With a full head of steam, she climbed the attic stairs. That little creaking sound she heard from her bedroom was
beginning to get on her nerves. There was nothing up there she could think of that would be making such a racket.
All she wanted to do was find the source of the insistent noise and do whatever was necessary to make it stop;
otherwise, there would be no rest for her tonight.
Since there was no light in the attic, she had to rely on the full moon that shone through the small window to light
her way. It had been years since she was up there. She really couldn’t remember what she held on to for so long.
She was sure all of Joshua’s things were still there; she didn’t throw out any of it. Marc’s stuff however, was gone;
she threw it all out the upstairs bedroom window the night she threw him out the front door. After catching him
cheating with her best friend—in their bed—she had all she could do, not to cut off his manhood and stomp it into the
Finding nothing, she turned to leave. Reaching the top step, she stopped cold. Standing in front of her was an old
woman dressed in early nineteen hundred clothing.
With her heart in her throat she asked, “Who are you?”
“Don’t you recognize me?”
Trying to put some bravado into her words she said. “No! If I did, would I ask who you were? Anyway, how did you
get in here?”
“I just did.”
“What do you mean, you just did? Do you know what time it is? I don’t know you. Get out of my house!”
Ignoring the insistence she leave, the old woman continued, “Your Father sent me here to talk to you. He said you
needed me to help you again.”
“Again? My father; what does he have to do with this?”
“You will come to understand very soon.”
“I don’t want to understand anything. Now go!”
“What do you mean, you can’t?”
“Not until I finish what I have come to do.”
“Oh, yes, my father sent you,” she said indignantly. “Tell me, what do you have to do?”
“Talk to you.”
“Okay, now you’re starting to make me mad. Go away, old woman or I will call the police.”
“Do what you must, but they won’t come.”
“Don’t be silly, of course they’ll come.” She thought for a second about the old woman’s words, then resigned and
continued. “I don’t have time for this. Say what you came to say and then leave, please.”
“Let’s sit down…over there on the old love seat.”
Something was really strange here, but Lily decided to placate the old woman so she’d leave. Then, she could get
back to her book and maybe some sleep before the sun came up.
The old woman was very calm and turned toward Lily. Lily could tell the woman wanted her full attention.
“Do you remember when Joshua was sick?”
The fact that the old woman could possibly know of her son, since she herself didn’t know the woman, was
completely lost on Lily. Her son’s memory outshined everyone and everything.
“Of course! How could I forget? He was my little boy. I loved him so much; when I lost him, I thought I’d go crazy.”
“But you didn’t go crazy, did you? Even though he was just three years old.”
“No, no I didn’t.”
“Do you remember what helped you keep your sanity? The day of his funeral; think back.”
“I was riding along the Brownstown Bridge after they put my baby in the ground. I was thinking about throwing
myself in the water below.”
“That’s right; do you remember what happened when you finally stepped out of the car and stood on the rail?”
Struggling to remember, she said, “I saw something…someone.”
The old woman watched as Lily tried to recall that day.
“I can’t remember.”
“Don’t worry, it will come to you.”
“Why can’t you just tell me?” Lily asked, her tone growing softer now.
“Your Father said you must recall on your own. Let’s move on, shall we?”
“Now, remember when Marc and Claire were in your bed and you found them?”
“Yes! That’s not really a memory I’d like to revisit if you don’t mind.”
“Oh, but I do.”
The old woman saw Lily becoming angry now.
“Who the hell are you? Get out of my house!”
With urgency in her voice, the old woman said, “Please, you have to listen to me. I promise everything will become
clear when the time is right.”
Suddenly standing up, Lily pulled the old, dusty blanket from the back of the loveseat then sat and placed it across
her lap. A strange coolness caught her by surprise.
“I’m chilly, aren’t you?” she asked.
The old woman shook her head, “No, I’m just fine. Let’s get back to Marc and that day.”
“Do we have to?”
“We don’t have a choice.” Smiling just a bit, she continued, “Remember what you did after you threw his clothes out
the window, but before you kicked him out the front door?”
“Yes, I got the gun out of the locked box. I was planning on blowing his head off.”
“Do you remember why you didn’t?”
“I do; how could I forget?”
“What happened, Lily? Tell me what stopped you.”
Lily took a long breath then said, “You know my name? How do you know so much about me?”
“I told you, all will become clear.” Trying to keep her focused the old woman asked again, “What happened?”
