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!”