Before my great-grandmother died, she told me a story on her deathbed. She took my hand as she exhaled a slow but heavy sigh. “Nick, my dear, you must promise me not to tell anyone else that doesn’t need to hear it, they wouldn’t understand or won’t believe it. Am I clear?” She looked at me with her tired eyes. A nod was my answer, and she tightened her grip and began.
“When I was a little girl, maybe nine or ten. I had an older sister named Liliana, she was kind, caring, funny, but she can be serious when needed. At the time we still lived in England in a beautiful mansion, what I remember the most about our home was the lovely garden in the backyard. Every day if it were nice out, Liliana and I would eat lunch outside. The young maid that would always accompany us and always made the tea and food name was Vera.”
“A timid girl but very kind and sweet. Well, one day, when we were eating lunch, Liliana asked Vera a question.” My great-grandmother laughed a little then continues, “Vera looked so worried when my sister asked her who made the tea, Vera said she did and asked if there was anything wrong.”
“No, no! The tea was delicious! The same with the finger sandwiches! Thank you, Vera!” A smile came across my great-grandmother’s face as she remembers everything like it just happened yesterday, “when Liliana said that, Vera’s face turned red as she kept saying thank you.”
“My sister then asked her to join us for lunch, and if our mother said anything that Liliana would take the blame. Day after day, Liliana and Vera grew close. Whenever we played hide-and-seek, they would always hide in the same place together giggling, it was easy to find them. I remember the night when they kissed, I wasn’t there, but I saw them from my room.”
“They stood under the old willow tree. It was like a Fairy Tale story. The moon was full, and the wind was blowing lightly. Liliana was the first to kiss Vera when she pulled away, she was blushing and smiling as Vera just stood there, you get the talent of reading lips from me, kiddo.” My great-grandmother laughed again but started to cough. Quickly, I gave her the cold glass of water that was on her nightstand, taking a sip she smiled down at the cup. “I love you, Vera. I have always loved you.”
“It was like magic words coming from my sister’s lips. The moon became brighter as the wind was blowing slower like time was stopping. I couldn’t read Vera’s lips, but she jumped up, wrapping her arms around my sister and placing a kiss on her lips this time. They laughed and blushed as they sat under the willow tree holding hands. They were so happy!…”
“However, their relationship wasn’t going unnoticed. Sadly, I was the only one that thought it was sweet and only cared about their happiness. My mother thought of it as a disgrace and sick. The day that changed and broke my sister’s heart, and the first worse thing I’ve ever seen! I still can’t believe what my mother did to that poor girl!”
“Liliana was away that day. I, my mother, Vera, and a few other workers were home. Vera was in the kitchen, making food. The day was sunny, so I asked her to join me for lunch she was happy to… I blame myself for her death…”
“When Vera didn’t come for some time, I went inside to see what was going on… There was shouting coming from the kitchen, slowly I leaned on the wall and peeked around the door. My mother was screaming at Vera, who was on the floor holding a hand on her cheek, my mother’s words still leave a sour feeling inside me.”
“You are ill! You are disgusting! And for you to make my daughter sick as well?! I will have you sent away to be never seen again! My daughter doesn’t love you!”
My great-grandmother closed her eyes as a tear fell slowly down her cheek, she inhaled before staring back at me deep into my eyes. “Vera stood up and stared down my mother with her hands balled tightly to her sides. She looked like a warrior ready for a fight.”
“Liliana loves me, and I love her! She doesn’t care that I’m poor! She doesn’t care that I’m a woman! We love each other, damn it!”
“The look my mother gave her… It was pure evil before Vera could defend herself my mother grabbed a meat cleaver and-” Putting both my hands on her cold hand when my great-grandmother began to cry she swallowed as she sniffled and trembled, “there was so much blood!… I didn’t even see where Vera’s head fell, but I saw her headless body as the blood formed a pool around her neck!…”
“Once my mother realized what she did, she ran out of the kitchen yelling for help saying that there was an accident!… My lord, Liliana’s face when she was told of what happened to Vera… She was a broken girl. Her heart was shattered into pieces… Our mother lied and told everyone that Vera fell, and the meat cleaver fell with her, how anyone believed it is beyond me!… But it felt like Liliana knew it wasn’t true either.”
