The Bells of Chrysalis

While I am working on editing Marradith #2, and some other projects, I thought it would be fun to give you a taste of my ghost story. It’s about two sisters, Jenna and Diana Bell, who have a complicated relationship, made more so by their respective pasts and the ghosts that haunt them .  Set in the fictional town of Chrysalis, South Carolina, it’s all about family drama but with a twist of the paranormal.  The story takes place in the present day, but the preface below takes a look back into the 1950’s, when the women’s father, Travis, was a young man.



Summer, 1953


Willow Branom was promised to Travis Bell’s bother, Jeremiah.

Travis couldn’t be sure, but he thought that may have been the first thing that attracted him to the woman. And she was beautiful. Chocolate skin and amber eyes, with black hair that flowed down her back. Jeremiah bragged about her. How smart she was. How beautiful. He’d met her in Charleston, where she had a position as a teacher at the local Colored school. When he brought her home they were already engaged. The plan was that she would live on the property in the back house, until he came home from a job he was taking down in Florida. One last construction gig out of town to bring home some money. A little bit more to buy his woman the kind of wedding dress she deserved.

If Jeremiah had known what was good for him, he would have wed her at the Justice of Peace before heading out of  town. He’d have made love with his new wife and made her pregnant before he went away.

Jeremiah was a braggart, always so sure of himself and all that belonged to him. So he left the girl alone with an engagement ring. Alone in the little house by the creek where they would live together once they were man and wife.

Travis watched her.

It was hard to disguise his interest. There was something about her. Some ache beneath the surface that Travis wanted to quench.

She had to be lonely.

She had come up to the front house one afternoon, looking for Mother Kamila, offering to help with Sunday dinner. Travis told her to come in. He said that Mother asked that she peel some potatoes, and that she had gone to the store for some last minute things.

Standing in front of the window, he watched as she stared out at the trees, wearing her little pink dress, so sweet against her dark skin. He sat at the kitchen table, drinking his coffee. Not caring that she felt his gaze at her body. She was the perfect hourglass.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” she said over her shoulder.

“Do what?” he feigned innocence.


“Oh. That.” He said.

He stood up, and with a gentle touch, cupped her bottom in his hands. “Should I do this instead?”

She turned, and he pressed himself hard against her, so that she was pinned between him and the sink. He made sure that he placed his pelvis just where she could feel his erection. There was something like fear in her eyes, but he smiled down at her. He kissed her mouth deeply, and to his delight, she kissed him back.

Dinner that night was an uncomfortable affair. Willow kept her eyes on her plate, pretending to be shy. When Kamila asked why she hadn’t spoken much, she said that she was feeling weary and wanted to go lay down.

Travis bidded his time, not wanting it to be obvious. He waited a half hour before leaving out the back door.

As he guessed, she was waiting for him amongst the trees at the very back of the property, where they were shielded from view of either house.

“How did you know?” she asked breathlessly, once he reached her.

Travis smiled. His body was hot, burning from his loins and through his blood.

“Where else would you be?” he whispered.

He kissed her hard, holding her again. When his tongue stroked her neck, he heard her sigh, and he laughed with the pleasure of knowing she wanted him.

His hand traveled down, beneath her dress, and into the smooth skin between her legs.

She stiffened. He felt her sense of fear, as deeply as if she somehow pressed it into his body.

“Oh, hush baby,” he whispered, though she made no sound. And he began to move his hand up and down. He pressed, pushing up until he felt her virgin body break beneath the pressure of his hand.

Her sigh was deeper this time, animal. Her knees gave way, and she would have fallen if he had not been holding her. Somehow, she managed to untangle herself.

“I…. I shouldn’t..” she stuttered.

“It doesn’t matter,” Travis grinned. “You’re my woman now.”

She ran from the clearing.

Travis looked down at his hand, feeling wetness.

Willow’s blood.


A week passed, and Travis wondered if she would tell anyone. As he guessed, she did not. When he told her that he would meet her again, under the trees, she gave him a look of trepidation.

But at the appointed time, she was there.


He kissed and touched her again over the course of several nights, before she finally left the door of her house open for him.

Travis waited past midnight before making the short journey to Willow’s house. She gave him all that he wanted, seemed ready to try any dirty thing that he asked. They never spoke of Jeremiah or what would happen if anyone found out, but Travis preferred it that way. He had no real intentions to be with her, but the sex was incredible.


It ended one morning, as suddenly as it all began.

Travis went downstairs for breakfast one morning. He could hear his Mother’s voice from the kitchen, smell eggs and sausage cooking on the stove. The soft voice that replied to hers was Willow’s. Travis smiled as he rounded the hallway into the kitchen.

His brother Jeremiah sat at the table, with a newspaper in front of him, legs crossed, a cup of coffee in his left hand.

“Well good morning to you too, Travis,” Kamila said sternly. “Aren’t you going to welcome your brother home?”

