The Falling Girl

Jason Langlois


"Oh, man!"

Duo looked around with wide eyes. The front room was absolutely gorgeous, hard wood floors complementing the oak lined walls, lights set in brass sconces at regular intervals. The double doors, carved of a dark wood and set with intricate curling patterns, opened, the fine brass French handles tilting down as the stately dark haired woman glided through, a small smile on her face.

"Mr. Maxwell?" Her soft, lilting southern accent instilled a sense of decorum in him, so much that he stood and took off his cap, self conscious for having still had it on inside. The woman seemed pleased at the gesture. "Hildegarde is still getting ready. Is there anything I can bring you?"

"Nah, I'm fine. Ma'am.. That.. um, that is to say, I don't need anything... ma'am.. um.. no." He flushed, looking down at the hat in his hands. Before she could turn to leave, he looked back up, hazel eyes sparkling. "I had no idea Hilde lived in a place like this!"

The genteel woman smiled reservedly. "Yes, this plantation has been our home since long before the colonies..." A sadness flickered through her eyes as she looked up the long, curved stairway. Her voice sounded far away. "It's seen it's share of tragedy as well... my own daughter died on those very steps."

"Oh... I'm... I'm sorry."

She smiled and looked at him again, shaking the grief from her eyes. "I'll see what's keeping Hildegarde." Without another word she turned and mounted the steps, the soft tap tap tapping of her heels fading as she rounded into the hallway.

Duo looked up at the arcing stairway with it's widely spread banisters. He could easily imagine how a dark haired little girl of seven or eight might fall through, daring to get to close or chasing after a fallen toy...

Except he wasn't imagining it, it was happening right now! He hadn't even noticed the dark haired little girl in almost Victorian period dress walk to the banister and look down as if watching her parents, drop her teddy bear, and reach too far, plummeting through the wide railings from nearly the top. In a split second, he was in motion, racing with all his strength and at last diving to catch the girl. He turned in the air, sliding along the floor on his back and taking the weight of the girl on his chest. {Lucky for me she's pretty light.}

He righted himself and put the girl on her feet, looking at her, concerned. "Are you ok?!" He looked her over, and couldn't see a mark or any indication other than surprise that she'd nearly fallen to her death.

"Y-yes sir." She swallowed, then smiled broadly at him, curtseying to him. "Thank you for being such a gentleman." Without another word, she turned and moved out to the hallway, vanishing around the corner.

Duo sat heavily on the steps. {Heh... kids... Which is weird coming from me... but I'm still freaking and she's acting like nothing happened.}

Hilde came down the stairs in a rush. "Duo? Duo, what happened? I heard a noise."

"You gotta get something done about those stairs."

"Your aunt told me her daughter died falling off of those stairs, and I think I saved your sister from the sam-"

"Sister? Duo, I don't HAVE a sister. There hasn't been a little girl in this house since it was me, and back then they never let me near those stairs. And my aunt li-"

"I just caught a little girl falling off of those!" He gazed at her shocked expression, then turned away. "I am NOT crazy."

"No... no... just... my parents told me, when I was little, that hundreds of years ago a little girl fell to her death chasing after a lost toy... every week at the time she'd died, her ghost would reenact it..." she pointed at the spot the girl had fallen from, "right there... I've seen it myself. She'd always disappear before she hit the ground..."

"Well, this time it really happened. I caught her, Hilde! She was flesh and blood! You'd think your aunt would be more careful..."

"Duo," Hilde whispered, her voice going soft and shakey. "My aunt lives in Illinois, miles from Carolton... the only ones home are you, me, and my mother..."

"Then wh-" He looked up, toward the hallway, and pointed. "There. There she is. That's the woman I saw."

The woman turned and smiled brightly, and the little girl who had fallen trotted up to her, taking her hand. Duo's face glowed with almost smug satisfaction... and the grin faded with his color as the pair faded away before their eyes.