Once there was a ghost...
It was when the leaves started to fall that it happened in a store on Broadway, in New York City. This store has many beautiful old and new things to buy. Furniture and clothes, jewelry and food, and many toys. One night after it had closed and everyone was gone, all the dolls and teddy bears were mysteriously tucked into bed. Every doll and bear, into every bed. That morning the store Manager was amazed. She had been the last one to leave at night and was the first one in at dawn. How could it have happened? Her Assistant arrived and saw it too.
"We must have a ghost," she said.
"There are no such thing as ghosts," the Manager replied. They returned every doll and bear to the toy shelves and had the beds re-made.
That night before the store closed, it was searched from top to bottom. When the Manager was sure it was empty they locked up. The next morning, every doll and bear had again been tucked into every bed. This time she and her Assistant noticed jewelry had been moved too. Necklaces in amethyst and silver spelled out, "Alix"
"Looks like we have a ghost named Alix," the Assistant said. Every morning they found the same thing. Dolls, bears, beds, necklaces...
Word spread through the store and into the curiosity sections of newspapers. Some people thought it might be a ghost, but most thought it was a publicity stunt planned by the Manager and her Assistant to bring in customers. A few people even gathered at the windows at dawn to see if they could catch a glimpse of the dolls and bears in bed. The only people not enchanted were the ones who had to put all the dolls and bears back on the shelves every morning. There were a lot of beds to make back up too. A lot.
It was when the leaves changed and fell that the clouds got the darkest. The young ghost named Alix, who drifted with the winds and mists, had seen a window shining through the darkness below. Pink glowing lights, sparkling white crystals glittered like tiny snowflakes. Was it her ghostly imagination or did she see herself in a window down there? Through the clouds she went to look. It had been her favorite store when she once lived nearby, but now the window was changed and glowed a different color. Days move differently for ghosts, and maybe the window had been white and glittery a long time ago. It wasn't anymore. She stayed to look inside and saw all the bears and dolls sitting on the shelves. To her it was a lonely thing to not be tucked into bed at night so she made sure they were.
On the top floor there were many beautiful rugs from all over the world. One of the men who worked up there came to the manager during the day.
"If you really have a ghost, I know a man in Peru who can make it leave," and he gave her a card with a name, and a very long phone number. The Manager decided she would call it the next day, but that night and the next day, something else happened.
That evening on the main floor, a lady screamed. Her little girl was missing. What nobody knew was that the little girl was hiding under one of the big antique beds. She peeked out and got scared. People with serious faces were yelling her name. She thought she was in trouble. Big Policemen arrived with flashlights and screeching radios. The tiny girl hid in a dark corner under the old bed, and nobody saw her.
When night came the store was locked and silent. Everybody was scared and sad including the little girl, who was now too scared to come out because it was dark and she was all alone.
Alix came back that night as always to put the bears and dolls to bed, and she kissed each one good night. Sometime after the tiniest dolls were tucked in she heard a small voice crying. Peeking under the bed she saw the scared little girl. Alix brought her a pretty plate full of cookies and laid it on the floor nearby. The child saw them and crawled slowly out. They were such nice cookies with icing like happy flowers.
When she stood up she also saw the bears and dolls tucked into bed. Now it wasn't scary anymore. She climbed up and got under the covers. Alix watched and sang to her. The little girl wasn't afraid of the soft glowing ghost. The voice she heard was like the wind chimes outside her window at home. Soon she was asleep.
In the morning the little girl was found safe, and the store Manager was a hero. Everyone said her publicity stunt of the dolls and bears soothed the child out of hiding. Lots of people gathered to cry and hug and take pictures. The news spread all over.
The Manager's own family called her on the telephone. They saw the news on TV and wanted her to come home early to celebrate. Her family still thought the toy and ghost story was for publicity, but it had saved the child. Her oldest brother called to say he was coming in from upstate. She had not seen him for a long time.
For the first time in years the Manager went home early. On the train home she ripped up the card of the man from Peru. As long as she was Manager, Alix her ghost could stay. She would just come in on her own and put the toys away and make all the beds. It was a lovely evening.
After the long exciting day the Assistant was about to lock up, when out of the evening light on the street, an Old Man approached her. He had silvery hair and a worn suitcase and an equally worn but friendly face. He had obviously come from far away.
