She had spoken her dying wish into that delicate symbol of timelessness. As I cradled it, I hoped to hear her voice. I did…
It came each Christmas Eve just at the moment she died; I would hear a small chime and then her voice. Then the next morning we would awake to presents under the tree and another dead family member. I began to fear the cold touch of the gold pocket watch that glowed when I opened it. I tried to refrain the next Christmas Eve, but the pull of it and her were too strong.
I started asking questions, it seemed no one alive knew the answer.
… and the time ticked forward to another Christmas Eve. There were beautiful initials, C. B., engraved on the gold case. They were not my grandmother’s. Her mother’s? I wondered…
Then I found it. A box of pictures. They were daguerreotypes of women mostly, but a few men as well. One picture stood out. The woman was beautiful! I recognized the writing on the back; it said “My grandmother – Crystalle Beaurent 1870.”
“It’s my great-grandmother’s watch” I exhaled.
She was born in 1845 based on a baby picture. She would have been a southern belle during the civil war. “What a belle she must have been,” I mused. Then there was a wedding picture “Mother and Father April 1870.” I realized the tiny numbers in the watch case indicated their wedding day. One thing I do recall my grandmother sayin, “They got in a wagon and rode as far away from Georgia as they could.”
“Why grandmother? Why?I started having nightmares. “The picture must have set them off.” I rationalized. There was a beautiful young woman, and a man in black. I could never see his face, but I could see claws where hands should have been. My grandmother came to me in a dream; I asked her. “That man was a devil. He wanted her, if he couldn’t then he vowed no man would. She and papa tried to run away, but the demons from her past could not release her to a new life. Mama drowned on Christmas Eve when I was but four. No one knew what happened,” I heard a sob.
“Damned scalawag,” I woke up to a woman’s southern drawl, and the scene of a man’s face being blown off with a purse size derringer. A young woman was dragged off by two men into the shadows as the lifeblood of a woman in mourning was spilt.
It was always the same dream. But tonight, on Christmas Eves Eve, the dream was different. Dancers spun around the floor room, women were dressed in their finest silks, it was Christmas Eve – a long time ago. A hand gently pulled on my own. I stood in a blue satin dress, my ringleted hair was bound in a ribbon, a young man was offering his hand for a dance. “But I don’t know how,” I said in my mind. Yet, there I was spinning on the dance floor with the others. Then he was gone, I heard gunshot far off, I covered my ears as I crouched in a corner with fear. The cook found me and told me “there, there honey chile. Your daddy would never allow you or your mama to be hurt.” She placed a small mince meat tart in my hands. “Merry Christmas precus chile.” I closed my eyes and stroked the gold case but nothing happened. “It has to be a nightmare,” I said with little confidence in my situation. I heard her scream “Damned Scalawag!”
“You are not going to take her,” I shook my fist at the two men dragging her off. She was beautiful. I grabbed a club and swung at the head of one man who slumped to the ground. The other let go of her and went after me. She was smart though and caused him to get stuck in a bramble. I raised the club, but she urged me to put it down.
“He will get you – both of you!” the man sneered.
“I don’t think so,” I said tauntingly in his face, “I’m not from around here. ”
“Neither is he. He will find you. You took his prize from him. You cannot run far enough away.”
“Ha,” I challenged those evil eyes, “We shall see about that!”
When I awoke, it was Christmas Eve, but things were different. I didn’t know why, I could just feel it. I opened the watch and went to wind it. I heard my great-grandmother’s voice, “You must protect yourself. He is coming for you tonight. He could not get me so he has promised to hurt you. Please hide and protect yourself.”
“What?” but the voice was gone as was the life in the pocket watch “What am I to do? It’s Christmas Eve and someone is coming to kill me or …” and then I knew, “He will capture me and replace what he had lost.”
There was only one I could think of. ” I must go to my older brother.” He would think I was crazy, but he would help me. He thought it was a game. “Yes it will be a game; a hunt to be exact. How am I to hide from a specter from the past?”
“Great- grandfather’s cloak and dagger,” he exclaimed quite confidently. “Grandfather told me a story in confidence. “If ever there is a time, your sister is in danger; the only thing that will protect her is this… If you don’t succeed in protecting her, this family will be no more. Your great-grandmother would have died before she had your grandmamma.”
I wondered then if my younger brother or sister had been given anything by our grandparents.
“Just this” my sister said as though she were still a small child. It was one of those old-fashioned puzzles where you have to roll the balls into the holes. There was no message with it.
“I want what he gave me back though,” my younger brother said possessively. It was a lady’s derringer. I had seen it blow off the face of a man in another era.
I set all the items on a table: the watch, the cloak, the dagger, the gun, the puzzle. I warmed the gold on the pocket watch. It opened by itself and the sweet voice of my grandmother greeted each of us.” It was my grandmother’s failing to aim at his face rather than at the heart. You must aim her gun at his heart.”
“What about the puzzle and the cloak and the dagger?”
“Put the cloak on grand-daughter; it will protect you. The dagger must cut his heart out after he has fallen. The puzzle will mesmerize him as you cut his heart. ”
“Are we all to take part?” my brother asked.
“No! The one who saved my mother is the only one who can defeat the beast. Once he has fallen, the heart must be taken to the place where he pushed my mother into the rushing stream. Her spirit will do the rest.”
Part Two will be posted on Christmas Eve