Cemetery Kids: The Ghosts of Bird Island and the Disney World Honeymoon

Chapter One

January

 

Joke: Why do ghosts love elevators?
It lifts their spirits!

 

Piper used the back of her wrist to brush the hair out of her eyes. She was leaning into a gargantuan diaper bag, pushing things to the side and rechecking to make sure she had everything. “I swear,” she mumbled to no one in particular because she thought she was alone, “the trappings for two adults, eight ghosts and a third grader, don’t come near to the stuff I’ve packed for one little baby.”

“Did you say ghosts?”

Piper jerked her head up and took in the smiling woman dressed in the chic Italian traveling suit.

“Mom,” she breathed out and added her own smile. “It’s just an expression I’ve taken up. You know, like wild horses, a barrel of monkeys, a gaggle of geese, eight ghosts . . . just an expression.” Piper quickly turned and changed the subject. “Look at all this stuff—just for Gloryanna.”

On the bed were two suitcases filled to bursting with baby clothes and linens, a carrier that doubled as a car seat, a bottle warmer, a Pack and Play crib, two boxes of disposable diapers, and a case of baby formula.

In the corner was a duffle bag filled with Drew’s stuff, and next to it a hanging carrier, doubled over and snapped closed with her own things in it. Granted, the outside pockets were bulging as if filled with cantaloupes with her underwear, t-shirts, sandals and bathing suits. She’d packed three swim suits, unsure how daring she should be at what was essentially a children’s resort. Retro one-piece? Bandeau two–piece? Tankini?

“That’s all you’re taking?” her mom asked, recognizing the Gucci designer luggage she’d given Piper two birthdays ago. “Where’s your trousseau? Don’t tell me you stuffed that beautiful peignoir I gave you into one of those little side pockets of that carry-on.”

“This isn’t going to be that kind of honeymoon, Mom. I thought I’d save the fancy lacy things you gave me for when we get back and have more time to be alone together. Even though we’re going to Disney World for our honeymoon, this is essentially a camping trip. “Nothing’s going to be fancy, we’re going to be roughing it—in a rented Winnebago.”

“I still don’t know why you wouldn’t let your stepfather and me watch Kevin and the baby. You know we’d have been happy to stay longer so you and Drew could have a decent honeymoon. Why anyone would want to take their children on a romantic getaway is beyond me.”

“Mom, our family is too new right now, the baby is barely a month old. And Kevin’s only been with us for two months. He’s still reeling after his first holiday without his mother. It wouldn’t be right to go away without them right now. We’re just beginning to meld into a happy family. Besides, we could all use a vacation. It’ll be good for us as a family.

“Drew’s excited about renting the camper and driving it to Florida. And Kevin’s over the moon about all the things we’re going to do at the park, and I can’t wait for 75 degrees and sunshine.”

She didn’t mention that Victoria couldn’t wait to see Cinderella, Mary Louise was gushing over the prospect of eating pancakes with Minnie Mouse—not that she’d eat any of them—and Margaret Ann was beside herself over all the dolls that were going to sing to her while on the It’s a Small World water ride.

Piper stared off into the closet, seeing nothing there, but still envisioning the scenario. They wouldn’t have to buy tickets for the cemetery kids, but they also wouldn’t have seats on any of the rides. The image of Margaret Ann and Mary Lou, as Piper had begun calling Mary Louise, sitting cross-legged on the prow of a skiff, waving their arms composer style to the music and grinning gaped-toothed smiles up at the dolls, brought a huge smile to her own face.

“Well, the offer stands, we’ll come back during the summer and babysit. Or better yet, fly them to the villa and we’ll take care of them while you and Drew take the train to Venice for a real honeymoon.”

“We’re going to have a real honeymoon, Mom.” Piper said as she walked past her mother, tugging one of the suitcases into the hall and letting out a huge breath when she finally maneuvered it close to the front door. “Besides, Kevin may be able to travel intercontinentally on his own, but it will be years before Gloryanna will even be able to get on a local bus without us.”

“A real honeymoon . . .yeah, in a teeny, tiny camper with one kid jumping on a pullout bed and the another crying for a diaper change on the other side of a flimsy accordion door.”

“Mom . . . it’s not going to be like that. It’ll be fun. And Drew and I will have plenty of time on our own. They have activities for Kevin in the evenings and we’ve already lined up professional babysitters for Gloryanna. Out of six nights we’ll have three on our own.”

