by Jorja Taylor
It was Tommy’s idea, he will deny it and try to blame it on Bexley or Jack. But it was him who got us in this whole mess to begin with.
There were four of us, five if you count Elora Baxter, but since all she did was whine and complain, I don’t count her. So there was me, my older brother Tommy, Jack Callaway and Bexley May. It was worse for Tommy and me because our father is the Officer In Charge which means he oversees all of Sable Island, not like the mayor, but like the man who makes sure everything is in order, and four kids going to look for a bloody finger isn’t exactly the normal around here.
Jack Callaway is carving his initials into the window sill in Mama’s library. Jack and I are good pals, which is ironic considering he’s always getting into trouble and causing mayhem and I’m the good boy. I like to stay inside and read and write, I’m currently working on my new novel called “Adventures Of Rascal Bennett”, he’s a fictional character I made up. I like writing, especially novels.
“Mama doesn’t like when you do that,” I tell Jack.
He shrugs, “Just making my mark.”
I grab his switchblade. “Well, do it somewheres else, please.”
Jack takes his blade back, “Fine,” then he gives me this look, a look I’ve seen a hundred times, a look that means he wants to create some chaos. By “chaos” I mean like last month we got a mini sandstorm and we all had to stay inside, once we were able to get out, Jack had such a cabin fever he bolted across the island, came back four hours later half naked and all sandy. And just last week, he was so bored he decided to take up the art of pickpocketing.
Jack opened up the window, “44 km of nuttin’ but sand and grass,” he spits, referring to Sable Island, where we live. “Tommy? Is the rest of Nova Scotia like this?”
I shake my head, “No, not at all, the capital of Halifax is a big city, got like some thousands of people livin’ there!”
“Thousands?” Jack pulls his shoulders through the window and just stays like that.
I’m about to respond when the bell rings, which means someone’s entered the library. Mama went downstairs to rest and asked me to watch for any tourists. It’s a library but many people come in asking questions ‘bout the island as well.
“Hello?” It’s a girl’s voice, I hear her thunk something down on the counter.
“I’m coming, miss.” I make my way up behind the counter.
The girl looks about my age, she has copper wire rim glasses that make her look older though, so I don’t know for certain.
“Hi there, do you live here?” she asks me. I’m used to this question.
“Yeah, lived here my whole life. You came for the weekend?”
The girl sighs, “No, my Mum grew up here, she’s thinking of moving back.”
I can’t help but smile, another kid living here sure would be fun, and she’s a girl too. I only know three girls that aren’t old enough to be my mother—my little sister, Ruthie, who’s ten, Elora who’s twelve and Nelle who’s only two.
“Do you like it here?” I question.
The girl pops a piece of her bubble gum. “I’m not sure, it’s so… mysterious, I guess.”
“Yeah, you should read some of the ghost stories.”
“Oh! Speaking of which, I’m here to return this book.” She slides a big book over.
“Sable Island’s Pale Lady.” I run my fingers along the spine, “Did you know that some say the ring never made it to Mrs. Copeland and that she’s still looking for it?”
The girl’s eyes get three times bigger, “She’s probably mad or angry or really sad.” She leans across the counter. “Boy,” she grabs my shoulders, “we gotta help her.”
My mind starts to whirl, of course I thought of finding the lost ring before but it seemed near impossible, but this girl, someone I didn’t even knew existed ten minutes ago, had this determination in her eyes, that we could find the Pale Lady’s lost wedding ring.
I am gonna jump, the fall isn’t very long, I wouldn’t break anything. I have half my body outside the library’s window. The wind is pretty strong, not strong enough to create a sandstorm but it’s often windy here, it keeps blowing my hair into my face. I should get a haircut soon, I think. The woman who lives next door to me cuts the residents’ hair all the time. My hair’s not that long, it crawls down my neck in the back, but the front’s just shaggy. Tommy tells me I have a sort of mullet, not quite though.
Tommy, he’s been gone a while. He went out to help some tourist. Tommy’s a good guy, he’s a year younger than me, twelve he is, but he’s way smarter than anyone I know.
