Goodnight, Sweet Lady
by A. L. Loveday
Her golden hair drifts slowly out in waves to weave a web of sunlight through the room, luminous, when all else is blue and grey; her flower garland long since turned to silt. She who arrived flushed pink and ripe with youth has paled to milky pallor through the years. Her smile, which grew on lips once plump, has withered, and eyes afire with passion have been doused.
Despite her deathly glow and vacant stare she is much loved within our river home; tenderly, quietly, I tend to her, combing her hair, untangling the weeds.
I look up as I swim towards her body, and try to hear the songs she used to sing. Back when she floated on the river surface. Before the silence, when we dragged her down. They whispered 'mermaid' when they found her body, after a fretful moonlight river hunt. They'll never know she is now more than ever.
She's lonely. She will talk to none but me, and even then she will not meet my gaze. She's always looking, always staring up. Up, up, up to the surface and her past. This is the only way she knows to be.
“Can I go up now, sweetness?” she whispers, her only words in these four hundred years. She hasn't felt the passing of this time; immortally trapped, she still yearns for the sky. Perhaps she can recall snatches of song. Perhaps she recognises the willow, weeping ripples on the water's surface. Perhaps she has a sense of who she is. Was. The little sighs seem to give her away.
I doubt she knows. I doubt it's real memory. Just a glimpse of something distant recalled, whenever someone else uses her name, retelling this most ancient tragedy.
“One day, one day,” I croon, humouring her. Each time I lie her glow beams brighter still, but, faster than when she first arrived, dulls. It pains me, yet I love to hear her ask.
Gently I stroke her cheeks and kiss her ears, and show her love, withheld during her life. I know she can't remember why she's here, why she threw herself into the water. But her desire and ache to resurface betrays a source of hope I wish she'd found, before...
But as she's here beyond the veil, with me, the best that I can do is fan the spark. I'll keep the glow alive and guard her name, until there comes a time the stories end. Then, and only then, will she be free, and her restless spirit finally can fade.
Good night my lady, good night, sweet lady. Ophelia.
A.L. Loveday is a part-time student and rest-of-the-time writer living in Brighton, UK. She is inspired by folk and fairy tales and all things peculiar, and her short stories have been published in Inkspill and Volume. You can find her at http://alloveday.blogspot.co.uk/
Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
I've found inspiration in a variety of ways, such as overhearing something a neighbour said, having strange dreams, receiving terrible news, and of course from reading stories by other people. These nuggets of inspiration sit and germinate for a while then strike out of nowhere, usually at an inconvenient time when I don't have a pen at hand! “Goodnight, Sweet Lady,” first began to form after reading a passage in Shakespeare's Hamlet. A couple of weeks later I was doing the washing, and I suppose the water must have triggered my mind into putting the action of the story under water: cue the drowned Ophelia, and things spiralled on from there...