Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Lady in Black

The first time I saw her was in November – the winter that I had moved to Sunset Creek. I had wanted to get away from the hustle of the city, to get lost in this small forgotten town.


I was a writer – I had just graduated from college, but I was not looking for work. All I wanted to do was to write in peace. But I lived in a household where peace and quiet had not yet entered its dictionary. My sister, who was 20 was always bringing her friends over, and having parties to celebrate this occasion and that. After my father had left us, my mother had remarried, and now I had two younger brothers, one of them was eight and the other was five, and they were constantly running around the house, shouting curses at each other, as they starred in their own Western movie. It was impossible to get any writing done

On the other hand, there was my girlfriend. She was constantly urging me to stop this foolishness, and to find a real job, so that we could get married. I could not even get a page a day written with all this constant nagging. And I have not mentioned my step-father who was always complaining that I was wasting my time, when I should be helping with the odd-jobs around the house.


So that winter, I took a decision. I packed a few clothes, my laptop, and two packets of cigarettes for the road, and headed off to Sunset Creek, in spite of the “I will leave you” threats made by my girlfriend, and the “You’ll kill yourself out there” warnings by my mother. I rented a small cabin, and soon settled in. The year was 2003, and everything was innocent back then.



On the first day, I tried to write something, but the writer’s block I had hit was bigger than I thought.


On the second day, I had to stop for a while, because I had run out of cigarettes. I went down to the local convenience store, and bought two packs of cigarettes, a bottle of wine, and some bread. I saw the strange looks the other customers were giving me, but I didn’t think twice about it. I was a stranger in this small community, and I didn’t wonder that they would look at me this way.

As I was browsing through the goods, the old owner gave me a scrutinizing look, as he said,


“How come you’re staying here, lad?”



“I wanted to get away from the hassle of the city, and spend some time in quiet to finish my story.”


The old man laughed a croaky laugh, the kind that old smokers often seem to emit, and then said,


“Oh, you’ll find plenty of stories down here, lad. Plenty of stories, waiting to be told,”I smiled, paid for my customs, and left the store.


I went back to my cabin, and sat down at my laptop again. And that night, I saw her for the very first time.




I was feeling somewhat tired from writing – my back hurt for staying hunched at the table for such a long time, and my eyes were burning too. So I lit a cigarette, and starting walking slowly down the lane. I arrived at the park, and wandered slowly inside.

And by the fountain, I could see the silhouette of a woman.




I walked cautiously up to her, and when I was almost behind her, I said,


“Good evening. It’s such a lovely night, isn’t it?”


She turned around then, and looked right at me. If I live to be a hundred, and then some more, I will never forget those eyes. They were the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen. And there was such a sad, haunting look in them. I think that I had fallen in love with her right from that moment.


She smiled softly, and said,


“Yes, it’s always beautiful when there’s the moon shining. It gives such light, and yet everything remains hidden in shadows. I love this play of light and dark.” I stared at her, and I was feeling like I couldn’t move. There was something in her voice, that was compelling me to stare and just listen. After a while she went on,


“You’re the writer, aren’t you?” I laughed softly, as I said,


“Well, the writer with the writer’s block, actually.” She smiled softly.


“Who knows, maybe you’ll find a story in this dead town.”


I laughed along with her, and started walking slowly in pace with her along the park.




At the gates, she suddenly turned around and faced me, and said,


“Will you meet me here again, tomorrow evening?” I nodded enthusiastically. There was no need to ask me. This strange lady in black had some hold on me, and I could not bring myself to be pulled away from this strong magnetism.


Suddenly, without warning, she turned her arms around my neck, and kissed me.




I gave in completely. That kiss was like nothing I had felt in all my twenty-five years, and I wasn’t the one who stopped it either.


The next day, I couldn’t concentrate on my writing, or on anything else. I just sat in front of my cabin, smoking one cigarette after the other, and thinking about those captivating grey eyes of the lady in black. I couldn’t wait for that night to come, and when it did, I was beside myself with excitement.

I arrived at the park, and she was already there, dressed in black just like the night before. I walked over to her, and without saying a word, I pulled her into a kiss. I had thought of nothing else all day, and I couldn’t control myself.




That night, she took me to her house, and we made magical love the whole night through.


In the morning, I woke up in her bedroom. I looked to her side of the bed, but she wasn’t there. I walked slowly around her house, but there was no sign of her. I let myself out, and went back to my cabin, stopping along the way at the convenience store to buy more cigarettes and bread.



That night, I went back to the park, and she was there once more. And for the second time, she took me to her house where we spent the whole night making love to each other. And again, when I woke up in the morning, she was nowhere around. This story kept going for about two weeks – we would meet at the park, make love, and she would disappear in the morning.


I would spend the whole day doing nothing except thinking about her, and her eyes, and the way she moved in my arms – and waiting for the night to come.


After two weeks had gone by, I met her as usual in the park. She kissed me softly, and asked,


“So how is your writing going? Have you written your story yet?” I smiled, and shook my head.


