Dedicated to Julia Cronquist, the real Weeping Lady
The two couples moved cautiously through the dark night, carefully picking their way among the headstones. The grass, springy underfoot, only added to the creepy sensations two of the group felt. The women talked nervously and tightly held hands together, darting furtive looks all around. As if on cue from some special effects master, they could see fog slowly filtering in amongst the pine trees that lined the cemetery.
“Guys, I’m not sure this is such a good idea after all,” the shorter petite woman squeaked out.
The two boys almost pissed themselves trying not to laugh. But the taller of the young men watched his date in concern as she sniffed and a tear trickled down her cheek. She looked apprehensively back down the hill to where she could vaguely make out the road leading up to the campus. The dark burgundy Toyota was no longer visible in the street light as the fog creeping up the valley slowly swallowed the parked car.
“Eric, this isn’t funny anymore… I…I…want to go back,” her voice was so low that the taller youth had to bend forward to hear.
Suddenly their being here wasn’t so humorous. They had done this a dozen of times before, but the women involved had never acted like this. But then Eric had to admit, this was a little freaky with the fog. The girls jumped as the dogs in the housing subdivision across the road started barking. Even Eric started and looked to his friend Jason already pushing ahead.
“Jas, maybe this isn’t the right time for this,” he hissed.
Jason’s taunting laughter only mocked him. Reluctantly Eric turned to follow and then suddenly stopped and held his hand out to the two girls.
“We’re almost there. I’ll walk the rest of the way with the two of you.” His soothing tone allayed their fears somewhat.
Amy, the tall busty blond that was Eric’s date, bobbed her head gratefully, too nervous to even answer.
They pushed on another few minutes, careful not to trip over the headstones. Amy looked squeamish about walking on the graves and for the most part stayed off to the sides. Eric had a bad feeling about this; he wasn’t sure if seeing the Weeping Lady was going to turn out how he and Jason expected.
They moved forward a few feet and then abruptly Jason was beside them. They stood before a small three sided marble vault about twenty feet across, and in the middle resting on a white marble slab was the six foot statue of a woman. She was resting on both knees, bent forward at the waist. A stone hand was pressed to her forehead in the traditional attitude of grief and the other hand reached out imploringly to them. They moved to the small gate and opened it. It squeaked gratingly from unoiled hinges, even making Jason jump and Amy had a sudden gush of tears and she looked pleadingly from Eric to the girl quivering next to her.
“Story has it that she had her four children die suddenly and they buried them in a common grave with the statue as a marker,” Jason talked in a hushed reverent whisper.
Eric could only stare at the kneeling woman; he had seen her dozens of times, sometimes in the night like this, often in the day when he would take time out to stop and just sit on the bench, watching. He always felt deeply moved being near her. Who was she? Had her children really died? And how, what happened to her in the end? These questions, and more, always wandered like random strangers though his head as he gazed at her as he did now. The unanswered whispers filtered through his mind while he stared at the woman’s statue. He suddenly jerked back to the present hearing Jason’s voice.
“…marker. They say at midnight you can see real tears running down her face.”
The petite redhead looked at her digital watch, 11:58. “I can’t see anything, it’s too dark.”
“You have to climb up on the pedestal and then move up close,” Jason reassured her smoothly.
Eric could hear the barely controlled glee in his voice. “Jas, it might be best to do this another day. The girls are kinda creeped out.”
“Are you trying to say I’m too girly for this?” Jason’s date declared emphatically.
Amy clung to Eric’s hand in a painful vice-like grip and Eric almost faltered. “No…”she summoned her courage and pushed on, reluctantly letting go of Eric’s hand and started up the steps. “No, we’ve come this far, let’s get this over with.”
Jason stood on the bottom step pointing where the two girls should stand. “Just there.”
The women edged past him and stood on the top step and then had to stretch up to see her face. Jason watched the dress Amy wore creep up, showing a lot of shapely thigh.
“You lucky dog,” he mouthed giving him the thumbs up.
Suddenly angry, Eric moved forward to stop the girls, when Jason reached out and grabbed the back of each neck and yelled, “Aaauuuggghhhh.”
The effect on the two women was dramatic, Amy collapsed in a quivering heap on the steps, whimpering and as she slid down the stone steps to get away. She started screaming hysterically, skinning her legs on the weathered stone. A wet patch marked her path as she lost control of her bladder. The redhead just shrieked and ran from the small vault, catching her blouse on the ornamental gate, ripping it on the rough stone work, grazing her side as she fled sobbing.
Jason knelt on the side of the statue laughing in uncontrolled mirth, holding his sides.
“You can be a right prick you know that Jason,” Eric flared.
He turned to follow Amy who he could still hear screaming in the distance. For a split second Eric paused and looked up at the anguished features of the woman in stone, and as a siren wailed in the distance, he sprinted through the fog following Amy.
* * * *
Eric sat uncomfortably in the window seat of the Boeing 767 as it circled to land at Salt Lake CityInternationalAirport. He tried to button the tan dress tunic with one hand, the other arm still heavily bandaged as was the shoulder which made some of the littlest things hard.
“Been a long time?” the passenger in 34 B asked.
“What? Sorry, I was miles away,” Eric said apologetically, smiling sadly.
“Been gone a long time?”
“Two years,” he said absently.
He had been thinking of his last night home before leaving for basic training the next day. The night had been a disaster. Amy wouldn’t see him and Jason had gone into town to get something to eat and what really made the night complete, Eric had been arrested when a concerned neighbour heard Amy screaming, and after seeing a man chasing her in the fog, had called the police.
Iraq?” 34B asked.
Eric looked at the man sitting next to him; now that they were beginning to land, he was putting papers and books back into his briefcase.
“Yeah,” Eric answered vaguely.
His time in the Gulf wasn’t something he could be proud of and now he was on extended leave pending a medical board inquiry.
His thoughts drifted back to the night in the cemetery and strangely enough it wasn’t Amy he had just been thinking of, but the Weeping Lady. It was peculiar how he had missed her the last two years. That innocent night seemed like a thousand lifetimes ago.
Thirty four B looked at the wounded soldier. At first he had thought him rude for not even paying attention when he was talked to, but he looked at the various ribbons on his tunic jacket and the rough padding on the shoulder and arm and sighed. He shook his head sadly. The young man was probably thinking of the hell he had just left.
Review by: Dale Russell on July 30, 2012 : captivatingly written. This story empathises with the plight of wartorn men and women, and yet still manages a fairytale feel. Some interesting turns, I would not have expected the ending when I began reading, and yet it is crafted well.