I decide to go out and find him, maybe save him from some pestering tourist.
I find him in deep conversation with some girl, she keeps nodding her head as he makes weird hand gestures. “Probably discussing weird nerd topics,” I mutter.
“Oh, hi ya Jack!” Tommy notices me and waves me over, “This is, uh—.” He suddenly realises he hasn’t a clue what the girl’s name is.
“I’m Bexley,” she says to us both, but she holds her hand out to me, and I shake it back.
She has these dorky wire glasses that take up half her face. And wild red hair that is so big and poofy, I never met anyone with that much hair. She is different than Elora, who is always wearing big bows and Sunday dresses. This girl is stunning.
It isn’t till the boy’s friend shows up that we realize we have been talking like old friends, but don’t even know each other’s names. Once all the introductions are over, we start our game plan.
We have to fill in Jack, who looks like a greaser, right from S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, just replace Ponyboy’s greasy hair with sandy beach hair and they would be a match. I am surprised he doesn’t know about the ghost story, I just assumed all the Islanders knew about the ghost stories.
So Tommy begins, “A long time ago, a captain named Torrens was sent to look for the missing Francis, a ship.”
Jack looks genuinely intrigued. He stops fiddling with a pencil and is watching him.
Tommy continues, “His own vessel crashed on Sable Island. So one night he and his dog, Whiskey, were out walking….”
I interrupt. I’m in love with this ghost tale, I can’t help but butt in.
Tommy glares at me for interrupting him, obviously a little ticked, but he lets me finish.
“They came back to where he started a bonfire and there seated beside it was— her.” I pause to take a breath. “She was wearing a torn and dirty white dress that was soaking wet, she had messy black curls, but the most eerie thing about her…”
I let Tommy add the next part because he looks like he’s ready to burst.
“Her pale face! It was as white as a sheet,” Tommy exclaims, throwing his hands up in the air. “But anyways, Torrens is like, Ma’am are you okay?” but the Pale Lady just keeps moaning, but eventually, in a hoarse voice whispers, Murder, and Torrens is now freaked out, so he tries to take her inside to get her settled, but the woman just keeps moaning and screaming about her lost wedding ring. She then turns and stares at Torrens, her cold dead eyes boring into his soul, Find it, she says, so I can return. The captain asks where. They murdered me for my wedding ring, to get my ring, they had to tear off my finger. Then she disappeared.
“Sometime later, Torrens returned to Halifax and tried to find any information about a lost ring, he eventually found that a sailor in Salmon River knew about the ring. So he found the ring and bought it. So the old captain returned home that night and wrote a letter to the Pale Lady, and enclosed her wedding ring.”
We’re all quiet for a moment, when finally Jack speaks up, “So the wacko dead lady got her ring back, big deal.”
Me and Tommy exchange a glance. “Well, some say the Pale Lady never received the letter or ring, because some ruthless thieves found it and kept it,” I say.
“And I was just telling Bexley how I think I came across,” Tommy lowers his voice as if it’s a big secret, “half of Torrens’ letter.”
Jack rolls his eyes, “This is all nuttin’ but an old phooey ghost tale.”
“It’s true!” I yell, a bit too defensively.
He raises an eyebrow, “So then where is this said letter?”
“In my room, I’ll go get it.” Before Tommy leaves, he clasps my arm and Jack’s. “We’re going on a ghost hunt?”
I open up my mouth to say yes, but Jack suddenly grabs Tommy’s head with both his hands, “Damn straight we are,” he declares.
I’m not into this whole ghost thing, but the way Tommy’s face lights up when he talks about this dead lady is so, I don’t know, it just makes me want to believe in all this. Besides, it’s an adventure and so I’ll take it.
Next thing I know, I’m leading Bexley and Jack into my room, where I hid Torrens’ letter. Our room is pretty small, like all rooms on the island. My bed is up against the wall. It’s an old bed, creaks every time I move. My favourite part of my room is my bookcase, it has 104 books from Anne Of Green Gables and Tom Sawyer to thrillers by Stephen King.
