This is about 8 pages long... but it is a short story so it does have an ending...
Please give honest opionons of story line content...believability and characters
There was, so they say, one day of the week when you could see her, a solitary figure walking along the cliffs in a long flowing dress typical of the era. Aloof from all the world she walked the ridges with a grace that captured the imagination of every young man in the region. From adults to the grade school boys she was often the topic of praise, ridicule and always speculation. For, no matter how they wanted, no one had been able to make her acquaintance. Three years had passed since she had first made her appearance along the cliffs. First spotted by a young man named Nathan and his friends as they walked to his house after school. It didn’t take long for word to spread and now every week, on her special day, the road would suddenly become very busy and a group of young men would gather at the fence of the bordering farm. Every young man in the village swore if ever she deigned to come down she would be his. But though they searched none had discovered the path to those summits and so the girl would walk alone and some even said she sang. The older folk said it was a ghost of Mary Marlin who had died trying to reach it's summits twenty years before. But the young men of the village held the hope that she was real and everything their adventurous souls desired.
Nathan, the lad who had first seen her three years ago, stood at the base of the cliff where his small farm ended abruptly at the wall of rock. He was young to run a whole farm himself, nineteen, but his father had grown ill and leaving school was his only option. He leaned against his shovel and watched her slow graceful movements. "That's no ghost" he murmured.
"But she might as well be one," a gruff voice said behind him, as a worn hand rested on his shoulder. "Yes, sir, she's got all you boys drooling like a pack of ravenous wolves while there are plenty of sweet young things right at your sides."
"But Pa... the valley girls ain't nothing like her... she's got class, breading, beauty..."
"You can see all that from this far huh?..." the old man squinted his eyes and mockingly peered closer. "My eyes must be getting worse."
"Ah! get on pa... I've got work to be doing." Nathan shrugged his father's hand off his shoulder and pitched the shovel into the soft earth.
"That indeed you do... but not here. I need you to go on down to the village and get me some tabaco."
"But, Pa!... I want to see her get down... If I could just watch her once I know I'd find the secret and then she'd be mine."
"There's all kinds of holes in that logic boy... now get on down to the town. Maybe she'll show up down there and you can demand her hand there with little or no trouble." the bent figure chuckled rudely as he hobbled back toward the house. Nathan looked at the slight figure that now stood precariously close to the edge of a large drop. The wind tugged at her lose locks and a soft melody seemed to flow on the air. He sighed and savagely stabbed the shovel deep into the earth and turned toward the village.
No sooner had he bought the tabaco than Sam and Greg sauntered into the store. "'Did ya see her Nathan?!" Shouted Sam. "Wow, she's a look'n mighty fine today."
Nathan nodded. "I saw her."
"Well, seeing isn't much now is it? Anyone see can the girl.” Brandon, the Mayor's son, butted into the conversation as he entered the small store. "It's the gett'n that counts. And I'll be the one to get her in the end. Mark my words. It’s only a matter of time. I've all but got the mystery figured out."
Sam mockingly widened his eyes at the familiar boast. "You have Brandon?... Well let's hear what you got!"
"ring" the door opened and a small shabbily clad young lady came into the store.
Brandon ignored her entrance and pushed his large finger into the chest of the much smaller Sam. "Like I'd share my secrets with the likes of you."
Nathan stepped so his shoulder shoved into Brandon's. "Back off Brandon."
Brandon turned his head and glared at Nathan. Working the land had given Nathan the advantage of size as well as maturity his opponent lacked. "Fine by me Nathan... I'll take them happily to my grave... or maybe I'll take her to the alter first." he sneered “While you take your little rag-a-muffin.”
Nathan said nothing he just glared at his oponent puffing out his chest a little more as he folded his arms across it.
“Well, I guess look’n at her’s enough to make any man want to climb the cliffs.” Brandon made a quick duck as Nathan swung a warning shot and ran out of the store allowing the door to slam with a bang.
