A short story written for the Paranormal Romance Contest, December 2019.
| The Turquoise Brooch
Her parent's announcement of the night before made it crucial that Elizabeth make her escape the following morning. She could not remain for another Christmas Day, not when her betrothal was going to be made formal.
Why could they not understand that she had no feelings for Gideon Ramsy? It was a match being made for no other reason than to further her brother's career. With his sister married to the boss's son he would be guaranteed a good position for the remainder of his working life.
Even if Gideon had not been quite so insufferably pompous, Elizabeth would still not be able to go through with the marriage. Her heart was already given away, and not lightly either. Her love, their love, was one that would be eternal.
She slipped out of her room, not even bothering to pull the door shut behind her. Elizabeth knew that she would not be returning. The only possession that really meant anything to her now was held safely within her hand.
The staircase stood between her and the door. Stepping slowly and carefully, she made her way down to the hallway. On the walls hung portraits of her parents, her grandparents; of Elizabeth herself, and of her brother Edmund. She paused for a moment in front of a family grouping. She could almost imagine his image beside her, hazy, not quite fully formed. Even then she had a haunted look, for her heart had already belonged to Sebastian.
She had wasted enough time, Elizabeth realized. She could feel the house beginning to waken. She walked to the door, pulled back the bolts and undid the latch. There was no turning back, but then there never had been.
The ground outside was free of both frost and snow. Elizabeth put one bare foot outside the door and then the other. She pulled the door closed behind her, hearing the thunk of the lock clicking back in to place, and fearing that the noise it made would be loud enough to wake the rest of her family.
Elizabeth began to run, fingering the brooch that she held in her hand. The turquoise and silver jewellery had brought her to Sebastian, had bound her to him from the very first moment that she had unearthed it from the riverside.
She could not, would not, marry another.
Elizabeth ran along the well-worn path that she had made across the field. Her frequent journeys had kept the grass trodden down, even when to either side of her it reached to her waist.
An unwanted thought wormed it's way into her mind. What if Sebastian was not there? He wasn't always, even when she lingered dangerously long and called to him. No, she could not allow that thought to invade her mind and weaken her resolve. He would be there. He had to be.
With the river finally coming in to view, Elizabeth slowed her pace, jumping when a bird flew up in front of her. The ground became wetter, making her long skirt damp. She had not noticed how cold it was until that moment. Shivering, she leaned forward over the water's surface to peer down in among the reeds.
Where was he?
Elizabeth's eyes scanned the river, becoming increasingly frantic when there was still no sign of his body beneath the water. She held out the brooch, then softly called out his name. "Sebastian. Where are you?"
There was still no sign of him. Feeling the tears prick at her eyes, she clambered down into the water, waded forward, staring hard to either side of her. How could he not be there when she needed him?
Almost giving up, she called again. Finally, he rose from the bottom of the river to float in front of her. Sebastian's face looked so peaceful beneath the water. She always marveled at that, considering the violence of his death.
"It's because of you, Elizabeth. I did not always look so."
Elizabeth turned towards his soft voice, not much louder than a whisper. He stood in front of her, his physical form visible but not substantial. That would not stop him from reaching out for her and embracing her in his arms. Sebastian might be a ghost but she could feel his comforting presence.
"It's time," she said, "that I join you."
The ghostly form pulled back from her. "You know that is not what I want for you."
Somehow Elizabeth was going to have to make him understand that it was now or never. She belonged with him. She knew it and Sebastian knew it too, even if he was reluctant to admit it. There was only one way that they could be together and that was for her to drown in the same spot in which he had lost his life.
"Listen to me, Sebastian, they are going to give me to another, and that I cannot, will not allow. You have to help me, before it is too late."
"I will not kill you." Sebastian's ghostly voice was resolute.
"You don't have to kill me. Just be here with me, wait for me. I can't do it without your support, but neither can I return back home." Elizabeth reached out for Sebastian with the hand that held the brooch, and this time when their hands met he became much more substantial.
For a moment they said nothing, but stood there with fingers entwined. The look of longing was one that they both shared. Finally, Sebastian broke the silence. "It won't be easy. Your body will rebel, will fight to stay alive."
Elizabeth shook her head. "No, my heart knows with who it belongs, and will accept that it has to stop for that union to be achieved." She looked around, suddenly conscious of how much time must have passed. There was no longer time to linger. She had to act straight away or all would be lost when they began to search for her.
"Just hold me and don't let go." With those words Elizabeth lowered herself further beneath the water until she was completely submerged.
Sebastian had been right. Her body did rebel as her lungs grew more and more strained. It took all of her willpower not to strike up towards the surface and the air that would provide.
"Just let yourself breathe it in," he said, stroking the strain from her face, and so she did. As her life began to slip away from her, Elizabeth felt Sebastian take her in his arms for a moment that would last for all eternity.