“So… You’re a friend of the girl who emailed me, Byrdie.”
“More like an acquaintance.”
“And you’re also pregnant.”
“And you both believe that your children have the same father as my son.”
“That is what we believe, yes.”
“So you want to do a D.N.A test. To see if they’re related.”
“And if they are it will validate your story, that this ghost impregnated all three of us.”
“So they can’t call us crazy anymore.
“It seems that way now.”
“It seems logical to us.”
“It would never work!”
“Only one way to find out.”
“…LET’S DO IT!”
Mischa is nearly swept off her feet as Janice embraces her. Two days of driving has exhausted her and Janice is a person of considerable energy. It took Mischa a day and a half to track down Janice once she got to California; not because she was hard to find, but because she never seemed to stay in one place.
She first tried her at home, but she wasn’t there. She then tried her at several studios, but every time she got to one, she had already been there and gone. She tried to track her down at her known leisure spots, but still no sign of her anywhere. At the end of the first day, she went back to Janice’s home but she never returned. Rather than track her down, Mischa decided to stay put near her home until Janice returned. Several hours of sleeping, eating, and twiddling her thumbs in her car had finally paid off. Mischa was there to greet Janice when she finally returned.
Janice is still embracing Mischa when her kids come running through the door. There are three of them; a pair of fraternal twins, Justin and Julia, and her youngest child Jacob. They appear confused seeing their mom embrace a strange woman in the middle of the living room, but any question they may have is kept to themselves.
“You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting to hear from someone like you.” Janice says. Finally releasing her grip. “Of course, no one believes me – they all think I’ve lost it, including my therapist. But if this works out… then we’ll have hit the jackpot!”
“Jackpot?” Mischa asks, confused.
“What are you going on about now?” A man’s voice interrupts from the doorway.
The door clicks shut with the entrance of Janice’s soon to be ex husband Roderick Keats. From her event filled day tracking down Janice, Mischa now knows that Roderick is a highly successful producer for a lot of favorite reality t.v shows. However, she is shocked seeing him for the first time.
Roderick is tall, athletic and handsome, with dirty blond hair and bright blue eyes. There is no doubt about it. He’s the spitting image of the Soldier Ghost, Josiah.
“Oh my God!” Mischa gasps.
“I know, I know.” Janice whispers. “Roderick dear, I’d like you to meet Mischa. She’s here to help secure my alimony.”
“It’s sad that your delusions have progressed to this extent.” Roderick laughs as he shakes Mischa’s hand politely.
“Hello, nice to meet you, Roderick Keats.”
“I’m a huge fan of ‘Housemaids of Beverly Hills.”
“Mischa and I have a ‘friend’ in common. With any luck, she’ll be able to back up my claims and I’ll get what’s due to me in our little settlement.”
“Oh geeze, you’ve got to be kidding me. Give it up already, no one is falling for your stupid excuses.”
“Actually, she’s telling the truth. Josiah Jackson was a real person. And Janice isn’t the only woman he’s violated.
There’s two other women who’ve seen him.”
“Right.” Roderick rolls his eyes.
“Wait did you say two? I thought it was just Byrdie.”
“Well me and Byrdie are the only one’s who believe that our kids are biologically his because there were no other men in our lives around the time we got pregnant. There’s Amber but… Her story is a bit more complicated.”
“Well that’s nice, you have some friends to play around with now.” Roderick says dismissively. “I’ll pick up the kids this weekend. By then I should have divorce papers in hand. I’d suggest you sign. I don’t want to have to embarrass you any more.”
Janice and Roderick begin to bicker back and forth. Although there are harsh words being tossed around, Mischa senses affection in their words. She wonders if this is actually a couple on the verge of divorce.
Mischa cannot get over how much Roderick looks like the Soldier Ghost. Before leaving Byrdie’s place, she managed to get copies of some of her documents. Mischa reaches into her purse and retrieves a copy of the photo. Upon closer inspection, there are a few minor differences in appearance; the jawline, the height, the shape of the eyes, but by and large he is the ghost’s doppelganger.
“So is that how it happened? Did you confuse the ghost for Roderick?” Mischa asks holding up the picture.