For a minute I’m lost in my book collection until I hear my old bed groan from Jack’s weight and I remember that there are other people here.
Bexley is staring at the other side of the room and gives me a questionable look.
“That’s my little sister’s side!” I explain quickly. Yes, it sounds weird sharing a room with your sister but it’s been like that our whole life. Ruthie’s side has a bright pink bedspread and a dollhouse.
“Oh, sure,” Bexley jokes.
I ignore her and open up my secret treasure box, it’s really an old hat box with some seashells, an ancient cigar stick and my cash wad.
I slam the lid down. “Well, you’re about to meet her,” I say angrily.
Bexley gives me a quizzical look, I start for the door. “She took the letter!”
The Sable Island ponies are much different then regular paddock ponies. They use their hooves to dig for marram grass, that’s a common type of grass that grows here, also they’re smaller than most horses on the mainland. But the most wonderful difference of all? They’re wild, feral, free.
I love to sit up on the dune banks and watch them, the way they communicate and act, not to mention the baby foals are adorable.
Tommy used to come with me, he liked the ponies too, we would sit for hours together. I miss him, yeah, I know I see him everyday, but he’s older now and would rather goof off with that goon, Jack, then hang out with his little sister.
I sigh, the breeze is nice on my face. The ponies are by the water today, drinking and cooling off. There’s a small mare in the herd, she’s a pale golden colour with a sandy coloured mane. I named her Misty after the horse in the book Mama gave me, Misty of Chincoteague. I see Misty and a black mare playfully prancing around.
Uh-oh. I forgot how mad he can get. The horses all look up surprised.
“Shhhh, don’t scare them, Tommy,” I snap.
Tommy and a redhead girl, followed by a bored-looking Jack come up my bank, Tommy rushes towards me snarling.
“Give it back.”
I cross my arms, “Give what back?”
“Ruthie, c’mon, please?”
I mumble and take the old crinkled paper from my pants pocket, “Why’s it so important?”
Tommy leaps for the paper, but I retaliate quickly.
The redhead comes up closer to me, giving me a smile. “It’s a letter from a now dead captain to a ghost.”
“Cool?” I’m not sure how to reapond, my brother’s always going on about ghost hunts.
Tommy then fills me in on this ghost tale, a tale I already knew.
I give the letter back, which I was going to use for the next poker game I666666667 played, but, oh well, he agrees to let me tag along so it was worth it.
I didn’t actually think Ruthie would’ve wanted to come with us, I would’ve thought the idea of trying to find a dead woman’s finger would be too gory and bloody for her. I mean last year when her tooth got loose she nearly passed out at the sight of her own blood.
But regardless, we have the first key to the mystery.
We sprawl out on the sand. It’s hot and rough but I don’t mind it, anything’s better than the wet pavement back home, I mean back in Kentville. Sable Island is home now, at least for now.
Tommy starts to read the letter,
…and may you finally be able to return back to the heavens. I have found your elegant ring and have sent it to this location…
And so, I retrieved the ring…I return it to her forthwith in hope that she who indeed is risen from the waves, may now rest in peace. I am your humble and obedient Servant.
At the bottom are a bunch of coordinates where Torrens supposedly sent the Pale Lady’s ring.
Tommy takes a minute to figure them out, I try to help, but I might as well be reading Latin.
He stands up abruptly, and sand flies everywhere.
“Follow me!” he shouts, running away. Jack leaps to his feet and takes off after him, followed by Ruthie, then me.
I’m on the track team, second best junior girl. I’m fast, but these kids are rockets. Tommy leads the way, Jack, who I can tell can go faster but he doesn’t know where to go, is right beside him with Ruthie close behind.
I finally catch up to her, “Do you—guys—have a—track—team?”
Ruthie glances up at me, “A what?”
Ruthie slows down a bit to match my speed. She’s tiny. If Tommy hadn’t said she was ten, I would’ve guessed she was eight or seven. She just has this angelic, fragile look to her, her hair is light blonde, it’s wispy and hangs in a low bun or ponytail, I can’t tell. Her eyes are ocean blue, they match Tommy’s, and her pale face looks like a freckle explosion.
