The citizens of Cade’s Crossing didn’t always refer to Ruth Hazelton as the woman in black. Nor did they think of her as a loner. At one time, she was one of the most hospitable residents of the town as well as a fashionable dresser.
Although Ruth never had children of her own, there was a time when all the neighborhood children knew and loved her. In summers, she always had a pitcher of lemonade on hand. She decorated with pumpkins, scarecrows, and colorful mums each autumn and always had plenty of candy and treats at Halloween.
At Christmas, a large fresh-cut fir tree stood near the windows of the front parlor. Festive lights adorned the eaves and gables of the house. Ruth spent days making hundreds of cookies in order to give some to all her neighbors. Whenever someone was sick or if there was a death in the family, she was the first to prepare a meal.
All that changed one fateful October night in 1985 when she became a widow at age of fifty.
Ruth realized she was to blame for how people thought of her. She recalled how classy (and appropriate) Jackie Kennedy looked in her black dress and veil at JFK’s funeral. When Ruth’s husband met his sudden death, she also wore black and continued to do so in the weeks that followed.
Weeks turned into months, months into years, and years into decades. Wearing black became a habit. She became a virtual recluse inside the old Victorian-style house where she had lived since her days as a young bride.
Now eighty years of age, Ruth was no longer able to climb the stairs to the second floor. It was difficult for her to prepare meals. She knew it was time to move into an assisted living facility, but she was reluctant to leave the old house.
Her hesitation wasn’t for sentimental reasons. She would have willingly moved away years ago had it not been for her knowledge of the house’s history. Convinced it was cursed, Ruth vowed she would live in the house as long as she was able to do so. She couldn’t bear the thought of another woman becoming the next woman in black.
As a writer, I’m seldom at a loss for words, but after six weeks of edits to my novella, The Stranger, I’ve been hard pressed to come up with an idea for a short Friday Fiction piece. Therefore, I decided to tell a story (at least part of it).
The idea of writing a novel involving an old house with a mysterious past has been with me for some time. This past weekend during a trip to Mississippi, I found the perfect house to serve as my model, and the ideas began to churn in my head. I hope you enjoy this month’s short feature.