Phaedra lay half enveloped in the cold snow. Her body was becoming numb, her mind still. A deep peace came over her. The fear and panic of free falling through the air, the sheer horror of realising he had thrown her bodily from the bedroom subsided. Help was coming, was it not?
She had heard the wail of the ambulance; she would be safe in hospital. Disjointed sounds and fragmented voices swam in and out of her awareness, a vague sensation of being lifted, moving at speed, flashing lights, sirens whining. Then the people crowded over her, machines bleeping, monitors, pipes, tubes fixed to her body, aware of it all but not engaged in any of it. The circle of masked faces staring down at her, the bright light glaring, something over her mouth, a voice counting down,‘3, 2, 1 and, yes, she’s under.’
A rapid pulling and a sensation of release as she felt her consciousness detached from the broken body on the operating table. Detached from the drama unfolding in the sterile and white Theatre, she was aware of floating and looking down on the scene unfolding, watching events as through a curtain of gauze, the intensity and urgency of the doctors gathered around the body, her body, barely clinging to life, as the machines whirred into action. She wanted to shout out and tell them it was all right, she was free. The voice of authority cutting through the intensity of the scene,‘She’s going into arrest, stand clear!’
An intense pulsing flash as the volts from the defibrillator surged through her body, and as her body convulsed she saw a tunnel of pure white light, so clear and bright, pure like the driven snow and the light began crystallising and refracting a myriad of rainbow colours. Her awareness left the emergency room and focussed on the intensity of the light, which began to envelope her. In the midst of the light, the outline of a man began to materialise, his hand outstretched in welcome, calling her name, beckoning…
Phaedra became aware of her hand, stretching out to meet his, and her eyes connected with his deep cobalt blue stare and a feeling of joy as recognition of the man began sweeping over her. As their fingers touched, there was a charge of electricity, little blue sparks of light and then a tremendous noise like a sort of sonic rush and they were gone out of the white light and travelling at huge velocity along a tunnel of oscillating multi coloured stars.
Then they were there, but ‘there’ was nowhere whilst paradoxically being everywhere, and there they were but they were not. A realization of being without a solid human body, the man and she were numinous light bodies, floating, merging, at one with each other. A myriad of multi-faceted, vaporous colours, swirling all around. An incredible lightness of being and an understanding of being one’s true self at one’s highest octave, pure spirit. She felt a sense of being part of all that is, all that ever was, and all that would ever be, as her consciousness expanded into infinite space. The man was moving gracefully. Swirling her ecstatically, around and around in a beautiful waltz.
Dancing in the Light of Love.
Two eternal souls, in spirit form, dancing in the light, living in the moment and that moment was eternal. She was part of him just as he was of her, and they were no longer separate entities, but one being becoming the light. The feelings were so sublime, almost unbearably beautiful. In the Light, they became one in bliss. He looked deeply into her very soul, his thoughts resonated within her, and she knew everything else was an illusion and this was the Truth. And the Truth was beautiful.
Then everything began closing in and she was aware of becoming pulled once more, the light began fading and as she fought to stay in this blissful place, the force pulling her grew stronger. Her heart ached, torn away from the man. She was aware of a searing burning pain and she was back in the Emergency room, and the strong voice echoed around the sterile room, ‘Well done team, she’s back.’
Deep within the darkest heart of night dance slender beams of soft Moon Light.
Brushing aside the despair cloaking the ancient ruins, La Luna’s children playfully danced amid dank and gloomy walls all that remained of the glories of the past. With carefree abandon the darting moonbeams brought illumination to the derelict Eastern Tower, a silent Sentinel withstanding the ravages of time, proudly giving testament to the pride and glory of bygone years. Those who once lived and loved within the Castle’s protective embrace are but jagged shards of memories, forever entombed within decrepit walls. Yet there remains a solitary voice from long ago compelled to whisper her sadness upon the wind. Trapped by her heart she cannot leave her lonely Bower within the Castle Tower.
