My husband Frank and I run our own business. Our junior clerk, Darren, was more like a brother and friend than an employee to us. We knew he'd been having some rather traumatic times with his girlfriend, but as he was simultaneously doing brilliantly at university, we assumed that he was strong enough to cope with romantic tangles.
We bade goodbye to Darren shortly before Christmas, 1989 as we were setting off on a two-month tour of the country. He seemed quite cheerful when we asked how his love life was, and we were happy when he reassured us that everything between them was fine. When we returned to Melbourne, Frank decided to go to the races at Flemington the following day, which was a Saturday. When he returned, he said to me, "Guess who I saw at Flemington? It was Darren." I said, "I never knew he gambled. In fact, I thought he was against it!" My husband replied, "Well, he did look a bit sheepish when I spoke to him." I said, "Are you sure it was Darren?" Even as I spoke, I realized it was a silly question. Darren was a very unusual looking youth - one could describe him as "pretty" with his soft features, beautiful complexion, and doe-like eyes. Frank confirmed that it was Darren, looking as he always did. He had greeted Darren, who had smiled, as though embarrassed to be caught betting, and then the crowds separated them for a moment. My husband saw Darren walk away, then turn once again to give his usual, enigmatic smile before disappearing once more into the throngs.
Frank then realized that he hadn't reminded Darren to come in and do the bookkeeping. He asked me to ring Darren and arrange for him to do this task the following day. I rang Darren's home, and his girlfriend answered. When I asked for him, she became rather cagey. Finally I said, "Look, I'm his employer and we need him to do the books." She said, "Yes, now I know who you are. Darren doesn't live here anymore." I said, "Well, can you give me his new address and phone number then?" Eventually, after a lot of hedging about, the girlfriend told me that Darren was dead.
I nearly fell over with the shock. I asked if he'd been killed in a car crash en route home from the races the previous day. She was very taken aback and told me that Darren had never been to the races in his life. I said, "Yes, he was at Flemington. My husband saw him there yesterday, but forgot to mention the bookwork to him, which is why I'm ringing now." The girlfriend responded shakily, "That's not possible. You see, he died on New Year's Day, by drowning himself."
We visited the grave, checked the obituaries and spoke to the police who'd been in charge of the coronial enquiries. It took many weeks before the realization of his suicide fully sank in, and my husband, a rationalist who does not believe at all in the supernatural, was very perturbed. He reasoned that he must have seen somebody who resembled Darren. To this I replied that when they had met, near the bookmakers' booths, they were only a meter apart, and Frank could hardly have been mistaken at that short distance! Personally, I keep an open mind about ghosts. I like to think that Darren was saying farewell to us and I sincerely hope, wherever he now is, that he has peace. - F. Lata