Gentle breezes rocked the willow on the southern side of the pond. It was Sunday evening, and so far, a mild night on the plantation. Spanish moss made a quiet life on the branches of the magnolia tree next to Katherine. She stood for a good five minutes examining the intimate details of the tree, how it grew up, and what it became. There were so many different stories being told on that large plot of land, yet none of them were uniquely identifiable to her at the moment. A whip-poor-will nearby was the only thing she could hear.
Kate was full of romantic ideas ever since she was little. The mansion appealed to her girlish fantasies in the best of ways, and she dreamed of her new life in it. Her slight frame wouldn’t allow for anything too adventurous, but the mind found it fit to climb trees and otherwise make up stories that didn’t exist. For example, the magnolia became a heroic figure in her mind, saving as much moss as it could from a watery grave.
A swan paddled past the small footbridge made for garden excursions. It reminded her of Monet, and thankfully, not Kincade. It would lose the refined dignity she cultivated for her imaginary Southern gentry otherwise. These people were to have taste and an eye for aesthetic living.
“It’s a shame this old place was neglected for so long,” she thought. “With a little work though, it could be as glamorous as it once was.” Kate was enamored with antiquated, Southern high society. The pomp and circumstance were enough to set her fantasies in motion for hours. Her parents merely thought it was from watching Gone with the Wind too many times. What surprises were in store for them, when she got the courage to tell them she had bought a plantation and set the wheels in motion for renovations.
She fancied her wedding here. There would be the reception hall and the ballroom. Finally, to think of a formal occasion worth remembering! Her family, while well meaning, was never much for “living” as she put it. They either lacked the will, the imagination, or both on social events. No one was much for seeing anyone else, let alone talking to them. How it would be so different, now that she was grown and in control! “Longing hearts could only stand so much longing,” she was reciting Margaret Mitchell again (as she did frequently) and dreamed of slowly nurturing the socialite within her back to health. She wanted to be a belle in the worst way.
It was all coming together. The daydream lasted forever, and she let herself wander off the path into an area she hadn’t seen before. It was still a recent purchase, and there was much to explore. It would take her months to fully navigate the entire plot.
The dale wasn’t very big, only visible when looking straight at it. There was no doubt it was from human intervention though. Heavy rain made the red clay melt and shift like toothpaste left in a sink basin. Care was needed to enter the opening of the area, but a nearby oak tree made for a superior hand rest. It was more a matter of preoccupation that led to what happened next.
Kate tripped over a small rock, and she wasn’t terribly surprised at her absentmindedness. The night had provided its typical tint on the land, but the moon was as full as it could be. Plenty of light was available to navigate through the clearing. With as much dignity as she could muster, as practice made perfect, she slowly collected herself from her tumble. This obstruction would just not do! What would the doctors and debutantes think of such a poorly kept patio?
Next to her feet laid a dingy, white stone slightly higher than the ground. It looked more like a paver than anything else. “Ugh! This will all have to be repaved. What material did they use on this anyway?” Her right foot moved the stone out of its resting place, and she examined it more closely. There was writing on it.
Squinting, she made out “Eli.” She picked up another one: “Esther.” “Oh great, they had a pet cemetery,” she said with more than a bit of disappointment. What a morbid thought, having to dispose of the remains of animals long since dead. Kate supposed it was the price she had to pay for such a piece of American history. On such a note, she started on her way back to the garden path only to be stopped by another sight. An object lay close to another “paver.” At first, it looked like a gnarled branch, but was too short and intact to be such. Kate picked it up to view it in the moonlight; it was a femur, a human one. Kate soon came to realize the real price paid to be Southern gentry.
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