"Can I help you?" the Assistant asked.
"I can take your ghost away if you like." He smiled and showed her a newspaper clipping of their ghostly events cut from a French paper.
"Are you from Peru?"
"No. You see I knew her, she was once my friend. We sang together when we were young."
"Forgive me if I say I don't believe you," the Assistant answered.
"Tell me, is her name Alix? And when she spells her name with the jewelry, does she use amethyst and silver things? Those were always her favorite. She would spell her name with her necklace on my desk to let me know she had come by when I was out."
The Manager and the Assistant had never told anyone about the jewelry and the name of their ghost. She knew that the Manager was going to call the man from Peru to remove the ghost, but this might work. If he really knew her, he might be able to make her leave.
"What do you want me to do?" she asked.
"Let me stay until she comes, and I'll talk to her" he said.
"I've stayed late and I have never seen her."
"She'll talk to me." he smiled.
Night came and the Assistant fell asleep in her office upstairs while she waited. But the man was wide-awake and watching.
Alix came to put the bears and dolls to bed, and she saw him. He smiled, because when she became fully visible she looked the way he always remembered her except...
"You have changed a little Alix. You are the color of starlight and snow."
"Like you" she laughed and pointed to his hair "you are old now."
"It's been a long time since you went away." he said.
"I don't remember much from then, what happened to me?" she asked.
"You became ill, and there was nothing anyone could do. When you left for the clouds, I was holding your hand."
"The clouds can be lonely." she said. "I like it here. There is no one to take care of the toys and put them to bed. It's sad they sit on shelves all night."
The old man paused for a moment. "I knew it was you when I read about it in the paper. You always put your toy collection to bed. Your friends thought you were a little crazy but I liked it."
Alix went to the toy shelves, but he spoke again. "It's making some people sad, and I know you don't want to do that. These toys will go to new homes soon and there they'll be taken care of."
"I don't want to leave." she said.
"Do you know I still have all your old bears and dolls?" he asked. "They haven't been put to bed in a long time. Why don't you come stay with me?" Alix seemed to glow a little brighter.
"Where do you live now?"
"I live in Venice, Italy now, and I also have a small place in Paris." he answered. She smiled.
"The two places I always wanted to go but I never made it, never saw them for real."
"That's why I live there now," he said, "They remind me of you."
Alix looked thoughtful. "You don't know what it's like in the mists and the winds. There are no roads, no directions. It might be a long time before I find you."
"I'll wait, and I'll leave your favorite pink twinkling lights in the windows." Alix laughed like fall leaves rustling.
"But they burnt out!"
"Then I will find more." He smiled at her.
The old man woke the Assistant, who had fallen asleep at her desk, and they left the store in silence. She noticed the bears and dolls were still on the shelves, and knew it had worked. She didn't know how she knew, it just felt different. She watched the Old Man walk down Broadway into the darkness.
In the morning the Manager knew something was different too. The bears and dolls were on the shelves, the beds untouched. It had begun to feel like someone had just stopped laughing when she opened the door, but now it was quiet. Her Assistant came in and told her about the Old Man and how he knew Alix. She had tears in her eyes. The Manager said in a comforting way that it was okay. They had planned on calling the man from Peru, there was no way her Assistant could have known she had changed her mind.
The dolls and bears stayed on the shelves. The jewelry wasn't rearranged. Every morning the store was in perfect order. The Manager and her Assistant talked like Alix had been a dream. Then one beautiful evening a little girl ran up to them followed by smiling parents.
"We wanted to thank you again for helping to find our daughter!"
The Manager bent down and looked at the child's face and the little girl whispered... "I saw her! She sang so pretty! Nobody believes me!"
The Manager whispered back, "I believe you. Let's make that our secret okay?" The little girl laughed.
The Old Man waited in Paris. He waited in Venice. He had found new pink lights to twinkle in the windows and looked each morning at the shelves of dolls and bears he had saved for so many years. He grew older with the years as all people do, and one day as his friends held his hands, he left for the clouds too. He knew he'd find Alix somewhere over the ocean between New York and Venice... or maybe she'd be waiting in Paris.