Just as my chest is ready to burst we stop in front of an old house. Its roof seems to be sliding off and its walls look lopsided.
Jack has collapsed on the ground, while Tommy and Ruthie stare flabbergasted at the house.
“So this is it? Who lives here?” I question.
“I don’t know,” Tommy answers, his eyes not leaving the house.
“There’s like not even like fifteen people living on the island, how do you not know!?” I exclaim.
“I thought the only houses were the ones on the compound,” Tommy says, puzzled.
Jack stands up, his brown hair golden from the sand. “Let’s go see who lives here.”
He doesn’t even bother brushing himself off before walking towards the house. We follow him, all tentative.
I hope it’s abandoned. This would be the perfect spot for a secret hideaway. All I can think is to be ready to yell I claim it! Maybe I would let Tommy stay here too. Definitely not Ruthie.
The door looks like it’s off its hinges. It’s old.
Jack knocks and Ruthie grips my arm, we all brace ourselves.
Nothing happens at first, so Jack knocks again, this time the door creaks open. We all step back.
A elderly woman answers the door, she sizes us up, then that old woman takes out a shotgun and aims it at us.
Jack pushes me back behind him. No one breathes.
The woman points it at Bexley first. I can hear Jack inhale a sharp breath.
“What’cha doin’ here?” she barks.
Jack waves his hands. “Ma’am, please put the gun down. My name is Jack Callaway and these are my friends, Tommy and Ruthie Holland and er, um, Bexley.”
The woman’s expression softens, “Callaway. You’re not Billy’s son, are you?”
“Yes, Ma’am, I actually am.”
She swings the rifle over her shoulder and smiles, showing a row of crooked and yellow teeth. “Well, I’ll be, little Billy’s son, just as handsome as he was.”
She invites us in and seems to have forgotten how just five minutes ago she held a gun to our faces.
Thanks to Jack’s quick save, that old lady didn’t pop off our heads.
We walk inside, the inside’s better than the outside, but still pretty shabby.
The woman, who introduces herself as Eloise, shows us to the den. There’s literally so much clutter I feel claustrophobic.
“Here now, sit down. Tea?” Eloise guides us to what I think is a couch, it has a bunch of fabric covering it.
Ruthie requests tea and the woman disappears into the kitchen to get some.
I sit down, squashed between Jack and what I hope is a mink coat.
“Grandmother? Do we have company?”
All four of our heads turn to where the squeaky voice is coming from.
For the love of pete. Standing there is a girl with pinched up features and a bright white bow is leaning on the staircase. Elora Baxter.
“Tommykins!” Elora runs over to us, she stops abruptly when she sees Bexley. “What’s a tourist doing here?” she sneers.
“Bexley’s not a tourist,” Jack shoots back.
Elora scowls but plops herself in beside Tommy.
“What brings you to Grandmama’s?” she asks him.
Tommy, that dimwit, explains EVERYTHING to Elora! All about the ghost tale, letter and ring! I could’ve strangled him.
“Sounds scary,” she squeaks.
Eloise then returns with my tea, I thank her.
“Elora, have you met Jack, he’s Billy’s son,” Eloise sits in a nearby chair.
“Unfortunately I have met Jack. Who’s Billy?”
Eloise closes her eyes and smiles, like she’s watching an old memory. “Billy Callaway. He was a good boy, friends with your mother Eleanor.”
“Jack’s far from a good boy,” Elora snorted.
“It’s not like you’re exactly Miss Congeniality either,” Bexley hissed.
Jack raises up his hands, “Ladies, ladies, as much as I enjoy girls arguing over me, there is more important things at hand.” He nods at Tommy.
“Mrs. Baxter, have you heard of the Pale Lady with the missing finger?” Tommy queries.
“I’m not a Baxter.” She thinks for a moment. “Yes, Mrs. Copeland was her name.”