 Jeremiah looked up from his paper and nodded dismissively. “Yeah, I’m used to it, Mother.”

Travis looked at Willow. She stood at the counter, beside the coffee pot. There was a cup in front of her, but it looked like she hadn’t drank any. He didn’t miss the discomfort in her posture, the way she had pressed her back against the kitchen wall, making herself as small as possible.

Kamila stood at the stove, and her eyes, dark and knowing, settled on Travis like a hawk.

“Foods done, Travis. Get yourself a plate.”

He opened the cabinet, reaching past Willow for a cup and a plate. She didn’t flinch, but it took effort. He could tell by the way she bit her lip.

“Are you back to stay?” Travis asked his brother.

 Jeremiah took his time folding up his newspaper, making noise and avoiding eye contact while he did. “Well, sort of.”

“What’s that mean? Either you’re here or you aren’t.”

Willow moved. She went and sat next to Jeremiah. He put his hand on her thigh, patted her knee.

“We’ve been talking, and we’re going to put down on a house of her own. There is a place my buddy’s family has been trying to sell, and they are willing to give it to me for a song. It’s a fixer upper, but it will be nice once I can get some work done on it.”

Travis found the sugar bowl and spooned some into his coffee. “Really? What made you come to that decision?”

“I was trying to explain,” Kamila interrupted, “that if they stay here for at least a few months after the wedding, they can save for a better place. Somewhere closer.”

Jeremiah shrugged. Ignoring his mother’s comment, he answered Travis’ instead.

“Well, you wouldn’t understand what it’s like to have responsibilities, Travis. Maybe you’ll be engaged one day, and then you’ll understand.”


Travis’ voice was low, but both the women in the room looked up at him. Only Jeremiah seemed unaffected by the tension in the air.

“Yes.” Jeremiah said. He grinned at his younger brother.

“Before you go making all these grand plans, you might want to make sure that your fiancée is actually the marrying type.”

 “Travis…!” Willow choked.

 “What are you talking about?”

“Oh, you mean she didn’t tell you?” Travis said, his lips spreading in a grin. “It’s really sweet, you know, how she moans when she gives it up. But maybe you don’t bring that out in her.”

Travis saw his brother’s eyes widen, felt the movement of air as Jeremiah lunged at him. The first punch caught him unprepared, but then they were in the thralls of it. Jeremiah was rock hard, and taller, but Travis held his own, until he was knocked onto the floor.

Jeremiah straddled him, and was beating him to a pulp.

Travis tried to fight back, but couldn’t get any air.

Jeremiah screamed.


Kamila had done the only thing she could think of to keep her sons from killing each other. She poured a skillet of hot oil down Jeremiah’s back.

He went to the hospital, and Kamila with him. Before she left, she took one look back at her destroyed kitchen, and Willow, who stood there in shock.

“Have that woman out of my house before I get back,” she hissed at Travis. And then she was gone, with a superior tilt of her head.

Before he could even turn, Willow was out the back door, running across the yard to her house. Travis followed.

“Willow. Wait.”

She turned on her heel, and punched him. But her blow was nothing compared to Jeremiah’s and he laughed.

“I can’t feel shit on that side of my face anyway.”

“Why did you tell him? How can you laugh? Don’t you understand what you’ve done?”

“Were you really going to leave here with him?”


“Then I don’t care what you do. You heard my Mother. She wants you gone.”

They were standing at the top of the stone steps that separated the from the back. With her hands on her hips, Willow faced him with anger he’d never seen in her eyes before.

“You really are a sad excuse for a man, aren’t you? You didn’t really want me, you just didn’t want Jeremiah to have anyone.”

“So what? You wanted it. You couldn’t get enough of it.”

He turned away from her then. He heard Willow’s heels click against the stone as she rushed down towards the guest house.

There was no scream, only a mutter. But he heard the impact of her fall.


When Travis reached her, she was dead.

She’d fallen down the steps, halfway tumbling onto a jagged stone.

Her neck was snapped.


The trees shielded him from eyes that might have seen his dirty work.

There was rope in a shed out back, and a ladder. It took longer than he would have liked. Travis tried to place her in as graceful way as he could. Over and over he whispered apologies. Her body grew ever colder to his touch. Tears came to his eyes, but he hastily wiped them away. Around him the morning was deadly silent. No bird call, no wind. Only the screams that wanted to escape from his mouth, but found no release.

The police wouldn’t much care about the passing of a Negro girl, especially one that had been unfaithful to her man. Was it so hard to believe that she would take her own life? Her reputation was ruined. A suicide under these conditions would draw less attention than an accident.

It was Kamila who found the body the next day. Willow hung from the tree that shaded the spot where Travis first touched her. She looked like a lovely sleeping angel, her dark hair shading her face, her lips puckered, pink, and as innocent as the day he met her.


©2012 Lori Titus 


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