ACT TWO

Scene I
(LAUREL walks into the library where GREGORY is sitting by the window. MICHAEL is making noises in the hallway…the innocuous sounds of one arranging something on a shelf or a similar absent task. The sounds are tearing at LAUREL…her jaw is working angrily. But GREGORY does not notice. In fact, GREGORY does not even see LAUREL walk in. LAUREL clears her throat)

Laurel: I am glad you find such fascination in nature, as you find fascination in little else

Gregory (realizing her presence. He turns to her, without expression) Good afternoon Laurel.

(LAUREL stares at him for a moment. She is about to say something when MICHAEL drops an item out of the door)

Michael (off stage): Damn!

Laurel (her eyes narrowed, flushed. Still staring at GREGORY, she raises her voice): What have you destroyed now, Michael?

Gregory: Leave him be.

Laurel: Ah. So I would follow your example then?

Gregory: I have set no example.

Laurel: You speak as if everything that happens around here is nothing more than the falling of a leaf

Gregory: It is nothing more

(MICHAEL enters the library, holding a small figurine. It is of a swan, and the neck has broken off the body)

Michael: Laurel, I'm very sorry

(LAUREL turns to him)

Laurel (flatly): Yes, of course you are. I have no doubt. Glue it together or throw it out, it's of no difference to me.

(There is a silence. GREGORY turns back to the window, his chin in his hand. LAUREL crosses her arms and looks as if she is about to leave. MICHAEL suddenly gives her a desperate look)

Michael: If you would just tell me, then I could do it

Laurel: What on earth are you talking about

Michael: This place is haunted. And if you would just tell me how I am to act, what it is that you want me to do, then I would act that way. I would do whatever you wanted. But it is hard if you will not say

(Another silence. GREGORY stands suddenly and stares at the two. LAUREL looks a cross between angry and hurt.)

Gregory: Maybe you should tell him, Laurel

Laurel (glaring at him): Or maybe you should!

(She runs out of the library)

Michael (after a moment): What am I doing wrong?

Gregory: Absolutely nothing. This place is haunted. By Laurel and I. We are the ghosts you hear sobbing at night, we are the mysterious footsteps in the hall, we are those whitened figures you see when you are not quite dreaming.

Michael: But…but why?

Gregory: Because she fell in love with the priest. And we cannot be exorcized.

Michael (suddenly angry): Why is every answer some sort of damnable code here!? Why can't you ever just tell me!? Sometimes I believe you are as bad as she is.

Gregory: No, don't insult me, boy

Michael: Then tell me.

(GREGORY sits down once more, a sardonic smile on his face. He is laughing a bit)

Gregory: I simply do not understand what it is you want to know, Michael. You storm about because we do not tell you anything, but you have not asked anything.

(MICHAEL sits down heavily. Almost defeated)

Michael: You two are question enough

(GREGORY laughs and pulls a bottle of gin from his pocket. He begins to drink. MICHAEL gets up and walks out, leaving GREGORY alone with his liquor)


Scene II
(The PRIEST'S parish house behind the small church. Father LAWRENCE COREY is standing by his fire, staring dully into the flames. There is a sudden knock on the door)

Lawrence: Come in, it's open

(And the door does open. A man walks in, a tall, angular fellow who is clothed in a thick jacket. He takes his outerwear off and hangs it by the door then walks next to LAWRENCE, who turns, regarding the man with a bit of surprise)

Lawrence: Jack! What are you doing here? Won't you be late for dinner with Gregory?

Jack: No, I should make it in plenty of time. Besides, that manor is so drafty I would rather warm myself here for a moment if I'm not bothering you too much

Lawrence: Stop trying to make me pity you, Jack Keller

Jack: Since when have I had to try, Father?

Lawrence: True enough. So…why has Gregory invited you this time? If you don't mind me asking of course.

Jack: I don't mind at all. And Gregory has invited me so that Laurel will not go completely insane on that poor boy living there. Ah, if he only knew…

Lawrence (suddenly sharp): Knew what, exactly?

Jack (giving LAWRENCE an odd look): Knew where he was going. What he was getting himself into.

Lawrence (quietly): I thought you were Gregory's friend.

Jack: Since when has my being Gregory's friend stopped me from telling you how awful it is to be in that house, where they are both trapped from one another by something they are not even certain occurred

Lawrence: Oh, it occurred. You know that as well as I do

Jack (almost whispering): Everybody does

Lawrence: And they cannot admit it to themselves, nor can they to one another. They used to be so in love that every breath they took was drawn solely for the purpose of one another

Jack: And you think they are not in love any longer?

