Adelia gazed into the oval mirror, seeing herself in her ivory silk ball gown and the bedroom behind her, illuminated by white candles. Downstairs, her parents’ annual Halloween party was still underway. Musicians played a reel punctuated by the stomp of feet on the hardwood floor. She wouldn’t be missed. There were more young men than young women in town now.
She thought of Malcolm, who had died at Gettysburg. Two years had passed, but she loved him still, despite her parents’ urging to find a new beau.
“Show me,” she whispered. “Show me my true love.”
She wanted to see him as she remembered him with fair cheeks flushed pink after stealing a kiss, eyes clear and bright, and wavy blond hair, but she told herself she didn’t care if she saw him as a translucent spirit hovering at her shoulder, his pale hand stroking her cheek in a gesture that felt like icicles drawn across her skin.
She told herself she didn’t care if she saw him as he was now with sunken cheeks, flesh rotting off the white bone, and blue eyes shriveled in their sockets.
The church bells began tolling midnight, and she leaned forward, her pink lips parted as she strained to see in the dim light. But when the sound of the twelfth bell faded, what she saw in the mirror was worse than anything her feverish mind could conjure.
Herself and the empty room behind her.