When Kevin arrived at the cliff, it was almost midnight. He stood there, waiting for Amanda, feeling the cool night air and looking out across the bay at the peaceful scene. It was a perfect night. The moon was full and the breaking of the waves between the rocks below was soothing. This was the third summer that his family and Amanda’s family had gone on holiday together. It was the first chance he had, this summer, to be alone with Amanda. As he turned and walked back towards the gate, he realized that he was not alone.
At first, he thought it was Amanda, but when he looked closer, he saw that it was someone else. A female figure, wearing a black dress with scooped neckline, was coming slowly towards him in the moonlight. Who on earth could she be and what was she doing out here at this time, he asked himself. As the young girl walked past him, he got a closer look. She was beautiful but her face was dirty and her hair was matted and wet. She carried a handbag which was slung over one shoulder, and her eyes were fixed on the ground. She walked gracefully, but her face betrayed a sorrowful expression.
When he reached the gate, something about the girl made him look back. She was walking towards the cliff. What could she be doing? He watched her standing there, lonely and silent, just staring out to sea. He felt there was something unusual about her. Something he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Perhaps it was the disshevelled state of her hair. Perhaps it was the fact that her clothes seemed dirty and torn. Her face was deathly pale, but also exquisitely beautiful. Finally, it came to him. There had been blood on the front of her shirt.
As he watched, the girl suddenly threw her head back and her arms flailed wildly in the air. Then she started screaming.
“Did you miss me?”, said a voice.
He turned around to find his girlfriend Amanda standing right behind him.
“I managed to sneak out…eventually”, she smiled. “What’s wrong?”
“I was looking at that girl”. He turned back to point, but the girl was gone.
“What girl?”, said Amanda.
“She was there. At the cliff edge”, he said. “Waving her arms about and shouting. Didn’t you hear her?”
They ran to the edge of the cliff and looked over, but there was no sign of anyone on the rocks below and the little path that led down to the shore was completely empty. When they walked down to the beach, they saw no trace of any living person.
“She must have gone off in a boat,” said Amanda.
“No”, said Kevin. “She wouldn’t have had time. I was looking right at her and then you came. When I looked back, she just wasn’t there anymore.”
Well she must have gone somewhere”, said Amanda. “She didn’t disappear into thin air.”
Kevin didn’t reply.
“Come on. It’s getting late. My parents will start to wonder where I am” said the girl.
The young couple walked back up the pathway and headed towards home. Kevin was silent, still thinking about the strange sight he had witnessed on the cliff.
The next day, Kevin was cycling through town when he met Amanda. They decided to go for lunch together and found a quiet little cafe.
“Remember what you were telling me last night”, said Amanda. “About that girl you saw. Well I was telling my mother about it and she thought it was very odd.”
“So did I”, replied Kevin.
“But she told me that a young girl disappeared around here years ago”, said Amanda. “It was a girl who worked for my grandmother at Ocean House. She was a maid and she just went off and nobody ever saw her again.”
Kevin was very interested in the story and Amanda went on to recount what her mother had told her the night before. It seems that the maid was an orphan and Amanda’s grandmother had taken pity on the poor young girl and offered her a job. The maid’s name was Barbara and she was a very beautiful and refined young girl. Naturally, she had many admirers among the boys who lived in the area.
Young as she was, she was very flirtatious and enjoyed all the attention she got from young men. One night, she would be seen out on a date with one young man and then a few nights later, she would be dating another. People in the area began to gossip about her and wondered if she would ever settle down with a nice young man.
After a while, Barbara became engaged to a young fisherman who worked in the area. The fisherman and his older brother owned a small fishing business across the bay and Barbara considered him quite a catch. When the news was announced, a number of young local men were heartbroken.
Barbara had no relatives and Amanda’s grandmother said that she could remain as a maid in Ocean House until the wedding day. She also said that Barbara could hold the wedding reception at Ocean House. She had grown attached to the young girl during her time in the house and wanted to do something nice for her.