By the light of the moon, at her lonely loom, sits Lady Perdita. The passage of time has ravaged her home but not she, for the lady is comely still. With hair as dark as a Raven’s wing and eyes of cobalt blue, her beauty beguiles the starless night, for there is no other to gaze upon her countenance within these torn and empty walls. Softly, she sings a sad lament, fragments from a Troubadour’s tale of a love long lost. Sorrow clouds her as a shroud. With downcast eyes and ethereal hands she takes soft strands of numinous threads and weaves silently through her tears. Through the telling of her silken tales there begins to unfold a story of love, a story of loss. The lost love of a Knight of old. Her Knight…Her story…
To the soft strains of a melancholy Mandolin every stitch of the Knight’s chivalrous deeds begin to unfold upon her fragile tapestry.
Sir Allard, encased in his suit of armour and clutching his sword of steel, mounted his dashing destrier. He basked in the admiration he drew from the assembly of illustrious Lords and Ladies, all too aware all eyes were on him. He smiled knowing both damsels and Dowagers were dazzled by his presence. As he graciously bestowed generous glances upon the Ladies fair, Perdita smiled trustingly. She knew within his brave breast beat the chivalrous heart of one who only had eyes for her. And so with a righteous fire burning in his heart and mounting his noble steed the valiant Knight bade Adieu to his assembled Court and proudly rode to war.
Satisfied with the vibrancy of the first scene, Perdita left her loom and her labour of love. Gazing out of the window her searching heart went forth once more into the blanket of night, looking and longing for her Gallant Knight who had sailed from England’s green and pleasant lands to faraway shores. With a sigh she returned to her tapestry, intent on weaving the threads of her fragrant memories, did she know how their story would unfold?
There is a chill that pervades her bower, yet her shivers are not from cold, but the delightful anticipation of her noble Knight’s triumphant return. The glory! The honour! How her heart sang joyfully for him! She wrapped her self in the warm glow of the sweet words of eternal love he had spoken. How her heart ached when she recalled her initial reluctance upset him so. His entreaties were urgent. Why would she not acquiesce to his burning desires? He protested his Lady was so cruel to tarry, for he had great perils to face. The sweet memories of her succour would comfort him upon the bloody battlefields. Surely his heart would rend in two if she did not return his love! Perdita was torn. She cried bitter tears. As a highborn Lady she would bring dishonour to her family if she lay with him without the sanctity of a wedding band. Kissing her tears away, her chivalrous Knight declared they would marry upon his victorious return from the beast of war. With lyrical persuasion Allard’s conquest was assured. Cautioning Perdita to keep her own counsel and keep their tryst secret, he gave her a ring of gold set with a ruby. The dazzling red gemstone held the promise of eternal love and bought her silence.
Through the cloak of darkness a mote of light broke through the night, bringing momentary illumination. Perdita’s fragile heart skipped a beat. Was that her Knight she saw? Cruel memories came crashing into her dreams. A tear fell. Her beloved had sailed away across the seven seas. He had abandoned his Lover to her fate and all for the King’s glory, crusading in a faraway Land. Watching the passage of many Moon tides from her lonely Bower she entreated the star clad night to light his way home, before her shame was there for all to see. Highborn Lady Perdita, who some may say was without blame, could not be seen to be robed in tarnished garments of dishonour as the seed of new life grew within her belly. Yet she held her head high, comforted by their unborn child’s quickening and Allard’s reassurances. For her Knight would surely return and she would be his wife, and all judgement would pass, would it not?
The dying embers of the old year brought tidings of great sorrow. Sir Allard would nevermore see the sunrise or set upon England’s Sceptered Isle. Nor give his child his rightful name. Enemy and Gallantry had brought him to his knees. Ever true to her Love, Perdita kept her counsel well. For the Templar’s cause her brave Knight willingly gave his life. For her family honour, Perdita gave hers.
They found her at the break of day, her lifeless and broken body lying at the foot of castle walls. A ruby ring upon her unwed hand glinted in the pale winter sunlight. The fallen Lady was laid to rest beneath her lonely bower whilst far away under an Eastern Sun her Lover sleeps beneath shifting sands.
