Title - The Girl Under the Bridge
Summary - Can a ghost's family help them?
Author's notes at end...
Damn he hated coming to Raleigh. But he would continue to visit. He owed her that. He hadn't been there for her when she needed him. He would live with that the rest of his life. So, like a dutiful son, he came down, put flowers on the grave, made sure it was well maintained and stood awkwardly for a few minutes.
They were certainly spread out now. Mom in Raleigh, Dad in Virginia and Samantha...who knew where her physical body rested, if it rested.
This time hadn't been as bad. Bad, but nothing like past trips... because Scully was here. She was with him. She was with him, in every way now.
The whole-ness he'd only spoken of in the hallway so many years ago was here now. Sometimes he regretted the time it had taken, but they hadn't been ready then. There had still been things they had to 'get through'. Now, now they were together.
As though reading his mind, she shifted in her sleep, moving closer to him. He regretted the loss of the old bench seats, even as he smiled, not taking his eyes from the road. It was beginning to rain lightly.
She couldn't read his mind, but he had read hers. Knowing she loved him as much as he loved her was a great confidence builder and had finally given him the courage to ask her to be with him. The memory of her acceptance still warmed him.
He glanced over at her. He couldn't help himself. She seemed more beautiful every time he looked at her lately. As though sensing him, she opened her eyes.
He hit the brakes immediately, trusting her assessment before even making his own. He came to a sliding halt scant feet from the young woman.
"Jesus!" His hands trembled slightly from the adrenaline rush at the near collision. He glanced over at Scully to make sure she wasn't injured, then opened his door. He moved quickly to the young woman.
"Are you okay?"
She was wearing a long white evening gown and her hair was put up, though now beginning to droop in this weather. The mist had hidden that from him. What was going on here?
She had obviously been to a party. What the hell was she doing standing under this bridge in the dark and wet?
"Miss? Can you hear me? Do you need some help?" Her car must have broken down, but he didn't see one anywhere. Something had happened to her; she looked like she was in shock, pale.
"Yes." Her voice was low. "I want to go home. I live nearby, in High Point."
"Uh, yeah, okay. Where's your car?" He glanced over at Scully who had also exited the car now, bringing an umbrella with her.
"I was at a dance." She spoke in a monotone. "My date and I had a quarrel. It was very bad. I made him let me out back there."
"You really shouldn't be out here alone," he said motioning for Scully to move closer. The girl didn't respond. "Are you cold?" Mulder removed his jacket. She looked cold and wet from the heavy mist. He placed the coat around her shoulders and moved her toward the car. He opened the back door to their sedan.
They both tried talking to her, but obviously she wasn't in the mood for conversation. Mulder and Scully finally became quiet as well, though they exchanged glances. He wasn't familiar with this area and very much wished he'd stayed on I-40 now. He'd been looking forward to finding a little place for him and Scully to spend the night.
The young woman spoke abruptly. "Turn at the next right. My house is three doors down on the left."
Mulder glanced over at Scully and shrugged. At least this hadn't taken too long. They could get her home, then find a place to eat.
He parked in front of the dark house and got out of the car to open the door for her. The back seat was empty except for his coat.
"What the hell?" He jerked the door open and Scully turned to see the problem. "Did you see her get out?"
"No, but she must have slipped out while you were - "
"Scully, did the interior light come on?"
"Well no, but it's a rental car. The electrical system could be..." She stopped at the expression on his face. "I don't know."
"I don't know what's going on, but I'm going to find out."
"Mulder, it's getting late."
"Right, so if she is in trouble, we need to find out. She was just a kid. I'm going to make sure she got inside."
Scully unbuckled her seatbelt.
"You can stay here, Scully. It's foggy and wet."
"Right and you're a big guy. I don't want you scaring anyone. Come on, let's check on her and get going." She took his hand and they walked to the house.
"So, you think I'm a big guy? You know what they say about big feet..."