"So I guess she's gone?" Nathan said tersely glaring at the door
Greg shrugged "Yep. For today, I suppose"
Sam slapped his friend on the back. "Greg here's lost all his interest since Sally May agreed to be his. Our mystery girl has one less admirer. But she still has her most ardent admirer and shall never lose him!" striking his hand to his heart Sam made as if to swoon.
A soft laugh came from behind a near by shelf.
"Sarah," Nathan said and the small figure came out with a timid smile on her face. "What are you doing here?"
"Your father sent me." Sarah was the housekeeper for Nathan and his father since the death of Nathan's mother some five years ago. She was pretty enough but everyone knew she was too shy to talk to and nothing like the other valley girls. Her name would never come up among the boys unless it was to used as a cruel joke.
"For what?... he sent me only a half an hour ago for tabaco... he could have saved a trip." Sarah just shrugged and took her basket toward the counter full of odds and ends. "Well..." Nathan went on turning back to his friends. "Don't die of longing Sam, she may never come down."
"Oh," Sam responded with a teasing smile. "I wasn't referring to me. I've got a girl, Malinda. I was referring to you." he laughed out loud and the Greg joined him as they both sauntered out the door.
"Hurry up Sarah." Nathan said as he opened the door. "I'll be waiting out here for you."
The road home was a good half a mile and the two walked slowly in relative silence until they had left the town.
"Nathan?" Sarah finally began keeping her eyes on the ground in front of her.
"humm?" Nathan responded absentmindedly.
"Do you really like that girl on the cliffs that much?"
Nathan looked down at her and she looked back up at him. They were good friends. But, at odd moments he got the awkward feeling that she liked him and he didn't like the idea of hurting her feelings if she ever got up the courage to say something about it. "Oh just about like all the other guys I suppose. At times she seems so close... Like I've always known her. But, whatever the case she's probably from the other side of the cliffs where the rich folk live and there's not much hope there, huh?"
Sarah shrugged again. Then asked "So you don't think she's a ghost?"
He shook his head. "I'd stake my life on it that's she as much flesh and bones as you are Sarah." he saw a slight flush come to her checks. "Anyway,” he finally continued. "I suppose I shall never have the chance to find out. Who knows how she gets up there. More people have died trying to get to those cliffs than anywhere else."
"What if there's a cave?"
Nathan stopped in mid stride and stared at Sarah as she stopped and stared back.
"Well, of course" he said. "There are caves all around here... But they’ve all been explored long ago.”
“Not all of them can have been explored.” Sarah said tentatively. “And that’s the only way she could be getting up there if she’s not a ghost.”
Nathan stopped a looked at Sarah as though considering. “You’re right. That’s the only way. Sarah you’re a genius! All I have to do is find the right one!” He scooped Sarah up and twirled her around. “Remind me to invite you to the wedding." He said setting her back down and winking at her.
The fire burned brightly in the hearth as the three sat around it later that night. Mr. McCormack sat in a great rocker and smoked his wooden pipe as he contemplated the two younger people. Nathan read out loud a novel the schoolteacher had loaned him to help him continue his studies. And Sarah bent over a small sock of Nathan's, her hands deftly patching a large hole. Mr. McCormack smiled at the scene. Suddenly the book in Nathan's hand snapped shut bringing Sarah's eyes flying up. "Why'd you stop?" she asked. The evening readings were her favorite time of the day. Nathan stood up abruptly and leaned against the mantle.
"The woman asked you a question Nat-ma-boy."
Nathan looked at Sarah then at his father and back at Sarah. "I'm sorry Sarah, I'm done for the night..." he stood up swiftly and left the house allowing the door to shut noisily behind him. Sarah looked at the old man, who promptly nodded at her. She dropped the sock and flowed shutting the door with no noise at all.
She could see him by the slight light of the moon sanding not very far away staring at the cliffs. She walked up behind him and laid her hand tentatively to his shoulder. He gave a little jump. Then said with a smile in his voice "You know, sneaking up on people like that might just get you hurt one of these days."
