Continued from Memories, Like Shattered Glass, Part l
“Pappa, can we build sandcastles on the beach, and have ice cream before we swim?” she viewed her Pappa clearly now. He was sitting in a deck chair reading his newspaper. The breeze was unsuccessfully attempting to turn the top corner of his page. Annoyed with his newspaper, he turned his deck chair to face the promenade, and out of the breeze. Emily sat and watched in amusement, and looked from Pappas head to his toes. She laughed at how predictable he was; still wearing his shirt and braces, shoes and socks off – digging his toes into the warm sand.
She began to build her sandcastle looking at the little red bucket and spade and smiling cheerfully at the dancing crabs embellished upon them. Glancing over the shore line, she could see her brother, Jack. He was jumping the waves as they emerged into surf, and rolled on to the sand. He was wearing his blue striped swimming suit which reminded her of his pyjamas, and she laughed out loud as she watched him tumble head over heels into the sea.
“Pappa, watch me jump the waves, Pappa are you watching me?” Jack continued to run in and out of the surf, his squeals of laughter loud enough for everyone else to hear too.
There was just one thing missing from this beautiful family day out Emily thought, her mother. Where was mother? Confused now, Emily looked around the area in front of her. Standing slowly, she turned to look over at the Promenade, all the familiar penny arcades where there, a mirage of flashing lights and the sounds of children laughing. The accustomed sight of the Victorian swimming baths was at the end of the row opposite the pier.
She could feel the tension in her chest as the stress of not being able to see her mother caused her, and she was about to run; but standing on the pavement, and waving her hand in her direction stood her mother.
Emily shouted “Mama look at me, I am building a sandcastle, come and see,” but the figure of her mother just continued to wave. “Mama, mama,” she shouted again, but her mother didn’t respond.
The sun shone down on Emily’s mother, and made her look almost transparent, but her smile was real, Emily knew that instantly. She looked around the Promenade with its glorious Victorian railings, and glancing towards the man-made lake, she could clearly see the little rowing boats bobbing up and down like bottle corks floating on the water.
In the distance, she could clearly see the Victorian facade of the Prince of Wales hotel. The Prince of Wales was the most elegant and expensive hotel in Southport. Its chequered history was famous for the story of the ‘white lady.’ A love story that brought tears to Emily’s eyes, as she recalled her mother reciting the story of the beautiful heroine who had lived in the early nineteenth century.
The ‘white lady’ dressed in the most stunningly fringed, white dress, was said to have adored dancing the Charleston. Her infectious laughter was familiar to all the hotel staff, whom simply adored her. Apparently, she had the most glorious head of golden curls, which bounced with abandonment as she glided effortlessly over the ballroom floor. The story likened of how her smile was as wide as the Irish Sea, and her perfume of Lily of the Valley hung sweetly in the air wherever she danced or walked.
Emily visualized the ‘white lady’ now, she was wearing white stockings, and golden buckles adorned her dainty white shoes. The entire outfit was complemented by a beautiful white ostrich feather, which she wore in her head dress.
The story told of her companion being tall, dark and handsome. His well trimmed beard, and short hair showed signs of going grey with his maturing years; while his smart dark blue pin striped suit, and black shoes made him a vision to behold as he glided expertly over the dance floor. The couple looked so much in love to everyone who was fortunate to meet them, but beneath the surface lurked a dark secret. Drink! The’ white Ladies’ companion was fond of the old demon drink, and whilst under its influence, he was prone to stray. Emily remembered the story well now, and she could see the twinkle in her mother’s eye as she sat motionless on the puff in the lounge.
Her mother continued with the story. It was apparently in the early hours of a Monday morning when the white lady discovered her companion was missing from her bed, panic-stricken she attempted to follow in his footsteps downstairs, taking the lift to the ground floor. In the early hours of that Monday morning, the lift was not up to the top floor of the hotel, and in her daze the white lady fell to her death down the lift shaft. Her ghost destined to wander the grounds, and top floor of the hotel for evermore.
Emily turned to look at the Promenade, smiling broadly from ear to ear, but her mother had gone. Alarmed, she turned around to speak to her papa, but he too had gone, as was the sight of the Prince of Wales Hotel. She stood alone in her nightdress, in front of the huge bay window, in the lounge of Hollyoake’s nursing home.
Part III to follow.