Unfinished (Historical Fiction)

BOOK: Unfinished (Historical Fiction)
4.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


by Harper Alibeck


If love never dies, where does it go?






© 2012 Harper Alibeck


ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author / publisher.


Editor: Leslie Truver

Cover Designer: Erik Zoltan


Chapter One

such cold hands. The room had been warm and friendly when Lilith Stone entered, dragged here by her mother, Margaret. Why a billionaire's wife spent so much time in séances
with her friends was beyond Lilith's grasp of human nature, but then again, so were so many of her mother's choices.

Her mother kept the group small; Cornelia Davis and Marjorie Wallis were, along with Margaret, the “Beacon Hill Biddies.” As they entered the medium's small, clean home, Lilith watched her mother evaluate the room. Shabby silks and linens covered every surface, the stain worn down to bare wood on most of the furniture. The Cambridge rowhouse inspired neither confidence, nor a sense of safety. The coachman waited for them outside, standing guard should they need assistance.

“Welcome,” said Miss Evangeline Wolf. Her dress was plain, with a sense of fashion that dated back to Lincoln's presidency fifty years ago. Hair swept up in a fashionable coiffure, the contrast was a surprise. Intelligent brown eyes peered out from under a large forehead, and her brown hair was slicked back around her face, then puffed up. She was quite thin, but broad, her shoulders appearing to hang her dress like a seamstress's mannequin, a placeholder for the clothing.

“I've heard she studied with the Fox sisters!” Lilith's mother whispered to the group. Margaret's appearance mirrored that of the medium, with brown hair and eyes, though a tiny frame that matched Lilith's. Both were barely five feet tall, with waists a man's hands could encircle. Lilith had inherited the shape of Margaret's jaw, which on the older woman now held small jowls, years of stress pulling her down to the ground. Perhaps this spiritual meeting could help to lessen that drag. Lilith knew that her sister, Julia, was Margaret's main worry, and would be the focus of this ridiculous show.

“Margaret, did she really? The Fox sisters contacted some spirits who are impossible for others to reach!” Cornelia's breathy, high voice made the back of Lilith's throat fill with salty saliva. Lilith could do without the medium, but tolerated her mother’s insistent request. With Father out of town, Mother sprang to life, and having Margaret back to her old self a little, even at the cost of a séance, was a pleasure.

Cornelia Davis looked like a female version of Teddy Roosevelt. Including the moustache, almost. Polite company avoided any mention of the small animal growing on her lip. When you married a steel magnate worth hundreds of millions of dollars, it was amazing what others could ignore.

“The younger Fox sisters were able to convince the spirits to make sounds – to communicate in our world,” Marjorie added. Excited as a schoolgirl staring at her first girlish crush, Marjorie's color was higher. Higher than usual, for the grey-haired woman always seemed flushed. A few nips of sherry before noon, and more after, kept her face rosy. Her body as wide as it was tall. Lilith sized up the room. A free Saturday night in Cambridge and she, a young woman of twenty-four, was spending it with three middle-aged women and a con artist who preyed on the rich?

She couldn't help herself. “You do all know,” she announced in a voice loud enough to carry into the next room, where Miss Wolf retrieved candles, “that the Fox sisters were frauds. One of them recanted her story about her abilities publicly in the newspapers. They never contacted the world of the spirits. It was all fake.”

“Lilith!” Margaret hissed.

Cornelia rolled her eyes. “But do you know, dear, that the same sister recanted her recant?”

“If she could truly speak with spirits, and had intimate knowledge of affairs we non-spirit-speakers cannot know, why should she be so indecisive? How can anyone trust a word out of her mouth? Or a sound from her knuckles?” Lilith retorted. Cornelia inhaled sharply and glared at Margaret, who pointedly avoided her. As if her mother could chide her like a schoolgirl – Lilith was regretting this outing already. If learning how to unlock Julia's mind could be the end result of any of this ridiculous tedium with this pseudo-medium, then Lilith would hold back. Barely.

Miss Wolf added to the regret by entering the room and insisting everyone sit and hold hands.

“A word about the Fox sisters, if I may,” she said, as the women settled themselves in their places around the thick, wood table. “I did, indeed, have the pleasure of studying with them...” Her voice trailed off and her eyes locked on Lilith. A deep, unsettling silence filled the room.

The muscles on Miss Wolf's face slid down, taking skin with them, changing her look from that of a haggard, working class phony to a blank slate, a putty face that held no real humanity. Lilith's body flushed suddenly with crawling skin, less from the chill and more from the eyes that peered like a hawk's, making Lilith her prey, from that mask of skin.

“Why have you come?” she asked.

Margaret cleared her throat. “My daughter. Julia. She is twenty years old and was born with a feeble mind. We see glimpses of more in her and I wish to channel a spirit that understands her.”

