closed the laptop, ended the web show and walked over to my bar.  I poured another glass of Merlot. “I know this must be very upsetting for you, but how long ago do you think you died?”  This was not new to me.  Newly dead people would frequently seek me out and try to get clarity.  As much as possible - I would try to help them along with the hope that once they got their answers they would go onto their next step, heaven, hell or somewhere in between.  
      “Well, I don’t think I’m dead, I mean if I were dead, it would be black - stillness - nothingness.  But I’m walking and talking.  How is this possible?” 
      “What were you before - I mean what did you do?” I asked hoping each question would bring me closer to a way to get rid of him. 
     “I was-I mean-I am a scientist- I believe in science -” 
      “Okay, if I explain it to you scientifically, will you go away and leave me alone?” I said hoping he’d actually act on it. 
     “Fair enough,” he replied. 
     “Okay, what is the theory of the conservation of energy?” I asked feeling like I could put it in terms he would understand.
      “Energy is neither created or destroyed, it only changes form.” 
      “Correct,” I concurred, “Therefore that energy - that thing that made you Bob - at the point that you died - it manifested into something new - in this case it became a ghost - you are a ghost Bob!”  He thought about it for a few seconds. 
      “I’m sorry - that can’t be right.  I think therefore I am - that’s fact. This is crazy - it must be some sort of dream,” he declared still not grasping the truth. 
      “Look Bob, I know it must be tough to die on Christmas Eve - “
      “I’m an atheist - Christmas Eve means nothing to me.”  
      “Okay, if you go back to your body when it gets discovered, you will see what really happened and you will get some closure.  Now good night and good luck,” I said as I finished off my second bottle of wine and walked upstairs. Bob faded out. 

    I stood in the shower trying to wash away another lousy Christmas Eve.  Ever since Jess and I divorced, the holidays just didn’t mean anything anymore.  I turned to get the shampoo when Bob popped up in a shower cap. 
      “Hey, do you have a second?  I have another question,” he asked as I gasped and dropped the soap. “Here, let me get that.”  He bent over. 
      “GET OUT,” I shouted. Bob tried to say something else but thought better of it and once again faded out. 

      I got out of the shower, got in my robe and sat on my bed with a present that Jess had given me years ago which I had literally never opened - a first edition autographed volume of A Tale of Two Cities - a Charles Dickens’ classic.  He had found it in an antique book store in London on our last trip there when I was part of a clairvoyant panel for the Occult Convention. Those were the days when I could name my price and be flown to Europe first class.  Now, no one would even return my calls.  

      Bob appeared next to me.  “About the shower thing - I’m sorry- I’ve always had a problems with boundaries -“ then noticing the book I was reading - “Awesome novel - I’ve seen the movie they adapted from this book - it was re-titled A Sale of Two Titties. You don’t think of British women as having really big melons but there they were,”  he said casually trying to make conversation.  I just looked at him and sighed. “Hey wouldn’t A Christmas Carol be more appropriate if you’re into Charles Dickens since it’s Christmas Eve?” he asked.
      “I’m really sick of ghosts.  Besides Dickens didn’t know what the hell he was talking about ghost wise,” I replied hoping Bob would get the hint and leave.   

     Just then, the bed began to shake.  The window to my bedroom opened suddenly and let a chill in.  I was used to ghosts getting into my house but they were usually not that dramatic - generally they waited until I was awake at 3:00 am to make their presence known.  
    “What the fu-” Bob shouted looking confused and a little scared.  The books on my shelves started to fly off and swirl like they were caught in some type of vortex. 
     “Whoever you are, stop this at once!” I commanded trying to cover the fact that even I was getting a little freaked.  The swirl of books fell to the ground and there stood a man in Victorian clothing - a long black velvet waist coat, a vest, hair that was thinning on the top but a stock of wavy gray and black hair that curled on the sides of his head.  He had a long beard that was salt and pepper gray and not particularly well groomed.  His steely brown eyes looked at me harshly.  
    “How dare you cast aspersions on my story - you who claims to see the dead?” he bellowed. 
    “Okay, this dream has officially gotten weird which for me is saying a lot,” said Bob as he ducked under the covers. 
     “Well, you’re a ghost and I can see you and Bob- so I’d say I’m pretty solid in the medium department,” I shot back sarcastically.  I was pissed that he would cast aspersions on my abilities. 
      “Well, yes, you are right, you can see me but only because I will it,” Dickens declared arrogantly.
      “Look, I don’t get to talk to famous ghosts very often but you’ve caught me on a really bad night - I have quit being a medium. In fact it’s my Christmas present to me so if you both would get the hell out -“ I said as my anger and frustration started to raise. 
      “Nope, don’t believe in hell either,” said Bob under the covers. 
     “Wait, you have stopped being a medium?” said the ghost of Dickens quizzically. 
     “What do you care - from what I understand, you thought the mediums of the Victorian Era were frauds anyway.  Not a whole lot has changed now. It seems to be my curse. I don’t want to see ghosts but I see them and they always want me to do things for them and never offer to help me. The debunkers think I’m a hack and try to destroy me, the trolls online take constant shots so yeah, I'm out once and for all!” I said thinking this definitive declaration would get them both to leave. 
      "But you are legitimate - you can help mankind-“ Dickens retorted. 
      “F**K Mankind!!,” I exploded because I had enough.  

