the short story project


Kathryn Manz

Willow Jane

She admired the willow branches placed on the front doors as she locked up for a morning walk.
Willow branches, her grandmother told her, would help defend her and her home from
malevolent or restless spirits. Just as well because as soon as she moved into the old estate cottage a month ago, she sensed she wasn’t alone. It wasn’t Matthew. She was pretty sure his beautiful soul ascended somewhere overseas when his call to duty became eternal. The morning was still, but she knew she would be followed again today.

Ever since the cement quarry closed, townsfolk moved outside the borders of Rosendale, and the restless spirits of our industrial past crept beyond their graves. They have always walked among us. Widow Jane emerged from the shadows to watch the woman walk out of her old house.

Holding her swollen belly, Susan moved slowly toward the edge of the river – her favorite place
to remember Matthew while contemplating a name for the child he would never know.
Cascading water churned leaves that were already caught off guard, more parched, fallen leaves scratched the edges of the rocks and in the wind, she thought she heard someone call out  “Willow Jane.” Same as yesterday.

Matthew’s people came from afar for the baby naming ceremony – the last heir to their family
legacy. Both Matthew and his father taken too soon. As she rocked in Matthew’s mothers old
chair, Susan told everyone “Willow Jane, that’s our baby’s name.” The Widow Jane smiled.

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