The medium said nothing, which made Margaret speak more. “And my husband wishes to institutionalize her, but I do not agree. I feel that there is something – ”

And then Miss Wolf opened her mouth and took in Lilith's dismay at the entire spectacle, making matters worse by grasping Lilith's hands in her own, as if she were drowning.

The putty face molded into an intense, squinty shrunken head, the change in affect causing Lilith to gasp.“You do not believe,” Miss Wolf said, her voice a monotonic chant that belied her furious eyes. “But you do not need to believe. The world you denigrate continues with or without your understanding of it.”

“What? No – I am not the daughter she is talking about!” Lilith exclaimed, pulling her hands back. The medium clung to her, nails raking her palms, a sharp pain of pierced skin filling Lilith.

Marjorie let out a gasp, then exhaled, sending warm air that smelled of brandy and beef into the room, making Lilith nearly gag. The nausea was a welcome break from Miss Wolf's intensity, which both fascinated and revolted her.

“But you do not believe.”

One forceful pull released her from Miss. Wolf's grasp. “I do not care whether my belief matters to your 'world',” Lilith replied angrily.

“Of course not. The soulless never do.”

Margaret let out a small squeak and grabbed Lilith's shoulder, then pulled back sharply when Miss Wolf shouted “No!” Squeezing Lilith's shoulders as if grasping ropes to pull a ship to docks, she continued, listing to and fro slightly as her words came out in a slight sing-song.

“You are a conduit. You are a channel for a very, very old spirit. This spirit comes back every century, seeking closure. I...I do not know its mission. Perhaps we're never meant to know. But you are not a single soul like all the others here. Everyone in this room is a single soul, meant to live and die and go back into the souls’ cloud, shattering upon death into thousands of fragments. When a new child is conceived, the remnants gather together, mixed portions of thousands of slivers of different souls, creating a new one.

“That is not what happens with you.” Her dark eyes turned black, narrowing, casting an evil feeling at Lilith that made her want to crawl out of her clothes and run naked through the streets to avoid the medium's scrutiny.

“You are a whole, formed soul that never shatters. It inhabits a new child in its entirety, bent on completing a journey that is not of your doing. You are not like the rest of us. And you will never know its goal.”

Hushed murmurs filled the room as her mother's friends bent their heads together, eyes boring into Lilith's skull.
Why had she come here?
She shook her head with regret, but could not bite her tongue.

“If –
– any of this is true, then what on earth is my 'soul's mission'?” An act of sheer will prevented her from rolling her eyes.

The medium flinched and pulled her hands away from Lilith's. The chill that filled her bones began to recede. “To ask that question is dangerous.”

Lilith huffed dismissively. “Now I cannot ask my own soul a simple question?”

“Lilith! Stop it,” her mother chided. A quick glance at Margaret showed she was terrified, her body leaned away from her daughter, friends' faces taut with horror.

“Stop what?” Lilith's tone softened. Her mother's heart was a concern, and Margaret looked as white as Belgian lace.

“Your soul is not your own. All you can do is to remove the obstacles that prevent it from its journey,” the medium continued, as if under a spell.

“Obstacles?” Now Lilith was merely amused.

“Yes. Most souls that use people as conduits have unfinished business. They spend centuries inhabiting conduits, using them to fulfill what could not be completed in the life before. A mother who dies in childbirth might come back to meet her child. Or lovers who were unable to experience true bliss might reconnect in future centuries.”

“I am no mother,” Lilith exclaimed.

“You have the motherly instincts of a brick,” her mother muttered. Lilith stifled a laugh. The entire production had turned into a séance circus.

“Then contemplate this,” the medium urged. “What is holding you back in your life now?”

My father
, she thought, but did not say. Even Lilith knew when to stand on the safe side of the line.

One other obstacle, though, stood in her way. That, too, she dared not mention in polite company.

“And if I am a conduit for a lost love,” she humored the room, “would finding a way to my soul's match in this world be the answer to this problem?”

The medium shook her head sadly. “Nothing will fix this problem for you in your current life, Miss. You are what you are. All you can hope to do is to help your soul to progress so that, in the next century, in the next body, she can find peace.” Her face resumed shape and tone, the muscles returning to their place deep in her jaw, color flushing her cheeks. Lilith could feel relief flooding the Beacon Hill Biddies behind her.

“Why would my soul need this centuries-old ritual?”

Weighing her words, the medium stood, faltered on unsure legs, then walked to a small door, opening it and nearly crossing through without answering. She paused, turned back, and said, “Because your entire life has been a lie. The lie needs to be undone. No soul can rest until it has experienced absolute truth.”

A loud thump interrupted them. Margaret lay prostrate on the floor, legs akimbo, neck twisted at an odd angle against the cheap, bright carpet.

BOOK: Unfinished (Historical Fiction)
4.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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