Tommy nods eagerly. “Yes, yes. The reason we ask….” He explains again, this time to Eloise.
Eloise does recall seeing a strange ring lying around here. She goes up to get it, just as we encounter the ghost itself.
Ruthie sees her first and screams, dropping and shattering her teacup. Then Tommy, whose jaw falls open, then I.
She’s pale and has grey dead eyes, her face looks like it’s been left to soak in the tub for too long. She wears a white gown, in the middle blood is splattered on her dress.
It’s Mrs. Copeland. I’m face to face with a dead woman, a ghost.
If I didn’t see it, I wouldn’t believe it. My first reaction is to get the heck out, but I can’t move. It’s not everyday you see a ghost.
Suddenly the couch squeaks, that little priss Elora gets up and is heading towards the dead lady!
“What a nutcase,” I mumble. She must be either incredibly brave which is unlikely so that means she’s gone batty.
Great. My crazy great-aunt has awoken from her nap. Auntie Elsie, the reason me and Grandmama are in this shack in the first place, reaches out when she hears me approach, “Girl, is that you?” she croaks. The kids behind me let out a collective gasp.
I ignore them. “Yes, Auntie, it is.”
“Dear child, I sense other presences in the room.”
I take her shaky hand and guide her to the chair. “Yes, there are four other children here, Tommy, Ruthie, Jack and a tourist.”
“Oh, Auntie, just rest for a moment.”
“Elora, I may be old and blind, but I still deserve some respect.”
I wince, I hate it when people scold me. “Very well, they’re here to take your ring.”
Auntie Elsie cries out, “Not my ring, don’t let them take the ring.”
This is weird, I’m trying to follow everything, Elora’s and her aunt’s exchange.
Ruthie leans over and whispers into my ear, “What do we do?”
I shrug and whisper back, “Wait for Tommy to do something?”
Ruthie then turns and nudges her brother.
“Do something,” Ruthie hisses in my ear. I swat her away, but agree. Elora’s great-aunt is now whimpering and we are all sitting here awkwardly.
I walk up beside Elora. “Is everything okay?”
“Go away, thief!” the aunt bellows at me. Elora sighs and motions for me to come with her.
“I’ll be right back, Auntie.”
She guides me into the kitchen.
“Oh, Tommykins, that was embarrassing for you to see.”
I try not to roll my eyes, “Is that your great-aunt?”
“Yes, but I assure you, crazy does not run in the family.”
I don’t have the patience for Elora’s dramatics, but I smile at her anyways. “Why was your aunt talking about me being a thief?”
“Oh, it’s just nonsense. A long time ago my great-great-great-grandmama’s wedding ring got stolen. She died, but shortly afterwards, a letter came that said it had her wedding ring enclosed in it, but a bunch of thieves got ahold of the package before us and stole the ring. My great-great-grandmother searched for it, and my great-grandmother, and my grandmother. Finally just last month we found it, but Auntie insists it’s haunted and that Great-Great-Great-Grandmama still roams the island.”
I can’t believe it. Elora’s related to the Pale Lady and they have her wedding ring, I could’ve kissed her. Instead I just hug her.
Bexley walks in, “Oh, sorry, am I interrupting something?” she chortles.
I pull away and tell Bexley the news. Elora and Bexley both stare at me.
“I’m not related to some ghost!” Elora whimpers.
“I think you are,” Bexley smirks.
Elora crosses her arms. “No, I am not!”
“Okay, you’re not,” I tell her, but give Bexley a look that says she definitely is. Elora doesn’t notice.
“Thank you,” Elora sniffs.
“But,” I add, “I do think that ring does belong to Mrs. Copeland.”
Elora furrows her eyebrows and I know she knows that I still think she’s related to the Pale Lady, but she doesn’t provoke it.
We return back to the den, where Jack is chatting with Eloise and Ruthie’s drinking a new cup of tea.
When Tommy tells me that Elora’s related to the Pale Lady, I can’t help but laugh. He immediately shushes me.
The blind woman, Auntie Elsie, has fallen asleep and Eloise is showing us the wedding ring they found four years ago when it luckily washed up on shore.