Lawrence: It is a different love. A darker love.

Jack: You were to be the preacher at their marriage.

(LAWRENCE suddenly turns to JACK fully, the firelight behind him, his eyes shadowed. There is something in his face tho', an odd light, as if he is on the verge of some great and terrible realization. JACK watches the priest carefully, concerned. There is an anticipation in the air. Heavy)

Lawrence (his voice shuddering): Yes. Their marriage.

Jack: I should go

Lawrence: I am sorry, Jack. You should.

Jack: Whatever she…

Lawrence (he sighs painfully): I shall see you later Jack. Give my regards to Gregory and Laurel

Jack: And Michael?

Lawrence (turning back to the fire): And he as well


Scene III.
(LAUREL is in her room, trying to organize books on her shelf. She is dressed for dinner, in an elegant, sweeping dark red gown, and her hair is drawn back, exposing the red of her cheeks. LAUREL picks up a book, and a shower of dried flowers fall from the pages)

Laurel (dropping the book as if she has been burnt): Oh damn!

(She bends down and scoops up the brittle flowers carefully. She takes in their scent for a moment, and a tear falls suddenly. She stands, taking a calming breath)

Laurel: There are some things best left unsaid. There are some things best left unsaid…best left unrepeated. Best left unfinished


Scene IV.
(the dinning room, where GREGORY is smoking a cigarette. MICHAEL walks in, smoking as well. They are both dressed in black suits, GREGORY'S dark hair messily tousled over his forehead, his midnight blue eyes glittering with something like a fever. He sees MICHAEL and lets out a choked sort of laugh then walks to one of the potted plants)

Michael: Gregory?

(GREGORY laughs once more, and he pushes his hair back. He then takes a leaf from the plant and drops it, watching it waft down slowly. He takes another, and then another, laughing louder and louder)

Michael: Gregory! Please, stop it! What's wrong with you?

Gregory (in a slurred voice that illuminates how drunk he is): She said I treat it all as the falling of a leaf. The falling of a leaf. A goddamned leaf. And she should sweep me away…sweep me away…away…

(MICHAEL rushes over to him)

Michael: Come, please. You should go to bed. You are in no condition to entertain. I can tell Mr. Keller you have taken ill. Gregory, come with me. Please…

(GREGORY suddenly lurches forward and grabs MICHAEL'S collar, bringing MICHAEL'S face towards his. Their noses are touching they are so close, and GREGORY brings his other hand to cup MICHAEL'S chin, tilting him forward. MICHAEL does not look afraid. He stares intently at GREGORY)

Gregory: Michael. Leave.

(GREGORY lets go of MICHAEL'S collar and chin)

Michael (Stepping back, almost as if GREGORY has struck him): W-what?

Gregory: I will give you money. You can find another place. Anywhere. Travel. Go to Egypt…India…see if I care, but leave. Leave.

Michael (deeply, deeply hurt): I thought it was Laurel who wanted me to go. Not you. I thought…I thought that you would not have…

Gregory (raggedly): Oh my God…my God…God help me, please.

Michael: Are you asking for help now?

Gregory (yelling): I have been asking for help my entire damned life! And you give it to me and I cannot accept it! And Laurel is upstairs weeping because the man she loves is wed to our Lord! And leave! Leave before you become like the two of us a ghost…a question…a prayer!

Michael: No!

Gregory: Listen to me!

Michael (his eyes wide, as he suddenly understands): I will not leave! I will not, as you have made everybody else, as you are trying to make Mr. Keller. I will stay here, with the two of you.

Gregory: Don't you see what happens to the people who love us? We break them into pieces. We make them into ghosts.

Michael (firmly): I don't care. I love you anyhow.

Gregory: You damned idiot!

(He lunges forward, as if to fight MICHAEL, but he falls to the floor with a thud, striking the stone hard. MICHAEL kneels down and helps him halfway up. GREGORY'S nose is bleeding and he is sobbing)

Gregory (shakily): Me or her?

Michael (tenderly): What?

Gregory: Do you love me or her

Michael: I love both of you.

Gregory (shaking his head): No. No. Michael…I mean…do you love me or her.

Michael (after a quiet moment): You.

Gregory: Oh God

(He presses his face into MICHAEL'S chest, weeping. MICHAEL holds GREGORY to him, murmuring slightly under his breath tenderly. Gently. While this is going on JACK KELLER walks into the dinning room. MICHAEL looks up)

Jack (flatly): Laurel let me in. She had to go to her room…she said you would be in here

Michael: He fell.