"And big noses, Mulder," she retorted smartly. He glared down at her. "Thank goodness they're right." She stepped in front of him to take the steps to the porch as his mouth dropped open.
She felt his hands close on her hips and smiled to herself. "Hey, a little professionalism here." In reality she was delighted that he would play. She was very glad they had worked out this trip together. At first he had opposed her coming, obviously protecting her from the sorrow of the situation. She had insisted. The last time he had come back in a funk that had torn at him for days. There was no need to continue to beat himself up over his mother's death. He wasn't responsible and while paying his respects was the right thing, wallowing in guilt did no one any good.
"I think there's a light on in the back."
"Good." He knocked firmly on the door. It took a second knock, but they heard movement and the porch light came on temporarily blinding them. The door opened a crack and Mulder pulled open the screen door.
"May I help you?" A middle aged woman with light hair and glasses looked out at them.
"Yes ma'am. We're sorry to disturb you, but we picked up a young woman a few miles from here and were bringing her home at her direction. We didn't see her get out of the car - "
"I see. Thank you." She started to close the door, but Mulder put his hand on it.
"Excuse me, is she here?"
The woman hesitated. "You're not from around here."
"No ma'am." Mulder withdrew his ID and Scully did the same.
"I'm Mada Dula. My goodness. She's moving high class this time."
"Excuse me?" Scully finally spoke.
The older woman sighed. "Why don't you step inside. It's raw out there tonight." She opened the door wider and a little reluctantly they came inside. "Can I get you some coffee or tea?"
"We just wanted to make sure the young lady - " They followed her into a comfortable looking family room and at her invitation, took seats on the plaid couch.
"Lydia," Mada offered.
"Lydia got inside okay," Mulder finished.
Mada sighed. "You're not writers doin' some kind of research."
"Uh, no." Mulder was confused and Scully was becoming annoyed.
The woman shook her head. "The government. She had to stop FBI agents." They waited for her to continue. "Lydia was my first cousin once removed."
Mulder blinked at her.
"You're in the South, Mr. Mulder. We have those down here," she said dryly.
Mulder smiled warmly. "You said was?"
"Don't be tryin' to charm me, Mr. Mulder. I'm not Lydia, I don't go for pretty boys."
"I prefer my men to look like husbands."
He sat up a little straighter. "You don't think I look like a husband?"
"To be honest you look like one of those Chippendale boys." She said tartly. They both turned to look at Scully when she started coughing. Mada moved to her and patted her on her back. "Put your arms up over your head, Honey."
"I'm, I'm fine." Scully got herself back under control, ignoring Mulder's glare while Mada wasn't looking.
"Ms. Dula, did you say Lydia was your cousin?"
Mada paused. "Lydia's a ghost," she said finally, sighing.
Scully blinked and glanced over at Mulder. As she'd known, a grin was growing on his face. "Ghost?" he finally asked.
"You can't arrest me for soundin' crazy."
Mulder shook his head. "No ma'am. But I would like a little more explanation."
After a moment she nodded. "How about that coffee?"
"Well if it's no trouble." He smiled at the woman.
She rolled her eyes, then reached over and patted his knee. "I told you, don't even try. I'll be right back." She turned toward the back of the house.
"Mulder," Scully hissed at him. "You're kidding!"
"Come on, Scully. Lydia was in our car. Hell, she gave us directions to this house."
Scully sighed and glanced at her watch.
Mada was back shortly with a coffee service on a tray, along with a plate of oatmeal raisin cookies. She sat it on the coffee table and took the chair beside the sofa. After pouring, she sat back and watched the two people who had entered her home. "How open-minded are you?"
Mulder shrugged, hiding his smile. "I like a good story."
Mada shook her head again. "I just bet you do. Okay, sit back." She took a sip from her own cup. "Lydia Hickman was Mother's first cousin. She was about, let's see Mother was born in 1912, so she was six years younger than Lydia. Lydia was 17 when it happened. She went to a school dance with Edward Thornburg. Afterwards he took her to that old bridge where you picked her up."