She just smiled gravely in the dark then ventured to say, "She never comes out by night."
"I know," Nathan replied allowing his gaze to fall to the ground. "I was just thinking..."
"About a lot of things.” He paused, then asked quietly. “Sarah, do you think I'm a fool?"
"Of course not!"
"All the other fellows get over her and get on with their lives. They've all got girls and I... I've got a farm and a dream."
"Since when have you cared about what the other guys think?"
“It’s not what the other guys think. It’s just some times I just want a girl of my own, Sarah, a real girl, of flesh and bones. What if I spend my whole life waiting and wind up with no one?”
Stepping a little closer Sarah said softly. “If anyone in this valley deserves the best it’s you Nathan. You’ll get the prize in the end.”
Nathan suddenly turned toward her causing her hand to fall from his shoulder. "And what if...?" his hand reached out and took hers.
"What if what?" Sarah's voice whispered trying to hide how badly it shook for he stood very close. She felt his arm wrap around her waist and pull her toward him. "What if I got over her too?... What if I...?"
She could feel his face come closer and she turned her own quickly as his lips brushed her cheek and then drew back quickly. "Stop it Nathan." she said suddenly with surprising force. "It's not funny."
"Who said I was joking?" he laughed. "I'm giving her up. I'm sure I could love you if I tried." he leaned down again to try to kiss her.
"Stop it." she repeated and pulled away from him. "Would you?! Please don't... I would throw myself from a cliff before giving myself to someone who had settled for me!" she choked hoarsely. "I hope you find the girl you are looking for!” she cried. “But I pray you never find her!"
With the last statement she turned and ran into the darkness. Nathan stood horrified. More at what he had just done and said than at how she had responded. What had come over him to say such things? He thought about running after her but he waited to long. There would be no finding her if she really wanted to be hidden. He glanced at the cliffs then turned and went back into the house filled with shame and anger at himself and the world.
The sun shone down brightly and the sweat seemed to poor off his brow as he worked the ground. A hand lightly touched his shoulder. "I brought some water." said Sarah. He turned and took the ladle from the bucket gratefully. They hadn't spoken much since that night a week ago. He had watched her for signs of anger or hurt but she had managed to stay out of sight mostly and he had coward in his shame.
"Thank you" he mumbled turning back to his shovel. He heard her stand for a moment before turning to go. He turned quickly and grabbed her arm. "Sarah." she turned and looked at him. "I never apologized” he muttered quickly dropping her arm and his gaze. “for what I did the other night..." She didn't respond. "I'm sorry."
"Don't worry about. " she said stiffly. "You were worked up over stuff."
He looked off to the distance and said. "Sometimes I think I'm going crazy up here.” He wiped his forehead with his for arm. “Why can't I just be content with what I've got?"
"What do you have?" she asked.
"I've got land, and a father and ... you. I mean... you're a great help. I really don't need anything else, right?"
Sarah just looked at him for a minute and the pleading in his eyes. "You don't have anything until you want it Nathan. Right now all you want is your dreams... so all you have is a dream."
"How do I want what I have?"
Sarah shook her head. "If I knew... I'd be happy with what I have too."
"Yes... and no." she sighed and looked at the cliffs behind Nathan. "I have everything I want but I can't enjoy it... I guess you could say..." she laughed ironically and turned to go.
"Thanks Sarah" Nathan called out to her. She turned and smiled sadly and then continued.
The girl on the cliffs didn't make her appearance until later in the afternoon after Nathan had taken his lunch with his father. She stood and looked down toward the valley. For awhile it seemed as though she looked at Nathan himself. He felt his heart leap and then fall. Had she really looked at him? Was there any reality to her at all? Whatever the truth was, he didn’t have her. He couldn’t hold her like…
He threw down his shovel and stalked into the house. His father sat in his rocking chair. "What you doing in here boy?"
"She's gone out on chores... Isn't your little will-o-the-wisp out there?"
"Yes." he said impatiently. "Where'd Sarah go on chores?"
