For Lisa, for everything. Thank you.
'Twas durin' the time of the Great Famine, that a lad by the name of Seamus O'Neill came into the possession of his father's homestead. Save his home, all that remained of his beloved family was his sister Siobhan. His Da and Ma, Padraig and Maire O'Neill had died o' the consumption that, like a dog with its master, followed on the heels of the famine. Knowing that his destiny would not be met in Ireland, Seamus left the green hills of Donegal for the shores of America, hoping to make his fortune in the gold fields of California. Siobhan, a well schooled lass, left Finnbaile to travel to the English Isle, and then northward to Scotland.
In Heathsborough, Siobhan found employ with the family MacGregor, their two children Annabel and Robert having reached the age when education becomes needful. Siobhan was happy in Scotland, spending her days playing with the children and teaching them their letters, and spending her nights sewing small dolls as gifts for the other girls of Heathsborough.
Of course, the very best of days were those times when Siobhan would receive a missive from her brother in America, who had signed on as a blaster for the American Railroad. The letters explained that with the money that he had made while working on the Railroad, Seamus made his way across the west to California where he found his gold and got himself rich.
Seamus settled in the young town of Berkeley and then sent for his sister and his family's ancestral home, an ancient manor house built on the banks of the river Finn. His house arrived, stone by stone and timber by timber. Yet his sister did not. Siobhan, happy in Heathsborough as a teacher of the young (for as her skills with Rob and Anna grew, she expanded her classes to include the other children of the town), sent her brother a polite letter telling him that she intended to stay in Scotland. Her decision was also tempered with the flush of young love. For Siobhan had indeed been touched by the gentler of emotion's fire. Seamus, a touch displeased with his sister's stubborn refusal to heed his wishes and come to California, made plans to take ship to England. Alan Drury had offered Seamus seven bars of good yellow gold for Siobhan's hand in marriage and the Irishman was certainly not going to let an opportunity like that pass him up.
Flame haired Heather MacPherson, herb-wife and and seller of boggle-be-gones was the lass that all the men in Heathsborough lusted for and all the women despised. Much to the chagrin of her suitors, only one lucky person held the strings of Heather's heart. Siobhan O'Neill had woven those threads into her own life the moment she appeared in the herbalist's hut, seeking some willow tea to calm the pains of her monthly cycle. It was Siobhan who approached Heather as she gathered fresh herbs in the forest one spring eve dressed only in her sleeping chemise. From that night onward, the two lasses met in the forest to tryst in the rich earth of the heath.
They would have been happy that way forever and aye had not Rob and Anna grew curious as to why their favorite adult had no interest in her gentlemen callers. So they followed her home one day after a day's schoolin' and were shocked when Siobhan ran into Mistress MacPherson in the forest. Along with the traditional greetings, the two women exchanged heated kisses and passionate caresses. This was too much for young Anna, who collapsed at the sight. Rob was made of sterner stuff. The youth carried his incapacitated sister back to the village and told his parents of the evil they had witnessed. The village elder was summoned and they went to call upon Miss MacPherson.
The dignified old man nearly died of apoplexy when he burst into Miss MacPherson's cottage to discover the two women locked in the throes of "unholy passion." Heather and Siobhan were summarily separated and arrested. Neither woman would confess that the other had "unduly influenced" her, so both were convicted of "corrupting the morals of the town" and "providing a wicked influence on the minds of the young". (Poor Anna MacGregor still hadn't recovered...she spent most of her youth cloistered away at a nearby abbey.) They were sentenced to death by stoning.
Constable Ewan MacTaggart tied the two lasses to a post at the center of town while the rest of the townsfolk gathered 'round and began heaving every sized rock imaginable at the couple. Heather stood silent and proud, watching as the people she had known all her life stole that life away from her. A sharp rock to the temple ended the bruising nightmare for her.
Siobhan screamed and pleaded with the villagers, but they turned a deaf ear on her cries. A well thrown stone crushed her windpipe and she fell silent, gagging on her pleas. A second stone connected with her skull and delivered her death too. Satisfied that justice had been done, the people of Heathsborough left the bodies to rot where they hung, a warning to any other who would seek to defy their laws.