"How did you know where we..." Mada's look stopped him.
"She's always at the bridge. Anyway, he apparently got fresh and they had a fight. She demanded he let her out, so he did and drove off. I suspect he was pretty mad too. From Mother's stories, I'm sure he expected more action than he got." Mada took a sip of coffee and moved the cookie plate closer to Mulder. He took one. "Anyway, a drunk came around the curve and hit her. You didn't hear about that kind of thing as much back then, I guess because there were fewer cars it made for fewer drunk drivers," Mada shrugged. "Anyway, she was killed instantly. They said it nearly killed Aunt Millie. Lydia was an only child and Aunt Millie'd had her late in life. Uncle Chester was already gone, but Aunt Millie lived another thirty years or so.
"There's a picture somewhere of Aunt Millie holding me as a baby, so she died after '53. Anyway a year after the accident, Aunt Millie was asleep and there was a knock on the door. It was a young man that claimed he had picked up a young woman in a white dress and she'd asked to be brought home, to here. That was 1924. Lydia's been trying to come home ever since," Mada sighed. "It tore Aunt Millie up, but she wouldn't sell the house. When she died, Mother inherited it. She rented it out for awhile, but people didn't like the visitors, or the connotations. My husband and I moved back when Mother's health started failing and stayed on after she was gone. Would you like some more coffee, Miss Scully?"
"No thanks. Um, how often does this happen?" Scully asked, to Mulder's delight.
"Not often, not usually more than twice a year anymore. I'm frankly surprised she stopped you. I can't remember the last time she stopped a couple. It's usually a man, alone. Like I said, Edward had reason to believe there was action to be had." Mada smiled slightly.
Mulder looked over at Scully. "Uh, Agent Scully was asleep and slumped down some."
"That might be it. You're such a little thing, she might not have seen you."
"Has anyone tried to help her, uh you know, move on?" Mulder asked.
Mada gave him a full smile then. "You're the first person to ever ask me that. Yes, my husband and I have talked to a couple of people. So far it hasn't helped, but it's nice of you not to laugh at me. And to keep me company for a little while. I will admit I'm unsettled when this happens, even after all these years. My husband's out of town, so it's good to have you here. But I'm sure you had other plans. I understand if you want to escape." She looked them both in the eye, obviously immune to what they might think of her.
"What happened to Edward?" Mulder took the hint and rose from the sofa.
"Oh, he joined the army, career. He was killed in '46. Made it all the way up to colonel."
Mulder grinned. "Thank you, Mrs. Dula. That was a fascinating story."
Mada shook the proffered hand. "My pleasure. And thank you for giving Lydia the ride. Maybe someday..."
Mulder pulled out a business card then and handed it to her. "Are there any bed and breakfasts around here?"
"Why yes, the B&B is just a few blocks from here, near the old downtown. Just go down there to Richland, then turn left on Green. It's just past Hill Street. I play canasta there and the rooms are lovely."
"Thanks, we'll check it out." His hand took its place on Scully's back, to escort her to the car.
After they pulled away from the curb the porch light went out and Mulder turned to Scully. "Well?" He could see her roll her eyes. "Oh come on, we gave a lift to a ghost. Don't you have anything to say about that?"
"Only you, Mulder."
"Apparently not in this case," he grinned.
He took the room for two nights, which surprised her, but she made no comment. Once in the room, she got ready for bed first and slipped under the sheets as he came out of the bathroom. He pulled his t-shirt over his head and looked in her direction, though not directly at her.
"Scully, do you think I'm husband material?"
"What? I...I don't know."
He stopped then and looked at her. "You never thought about it?"
"Well, I guess not."
"You never think about us getting married?"
"Mulder, I...if there were children involved, yes. I think I'd want to get married then, but that's not an issue for us." She knew immediately she'd said the wrong thing.
