Hello, everyone! First off, I would like to warn you that this has spoilers for My Life Now. If you haven't read it and plan to, I suggest you don't read this.
This story came to me one day when I was wondering how Beatrice's life would have been different if her father wouldn't have died. Enjoy!
Charlotte Chattoway was not a woman to startle easily. But when she had a creeping feeling someone was in the room with her and smelled something she hadn't in years, she let out a cry of dismay to find her deceased first husband standing directly behind her.
He looked as handsome as the day she had met him, his blonde hair parted perfectly, his blue eyes twinkling with seduction. His appearance held no traces of death.
"Hello, my darling," he drawled out, placing a hand on her shoulder and watching their exchange in the mirror. Charlotte could feel the weight of his hand as though he truly were there with her.
"I must be going mad," she said, shaking her head, her eyes wide.
"You have no idea." James gave her one of his signature smiles. "No, dearest, you are not mad. Is it too much to say I missed my precious wife?"
Charlotte shook her head again and stood, letting James' hand fall off her shoulder. She walked closer to the mirror, noticing how lifelike her late husband was. Surely it was all in her head.
"But you are dead."
"And you are observant. Did you know that it has been almost a year since you have visited me? Our Isaac has paid me a visit only last month. And our girl has not since she was twelve."
"Even if she did not know you, she finds it difficult to visit." Charlotte turned towards James, only to find him not there. She glanced around, but only found him when she looked back into the mirror. "Are you a ghost?"
"Hmm, I am not so certain myself. Perhaps I am a figure of your imagination, it always did run wild. Perhaps you are nothing more than a distraught woman longing for her dead husband." Even in death James held the cockiness that Charlotte loathed.
"Nonsense, I have John to keep me now," Charlotte told James as she played with the bracelet on her wrist, missing the look of hurt flashing across his face.
"Yes, you remarried soon after my death. I try hard to hold that against you, but you were young with two small children, how could you manage?" James placed his hands behind his back. "Is it hard, Charlotte?"
"Is what hard?"
"Pretending not to have ever felt anything for me – pretending to be strong." James' eyebrows were slanted as he gave her the same look he used to when he was irritated with her.
"I do not pretend anything, James." Charlotte watched as her late husband walked across the room, his footfalls silent on the wooden floor. He stopped behind her, his body only inches from hers. She watched the mirror as he reached out and tucked a brown curl behind her ear.
"Do you ever miss me?" he asked in a soft whisper, leaning close to her ear. She could feel his warm breath tickle her neck.
"Every day," Charlotte told him truthfully. "I love John, but every day I wish you could have watched our children grow. Isaac is a man now and Beatrice almost a woman."
Cries of laughter floated up from the garden, through the open window and into the sitting room. Charlotte turned to stare out at the blue sky and suddenly remembered the day Beatrice had been born. There had been a thick layer of snow on the ground, but not a cloud in the sky.
She walked towards the window, noting how James' reflection followed her in the glass of the cabinet. When she reached the window James was looking over her shoulder and into the garden below.
Isaac was walking by himself down the narrow path. His eyes were on the two girls who played badminton on the grass.
Catching James' eye Charlotte was startled at how much her son resembled his father. "There is no mistaking he is yours," she told him, her heart filling at the thought of a much younger Isaac. "There never was."
"Is that our girl?" James asked, nodding towards the blonde playing badminton.
Charlotte nodded and smiled. "She will be eighteen in December – a woman."
James paled, if that was even possible, and his eyes grew wide. Even in death it seemed men had a fear of their daughters growing up. "I forbid her from ever becoming one," James said quietly, a hint of laughter in his voice.
"You shall have to tell that to her suitor," Charlotte teased him.
James looked scandalized. "Suitor?"
"Yes, a young American. Very polite, you would have liked him."
"It shall take more than politeness to let him near my daughter." James leaned over Charlotte's shoulder to gain a better look. "She is lovely."
"I believe she has the Ashmore look to her, but everyone says she looks like me," Charlotte explained.
