Hello all, here is my post for the Haunting Blog Fest. I hope you enjoy the "condensed" version of the first chapter of my novel, Evangeline's Miracle. Cutting it to size (1000 words) was a challenge, but a good one and I learned something while doing it, which is always good. Please check out the other participants by clicking on the link under this photo. So, on to the story...
The first time I saw the ghost, I wasn’t dreaming. I wasn’t even asleep. I’d had no premonition that my life was about to change forever, and no wonder; I’m not prone to having premonitions. It happened the evening my husband Christian and I attended a piano concert. Such a normal thing to do.
I took my seat while Christian played at being the socialite. I closed my eyes and tried to relax while I listened to the patter of voices, the dull scrape of shoes on carpet, the creak of a seat. At home we had a small parlor grand, which Christian played after work and on weekends. The music helped him unwind from the drudge of his engineering job, the job he kept to provide for us.
The lights dimmed, and Christian slid into the seat beside me. He took my hand and laid it over his forearm. In the near-darkness of the hushed auditorium, the stage lights illumined the pianist as he crossed the stage, stood beside the piano bench, and gave a slight bow. Applause leaped into the air as he seated himself before the piano. Hands poised over the keyboard, the applause diminished into silence. His back arched for an instant before his hands met the keys.
The music, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, should have been easy to lose myself in, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the previous night. Sharp words had passed between Christian and me and rang with a resounding clarity in my head.
“Babies! Children! You talk of nothing else now.”
“And why not, Evie? We’ve been married three years—”
“I’m not ready yet!”
“When will you be ready, Evangeline? When?”
I still winced when I thought of the look on his face, of hurt more than anger, but no matter how I tried to change, the idea of being a mother terrified me.
With eyes closed, I attempted to clear my thoughts. The piano’s joyful sound caressed, flowed into my ears. I opened my eyes, wanting not only to hear but to see the performance. Behind the pianist, a shimmering vision of a woman appeared. I gasped. I glanced at Christian. He paid no heed to the apparition. Her golden dress reminded me of another time, perhaps the late eighteen hundreds or even earlier. Her appearance made no sense.
|Cover of Evangeline's Miracle|
Yet she stood there, her eyes downcast, her face sad yet serene, as if she too were lost in the music and its magic. I watched her unwavering form until the soft stage lighting caught and sparkled upon a single tear on her cheek.
Pity welled within me. This woman was a wonderful actress. She portrayed someone bereft of hope, yet hoping still. Her sad countenance held all the misery of love unrequited, the ravages of demanding the impossible of oneself, and the triumph of never giving up, no matter that all was lost.
When the pianist played the last note before intermission, I couldn’t breathe. As his fingers left the keyboard the woman disappeared. She did not walk off the stage. Whoever had conceived this idea had done a brilliant job. I turned to Christian and said, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
“Seen? What do you mean, Evie?”
“What did you think of the woman?”
Shocked, I stared at him. He had no idea what I meant.
“I think I’d like a drink.” I followed him out to one of the beverage counters. Christian, my Frenchman, and love of my life, leaned closer.
“Are you well, mon aimée?”
He always called me his beloved. I tried to smile, to reassure him, if not myself. “I’m fine. A little thirsty, that’s all.”
“What would you like?”
“Water would be perfect, but first I’ll go to the restroom.”
I took the stairs, eager to get to the restroom and ask if anyone else had seen the woman. All that anyone had seen or heard was the pianist. No shimmering, beautiful lady dressed in grief.
I wasn’t sure if I could watch the second half of the concert. The apparition had unsettled me, and I felt like a fool. Why had no one else seen her?
When I rejoined Christian, he searched my face and handed me a glass of water. I smiled, drank my water, and told myself over and over to breathe. I shivered as the lights dimmed, announcing the second half of the program. Christian guided me back into the auditorium, his warm hand on the small of my back.
As we sat down, my head swam; my palms felt damp. I didn’t want to see the ghostly lady again or feel her desperate anguish. “Christian, can we go?”
“Now, Evangeline?” Christian looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. He was right, of course. My reaction to the woman was beyond silly.
“No, of course not.”
The bright lights dimmed. The pianist returned, repeated the bow and took his seat. I closed my eyes, determined only to listen. The music enthralled me, and I drank it in as though it could slake my unease. Apprehension faded. I smiled for the first time since I’d seen the lady. She could be nothing but a fanciful hallucination.
I dared not open my eyes; but I did. She was there. Spellbound now, caught in the trap of her quiet pain, I couldn’t drag my eyes away. A deep pity welled within me. Who was she? Why could no one else see her?
I had no answers, and probably never would. She was a figment of my imagination brought on by the enchanting music. She never moved but only listened, as did the rest of us, to the magic.
When the last note sounded, I stared at her. I held my breath as the pianist rose. The ghostly woman abruptly opened her eyes, stared into mine, and revealed the hell of the damned as she whispered in my head, demanding, “Come to me, Evangeline. Come to me!”