“Uhh… Yeah, let’s go with that. What is that, a picture?” Janice takes the picture in her hands and examines it closely.
“Wow, there he is.”
“Who, your boyfriend?” Roderick asks, stealing a glance at the picture for the first time. When he notices Josiah he does a double take. “What is this?”
“Oh yeah, you’ve never seen him. Sweetie, this is Josiah, the ghost I’ve bee talking about. Since you’re not Jacob’s biological father then he’s the only other person it could be. Mischa here and another women have also identified him as the father of their children, and they also claim that he is a ghost. This week I’m planning to get Jacob’s D.N.A tested against Mischa’s unborn baby. Then, we’ll find out where he’s buried and if there’s any usable genetic material left, we can try to run paternity. If not, all we have to do is track down one of his descendants… which, in all honesty, could be you if you just go by the resemblance of this picture.”
“You’re serious about this?” Roderick asks in shock.
“Yes Roderick, I’m serious. I’ve been serious this entire time.”
“This is completely ridiculous!”
“I know, but it’s happening. With or without your help.”
A battle of wills commences as Janice and Roderick stare each other down. Mischa, completely lost, stands idly by. What does Janice mean by ‘help’? There is something that Mischa isn’t getting that Janice and her husband obviously are.
“There’s no way anyone would buy it. It’s too obviously fake.”
“And if it isn’t…? And we do it right…? If anyone could pull it off, it would be you.”
Roderick and Janice stare each other down again, their silent battle continuing on. Mischa can see Janice’s finger twitch with excitement. Although she is standing still, some part of her is on the move yet again.
“No. No, you’re trying to play me. When Jacob got sick, we found out by accident that I wasn’t his dad and you had the perfect excuse. You told me and everyone around us that you had sex with some ghostly doppelganger in a Confederate Soldier’s getup, thinking it was me in some kinky “Gone with the Wind” role play. You had everyone convinced you were pounding the pills again, but you were just doing that to gain sympathy. You probably figured that if we thought you were impaired, we’d forgive you and move on. Now you’re going on with this insane farce, why? To stall for time? I’m not falling for it Janice. You’re really crazy if you think I’m going to play your little game.”
“I’m not playing games Roderick, but if you want to, we can play. How’s this? I do my D.N.A test with Jacob, and you write up some new divorce papers. Once I get the results back we open them together. If me and Mischa’s children aren’t related, I’ll sign them.”
“Just like that?”
“Without some kind of biological proof tying or stories together, there’s no way for either of us to prove that what we experienced is real. It’s the end of the road for us, either way so I’ll sign the divorce papers and leave you to live your life. But if they are siblings then that means, at the very least, we were with the same guy and have an unbelievable explanation for who that person is. You tear up the divorce papers and we work together to make some money. Just like old times.”
Mischa watches the Hollywood power couple go back and forth with each other. The more she listens, the less she understands. Roderick crosses his arms and paces, deep in thought. Both he and Janice appear to be fighting back grins but Mischa doesn’t understand why.
“You’re serious about this?” Roderick says skeptically.
“Dead serious. Come on, it’s a cool concept.”
“It’s a stupid concept. No one would believe it.”
“Until we find a means of proving it. And even if we can’t, it’ll be entertaining if you do it right.”
“I’m sorry, but do what right? What are you guys talking about?” Mischa finally asks.
“I’m sorry Mischa, I was being rude.” Janice apologizes. “You say you want to prove to your family that you aren’t lying, right? That’s why you came here.”
“Yes, of course. That’s all any of us want. Me, you Byrdie, even Amber.”
“Well I have a way to legitimize you, instantly.” Janice leans in with a grin that leaves Mischa on edge, as though she has just entered a pact with the devil himself. “How do you feel about reality T.V?”