“No, I haven’t done anything yet. I just can’t. All I seem to want to do all day, is think about you. I’m seriously in love with you.” She smiled, and sat down on a bench. I sat down beside her.



“But you came here to write, didn’t you?” I nodded my head. “And that’s what you’re going to do.” I stared at her, but she went on. “You can start by writing my story.”


“Your story?” I asked.


“Yes, the story of my life.” I shrugged.


“All right. Tell it to me, and we’ll see what we can do about it. Maybe you should start by telling me your name first.”



“Jenny. Jenny Malone. I was the second daughter of Mayor Randolf Banks. We were what you would consider high society. My mother had died when I was a little girl, and I had been raised by my father. He loved me, but for him his status was more important then my happiness.


Well, when I was seventeen I met Tommy, Tommy Malone. He was a hand at the ranch, and he was the most gorgeous boy I had ever seen. Despite his tough appearance, Tommy was such a sweet boy.




We started meeting secretly, and soon we were in love.


It was a love beyond anything you can imagine.



Tommy’s best friend, James Calhoun tried to talk Tommy out of it, by telling him that I was way out of his league, and that my father would never hear the end of it.


Anyway, this is a small community, and word soon got around that Tommy and I were seeing each other.




As was expected, my father was furious. He called me one night, and said that I was forbidden to ever see that Malone boy again, and grounded me. The next day he fired Tommy.
But that was not going to stop me, or Tommy. We had promised each other that nothing could ever get in the middle of our love for each other. So I started sneaking out at night to meet him. And then we decided to get married secretly and elope together.


So one night, after the whole community had gone to bed, we went to the pastor’s house. He knew about us, and he was willing to marry us, as long as we disappeared the following day. He knew how cruel and ruthless my father could be. We got married that night, and we stayed together in the barn till it was almost dawn. Then Tommy said that he will go and pick his things, and come for me after my father had left.”



She paused for breath. I was feeling very touched by this story, and I was having a sense of doom. Every inch of my body was telling me that this story did not have a happy ending. I put my arms around her, and held her close to me, as she went on.


“My father was up already, and waiting for me. He demanded that I should tell him where I had spent the night. I told him that I had been with Tommy, and that he was not going to stop us now, because we were married. Needless to say, my father was furious. He told me to stay in the house, and picking up his shotgun, he stormed out of the house.


I knew what he was going to do, and so I ran after him. I tried to stop him, but he didn’t even listen to me. He went straight to Tommy’s house, where he was packing his few belongings in the carriage, and shot him. Tommy fell down, and my father walked away.




I ran to Tommy. He was still breathing. I tried to help him up, but it was to no avail. He smiled at me, and said, “I love you Jenny.” And he died right there in my arms. I was blinded by the rage now, and I felt my whole body was about to come apart with the pain I was feeling.


I ran straight home, and found my father in the drawing room.


“You killed Tommy!” I screamed. He looked at me solemnly and said,


“Sure thing I did. Now maybe that will make you think twice about running off with the hired help again.” At that moment, I lost all reason. I picked up the shotgun, and shot my father in the head. He fell dead almost immediately.


“That’s for Tommy!” I screamed.”


I looked at her. She was crying.


“I’m sorry you had to go through so much,” I said. She stood up.“Come with me, I’ll show you where he is buried. I go there every single day.”


And she led me out of the park, towards the cemetery.



We stopped at a cheap grave. I looked at the inscription on it. It read.


Thomas Malone

1902 – 1920

18 years old.


I stared at the grave.


“1920?” I asked. “But that’s over 80 years ago.” She smiled at me, and nodded her head.

“Oh yes, it’s happened a very long time ago. Long before Sunset Creek became a Ghost Town.” I stared at her.


“A Ghost Town? It looks pretty much inhabited to me.”


“Yes,” she answered softly. “By the ghosts of the people who roamed this land in bygone times.”

And with those words, she started walking away. I called after her.


“Jenny, wait. This doesn’t make sense at all.” I started running after her, and I saw her climbing up some steps. I followed her, but by the time I got there, she was nowhere to be seen. I slowly climbed the same steps, and looked down...


... at the inscriptions of the grave.


Theodore Banks


1880 – 1920


40 years old.



Jennifer Malone


1903 – 1920


17 years old.”


I stared at that grave, unable to believe what I was seeing. I ran out of the cemetery, straight to my cabin, without looking back once.


As soon as I got in, I lit a cigarette, and took a swig from the bottle of whisky lying on my counter. And I started packing my things. By the time I had finished, it was dawn. I got in my car, and started driving away from this place. Within a few minutes, I had arrived in front of Jenny’s house.


But what a different house, than the house full of light that I had visited every night for the previous two weeks! It was all run down, and looked as if it had been abandoned for more than 50 years, save for the rats and rodents that had made it home. I got out of the car, taking one last look at it for the last time.


“You’re leaving?” I heard someone asking.



I turned. It was Jenny.