“Before Vera’s ashes were cold, my mother arranged a marriage for my sister. Liliana was furious! She didn’t want to marry anyone! Her true love was gone, and she didn’t love the man our mother was forcing her to marry!…, but she didn’t have a say. On her wedding day, my sister looked at me with her veil over her face, but I saw that she was crying. She put both hands on my shoulders, and then she told me never to marry someone I don’t love.”
“My sister cried the whole time even when the man kissed her. She was sobbing, and everyone thought she was overly joyed! They were wrong, dead wrong. My mother held a party for the newlyweds being the only child there is probably what saved my life that night.”
“I was bored and tired of hearing the adults talk on about pointless things. I left the ballroom to go play in my room. Passing by a window, the moon was high and bright the willow tree stood in front of it casting a skeleton-like shadow. Something… or someone stood under it, and they were holding something that was shining from the moonlight. I blinked when trying to get a better look, but they were gone, shrugging it off I went on my way. It wasn’t long till screams filled the large home…”
“I ran back to the ballroom. The screams just stopped halfway there, and the two doors were closed as blood was flowing out from under them. The smell of iron was sickening and burned my nose that only got worse when I struggled with the one to open. Once inside, my legs became jelly.”
“Everyone that came to the party was dead, all their chest cut open, their hearts missing, some had their heads cut off. The only two still standing in the room of the dead was a headless woman. She held a bloody meat cleaver to her side. She was covered in blood as well! There was dark red smoke coming out of her neck that was bleeding. Behind the smoke I saw Liliana standing, she had both hands wrapped around her stomach as blood was coming out of her mouth, but she was smiling.” My great-grandmother started to sniffle again.
“I… still… love… you,… Vera… I… will… always… love… you…” My great-grandmother stared out the window as it began to rain.
“My sister fell slowly. The headless woman grabbed her before she could touch the bloody floor… The red smoke from the headless woman’s neck grew like a storm cloud and filled the room. I heard a scream coming from her then a sobbing sound as she held my sister’s lifeless body. I whimpered, which made the headless woman turn to face me. When I started to cry and couldn’t help but close my eyes, hoping it was a nightmare as I reopened them, the headless woman was gone. It was just a room of bodies and blood.”
“The police were of no help. They blamed it on a robbery gone wrong. Idiots. I was sent to go live with my aunt’s family. However, even there, I didn’t feel safe anymore. It felt like I was being watched. When I was old enough, I moved to America, meeting a man and started a family with him. Everything was great, and I felt safe again, but when he became an abusive drunk, the feeling of being watched came back. He went missing when he went out one night.” I swallowed hard because my mom told me about him to scare me because I was sneaking out of the house at night when I was a teen.
My great-grandfather was found dead with his chest cut open, and his heart was missing. My great-grandmother gripped my hand. “Wish your mother didn’t tell you the details, but when the police told me how he died, my heart dropped. The headless woman found me again. I feared for my children, but she never harmed us, but I knew she was there, so did my family. We’d see her out of the corner of our eyes just watching. Till someone did one of us wrong…”
“Nick, swear to me. That when someone hurts you, leave and don’t look back because that person will die if you stay. Their blood will be on your hands. I don’t want to scare you, but Vera doesn’t like it when someone hurts another heart.” My great-grandmother stared at me with fear in them.
I smiled a little. “I swear,” I said lightly.
My great-grandmother smiled back, then started to breathe heavily. She was staring behind me when I turned, there was no one, but she was still in a panic until she calmed down. The last words she spoke will always haunt me.
“I’m ready, Vera. I’ll tell Liliana hello for you.” Looking back at her, she closes her eyes, and her hand fell out of mine. There came the sounds of someone walking out of the room and down the hall. When I went searching, there wasn’t anyone in the now quiet home.
At my great-grandmother’s funeral, it was sunny out, but the wind was blowing. My family came to wish her goodbye. Getting the feeling of being watched, I looked around, turning my head to look at a hill on top of it was a large willow tree.
My heart begins to race when I saw the headless woman. She was standing under it with both hands behind her back. She’s wearing a maid dress that’s stained in blood. Red smoke is coming out of her bloody neck as she stood there.
“Are you okay?” My wife asks I jump and stare at her, then chuckle nervously, taking hold of her hand. “Yeah, just thought I saw a fox.” I lie. My wife smiled with a bit of a worried expression. I glance back at the willow tree, and Vera was gone. “Liz… Don’t break my heart, please.” I spoke lightly.