Amanda said her grandmother immediately set about making preparations for the wedding, but on the morning of the wedding day, Barbara was nowhere to be found. She went to bed the previous night as usual, but her bed had not been slept in and her clothes were still hanging in her wardrobe. She apparently hadn’t taken anything with her. Nobody had noticed anything unusual in her behavior and even the unhappy bridegroom couldn’t suggest any reason why she might have run away.
The local Sheriff made exhaustive inquiries and searched the area for days, but nothing was ever seen or heard of the beautiful young Barbara again. Amanda’s grandmother, who had been very attached the young girl, was devastated and believed that something horrible must have happened to her. Most of the neighbors, however, did not believe that the girl had come to an untimely end. They remembered how many boys she had flirted with, and how she had revelled in the attention they paid to her. She must have fallen in love with some other young man, they decided, and then ran off with him to avoid having to explain things to Amanda’s grandmother. According to local gossip, Barbara had been involved with many young men and any one of them might have taken her fancy.
Although Kevin wanted to know more about the story of the missing girl, that was all Amanda could remember.
“You know, my father knows the Sheriff here” said Amanda. “We could invite him over for dinner and ask him to give us all the details”.
Kevin thought that was a great idea and the next night, when he arrived at Ocean House, there was a squad car parked in the driveway.
Over dinner, Amanda’s father asked the Sheriff if there had been any news about the disappearance of the young maid named Barbara. To his surprise, the Sheriff said that the mystery had finally been cleared up.
Only three days previously, the Sheriff had been in the police station, talking to his deputy, when a local man barged through the door. It was a fisherman who was well known and liked in the little seaport town. He had a tortured look on his face and the sherriff led him into an interrogation room and sat him down.
The fisherman said that his mind was sorely troubled, and a guilty secret weighed upon his soul. His conscience had forced him to give himself up to the police, make a confession and accept his punishment.
He told the Sheriff how, years before, he had passionately loved a pretty young girl who worked at Ocean House. Misled by her flirtatious manner, and the friendly smiles which she had innocently lavished upon everyone she knew, he began to believe that she was in love with him. When he learned that his younger brother had asked for her hand in marriage and that she had accepted, he was outraged. His thoughts became dark and bitter and he decided that the young lovers had made a fool of him. Brooding alone, for days on end, he came up with a plan to take his revenge.
He silently bided his time until the day before the wedding. On that day, he stole his younger brother’s mobile phone and sent Barbara a text message, telling her to meet him in the cove below Cliff House at midnight. Then he deleted all traces of the message from his brother’s phone and replaced it where he had found it.
That night, while his younger brother slept, he crept out of the house and took his boat out on the water. Rowing quietly across the bay, he finally came to a small cove, where he put his boat ashore.
Poor Barbara was waiting at the top of the cliff and waved to him in the darkness, believing it was her true love. He trudged up the pathway that led up the cliff, and when he reached the top, Barbara was shocked and terrified to find herself confronted by the wrong brother.
Seething with rage, the evil man put his hands around her throat and began choking her. The frightened girl screamed and began to struggle, but to no avail. Crazed and furious, he declared that if he could not have her as his wife, then neither could his brother. Suddenly, he siezed the girl in his powerful arms and tossed her off the side of the cliff. She fell to her death on the dark rocks below.
As he stood in the moonlight on the edge of the cliff, gazing at her broken body lying across the rocks, the vicious murderer’s mind turned to thoughts of how to cover up his horrible deed. Without any remorse, he walked down to the beach, picked up her lifeless body and placed it in his boat. Then he collected several heavy stones and tied them firmly around the poor girl’s corpse. Finally, he rowed out to sea, over a mile or more, and there quietly dropped the dead girl overboard.
As the Sheriff finished his tragic tale, everyone at the table grew silent. Years had gone by since the young maid’s disappearance. Eventually, the truth had come out and they knew what had become of the bride on that fatal night. Kevin said nothing. He couldn’t stop thinking about the beautiful, haunting and inexplicable vision that had appeared to him, so long ago, as he and Amanda stood together on the cliff next to Ocean House.