Siobhan however, was not dead. The rock that struck her only served to knock her unconscious. She woke to see her brother Seamus cutting her free. Seamus had arrived in Heathsborough only hours before the trial and stoning. He watched the trial, heard the evidence against his sister and did nothing. Unable to find the strength to deny the charges made against his own kin, Seamus allowed the trial to go unchallenged. Siobhan's brother watched the townsfolk murder Heather out of piousness and he stood by, he watched his sister beg for mercy and receive none and did nothing, his own religious wrath telling him that she deserved the punishment. But when the townsfolk left his sibling to rot, his conscience would let him be still no more. Figuring to give her at least a decent burial, he began to cut her free of the constricting ropes. Finding her alive convinced him that his fears of eternal damnation were groundless and he took her home to California to live with him.
In California, Seamus married his sweetheart Molly Duncan and they had a son whom they named Sean. Siobhan never married, her grief over the loss of her Heather combined with the villager's vindictive stones to leave her speechless and daft. Seamus and Molly cared for Siobhan as well as their own son Sean. Tragically, Sean did not inherit his father's innate sense of joy, always wearing a frown instead of a smile. Mean spirited and wicked before he could walk, Sean grew up hating his crazy old aunt who roamed the halls of the O'Neill manor. Seamus died in a mining accident when Sean was just 16, leaving the boy as head of the family fortune.
The first thing that Sean did was order his "wretchedly daft old auntie" confined to the attic of the manor house. No one was to take the woman food or water unless he approved it first, which he rarely did. Only his mother Molly, went against her son's wishes. But when Sean discovered that his mother defied him, he had her committed to an asylum for the mentally incompetent. Still Siobhan did not die, she lived because of the love of her Heather.
Heather MacPherson, lover of Siobhan O'Neill died on that post in the center of Heathsborough, Scotland, and when she faced her maker, she was given a choice: she could either move on to the Blessed Isles or stay behind as a guardian of the woman she chose to give her heart to. It didn't even take Heather thirty counts to make her decision. She chose to stay behind.
For as long as Siobhan lived, Heather was there by her side, aiding her in what small ways she could. It was Heather's ghostly hands that fetched food and water for Siobhan when Molly no longer could. It was Heather's ghostly arms that held her beloved Siobhan when she died, cold and alone three years after being locked away in the O'Neill family attic.
Siobhan's death did not release Heather from her pledge, to the ghost's consternation. So she waited to be reunited with her lover, a Scottish ghost haunting an Irish house in Berkeley, California.
It all started with the end of her nose. It went numb. And stayed that way for weeks. Finally, Professor Eileen Damien, a history teacher at U.C. Berkeley went to a doctor. After months of tests, it was determined that they didn't know what the hell was wrong with her nose. Which had decided to feel again. So she ignored it and went on with her life.
But then her eyeballs dried up. Really dry. Not just the dry you feel when you have allergies, but so damn dry she couldn't open them in the morning without using eyedrops. So back she went. More tests. Still no answer.
After two years of various body parts failing for no reason, then returning to a working status, Professor Damien was ready to give up. Especially when her legs quit. One day, she just, couldn't walk. And that was that. No more morning runs, no more midnight skips down to the corner market for mint chip ice cream. And the doctors still didn't know what was wrong with her. It was all very damn depressing.
So she sought out counseling. And was advised to "do something adventurous". Which led her to a public auction where, much to her complete surprise, she bought a house. Not just any house, but an Irish manor house in the Berkeley Hills. Which fascinated the professor to no end, because her specialty was history. Celtic history, to be specific. The academic in her could hardly resist the challenge of discovering what an Irish house was doing in Berkeley, which gave her a reason to live. The house, and all it's questionable contents, was hers.
She moved in, wheelchair and all the accompanying detritus of her un-named disease, and began to catalogue the contents. She wrote paper upon paper on just the decor. Learning the technical names for the varying styles alone took hours. For weeks, her head crawled with terms like "mock stuffed fushia torqued brass with antique raisin gold trim". Soon, she began to publish these papers, and the Berkeley O'Neill manor became something of a legend in academic and antique circles.
Professor Damien cut her teaching hours back until she was only doing lecture courses, and continued to explore as many areas of the manor that she could. The plumbing, she discovered, had to be seen to be believed. One of the only areas of the house that eluded her voracious curiosity was the attic. Because the only access to the upper floor was through a pull down staircase, Eileen had to let that room remain unexplored for the first five years of her ownership of the O'Neill manor.
