Authors: Jana DeLeon,Denise Grover Swank
Rose and Helena Save Christmas
Denise Grover Swank
Copyright 2014 by Denise Grover Swank and Jana DeLeon
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.
“But I don’t want to go! It’s dark outside, and scary. Why can’t we wait until daylight?”
Taylor Beaumont looked back and wished for the hundredth time that day that the ghost had a corporeal body that could be handcuffed and dragged to their appointment. Helena Henry made even the most pleasant of errands difficult and potentially illegal, but when she was directly opposed to something, it was all over but the crying. And drinking. Helena did tend to drive one to a hot bath and cold bottle.
“You sound like the Winstons’ cat when it’s in heat,” Taylor said. “I’m not discussing this with you again. This was the only time I could get an appointment and we’re parked barely a half block away. You need answers about your place here on earth, and I don’t have them. This psychic is supposed to be the real deal. She might be able to give us those answers.”
And if there is a God, the poor woman won’t be able to see you.
If hearing Helena was akin to traversing the fifth level of hell, seeing her was a place in hell that Taylor hadn’t even heard of. The ghost managed to choose a completely inappropriate wardrobe for both her age and her size, and then mangled her poor choices into an ensemble that would probably make the pope decree the end was nigh.
Her current “artistic expression” was dedicated to the upcoming Christmas holiday, and it was a doozy. Her feet sported green elf boots complete with bells and red trimming. And that was the best part of the entire outfit. After that, things went seriously downhill. Her legs were clad in green leggings that matched the boots. The leggings might not have been the horror they were if Helena had elected to wear a top that covered the worst of her offending areas. Instead, the ghost had fabricated a top from red tinsel, complete with silver balls hanging from the end of her tinsel-wrapped boobs. On top of her head perched a Star of David tree topper because, as Helena said, she didn’t want to leave others out of the celebration.
Taylor was fairly certain that anyone who could see Helena would beg to be excluded from whatever the hell she had going on.
“What if she casts a spell on me?” Helena asked as she jangled up the sidewalk behind Taylor.
“If she casts a good wardrobe taste spell on you, I’ll pay her extra.”
“Rude.” Helena glared. “Like you’re a fashion plate. If I had your body, there would be no limit to what I would wear.”
Taylor cringed. “You mean you’re limiting yourself
“Seriously,” Helena said. “What if she puts me in a bottle or something?”
“You’re not a genie. No one is putting you in a bottle or casting a spell. You’re dead. What in the world could she do to hurt you?”
“Maybe she’ll send me back,” Helena said quietly.
Taylor stopped walking and stared. “You have got to be the only person in the known universe who doesn’t want to be in heaven.”
“I want to be in heaven…just not now. I have a grandbaby. And friends. Sort of. Sometimes it seems like everything good happened to me after I died.”
Taylor sighed. “I get it, okay? But I promise you we’re only going to talk to her. No one has any plans to do anything to you.”
“What if she weirds out or something?”
“Then you pop out the wall and run away.”
“What about you?”
“I have a gun.”
“You could have told me you had an exit plan.”
A multitude of thoughts went through Taylor’s mind, but she didn’t bother to verbalize them. Helena seemed immune to both subtle and direct communication. “Here’s the place,” she said and pointed to a shop door.
The building was in the French Quarter and had that slightly run-down look that a lot of the historical buildings did. The steps leading up to the entry were crooked, and when Taylor entered, she found the floors slanted as well. The shop was tiny and had dim light, and every shelf was crammed with merchandise—candles, jewelry, incense, and other spiritual items for the many belief systems in New Orleans.
A young woman with a blond-and-purple bob stood at a counter at the back of the store, opening a cardboard box. She barely glanced at them when they walked inside, but Taylor headed straight toward her. She was, after all, the only person in the store.
“She looks weird,” Helena said.
Taylor raised one eyebrow and stared at the ghost. “
“Whatever. Let’s get this over with.”
Taylor continued to the counter and Purple Hair looked up from a box of gris-gris and gave her a bored look. “I have an appointment with Madame Serafine,” Taylor said.
Purple stuck her hand out. “Fifty dollars.”
“Miss Personality,” Helena muttered as she moved over to the side of Taylor at the counter.
Taylor handed her a credit card and the girl sighed as she swiped it through the machine. She silently handed Taylor the receipt to sign, then pointed to a curtain behind the desk. “Back there.”
Taylor slipped her receipt copy in her pocket and headed past the counter and through the curtain, glancing back to make sure Helena was still following. The ghost looked unhappy and slightly fearful, but she was still shuffling her elf feet to the back of the store.
The back room was even darker than the front, a single candle flickering on a table in the corner of the room. An older woman with pale skin and dark hair with silver streaks sat on a chair on the opposite side of a small table. The table held a stack of tarot cards, dice, and of all things, a crystal ball.