      I walked out of my room and back to my bar to get another drink.  I could feel the hot salt of tears welling up in my eyes.  Christmas had rarely worked out well for me and tonight was no exception. Maybe if I got drunk enough, I would sleep right through it. I sucked back another glass of wine and closed my eyes on the daybed hoping I was too drunk to see anymore ghosts. 

The buzz of the my iPhone woke my up at 2:00 a.m.  I saw an older woman - maybe

65 standing nearby waiting for me to wake up.  She had the typical white pallor and dark eyes of a ghost with a short cut reminiscent of the 1980’s.  I uttered a “Holy shit, really?!” because I really didn’t want to see more ghosts tonight or frankly ever. 
     “Watch your language please Sophia, I’m actually here to help you,” she said with all the authority of a grandmother.  
     “A ghost who actually wants to help me?  Will wonders never cease?” I said sarcastically. I started to get up and nearly walked into another older women ghost also in her 60’s who looked like she had just walked out of a garden club meeting. 
     “Yes, we definitely want to help!”  I saw Bob and Dickens sitting in the other room looking at my computer. 
     “Dammit Bob, did you call in reinforcements?”  Bob looked up from the laptop. 

“Actually, I don’t know who these women are, but judging from the hair, I’m pretty sure they’re lesbians.”  Charles Dickens laughed as the female ghosts looked disgusted.  I looked at the other older woman who tried to make me feel better. She introduced herself as MeMa and the other woman as Nana. It was interesting because neither woman was related to me. 
    “We know you’re having a bad time, but we want to you see how important your gift is,” she said. 
    “Gift - you think what I have is a gift?  This gift has cost me everything and everyone I’ve ever loved,” I said with tears streaming down my face - I just could not hold it back any more. 
    “There, there,” said Nana.  “Maybe it would help if you could get a glimpse of your past.” 
      “Ah, yes, the ghosts of past - that sounds like a good idea - you good ladies go and we’ll stay here and look into this wonderful future machine,” Dickens chimed in quickly hoping to get rid of us.  

     Out of curiosity I walked over to see what they were looking at and saw that Bob had pulled up
     "You’re using my laptop to go on a porn site?” I reproached. 
     “I thought Chuck might want to see how the modern world is interpreting his work,” Bob reasoned.  “Besides, the actor Charles Dick-in does some nice work in this one.” 
     “C’mon dear, let’s leave these two pervs and explore your past,” said Nana. 
     “Capital idea!” replied Dickens happily. “Off you go!” 
     “Just hold our hands and close your eyes and we’re on our way,” instructed MeMa.

     I had never tried to hold the hand of a ghost.  I’d been touched by them plenty of times - but never tried to actually hold on. I took their hands which were cold but the center was very warm. The room started to spin. I was being pulled through a vortex of light - bright gold, orange, red and blue whizzing by me. I felt like I was out of my body but still very aware of it at the same time. We landed in the living room of the house where I had grown up, the one my mother still owns and lives in.  It was Christmas morning when I was five years old.  My father was there - looking as young and handsome as ever. My mother was smiling and lavishing affection on me - something I scarcely remembered.  

    “Sugar Bear, open this next one - I think that Santa might I have heard your Christmas wish.”  He handed me a large box covered with red and green wrapping paper and a top that you just lifted off.  I took off the top of the box and a little pair of snow white ears slowly raised up out of the box.  Then a pink nose followed by a soft meow.  A white kitten popped out of the box and started to run around the living room in circles then quickly climbed up the Christmas tree.  My five year old self squealed with delight. 
     "How sweet is that?” commented Nana.  Daddy got the kitten out of the tree and handed her to me. 
     “What are you going to name her,” asked Mother. 
     “How about Sassy?” I said as I kissed her head,"because she’s a sassy girl like me.  I will love you forever!” A group “Ahh” came from mother, father, Nana and MeMa.  
     “You see, this is a happy Christmas!” said Nana. 
      “Okay, can we fast forward to Christmas a year later?” I asked.
      “Uh, sure,” said MeMa not knowing what she was walking into. 

