The day was finally coming to a close; the friends had mostly all gone home and the house was quiet. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not necessarily good, either. Not when you are the one left to sit up with the dead from eleven pm till three in the morning.
Her best friend for the last 20 years, Annie had died just two days past and
today had been brought from the funeral home to the family house for viewing
and a wake. This was still the custom in the rural areas of South
Carolina in the mid 1940's. The family had been worn out after greeting
all the neighbors and friends that had come to pay their respects. Of
course, many of them were just there for the food and maybe a nip from Mr.
Ramsey's flask. He really wasn't much of a drinker, but once in a while
you could see him and some friend or another slip quietly outside to "get
Miss Doris had sat next to the coffin from dark till eleven that evening and
she had just gone upstairs to her bed for the night. Louise was up from
Georgia and she would be relieving Jolynn at three.
Technically, it was relatives that were supposed to do the sitting up, but
they all thought of Jolynn as just another of the family. It had been
that way since she met Annie.
They had met at the corner store just a few days after Annie and her mother,
father and the rest had moved into the area twenty years back. They had
become fast friends and remained that way from then on. It was rumored at
the one room school they attended that they were really sisters, switched at
birth and just now reunited. It was also rumored that they had started
the story. They never denied it. Mostly they giggled about it in
the quiet places where they would meet and discuss all the things proper young
ladies didn't talk about. Like, well, you know. Sometimes they
would spend the night at each other’s house and sit most of the night just
talking or being quiet and growing into adulthood.
In that respect, this night was like so many others. Just she and Annie,
Jolynn enjoyed visiting with Annie. There were always people coming
and going. There was the house, as well. Big, like the
family. It seemed to have a character all its own. It was an old
two story kind of farmhouse, though there was really no farm attached to
it. A large front porch spanned the entire front with the door set right
in the middle to balance it out. As you entered the main hall, Annie’s
room was to the left, looking over the porch. She and her husband, M. L.
had occupied it since moving in when Annie came down sick. Originally, it had been the living room, and
would be, again. Across the hall was Nellie's room. She
was Annie's little sister and one of Jolynn's favorites. She’d had polio
and walked with crutches, but was still a lot of fun.
When Annie died a couple of days back, Jolynn was devastated. She
cried throughout the night. Her young husband was no help at all.
He kept trying to get her to eat or drink or some such nonsense. All she
wanted was for him to leave her alone and let her get these terrible feelings
out of her heart! After hours of his unqualified failure to ease her
burdens, John acquiesced and let her be. Some things are only possible if
done alone. Once done with the crying,
she made her way to the house to help in any way she could.
Now she sat, with her book on her lap and her memory in her past. Just she and Annie. She was thinking about some of the times they
had sat and talked well into the night as girls. Talked about everything and nothing. They had planned out their futures and
decided what kind of husbands they were going to have and how many
children. So far, she’d had none.
They would ramble on until they fell quiet or began telling ghost
stories. They would try to out do each
other. They would compete to see who
could tell the scariest. This was where
her mind had settled when the grandfather clock in the hall struck 1a.m.
As the chime faded away, she heard another sound that froze her to the
chair. It was the rustle of fabric as it
was moved. She glanced to her left just
as Annie sat straight up in the casket!
Every nerve in Jolynn screamed run, but she did not move. Not until the next sound. This was a great, sad, hollow moan … from
Annie. Then Jolynn made for the
door. She later said that she only
touched the floor once from where she sat to the porch, she was so scared.
When they found Jolynn an hour or so later, it was down the road, in her
house, at the back in her bedroom, hidden behind her bed. Her scream had woken the whole first floor and
they had rushed to see what had happened.
When they got to the front room, they had discovered a still dead Annie,
sitting up and an empty chair where Jolynn had been a few minutes earlier.
Jolynn said that at the time of this incident, she had been remembering the
$5.00 she had borrowed from Annie a few days prior and was certain that Annie
had returned from the dead to claim the debt.
Jolynn never came to the Henderson home again, though she said that she
just never had the time.
When Annie died a couple of days back, Jolynn was devastated. She cried throughout the night. Her young husband was no help at all. He kept trying to get her to eat or drink or some such nonsense. All she wanted was for him to leave her alone and let her get these terrible feelings out of her heart! After hours of his unqualified failure to ease her burdens, John acquiesced and let her be. Some things are only possible if done alone.