"That's the only reason..."
"We're together, Mulder. What difference would a, a certificate make?"
"Well maybe not a certificate, but a ceremony or..."
"Forget it." He tried to grin at her, but the pain she was seeing in his face couldn't be completely hidden. "Let's get some sleep. It's been a long day."
"You, you want to go to sleep?"
"Yeah, I didn't get a nap in the car." He made it sound light, but she heard the undertones. He crawled in beside her, and when she scooted against him, put his arm around her but didn't cuddle her closer like she was used to. She had thought they'd make love.
They lay there in silence for a long time before she got up the courage to speak. "Mulder?"
"Do you think I'd make a good wife?"
There had been no hesitation, he'd answered instantly. "Why?"
He turned to look down at her. "You're the perfect companion. My perfect companion."
"I don't know about perfect, but I am your companion."
"It's okay, Scully. Get some sleep." He rolled over, his back to her. She just stared at him for what seemed like a long time, then she molded herself to his back, her arm over him. After a minute he took her fingers and brought them to his lips for a kiss.
"I'm sorry, Mulder."
"I said it was okay." He pressed her hand to his heart. "I'm the one that should apologize. I guess there's enough Neanderthal in me to want everyone to know you belong to me." He shifted when she pulled on him, turning again to face her.
"I do, you know," she said softly.
"Belong to you."
He did smile then. "Go to sleep, Scully."
When she woke the next morning, his side of the bed was empty. She glanced over at the bath, but the door was open, the light off. "Mulder?" There was no response. She was alone. Unexpected panic washed over her. She scrambled from the bed and began digging for her robe.
She was yanking it on when the door opened and Mulder entered, balancing two cups of coffee and some pastries.
"Mulder!" Scully ran to him, barely giving him time to empty his hands. She threw her arms around him.
"Scully? What's wrong?"
"Nothing. You, you were gone."
He looked at her confused. "I just went to get us some coffee. Breakfast will be served in fifteen minutes. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine. I just didn't know...I'm fine."
He tilted her head up to see her face. "I'm not going anywhere without you, Scully." He kissed her forehead and turned her toward the bathroom. "Go get dressed."
She nodded and did as he bade. She was embarrassed now and grateful to disappear into the bath. What in the world was wrong with her? She didn't panic when he wasn't beside her. But she had hurt him last night. It was true she hadn't thought of marriage, not in a long time. She knew they were committed to each other. She had never realized he thought about marriage. In fact she still found it hard to believe. Had Mada's remarks last night been that important to him?
She joined him and slipped off her robe, dressing in front of him. She could feel him watching but he made no comments, no innuendos. Damn, she was uncomfortable. She had to say something. "What do you want to do today?"
He shrugged. "There're museums, a Quaker museum, we're in the furniture capital of the world and..."
"Well, there's the Maize Adventure."
"A maze, in a cornfield."
"A cornfield. You want to go back into a cornfield with me?"
"I'd go anywhere with you, Scully," he said quietly, but the joy he'd had earlier was missing from his voice.
She stepped toward him. "Mulder - "
"Breakfast is ready. I'm sure you're ready for your second cup of coffee."
The day was pleasant but there was an undercurrent of sadness that, though he tried to hide it from her, occasionally came through. She was more than aware of it and was still kicking herself for having upset him the previous night. They both did what they did best, avoided talking about their feelings.
On the way back to the B&B after a full day, where both had kept as active as possible to avoid quiet time, she realized he was back in Lydia's neighborhood. "Mulder, are you heading back - "
"Uh, yeah. I wanted to stop in at Mada's house for just a minute."
"Why?" she asked quietly.
"I have a couple of names, people that might be able to help and I wanted to give them to her."
She nodded. "She might be at work."
He shrugged. "Do you want me to drop you off? I can wait for her - "
"No, I'll wait with you."
