He found her sitting under a spreading magnolia tree at the center of Gramberly Cemetery. The moon was waning but there was still enough light that her cornsilk-yellow hair seemed to glow. She had her back turned when he walked up. Sitting on a wrought-iron bench, her hands were clasped and laid daintily in her lap, her ankles crossed as a proper young lady should.
Goodwood Duxford stood back a respectful distance, giving Fiona a few more minutes alone.
“I hear ya Goodwood,” she said, cocking her head towards him without turning, “Ya sound like a wild boar stompin’ through tha brush.”
Moving closer, Goody patted his work belt, making sure he had all the tools he’d need to bring Fiona home.
‘You’ve been outside long enough, Fi,” he said. “Time to come back home.”
Fiona made a show of flipping her long hair over her shoulder and turning up her nose at Goody’s request.
“I reckon I’m gonna sit richeer for a spell longer.” Fi scooted across the bench to get as far away from Goody as she could.
“Fi, we can do this the easy way or the hard way,” Goody stepped around the bench trying to get Fiona to look at him.
“It don’t make no nevermind to me,” she said. “I ain’t goin’ back.”
Goody reached into one of the pockets on his carpenter’s apron, scooping up a handful of black lava salt. He didn’t want to use it, but Fiona was being more obstinate than usual.
“Fi, I’m tired of wrangling all of y’all,” he said with a sigh. “Just follow me back to the garden.”
“Ya cain’t put all us in one bucket.” Fiona crossed her arms over her chest, pouting over Goody’s implied insult. “I ain’t like ‘em wanderin’ spirits. I ain’t suppose ta be there. Ya knows ’at. I’m hopin’ my swain’ll be by inny day now, ta tote me outta here.”
Fiona believed Gramberly to be a cloistered finishing school for young ladies and that her father had arranged for her boarding there. She refused to acknowledge the finality of her residency. Occasionally, Fiona would leave her family’s vault to wander the Gramberly grounds, never able to pass beyond the cemetery gates.
“I have a mind to leave you out here all night, Fi.” Goody put the salt back into his pouch.
‘Now, Goody Duxford yore too much ah gen’leman to do ‘at.” Fiona finally faced Goody.
It had been months before Goody could look at Fiona without flinching or fighting the urge to retch. Her entire lower jaw was mangled and shifted to the right, and her left eye and cheekbone were missing. A jagged, bloody gash curved along her alabaster throat from one ear to the other.
Fiona was partially right, her widower father, Ulysses, was responsible for her residency at Gramberly, but not as a boarding school. Fiona was his only child and he meant to keep her a spinster, and his maidservant.
When Fiona began to garner attention from the young men of the town, jealousy drove Ulysses to violence. He only meant to maim her, to take her beauty so the boys would leave her alone. He didn’t expect her to fight back.
Pastor Lowell found Ulysses and Fiona when he stopped to check on them after they missed Sunday Services. Fiona was dead, and Ulysses a babbling madman. Fi was quietly interred at Gramberly and Ulysses was taken to Cedar Creek Sanitarium.
Gathering her long skirt, Fiona rose from the bench.
“Daddy cain’t keep me here f’rever,” she said, holding out her hand for Goody to take.
He wrapped her fingers around his bent elbow and escorted her back to the marble ossuary that was meant to be her final rest.
“Fi, you will be the death of me yet,” Goody said.
When Fiona’s lilting laughter had faded behind the vault’s heavy metal door, Goody walked around the outside trailing a line of pink Himalaya salt, hoping to bind her at least for a little while.