The solitary passage of time has shrouded the castle walls in creeping ivy, shadows and gloom. Yet awaiting her Lover’s return Perdita’s ghost still sits by her loom, lingering midst the rot and decay, trusting Love eternal will raise their hearts from the ashes and dust of betrayal. Her Love lives on, though they are all long dead…
Perchance, your steps take you through the ruined walls of the Castle Keep, they do say by pale moon light and night’s embrace, you may yet hear the strains of a mandolin as the lonely Lady weeps within her ghostly bower.
Deep within the darkest heart of night dance slender beams of soft Moon Light.
Thank you for reading a ghostly tale from my latest book!
It is said every soul who walks upon the Earth is assigned a Guardian Angel ~ there are times the Angel may walk beside a soul, there are times the Angel may carry a soul and then there are times the Angel can only stand and weep…
Midwinter. A fog began to descend over the grey London skyline. Dusk had stealthily crept in and stolen the remains of the day away. White stucco walls cloaked in numinous mist and the elegant terrace of Victorian villas took on a ghostly air, Window panes glowing warm orange, reassurance that all was well within. Fire light, fire bright, all is well tonight. Smoke snaking from tall chimney pots into the chill air warned preternatural creatures of the night to stay away. One house stood apart from the camaraderie of its neighbours, no warmth or light was to be found within its walls. As dusk gave way to night the fog began to lift. Lights were extinguished and weary folk made their way gratefully to bed, giving thanks to the Lord for the day that had just been done and the morrow yet to come. The interior of number four was just as bleak as the façade. Winter’s icy fingers reached into the very heart of the despondent house, into a cavernous bedroom dressed with heavy furniture of a bygone century when the house was proud and new. A huge mahogany bedstead, barely discernible in the gloom, rose as a dark island in a sea darkness. An oak armoire and a Chiffonier threw dark, dancing shadows. A huge black Victorian cast iron fireplace, inset with tiles glazed with an elegant William Morris floral design took centre stage. It was too dark to appreciate the contrast of the beautiful pure white flowers, against the blackness of the cold and empty hearth. Lilies for the departed soul now restored to innocence after death. The room was out of step with the modern world unfolding beyond its ornate walls patterned in rich shades of gold and teal. Heavy brocade curtains dressed window. Although slightly closed they admitted a pale sliver of moonlight to come creeping in and illuminate the scene within the room.
From the remote island of the big bed, a young child sat up, big hazel eyes wide open, scanning the room for an unknown yet threatening Presence. She drew an eiderdown tightly around her tiny body, tucking the edges under her tiny chin. The warmth was reassuring, providing a degree of safety and comfort. The big bulky frame of her Father lay beside the little girl. He was sleeping, heavy breathing reverberating around the room, chasing away the creeping silence. Shadows danced on the walls, intermittently thrown up by arbitrary moonlight. A gilded mirror hung above the fireplace and the child was mesmerised by the forms within its silvery depths. Were there phantasmagorical creatures living in the mirror, inhabitants of a world within worlds? A ray of capricious moonlight fell across the hardwood floor, illuminating a languid, white, and crumpled body. Comatose, the flaccid form lay curled in a foetal position, an empty brandy bottle clutched in a lifeless hand. A strangled sob escaped into the gloom alerting the man, and on seeing his tiny daughter was wide-awake, urged her to snuggle down and sleep. Having witnessed the scene for far too long and powerless to change things, he had ceased to care a long time ago. Defiantly, the child shook her head, soft auburn ringlets swaying around her little heart shaped face, big hazel eyes luminous and anxious. She enquired tentatively whether Mummy was cold, laying there on the floor? Why was Mummy on the floor yet again, and not snuggling up with them like she used to? Should Mummy get into bed too? Should they cover Mummy to keep her warm? Thinly veiling his feelings of revulsion and contempt, voice laden with disgust, the tired man reassured his tiny child that Mummy was fine. So many questions, so few answers. The floor was where Mummy wanted to be, so they should leave her there and go back to dreamland. Then he rolled over and went back to sleep. The little girl burrowed under the covers, and lay down with her tiny nose snuggling into her Daddy’s warm back. Mummy was fine, Daddy knew best. Her worries alleviated, she slept the rest of the night comforted by the deep sleep of the innocent. In her dreams, the child called for an Angel, an Angel of Love and Light, and the Angel hearing her call, came.