Five years almost to the day that she moved in, Eileen woke up, pulled herself into a sitting position and readied herself to slip into her wheelchair like she did every day. But today, something was different. Something had changed. Her toes tingled. For the first time in five years, she could feel her toes. Not daring to hope, Professor Damien maneuvered her legs over the side of her bed and sent a brief, but heartfelt prayer skyward. Muscles long unused protested as she put weight on her feet, pound by pound, but with a whoop of pure joy, she stood on her two shaking legs. Of course, her legs gave out and she plopped back down again, but that was all the impetus she needed to begin working out.
With the goal of exploring the house's attic in mind, Eileen forced herself to go to regular physical therapy sessions every other day. Within a month, she had enough strength to walk to the kitchen from her bedroom. (A not inconsiderable distance, especially when you're bedbound and thirsty.)
She now felt it was time for her reward. Taking a cell phone with her in case something happened, Professor Damien went to the hallway where the stairway to the attic was concealed, found the rope pull and lowered the old, steep stairs. One step after another held up under her tentative steps and finally, she stood in the dust filled attic.
Coughing and sneezing, she made her way over to a shuttered window, threw open the wooden covers and let in the first breath of air that the room had felt in who knew when. At some point in the manor's history, it had been wired for electricity so there were a couple of bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling. A light switch appeared under her searching fingers. A simple flip of a switch illuminated the dust and cobweb strewn space much more brightly than the single window.
What was left of the original attic was about ten foot by ten foot square and filled with boxes and trunks. Sometime in the past, someone had sealed off the original spacious storage area and made it into a bedroom. Now it was just a mausoleum for various arachnids and eons of junk. Against one wall was an old fashioned four poster bed, the tattered remains of a quilt folded at its foot. Eileen was in heaven--albeit one that made her sneeze--it was heaven all the same. She hobbled over to the first trunk, opened it and peered inside. Immediately her attention was grabbed by several small leatherbound books.
Reverently, Professor Damien removed a book and began to read. She was surprised and delighted to discover that it was the journal of one Siobhan O'Neill, one of the original O'Neill family. And apparently, the original owners of the house. Soon the history teacher was engrossed in Siobhan's life and she had moved the trunk over to sit in front of the old four poster bed where she ended up sitting cross-legged in the center of the ancient mattress.
Eileen worked her way through the journals, following Siobhan's life from the rose coloured vision of a child to the somewhat jaded outlook of an adult. She laughed with her, cried with her and mourned with her the loss of her parents. Reading about Heather MacPherson was a complete shock to the academic.
It wasn't so much that Siobhan was gay that surprised her. After all, she did live in the Bay Area. No, what surprised her was the fact that the Irishwoman so readily wrote about it in her diary, with seemingly no fear of recrimination. (This of course was food for thought, and possibly the subject of yet another paper.) The last entry in the final journal was penned on February 14, 1900.
"I go to meet my green-eyed lover today. She of the ruddy locks, sea-gemmed eyes and velvet lips will take my body to the pearly gates and back. We will meet on the path where she always waits for me and together go to the shore of the loch. My body burns with an unquenched thirst that will only be slaked by her love. Oh, Heather MacPherson, you own my heart forever and aye."
"A poet she certainly wasn't." Eileen commented to herself. Though inside, she smiled at the romantic fumblings. The professor was a ne'er do well herself when it came to matters of the heart. Unable to roust even the politest of interest in any of her fellow academics, she preferred to be at her computer or roaming the halls of a library. The fact that she had just spent most of her waking life confined to a wheelchair hadn't helped matters much either. However, the thought of someone "waiting" for her made every "warm-fuzzy" bell in her body ring, and for just one moment, she wished that she were Siobhan. She closed the journal with a sigh, wondering what had become of the young lovers.
The rest of the trunk yielded little...some tattered clothes from a bygone era, a couple of age curled photographs, a ragged doll and a delicate wooden box. The box crumbled to dust as Eileen gently removed it, leaving a tarnished celtic cross on a chain dangling from her fingertips. Blowing away the remaining scraps of the box, Eileen studied the device before absently slipping the chain over her head. The patina covered silver cross was whorled with dizzying spirals and celtic knotwork, and the pendant was center-set with an Irish Cairngorm. The cross was chilly against her skin only briefly before it warmed, causing the professor to completely forget about its presence.
