Among the Willows
The bauble gleamed in the sunshine and its glint caught Lucy’s eyes as she rested on the stone bench. A soft breeze blew through the willows that bordered her ancestral home and tickled the back of her neck. She picked up the trinket and gazed at it in wonder; it was a small cameo dangling from a silver chain, an exact match to the one her grandmother always wore, and had taken to her grave. Lucy still remembered the open casket funeral, Grandma’s peaceful face, and the cameo draped across her craggy neck and resting just above the crossed hands.
Lucy ran it between her fingers and marveled at the polished thin chain, and the perfect condition of the cameo; the white female silhouette with pompadour hair and surrounded by emerald buds was in perfect condition, as if it had been lying in the grass only a few days. The wind rustled through the drooping willows, and carried Grandma’s voice through memory and time.
“It’s Miriam’s,” Grandma whispered, “All they found was her car on a lonely winter road in Maine. I think someone killed her for it.”
Lucy wiped the sweat from her brow. The sun beat down on the luscious overgrown grass, and she needed a drink. Why had she thought of Miriam? She had not heard the name since Grandma’s death, and yet here she was again. The ghostly Miriam who vanished on her wedding day, but appeared in conversation often during Lucy’s childhood. Miriam the beautiful, Miriam the joyous, Miriam the bride, Miriam the murdered, Miriam the-vanished-into-smoke, but ever-present in the family’s memory.
Lucy’s stomach grumbled, and the golden sun began to set. She dropped the cameo into her jeans pocket and entered the big ancestral home with its lofty ceilings and lofty windows and lofty airs of a bygone gilded age.
Lucy woke up for no reason and gazed into the darkness of her bedroom. No moon glittered through the open window, and no breeze whispered its soft lullaby. An inky black void surrounded her, and she listened for the whispered sounds of the old house, but heard none. Only a faint purple light oozed through the windowsill.
She reached for the bedside lamp and flicked the switch, but no electric light beamed. A cold draft blew through the open window, and shivering, Lucy slipped out of bed and padded towards the window. She gazed out at the impenetrable darkness of the garden she had tended that evening.
Neither moonlight nor starlight, the soft purple light shimmered by the willows and the stone bench. A woman in a raincoat and cloche hat appeared in the purple light. She carried a suitcase, and gazing towards Lucy’s window, she raised her free hand in a farewell gesture. Her open raincoat showed her marble-white neck glimmering in the purple light. Soft silver glints encircled it, and the light reflected off the green emeralds surrounding the cameo resting on her chest. The woman zipped up her raincoat, cloaking the cameo’s unnatural glint, then turned her back to the house and vanished among the willows.