Along the moonlit path, trees with memories older than the earth they're anchored to are restless. Aralyn approaches. Beautiful, dangerous, she pauses to watch their boughs sway and speak the language to usher in this magic, tragic night.
Her flaming hair is a torch among the royal emerald leaves. Their empire of branches her loyal subjects till the end"till the end and still.
A sudden breeze matures into windy ghosts. Clouds spin into a turbulent carousel until the lace at the bottom of her nightgown flutters like the wings of the night bird perched in the tree above her head. But she fears nothing of the darkness.
Aralyn waits--she waits until the breath that brought clouds to cover the moon chases them away in turn. When a sliver of the Carolina moon reappears she sighs in relief. She doesn't want her deed to be obscured from the eyes of Nature or God. So long laid low, an ether of presence unknown, tonight she will reveal herself in a cry that can no longer be unheard.
From her secret view, a house waits like an old friend: the place where she was born, the place where she died. Aralyn knows that houses cannot be haunted, but experience tells her that people can.
Aralyn smiles as she waits for darkness to fall. Slowly each window fills with wavering candlelight. And a reverie fills her mind"
(Smells of a river that empties into the sea--its salty anticipation like wet silk on the skin"church steeples trying to compete with great spires of the Live Oaks" loves of childhood, hurts, victories"dark days of the past".)
Reveries and resolve have been her salvation in the silence of the grave.
Aralyn yearns as she hears the comfort of a screen door bumping. Children, a woman leave night outside and fill the glowing rooms. She catches a glimpse of portraits that watch over those who dwell there--evidence of lives past. The portrait that should witness the life in those rooms has been unjustly removed by a heartless hand and cruelly forgotten.
In the hush of seven years' solitude, she has surely learned to listen. One by one, each heartbeat within the house slows as slumber descends on all but one. She, alone, has troubled the sleep of the one now alone with a book in a downstairs room. He is restless"oblivious.
How she once admired this figure of a man. How she was so wrong! Cur among men!
He is vexed tonight not because of conscious--the flame-haired whisper shadow is responsible for his distress. Aralyn beams. She sees him pacing, seeking solace that will never be found. And tonight will not be the end of his search--just the beginning of another, more perilous part of his life's journey.
Her bare feet are chilled from diamonds of dew. An elegant cape trails behind her as she moves from her place among the trees. Fire and ice, and something she cannot name move in her as surely as the blood that once pumped through her body. She moves toward the house with the confidence of a child and the stealth of a panther. Aralyn comes.
She compels the agitated man to open the door and step out on the porch that encompasses the house. He stares into the distance, wondering why he finds himself here"now. All the while, Aralyn is closing in.
With velvet steps, brave and sure, she glides"righteous as the echo of a church bell until she touches the ground no more. Finally, she allows the man to catch a glimpse of the one who is coming for him. Her deep green cape against her flaming hair is beautiful as it waves like a flag behind her. He tries to scream, but she has stolen his breath--tries to move toward her in defense, tries to flee"but he can only remain as still as the tomb that bears Aralyn's name.
Close enough to hear his frantic breathing, her deep eyes become embers. She draws her cape over her head to conceal them: tonight his flame will be extinguished as hers was.
Aralyn stills. The terror that cages him may have fostered tears of sympathy from her in the past. But in a lightning flash moment, Aralyn remembers that heartbeat of her life, and compassion becomes a thing chained, unable to make its way to her heart.
Seven days she was his bride; seven years ago she died. Moments pass as she stares at the vicious traitor who took her life"thoughts she's harbored in the quiet of her grave rush into her mind:
(When you die, you die alone. They eyes of the one you love can offer no mercy. But mercy does not dwell in this monster before her. He would not look in her eyes when he dealt the death blow. How carefully he'd cloaked them as he had his intentions. Beloved enemy dressed in white--he would not look in her eyes!)
In that instant--that eternity of darkness he plunged her into, he didn't see how he filled her with surprise"never saw the panic, the resignation. Coward who turned away--he would not look in her eyes!
Certainly her heard her cry of disbelief resounding through their room. The last memory of the man she loved? A gloved hand raised to hide his smile with the back of his hand. Yet that smile had shown in his steely eyes.
A grand house, all the lands--a fortune made by her father's hands passed down to a murderer in a single wound, an ever-growing stain of blood on white linen.
Though her face is concealed, he knows his ghostly bride stands before him tonight. The dagger hidden in the folds of her cape flashes deadly, an upward thrust. She removes the instrument of her death from his chest, wipes his blood on her nightgown beside the stain he'd made seven years ago, and her murderer falls to the floor.
Eyes still hooded, she watches as he gasps, as he grasps for a hand to hold in his dying. He silently pleads for her eyes to cling to as he slips away to judgment, Aralyn denies him the effort tenderness. That simple tenderness he'd denied her. She resists the smile of satisfaction until she raises her pale hand to obscure it--she will not vary from her betrayer's deadly scenario.
Gracefully, she steps into the night and lets the hood of her cape rest on her shoulders once more. The breeze calms, and the outstretched trees grow still. The moon and every star congregate above her head like fireflies.
Aralyn sighs. She breathes in summer night fragrance and takes a last look at her home with its sentinel trees. Walking toward her resting place, her soul no longer burns for justice. She radiates as one full of life. The night mist engulfs her, and she passes into another realm. She begins to rise, hovering a moment over the vista she loved all her days. Rising higher"glowing brighter, her inner light becomes more dazzling than any heavenly body.
At last, all is as it should be. A beloved one, still missed, will finally know peace.
June 16, 2011