A Different Kind of Love

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The light fog added a moisture to the air. The coolness of the night wrapped around her like a wet towel, sending a shiver up her spine. She was lucky she knew the area so well, or she could have easily become lost. She looked through the trees at the house where he lived, slightly smiling at the one electric candle burning in the kitchen window.

“He hasn’t forgotten,” she thought. “He promised he’d always leave a light in the window for me.”

She knew how hurt he had been by their fight. She hadn’t meant to say most of the things her anger had made her say that night, and she knew that his outburst and the awful things he had said to her still caused him pain. She also knew he had spent many a restless night, tossing and turning in his empty bed in the lonely house, wishing he could have changed how that evening had gone.

He hadn’t expected her to leave, although he had known she was angry. That much was nothing new. They had spent a lot of time being angry with each other in the months leading up to that night. Immediately after that last argument, they had spent a few hours in stony silence, neither willing to say a word to break the tension, neither apologizing to the other. Pride had been part of it, they both later realized. Foolishness had been an even larger part. The largest component, however, was a mutual fear that the fight would start all over again.

When he awoke the next morning, he realized she was gone. He tried to find her, but she had disappeared. That was ten years ago.

She had always liked the tradition of having a candle in the window to demonstrate welcome and love for someone who is away. The fact that he put it in the kitchen window didn’t surprise her. That was the room where they had spent much of their waking time. Some families seem to live in their kitchen, and that had been the case with them. When one of them was out after dark, they always knew that the other would have that candle lit.

“Farrah, are you sure you’re ready for this?” the voice on her left asked.

“You’re the one who told her she was ready! You’re the one who’s been pushing her to do this. What’s with you, anyway?” the voice on her right scolded.

“What’s with me? What’s with you? You were the one who kept telling her to wait. You were the one who didn’t think she was ready. Are you trying to start something? You’re always so negative!” the woman’s voice on her left complained.

“Be quiet, both of you,” Farrah said. “I’m ready. I have to be. I can’t just lurk in the shadows any more. I have to do this. I have to find out if he still cares.”

“Oh honey, you know he still cares. I told you he still dreams about you a couple of nights a week,” Eleanor, the woman on her left said. “Now come on, give me a hug. You can do this.”

Farrah hugged her. “I don’t know if I’m strong enough. I wonder if he’ll recognize me.”

Torstein, the man on Farrah’s right said, “We’ve been over this a million times. He probably won’t recognize you at first. Ten years is a long time for people in his ‘condition,’ even though it’s no more than the blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things. But on some level, he’ll feel familiarity. He’ll know something has changed in his life. Recognition may take a while, but it should all work out in the end. Just remember what we’ve taught you. Be strong, and make us proud.”

Farrah embraced him and kissed his wrinkled old cheek. “I love you. I hate to leave you. I’m going to miss you both so much.”

“We’ll be around for a while. We’re here to support you if you need it. We won’t go in the house with you, but we’ll see you whenever you come out. And some day, we’ll meet again,” the woman said, her voice sounding strained as she tried not to cry.

“Oh, you women and your tears. Just let the child go,” Torstein said.

Farrah stood up and walked out of the trees onto the lawn. She stared at the house for a long time, gathering her courage. When she looked back to say one last goodbye to the beautiful woman and the gnarled old man who had been her family, her friends, her tutors, and her caretakers for the last ten years, she could barely see them through the swirling fog. But she could hear them, arguing as usual.

“I was not going to cry,” she heard Torstein’s reedy voice say. “Real men don’t cry.”

“OK, sure,” Eleanor’s voice said. “Something got in your eye, I guess.”

“Allergies, that’s what it is. Only weak women cry.”

“Yeah, right. Keep telling yourself that,” Eleanor said.

Farrah grinned through her own tears. “Those two will be like that for all eternity,” she said to herself. Then she squared her shoulders and walked across the lawn toward the house.

It was a bad night for Joseph. He had had a lot of them since Farrah had left. At first, he had been angry with her. “Damn stupid bitch,” he had said that first morning. “She thinks I’ve been too hard on her? Wait till she comes home! I’ll show her what it means to be hard on her!”