     The scene changed to me at six sitting quietly on the couch, my mother drinking wine and Etta my nanny trying to make conversation.  She didn’t usually work on holidays but sensed that we might need her since her sons were spending Christmas with their father. Daddy had divorced Mother a few months earlier and we were waiting for him to arrive. 
     “Where’s Sassy?” MeMa asked and then immediately wished she could take it back. 
    “Sassy died a few months before Christmas.  She got hit by a car when the plumber accidentally let her out.  I prayed to God to let me see her again and he answered my prayers by letting me see her ghost whenever I wanted to.  But then that opened a whole doorway for other ghosts to enter - like ancestors who had to unload a ton of family secrets.  I had embarrassed my mother at the family reunion by spilling the information the ghost of Granddaddy told me. So this Christmas, my Mother was newly divorced and half drunk, my kitten was dead and my Daddy was no longer living with us.  My only saving grace was Etta,” I said sadly.
     “We probably should have researched this a little better,” Nana whispered to MeMa. 
     "I know, right?” she replied.

Etta walked over behind the Christmas tree and handed me a present.
“Here you go
baby girl, something special for my special little sugar lump,” she said sweetly.  I took the package and smiled back.  Etta could always make me feel better and I wished she was my real mother any number of times.  I wanted to her her deep brown skin and dark eyes. She looked a lot like Diane Carroll.  I opened the paper and saw the beautiful face of a Julia doll staring back at me.  I had actually gotten exactly what I wanted - the doll from my favorite TV show which I would watch on VHS. 
     “Thank you Etta, I love her,” I said and for the first time that Christmas I was happy.  
     “Oh Sophia, I’m not sure about that doll -“ Mother started in just as Daddy walked in the house. 
      “Not sure about what?” asked Daddy.  
      “DADDY!!” I said as I ran over and got a hug. 
      “Merry Christmas my little Sugar Bear - what do you have there?” he asked while holding me in his strong arms. 
      “It’s a Julia doll - Etta gave it to me,” I squealed as I realized that maybe this Christmas would not be that terrible after all.  “She sure is pretty Sugar Bear - thank you Etta,” said Daddy smiling broadly at Etta. 
      “Well you can play with her in the house but don’t take her out of the here,” Mother said tersely. 
      “But the Wilson sisters also asked Santa for Julia dolls and -“  
      “Enough about the Wilsons and Julia dolls,” snapped mother who was on her fourth glass of wine. 
      “Maybe I should check on dinner,” said Etta.   

“It’s a little early in the day to be drinking Laura -especially on Christmas in front of Sophia,” Daddy said  as he put the cork back on the wine bottle. 
“Well then, if you are so worried about us - why don’t you move back in and solve everything for everyone?  Or are you too busy seeing that whore?” yelled mother.

I started to back out of the living room and ran into the kitchen right into Etta’s arms.  I did that a lot lately when Mother and Daddy started to fight. 
“For God’s sake Laura, it’s Christmas - get it together for Sophia’s sake,” Daddy shouted back.  

     I held onto Etta and my Julia doll just hoping my parents would go away and I could spend the rest of the day with the one person who really loved me. They continued to have a full fledged shouting match until my father stomped into the kitchen. 

    “Etta, get Sophia in a dress and put on your coat, we’re going to the club for Christmas dinner. Put out a plate for Miss Laura - she will not be joining us.” 
     “But Mr. Cal - I’m not sure they will allow me - “ Etta started. 
      “I was just voted in as the Chairman of the club and I can invite whoever I want and today I want you to join us.  You deserve a nice meal and a bonus.  You’re more family to Sophia than her own mother,” Daddy remarked just as mother walked into the kitchen.
    "You are not taking my daughter to the club without me - what will people think?” 
    “Probably that you’re too drunk to take part in Christmas - now get out of my way.  Sophia is spending the night with me at my place,” Daddy said. 
    “Etta, I have Sophia’s overnight bag in the car - there’s a dress in there you can put her in.”  My six year old self started to cry as my adult self stepped back horror. One again I was being used as a pawn in my parent’s divorce. 

     I stumbled into Nana and MeMa and immediately felt like I was traveling through that vortex again.  This time it was me in my late 20’s, a married woman having my first Christmas Eve with my husband Jess.  Our humble apartment seemed so quaint now. I realized how much I missed those days - just me and him.  No real fame to speak of.  Our little Christmas tree was in the corner and dinner was cooking in the oven. We were expecting company any minute but Jess still tried to heat things up in our little kitchen. 
    “Damn girl, you can cook!” he said pulling my blond hair aside and kissing me on my neck.  I put down my cooking mitts and looked into his brown eyes as I wrapped my arms around his waist.  He was the sexiest man I had ever met and I adored my husband with all my heart - with him I felt completely safe.   
     “We had better stop or your father is going to get an eyeful and would have every reason to kick my ass.” 
      “My dad really likes you and so does Etta,” I replied. 
      “But you’re mother is another story - I don’t know if she’ll ever get over the fact you married a black man.” 
     “Well, when she gets here and sees how happy we are, she’ll change her mind, I just know it,” I said with all the optimism of a native young woman. 

