Originally Published in Ariadne’s Thread.
She sat at the end of the bar night after night. The only person she would speak to was Jim, the bartender. And even then it was just to place her order. There were rumors floating around about her. Supposedly she was left at the altar and never recovered. Some of the patrons of the Gorgon’s Den even said she would put on her wedding dress and walk around the county, looking for her true love, the man who abandoned her on that fateful day.
Oh, there were other more dismal rumors, like the one about her killing her fiancée the night before and putting on the charade at the church to seal her alibi. But that didn’t fit. There would be no reason for her to hang around if she was a killer who got away with it. The truth will probably never be known. Night after night, though, she would come into the bar, sit at the end, nurse a cocktail for an hour and then leave. For over two years she had done this, which only caused more weird rumors to float about.
On one perfectly still warm night, a night that deserved to have a frightful thunderstorm, something bizarre happened. The regulars at the Gorgon’s Den had taken their usual positions, sitting on stools or leaning back on chairs, playing cribbage, hearts, and euchre, arguing and gossiping, and of course, doing their fair share of drinking. Jim had opened up the front door to let in the unusually warm fall air. There were odd sounds of construction coming up from Ross Pendelton’s plot of land. It was on that night that he was going to divert the stream to fill the ponds he had built around his house.
The sun had set nearly an hour before and the entire county had settled into its nightly routine. It was then the bells started ringing. The bells in the old church by the bridge began tolling as if they were being bounced about. Of course this startled everyone into action since those bells aren’t rung except during the Founder’s Day festival. The patrons of the Gorgon’s Den glanced around at each other. “Fool kids,” mumbled Jim as he stepped from his spot behind the bar to look down towards the river. From the Gorgon’s Den, you could just make out the top of the steeple of the church. It was in desperate need of reshingling, but other than that it stood proudly among a copse of autumn colored trees.
Several others from the Gorgon walked down towards the church to see why the bells were ringing. As a group of the patrons turned the bend leading to the bridge and church, they could see a white form lying near the steps of the church. The group ran towards the form to find the Bride laying face down dressed in the wedding gown she wore on that day she was left at the altar. In her hands she clutched a bouquet of yellow and white roses. The leaves on the trees showered down around her – with no sign of a breeze.
When they rolled her over onto her back to check her vitals, she had a large smile on her face, as if it was the happiest day of her life. Joe Gillis, the mechanic at the garage, ran inside the church to see who was ringing the bells. When he got to the ropes, no one was around and the bells began to slowly cease their tolling. The sound stopped being celebratory and became somber.
A funeral was held for the Bride. It was a small processional with only a few regulars from the Gorgon in attendance. Jim stood near the grave and stared down at the simple tombstone which was paid for through a collection taken up at the Gorgon.
There was a lot of speculation on what had occurred, but it was just speculation. No one could say what had happened to the Bride of Sharron County. Soon all speculation ended and the talk turned to other things. Joe Gillis had returned from a trip to the city and told everyone about the new innovations her saw at the car convention.
Ross Pendleton, a new arrival to the town who purchased a plot of land out past the Randall farm had started building his new house. Many of the patrons of the Gorgon had already seen the plans and drawings for the house and marveled at the size. This held the gossips for quite some time as they tried to figure out how much Ross was worth.
Ross happened to be the topic of conversation that night at the Gorgon’s Den when suddenly he ran into the bar. He was ghostly white and looking for Sheriff Mueller. Frances Mueller had just left the Gorgon where she had a cup of coffee before patrolling the back roads for teenage beer parties. Ross was able to catch up to her before she got in her car. Excitedly, he told her something, and together they got in her sheriff’s car and drove off.
Ross directed her to his place. The large backhoe that was digging out his cellar stood like a silent guardian over the hole. In the hole was a skeleton. A skeleton dressed in a wedding tuxedo. Further investigation confirmed it was the Groom to be of the Bride of Sharron County. It appeared something did happen to him the night before the wedding. A murderous blow to the head had done him in. The murderer had brought his body to the secluded land beyond the furthest home and buried it.
The whole country once again came alive with speculation. Yet with so many unanswered questions and the possibility of a murderer among them, the patrons of the Gorgon’s Den did what came naturally and that was to turn to Jim to explain the unexplainable. Jim had a knack of putting things together. He wasn’t familiar with Occam’s Razor, and he probably wouldn’t have given it much credence. He only cared about that which made sense of the whole thing.
As he washed the mugs behind his bar, several patrons sat on the stools asking Jim his opinion, what they were actually asking was for Jim to give them something to put their minds at ease. “It’s quite simple,” Jim began, his voice a steady beacon in a confused time. “Brian, the groom, was robbed on his way to the church and was accidentally killed from a blow that was only meant to knock him out. The murderer took the body clear out of town to prevent an early discovery. This occurred as Brian was going to the church, which left our Bride, Shelly, standing alone at the altar.”
Jim served up a drink or two before he continued. “Shelly was devastated of course, but she knew Brian wouldn’t leave her completely. So she waited. And sure enough, the spirit of Brian came to her and they married at the church. The Bride of Sharron County was then carried to a far better place to live with her new husband.” Self satisfied Jim leaned back.
“Wait a minute,” Joe Gillis said. “Why would he wait all this time to marry her? If he truly loved her, why didn’t he come to her sooner?”
Jim mulled the question over and responded quite with ease, “Brian’s spirit couldn’t cross the river until Ross Pendleton temporarily dammed it to fill the ponds around his house. Spirits, as everyone knows, can’t cross running water.”
And so the story remains. The murderer was never found and the skeletal remains of the Groom were buried next to the Bride. The tombstone was altered to read, ‘Love Finds a Way’.