She moved on to the next box and the next, until she discovered more diaries, these belonging to Seamus O'Neill, Siobhan's brother. It was in the tiny, crabbed script of the master of the O'Neill fortunes that Eileen discovered what had happened to the lovers. Time slipped away, and by the time she'd finished the story, her face was streaked with dust and tears.
When she closed the last of the journals, both Seamus' honestly simple writings and then his son Sean's nasty little ramblings, the sun had set and her belly reminded her that she hadn't eaten anything all day. Regretfully, she set aside the remaining trunks and boxes for another day.
Her head still spinning with the stories of the past, Eileen made her way back down the stairs. Two steps down, that awful numb sensation began to return in her feet. Her balance faltered. Screwing her courage up to take a tumble, Eileen set one foot in front of the other and kept trying to descend. She felt the fall coming, but to her surprise, she felt herself be caught in soft hands.
"Och, cannae have ye fallin' o'er the likes o' me." an almost silent voice, heavily accented drifted passed her ear. Shaking her head, Professor Damien chalked up both the voice and the "catch" as evidence of her great fatigue and hunger.
"Come on Eileen, wake up now. Just because the rest of you is going numb doesn't mean your brain is." the professor whispered to herself.
The nameless disease came and went in sporadic spurts, allowing Eileen and her "mysterious" helper to maintain a silent stand-off for many years. Which was just fine, since neither woman was willing to go beyond the "safe" boundary of "imaginary" happenings. Professor Damien's reasoning was that she didn't wish to be committed, Heather's that she didn't want to "care" about Eileen. But the more incapacitated Eileen grew, the more she couldn't deny that something was helping her. At one point, bedridden due to kidney failure, Professor Damien woke desperately wanting a glass of water, but her caretaker hadn't shown up yet. Grumpy and thirsty, the history teacher lay in bed until she heard the tap turn on. Thinking that her graveyard shift nurse had finally arrived, she opened her mouth to give the woman a piece of her mind. Her mouth stayed open, and tried to make a goodly drop further when the glass floated into the room all by itself and settled onto the nightstand.
Heather completely enjoyed her role as the "silent" partner in Eileen's academic lifestyle. Being dead had given her the ability to see into the world of the mortals and frankly, she had no desire to be "discovered". From what she could tell, that would only lead to being gawked at by strangely dressed "scientists". Which was definitely not Heather's style. So, she stayed quiet, letting Eileen enjoy her fantasy that she was "imagining things".
Once, Eileen was outside weeding in the garden and stood up too quickly. Instead of falling flat on her butt, those same gentle hands caught her and steadied her until she could stand on her own. Cups of scalding hot coffee that should have spilled on her lap when her hands went numb mysteriously righted themselves in midair, snack foods appeared on her desk when she would be up late working on yet another paper, and then there was the harp.
Eileen had taken up the small harp after being confined to her wheelchair for almost two years. Surprisingly, she was pretty good at it, and the soft thrum of the strings against her fingers was somehow comforting. But then she lost the manual dexterity to play and had to leave the beautiful wooden instrument on its stand, gathering dust.
To Heather, the loss of the professor's musical fumblings was incredibly painful. Memories of listening to Siobhan play as they sat together on sunlit moors were lost when Eileen could no longer play. And when Eileen would sit in her chair, bathed in the golden afternoon sunlight, picking out some ancient air, Heather could almost believe that it was Siobhan that played, and not some stranger. The ghost missed this, and she knew that the professor did too, so she attempted to imitate Eileen's fumblings.
At first, Eileen passed the brief bits of music off as the wind, but as the notes got closer and closer to the same music that she so dearly missed playing, she began to force herself to take a closer look at the strangeness surrounding her.
The final straw that convinced her that something unusual was definitely going on was the doors. They opened for her almost constantly. Not the "touch it and it pops open" kind of open, but the "reach for handle door opens automatically" kind of open. Definitely freaky. Definitely worth looking into. But who was she going to contact? Ghostbusters? Yeah, right. This was the Real World, buddy. So she applied her brain and decided to do her own "ghostbusting".
First, she determined that there weren't any of the usual "cold" spots in the house that would be attributed to a haunting. (Heather snickered silently. Of course there were no "cold" spots...she wouldn't have wanted her beloved Siobhan to be chilled and she saw no reason to change that for the professor.) Next, she borrowed a pair of night vision goggles from a fellow teacher who was a war games enthusiast. No odd light shapes. (Heather spent several hours guffawing over that one...she was a Spirit, not a blob of light.) The professor even got a cat, a bright orange tabby she named "Spookchaser" or "Spooky" for short. But Spook preferred to sit in a patch of sunlight rather than to chase after denizens of the unseen world.
