Luckily, Rosalee didn’t live very far from the library and it was only a five minute car ride. She lived in a small rancher in a quiet cul de sac. It was a bit run down and needed a paint job. There were, however, pretty flowers and plants in the front garden and a Japanese maple in the middle of the lawn. Francine rang the doorbell and realized it didn’t work, so she rapped on the door.

A short, slim woman of about sixtyish opened the door. Francine could see a resemblance to Carmella in the eyes (if that was Carmella she saw in the library?). She didn’t like to think about it, so she pushed the thought back.

“Hello, I’m Francine. I believe Grace gave you a call?”

“Oh yes, please come in. Grace said you had a book that was originally my mom’s, is that right?”

“Uh, yes, I, uh, I found it in the library and I, I, really enjoyed it, so I wanted to, to give it back to whoever it belonged to.” Francine was sweating again, her heart pounding. She wasn’t very good at lying and she was close to having a panic attack.

“Oh, please sit down, you look exhausted. I’ll make a cup of tea, or would you like coffee?”

Francine gratefully took a seat, taking off her shoes and rubbing her feet on the floor.

“Uh, tea would be great, thank you.”

“No problem, just relax and I’ll put the kettle on. It’s black tea, is that okay?”

Francine simply nodded. When Rosalee went out of the room, Francine began taking slow, deep breaths to calm herself. She closed her eyes. When she started to feel more relaxed, Francine opened them and looked around. The living room was quite sparse except for some pictures on the fireplace mantel. The couch she was sitting on looked ancient, but everything was clean and tidy. She got up to look at the photographs. She immediately recognized Carmella and her heart fluttered. Another photograph was of Frank and a much younger Carmella sitting on a porch swing. They had their arms around each other, smiling and looked very close.

Rosalee came in with a tray of tea and some cookies.

“Here we are,” she said, placing it down on the coffee table. “Do you take milk and sugar?”

“Just a little milk, please.”

Rosalee handed Francine the tea. “Please take a cookie; they’re oatmeal and raisin. I made them this morning. You look like you need some fortification.”

Gratefully, Francine took one.

“Thank you so much.” She took a bite. “This cookie is delicious. I’m afraid I am rather hungry.”

They sat in silence munching on cookies and drinking their tea. Francine felt very at home here. She could have sat there all afternoon in companionable silence.

Finally, Rosalee said, “You have the book of my mother’s?”

“Oh, yes. I’m so sorry. I’m not with it; I mean, I’m a bit out of it…oh for goodness’ sake, you must think I’m very strange…” Francine was babbling as she looked inside her purse for the book.

“Here you are. I have re-read it a number of times. I really enjoyed your uncle’s…? Book.”

“Yes, Frank is—or rather, was my uncle.” Rosalee took the book and looked inside at the inscription. “They were very close, my mother and Frank. Sadly, he died in a car accident in 1986 and my mother passed away five years ago.”

Francine’s heart was racing again; she knew Frank was not alive, but now it was confirmed, along with Carmella’s death.

Francine put the tea down on the tray, rattling the cup and saucer.

Rosalee looked uneasily at Francine and Francine thought for sure she was going to ask her to leave.

“I have to ask you something,” Rosalee said.

“Yes, sure, go ahead.” Francine tried her best to smile without shaking.

“I’ve been having some dreams lately of my uncle.”

The hairs on the back of Francine’s neck stood up.

“Well, I knew him of course; I was 23 when he died. My mom was devastated. He was a very quiet, shy man. He never married or didn’t appear to have girlfriends, even. He was always writing, but didn’t hardly publish anything. I think this book is the only one he did publish. Anyway, he was working on a novel before the crash. My mom and I searched everywhere for it, but couldn’t find it. We didn’t think anything of it. My mom got cancer and she died two years after contracting it, but the last year, she was on a lot of painkillers and was going on about how my uncle’s book should be published. His house was sold and we had all his meager belongings. Anyway, I kept telling her, there was no book or manuscript anywhere. I just figured it was the drugs talking.”

Rosalee took a breather and poured another cup of tea for herself. She offered one to Francine, but she shook her head no.

“Anyway, as I was saying, this book or story or whatever became my mom’s obsession. She would wake up calling out Frank’s name and then calling out the name Francis. She said his book would be written by someone called Francis…”

Francine didn’t know how much more her poor heart could take. It was beating so hard, it hurt.

Rosalee continued, “I haven’t thought about this until this last month. My uncle, in the dream, is writing at his desk; well, not writing, but typing on his desk. He had an old-fashioned typewriter. He’s working away and then suddenly he looks at me. I walk over to the typewriter and he’s typed out a name. Not Francis as my mother was saying, but Francine.”

“Oh my God,” Francine whispered; she was finding it hard to breathe. This time, it was a panic attack. She turned so white she was almost translucent.

Rosalee quickly came to the couch and held Francine’s hand.

“It’s okay, just breathe; take deep breaths.” She put the cold tea to Francine’s lips. “Just sip, take a sip. That’s it. Here, lay down; I’ll get a cold pack.”

Francine gratefully laid on the couch. Within a couple of minutes, Rosalee was back with a tea towel wrapped around an ice pack. She placed it on Francine’s forehead. Francine was sweating again and the cold was a welcome relief. Rosalee sat back in her chair and anxiously watched Francine. After about five minutes, she could see Francine visibly relax and start to breathe normally. Francine closed her eyes. Rosalee got a blanket and covered her up.

An hour later, Francine was awake and everything came flooding back. This time, she was in more control. She called out for Rosalee, not confident enough to stand up by herself.

