Authors: Marion Dane Bauer
For Zoe and her mum, Megan
Liz bolted straight up in bed. She stared into the inky darkness. She had no idea what woke her. For a minute she couldn’t even remember where she was.
Then she did. She was with her grandmother in the house Gran had grown up in. It was an old house deep in the forests of northern Minnesota. That’s why everything was so dark. The only light came from the distant moon.
Liz lay back down. She closed her eyes against the dark.
“Elizabeth.” It was just a whisper, but very clear. “Elizabeth!”
Liz jerked upright again as if she were pulled by a string. That was it! That was what woke her up the first time. That voice!
But no one called her
Not even Gran. For all her nine years she had been Liz.
“Elizabeth,” the voice whispered again.
It wasn’t Gran’s voice. Liz was certain.
Liz pulled her knees up to her chest. She sat back against the wall. She squeezed her
eyes shut and listened hard. She heard nothing more. Only the wind in the trees. Only water lapping lightly against the lakeshore.
She let her eyelids drift open. A blue light hovered near the window on the wall opposite her bed. The light came to rest on the curved lid of the large wooden trunk under the window.
Now it sank down in front of the trunk and circled it. The blue light paused over the top again. Then it floated away. It moved along the wall. When it came to the far corner, the blue light turned and started toward Liz.
Liz opened her mouth to call for her grandmother. Nothing came out but a gasp.
The light moved closer. It grew larger as it approached.
It had a shape now … or almost a shape. It seemed to form a person, a woman. One second Liz could see her clearly. She could make out the long, old-fashioned dress. She could see the woman’s hair was pulled back in a bun. Then the figure wavered like smoke in a puff of wind.
Liz stared. She wanted to close her eyes. She wanted to cover her face with her hands. But she could only stare.
The woman grew more solid. She floated right over Liz’s head. She was so close, Liz could have reached out to touch her … if Liz had wanted to touch her.
Now the blue woman looked back at
Liz. “Elizabeth,” she whispered again. She sounded sad.
“Yes,” Liz replied. Her voice trembled. “Yes?”
The woman didn’t speak again. She motioned, as if she wanted Liz to follow. Then she vanished.
Liz lifted a hand to reach for the woman. Her fingers touched the place where the figure had disappeared. There was only wall. Solid wall.
The morning sunshine crept silently into the small bedroom. Liz turned over and squinted at the window on the opposite side of the room.
No wonder the room had been so dark the night before. Even sunlight could barely make its way through the tall pine trees around the house. Not much light passed through the window, either. It was small and deep-set.
What a strange room this was! It was made of logs. The bark had been stripped and the smooth wood polished to a dark gold. Only the wall next to her bed was ordinary. Liz ran a hand over its flatness.
Liz pulled her hand back as if she had been burned. She sat up.
What had happened last night? Really. Had someone called “Elizabeth”? Had a woman made of blue light appeared on the other side of the room? Over that trunk? And had she called Liz’s name again before she disappeared right through this wall?
The idea was silly. Liz was too old to believe in ghosts. Still, she laid a hand on
the wall once again where the woman had vanished. She pushed. The wall didn’t give. What did she expect? Walls didn’t do that.
So it had been a dream, after all. A strange dream. She must have dreamed being awake and sitting up in bed, too. She had never had a dream that seemed so real, though.
Quickly Liz pulled a pair of shorts and a T-shirt from her suitcase. Then she headed for the kitchen. It was empty. Where was her grandmother?
She looked around the kitchen. This room was made of logs, too. Only the wall shared with the small bedroom was an
ordinary flat one. She hadn’t noticed any of these details last night. She and Gran had arrived late after the long drive from Minneapolis.
Liz stepped outside. She moved out into the yard, then she turned back to look at the house. The oldest parts of the house looked like they had once been a log cabin. Someone had built onto the cabin, both out and up. They had built in a rather helter-skelter fashion, too. The house seemed to stick out in every direction at once.
“It’s a hodgepodge, isn’t it?”
Liz jumped. It was Gran, speaking Liz’s very thoughts. She had stepped out of the
forest. In her hands she carried a bouquet of wildflowers. “My great-grandfather built the log cabin,” Gran added. She joined Liz in the yard. “Then my grandfather added onto it. Every time a new child was born, he built another bedroom. So the whole house just grew like Topsy.”
“The kitchen and my bedroom used to be the log cabin. Right?” Liz asked.
“Right.” Gran studied the house, too. “Back then it was all one room. The wall between your bedroom and the kitchen was added later.”
The wall the blue woman had walked through!
Liz gave herself a shake. She was beginning to believe her own dreams.
“I was born and grew up in this house,” Gran went on. “So were my mother and
her mother before her. All of us named Elizabeth. Like you, Liz. And like your mom.”
Liz nodded. She knew all that. She was Liz. Her mother was Beth. Gran was Betty. All of them were nicknames of Elizabeth. “So what were the Elizabeths before us called?” she asked.
Gran shrugged. “Just Elizabeth, I think. I know my mother was never called anything else.” As she spoke, her gaze was caught by the house. She looked sad.
“Why are you selling the house, Gran?” Liz asked softly. She reached to take her grandmother’s hand.
At first Liz thought Gran wasn’t going to answer. She just went on looking and looking at the house. At last she said, “I love this old place. I always have. But it’s too far to drive all the way up here from Minneapolis. Your mom worries about me when I stay here by myself. So …” She straightened her back and squeezed Liz’s hand.
“So,” she said again, “it’s time. That’s why I brought you with me … to help me pack away my past. And to be my guardian angel so your mom won’t worry.”
“I will be your guardian angel,” Liz promised. She threw her arms around her
grandmother and gave her a hard hug. “Always.”
Gran hugged her back. “I wanted you to see the house, too,” she said. “So you’ll remember. I guess for me it’s … it’s …” Her voice trailed off.
Liz stepped back to study her grandmother’s face. “What is it for you?” she asked. She really wanted to know.
Gran smiled down at Liz. “For me, dear Liz, this house is about connections. Connections with all the people who came before us. My grandmother used to tell me stories about them. It’s like they are still here. Can you feel it, too?”
Liz thought about being called awake with the name “Elizabeth.” She thought about the blue light and the woman who had passed through the wall next to her bed. And despite the warm sunlight, ice water trickled down her spine.
“Yes,” she said to her grandmother. “I can feel it.”