“I thought that crystal ball stuff was BS,” Helena whispered.
“Madame Serafine?” Taylor asked.
The woman nodded and motioned for Taylor to sit. She slipped into the chair across from the psychic.
“Sure, make me stand like cattle or something,” Helena griped.
Serafine studied Taylor for so long that she started to feel uncomfortable. Finally, she spoke. “You’re not here for a reading.”
“How did you—never mind.”
The psychic smiled. “Something unworldly troubles you. Tell me.”
Taylor took a deep breath and tried to explain about Helena, her death, rising from the dead, ascending to heaven, then subsequent return to earth. Serafine leaned forward, her gaze locked on Taylor the entire time. When Taylor finished, the psychic leaned back.
“What you have described is both interesting and disturbing,” Serafine said. “You say this ghost appears to people when their lives are in danger? But yet you can see her and don’t seem worried about your future.”
“I see far more ghosts than Helena,” Taylor explained. “I was born with a caul.”
The psychic’s eyes widened. “I sensed great power in you when you entered the room. That explains much. So what can I help you with?”
“Well, I’m not sure. I mean, I guess I was hoping that you’d know something about why Helena could return here, and what gives her the ability to pick up things and eat and periodically gain mass.”
“I wish I did,” Serafine said, “but those things are as mysterious to me as they are to you. In all my time circulating among my spiritual peers, I have never heard of such.”
A wave of disappointment washed over Taylor. Sure, it had been a long shot, and a shortcut to doing her own research, but she’d still held out a little hope that someone had answers. “What about a reading? Can you do a reading on Helena?”
Serafine’s eye twitched. “She’s here now?”
“Yes, she’s standing to my right.”
The psychic cast an apprehensive glance at Taylor’s side. “I…well, I suppose a palm reading is out of the question, but I could try the cards.” She reached for the cards and shuffled them. “If you could indicate where Helena is?”
Taylor pointed to her right where the ghost stood, still pouting.
Serafine nodded and turned over the first card. “Death.”
“Hell, I already know that,” Helena said.
The psychic shrugged. “I suppose that makes sense.” She turned over the next card. “The wheel of fortune. Since ordinary human problems don’t apply to Helena’s situation, I’m going to take the spiritual slant on the reading. From a spiritual standpoint, the wheel of fortune asks you to make a contribution and take responsibility for things happening in your life…or, er, death.”
“I’m responsible,” Helena said.
“You’re as responsible as a toddler,” Taylor shot back.
“She’s talking?” Serafine asked, looking more uncomfortable than Taylor figured a psychic should. Likely, Serafine thought Taylor was a nut and thought humoring her was the quickest was to get rid of her.
“Unless she’s sleeping or eating, she’s talking,” Taylor said.
“Hmm.” Serafine turned over the next card. “Justice reversed. Something is happening or about to happen in your life that you feel is unfair.”
“Everything in my life is unfair,” Helena said. “I get no respect alive or dead.”
“You get what you ask for,” Taylor mumbled.
Serafine glanced at where Helena stood, then back at Taylor. “The next card is the devil reversed. This indicates that things are not always as they seem. You should look beyond surface appearances for the truth.” She looked at the cards and shook her head. “I have to tell you that if I’d drawn these cards for a living person, I would have warned them that a great trial was coming. The fact that Helena is already deceased leaves me uncertain if the reading applies to the present or the past. I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help.”
Taylor cocked her head to the side and looked at the psychic. “You don’t believe a word I said, do you?”
“What? No, of course I believe you.”
Taylor looked over at Helena. “Pick something up.”
Helena rolled her eyes. “What am I now, a performing pony?” She reached out and lifted the crystal ball from the table.
“Oh!” Serafine jumped up from the table, the blood rushing from her face. “Is she wearing green tights and red tinsel?”
“I see her,” Serafine whispered.
A wave of panic rushed through Taylor. Only a certain type of person saw Helena—usually the type marked for death. “Okay, don’t panic.”
“I’m trying not to, but if everything you said was true, I have the right to panic.”
“Yes, of course,” Taylor said, “but what I didn’t say is that every person who saw Helena lived to tell about it. So maybe consider it a warning, like the cards. Be more careful than usual.”
Serafine relaxed a bit and she nodded. “You’re right, of course. Signs are things to be incorporated into our decisions, and that goes double for warnings of danger. I will take your advice and be very watchful in the coming days.”
Taylor handed Serafine her card. “If you run into trouble and need help, give me a call. I specialize in strange, so nothing you tell me will faze me.”
“I can see that.”
Taylor looked over at Helena. “Put that down before you drop it.”
The ghost, who’d been making faces at the crystal ball, jerked upright, and the ball rolled off her palm. Helena scrambled to grab the falling object and went solid as she crashed into the table and broke it in two. Taylor grabbed the ball from her hand as she flopped around under the tablecloth, and handed it to Serafine.