the ghost of lucy walter

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 strolled on bluffs 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 sixteen 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 discussed women living in castles. Grace had been taken by the sight of Roch Castle. She 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. The Queen had a beautiful, porcelain face with dewy eyes. Charles, ruddy and mustached, had a temper known throughout Europe. The only force that tided his spirit was his wife.

The Queen could never weather Lucy Walters, though. Lucy was her husband’s mistress. Charles had met Lucy while she vacationed with her lover, Colonel Robert Sydney. Without his wife’s neutralizing ability, Charles festered in desire until one day Lucy felt his lust in equal measure.

Lucy birthed Charles’ next son, the Duke of Monmouth. The King brought her back to the castle. 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. She died a year later.

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.

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, 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 toward the intruder. Delia had never seen such a delicate animal stay in one place so long. She noticed it was honey-colored, had white freckles and oversized hoofs.

A bang, so loud she closed her eyes. She prayed that the sound had come from her father’s woodshop. When she opened them, she saw the deer on the ground. The hunters walked around it and 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.

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