A small shadow lives at Ferenmoor
“There was so much I wanted to do.” Images of her modest wedding to a young man who was set to inherit a small amount of land and property swam in front of her eyes, along with the simple yet elegant gown with the pearl-like beading running along the length of the gown from the bodice, pooling at its hem. The proud face of her parents, beaming at her. Her father’s approval. Her mother’s tears carefully dabbed away from the corners of her eyes with a silk hankie.
The children she would have birthed gladly for her husband, her sons who would grow tall and strong, and marry beautiful women while working important roles for the land. They would have their fathers dark locks and stubborn determination to do what was right and to do that duty admirably and diligently. Her daughters who would inherit her slender frame and delicate complexion while ultimately inheriting their fathers brilliant green eyes that crinkled when he laughed and smiled (as theirs would too). She would find great joy in making suitable matches for them from the finest the lords and landowners had to offer. They would live in stately homes: ladies of the manor. And write to her of their duties, their husbands and their beautiful grandchild. Oh she would have so many grandchildren. And she would have cherished the bringing of them into the world. Coaching her daughters and soothing her daughter-in-laws. She wouldn’t have missed a single birth.
She had yet to present her first born to her parents, or to teach her children, especially her daughters, the most important lessons to serve them well in life. She had yet to nurse a poorly child, an ailing husband or to see her parents funeral was done properly. To see to their estates after they had gone. To mourn them. To mourn the baby she lost to a fever. To mourn her husband after he died in a hunting accident. To be a widow, bereaved. To still carry herself with dignity and oversee the estate until her eldest son came of age.
All of these experiences, these moments, swam before her eyes. And then she blinked and they were gone. Gone like the light that left her eyes so long ago.
The figure standing before her implored, voice genuinely cracking under the weight of the grief stacked on their vocal cords. “You cannot linger here, you must come with me.” They extended their hand towards her. Everything about the stranger glowed with light. Golden. Safe. Welcome. Like a lantern in the dark, calling you home. Calling you to safety.
The hand hovered between them, all she had to do was to reach out and take it.
To take their hand.
She kept her hands to her sides and looked away from them, down the corridors of the place she had called home.
The hand hung between them. Then dropped.
A single tear slid down a perfect face carved from gold.
The sound of a thunder clap.
Then she stood alone.
A shadow of a girl (not yet fifteen) drifted around an empty house. With only other shadows to keep her company (not the shadows of other girls, or people besides mind you, just regular shadows, cast by sunlight, or candlelight, depending on time of day). She wandered from room to room. Each room hollow and larger than the last.
It was dark.
The home that had once been so familiar to her, a place that she had known every nook and cranny of (and had made it her business to do so) now seemed to have a permanent dimness hanging over it that never seemed to quite shift. Even when the sun shone brilliantly and the heavy draped curtains were all pulled open, exposing the house to the warmth and the light, the dingy gray gloom would not go. It was unappealing and made her home feel less like a home than it otherwise should.
Sometimes there were shapes around her drifting in and out of the rooms. Blurs. A lack of absence more than the presence of another. There were noises. Distorted sounds, strange and highlighted to her in their strangeness. She felt her skin prickle as sounds echoed throughout her house, her home.
A door slammed as if it came from above her when there was no room for a door above where she was (she was hiding in the attic when the slam came) and no one to slam it besides. The sounds of footsteps came from another room. She looked up, her heart filled with hope, optimistic for the very first time since... But when she went to check there was no one there.
Sometimes there would be other voices too, not just artificial noises (the scraping was the worst). There were garbled voices. Tangled up as if caught in a spiders web. Sometimes whispers that sounded threatening. Others. Loud raucous laughter echoing all around her. She would hide when this happened.
There was a time when the gales of laughter blew at her from all corners of the house. From her crouched position by the stairs she cried out “Stop! Stop it! “The noise grew ever louder, booming laughter, bearing down on her. Down and down and down. So much pressure. It was too much to bear. “Stop! Get out of my home! Stop!!” She cried out loudly, half in plea half in anger and for a time the house was silent and she felt alone again. The girl (not yet fifteen) drifted along the walls and corridors. Found herself in corners and behind doorways. But of course the noise would start again.
And she would hide in a different place.
Finally, the house was hers. There were no footsteps, no doors, no laughter, no slams, no whispers, no jeers, no scrapes or dragging noises, no strange howls or grumbling or rumbling. The house was hers and there was less of what scared her and she could relax for a time, feel at home in her home. She wandered the rooms, up and down, from the top of the house to its very bottom. And she hummed and she taped on the walls and started to feel well.
Then, only moments after she had found her home again the noise was present gain and so unbearable. And there was no absence. There was no room for her. In the house that had been her home.
Then she was in a field. And her house, her home, was gone.
And she was alone.
Even more alone than before.
She could still see the outline of the house. Silver in the sun, against the sky and the grass. The hills. But whenever she tried to enter she found herself outside again.
The girl (not yet fifteen) screamed. Howling into the night.
There was no response.
When it rained. When the sun shined. When the wind blew. When it hailed and snowed.
It all passed through her.
I can’t even feel cold… She had hated the cold, and yet she missed it so.
She started to think of nights around the hearth, drinking hot tea, listening to her fathers stories as her mother laughed, playfully indulging father, and her brother fidgeted next to her, resentful that he was made to stay inside as the snow fell.
She smiled at the memory, Tried to imagine it so hard. To be back there. To hold onto it.
She was standing in a field.
She drifted, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes fretfully, around the place where the house that had been her home had once stood.
Mother and father will be so displeased. I did not fulfill my duty to them. I hope they will not be angry with me…
And dear William… His face appeared in her minds eye, so clear and pristine, he could have stood in front of her. Had he mourned me? Had he found another girl to be his wife? (She would never know).
She circled and she circled and she circled.
She passed the stream near her home. So many fond memories were made here. This is where we picnicked in the summer. It was so warm! Me and Thomas would swim in the water to cool down. Memories of her and Thomas splashing each other, seeing who could stay under the water the longest and who could do the best tricks flowed into her conscious thought. Thomas could stand on his head under the water for ten whole seconds (at least, when I didn’t push him over). He was ever so good at games. That is until he didn’t want to play anymore. The memory still hurt, even in this place. “Boys don’t play with girls!” He’d stuck out his tongue and ran off, giggling with the other boys. Boys didn’t play with girls. She sat alone by the tree she and Thomas had climbed when they were younger. She wasn’t allowed to climb anymore or swim in the stream. It was not befitting of a lady. Then why had they let me ever do it? To have a taste but no more? She often sat alone, until mother helped her find some friends…
She had stopped her pacing. Lost in the memories of her life. Her childhood. Then a glimmer in the stream caught her eye.
Something floated along the water, down stream, threatening to disappear.
She saw it.
She reached it.
She grabbed it.
A golden feather lay in the palm of her hand. Warm, Pristine. The sunlight reflected off of it, making the feather almost too painful to look at. She turned the feather in her hands. It had the warmth of a hot bath (she had not bathed in so long…) and smelt of smoke and hot tea and lemon cakes and meadows. And something else.
To smell another flower…
To ride a horse…
To sit by the hearth…
To hear her father’s tales…
To swim in the steam...
To walk in the sun...
To… To be kissed….
She held the feather tight in her hand...