Jack: Gregory…damn you…

(JACK kneels down. He and MICHAEL bring GREGORY to his feet. He's still bleeding from his nose, and MICHAEL'S suit is stained by GREGORY'S blood. While JACK is helping GREGORY up, he stares at MICHAEL with an odd, tense look)

Gregory (slurred): Sorry Jack

Jack: You think I haven't known you long enough to be prepared for these things?

(LAUREL walks in)

Laurel: I'm going out.

Michael (confused): What?

Laurel: I said…I'm going out. I don't how see how difficult that statement is to comprehend.

Jack (comprehending what MICHAEL does not): It's raining hard.

Laurel: A little rain will not kill me

Gregory (dully): It was never the rain

Laurel (giving a high little laugh; nervous and just a bit insane): You promised me roses, Gregory! And I found lilacs. Lilacs and delphiniums and all sorts of others. My room is full.

Michael: Please…I don't understand.

(LAUREL walks past MICHAEL, unresponding)

Michael (Turning to JACK): He's drunk.

Jack: I know. Help me take him to bed.

Michael: Who was Laurel's lover? The one she still loves?

Jack: There are some things we do not say. There are some words we leave unspoken because that way no one is hurt

Gregory (only half aware): No one?

Jack: Well my lad, you know what I mean. We are all hurt, but it isn't an open wound. Just a punctured one. A nail. A knife.

Gregory: I won't sleep

Jack: We'll see what you won't do

(MICHAEL and JACK lead him upstairs)


Scene V.
(LAUREL is standing outside the door of the parish house. She reaches into the pocket of her overcoat and pulls out one of the crumbling flowers. The rain is coming down hard, almost blindingly. Finally, LAUREL knocks on the door. After a moment, FATHER LAWRENCE COREY opens it.)

Lawrence (surprised): Ms. Trent!

Laurel (bowing her head): Father Corey…

Lawrence (looking down as well) : Would it be wise…?

Laurel: This boy. This damned boy

Lawrence: A boy? He's not much younger than you and Gregory.

Laurel: He's only seventeen

Lawrence: And you're only twenty-four

Laurel: It's been too much time. Far too much time. I cannot help it anymore, it's pressing on me, and Gregory's silences…his casual rough glances and the way he holds me now…I have lived in sin for so long that I don't think I remember anything other

Lawrence: Laurel come inside. Please, it's raining hard

(LAUREL walks in after LAWRENCE, who closes the door behind them. LAUREL takes off her overcoat and drops the old flower on the floor of the parish house. LAWRENCE does not look at it)

Laurel: Well…I am inside now.

Lawrence: If you are looking to make a confession, I believe you came to the wrong priest.

Laurel: I am far beyond confessionals now, Father Corey. I believe only God himself could hear my sins…and he would not forgive me.

Lawrence: Tell me about the boy.

Laurel: The way he looks at Gregory. The way Gregory looks at him…

Lawrence: So you love Gregory once again

Laurel: When have I not?

Lawrence: Laurel, there are many ways in which you love Gregory, and some of those ways are rough, even to me. If you are loving Gregory roughly, then maybe he deserves to run to another

Laurel (enraged): Why is everyone blaming me!? All I have ever done was fall in love!

Lawrence: And as you have said…God himself could not forgive you for that sin.

(There is a heavy silence, broken only by the cracking of the fire. LAWRENCE sits down in front of the hearth, and LAUREL sits across from him. Her face is pale, as is LAWRENCE'S. They both look as if they have been crossing a desert, and the end is still nowhere in sight.)

Laurel (defeated): He could not.

Lawrence: And if He cannot forgive you, then I am even more damned.

Laurel: Really…aren't we all? The fiery pit, eh? The pendulum swinging above…what the hell's the bloody point anyhow?

Lawrence: Love, I suppose.

Laurel: I thought that was what damned us in the first place

Lawrence (sighing deeply, almost to the point of sobbing. When he speaks his voice sounds as if he is on the verge of some emotional release): Then it is a circle. And…to hell…I…it was Spring of course…it is always in Spring, and…

Laurel: I found the flowers, Lawrence. In a book. I did not even remember saving them.

Lawrence: We have hurt people. Damn near ripped them apart.

Laurel (her voice shuddering): And someone should…should piece them back together.

(LAWRENCE stands suddenly, and takes his collar off, holding it away as if it is repugnant to him, but precious. LAUREL stands as well, staring at him, tears standing in her eyes. They pause…the air almost seems to stand still)

Laurel: I am so tired of loving him.