Rosalee ran over. “I almost called an ambulance; I wasn’t sure if you were having a heart attack.” She confessed to Francine.

“It felt like it. I’m sorry, but this whole day, it’s been quite a shock; everything that’s happened…”

“I should apologize; I shouldn’t have sprung this on you like that. I don’t expect you to be the Francine but…”

Francine held her hand up and Rosalee stopped talking.

“I need to tell you something as well,” Francine said, “but do you have any whiskey or something stronger than tea?”

Rosalee smiled and went to get the whiskey bottle and two glasses.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in telling Rosalee about her dreams and the novel she was writing (which was Frank’s). Francine didn’t tell her that she was Rosalee’s dead mother and that she gave her the book. That was too much and even Francine couldn’t comprehend it, so she stuck to her story of finding the book in the library.

Rosalee told her that she had a complex, chronic disease called fibromyalgia which made her take early retirement. She never married and was completely alone, having no other relatives. Francine could tell by the house and its contents that Rosalee didn’t have a lot of money.

The two women, although different ages, seemed to share a commonality and they felt like they had known each other for years. While Francine had renewed energy, Rosalee looked pale and exhausted.

“I would ask you for supper, but this condition leaves me exhausted and in pain. I’m afraid I need to take some medication and lay down.”

“Oh, of course. Thank you for everything you did for me this afternoon.”

“Well, in a way, I created it; not intentionally of course.” Rosalee smiled weakly.

“Look, can I have your number? I’d like to call you when I’m finished the, you know, the book,” Francine asked.

“Yes, of course. Here, I’ll write it down.” Rosalee was about to get up but Francine interrupted, “It’s okay, I’ll put it in my cell phone now.”

After she got Rosalee’s number, she thanked her again and left.

Amazingly, Francine felt great. She only had one small whiskey, so she felt okay to drive. Instead of going home, Francine went to a local restaurant for supper and had no qualms about going in by herself.

In the next few weeks, Francine was busy writing the book that Frank wrote in her dreams. She did some editing and changed some minor details where she felt it was needed. Finally, after a month, the book was complete. She emailed the manuscript to her publisher. A week later, Doris, her publisher contacted her.

“Hi, Francine. I really enjoyed the manuscript, even though I thought it was a bit old school. It’s not your usual style. Why the change?”

“Well,” began Francine, “I decided to try something different.”

“I’m not sure this will appeal to your fan base.” Doris said honestly.

Francine was about to argue with Doris, but she wasn’t happy with herself for lying.

“Listen Doris, this isn’t my style because it wasn’t me.”

“What? I don’t understand.”

“It’s a long story and complicated, but the truth is, it was written by a man named Frank Attelli.”

“Why were you going to pass it off as yours?”

“Well, this Frank Attelli died in 1986, but this was his story, not mine. I’m his ghostwriter.”

“Do you have permission to use his material as your own?” Doris asked.

“No, not exactly, and anyway, I don’t want it under my name. It should be under Frank’s name.”

“I’m confused. First you say it’s your book, then it’s this Frank guy and you’re his ghostwriter, but you want it published in his name?”

“Yes, and all the royalties to go to his niece, who is his only living relative.”

“This is a lot to process. What about your book; have you started on that?” Doris asked with frustration.

“Well, not exactly; uh, no, I haven’t. I’m sorry, this came up and I thought it was too good to miss out on publication. I promise I will start on it as soon as this book is underway to getting out there.”

There was silence at the end of the phone. Francine held her breath.

Doris let out a big sigh, “I have to discuss it with the other team members, but I think it will be accepted. I think so.”

“Oh, thank you, Doris. You won’t regret it, I know it.”

Francine got the confirmation of the deal a couple of days later. She picked up the contract and took it to Rosalee for her to look over and sign.

“I don’t know what to say, Francine. I can’t thank you enough,” Rosalee said after hearing what Francine had accomplished.

“I suggest you get it looked over by a lawyer and if it’s all good, sign it and we can start getting the book to print.”

“Oh, I don’t know any lawyers and it all looks fine to me. I trust you, and if you’re happy with it, so am I.”

“Would you like to read it first?” Francine asked.

“No, that won’t be necessary. I’d like a copy of the book when it’s published, though.”

“Of course. Look, let’s go out for dinner to celebrate. My treat. Wherever you want.”

Rosalee nodded and they enjoyed a nice dinner together.

Francine and Rosalee were fast becoming good friends. They were in touch with each other over the course of the printing of the book.

Francine no longer had any dreams of Frank and the typewriter. In some ways, Francine missed them, but she was busy with the details of Frank’s publication. Francine wrote a forward for the book, describing how Frank wasn’t able to get this book published before his untimely death. She wrote that a number of “coincidences” occurred and brought the manuscript to her attention.

When the novel was done and in print, the first copy went to Rosalee as promised. Francine had the second copy. Rosalee called her up after reading it. She had been crying.

“Oh, Rosalee, you don’t like it?” Francine asked concerned.

“No, I love it. It’s just, it’s so unreal and my mom would’ve been so proud. I’m crying because I’m so happy.”

The book was a success and the much-needed money went to Rosalee as Francine had promised. Francine called Wanda to make an appointment, not for therapy, but to tell her what had been going on. She owed her that and Wanda would believe her.

That night, Francine had the dream again with the typewriter. In her dream, she went into the living room and saw the keys typing. She looked at the paper. It read, “THANK YOU! NOW IT’S YOUR TURN.”

Francine woke up suddenly. She smiled. “Yes, it is my turn and I know just what I’m going to write about.”


For all installments of “The Ghost Writer (Francine’s Dilemma),” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2