His anger was quickly güvenilir bahis replaced by worry. When she hadn’t returned by the following evening, he tried calling her friends. None of them had seen her. None of them knew where she was. Then he called relatives, friends of friends, everyone he could think of. Nothing.

The next day, he filed a missing person report with the police. They were polite and attentive, and they assured him that this kind of thing was not unusual. She was probably staying at a friend’s house, and had sworn them to secrecy, the police said. She would turn up in a day or two when she came to her senses.

He tried to believe them, tried to remain calm. But when he hadn’t heard anything for four days, he went down to the police station and started hounding them for answers. That was when the search really began in earnest, when her trail had already started going cold.

Over the ensuing weeks and months, he occasionally got a bit of news. Usually it was a rumor of a sighting of someone who may have been Farrah, someone who matched her general description. He even was asked to provide a DNA sample, and he had been asked to look at several sets of grisly autopsy photos. But there was no good news. It was as though the ground had opened up and swallowed his beautiful eighteen-year-old daughter without a trace.

On her twenty-first birthday, he spent the day in bed crying. The next day, he went to the cemetery where his wife was buried. He knew that some day, he would need to be strong enough to have a headstone erected with Farrah’s name on it.

Joseph had taken the wedding album with him to the cemetery that day and had spent hours looking at the old photos. Farrah had never known her mother. The doctors had told Joseph that they would do everything possible to save both the mother and the child, but his wife had said that if only one of them was to live, it should be the baby.

He went to the hospital to bring his newborn daughter home to an empty house after the funeral. If it hadn’t been for his mother, he would never have been able to care for the baby in those early dark days. Eventually, he was able to return to work, leaving his daughter with his family on his way to his job, skipping lunch to steal a few moments with her during the day, and taking her home after work.

Thankfully, Farrah was an easy baby to care for. She had a sunny disposition and a ready smile. When she was old enough to understand, Joseph took the little girl to her mother’s grave and tried to explain to her that her mother had loved her so much that she gave her own life so that little Farrah could live.

Farrah had been a cute baby, and she grew into a beautiful child. Joseph loved her with all his heart. Even though he was a single parent, a widower at the age of twenty-two, he was reasonably content. Although there was no wife or mother in the house, they made a good life for themselves, and loved each other deeply.

The problems started in middle school. Joseph had thought he would be prepared for the emotional storms of adolescence, and for a while, the skirmishes with his woman-child could be resolved with some heartfelt discussions and a hug. But as Farrah grew, she became more rebellious. As a young child, she had tested her own limitations by climbing and falling out of trees, competing and excelling in youth sports, throwing herself headlong into musical studies and gymnastics, even trying modeling.

Farrah developed into a gorgeous, desirable young woman. All the local boys saw it. She started testing the limitations her father placed on her. When the subjects of make-up and skimpy clothing came up, Joseph set rules which Farrah promptly broke. Joseph told Farrah she could not date until she was sixteen, so she started sneaking out at night to meet the boyfriend of the week. Alcohol was not permitted in Joseph’s house, so Farrah started drinking. Every time he grounded her, they fought. Every time he set a rule, she broke it.

The night before she ran away, Farrah came home drunk and threw up on the living room couch. Joseph was furious and grounded her yet again. That day, she didn’t come home from school for dinner, a blatant violation of the restrictions Joseph had placed on her less than twenty-four hours earlier. He did something he had promised himself he would never do while he waited for her to come home.

She stumbled through the kitchen door that evening, reeking of beer. Joseph was waiting for her. “Farrah Anne Jacobs, you are in serious trouble. Very serious trouble!” On the kitchen table Joseph had laid out the items he had found when he searched her room. Farrah sobered up quickly when she saw them — several packs of cigarettes, a half-empty bottle of vodka, some condoms, a baggie with a couple of joints, and her diary, with the lock broken.

“You went in my room?” she shrieked. “You had no right to go through my stuff!”

“I had every right!” Joseph yelled. “You are my daughter, you live in my türkçe bahis house, I support you, and I’m responsible for you. What the hell is wrong with you? Booze? Pot? What kind of a little slut are you turning into?”

“You bastard!” she shouted. “I’m eighteen! I can do whatever the hell I want!”