Lawrence: And I am off to annul my marriage. I love Him too much to dishonor Him with my falsehoods. I know He would not want the damned in His name

Laurel: Then these be our vows…

Lawrence: That we should have spoken long ago

(LAWRENCE grabs LAUREL'S hands and as he does that his collar drops into the fire. The two stare at each other for a tense moment, then fall together, kissing passionately.)

Scene VI.

(Much later that night. MICHAEL, wearing his dress pants and no shirt and carrying a candle walks down the darkened hallways. The rain lashes outside and the wind sounds loud and mournful. The candle MICHAEL is carrying flickers, casts twisted shadows on the walls. Suddenly, a door opens and MICHAEL freezes. JACK walks out)

Jack: A bit late to be wandering about, eh my boy?

Michael: I wanted to see if Laurel was back yet.

Jack: She is not. And I doubt she will be tonight.

Michael: You know what happened, right? What happened between Gregory and Laurel, and why this is a house of ghosts.

Jack: Gregory has been something of a brother to me since childhood

Michael: I shall take that as a yes

Jack: There are some…

Michael: Yes, I know very well…somethings that are not said, somethings that are hidden away, like the words and the ghosts trapped in this house…well perhaps I can be part of this hidden world. I am a ghost here as well

Jack: Gregory seems to think you can get away

Michael (sadly): No. I already have fallen in love. I have opened myself to be broken by this place.

Jack (with a grim smile): It happens to the best of us. (he takes out a cigarette and lights it) Laurel came to this valley as a young girl…younger than you now. She and Gregory fell in love instantly. They breathed for one another alone. Gregory owned this house, a gift of his late father, and he opened his doors to Laurel immediately. Anything she wanted, she had. And the valley people wondered why. I wondered why. Laurel was from the city…used to a life of dazzling glamour. Our simple country ways seemed to mundane for her. But…she seemed happy to be rid of her city life. Least of all it was never a problem.

Michael: But there was a problem…

Jack: This is a Catholic town. And our old priest died. We received a new one, a young man named Lawrence Corey. You have met him, I assume?

Michael: Father Corey? Once or twice I believe…he seemed a pleasant man

Jack: Aye, that he is, and a dedicated servant of God

Michael: So what does this have to do…

Jack (cutting MICHAEL off): Laurel met him as well. Right around that time Gregory asked her to marry him, and she accepted. Father Corey was to bind the two together for all time, but on the night of the wedding…

(JACK is suddenly interrupted by another door slamming. MICHAEL and JACK look up: GREGORY is leaning against the door, looking at the two of them, swaying a bit and still horribly drunk)

Gregory: The two of you having a party? Or just story telling?

Jack: Only ghost stories, my brother.

Gregory: The best kind…the only true stories about this place. Have you gotten to the part where two people died and their spirits were trapped forever in the walls of the manor that one had given to the other?

Jack: Michael's a smart lad, he can figure it out for himself

Michael: Laurel's still out

Gregory: I would assume so

Michael: Do you love her still? Does she mean so much to you?

Gregory: When one becomes your life, then you do not get your own life to keep. You get a half life. And Laurel gave hers to me. So we are trapped in one another and I love her as I will never love another human being again…God willing

Jack: Perhaps I should let you finish the story Gregory. I shall go back to bed.

Gregory: Jack…

Jack: Nothing more to be said

Gregory: No. Nothing.

Michael: Good-night Jack

Jack: And to you, my boy.

(JACK returns to his room. MICHAEL turns to GREGORY, who is staring down at LAUREL'S closed door, MICHAEL'S candle showing the dark smudges underneath GREGORY'S eyes)

Gregory: I will always love her

Michael: I know. And that is enough.

Gregory: It has been so long since anything has been enough.

Michael: So she fell in love with the priest and would not marry you

Gregory: The way she loved Father Corey was something different from how she loved me. She did not have to give herself, her breath, her life to Father Corey—only her love. And that was where the two of us went so wrong. We needed too much from one another

Michael: And if it were only love…

Gregory: In the hidden way

Michael: The marriage of God and man is sacred…

Gregory (suddenly weak, almost falling to the floor. His voice is broken…needy): I asked you before, Michael…if it was her or me…

Michael: And I answered you.

(A heavy silence)

Gregory (weakly, as if trying, by habit, to guard against any sharp happiness that may come to him): But you…you're only a child, you cannot be---

Michael: Perhaps. But then so are you. Love has made you old before your time, Gregory. You're only twenty-four…

Gregory: And all it has to be…?

Michael: Is love

(The two stare at one another. And then MICHAEL blows the candle out and for a moment the rain and wind does not sound like a ghost, but only someone weeping or a drunken laugh)


~*~ fini. ~*~