     The doorbell rang and I ran to open it.  There stood Daddy, my strawberry blond step mother Cynthia and my two teenage light blond half sisters Abby and Patricia.       
      “Hello Sugar Bear,” said Daddy.  My father got a tender embrace while Cynthia and the girls got an obligatory air kiss.  I’d never grown very close to them but we were civil at least which was more than I could say about my relationship with my real mother. The doorbell rang again and there was Etta, looking just as beautiful as ever - she never seemed to age.  I reserved my biggest hug for her.  Jess stepped forward and shook my father’s hand and gave out hugs to everyone including my sisters who I think got a secret thrill from it. 
     “Where’s mother?” I asked knowing the answer. 
     “Miss Laura was not feeling well today so she decided to stay home - you can go and visit her tomorrow - I think she’d like that,” said Etta trying to cushion the blow.  I took a deep breath and just let it wash over me.  My mother would never approve of me or my marriage but at least the people who wanted to be here were in my living room and that’s what mattered.  Even Cynthia was making an effort so she got points for that.  

      I put out the onion dip and chips as Daddy and Jess settled into the living room to watch the Hula Bowl - East vs. West.  Abby and Patricia went to sit with the men.  Abby because she had Daddy wrapped around her  little finger and Patricia because she had a thing for Jess. It was actually kind of cute - she followed him around like a puppy.  That left Etta, Cynthia and me in the kitchen of our little apartment as I tried to finish dinner. 
      “So how is married life?” asked Cynthia trying to make conversation.
     “It’s great - best decision I ever made,” I said confidently.  
     “Sophia, do you want me to take out the turkey?” asked Etta who never seemed to take a day off. 
     “No Ma’am I am cooking for you tonight, so sit down and have a glass of wine and relax,” I playfully demanded.  Etta laughed and complied as did Cynthia. 
     “You see - this looks like a good Christmas,” said MeMa hopefully.  

     Just then the phone rang and my younger self answered it. It was the Montel Williams Show.  Sylvia Browne had cancelled at the last minute and they needed a new medium to help with predictions for 1991.  I explained that I spoke to people who had passed and did not predict the future.  The producer liked that idea better and suggested coming to a taping on December 26th.  I would need to take the red eye on Christmas night if I was going to make the taping at 2:00 p.m. in Los Angeles. I asked the producer if I could call her back.  Cynthia and Etta had overheard the conversation and looked a little uncomfortable.  My head was spinning - this could be my big break but why did it need to come on Christmas night?  

     “Hey Jess,” I said sweetly.  
     "Yeah babe,” he answered back.  
     “I need to get something in the bedroom for dinner - could you help me?” Jess looked at me quizzically as we walked into our room.  
     “Sophia, I know you like getting you’re freak on, but we can’t do it with your family out there -“ he started. 
     “No Jess, it’s not that.  I just got a call from The Montel Williams show and they want me to appear on December 26th.” 
     “That’s great Babe - this could be your big break!” he said genuinely happy for me. 
      “Here’s the problem -I’d have to take the 11:00 p.m. flight out of Atlanta - and we were going to do Christmas tomorrow night with your family and I don’t want to cut it short.  I’m not sure what to do.  I mean our first Christmas - I want it to be special and to have time to enjoy it with your family,” I said filled with uncertainty.
      “Look, they are only an hour from here - you can pack after company leaves tonight and we’ll go earlier for brunch - trust me - mealtime is every hour on hour on Christmas at my mother’s house.  We’ll stay there all day and leave around 8:00 p.m. since the airport is about 45 minutes from there. We can do this,” he assured. I looked at him - loving the fact that he supported me. 
      “Just another of the thousands or reasons of why I love you!” I said. 
     “Besides, I can give you a big send-off and we’ll have New Years together.  This is the start of great things for you babe,” and with that he gave me an incredibly passionate kiss.  

     “Okay, so this Christmas was a winner,” said Nana feeling vindicated. 
     “Let’s go to the last Christmas Eve Jess and I spent together,” I replied sadly. We fast forwarded to the house I live in now.  Unlike the little apartment which was brimming with tacky holiday decorations, stuffed Santas and stockings hanging from the fire place, the house did not have any Christmas decorations - not even a Christmas tree. It was cold and dark. Jess had a bag and was leaving. 