“Don’t you talk to me like that, young lady!” Joseph answered. “You are doing things that are way out of line. I couldn’t even stand to read your diary. I’m just glad your mother isn’t here to see this.”

“Well at least we agree on something!” Farrah screamed. “I’m glad she isn’t here to see what a miserable old asshole you’ve turned into!”

That was when Joseph slapped her.

They stood for a moment, glaring at each other, rage simmering in both of them.

“Fuck you!” Farrah yelled, and she ran from the room.

Those were the last words Joseph heard from his beloved daughter. The next day, she was gone.

Farrah went in through the kitchen door. New wallpaper. New appliances. New kitchen table. But still the same old house. It still smelled like her house. His house. Their home.

She went into the living room. Not much had changed, which didn’t really surprise her. Her father had replaced the sofa she had soiled the night before she ran away, but other than that, the furniture was the same. Then she noticed the framed photos on the mantel. Along with the lone picture of her mother, which had always been there, she saw a number of pictures of herself. She remembered most of them. There was her first grade class picture, a snapshot of her with a cast on her arm after she had fallen out of the old oak tree when she was ten, one of her modeling photos from the summer she turned fourteen, and her senior class picture which had been taken for the yearbook.

There was also a scrapbook. She wanted to go upstairs to see her father, but decided to take a quick look inside the book. On the first page was a copy of her birth certificate. The next page had a picture of her in a bassinet from the newborn nursery. Following that were a few pictures of her mother, along with her obituary from the local newspaper. Then there were a number of pages of pictures from Farrah’s childhood, along with a few of her childhood drawings which she remembered had been taped on the refrigerator long ago.

She sat on the couch to take a better look at the book. A lot of the pages had captions printed in her father’s neat handwriting, and she found herself compelled to study them all.

Eventually she came to the pages that documented the time after she had run away. There was a copy of her missing person report, newspaper clippings about the search of the local area, an article from the paper on the one-year anniversary of her disappearance, letters her father had sent to police all over the country, even the back of a milk carton with her picture on it.

Then there were the poems. She had never known her father to even read poems, let alone write them, but there were dozens of them. Classically styled love sonnets, a few examples of haiku, and free-verse ramblings about love, memories, regret, despair, and loneliness. Farrah saw that she was the subject of every one of them.

“Oh Daddy, what have I done to you?” Farrah sobbed. She put the book back on the mantle and went up to her father’s room.

He lay there in his bed, shirtless, and tangled in the covers. His scalp hair was nearly as thick as she remembered it, but gray was replacing the rich brown he had once had. At the age of fifty, his face was still rugged and handsome, his long torso still tough and lean, but he had aged much more than she would have expected in ten years. Deep care lines were etched on his forehead, and even in sleep, he looked unhappy.

Farrah stood silently next to her father’s bed, remembering how much she had loved him. He had been a good father, bravely doing his best to fill her life with happiness. Over the years she had been away, she came to understand that he always loved her, always wanted what was best for her, even when he had been angry with her. In fact, she realized, their final night together, that horrible fight, had been motivated by his love and concern for her.

She wept quietly, watching him sleep. It was almost completely dark in the room, so dark that she had to strain to see him, even though she stood close enough to the bed to touch him. “I’m so sorry, Daddy. So very sorry,” she whispered.

Joseph stirred slightly in his sleep. Suddenly, his eyes popped open. “Farrah?” he said. “Farrah? Where are you? Oh God, where is my little girl?”

Farrah stepped back in shock. This was not what she had been told to expect. They had told her that he wouldn’t see her at first, that he wouldn’t recognize her. After all, she had been a teenager when she went away, and ten years had passed.

Joseph sat up in bed. “Am I awake? What a weird dream! I could swear I smelled that scent Farrah used to wear. What was it called? Oh yeah, Aphrodesia by güvenilir bahis siteleri Faberge. God, she loved that stuff. I haven’t smelled that in years. I wonder what made me dream about that.”

He sat there, blinking into the darkness for a moment, then lay back down and rolled on his side away from her. In a few minutes, she could tell he was asleep.

Farrah made her way across the lawn toward the tree line. “I need some help here. I don’t understand what’s going on.”