“When I thought about you getting married, I pictured you and your groom honeymooning in Paris, heads together nodding at art in the Louvre, eating at Chez L’Auberge Franςois, dancing at an all-night piano bar, waking up to breakfast in bed at the Ritz, and going shopping on the Champs de Elysees. You’d look stunning in a Chanel bouclé suit.”

Piper dropped the bag to go back for another, dropping a kiss on her mom’s cheek as she passed. “That was always your dream, Mom, not mine. Drew and I will laugh at the Disney characters, especially those adorable country bears on the wall, watch Can-Can dancers at the frontier saloon, eat outrageously expensive hot dogs during the day and cook burgers and steaks around our campfire at night. We’ll ooh and aah over the fireworks, and wake to the view of a beautiful wooded park through our windshield. It will be a perfect honeymoon.”

“I never could talk sense into you.”

Piper laughed. “Listen to you. We’re going to spend $5,000 on a honeymoon, and you want us to spend $25,000. Who needs to talk some sense into who?”

“Whom,” her mother corrected.

“Whom then.” Piper acquiesced, carrying a diaper bag on one shoulder and dragging Drew’s duffle with the other as she trudged by her mother. “You know, if you could move out of the doorway, it would be a big help.”

Her mother sighed and eased herself out of Piper’s way. “All right, all right, but promise me you’ll come visit and let us squire you around Tuscany.”

“I promise. Not saying when, but one day we’ll get there. Drew said he wanted Kevin to see Italy and I agreed. We even talked about going to Epcot one night when we have the sitter and seeing all the countries of the world with him. He even mentioned dining in Italy.”

“Phhhtt, that’s nothing like Italia.”

“Well it’ll have to do for now. I hear air brakes. I think Drew’s here with the RV.” She swatted at Victoria’s hand. The little imp was petting the design on the end of her mother’s Hermes scarf. Her mother jerked back and Piper, said, “You had a bug on you.”

Her mother looked down and swatted at the imaginary bug, her eyes wide in alarm. “Is it gone?”

Piper smiled as Victoria flew though the wall to get to the front of the house to see the RV coming up the street. “Yes mother, the little bug is gone.”

Piper and her mother stood at the end of the hall looking toward the front door. Kevin stood in the foyer with the front door propped open by his foot, his hand on the doorknob as extra assurance that it wouldn’t close on him. He was angled into the sunlight streaming in and they could see the huge grin on his face. When Drew tooted the horn, Kevin’s grin grew impossibly wider. He had an illuminating half moon taking up most of his face when he turned back to Piper and his new grandmother, “Look at our camper, it’s huge! It says Rent Me on the side and we did! This is going to be so much fun!” He dashed out the door leaving it open for them to follow him, as if he couldn’t imagine anyone not wanting to go out and admire the colossal vehicle making the turn into their driveway. It was hard to believe that this little boy had just healed from a broken leg.

Piper’s mother looked out at the multicolored behemoth lumbering up the drive. She cringed when it came to a shuddering stop and a vinyl-clad door on the side opened like a city bus come to pick up fares. Two metal steps creaked as they glided out and then groaned when Drew put his weight on them and waved.

“Are you sure about this, Piper? I can write you a check for Venice this very minute . . .”

Piper laughed, “Mom, I’m sure. This will be perfect for us. Really, don’t worry.” Her mother couldn’t see the wispy trails of ghostly bodies rushing out from every window in the house, escaping through the glass in their eagerness to get outside and see the house on wheels they’d all be living in for a week.

Piper watched as Connor flew past, grazing his lips against his new grandmother’s cheek. A moment later, her mother’s hand was rubbing the side of her face, her eyes quirked and questioning. Connor thought Piper’s mother put the grand in grandmother. He had loved her on the spot. Every day he drew pictures of her in the sketchbook he kept hidden in the attic. He adored her elegant dresses and marveled at her stylish shoes. Had he known the cost of them he would have been stunned. The money spent for one pair of her mother’s shoes would have fed his family for years back when they were all alive. But of course, that was over a hundred years ago. Piper couldn’t help but think that with the talent he had, if Connor had lived in Paris, instead of in Brunswick County at the turn of the twentieth century, he could have been the Cassini or Givenchy of his day.

Piper looked past Kevin, her newly adopted son, and caught Drew’s eye. He was grinning as if he’d conquered Rome. Well, he’d certainly conquered learning how to drive this enormous thing since he’d managed to make it along the well-traveled route all the way from Myrtle Beach. She smiled at him as if she too had swallowed half a moon and waved with unbridled enthusiasm. It was time to load up and head out. She was going on her honeymoon! And although she and Drew would probably not have a free moment alone for the two days it would take to get to Orlando, she couldn’t have been happier.

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