"The only thing she has of mine is the hair." James again placed a hand on Charlotte's shoulder, letting it slide down her arm. She looked down to watch it, but could see nothing. "She is as beautiful as you are."
"James, please, I am married to John," Charlotte told him weakly, not bothering to remove his invisible hand. Even though they had a started their marriage off strained, near the end she leaned into his touches.
"I do not believe there is anything wrong if it is you late first husband."
"You do not know how terrible that sounds," Charlotte said in a low voice.
"Charlotte," James said in a serious voice, removing his hand and locking eyes with her in the window. "Please promise me you will look after her. Do not let her near men like me."
Charlotte could see the sadness in his eyes, but she was unsure what to say. James had acted like a terrible man a good portion of the time, but in truth he was a wonderful father and – for the most part – husband.
"Who is that red-haired girl playing with Beatrice?" James asked a queer look on his face as if trying to place a name to her face.
"Alexandria Strong, Ben and Jane's daughter – also the love of our son's life."
"She is Strong's daughter? I must say, I did not think that could ever come from the loins of him."
Charlotte brought back her elbow, aiming for the spot James' stomach was in the reflection. Her late husband made an 'oof' sound and brought a hand to where she had hit him.
"Really, James, you are old enough to be her father."
"Has she accepted Isaac's marriage proposal yet?" James asked with fatherly interest.
Charlotte shook her head. "He has not made one yet. As much as he loves her, he believes that she could not care for him less. He keeps trying to woo her, but he fails to see he already has her heart."
"Why do you not tell him this so he will snap out of his foolishness?"
"I might be his mother, but as much as I wish to coddle him, I shall not. I do not want to turn out like your mother. Isaac shall have to figure out all of this on his own," Charlotte told him firmly.
"My mother was not so terrible—"
"She still refuses to let me into her house." Charlotte gave a roll of her eyes and looked back down to the garden.
Isaac had reached the girls and gestured to the house, most likely indicating that there were refreshments waiting for them. The girls sat down their rackets and followed Isaac towards the house. Beatrice looked up and, noticing her mother watching, started to wave. This drew Isaac and Alexandria's attention and they also waved.
Charlotte waved back and caught James' eye. A warm smile broke out across his face as he looked back down at their children and guest. For a small moment Charlotte wondered if they could see the man who stood with her.
The three young people disappeared into the house below, leaving Charlotte alone once again with James.
Charlotte watched in the window as James slowly placed his arms around her waist and brought her body backwards towards his. He felt warm and solid as if he were truly there. Despite a small part of her mind screaming at her to pull away, Charlotte snuggled deeper into the arms of her first husband. She shivered when she felt his invisible lips touch just behind her ear.
They stayed like this for a long moment until they heard footfalls on the stairs. James pulled away, not seeming to be in any rush. He gave Charlotte a wink and she wanted to turn to him, but knew she wasn't able to. It reminded her of one of the Greek myths Phillip had told her about a man who lost his beloved, but went to the underworld to retrieve her.
"You deserved better than what happened to you," Charlotte told him, her voice trembling. A tear spilled from her eye, but she quickly wiped it away. "You should have never died."
James gave her a small, sad smile as he began to fade away. "I truly did love you, Charlotte."
Charlotte choked back a sob as the sitting room door opened. "Mother," Isaac said, stepping into the room. "We are about to have tea, would you like to join us?"
Charlotte turned to her son and gave him a smile. "That would be lovely."
Isaac stopped before he left the room and sniffed the air. There was a faint smell of cologne, something that called to him from the past.
"I could have sworn I saw someone standing with you when I looked up," Isaac looked puzzled. "But that is impossible. Father has gone to work."
"Yes," Charlotte said absentmindedly. "Your father is gone."
Without another word she left the sitting room with Isaac, shutting the door behind them. She shook all thoughts of her late husband from her head, enjoying the day with her children. Only when she went back to the sitting room that night did she notice the pocket watch James had been buried with sitting on the windowsill.