     “Jess, I’m sorry, it’s just that Good Morning America is doing a special about ghosts and they want me to be part of it with John Edward. I hate that they always ask on the holidays -“ I said pleadingly.
     “No, Sophia, it’s just that you don’t think enough of us to decline the offer - you never tell them no.  Our relationship is just an afterthought - a place you can come back to when all the stresses of being on the road get to you.  I’m tired of playing second fiddle to your career.  Family is important to me-“
      “It’s important to me too-“ I replied. 
       “I’d never know it - you’ve changed since that first Christmas 12 years ago - even then you had to leave to do Montel.” He finished not in anger but in a sad resignation that I would never change. He kissed me on the top of the head and closed the door leaving me alone on Christmas Eve. 

     Standing there seeing it replayed with the grandmothers I wanted to scream “No, give me another chance - please, I love you, I need you - I was an asshole but I can change, please, don’t go.”  It reminded me of the day Daddy left Mother right after our family reunion.  There I was feeling like that same abandoned little girl except this time my pain was self-inflicted.  I started to cry.  The grandmothers tried to embrace me but I pushed them away just like everyone else in my life. ”I just want to go now please.” 

      We flew back through the vortex and found Bob and Charles Dickens smoking cigars and still looking at the laptop. 
      “Hello Lesbians and Sophia, how did it go?” asked Bob.  
      “We are not lesbians,” said Nana tersely. 
      “Well I experimented in grad school, doesn’t that count?” replied MeMa. 
      “It was the 1960’s dear, we all did,” Nana rejoined.  Dickens’ cigar dropped out of his mouth.
      “Please tell me we are in the 1960’s!” he asked Bob excitedly.  Bob just shook his head sadly. 

     “Can you all please go - I need to be alone,” I said as I got out some Bath and Body Works deodorizer to kill the smell of the ghostly cigars. 
     “I’m sorry the past was not to your liking but perhaps the present will help put things into perspective,” said Dickens hopefully. 
     “In fact I know just the ghost who can help you.” he said looking at Bob.  Bob looked over his shoulder and back at Dickens and the grandmothers quizzically and then realized what they expected him to do.
    “Oh, okay, I’m supposed to be a Christmas Carol Ghost,” Bob said sarcastically in air quotes. “Well, this dream has taken yet another weird turn.” 
     “Please Bob, you’re the one who is best suited for the present seeing how you just died, you’re more current then we are,” replied Nana.
     “Okay, this is still just a dream so I’ll try to satisfy your demand ladies but keep in mind I expect some serious payback,” he said as he winked at Nana. “Now, what am I supposed to do?” Bob asked. 
     “Just take Sophia’s hand and off you go,” said Dickens as he tried to get rid of Bob quickly.  The room started spinning again and the vortex started to pull us through.        “Hey, this is just like a DNA helix,” Bob said just before we disappeared. 
     “So ladies, can I interest you in one of these amazing web places that Bob has shown me.  How about The Old Bi-Curiousity Shop?” Dickens asked hopefully.  

     Bob and I landed in a light blue room full of posters of The Long Island Medium, Ghost Adventures and The Dead Files. It was not a room I recognized but the young girl seemed familiar.  She was on her computer looking at the YouTube video that had pretty much led to my downfall - the one where I was drunk at Clairvoyant Con and beat the crap out of a redneck.  It was right up to the part where a teenage girl asked about being a medium. 

    “Hi, I’m a sensitive and would like to be a medium and want to know what it’s like,” she asked with a look of idol worship on her face.  I stood there with Bob wanting to click off the computer because I knew what came next. 
    “You want to me a medium?” my YouTube self asked half mocking. 
    “Yes, I think I would be good at it and it looks like fun,” she replied with a sweet smile on her face.  I then launched into a half drunken tirade on why she should not do it- the ghosts are assholes, they never leave you alone, I had to get drunk to stop seeing them and let her know that I was half drunk while I was talking to her.  Click here to see the video. Bob looked over at me and seemed disappointed. 
“Wow, some people think I’m a douche - but you - you crushed that poor little girl’s spirit,” he admonished. I looked at her face in her room and on the computer screen and he was right - the poor thing was crestfallen.  She was in her room alone on Christmas Eve.  A comment popped up on YouTube which read:  “The girl is just as stupid as the medium - what losers!”

    “Nickie, c’mon to church you’ll feel better,” said a voice from outside the room. 
    “I don’t feel like it, Mom,” she replied sadly. 
    “That video has been up for three years, replaying it is not going to change anything - now come on, your sisters and grandparents are waiting.” Nickie got her crutches - it was then I noticed that she had a cast on her leg.  Before she left the room, she looked directly our way, smiled then nodded and walked out.  

