The links above will take you to episode #1 for each. You can find all parts by selecting Category ‘Serial’ in the sidebar.
Starting a new one today, The Girl in the Park. It’s a ghost story. The only one I think I’ve ever written. Have a read of part #1…
When I look back now, I must have been about nine or ten when I first saw her. My father and I had gone to Westbrooke Park to fly my kite. The strong wind made it perfect kite-flying weather, and when we climbed to the top of the hill in the centre of the park, I was able to keep it flying by myself, my father relegated to spectator.
My father had brought along a picnic, and when the kite-flying fun had been exhausted, we spread our blanket atop the hill, in the shadow of the big Elizabethan house that had stood there for centuries.
Even after all this time, I can still remember what we ate: Marmite sandwiches. Not my first choice, but rationing meant that staples like butter and cheese were in short supply. On our walk to the park, we picked apples, and as a rare treat, my father had brought along a bottle of R. White’s lemonade to wash it all down. I’ve often wondered why that memory has stayed with me for almost seventy years, but it has. I guess it was one of those days that you just remember where you were and what you were doing. I suppose it’s like remembering where you were when you first saw Armstrong step off his ladder onto the surface of the Moon, or remembering what you were doing when the Twin Towers fell.
Of course, at the time I didn’t realise the significance of what I had seen and the role this young woman would play in my life. It wasn’t the last time I saw her, but now I think about it, it was the first time, and first times have a special place in your heart.
Time spent alone with my father was rare. He had always maintained his distance from me, finding communication awkward, so he slipped into familiar, safe conversation. He had been telling me something about the area in which we sat. He told me it had been extensively landscaped over recent years and how many of the fountains, hedges, and flower gardens had only been there for around twenty years. After the war, he had taken the only employment he could find. Hard work and long days had brought him a modicum of success, and his job as the head groundskeeper of the park we now sat in gave him great pleasure. He often told me stories of the park, even though I had heard them all often enough that I could recite them almost word for word; however, I would always listen intently, and ask questions in the appropriate places, because I knew the park was important to him.
I could see how physically demanding his work was; I saw my mother treating his blistered hands at the end of every long day; I saw the pain etched on his face every time he bent to pick me up. I knew he didn’t want this life for me and often extolled the virtues of a career in which I could use my brain, and not my back. Many years would pass before I could fully comprehend his compulsion toward this park.
I think I was on my second or third sandwich when I saw her. Further up the slope there was a large group of hydrangea bushes with a gravel path snaking between them. She stepped out from behind one of these bush onto the path and stared at me. If I had to guess, I would say she was somewhere in her late teens, maybe early twenties. She wore what looked like a pale nightshirt that reached to the floor. That was enough to pique my interest, a nightshirt in the middle of the day? But what caught my attention was the patch of red that blossomed on the front of her shirt, just above her left hip. She appeared untroubled by it, and simply stood and stared at me.
I sat transfixed for several moments, and not knowing what else to do, I waved at her. It was a half-hearted wave, almost apologetic. The woman smiled and waved back, before turning and retreating behind the bush. I remember returning my attention to my sandwich, and to my father, who was now recounting the potential pitfalls of running a large hydroponics operation.
That’s all for today. Join me next Saturday for part #2.
My question to you:
What’s the best ghost story you’ve ever read?