It is breathtaking, magnificent, as elegant as I pictured it to be.
It is golden, with an entwined pattern with little diamonds sprinkled on it.
“We know it was hers, ‘cause”—Eloise flips it over where Sublimis ab unda was scrawled on it—“she had it engraved with this.”
“It’s Latin for risen from the waves,” Tommy reads.
Eloise looks impressed. “Very good, child.”
“May I hold it?” I ask, and she passes it to me. My fingers touch the cold gold, I want to slip it on, but know that wouldn’t be very polite.
Elora snatches it from me. “Oh, Grandmama, we must get it fit to my size. I’ll have to take it back to the mainland with me.”
Eloise takes the ring from her, “No, no, this must stay here, it belongs to the island.”
I hold it next, but not for long. It feels funny, holding a dead woman’s wedding ring. Ruthie also refuses to hold it.
It makes the rounds, Bexley is by far the most excited.
I’m so happy to have found the Pale Lady’s ring, but one thing has me questioning.
“Excuse me, ma’am?” I ask.
“How did it start? The ghost tale of Sable Island’s Pale Lady?”
“I don’t know. When we first found it, Elora told some Halifax Reporters, so maybe it just spiralled out from there.”
I nod makes sense, but it still is a ghost tale, right?
“And what’s with the blood on Auntie Elsie’s dress?”
“The what? Oh, you mean the red paint. She likes to paint.”
I yawn, I’m getting awfully tired. Tommy notices and sighs, knowing it will soon be past our bedtime.
“Where are you goin’!?” Eloise sputters as we all get up to leave.
“Home. It’s getting dark,” Jack says.
“Thank you for having us, we’ll be sure to come back,” Tommy promises.
Eloise shakes her head, “You kids can’t go out there, you’ll be caught in the storm.”
“It looks peaceful,” Bexley observes.
“For now, but I gather in about ten minutes, heavy winds will pick up and the waters will be rough.”
“Father did say something about a weather warning,” I add.
“Stay the night, we have extra beds and Elora would love the company.” Eloise insists.
I gulp. I do not want to have a sleepover with my arch nemesis at a house that may be haunted.
“It is already dark,” Bexley points out.
“We wouldn’t want to trouble you,” Tommy says.
“No trouble at all! I’ll go make the beds now.” Eloise scampers away.
“This will be so much fun!” Elora pipes in. “I have sleepovers at home all the time.”
“Oh, yes, just so much fun,” Bexley deadpans.
“C’mon guys, a night at a haunted house, what could be better than that?” Tommy laughs nervously.
“I wanna go home,” I whine, knowing I sound like a toddler, but I’m exhausted and want to sleep in my own bed.
“It’s too late now, Ruthie,” Tommy sighs. “It’ll be fine, we’re all here with you.”
Bexley wraps her arm around me and squeezes gently. I was wrong about her. At first I thought she was some annoying tourist, but in fact she’s actually pretty cool.
“Oh, suck it up, baby,” Elora huffs.
“Elora, do you have a phone so we can call our folks and tell them where we are?” Tommy interjects.
“Yes, it’s on a cord, you’ll have to come with me.”
I grumble all the way to where the cord phone is hanging.
Tommy calls all our parents and tells them we’re staying the night at a friend’s. Elora then flutters upstairs to change into her pyjamas, finally leaving us alone.
“No way, no how!” Jack shouts as soon as she left.
“It’s one night,” Tommy pleads. “Don’t go outside.”
Jack blows a piece of his hair from his face and scans us. “I’ll stay. Only because if I leave, you’ll be the only guy here.”
“Thank you,” Tommy says, relieved.
“Yeah, yeah, but you owe me one.” Jack grunts as he playfully shoves Tommy. The two boys laugh and start play fighting.
I lean on Bexley’s shoulder and yawn. She carries me over to the couch. “Go ahead, rest, you had a long day,” she whispers as she sets me down.
“Tell Tommy he owes me one too,” I yawn, before drifting off.