   “You have got to do something to help her,” said Bob suddenly sounding like a spirit guide.
    “I don’t know what to do - I feel like shit seeing this.  I never meant to hurt her - I was just sad and drunk - Jess had just left me. I snapped and was rude to her - beat up that redneck - then some asshole uploaded this and I was ruined-“ I realized that all the things I was saying were just lousy excuses for hurting an innocent person. I had basically done to her what so many people in my life had done - easily dismissed me for being able to see ghosts.  

     Bob touched my shoulder to help me feel better but it instantly it took us to another Christmas scene in the present. It was Jess in his townhouse which was decked out with a Christmas tree and a fire place with stockings on the mantel.  He had a couple of glasses of egg nog and handed one to a woman whose face I could not see.  It didn’t matter, the idea of Jess with someone else really stung. 
     “Here you go babe,” he said with the same affectionate tone he that was once reserved for me.
     “Do you ever hear from Sophia?” he asked the woman on the couch.  That question shook me up, why would this woman be in touch with me? 
     “No not really.  It’s not like we were ever that close, but once your divorce was final, she closed herself off from everyone including Daddy.”  Just then I recognized the voice - it was Patricia.  

    “Whoa, do you mean to tell me that your ex-husband is dating your half-sister - that is screwed up in a very Southern way,” said Bob incredulously.
     “Thank you for pointing that out Bob - I would have had no idea,” I said sarcastically.
     “You’re welcome - I’m here to help,” then sensing my sarcasm, “Oh, okay - sorry but that is some hard core betrayal. I can see why you drink so much,” he said in an another attempt to comfort me. 
      “At what point am I supposed to feel better about my life and my choices?” I asked.
     “I don’t have a clue, the grandmothers just sent me here to -“ then realizing Dickens’ ploy, “Now, I get it - Dickens wanted a three-way with the lesbians. Well isn’t that cheeky? I have to hand it to that dirty old limey, that was well played.”  This time the vortex started up and we ended up at my mother’s house. 

    My mother was sitting all alone, with a small Christmas tree and a few candles burning.  Etta was trying to get her to eat some breakfast but she wasn’t having any of it.  She still looked somewhat attractive, but the booze was taking it’s toll. Etta no longer worked for her but was now married to my father and a para-legal at his firm. My mother was actually okay with the two of them being married, far more than she was with Cynthia. In her eyes, Cynthia had been a direct rejection but Etta was so different from her that it didn't even sting that much and they remained friends. She would still visit mother to see how she was doing.  Mother’s bright blue eyes which looked at me so affectionately during that Christmas when I was five had dimmed. She had dark circles around her eyes which were bloodshot.  She looked like she had been crying.  I’d never seen my mother quite this vulnerable before. 

    “For God’s sake Etta, I don’t want anything to eat.  It was nice of you to come over but don’t you want to be with Cal and your family?” mother asked. The word family out of Mother’s mouth struck me - I’d never known what that really was.  Etta was the only constant in my life for years and years. She was the one person who genuinely seemed to care for me and how did I repay her?  By barely calling - too self absorbed in my own misery to pick up the phone and say I missed her.  Mother poured another glass of Merlot. 
     “Wow, it’s 8:00 in the morning and your mother sucks it down as fast as you do,” said Bob with his usual tact. That revelation hit me like a bitch slap to the face. Her drinking was out of control - my drinking was out of control. Holy shit, I was turning into my own mother. We were both drunk, bitter and lonely on Christmas. 

     I closed my eyes and suddenly I was back at my house with the Grandmothers and Charles Dickens having some brandy out of some Christmas snifters that I never used.  “Oh, good you’re back - so good to see you ducky!” said a gregarious Dickens. 
      “I had no idea that ghosts could down 20 year old brandy,” I said as I took the glass from his hand, “Please tell me this night is almost over,” I begged.
     “Yeah, it hasn’t gone so well. Sophia got to see her ex-husband getting it on with her younger half-sister. AWKWARD! Then there was the young girl whose spirit she crushed, and then there was her Mom who drinks like a fish,” explained Bob who was getting on my last nerve.       “That’s it, everyone out of here now,” I yelled and this time they were going to listen.

      “I know this night has been difficult,” said Dickens softening his tone. “But you need to see what the future holds for you - “
      “Let me guess - for my own good so I can put it all in perspective.  Well from my perspective - this has been a cluster f**k and I feel worse now than when the evening started - so if you could all just go-“ I said sternly. 
     “No, just give me one more chance,” said Dickens.
     “Here take my hand,” he offered and once again we were flying through time.  