“No one stays long here. I don’t blame them. No one wants to live among the dead.” I didn’t feel afraid anymore. I turned around and asked her,


“What happened after you killed your father?” She shook her head sadly.


“I couldn’t live without Tommy anymore. And I knew that the whole town was going to blame me for his death, not to mention condemn me for killing my father. So I put the shotgun to my head, and pulled the trigger. That’s all I can remember – that is until, I found myself roaming this land again. No one knows what happened that day, no one knows the truth.” I stared at her.


“Is that why you can’t find rest?” I asked. “What would you know about rest? You came here looking for a story, and now you have found a story.”



I walked away, without looking back, and I got back in my car, and slowly drove away from Sunset Creek.
As I had reached the edge of the village, the old man from the convenience store stepped in front of my car. I breaked, and he came over by my window.




“If you ever need to find another story, now you know where to look for it. There are a lot of stories here, waiting to be told.”




I gave him an unsure smile, and drove away.


* * *


When I got back home, I went up to my room, switched on my laptop, and started writing without pause. Within three weeks, I had finished my novel.


Six months later, everyone was raving about the new bestseller by Alex White, called Sunset Creek. I had turned Jenny and Tommy’s story into a bestselling novel, and although I wrote on the title page that this story was based on true events that have happened almost a century ago, I never said where I had learned them. Up until today, that is.




That was three years ago. I’m rich and I’m famous now. I’m getting married next month. I have my own life now, and I don’t need anything.


And yet, when I look out of the window on moonlit nights, I can’t help thinking about Sunset Creek, the little ghost town where everyone is still living their lives just like they did a hundred years ago.

And almost every night, I dream of a pair of beautiful, haunting grey eyes that seem to look right inside my soul, and read my most inner feelings. Who knows? Maybe someday I will go back to Sunset Creek. After all, there are still a lot of stories there, waiting to be told …
































14 comments:

sandybvv said...

Great story!

Your pictures are great too :D

I'm glad that in the end everything turned out good for him, good thing he didn't end up dead too :D

The story of the woman in black, is so sad :( kind of like Romeo and Juliet! :(

Great job!

Astral Faery said...

Ooh - very nice! It gave me chills - such a nice haunting tale. Bravo! Beautiful pictures - I love the sepia tone effect of the flashback pictures. Great cc, too.

drewsoltesz said...

Wonderful tale! The flashback was fantastic, love the golden/brown colour you used, like from an old movie! I enjoyed this immensely! Great work Lorianne!!

~~Karen

Lorianne said...

Thank you Sandy for your comment. I'm glad that you liked the pictures. But like I always say, the compliments should go to you, for your photoshop tutorial, because I have learned many things, while experimenting with the stuff you put in it.

Lorianne said...

Arianna - I'm very glad that you liked my story. About the sepia pictures - at first I was going to give the flashback pictures a smoky effect, kind of like in dreams, but then I thought about the sepia effect, because since the story happened around the beginning of the last century, it would give it more that old, haunting feeling. I'm very happy that you liked them.

And for the CC, the thanks goes to all those people who created them, because without them, the stories would not be the same!

Lorianne said...

Thank you Karen for your comment. Actually the editing part has become the part that I like best, after the actual writing, of course. At the beginning, editing was a nightmare for me, but now I'm starting to get the hang of photoshop, and I always try to see what I can come up with. So I'm really happy that you liked them.

Beth said...

this struck me very hard. beautiful work. stunning shots. I thought I saw it coming but it was still hard.

ZAYURY said...

Beautiful story! Very sad but sweet at the same time! Poor Jenny to loose her love like that... :(

Wonderful pics, especially the flashback pics! Wonderful effects! Your Sims are lovely! :wub: :)

Leah said...

What a magical, enchanting story!

Beautifully written and the pcitures are gorgeous, too.

I enjoyed every minute of it. Great job, Lorianne!

Silver Arrows said...

Oh WOW!! That was brilliant, great story and so well written and illustrated. I was kind of expecting her to be a ghost or something similar, but not the whole town!! Amazing story, well done Lorianne!

Lorianne said...

Thank you everyone so much for your comments. I'm so very happy that you liked the story. I knew that most of you would guess she was a ghost, because even the title of the story implies that mysterious, eerie feeling. About the whole town being ghosts: I've always been fascinated by those ghost towns of the Far West - they are abandoned now, but once they were filled with life and action, and so many tragic stories must have happened during their glorious days... and that's how I got the idea for this story. What if the ghosts of those people are still roaming those silent locations?

Beth said...

I was certainly surprised! Great story! Wistful and evocative shots -- really good!

Gayl said...

The way you used your shots in this story was just beautiful. And the tale itself drew some strong emotions from me. Well written and sad. I'm so glad I saw this.

Anonymous said...

That was amazing,i was browsing the web for an explanation to a recurring dream i keep having about a lady in black,i came across your story and was mesmerised by it,it was beautifully written and the pictures were great,keep up the good work.