About to give up, Professor Damien began pacing up and down the halls, twisting the celtic cross, which she wore almost constantly, around her fingers. She finally wandered into her room and stared at her reflection in the mirror above her dresser in frustration. That's when IT happened.
The more she stared, the more she could make out the vague outline of a beautiful woman standing about three paces behind her. Eileen whirled around, but no one was there. She turned back around, and this time the woman appeared quite clearly in the mirror. The spirit's translucent form did nothing to hide the ruddiness of her hair nor the sparkle in her forest green eyes...eyes that danced with merriment over the professor's slack-jawed look. To top off her appearance she was dressed in what appeared to be the actor's rejects for the Blackpoint Forest Renaissance Faire.
"I s'pose ye've caught me fair and square then, lass." the apparition whispered.
"Oh God." was all that Eileen could say.
"Nae, not him. 'Tis not his bailiwick."
"Christ." Spooky chose this moment to jump up on the dresser and demand Eileen's attentions. She absently began rubbing his head. The cat's thrumming purr provided a backdrop for the conversation.
"Nae, not 'im either, lass." The ghost grinned.
"Someone who wanted t'see that things went on their merry way."
"What?" Now Eileen was confused.
"Don't fash yerself, lass. 'Tis nae worth tha trouble. 'Fice it t'say that I'm 'ere b'cause o' me heart." and after she wrapped her mind around the spirit's thick brogue (Scottish for sure), she began to put two and two together.
"You're Siobhan!" she blurted. The ghost began to chuckle.
"Good guess lass but no, I'm not tha shade o' tha teacher. I be Heather MacPherson." as she introduced herself, she curtsied low, exposing an ample amount of ghostly cleavage. Eileen's eyes bugged out.
"My, they uh, certainly made those things low cut." the professor stammered out. "I'm uh, Eileen Damien, professor of Celtic History." again, Eileen wrapped her mind around another concept: Her ghost was Siobhan's dead lover.
"Pleased t'meetcha, Lady Damien." another curtsy.
And so it went. Heather and Eileen got to know one and other, and eventually Eileen figured out that Heather was tied, not to the house, but to the Celtic cross pendant that originally belonged to Siobhan O'Neill. Spooky eventually consented to flip his tail whenever Heather would enter a room, which allowed Eileen to stop carrying the pocket sized mirror that she'd taken to using to determine if Heather was around.
By the time Eileen turned 35 years old the ghost and the professor had gotten so used to each other that neither one could remember a time when the other wasn't a part of their existences. And if people thought it strange that Eileen Damien never went anywhere and never had any visitors, yet could be heard in her gardens chatting merrily away with someone, they just chalked it up to academic eccentricities.
Of course, one the most endearing traits of Heather's became a bone of contention between the professor and her ghost. Heather was chivalrous to a fault. She would open every door, bring every glass of water, lift all the plates...generally do all the "little things" leaving Eileen feeling like she was a bit daft. One day, she'd had enough. She'd been on her way to the bathroom, wheeling her chair down the hall while Heather opened all the doors for her when she just...stopped. Looking at where she figured the ghost would be she said calmly, "Please close that door."
"I beg pardon?"
"I said: Close. The. Damn. Door. I would like to open it myself." Eileen's teeth began to grit. Spooky poked his nose around the corner, saw that his Momma was Angry, and skedaddled off elsewhere.
"Now why would ye want t'do that?" Heather scowled at the professor, dropping her hands to rest on her hips and tapping her foot impatiently.
"Because I'm not a child nor am I incapable of doing it. I may be in a wheelchair, but I can still open a damn door!"
"But ye have nae got a Laird t'help ye out." Heather replied in a perfectly reasonable tone of voice.
"I don't need a "laird" to help me. I'm perfectly capable of doing it on my own." Eileen could feel her anger beginning to boil over.
"And that's another thing. Eileen Damien, you are a mighty attractive lookin' woman! Why 'aven't ye found yerself an appreciative 'usband?" At the word "attractive" Eileen began to snicker. Then chuckle. Then out and out laughter erupted from the woman, causing her to double over in the chair until Heather couldn't figure out if the professor was crying or had lost her mind. The spirit hovered anxiously over the hysterical woman until the giggles subsided.
