We had a nice dinner of meatloaf, potatoes, macaroni and cheese and dessert was apple crisp with ice cream and caramel sauce. I’m ready to wind my evening down with a glass of wine and a Christmas movie, but wanted to take the time to give you the next scene of Faith’s Hope.
So, snuggle up with your favorite winter drink and a snack and enjoy…
The storm turned out to be a slow moving one so by the time it reached the city and unleashed its fury, Faith had finished dinner and bathed and sat curled up among the cushions, reading a book in her pajamas. The wind howled and whistled through the streets as it preceded the rain and hail that soon joined it. Then it died down, and all she could hear was the sound of rain and the crashing of thunder while lightning flashed through the windows, causing dancing patterns of leaves to play against the wall opposite the windows.
A chill passed over her, causing the hair on the back of her neck to stand up at attention. She stopped reading for a moment, and then continued as she realized the chill had probably come from a blast of the air conditioning. The television flickered a bit before the signal went dead and a loss of reception message came across the screen. She reached for the package of matches and lit the three candles on the side table, and she enjoyed the scent of the magnolia fragrance that filled the air as the candle burned.
The wind picked up again, and the loose shutter on the window banged against the side of the house in a lonely beat. With the next clap of thunder and flash of lightning, the power went out and the house was suddenly quiet inside while the tempest continued outside. Faith was tired from her day at work so she sat for a little bit with her head resting against the back of the sofa before finally giving up on her reading for the night.
She picked up the candle and carried it with her to the bedroom. The light flickered against the ornate molding along the top of the wall as she set the candle down on the nightstand beside the brass bed. Turning back the quilt that Frankie had given her out of her own collection of bedding, she slid underneath the top sheet onto the coolness of the freshly laundered linens. Plumping the pillows first, she settled comfortably against the softness and lay looking up at the dancing light on the ceiling. Outside the rain splattered against the window next to her bed, and the lilac bush swiped against the house like slender fingers brushing against the wood. The sound was actually soothing, and she drifted off to sleep.
Someone was crying. A woman. Heart wrenching sobs. Was she crying in her sleep or was she dreaming of someone crying? Faith’s eyes fluttered open and took a moment to focus. The candlelight flickered and created shadow on the walls. The sobs were real and not her imagination or a dream. The voice was too soft to be Frankie and it sounded like it was coming from above her. She sat up in the bed and looked around the room. Despite the air-conditioning remaining silent with the power outage, the room was strangely cool. Cold in fact. Chill bumps formed on her arms, and she drew the quilt around her for comfort.
Her imagination must be playing tricks on her. There was nothing above her but the attic and even though she’d never been up there, she knew there was access inside the closet across from her bed. Frankie told her that she could help herself to anything she might find up there that could be useful, but Faith had never taken advantage of the offer. A person crying? Maybe it wasn’t a person. Perhaps a stray cat had found refuge from the storm by slipping through the vent. It couldn’t be a person.
The sobs were suddenly accompanied by a haunting melody that echoed throughout the room. A tune that scratched and hissed like an old record. She threw the quilt aside and swung her feet over the edge of the bed. As the music continued the crying lessened. Something caused the music to jump and repeat. Like an old record that had been played so much that it was worn to the point it missed a bit of the tune here and there. She pulled open the drawer of her nightstand and took out the little penlight she kept there. A lot of good it was going to do in a darkened attic. But Faith had always been curious and tonight that curiosity was getting the better of her.
She crossed the wood floor, which was cool and smooth beneath her bare feet and slid open one of the closet doors. Obviously an addition many years after the house was built, it spanned the entire wall that made the bedroom private from the rest of the house. She didn’t have a lot of clothes so it didn’t take much effort to slide them aside and point the flashlight toward the ceiling of the closet. A worn piece of rope hung from the trap door in the ceiling of the closet and when she pulled on it, she could see the ladder above her head. She reached with her free hand and gave the bottom rung a tug allowing the ladder to fall free directly in front of her.
Taking a deep breath and holding it, she listened. The crying had quieted and the needle of the old turntable in the middle of the room bumped and scratched putting an end to the melody. Frankie’s parting words echoed through her mind. Only the living can hurt someone. With that memory, a sweet scent filled the dark attic. Lilies. She would know that fragrance anywhere because at her childhood home, there was a whole bed of lily of the valley beneath her bedroom window, and she remembered the sweet fragrance wafting in through the screened windows in the springtime.
Using the flashlight, she scanned the room and didn’t immediately see anything. Then she caught a glimpse of some movement and focused the light on an area in the farthest portion of the attic. Faith gasped in disbelief as she saw the ghostly figure of a woman sprawled across a wooden chest that sat next to an old Victrola that continued to spin. The ghostly woman looked up, and Faith saw the innocent face of a young woman. Very young. Perhaps even a teenager. Dressed in clothing that was reminiscent of Civil War times with her hair falling freely across her shoulders. Blinded by a flash of light as the power came back on, Faith stumbled forward and pain exploded as her head hit a low beam.
Faith sat on the floor and put her head between her knees fighting off the dizziness from the blow to her head. Her stomach churned for a moment but she managed to calm it with a few deep breaths. When she felt she’d recovered enough, she stood up and looked around the cluttered attic.
The turntable had stopped and she knelt down to look at the record. It appeared to have been played so much that there was not much left in the way of grooves in the aging material of the disc. She ran her finger over the top of the Victrola and it came away smeared with dust. She looked over at the trunk that the ghostly figure had been weeping against. It was a beautifully crafted chest with a pair of lovebirds holding a heart carved in the center of the lid. She brushed dust away and found one word inside the heart. Or was it a name? HOPE. Hope’s chest? Or a hope chest. She gently lifted the lid and peered inside. Atop a stack of hand-embroidered linens was a tintype photo of a young man. He was dressed in a Confederate soldier uniform, his face solemn yet handsome. Not much older than the ghost of the girl Faith found crying just mere moments before the lights came back on..
Beneath the picture was a yellowed envelope addressed to Hope Avery with a return address for a Magnolia House in New Orleans. She turned the envelope over in her hand and found a red seal stamped with an ornate M. Faith lifted the flap and found a letter inside. Actually, just a brief note telling Hope that he would be leaving soon to fight for the Confederacy, but would return to her as soon as the South was successful. It was signed by Geoffrey Maillieux and dated 15 August 1861. The young man had enlisted at the very beginning of the Civil War.