Suddenly, a luminous golden glow bathed the room and the Angel stepped out of the Light with her arms outstretched. She held a gossamer blanket, woven from the light of the stars from the heavens above, and gently she wrapped the child’s Mother in love and light and tenderness. For the Angel knew, just as the child knew, that the woman although bound by addictions and barricaded into her own pain was still a beloved child of the Godhead, of Source and deserving of love and forgiveness and understanding. The Angel prayed a quiet benediction over the child and her Mother and the man who had long forgotten the truth, as he slept in his warm bed whilst his wife lay on the cold, hard floor. A fragrant blend of frankincense and lilies filled the room. The sour smell of stale alcohol pervading the air now dissipated. The man did not smell the fragrant perfume purifying the woman nor did he see the blanket of stars that wrapped her. He did not see the Angel of Light tending to his wife as the Celestial Being tried to remove the vicious demons of addiction from her. He did not see the tender white lily the Angel placed in the woman’s hand as she took away the empty bottle. He did not see these things, for he too was enslaved by his own addictions.
And the Angel stood and wept silent tears for the man and the woman who could not see, as their child could, the Presence of Angels.
“I knew these people…once…It was a long time ago…”
She looked like she needed to talk, some fragmented ghost of a memory rattling around the caverns of her mind seeking to find a voice. So I pulled up a chair and sat down beside her and prepared to listen. After all, it is what I do. Listen. I listen a lot. People tell me things, always have. Seems to come from nowhere, the torrent of words, the secrets and the shames. I never judge. That is for the Man above not me.
A waiter came over. Smartly dressed with slicked back black hair, just a hint of grey kissing his temples and a smile that reached his rich brown eyes. I noted he was deferential without being subservient, in a very European way. I liked him and resolved to leave him a good tip. I saw he liked her, a lot. Did she like him? It was difficult to tell. There was a story hiding behind his smile, but that would be for another time. Right now was her time. She had something to say and I had a strong intuition I needed to hear it.
I ordered a pot of English Breakfast Tea, toast and marmalade, “Make that for two, please,” I glanced at her and she nodded her approval at him.
“Très bon,” he rewarded us both with a smile, hiding just a soupçon of merriment. This man did not take life too seriously at all. He really was very handsome and as he walked away a delicious hint of citrus and spice lingered in the air.
“Mmm,” I sniffed appreciatively “Do I detect patchouli and sandalwood?”
“Indeed you do. Top notes and base notes. Quite enticing, isn’t it? Clive Christian 1872,” she replied with authority and I wondered if she was the one who had gifted him a very fine bottle of cologne.
We sat in comfortable companionship in the beautiful glass roofed Courtyard. Soft pink stucco walls wrapped the restaurant with the elegance of a bygone age. She asked me if this was my first visit to the Wallace Collection. I smiled and told her I often came here to Hertford House and take yet another admiring stroll through the sumptuous rooms of the museum, admiring the works of fine art, especially paintings depicting angels. I told her my Mother had first brought me here as a little girl.
“Mummy are Angels just make believe or are they really real like the elves with their black patent shoes with big silver buckles and fairies with their gossamer wings in my big picture book?” I had made earnest enquiries.
“Indeed they are Evie,” Mummy had replied, “Would you like to see the lovely paintings of the Angels in Hertford House? We shall look at suits of armour and you can see for yourself knights who protected princesses were very real too! We shall have tea and toast and yummy jam when we finish. ”
My Mother always had a special way of making the most magical things sound a natural part of everyday life. I missed her and gazing at my elegant companion momentarily wondered would Mummy have looked just like her if the sickness had not came and took her away much too soon. Would we be sitting here now recalling my delight at the moment I had gazed on the beautiful paintings of Lords and Ladies of long ago. Entranced by the many treasures housed in the Wallace Collection, I had moved from one sumptuous and ornate gallery to the next, each filled with armour, fine porcelain, ornate snuffboxes and gorgeous fireplaces and rococo chandeliers. And I had seen the Angels. And I had believed.