"Attractive. Me? Now that's a good one! C'mon Heather, even a blind monkey could tell that I'm no great shakes in the looks department." Well, Eileen wasn't ugly, really. Mouse brown hair framed a face that was a bit too thin and a pair of wire rimmed glasses brightened a pair of muddy green eyes. Her cheekbones were maybe a bit too high and because of the strange sickness that plagued her, her weight fluxuated anywhere from too thin to a little pudgy. (At the moment, she was edging toward "pudgy".)
"'Tis not your outward appearance I compliment, Lady Damien, 'tis your soul."
"Oh." Spooky, reappearing in the hall and noticing that his Momma wasn't upset anymore, made a beeline for the professor's unoccupied lap and with a half-gainer worthy of an Olympic Champion, leapt through Heather's shade and landed with a thud and a purr. "Oof!. Ow. Spooky just reminded me why I was here in the hall in the first place. Damn, I gotta go!" Eileen rolled her chair forward, intending to open the door to the bathroom when it, as usual, popped open. She glared at Heather.
"My apologies. 'Tis a habit." Heather shrugged apologetically. Eileen sighed resignedly.
"I know. Just, try? Please? I know there will be times when I really need your help...but there are times I'd just like to do things by myself too. And damnit Heather...we've known each other for almost five years...call me Eileen!"
"I shall most certainly attempt too, La...Eileen." the ghost, a bit flustered by the professor's behaviour, vanished.
On Eileen's 40th birthday, things could not have been more perfect. Her body was actually functioning completely, her first book was doing well in the stores and Heather had finally learned to let the professor do some of the "little" things by herself. The only topic of argument between them that remained was Eileen's almost total lack of interest in finding a mate--male, female or Venusian.
"I guess I'm just not inclined to be with anyone." she had told the ghost one afternoon frustratedly. So Heather made up her mind to find the "perfect" person for Eileen. Not knowing whether or not the living woman was attracted to men or women or both, she concentrated on watching Eileen very carefully whenever the woman would sit down to watch TV. Nothing presented itself.
Growing slightly frustrated by the behavior of her living "charge", Heather began to slyly plant the idea that perhaps Eileen should go back to teaching more than just once in a blue moon. Since the professor felt that this was a good idea, and since she also felt that maybe it would get Heather to leave her in peace, she agreed. So Eileen Damien began to teach two classes a week. Ancient Celtic History and drawing on her experiences with Heather, Scottish Peasant Life.
It was in the Celtic History class that she met Marc Andrews. Marc was her Teacher's Assistant, a pre-med student working on his minor while he got the courage to continue on with his medical schooling. He was also very charming and very handsome. Eileen found herself entertaining the red haired, green eyed young man almost everyday after class. Heather vanished into the background, always watching, but never interfering with the budding romance.
The ghost was at the same time both pleased, and upset over the liaison and she realized that she needed to determine why she felt so...jealous...when Eileen was so obviously happy. It never even occurred to Heather that she just might care about the professor as more than just a friend. So off in the background of Eileen's life Heather drifted, until the only times when the two would talk were when Marc was away at school and later, when he would be working late.
Eileen learned to desire, then actively seek out Marc's flirtatious attentions until one evening, over dinner and a little too much wine, she offered the younger man the most precious gift of all...herself. He accepted the gift for what it was, and from that moment on, a rare sense of love and sharing grew between them.
Eileen had decided long ago not to have children, avoiding the possibility of passing her mysterious illness along to an innocent child. Marc and Eileen stayed together for fifteen years as he finished med school and then devoted many years studying the professor's illness, but to no avail. During this time, Heather kept to herself, not inferring with her Lady's relationship or making herself obvious. Eileen noticed the ghost's absence, but didn't mention it, preferring to enjoy the company of the living.
When he was at last offered a very lucrative research position at Johns Hopkins, Marc found himself unable to say no. And although he pledged to use his resources to better research her illness and they separated amiably, somewhere inside Eileen knew she was being abandoned. She knew that what she and Marc shared wasn't romantic love, but it had been the closest thing she'd ever felt. The only other person to touch Eileen so deeply wasn't available, so she had "settled" for Marc's tender friendship.
But losing even that small shred of normalcy killed what was left of Eileen's spirit. Not even the thought of writing any more books nor the challenge of educating young minds could pull Eileen from her funk. As if it had a life of its own, the disease felt her capitulation and moved in. Eileen contracted a severe case of pneumonia and was dying.