Everyone’s asleep. Ruthie’s on the couch downstairs, the boys are in the room next door and Elora’s peacefully snoring away.
I turn on my side, trying to block out the sound of the wind blowing.
After ten minutes, it becomes obvious that I won’t be sleeping tonight, so I decide to take a walk. Usually when I can’t sleep I go for a run outside, but obviously that’s not happening tonight either.
I’m careful not to trip over anything on my way out, I definitely do not want to wake Elora up.
The steps groan at my weight, I wince every time they make a noise, but luckily no one stirs.
I reach the bottom and turn towards the den. Maybe Eloise left the ring out and I can see it again.
Tommy didn’t want Ruthie to wake up alone on the couch so I carried her upstairs to my bed. So I’m stuck on this old couch. To be honest I acted like I cared, but I really don’t. I don’t think I’ll sleep much tonight.
The wind howls outside and I hear the waves crash. Welcome to Sable Island, I think.
Suddenly something creaks and I instinctively pull my switchblade out and aim it at where the noise is coming from.
I freeze, my hand flinches and I quickly try to hide my blade, but I know she saw it.
“Uh, um, hey Bexley,” My words stumble. Get control of yourself.
She tentatively steps forward. “You’re not planning on stabbing anyone, right?”
“No! I just use it for, uh carving.” Why can’t I think before I act?
Bexley gives me a small smile. “I was joking. Geez, relax.”
I let out a small laugh, “I’m just tired, that’s all.”
Bexley flits over and falls onto the couch. “Same, but I just can’t sleep.”
“It’s just eerie here.”
Suddenly her eyes widen, “Oh, my gosh, where’s Ruthie!?”
“Upstairs. Tommy thought she would be more comfortable closer to him.”
“So Jack Callaway, Sable Island’s bad boy, gave up his cosy bed for a ten-year-old girl?” Bexley teases.
“I guess I do have some good deep down in me.”
“I like you better than I thought I would,” Bexley blurts out.
I frown, “What do you mean?”
She fumbles with her jacket’s zipper, “I mean, you’re actually—nice, and I know you care. About Tommy.”
“We’ve been friends since we were kids.” I try to hide my nervousness, she’s staring at me with her bright green eyes.
“Jack,” she takes my arm.
“Oh, my gosh, look!” Bexley jumps up.
There is Auntie Elsie outside walking along the beach, the wind almost lifting her off the ground.
Bexley’s out the door before I even know how to react. I finally come to my senses and take off after her.
I’m screaming at the old woman, the sand flies out from under my feet and I fall to the ground, still screaming.
Jack pulls me up and I take off once again.
Elsie is heading for the sea,
“ELSIE!!! STOP!!! COME BACK!!!” I shout.
The woman turns and scowls, she doesn’t know where I am, but she can hear me.
I’m awakened by some commotion outside, at first I think it’s just from the storm outside, until I hear screams, human screams.
I shoot up and race down the steps. I’m out the door before I know it and barrelling across the island until I reach who I faintly make out is Bexley.
“What’s—going—on. Are—you—okay?” I wheeze.
Bexley just points at Auntie Elsie, who is wading into the water, and Jack, who’s trying to drag her out. “I tried to stop her, but she wouldn’t listen.”
“Auntie Elsie!” I call.
“Get these blasted children off of me!” She pushes Jack into the water, and continues walking.
“You’ll drown out there!” I try to reason with her.
“Nonsense! I’m a five-year swimming champion and the waves aren’t even that high.”
“Why are you doing this?” Bexley shouts back. We make it to the water and she runs in.
Great, my little sister’s here. “Go back, Ruthie!” This wind will certainly blow her away.
“Auntie Elsie, let’s go inside, you can show me all your swimming trophies,” I persuade. The waves keep pushing me back, but I’m determined to get to her.
“I have to see her, she wants to see me too.”
“You’ll see her one day, but not today,” I approach.
Then BAM! I scream as Auntie Elsie falls into my arms, “Oh, my goodness, Elsie!”
