Saturday has come round again, marking off another week in lockdown. Is it my imagination, or is real life starting to mimic a horror movie?
Enough of that, let me give you the next part in this horror story. The Girl In The Park left us last time with our protagonist finally meeting up with the titular Girl in the Park. He’s now working in the park, and is summoning up the confidence to speak to this girl.
On to part #4…
I immediately felt self-conscious, and looked down at my soil-stained clothes. I brushed my hands down my stomach and thighs, in an attempt to make myself look presentable. As I stood, I raised a hand to my head, brushing my long hair – which was the style at the time – away from my eyes. My hand continued to the top of my head, finding the thinning patch that had been forming for the last few months. Returning my hands to my side, I raised my head, and once more regarded this young woman.
I felt blood rush to my face as I looked at her; she must have been half my age, maybe more. Clearing my throat, I spoke to her for the first time. I told her my name, and asked hers. Nothing more. She smiled at me, causing my knees to sag; visibly, I expect. Again, the ridiculous nature of our relationship skipped through my mind. Her smile didn’t reveal her teeth, but if it had, I imagined that they would have been perfect. She turned, and began to move back up the steps, toward the house. She paused momentarily, inside the entrance, appearing to look at one of the many paintings hanging there. It was only the briefest of pauses, before she looked back at me, and moved into the house.
I stood for a moment, watching her ascend the stone staircase, transfixed by her golden hair that reached half way down her back. Stepping around my barrow, I moved after her, first at a walk, then at a run.
Taking the steps two at a time, I reached the top as she disappeared out of sight into the house. I followed, but when I entered the house, she was gone. I searched the long corridors and ran up the curving staircases, but I could not find her. She was gone.
Disheartened, I returned to the picture she had been looking at. Of itself, it was unremarkable; a portrait of a woman, presumably a former resident of the house. Try as I may, I could not see my mystery woman in the face. Looking around, I lifted the picture off the wall and turned it over. I ran my hand over the smooth backing-board, and felt nothing. After a further glance around me, I removed the tiny pieces of metal that held the board in place. Removing it, I ran my hands around the inside of the frame, before holding it up to the light. I could find no anomalies, so I replaced the backing-board, and returned the picture to its original position.
I returned to my duties, little knowing I would only have to wait days to see her again, and this time, like the last, she appeared on the stone steps leading up to the house.
As before, I stood transfixed by her gaze. Her blue eyes sparkled in the early evening light. Her blonde hair had been swept back from her face. She wore the same pale nightshirt with the bow, but the bloodstain was absent.
I asked her name, but my question was once more met with silence. The smile that had buckled my knees before was similarly absent. As I stared at her, I realised that she had been crying; two small tears lay half way down each cheek. I was overcome with the urge to run to her and scoop her up in my embrace, but fear stayed my hand; fear of losing this moment with her.
We remained that way for some considerable time, staring at each other. For those moments, I felt that we were the only two people in the park. The only two people in the world. No one saw us, and I saw no one else, so perhaps that was true.
I don’t recall what roused me from my stupor, but I remember asking her why she had been crying. She continued to stare at me, eyes red, mouth motionless. Again I fought the urge to gather her up in my arms, and stood my ground. She reached one of her hands toward me, beckoning me. I stepped forward, and reached out my hand towards hers. She turned, and walked up the steps. The glances over her shoulder asked me to follow, which I did.
As she reached the top, she stopped and turned back to me. I stood three steps below her. She raised a hand and pointed across the park. I followed her gaze, which alighted on a small copse of birch trees that stood towards the back of the park. When I turned back, she was gone.
In the following days and months, I visited these trees many times. As head groundskeeper, I ensured that my duties would invariably require my presence in this unassuming copse. The trees were planted, probably by my father, in the last fifty years. Birch was not a long-lived species, and I could find no record of what had stood there before. Individually, the trees were neither exceptionally tall nor broad. Each tree was uniformly white in colour, with no specific markings. I looked at any records I could find from the previous five hundred years, read any newspaper clippings I could get my hands on. I could find nothing that would mark this copse as different from any other.
Perhaps a year or two passed. My investigations into this woman had turned up nothing. My interest has started to fade, and I visited the copse less and less, until one day, whilst walking through the park, I caught sight of something amongst the trees. I was perhaps several hundred yards away, and my vision was not what it once was, but I knew it was her. Hurrying as fast as my middle-aged body could manage, I headed in her direction.
When I arrived, my heart was hammering in my chest, my breathing fast. Hands on my knees, I peered in amongst the trees. The deepening shadows of the evening made seeing anything difficult, so I stepped into the gloom.
Instantly, the hairs on my arms stood up, and I shivered. A breeze picked up, tumbling the autumn leaves around my feet. I stepped deeper into the copse looking for the woman.
That’s it for this week! Join me next week, same bat-time, same bat-channel (anyone remember that?).