"I don't know boy. Don't you have things of your own to be doing."
"I'm taking a break."
"Well, while you're at it. Go down to town and pick me up some..."
The door slammed shut announcing Nathan's departure.
The young men had already gathered near the store to discuss the girl's appearance when Nathan reached the town. Brandon had a sly smirk on his face that irritated Nathan even more than usual. Sam and Greg stood talking in whispers until they saw Nathan approaching. "Hey! Nathan!" Sam called out. "Wasn't it the strangest thing today?"
Nathan gave Sam a look that told him he didn't know to what he was referring. "Weren't you watching?"
"For a little while." came the terse reply.
"She ran! Not that slow walk she always does... she stopped short of her usual..." Sam's voice faded out of Nathan's hearing as he saw Sarah hurrying up the road from the direction of the farm. "It's a strange tradition we have here." he remarked suddenly cutting Sam off mid sentence.
"Tr… Tradition...?" the confused young man stuttered.
"Yeah, I never noticed it before. She comes out... my father sends me to the town... she goes back in… we all meet up here and talk about her for awhile... and most of the time Sarah shows up for something and walks home with me."
Sam just stared at Nathan trying to see what was so strange about it. "Seems like a perfectly natural sequence of events to me." he finally mumbled and turned to talk to Greg again.
"Yeah, perfectly natural..." Nathan repeated to himself looking crossly in the direction of Sarah as she entered the store. "All very natural but for that girl."
He waited patiently for Sarah to come out turning things over in his mind. He loved the girl... the more he thought about it the more he thought it must be true... and yet...
Sarah was down the road a little way before Nathan realized she had left the store. She didn't wait for him though he called and he had to run to catch up with her. They walked home in silence but Nathan never took his eyes off of her. He thought over all the time she had spent in their house and all their talks. Everything turning over and over in his mind. When they reached the house Sarah stopped with her hand on the doorknob. Her head hung down shielding it from his view. "Nathan..."
"humm?" He replied still caught up in his thoughts.
"I have something to show you." she said with a sigh. Placing the basket she carried in the house she shut the door again and walked past him toward the back of the land. He watched her with curiosity but she didn't raise her eyes to look at him.
As they walked Nathan's mind began to settle and he knew what he wanted. She walked toward the cliffs and he followed. What could she possibly want to show him? Suddenly it occurred to him that he didn't care where they were going. The moment they were hidden from view... he'd say it.
Glancing back he saw that the house was all but gone from sight. Turning around again he saw she had stopped and was looking at him with her hand on the cliff wall behind her. A knot formed in his throat. She seemed very beautiful sanding there with a sad sort of look in her eyes. He cleared his throat and took a step forward.
"I found it." she said abruptly.
Nathan stopped a little dazed, then remembered she had brought him to show him something. He looked around for some sort of wounded animal. "Found what?"
"The cave...you know the cave that leads to the cliffs." Nathan stared at her silently not looking at the small whole in the rocks that she was motioning toward. "I...I found it the other night..." she stammered looking toward the ground to escape his eyes. "when I ran away... I just found it... I didn't want to tell you but... I thought you might like to know." she allowed her last words to fade away. Nathan didn't say a word. His mind had picked back up full speed. Looking at the small whole he demanded harshly. "You're sure it leads to the cliffs?" she nodded. He looked back at her for a long moment and then turned on his heal and walked away quickly leaving Sarah standing there with tears rolling softly down her cheeks.
The sun was long set and Mr. McCormack had long retired to his bed when Nathan finally stocked in. Sarah stood up swiftly and went to the kitchen without saying a word. Sitting down with a plot, Nathan dropped his head into his hands. Small footsteps announced Sarah’s return. He looked up and saw she had brought a tray of food, which she had kept warm for him. "Thank you." he said accepting it. She smiled and moved about restocking the fire. He watched her carefully. "Sarah..."he began. She squatted in front of the fireplace but didn't turn around. "are you happy here? Do you have what you want?"
