Ophelia Guards the Primrose Path
by Rachel Lynne
Paige Stewart ducked behind a crumbling marble angel as the groundskeeper’s truck lumbered past. Twin points of red light pierced the darkness like a disembodied demon as a squeal of brakes bounced off the field of cold, stone statues. Minutes later the rattle and clang of metal made it official; she was locked in Bonaventure Cemetery.
Paige sighed and rose to her feet. Of all her harebrained schemes, this one had to mark her surrender to insanity. She stretched the kinks from her back, and considered her surroundings. Long shadows of massive Live Oaks and towering headstones painted a picture straight out of a gothic novel. All she needed were baying hounds and a thick fog, followed by a wailing ghost. She kicked at a pile of wet leaves and slung her backpack over her shoulder; time to get down to business.
According to what little research she’d done, Conrad Aiken and Johnny Mercer’s graves were among the bewildering array of angels, cherubim, and … obelisks? Paige gaped at the monolith blocking her path. Surrounded by other small, inconsequential headstones in the family plot, the chunk of marble disappearing into the treetops seemed to scream ‘Look at me!’ Paige snorted and reached for her camera. Talk about ego!
She headed for the Mercer family plot, encountering more elaborate headstones at every turn. She snapped pictures and admired the craftsmanship and skill of unknown artists but a thought kept circling in her mind; why would anyone spend that kind of money on statues? She shook her head. Knowing the superstitious beliefs common in the eighteenth century, the relatives probably drained their bank accounts on monuments to the dead in the hopes a beautiful resting place would entice their dearly departed to remain six feet under!
Speaking of superstitions … hello Gracie.
Paige stopped in front of a wrought iron fence and smiled at the large marble carving of Gracie Watson. The daughter of a local hotel owner, eternally six-year-old Gracie had quite a reputation with ghost hunters. Paige adjusted her camera lens and snapped several closeups, then shook her head at the toys and flowers scattered around the statue’s base. Apparently the legend of Gracie was alive and well with tourists. She snorted and wondered how anyone could believe a hunk of marble could take pleasure in stuffed animals, much less cry at their removal. Paige studied the life-like sculpture but saw no signs of the rumored paranormal activity. She laughed and reached between the iron bars. Her fingers were within inches of grasping a teddy bear when a clap of thunder breached the silence.
“Oh my God!” Paige snatched her hand away and stared at Gracie. Her heart pounded an unsteady rhythm and gooseflesh rose on her arms. The winds increased, moaning through the Live Oaks and sending swirls of crisp leaves dancing across the graves. Paige backed away, spellbound by the glint on the smooth marble cheeks. She mashed the button on her camera and then laughed as the flash revealed a fine misting rain.
Paige rolled her eyes. “Dumb ass.”
She tucked the camera into her pocket and smirked. At least her foolish reaction would add interest to what was shaping up to be a boring expose of Bonaventure’s supposedly active spectral side.
A check of the cemetery map showed the Aiken and Mercer family plots were nearby but, while interesting on a cultural level, neither site ended up providing Paige with material for her article. She sighed and headed deeper into the cemetery to search for the Lawton family plot; hopefully the tragic death of Corinne Lawton would bring a touch of spectral phenomenon to her story.
The thick canopy of Live Oaks provided shelter from the light rain but the gusting winds became colder as she approached the river that marked Bonaventure’s eastern boundary. Shivering, Paige increased her pace along the river bank; she’d have to find something of interest to Paranormal Post readers soon or risk freezing to death.
Hunched into the collar of her coat and cursing herself for not preparing for the weather, Paige almost missed the famed ‘Ophelia’ of Bonaventure Cemetery. Perched on the corner of a marble pedestal, the ethereal carving meant to represent Corinne Lawton seemed to beckon Paige closer. Enthralled, she pushed aside the Sago palm fronds and settled on the marble step at Corinne’s feet.
