Olivia watched through the window as Jeffrey climbed in his car and drove away. Both sad and relieved, Olivia closed the curtain. Sad the marriage had failed despite Olivia’s efforts, but Jeffrey was a spendthrift and a womanizer. Relief came with a sigh as the weight of Jeffrey’s presence lifted from her shoulders.
As she glanced around the shabby hacienda into which they’d sunk her last penny—yet another of Jeffrey’s get-rich-quick schemes—a third emotion bubbled inside her: anger. Anger at herself for having stood by Jeffrey for so long, anger at Jeffrey for being so despicable, and anger at her father for pushing her into the marriage.
Night fell and Olivia bid goodbye to Magdalena, the cleaning woman, worried she might soon have to fire her. Olivia ate dinner in the old-fashioned kitchen with cracked blue-and-white Talavera tiles, an ancient gas stove and a leaky faucet, with only the chugging refrigerator for company. The warm moonless night crept through the open window, while the roar of the gushing river drowned out the chirping crickets and buzzing cicadas. Olivia made herself a cup of tea and resolved to sip it outside in the garden.
Olivia liked the hacienda, which they’d planned to repurpose as a bed-and-breakfast, until Jeffrey got in the way. Maybe if Olivia pressed her brother, he might lend her the money to finish the repairs and renovations; she might just make it through then.
In the countryside, only the sounds of nature, not of industry, sprinkle the silent inky nights. The townspeople welcomed her and, as she stared at the kettle, a fourth emotion simmered: dismay she might have to leave.
The kettle whistled and Olivia, shawl on her shoulders and hot mug in hand, walked through the darkened house and out to the garden.
The mug thumped on the ground, and unbroken, spilled its contents into the damp earth. Olivia stared agape at the far wall of the orchard. A man with sleek black hair sat on the stone wall, clear in the starlight, with a white shirt so bright it lit up the ancient mossy bricks. His feet dangled above the ground and he sported a black suit.
Olivia stepped backwards; a twig snapped. The man remained impassive, eyes on the ground beneath him.
“May I help you?” Olivia bleated.
The man gazed at her with deep dark penetrating eyes. He grinned, then evaporated like mist.
Olivia shook with fear and confusion. Had she seen a ghost? Her mind raced as it searched for logical possibilities. The river ran behind that wall, and, because of the frequent rains, rushed deep and dangerous. No person could have crossed it. And why sit on the wall? Was he a robber? How did he disappear like steam as it dissipates?
Olivia’s heart thumped with each unanswered question. She covered her mouth with trembling fingers when Magdalena’s voice washed over her like the flowing river.
“Ay señora, I saw a ghost once, allá en el monte, in the mountain. I dug and dug, but never found his buried money. A ghost always guards its hidden gold.”
Olivia drew her shawl tighter around her shoulders; dim garden lamps shone on the shovel leaning against the house. The Milky Way sparkled above the stone wall.
The thunderous river drowned out the sound of metal breaking earth, and of Olivia’s delighted cries.