It was just before dawn on a Sunday morning as I strode past the cemetery.
I was new to the area and had never been there before.
It was a cool Spring morning, with clear skies and a curious light fog drifting about like a willow-the-wisp.
I can't remember what was drifting through my mind then. But I remember seeing a strange sight.
As I glanced into the cemetery, I saw a woman slowly strolling past a row of stones.
Her back was to me.
The mist was thin enough that I made her out fairly well.
She was of average height, fair skinned with fair hair that cascaded like a golden waterfall down her back. She wore a red dress. It was like a party dress but from another time, perhaps Ante-Bellum.
As I looked, a little freaked and wondering what someone would be doing cavorting in a graveyard on a predawn morning, she turned to face me.
I looked directly at her. You'd think something like this would give you the creeps. Not here. She seemed calm, if a little confused. Her skin was pale almost porcelain. Her eyes seemed blue and her nose was aquiline with full cheeks and lips, very much looking a lady.
I turned my eyes for a moment, not from fear, more to sort it out. When I looked back she had vanished. It was impossible for her to have fled so quickly. It was as though she had literally disappeared.
I ventured on, resisting the urge to search the rather large necropolis. I wondered who she was and why she was there.
That night I had an answer.
As I lay waiting for sleep, I couldn't get my mind off the Lady in Red. My eventual sleep was fitful and I tossed around.
Something was nagging me. She was bothering me, perhaps more than she should be.
I began searching and the mists rose.
I saw, no thought, I saw her ahead of the mist, but it was illusory.
She was there. Then she was not. I saw her then I didn't.
Then there she was, striding as she had before as if on a cloud, seemingly searching.
'Miss', I tried to get her attention. 'Miss, please wait.'
She slowed and stopped turning as she had done the previous morning.
This time I didn't look away. I wasn't afraid and I accepted this woman as she was.
She held my gaze and I didn't know if looking away would give her opportunity to vanish or if my gaze delivered some kind of encouragement. There was no feeling that she was 'draining me nor trapping me in any way.
'I've lost my way', she said smiling, slightly embarrassed. 'We were having the most wonderful time, then things got dark and foggy. I'm fearful I might hurt myself. Could you come to my aid sir?'
She seemed truly confused. I endeavored to help.
'Of course. If I may ask, where were you Miss?'
'We were having a soiree on the grounds of Waverly Manor. Somehow I got lost in the early evening fog. Everyone must be worried.' She smiled more in questing doubt than in comfort.
'You're dressed strangely, sir. You must not be a party goer.'
I could have said the same thing about her. The beautiful red dress was indeed very 'ante bellum' appearing. Her hair, so golden, was hanging down swept away from her face. Her skin was pale and her eyes sapphire blue. She seemed distracted as if trying to remember something, while her good manners kept her looking at me and inquiring politely.
'I'm just out for a walk, Miss...?'
'Julia Fairchild, sir', she smiled amiably.
I gave her my name and nodded, saying, 'A pleasure to meet you.' I smiled back.
'I must have fainted, for I cannot remember where I am.'
I took her hand briefly. It was cold but oddly warmed to the touch.
'Think back Julia. You were at the soiree. did something happen suddenly? could someone have hurt you?'
Her expression was grave, solemn.
'I, um, I remember a flash of pain and falling. Then I was wandering in the fog, lost, the noise of the party receding and silence taking its place.'
She seemed vexed, both afraid and unsure.
"Julia', I searched her eyes, 'Could you be wandering looking for a doorway?'
'I remember seeing a very bright place in the mist. Then, it vanished. There was the tinkling of bells like crystals. Then, silence.' her head dipped down and her upper lip quivered and she sobbed. 'Oh Dear God. Am I ?'
I smiled and nodded. 'You are just lost dear lady.'
I closed my eyes and felt warmth.
Yonder was a doorway, trimmed in gold. Light poured forth from it and the sound of crytal bells grew stronger.
'Let me take you there.'
She smiled and hesitated but felt encouraged by my gentle insistance.
The door grew brighter, not blindingly, but embracing us.
'Go Julia. They await you.'
As I spoke, the sound of laughter and music came forth from the portal. Then figures were clearing and smiling, waving her on.
'Thank you sir. You have helped me find my way.' She kissed my cheek and I felt an incredible warmth, the kind that melted fear.
Julia entered the door and the music gently swelled, reaching a high point as the portal just as gently dimmed and closed.
I stood alone, no fog and only warmth in the night.
As I woke I heard the crystal bells and heard a sweet giggle of delight as I came back to my room.
Julia found home.