I look up and see a smirking Jack. “Relax. I just knocked her out, so we can take her back.”
“She’s an old woman, head trauma could kill her!”
“But it didn’t, and hurry, the waves are gettin’ bigger.” Jack picks up her feet and we drag Auntie Elsie through the heavy water.
Ruthie’s wrapped tight around me and my eyes are squeezed shut. I’m scared, scared Elsie realized she couldn’t swim too late, and scared that Jack and Bexley have drowned in the waves.
I squeeze my sister tighter, she’s crying too. This isn’t the end, Sable Island isn’t ready to lose Jack. I hear a scream, and Ruthie whimpers.
It seems like a century passes. Rain starts pouring down and thunder is rolling.
“Tommy!” My heart skips.
I release Ruthie, still grasp her hand but tear across to him.
“You’re alive!” I hug him and he laughs.
“Damn straight I am.”
“Is she?” Ruthie squeaks.
“Yes, Jack just bumped her very hard on the head,” Bexley grunts.
“Well, don’t just stand there, help us!” Jack instructs.
So there we were, four kids carrying an unconscious blind woman across the sand to an old shabby house.
We get Elsie inside and onto the couch, where my inner boss starts taking control.
“Ruthie, go get her dry clothes. Tommy, heat up some tea. Jack, start a fire in the fireplace.”
I sit down and gently shake the poor woman. She stirs then groans.
“Where am I?” Auntie Elsie croaks.
“We brought you back home.”
She searches for my hand, finds it and clasps it, “My dear girl, I do know you mean best, but I am dying. I’m old and sick.”
“It’s my time and I’m ready to say goodbye. Just—give this back to her, so I can meet her on the other side.” With one final smile, Elsie goes limp. My whole body chokes up. She’s gone.
They always say, “The end is just the beginning,” and our adventure has just started.
It’s been a week since Elsie’s death. In her last breath, she gave Bexley Mrs. Copeland’s wedding ring and asked us to return it to her.
So we went home, gathered a few supplies and went on our way.
We are going to find Sable Island’s Pale Lady, because somewhere on this 44-km island, she is waiting for us.
“So you think you’re gonna stay?” Jack and I are walking along the shore. The waves remind me of that fatal night, but Jack being with me, it doesn’t hurt as much.
“I’m not sure. My Mum says she wants to start up a cranberry business here, but my dad and friends are all back in Kentville.”
“But you’ll visit?”
“I don’t know, won’t that make me a,” I twist my face, “tourist?”
He laughs, “You can be an honorary Sable Island Resident.”
“Deal,” I hold out my hand for him to shake.
He shakes my hand back, but lingers before pulling me in and hugging me. He smells like beach, bonfire and fresh air—wait—I take a another sniff—no, he smells like Sable Island, home.
Elora lets me try on her big yellow bow, she says yellow’s my colour.
We’re sitting in the sand, well, Elora’s sitting on Tommy’s jacket so she doesn’t get dirty.
“You know I would love to be related to a ghost,” I tell her.
“Maybe,” she sighs. “Oh Ruthie, look!”
We both watch as two ponies, Misty and the black mare, are walking side by side. They neigh every now and then or nudge each other.
“Flicka,” Elora whispers.
“I’m naming the black mare Flicka, from the movie.”
She gasps. “Once we find this ghost and return her ring, you and I are having another sleepover and watching Flicka.”
“Um, okay,” I giggle and I actually do feel like having a sleepover.
Flicka and Misty. It has a nice ring to it.
The five of us, a boy, my best friend, too smart for his own good, a girl, whose eyes dance and whose every touch makes me nervous, a little sister learning about life, a priss who can be the most surprising, and me, a known troublemaker, a bad boy that maybe is a little bit good, are gathered around the bonfire. We’re somewhere on the island, maybe we’re lost or maybe we’re not that far from home, regardless, we’re here on Sable Island, and that’s pretty damn great.
by Jorja Taylor © 2019
Grade 8, Kings Rural High School, Cambridge, Nova Scotia
Submitted to the Sable In Words writing contest
Sable Island Institute