So…a little late, but it’s better than never, right? I’m actually thinking of moving these to Mondays, since work has been getting pretty busy lately. When I first saw this painting, I thought it was a fairly interesting-looking gentleman. But then I saw the title of Una, Lady Troubridge, and I realized it’s a fairly interesting-looking woman. (And since she’s a real person, I changed her name in the story.) The painting is by Romaine Brooks. I’d never heard of her, but I love her work, so definitely check it out if you get a chance. 920 words.
Lady Truffaut walked silently across the room. She was a study in refinement, though not elegance. You probably wouldn’t say there was anything elegant about her. She was whip-thin and razor-sharp. Her features etched into marble, not a line out of place. It looked slightly painful when she talked, as if her mouth was aching to get back to its normal, pursed state. Her bowl haircut and monocle might have drawn ridicule, but not from anyone who knew her personally. She allowed herself one piece of feminine flair, the pearl earrings that hung heavy on her crisp ears.
Those ears could hear a pin drop a mile away, at least that’s what the students told each other, when they weren’t at school of course. She had never given them any indication, by word or by action, that this rumor was false. Instead every child who had been careless enough to even attempt to break a rule had been swiftly caught, reprimanded, and punished. To say that she ruled the school with an iron fist would have been in the general realm of an understatement.
Her heels clicked softly as she stopped in front of the shivering child. His name was Ewan McAvoy, a small whisper of a boy in a coat much too large for him. Lady Truffaut knew his family as well as any. This was the ninth McAvoy boy she’d seen come through the halls of her school. Though wildly different in appearance, each one was quiet and somber. Each did his work and didn’t cause problems though, which is the way she preferred her students. Ewan had started out the same, but in recent weeks had become more and more agitated. She turned the word over in her mind, and decided that even though it wasn’t exactly the best word to describe the boy’s demeanor, it would suffice. And today, he had actually stolen another student’s lunch. The punishment would be severe.
Ewan’s eyes were locked firmly on the floor in front of him. He was trying to tell his trembling body to stop, but it was very rudely ignoring him. A casual onlooker would have believed the poor boy was frightfully scared to look up. He wasn’t scared to look up though. He was scared of disappearing.
What Lady Truffaut didn’t know, in fact, what most people didn’t know about the McAvoy family, is that they were ghosts. Not your typical cartoon ghost, nor a sheet with two black eyes. Nor were they malevolent beings intent on causing harm or frightening the living. They were ghosts because their souls had slipped through the cracks of the netherworld. They existed in our world because they had no other place to go. Ewan had been a ghost for a long time, but he had not been in his current body for long. He had found the boy near death on the outside of town. It was deep into winter, and the boy had nearly succumbed to the elements. Ewan knew that no one would be rescuing this ragged street child, so he helped him along to a better place.
The boy’s soul slid out, and Ewan’s slid in, as easy as breathing. It had been awhile since he’d been in a body this young, and for a while he had enjoyed the abilities it provided him. When you’re a ghost, you tend to forget very quickly the different sensations of the living. He had actually enjoyed going back to school, going through the day to day joys and travails of the very young. Unfortunately, the boy’s body was steadily eroding. It must have been closer to death than Ewan realized, and being so close, did not see any reason why it should stop what it had started.
Ewan had been searching for another body for weeks. He wasn’t like certain ghosts, who invaded their host bodies mercilessly, leaving a trail of death and tragedy. Rather, he always looked for someone who would not be missed, or who was ready to die anyway. It did little to ease his conscience, which is a rather silly thing for a ghost to have in the first place, but he was able to push the thoughts aside and do what needed to be done.
What needed to be done right now, was something he always found rather unpleasant. But at least Lady Truffaut would feel no pain. In fact, her soul would be happily whisked away to eternal rest. But still, it would be the end of her mortal life, and Ewan hated himself for causing it. But it was either this or simply fade away, since ghosts can only last so long without a host. And Ewan still had so much to do. There was the matter of his mysterious death, but that is another story for another time. He slowly looked up at Lady Truffaut’s dark eyes. There was fire in them, a fire that would soon be extinguished. He closed his own eyes and released, and a moment later he was looking down at the small, crumpled frame of a boy who was wearing an oversize coat.
As expected, Lady Truffaut’s spirit had given in contentedly, even willingly. It seemed as though it had seen plenty enough of this world. Ewan tried to smile. It was an uncomfortable sensation, but he knew the body would get used to it. He straightened his jacket, then walked calmly toward the nurse’s office to report the sad news of the passing child.