delia looked out her window and saw a small deer across the street. It ate at the grass in front of the school. It was as small as her childhood dog, Karl, and she worried that it might run into the road. The air was icy outside but the sky was pure. Not a cloud in sight, the sun gleamed off the oatmeal animal’s fur.
She heard a bang downstairs. Her father’s woodshop was in the basement. She imagined he was continuing to work on the bookshelf he was building for her mother. Her mother’s birthday was in two weeks and they were throwing her a party. Her father told each of the guests to bring one book. He built the shelf for all of her gifts. He carved the family emblem onto its headboard.
Delia’s mother, Grace, had family in Scotland and knew their crest of arms. She was proud of it.
The family had gone to Scotland the summer before. Delia’s father, Mitch, and her mother, Grace, planned a vacation and let her invite her boyfriend. They stayed in an inn where the wet air made the mornings cold. They overlooked the sea on a patio with thick sweaters until 10am, when August sun would penetrate the chill. They took walks alongside golf courses that fulfilled every stereotype of Scotland. They stood on cliffs and hiked the perimeters of mountain ranges.
As a group, the four had chemistry. They conversed about the benefits of a codified moral system over French onion soup. Delia was 16 at the time and had her first beer at a pub. She sat next to her mother, kissing her cheeks and nuzzling her face into the fur shawl Grace wore that day. They smiled more than usual as Delia’s boyfriend and father crossed the dark bar to order ales. She and Grace began talking about the homes of the aristocrats they’d seen that day. The men joined the conversation when they returned.
The four drank pints together and discussed women living in castles. Grace had been taken by the sight of Roch Castle. She had read a book about it in college. It had held one of the largest collections of jewels in Scotland that King Charles II had acquired for his wife.
His Queen had a beautiful, porcelain face with dewey eyes. The King, ruddy and mustached, had a temper known throughout Europe. The only force that could tide his spirit was his wife. The Queen was said to enter a room and suddenly it sounded like God.
The Queen could never weather Lucy Walters, though, the mistress of King Charles II. Grace fumed to read that while vacationing in Holland, King Charles met a young woman named Lucy that evaded his demands for power. The King roared when he wanted something and yet had no authority to command the young woman. Lucy Walters was on vacation with her lover, Colonel Robert Sydney. Without his wife’s neutralizing ability, Charles festered in desire until one day Lucy saw him. Love, instant.
Lucy birthed Charles’ next son, the Duke of Monmouth. The King brought her back to the castle when he learned of the child. He noticed the bulge of her stomach and asked if she could hold the baby inside for the month-long journey to Scotland. Lucy had thrown her head back and laughed.
The castle was the first time Lucy had entered the aristocratic realm. With her agile hands and quick wit, she won the hearts of passersby. She gave birth in the midwives’ home next to the shire’s church, smoothed and stroked by five ladies-in-waiting. She returned to the castle a week later, plump and pink with the joy of her first son. She beamed with all of her teeth showing upon presenting her son to the King.
The attachment Charles once felt for Lucy evaporated.
The Queen, ever benevolent, spurned Lucy when she learned her husband would return from Holland with a lover. When King Charles disassociated himself from the 28 year-old, no one in the castle had the desire or right to look after her. Lucy Walters died a year later, leaving the Duke of Monmouth to grow up alongside the wet-nurses of the village.
The castle was haunted by the ghost of Lucy Walter, Grace read. Visitors saw a smiling woman walking about the castle cloaked in white. Visitors in the 18th century said her ghost woke them up in the night.
Grace believed that the soul lives on while the body and the mind can be discarded like banana peels. She had experienced adultery at the hands of her first husband.
Mitch’s hands crafted her only pieces of precious wood. Her daughter nonetheless grew up under the impression that first love was not love because it ended in betrayal.
The four sat in a pub that windy August night and discussed the reality of ghosts, justice, and heartbreak for hours. A month later Delia told her boyfriend, a childhood friend and first love, that she wanted intellectual challenge from a lover and could only date someone older.
Delia watched the deer with renewed interest when she saw a truck slowly drive down the school’s road. The school’s classes took place in a Victorian house at the end of a thin road. The road cut through a field. The land was a mix of wheat and dry grass. Void of trees, the billowing space made the view out her window a paradise. Cars drove to and from the schoolhouse during the week. On a Sunday afternoon, she wondered who might be driving.
The black truck stopped at end of the school’s road, the closest point to her house on its property.
The deer’s small head careened around the grass. Delia had never seen such a delicate animal stay in one place so long. She noticed it was honey-colored, had white freckles like in photographs and mahogany, oversized hoofs.
A second bang, so loud she closed her eyes. She prayed that the sound had come again from her father’s woodshop. When she opened them, she saw the deer collapse to the ground. It crumpled in pool of blood. The hunters walked around it, lifted the little figure into the back of the truck.
Delia watched them drive away into the clear air that began to melt into sunset.