The old man and his beautiful companion materialized out of the fog. “What’s wrong, Farrah?” Eleanor asked.

“He knew I was there. I think he recognized me.”

“Impossible,” Torstein scoffed. “You don’t look like you did when you first came to us ten years ago.”

“I hate to agree with this old codger,” Eleanor said, tilting her lovely head toward the grizzled old man next to her, “but he’s right. You don’t look the same to us. Besides, you wouldn’t look like anything at all to your father at this point.”

“But he knew I was there,” Farrah said. “He woke up and said he thought he smelled my perfume.”

“Well that shouldn’t surprise you,” Torstein said. “You practically bathe in the stuff. In fact, that’s probably what made my eyes water when you left us to go into the house.”

“Just for once, try not to be an old grouch,” Eleanor scolded her companion. To Farrah, she said, “Honey, you don’t wear too much perfume, despite what Grumpy here says. Some people are pretty sensitive to certain stimuli, at least with one of their senses. For some, it’s sounds. We don’t really make much noise as we move around, but sometimes certain people can hear us. Others sense a chill in the air when we’re nearby. Still others pick up on a scent. That’s probably what happened with your father.”

“But I don’t think he saw me,” Farrah said. “Of course, it was pretty dark in there.”

“Seeing you will take time, sweetheart,” Eleanor explained. “You know that. It may be that he will never see you at all. After all, we move around among mortals all the time, and the vast majority never know we’re there. Most of us ghosts are invisible. It usually takes strong emotions between a mortal and a ghost to make the ghost visible.”

“But I still love him! And now that I was in there with him, I know he still loves me,” Farrah cried.

“Patience, child, patience,” Torstein. “Nothing comes easy to mortals. Even though it’s been a millennium since that whore Astrid killed me with my own poleaxe, I still remember that. You’ve only been dead for ten years, Farrah. I should think you would remember very clearly how difficult some things were for you when you were alive,” the old man said.

“And don’t forget, honey,” Eleanor said, “your father doesn’t love you as you are now. He loves you as you were when you were alive. He loves the memory of his lost eighteen-year-old daughter. Even if he could see you clearly right now, he probably wouldn’t know for sure who you are. Remember, your death was a fluke. It wasn’t part of the universal plan, so you’ve continued to age. You won’t stop aging until you reach the age in mortal years when you were supposed to die. Remember? We looked it up soon after you first came to us. You were supposed to die peacefully in your sleep at the age of eighty-three, not in that bizarre accident at the age of eighteen.”

“But what is Daddy going to think if he does see me? He believes I’m dead. He even had me declared legally dead. My name is on a tombstone in the cemetery next to my mother’s. I remember telling him I saw my mother a number of times when I was young, but he insisted ghosts weren’t real. He’s not going to believe it’s me even if he does see me.”

“We’ve been over this, child,” Torstein said impatiently. “You know your mother went straight to Heaven and never roamed the earth as a ghost. You know that the visions you had of her were only the product of a young girl’s over-active imagination. You couldn’t have seen her, so in that case, your father was right.”

“Yes, Farrah,” Eleanor said. “Grumpy and I are ghosts because we died violently with unresolved issues here on earth. It was pre-ordained from the moment of my conception that I would die in the great Chicago fire, and frankly, after spending over a hundred years with this old goat, I can see how he may have pushed Astrid to the breaking point. Anyway, Torstein and I will be stuck here until Judgment Day. You are different, because your death was a mistake. Your fate will go one of two ways: either you’ll resolve the issues with your father and will enter heaven at that point, or you’ll spend the years until you’re eighty-three here on earth as a ghost, and will then go to heaven.”

“There’s another possibility that I’ve heard rumors about, although I’ve never actually seen it happen,” Torstein mumbled.

“What’s that?” Farrah asked.

“Don’t talk about that, you old fool!” Eleanor exclaimed.

“Don’t talk about what? Level with me!” Farrah said.

“Nothing, nothing, child. Forget I said anything,” the old man ghost said, waving his hand dismissively.

“You two are hiding something from me, I can tell. You are duty-bound to be honest with me, and I demand that you tell me what’s going on!”

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