Marc tried to get the mortally ill professor to come to the hospital where he would see that she got the best care, but she refused, saying that she wanted to die with dignity. So he accepted her decision and left her in the care of her nurses.
It was at this point, while watching the professor give up on life that it dawned on the ghost why she'd been so jealous of Dr. Marc. She was in love with Eileen. Her own shame at having betrayed her beloved Siobhan's memory sent Heather into a tailspin of emotions, and caused her to briefly disappear from the mortal realm. But finally, late one evening Heather appeared at the ailing professor's bedside, causing the ancient Spooky to peel open one eye and hiss weakly.
"Well now, looks t'me like a certain Lady that I know 'as gone and given up!" said the ghost in her most tsking of tones.
"Go 'way." Eileen croaked.
"Nae m'lass, I would nae be any kind of friend if'n I just abandoned ye to tha tender mercies of yer sickness."
"You'd be the same kind of friend that everyone else in my life has been...a fair weather one." Eileen responded bitterly.
"Nae lass, I'll not a fair weather friend be, but a true friend to thee." Heather's ghostly form seated herself on the edge of the bed and took Eileen's limp hand in hers.
"Then where have you been these past fifteen years?"
"I've been here. I've ne'ere left ye. Watched out for ye, and made sure that yer Laird treated ye right." Eileen's eyes drifted shut, and her breathing shallowed dangerously low. Heather's heart pounded into her throat. Surely she would have the chance...
"He was nae m'laird." Eileen mumbled after a long silence.
"I said, he wasn't my Lord." more clearly this time.
"But why not? Surely ye loved 'im? Surely 'e 'eld yer heart?" Heather was perplexed.
"No, that burden was given to another." a wistful smile tickled the corners of the professor's mouth. Heather cocked her head to one side and let a look of perplexed questioning cross her face. A faint hope tickled the at the doors of the ghost's heart.
"And 'ow come ye ne'ere spoke o'this b'fore?" asked the ghost softly. Eileen coughed as she felt that awful numbness come home to roost in her lungs. Heather glanced and a glass of water floated over and held itself steady as the professor sipped.
"It wouldn't have," a cough interrupted, "done any good." Eileen answered, when she was done.
"Whyever not? There's not a chivalrous man alive that would refuse ye." Heather let a little righteous indignation creep into her voice. Eileen just shook her head.
"No. You don't," she coughed again, "understand. You...had...all the...chivalry...I ever wanted." Blood flecked the corners of Eileen's mouth as she choked out the words. Eileen's eyes started to slide shut. Heather, as stunned as a ghost could be, perched on the edge of the bed, afraid to even fake breathing.
"Eileen, I...love you." Heather blurted the words out before she didn't have the chance to.
"I love ye too, green-eyes." softly spoken, Eileen's reply almost missed Heather's ears. But not the name of love that Siobhan had given her. Green-eyes. The name that the Irish lass had bestowed upon the Scottish woman one night, as they lay in each other's arms. Heather had returned the favor by nick naming Siobhan her "bonny blue" for the sky touched color of Irishwoman's eyes.
"Sio...bhan?" Heather whispered the name like a prayer, not daring to hope.
Eileen's eyes popped open and a strange clarity shined through sky blue orbs. "It was always you, Heather MacPherson. Ye stole me 'eart forever and aye." And then those eyes slipped shut and the battle that the spirit of Eileen Damien, who had once worn the form of Siobhan O'Neill was finally over. Ghostly lips briefly touched slightly warm ones before vanishing in a flash of brilliant light.
When they came to take her away, they never noticed the missing pendant, which had vanished along with the O'Neill ghost. For Heather and Siobhan, their long separation was finally at an end. When she had died, cold and nearly alone in the tiny attic above the manor house in Berkeley, Siobhan had been given a choice similar to Heather's.
Siobhan O'Neill had been slated to be a Teacher, her stoning in the middle of a small Scottish town had destroyed that destiny, so the weavers of fate had offered her a bargain. If she would let them reweave her soul into the tapestry of life, she and Heather would never again have to part. So Siobhan came back, to Teach and to give something of her soul to the minds of the young. Heather never knew of her love's bargain, but Paradise itself couldn't have kept her from waiting for the woman she would love forever and aye.
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The Phantom's Bargain