Lily didn’t want to say it, but somehow the words came tumbling out. “I heard Joshua tell me not to kill his daddy. I
could hear him plain as day.”
“Yes, you did.”
Lily stared at the old woman.
“How did you know that?” Looking closer at the old woman, Lily suddenly realized where she’d seen her. “Wait…the
bridge; you were the one I saw, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am.”
“I remember now; you told me I needed to stay and fulfill my dream of becoming
a famous writer. You told me that killing myself would not honor my son in any way. You said I had to stay here and
tell everyone about him in my work.”
“And you did; everyone knows the name Lily Carmichael...and her son Joshua.”
“Yes, it was a long road, but I did it. Marc supported me so much in the beginning, but it didn’t take long for him to
get tired of being Mr. Lily Carmichael. He didn’t like the recognition I received and allowed it to come between us. I
never changed; I was always loyal, always there whenever he needed me. Something about my success was just
too much for him to handle. That’s when he went wandering. I just wish he hadn’t wandered into Claire’s arms.”
“But you made it, despite all the obstacles.”
“Yes, I did. Now you have to answer a question for me.”
“Ask away; I’m an open book.”
“Who are you? You sort of look familiar, but I can’t place where I know you. I mean other than the bridge that is.”
Pointing toward the other side of the attic, the old woman said, “Look in the trunk, the one over there; find the black
photo album and bring it to me.”
After a quick search, Lily reached the bottom of the trunk and found the album. Looking at it now, she remembered
her mother showing it to her when she was a young girl. She hesitated for just a moment; how did this woman know
about the album? Better still, why was she doing her bidding? She didn’t understand it but there was something
inside, something compelling her, she only knew she had to do it.
Bringing it over to where the old woman was sitting, she said, “Here, I’d forgotten about this.”
The old woman smiled and said, “I didn’t.”
Opening the book, she leafed slowly through pages and pages of old photographs, commenting here and there.
“This is your great, great aunt Philomena. She loved smoking cherry pipe tobacco. She said chewing it was a dirty
habit, had to spit you know.” Turning the next page, pointing she said, “And this…this is your great, great uncle
Rufus. He was married to Philomena. One time, they were sitting at the table with their thirteen children—you know
they did more than saw wood—and he tried to steel a kiss from her. She wasn’t about to let him be so forward in
front of the young ‘ns so she balled up her fist and punched him right in the jaw, knocking him to the floor. Believe me
when I tell you, he never tried that again.”
“How do you know all of this? Who are you?”
Turning the page one last time, she pointed to a small, very pretty woman sitting on the front step of an old porch.
“Wait, I know that woman; she’s my grandmama. My mother’s mother; she used to tell me about her all the time.
How she made her own clothes and her children’s too. She loved to make orange marmalade for the biscuits she
made fresh every morning for breakfast.”
Looking at the old woman, Lily finally saw it, “Oh my god! You’re my grandmama.”
“That’s right, child,” she said, “I am.”
“But that’s impossible. She died over thirty years ago.”
“Oh, my dear; surely you know, everything is possible. I have been watching over you for many years.” With a bit of
sadness in her voice, she continued, “But now my time here is over.”
“Wait. Why now? I have so many questions I’d like to ask. You can’t leave, not after I’ve just met you. Why would
you leave me now? What if I need you again?”
“I told you, my time here is over. You’re going to be fine.”
Just then, Lily could hear someone calling her. The voice was faint, but distinct. As though hypnotized, she got up
from the loveseat and walked down the attic stairs toward her bedroom with Grandmama following close behind her.
Opening her door, she was startled, but not really scared. There, next to her bed stood a small figure.
Struggling to listen, she heard the tiny voice say, “It’s okay Mommy. I’m here waiting for you to come. It’s time now;
you’ve done your job. It’s time to go with me and great grandmama.”
She was confused; there stood her son was talking to her, but not looking at her. Everything in front of her suddenly
seemed slightly out of focus. She slowly approached her beloved son and stopped beside him just short of her bed.
Blinking to clear her vision, her eyes popped wide open. Her mind refused to believe what her eyes were seeing.
There on the bed lay a body, a cold gray corpse. Suddenly, she sensed the reason for her grandmama’s visit. As
recognition entered her consciousness she attempted a scream, but no sound came. No, it can’t be, she thought
staring at the body wearing a face she knew so well…hers.
The Woman in the Attic
By: Terri Ann Armstrong