The marble glowed like alabaster in the moonlight, humanizing the delicately carved features. She stroked the cold stone hand, wordlessly offering comfort to the long dead woman who’d died too young. No stranger to familial interference in her love life, Paige knew all too well what Corinne Lawton must have felt as she faced the prospect of a loveless arranged marriage. Corinne’s despair drove her to suicide on the eve of her wedding; thanks to women’s lib, Paige had other options.
Lightning flashed, illuminating the dark expanse of the Wilmington River and propelling Paige to her feet. Contemplating the messy remnants of her relationship with Richard was a dismal exercise in futility at the best of times; entertaining the issue whilst sitting beside the tragic Ms. Lawton was just plain morbid.
Paige took several pictures of Corinne, then decided to call it a night. She dreaded informing her editor that she had no story but nothing remotely paranormal was occurring at Bonaventure, nor did that seem likely to change, no matter how long she suffered in the cold. Besides, after their failed first date last week, Clayton Moore was certainly coming to expect disappoint from her. Paige smirked. Another name added to the long list of those she’d let down.
She pulled out her phone and called for a taxi; with any luck the storm would hold off and her ride would be waiting when she climbed over the fence. Paige tucked her phone back into her pocket and started toward the main entrance, lost in memories of her ill fated engagement.
She picked her way through a maze of headstones then stopped to get her bearings. The approaching storm clouds had blocked the moon, plunging the cemetery into an enveloping darkness. Paige broke out in a cold sweat as she struggled to remember which way she’d headed after the last turn. Completely disoriented, Paige put her hands out in front of her and started walking. Using the shrubs and headstones as a guide, she felt her way along the path, all the while praying she wasn’t heading toward the river. However much she sympathized with Corinne Lawton, she had no desire to imitate her despondent leap into the rushing current of the Wilmington River.
Hearing the crunch of gravel underfoot, Paige lowered her arms and breathed a sigh of relief; she’d made it to the main path. Desperate to reach the exit and longing for a double espresso, Paige began to jog. She’d gone no more than ten paces when an unearthly shriek rang out. She skidded to a stop and cocked her head. The trees overhead creaked with a gust of wind but whatever had made the blood curdling cry remained silent. Must have been a cat.
Paige shrugged and started walking. Another hair-raising wail and she broke into a trot. A flash of lightning stopped Paige in her tracks. She clutched her chest and gasped for breath as her mind struggled to accept what her eyes revealed.
A woman bearing a striking resemblance to the statue of Corinne Lawton barred her way. The woman looked Paige in the eyes and slowly shook her head before taking a step backward. She hovered in mid-air for a split second then disappeared into the swirling black water of the Wilmington River.
Suzanne, thank you so much for inviting Paige and me to Preternatura. Intrepid reporter Paige Stewart may be fictitious but the legends and lore of Savannah’s Bonaventure Cemetery are all true … to one degree or another.
My Mama taught me never to pay a visit without a hostess gift so … One lucky commenter will win a pdf of Ring of Lies. Want to increase your odds of winning? You’ll get an extra entry in the prize drawing if you indicate in your comment that you’ve joined my newsletter and/or Facebook Page.
Next week, Paige and I will let sleeping ghosts lie while we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. I’ll be blogging live from the historic district (if technology doesn’t fail meJ) and giving away some Savannah-themed goodies while sharing the lore, legend, and laughter that surround Savannah’s version of Mardi Gras. I hope ya’ll can join me!
You can find me, and my books, at my website and if you’d like to experience more of Paige’s adventures visit my Blog; the links and dates of the next adventure are posted in the News column. And, if you can’t wait for another suspenseful tale set amidst the beautiful and historic city of Savannah, may I suggest my romantic suspense novel Ring of Lies?
Secrets, Lies, and Murder surround Ivy Michaels amidst the backdrop of Savannah’s annual St. Patrick’s Day festivities!
CONTEST: Thank you, Rachel! To win a copy of Ring of Lies, please leave a comment below! As Rachel says, different rules than usual: +1 entry for comment, +1 entry for signing up for Rachel's newsletter, +1 for liking Rachel on her Facebook Page and +1 for a Tweet or Retweet of the contest on Twitter.