They both seemed to realize what that meant at the same time and the tension level rose, but neither mentioned it. They were quiet, parked in front of the house again, but they didn't seem to have the ability to even try a conversation. Scully had never seen him look quite so relieved as when Mada pulled into the driveway.
Mada emerged from her car and watched as they exited as well and joined her on the sidewalk. She smiled in recognition, but it faded as she watched them approach her. "Now I know Lydia didn't ask for a ride this afternoon."
Mulder managed a smile. "No, we haven't seen her today, but I wanted to give you some information, names, of people that might be able to help her."
"Really?" She looked startled that someone like him would have such contacts.
"I, uh, have a wide variety of interests."
Her eyebrow rose, reminding him painfully of Scully for just a second. "I don't doubt it, Mr. Mulder." She took the paper and looked it over. "I will contact these people. It's past time she rested. I hope one of them can help."
"Would you let me know, if anything..."
"I'd be happy to, and grateful for the help." She took the card he handed her as well, looking at him a little too closely.
"Well, we should be..." Mulder shook her hand and turned toward the car. Scully nodded to the woman, but Mada's hand came out stopping her. Mulder continued down the sidewalk.
"It's probably, no, it's definitely none of my business, but did something happen? Did you two have a fight?"
"I, what?" Scully asked startled.
"Well, you were both so happy, playful, last night and today he's so depressed, and you're not much better."
"Uh, really, we're fine."
"Okay, it's none of my business, but neither one of you is 'fine'. I hope it's nothing about Lydia, or anything I said."
Scully just looked at her for a long moment. "Why don't you think he looks like a husband?" Scully looked more startled than Mada at the question. "I'm sorry, I - "
"No, it's a legitimate question. He's too attractive. Obviously I know nothing about the man, but in my experience, men that look as good as he does are more attentive to their own appearance than to anyone else, and they spend a great deal of time on themselves. It's hard to believe he's that good looking when he wakes up in the morning."
"He is," Scully said softly. "He doesn't ever thinks about his appearance."
"Then you're a very lucky woman."
Scully blinked. "You're right."
Mada smiled and patted her arm. "Go on, he's waiting for you."
He let himself into her apartment. She'd left early but she had forced a promise from him to meet here at her place. They weren't spending quite as much time together these days, but he didn't seem to be able to change that. He'd stopped by his apartment first but ended up not changing after he checked the mail. He was a little later than he'd told her, but the note from Mada Dula, thanking him for his help had driven other things out of his mind. Lydia hadn't been seen since they had picked her up. While there was no promise that she wouldn't be there under her bridge sometime soon, for now at least . . .
The lights were off and candles were burning on the coffee table and side tables. "Scully? Did you lose power?"
"No." She stepped into view from the bedroom and his mouth dropped open. She was wearing a sheer cream robe over a matching gown. Only lace covered her breasts and the rose of her nipples peeking through had sent a large volume of his blood racing south.
She approached him and looked up into his eyes. She took his jacket and loosened his tie. "I wanted to ask you something."
He nodded, unsure of what to say.
She held his gaze with those bluest of blue eyes. "Will you marry me?"
His mouth fell open. "You...Scully, you don't have to - "
"Will you?" she pressed.
"Yes. Of course I will."
She smiled then, dazzling him. He watched as she rose and held out her hand. "There's champagne in the bedroom, if you'd like to celebrate."
"I can think of better ways to celebrate in there..."
He pulled the door closed behind them.
Author's note: I've been wanting to get Lydia into a story for years. She's famous around here and I've been to her bridge several times. The road has been moved now, and no longer goes under it, but there are lots of documented sightings. Below are some websites about her. (Mada belongs to me.) Happy Halloween!
"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards."
If every customer who vists Wal-Mart in a week bought one long-lasting compact fluorescent (CF) light bulb, that would reduce electric bills by $3 billion, conserve 50 billion tons of coal and keep one billion incandescent light bulbs out of landfills over the life of the bulb. - Fortune Magagine 8/7/06