Holy crow! What an ending! And what tight, consise writing leading up to it! I guess that 1000 word force to slect just the right words- nothing extraneous or uneccesary here. And that last image- the hell of the damned- wow! Packed a punch. Totally leaves me wanting to know what happens next!ReplyDelete
That's one of the reason's I like to blog. I always learn something. Hope you'll check out the novel to see why that apparition was there!Delete
The end took me by surprise. I was kind of expecting the woman to be some future apparition of the child she refused to have?ReplyDelete
What a great idea Suze. Thanks for coming by and commenting...Delete
This is certainly a very haunting piece; I think the enchanting music helped a lot with the atmosphere. It really made me want to know more :)ReplyDelete
The music and piano have a lot to do with the rest of the story. Music and flowers... Glad you came by!Delete
Ahhh...scary! The last line is so chilling! Great story telling.ReplyDelete
Glad you enjoyed it!Delete
The idea of seeing damnation in the ghost's eyes made me shiver.ReplyDelete
Me too, when she did that! I had to keep writing after that. No turning back. Thanks for commenting.Delete
Thanks Charmaine, glad you came by!Delete
Wow! Mussorgsky's a nice choice for this piece, too - more than a little creepy in his own right.ReplyDelete
Yes, he can be creepy! Thanks, and for the record, the piano concert I went to (which inspired the novel) Mussorgsky was what the pianist played! Perfect fit.Delete
Nice. "Night on Bald Mountain" is wonderful, too - very haunting.Delete
I love this setting, the couple at the piano concert, it is very evocative. And there are some lovely words "No shimmering, beautiful lady dressed in grief." Makes my toes curl. Makes me want to know what happens to Evangaline. Thank you!ReplyDelete
Thanks Jenny. I wanted to know as well. Evangeline was a very good narrator. I appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment!Delete
I loved this extract, Lisa. Hauntingly beautiful, then quite scary at the end. I love the sensory details of the concert, but would have liked to have known which city it was in. Love the descriptions of the lady in the golden dress, dressed in grief. Perfect for the HAUNTING bloghop.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for so enthusiastically signing up - first this time! I really appreciate your support and the high-class entry. So many great stories/poems this month as always.
I also read your previous post. Indie editing is a favourite soapbox of mine. If it takes about a dozen people, AT LEAST, to massage a best-selling author's book into publication-ready mode, how dare we think we can do it all by ourselves? A lot of e-pub authors know all this in theory, but go ahead anyway. How do I know this? By reading their e-books.
Now if I buy your current novel, will it be an edited version?
Again, thanks for your story!! I hope you will be on board for SHARING in November. Open topic.
Thank you Denise for your feedback. Yes, if you buy the book it is the edited version. I took the other off until I could put the edited version out, so it is the only one out there, as far as I know! I will be signing up for November!!!Delete
Oh, how sad. I'm sure the music meant something dear to the apparition. Beautiful descriptions.ReplyDelete
The piano music plays an important part of the story so I'm glad you picked up on that. Thanks for commenting!Delete
Well written and great ending. You captured this brilliantly.ReplyDelete
Thanks Nancy. This was the first novel "of the heart" that I wrote. The first one wasn't historical fiction with a time line I had to follow. The ghost's husband was the one who began the story for me...Delete
Frightening ending, and this certainly fits the bill of "haunting." My curiosity is piqued.ReplyDelete
Shannon at The Warrior Muse
Great Shannon! Hope you want to learn more about Evie and the ghost! Thanks for commenting!Delete
Seeing something nobody else can see is scary and your last line, so insistent and compelling - eerie.ReplyDelete
I've actually had that happen in a house we'd just bought. I kept seeing things out of the corner of my eye, you know how that is? Thanks for the comment on the ending. While writing this, it was the only way for it to go!Delete
Lovely, simply lovely!ReplyDelete
Loved this bit "Yet she stood there, her eyes downcast, her face sad yet serene, as if she too were lost in the music and its magic. I watched her unwavering form until the soft stage lighting caught and sparkled upon a single tear on her cheek."
Perfect ending, too: or should I say, beginning...
Thanks so much Francine! I really enjoyed yours as well...Delete
The end really caught my attention. I was not expecting the apparition to take on a menacing personality. Quite unexpected and a wonderful chill!ReplyDelete
Thanks for commenting Jen. Leaving a hook at the end of a chapter is something I've always been advised to do, no matter which genre you're writing in. It seems to work!!!Delete
Scary story. I was somehow expecting the ghost to have some special message for her because you bring up the issue of the argument between her and her husband about children. I think I would remove this red herring or somehow connect it to the apparition. Nice writing.ReplyDelete
It isn't really a read herring when considering that this is the first chapter of the novel, but if it were to be a short story, you're right. I wouldn't have put it in there, in fact thought about taking it out just for this post. But (shameless plug here!) since it is the first chapter in the novel, I wanted to entice my readers to get the book and see what happens to all involved. Thanks so much for commenting.Delete
The end was kind of a shock to my system. The ghost's demand obviously says she means business. Interesting way to start a book. Good that you showed some of what was going on with Evangeline, her disagreement with her husband on the timing of a baby.
Greetings human, Lisa,ReplyDelete
I shall keep my comment mercifully short. Not easy typing with paws. Be kind of like you typing with mittens on.
And such a figment of your imagination that seems to have an underlying meaning. Perhaps not imagination but an actual symbolism.
Pawsitive wishes and Happy "Howloween!"
Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar! :)
I enjoyed this, great attention to detail in the setting. Congrats on editing it down - always a daunting task! :-)ReplyDelete
Lisa, that was very moving! So many things tied in with that one moment. And who is that ghost...?ReplyDelete
Great, engrossing and chilling read.ReplyDelete
What a beautiful and compelling extract! Well done! Now we all must read your novel to find out more!
Nice to meet you.
Try this link instead:ReplyDelete
Anna's WEP challenge for October Haunting
Hi Lisa. I came by for another read when I'm not in such a hurry. This is lovely as well as chilling. :DReplyDelete
This was a great read - very creepy but very nicely written! I'd like to read more of your story.ReplyDelete