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Lady Aravis strolled through the hedge wall in the back of the House, a book in her hand. She was headed for the pavilion for some shade when she noticed Ethan hastily standing up from a corner of the enclosed area.
"Ethan, what are you doing?" she queried, changing directions towards him. He ran a hand through his hair and looked somewhat embarrassed. A quizzical look appeared on Aravis’ lovely features as she realized which corner of the gardens they were in. "That’s . . . you’re the one who’s been putting flowers on Ophelia’s grave?" He blushed, and fiddled nervously with his fingers.
"It’s . . . not weird, is it?" Ethan asked shyly.
"Err . . ." Aravis blinked at him in confusion. "You do know she is, um, well, walking around the house, right? She’s even got her own bedroom, we left her old one for her use . . ."
"Yeah, yeah, I . . ." The servant trailed off. He met her eyes finally, half-smiled shyly. "Tell me what happened to her?"
Lady Aravis blinked at him again. "Um, all right, come sit with me in the pavilion." She led him to a chair, set her book down on the small table. "Lady Ophelia lived here about fifty, maybe a hundred years ago. She was betrothed to a young man back in her time, but he had some, hmm, mental problems and went mad. He became a different man than the one she loved, spurning her and killing her father. She too went a bit crazy and drowned herself in the brook." Both their heads turned towards the brook that ran along the edge of the gardens. "Her fiance died, too," Aravis added, almost as an afterthought.
"So why is she . . ."
"A ghost?" She shrugged elegantly. "No one really knows why these things happen. At any rate, Isolde and I used to play with her when we were little. Once Isolde was betrothed to Lord Owen and Lord Cameron moved in, Ophelia stopped speaking to us. I think she resents our being happy," Aravis mused.
"Isolde doesn’t seem very happy to me," Ethan muttered quietly, remembering the quiet weeping he had heard a few nights before.
"Of course she’s happy," the Lady snapped. Aravis knew better, but was afraid of the scandal that would ensue should the whole of Simulnation know that a Lady of Chimera was in love with a mere servant. She changed the subject back hurriedly. "So why the sudden interest in Lady Ophelia?"
Ethan blushed again. "I can’t . . . stop thinking about her," he confided. "I can’t help wondering why she’s still here, as a ghost. And she’s so . . ." The young man looked down at the table, feeling awkward telling his thoughts to the Lady of the House. Aravis let the silence descend, feeling a bit awkward herself.
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