“You were once in love?” asked Anne, all curiosity.
“Yes,” replied the apparition. “Two hundred years ago, I was married to the lord of this castle. Our marriage was arranged, but we grew fond of each other. We did our Christian duties by trying to populate the earth, but I never bore him any heirs. I only gave him a daughter. His fondness turned to indifference, so I sought attention elsewhere. I found it in one of his retainers, who never returned my sentiments. In my despair, I hurled myself from the window of my chambers. Your chambers were once my own. I have seen two other women commit such an act since I became a shade of what I once was. I did not interfere with their decision, because we were not kin. The blood that beats through your veins is my own. I shall not see it splattered against the stone court once again.”
“That is what you saw in me?”
“The eyes are the windows to the soul. I was able to peer into your thoughts, whether they were unconscious or not, and discerned that you meant to cause yourself harm.”
“I had not yet thought of death.”
“You were close. You saw little to enjoy in life. The thought was not far, and the act was even closer.”
Realization dawned on Anne. She did mean to bring harm to herself. Although the thought had not been fully formed, it was there. “I think you are correct. What do you propose I do?”
The apparition glided a few paces from Anne. Before Anne could ask for any further advice, the cloak dropped to the ground. The invisible being that wore it was gone. Vanished.
Anne walked to the garment. Lifting it from the stone floor, she clad herself with the cloak. A smile curved her lips. She would not share the same fate as the apparition, but she would heed its advice.
Anne returned to the feast with the cloak wrapped around her. Although a bit odd, no one questioned her new fashion choice. The guests found her mood changed, her demeanor agreeable. She danced with several lords, both minor and great. She chatted with the other ladies and attempted to juggle for a group of children. She rejoined her father at the Great Table and had a merry time listening to his japes. Her new-found enthusiasm was dampened when Henry approached the dais, drunk from the wine.
“Milady, would you like a dance?” asked Henry.
Anne studied him, thinking him pathetic. Why had she not seen his faults before? “No,” was her curt reply.
He gave her a half smile. Flailing his arms as he spoke, he said, “What has you changed? Earlier this evening you would have jumped at such a chance. You once called me ‘your knight in shining armor’ and the ‘man that sets your heart a racing.'”
Half the people in the hall turned to see what was the clamor. The unwelcome audience watched as Anne’s face reddened. Even her father’s eyes were on her.
“I believe you are mistaken. A drunk could not serve as a night for he could not wield a sword, nor could a cuckold set my heart racing. Your presence leaves me as cold as a dead fish.”
The hall sounded with laughter. The men hooted and hollered over the rebuff. Henry lowered his head, like a turtle withdrawing into a shell. Ashamed of his brazen behavior, he returned to his friends. When one of his friends jeered at him, Henry cuffed them in the ear.
Anne smiled, feeling power surge through her veins. The spirit had been right. Living was so much more worth while than death. Henry was not worth bringing an end to the greatest gift of all; life. Turning to her father, she resumed her conversation.
I hope you enjoyed this story! Another is on the way, which will be titled “The Lost Colony.”