***1 Year Later***
NEXT WEEK ON “HAPPILY EVER AFTERLIFE”…
As the credits scroll at super fast speed at the bottom of the screen, a sneak peak at next week’s episode plays. The episode features clips showcasing the havoc that ensues from Byrdie’s daughter, Nina’s, christening ceremony. It includes a mad dash to the church after Janice’s plane gets delayed and an unwelcome visitor in Amber. Spliced amongst all the images of havoc, a teary eyed Byrdie confides in Mischa her fear that bad things are going to happen because Nina’s father is a ghost and it will be her first time in a church. As Mischa assures her that their children aren’t evil and everything will be fine, it cuts to shots of things toppling over in the church. The teaser ends with the sound of terrified people gasping, a dramatic percussion sound and a sharp cut to black.
Mischa clicks the television off. She has had enough fun for today. The crew will be at her home for the next taping and she knows she will need her rest. Being a young single mother may be exhausting but now that she lives in the world of television, she can’t afford to look it.
“I’m heading to bed Babushka, we’re taping tomorrow.”
Mischa gives her grandmother a kiss on the forehead. She has been holding Mischa’s son, Sergiy, in her lap for most of the show, but hands the 10 month old off to his mother. It’s amazing, Mischa thinks to herself, how her circumstances have changed.
Her child, who at one point was seen by her parents as an unwelcome burden, is now treated as their most beloved precious grandchild. Her made up story of being seduced by a creepy ghost in her dream, is now a publicity stunt, meant for television. She is a sensationalist and a performer in the world of “reality” t.v. It’s bitter sweet, her family’s support. Although Sergiy’s DNA matched with his siblings Nina and Jacob, there was no way for them to prove that their father was the ghost of Confederate soldier Josiah Jackson. The best they were able to do was make a link to Janice’s husband as a 5th or 6th cousin.
Their high profile search for the truth was documented by a small camera crew and “leaked” to various news sources. They became the stuff tabloids are made of, but their insistence that their story was true kept people interested. Most people, including Mischa’s family, didn’t believe a word of it, but it no longer mattered. They were doing talk shows, news programs, interviews with both scientists and religious leaders, and now they had their own reality t.v show (produced by Janice’s NOT ex-husband, Roderick Keats).
Mischa looks around at all that this experience has brought her. She is a celebrity, with a beautiful home and a damned cute baby. Things are looking up for her.
“Heya there pretty lady.”
And now they’re not. Mischa turns with disgust towards the all too familiar voice.
“Awe come on, don’t be like that. After all we got a little-un to think about.”
“Last time I saw you, you claimed to have never ‘sired no children’, if I’m not mistaken. Why are you here, can’t you just move on? Go to heaven or hell or wherever!”
“Now what kinda daddy would I be if I just moved on to there hereafter?”
“A dead one.” Mischa shifts Sergiy on her hip and keeps walking. The Soldier Ghost hovers behind her.
“That’s cold. That hurt somethin’ deep. But it’s a’right. I know a way you can make it up ta me. I tried to make myself known during the Christening but I don’t think it showed on that camera. Spirits caint be seen by most folk, ya know, but I thought, maybe you do a seance episode ‘n I come pop up and check in on the kiddies.”
“… You want to be on the show…?”
“I always wanted to be famous. I think I got what looks ya need, right?”
But Mischa is no longer listening.
Josiah continues to chatter on with his ideas of Hollywood fame as Mischa settles Sergiy into his crib for the night. They have a big day tomorrow and he will need his rest as well. In the darkened room, Sergiy’s bright blue eyes almost appear to glow. Josiah looks at he with eyes equally iridescent.
And Mischa is over it.
She throws her hands up in defeat and leaves the father and son to their own devices. She does her best to ignore the cold sweat forming in her hands as she leaves the room. In the morning Mischa will call Byrdie and see if she’s come up with any new means to destroy him for good. She has passed the point of needing him to validate her story. She knows the truth, and she has support. That is enough.
Sleep is a welcome distraction to her. Sometimes, when she wakes she takes a moment to gauge where she is. Is she still living the dream in a big beautiful home or will she wake and find that all of this has been a dream – spurred on by too ay nights falling asleep in front of the television? That option wouldn’t be so bad. It would certainly take the top spot for weirdest dream she’s ever had.
But despite all her protest to the contrary, Mischa lies down in bed and secretly hopes that the day she wakes from this dream never comes.