A Shadow of Doubt by Mary Jo Breen

The door opened, and a girl no more than eighteen peeked in.

“Mrs. Taylor?" She was wearing a cropped sweater, jeans, and high boots.

“You’re very young for a doctor," Mrs. Taylor said.

“Oh, sorry. I’m, like, not a doctor," she said taking a few steps into the room. “I’m Melody, and I’m in Rec and Leisure. I’m on placement. From the College."

“Oh," Mrs. Taylor said. “So where’s my doctor then? My foot, it’s very sore." She winced as she tried to flex her ankle.

“Um, I don’t know. I’m just here on placement. From the College."

“Well, good for you, dear. And your name is"?


“Melody. Like a song."

Melody smiled. “My grandma always says that."

Mrs. Taylor didn’t smile. “My ghost showed up again this morning."

“A ghost . . . wow!" Melody glanced around the room. “Is it still"

“Oh, no. She only comes early, around dawn. Just stands there, never moving, staring at me with that smug smile of hers, and then she’s gone by the time it’s bright." Her voice began to rise. “I want her to go away!"

“Um, do you think--do you think it’s a real ghost, Mrs. Taylor? "

“Well it must be. It looks like one and ghosts always appear near beds."

“Wow!" Melody said again.

“Would you wheel me down to the sun place--you know--the sun something-or-other?"

“Um, you mean the sunroom? Oh sure." Melody’s eyes were still flicking about the room.

“But, was there, like, really a ghost in here?"

“Well, I suppose it could be one of those--you know--they float around"

“Um, clouds?"



“No! Those angels."

That’s it. Angels. Maybe it’s my Guardian Angel. Angels wear white, and this ghost has a white gown and a halo." She looked at Melody more closely. “Who are you again?"

“I’m Melody, and I’m on placement. But, Mrs. Taylor, who is your ghost? Do you know who she is?"

“No, but I know I’ve seen her somewhere before." She laughed.

“Maybe she’s my sister, come back to haunt me. She’d enjoy that. So are we going down or not?"

Mrs. Taylor insisted on using the wheelchair because of her sore foot. As they headed to the elevator, they passed a woman inching along with a walker, a nurse hovering by her side.

Mrs. Taylor reached out to grab the woman’s arm. “Paula!" she shouted. “I’m going to the beach!"

The woman named Paula gasped, and her nurse bent in close to steady her. Then the nurse winked over at Melody. Melody figured they should keep going.

“That Paula Ford," Mrs. Taylor said, “always been snooty. We went to St. Brigid’s together." Suddenly she laughed out loud.

“Ha! Maybe my ghost is a nun, a flying nun. Nuns wear white when they’re brides, you know, Brides of Christ."

“Wow!" Melody said again. She wished her classes had taught her what to say to someone like Mrs. Taylor.

“I wanted to be a nun," Mrs. Taylor said, “but I got married instead. Quite a grand wedding too." She hummed a few notes of the Wedding March. “At least I think it was." She looked back at Melody. “It’s awfully cold for summer. Who are you again?"

“I’m Melody from the College," Melody said. “And it’s winter, actually."

“Right, Melody. Like a song."

The sunroom smelled like a greenhouse, moist and mouldy. As soon as Mrs. Taylor saw the row of baffled-looking people crammed in between the plants as they stared at the expanse of snow, she became agitated. “No, no. Not today. Take me back. Besides, I’d like to have a nap." She paused. “Corduroy has a nap. Velvet does too, and cats."

Back in her suite, Mrs. Taylor asked Melody to bring her shawl from the bedroom. Melody tiptoed in warily, half-expecting to encounter the ghost. As she turned back with the shawl, she noticed a large, formal portrait of a woman in a wedding dress and veil on the dresser. She remembered that her teachers had said old people like to talk about their photographs, so she brought it back to the sitting room along with the shawl. “Is this you, Mrs. Taylor? You’re so- o-o pretty."

“It’s her!" Mrs. Taylor shouted, turning her face away, her hands up to ward off an attack. “You tell her I can’t stand it. I can’t stand her staring!" Her voice was breaking. “You tell her to stop!"

Melody pulled the photo to her chest and looked around for a place to hide it. She spotted a row of photo albums beside the TV, and as she slipped it in between them, she noticed the writing on the back: Wedding of Josephine O’Brien and John Taylor. Toronto. Nov. 14, 1948. For the first time since she’d arrived, Melody had the sense she might have done something right. “ There, Mrs. Taylor," she said. “It’s OK. She’s gone now, and she, like, promised never to bother you again. She really did."

“Oh, good." Mrs. Taylor smiled up at her. “Now, doctor, what about my foot?"


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