       We landed at a funeral home where people were viewing my mother’s body in a mahogany casket. I saw Abby with her husband along with Patricia and Jess.  They were not really crying - they just seemed to be there out of a sense of duty.  Then Daddy and Etta walked up - they were genuinely shaken up. Etta put a rose on the top of the casket.  Then another woman whose face I could not see approached. She was inconsolable.  Etta and Daddy tried to comfort her but she pushed them away and threw herself across the casket sobbing. 
     “Good God, that woman needs to get it together,” I commented to Dickens. He didn’t say anything, he just pointed back to the scene.  I got a little closer and realized that the hysterical woman was my mother. Shock ran over me - if this was my mother - then who was the person she was mourning for?  I took a good look at the corpse in the casket and realized it was me just a few years from now.  I backed away in shock. 
     “But how - did I?” I asked in a daze.
     “You overdosed and Etta found you, no one could get in touch with you and she went over to your house,” Dickens said sadly, “You went from booze to pills.  You were just a footnote in the tabloids.”  I then saw a white mass raise from the casket - I was watching my own ghost pull out of my body.  

     The scene shifted to an apartment with Nickie the young girl I had humiliated in the YouTube video.  My ghost was trying to talk to her but she pretended not to hear it.  She went to the refrigerator and pulled out a beer and guzzled it down. 
    “I don’t want to talk to you and if I drink enough tonight I won’t see you either,” she said with bitterness in her voice.  My ghost-like self kept trying to get her attention by moving objects and knocking things over in anger.  I could feel my angst raising and felt another celestial bitch slap coming on - the realization that I had now turned Nickie into me.  She was headed down the same sad path and I could do nothing to save her. 
      “Hey, it doesn’t have to be this way! Please don’t give up - please don’t give up - PLEASE!!!” I turned to Dickens, “She doesn’t have to be this way, she can help them - me - the ghosts right? She’s not going to turn her back on them?” 
     “Well she tried once a few years ago to be a medium and then someone told her not to be who she was and she’s never been the same since,” said Dickens sadly.  

     Just then I saw a mass of shadow figures emerged from the darkness and start to attack my ghost. I looked to Nickie to help - to say something to get them to leave but she just sighed and finished her beer.  I could hear the ghostly image of myself start to moan and scream - then all the light vanished from the room including Dickens.  I could feel a bone chilling coldness on my body and my breath leaving my body. The shadow figures felt like they were pulling me apart and sucking the life out of me. I tried to get away but couldn’t.
     “No, not now, I can’t die now, please, please, PLEASE!!” I screamed.

I opened my eyes and tried to catch my breath. I was back in my house covered with
sweat and shivering.  The grandmothers brought me some blankets and tea.         “There, there dear, it’s okay,” they said soothingly.  I didn’t say anything for a long time. I was still processing what I had seen.  Finally after a few sips of tea I said, “I have to make a change - I can’t go on like this.”  I looked around and saw Bob on my laptop in the kitchen. 
    “Don’t worry dear, he’s not looking at anymore porn sites,” said MeMa.
    “If you are really ready to make a change, we might be able to help,” said Nana hopefully.
    “How can you two help?” I asked taking another sip of tea.       “Well we know that you have at best three to six months of money left before you are completely broke-”
    “How the hell do you know that?” I asked.
    “You left your on-line banking window open,” shouted Bob from the kitchen.  "Your user name and password list was on a post-it next to the keyboard.
     “Our grandsons are ghost hunters and they are auditioning for this show on the Supernatural Channel in the next few months-“ 
     “Wait, so this was all a ploy to get me to do a show with a pair of stupid ghost hunters?”
     “No dear, it was not a ploy and they are not stupid,” explained MeMa, ”what you saw was genuine - your past was awful but the future is still an open book - nothing is set in stone yet.  You can change it.”  I sat there pondering what they were saying.  I realized that as much as I didn’t like the idea of working with ghost hunters it was still better then drinking myself into an oblivion. 
     “The American public loves a comeback and our grandsons could sure use the help, what have you got to lose?” asked Nana.  

   “I hate to admit it, but the lesbians are right,” said Bob from the other room handing out another left-handed compliment. 
  “Okay, you’re right, I don’t have anything to lose. I’ll do it.”  I took another sip of tea and realized that the sun was rising. “Wait, what day is it?” I asked in a near panic. 
     “It’s Christmas Day, dear,” said MeMa. 
     “Oh, thank God, I haven’t missed it.  But how do I even begin to make it up to…“ I said as I thought of my parents, Etta, and Nickie.
     “Redemption is just a phone call away,” said Nana as she pointed to my iPhone.  

     I picked up my cell and put it down a six times before I got the courage up to call my father who was usually up early no matter what day it was.
     “Hey Daddy, it’s Sophia.  I was wondering if I could stop over today and wish you and Etta a Merry Christmas,” I said as tears started to roll down my face.
    “Sugar Bear!” he said as his voice cracked.  We talked for over an hour about Etta, her sons, his firm and Abby.  He was very careful not to mention Patricia because he understood the mind field that went from one sister to another and the man they both loved. I told him about the possibility of working on a new show. We decided to meet for dinner since he had breakfast planned with Cynthia and her girls and lunch with Etta and her sons. Even though I was in a forgiving mood, it was going to take me time to work up to seeing Patricia and Jess together.  