Sarah looked silently into the fire, then stood up. "I think I'll turn in now. I hope you'll sleep well." She turned to walk out of the room.
"Sarah! Are you happy?" he demanded.
"No." she whispered then disappeared into the dark hallway.
‘No’... it ricocheted inside of him like a stray bullet... that's why she had shown him the tunnel... if he had a wife… she'd be free to go...
The silence that reigned in the house over the next week was too much for Mr. McCormack. He would prattle on about nothing till Nathan would abruptly stand up and leave, only now Sarah didn't follow no matter how Mr. McCormack nodded and winked at her.
Then the day came. After lunch Mr. McCormack had kept Nathan busy in the front yard working on the tinny flower garden. At last he returned to his work in the field. And there she stood in all her beauty and glory. The wind whipped at her dress and her hair. She seemed to look straight down at him. He looked back up but another face filled his mind. His heart longed for her. He saw her standing next to the fireplace in his mind. He looked carefully at the figure again and made a bow before spinning on his heel and heading down to the village where he was sure Sarah would soon make her appearance.
He had been standing there for a while when he saw Sam running up the road with a panicked look on his face. “Sam! What's wrong?" Nathan called as the young man sped past him.
"She fell..." he gasped. “She looked like she was crying… or…or something near the edge and she just tipped over!” taking a large gulp of air he continued running to who knows where.
She fell... Nathan froze. She fell...
His feet were running toward the cliffs but he didn't know it. All he could see was the dress as it wiped around her legs... her hair as it brushed around her face... He could see her more clearly and perfectly than ever before.
A large group of people stood outside the fence that surrounded his property. They stared at the cliffs where a small figure clung to a ledge her feet precariously supporting her on a tinny ledge beneath her.
Springing over the fence he ran even faster toward the base of the cliffs. Where had the cave been? He found it without much trouble. He heard a scream. The past five years flew through his mind as he scrambled up the passage praying the she could hold on long enough. The light of day blinded him harshly as he scrambled out onto the cliff and across to the ledge. Reaching down and his hand wrapped itself around the tiny wrist and quickly pulled her up.
Sarah fell sobbing against Nathan's chest. He clung to her fiercely. "You are never coming up here again!" he wheezed rocking her back and forth. "Oh Sarah..." In the distance they could hear cheering.
Sarah lifted her head and cried shakily... "I'm so sorry..."
"You should be" he murmured running his hand over her hair. "Let's get down from here."
They slipped into the hole but decided to stay inside till the spectators were likely to have gone. Silence reigned but Nathan held Sarah tightly.
"I thought I had lost you..." he whispered finally. "When Sam came running through and said you had fallen..."
"You mean you thought you had lost her..." Sarah said sadly pulling away slightly. She had stopped crying and had regained most of her composure.
"No...” he responded firmly pulling her back into his arm. “I thought I had lost you..."
There was another long silence then Sarah whispered. "How did you know it was me?”
“You are one and the same. If she fell, you fell. And you were what I cared about.”
“Since when did you know?"
"Since Sam said you had fallen." his arms tightened around her. "Why have you been coming up here all these years?"
"At first just because it was pretty, then… I heard what everyone was saying... and then I heard what you said and... Oh Nathan..." she buried her face in his shoulder.
"Do you mean you did care for me once?" his voice trembled slightly.
"I've always cared for you... I always will..."
His arms tightened and…That dark cave holds the secrets shared by the two lovers.
No one ever understood what happened to the mystery girl and why two weeks later Nathan McCormack, who had been her most ardent admirer and even held her in his arms, married the plain little girl who had been his housekeeper for so many years. But when Mr. McCormack lay dieing a month later he waved his new daughter-in-law closer. "My dear," he whispered in her ear. "I'm afraid I can't cover for you anymore... if you want to go cliff wondering you'll have to find a way to distract him yourself." he winked and kissed her cheek. "I always thought you looked prettier by the fire place than up on that perch of yours anyway."
Nathan slipped his free arm around his wife's waist. "I agree Pa. I agree."