A moment before, Mercy was standing there. I turned around, and suddenly she wasn’t. I was afraid to look down out of the window, to the bright green lawn outside. I just stared out of the open window, at the clear blue sky, and the apple tree orchard. Nadia came in behind me, but I didn’t hear what she asked me. A second later, an aching screech unmistakably from our mother’s throat echoed up the hallway, followed by shouting. I was rooted to the spot, my brain frozen.

She had been in an irregular mood lately– wandering through the large house aimlessly, as a ghost. In fact, she had been pale as a ghost, too. She didn’t speak much, but had begun to stare at nothing, as if in thought, much of the time since her return to the estate. Her normally effervescent voice would be so welcoming in the mornings, and quite animated after a glass or two of her favorite deep red wine from the Kenworths’ vineyard. More recently, however, she was lackadaisical and solemn. We had all wondered furtively what had occurred at the Women’s College to have affected her, but we didn’t ask in the case that she might be offended. Her sudden introversion had put the house in a pensive mood, and we were all hoping that she might surface at some point, and perhaps awaken her usual self, never the wiser that she may have acted strangely at all. As this was not the case, however, I regret not questioning her reservedness immediately upon her homecoming.

I felt Mildred, our faithful cook, guide me downstairs to the study, and onto the familiar sofa. No one else in the room spoke a word, as the shock of the moment had melted away like wax after a candle is lit. The family had gathered around the long chaise that Corbin had gently laid my sister upon, my mother stood at the window watching the grass just below Mercy’s art room window on the third floor. Mildred hovered through the room, straightening the ash trays and bringing more cups of unwanted tea, silent tears streaming down her precious face.

“Funeral–” My father spoke out, choking on the first word from his hunched position in his armchair, “Must be held on Saturday. Gives plenty of time for–” he trailed away, allowing the family and staff to fill in the rest for themselves. Plenty of time for a coffin, a headstone, and her friends and neighbors to travel.

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