I saw I was under close scrutiny, “I like it here,” I told her, “ I like it a lot. It’s been a long love affair,” I said.
She smiled and told me she loved it too, had been visiting the imposing Georgian house, standing proudly on London’s Manchester Square, for as long as she could remember. She said that she loved the Gainsborough’s and Fragonard’s. She smiled in appreciation as she divulged her favourite painting and said she found Scheffer’s “The Ghosts of Paolo and Francesca Appear to Dante and Virgil” hauntingly beautiful. She said it made her cry. She told me she hugely admired the serenity of Velázquez’s black veiled beauty “The Lady with a Fan” and shared she was intrigued by sculptures depicting veiled beauties. She wondered if Raffaele Monti’s emotive statuette really depicted a Circassian slave? Perhaps, she postulated, she was truly free and her beautiful veiled countenance was an allegory for her seeing ‘beyond the veil’ into numinous realms. She said her name was Evelyn and she had a town house close by in Crawford Street, she was a Writer and she was glad of my company. A lot of words as one would expect, but not what she really needed to say.
I shivered involuntarily. Crawford Street was a place I knew well, having grown up in an elegant stucco fronted Georgian house. In different circumstances I would be living there now, but for the premature loss of my darling Mother. That house held many happy memories and I had vowed one day to return, that it would be my home again. Meeting Evelyn was proving to be more than a touch synchronistic.
Our tea and toast arrived.
“Those people…?” I tried to engage her to take my mind away from wandering down dark avenues from the past.
I poured tea, fragrant with freshly pressed leaves, from a pewter pot into our cups and she added the milk and sugar. The toast was good. I ladled on rich yellow butter and a generous helping of deliciously bitter marmalade and as I savoured the flavours I waited for her to speak. You can have an intuition on what they may say, sometimes hear the words before they actually speak them. Then when they do speak, the emotions come in, sometimes softly flowing, sometimes a tidal wave. And I have it all hitting me, sometimes it’s hard to remain inscrutable, to just listen. But it is about them, not me, so they never know I have eyes that look into their distant pasts and possible futures, their right here, right now’s or just how much I know…
She was different. Looking at me quizzically with intelligent eyes, and with a start I realised she was reading me reading her. A feint smile. I winked at her, knowingly. We laughed conspiratorially.
Sunlight, delicately streaming through the glass roof caught her hair. Cool blonde with strands of silver pulled off her face by a black velvet band. A woman of a certain age, but what that age was I would be hard pressed to say. Quietly understated elegance. She wore pearl earrings. Beautiful pearls, soft as moonlight. I admired them.
“Indeed yes, they are beautiful. Tears from the moon.” Her eyes misted. I reached over and covered her hand with mine. A simple gesture, speaks more eloquently and deeply than words ever can. She had long slim fingers tipped with manicured nails varnished the colour of her pale pink pearls. Her hand was surprisingly cold.
“Those people…” I encouraged, knowing the earrings held the key to her story, as did love. Was it lost, unrequited, had her heart been broken or did she carry the heavy weight of human frailty having inflicted pain and hurt on another? I munched my toast waiting for her to reply. The toast here is really very good. My reward for patience just a flicker behind her grey eyes, a wry smile and the deafening sound of silence. Perhaps a guilty conscience lay behind her insouciance? I truly hoped not.
Suddenly I had a very strong desire to know and held her gaze searchingly. I saw the relief in her face as the waiter returned with a fresh pot of tea and she took the opportunity to slip her hand away from mine, the shutters were down. The moment had passed. I got she was uncomfortable with my touch, the warmth of another human reaching out to her. I wasn’t sure if she would tell me her story, or keep her secrets to be shared only with the ghost living in the caverns of her mind. With a start, I realised I could not read her, looking into her eyes all I saw was myself looking back, my pale pink pearls catching rainbows of light as the sun danced through the atrium.
She may well have a lifetime of stories to tell, but I was going to have to live them before Evelyn shared our secrets with me, Evie…