      He handed the phone to Etta and we picked up from the last time we’d seen each other. She kept on saying that she had prayed for this day and God had heard her prayers and it was her best Christmas present ever. Then she asked me if I had called Mother. I hesitated - I wanted to but what would I say?
     “Baby girl, you just need to say Merry Christmas and let God take care of the rest.”  

      I sat there for a few minutes wondering what I would really say. I pressed Mother’s home number on my phone and wondered if it would be easier to just leave a message - maybe she wouldn’t recognize the number and pick up.  It rang four times and I got ready to leave a message when I heard her voice say “Sophia?” 
      “Hello mother, Merry Christmas,” I said trying to keep my voice from shaking.  There was silence and I wondered if this was a huge mistake.
     “Mom, are you there?” I asked wondering if she had hung up on me like the last time we talked.
     “No, I’m still here - Merry Christmas.”  This was by far was the most awkward conversation of the day, but I was not going to give up.
     “Hey, if you want I can come over and make french toast like the kind we used to get a Le Pierre remember?”       “Well, Etta is coming over to check on me since Cal is having breakfast with his girls. Maybe the three of us could have breakfast together,” she said quietly.  
     “I’d like that Mom, see you in an hour.”  I put down the phone and my soul felt instantly lighter.  The grandmothers looked pleased.  

     “There you see dear, this is really what we wanted you to do - reconnect with those that

you love,” said Nana sweetly. 
    “Why don’t you make some coffee and get ready to see your Mother,” said MeMa.  As I walked out of the living room, Bob walked over to the grandmothers and put his arms around their shoulders.
     “Hey how about you ladies tell my all about those crazy days experimenting in grad school,” he said hoping to score some holiday action.
    “Nope, not gonna happen,” Nana laughed. 
     “In your dreams Atheist Boy,” retorted MeMa laughing.  The grandmothers faded out leaving Bob alone.
    “Wow, rejected by two women at once, this does feel like college.”

    Just as my coffee was brewing I noticed that Bob had opened my in-box and there was an e-mail saying “Thank you Miss Sophia!!!” from someone I didn’t know but it didn’t seem to be spam.  I opened it and saw Nickie’s smiling face on a webcam. 

“Hello Miss Sophia.  Thank you so much for the $1,000 Amazon gift card for me and
my family. It was not going to be much of a Christmas since my mom got laid off from her job but we’ve had fun today picking out things for the family to enjoy.  Thank you again and December 27th at 5:00 p.m. sounds like a great time to Skype and tell you about me wanting to be a medium. See you then!” The recording stopped but Nickie’s sweet face had a huge smile on it.  I turned to Bob who was trying not to smile. 

   “You sent Nickie a $1,000 gift card from my Amazon account? Are you crazy? How did you get her information to send it?” I asked both pissed that he had spent that much money on a gift card but glad that she was so happy.

   “While you were going on about that whole YouTube video in her room, I looked at her e-mail address on her laptop and got her social media info. You also left your Amazon window open. You’ll be working again soon and we had to make it right for that sweet young girl - it’s Christmas for crying out loud.”  

It’s not often that a spirit surprises me but Bob was not a ghost that I could put in any one category. 
    “For someone who doesn’t believe in Christmas, you have certainly been Santa’s little helper,”  I observed.
    “Look, I maybe an atheist but I do believe in certain aspects of Christmas - the whole peace on earth, goodwill towards man idealism is actually pretty awesome.  It’s just the judgmental Christians that gripe my ass. If they were actually like Jesus: patient, forgiving and kind, then the world would be a better place,” he replied. 

    “Well Bob, you might have just saved the holiday for Nickie’s family,” I said as I poured myself a fresh cup of coffee. 
     “Thanks, but don’t expect me to say ‘God bless us Everyone!’ do you?”
      “I don’t,” I laughed.  

   Dickens, Nana and MeMa were hovering above the kitchen looking down on the little scene. 
     “How did I do ladies?” asked Dickens.
     “Mission accomplished,” said Nana smiling. 
     “So ladies, about those sexy college days?” Dickens asked as he and the giggling grandmothers faded out. 

    “It looks like a pretty Christmas day. I hope I wake up soon,” said Bob still not grasping that he was a ghost. 
    “I know,” I said trying not to upset him,
     “But until you do, Merry Christmas, Bob.” 
     “Merry Christmas, Sophia,” he replied warmly. And for the first time in a very long time - it was. 

For more on Sophia Gardeen and the rest of the Ghost Wanderers cast go to