Rena Faye believes in things she can see and touch, or at least capture through the lens of her camera. Things like the moonbow--a gray-and-white colorless bow that arcs out of Cumberland Falls every month when the moon is full. This natural phenomenon is what keeps her family's motel business afloat, and what puts their tiny Kentucky town on the map. That, and the legend of the ghost bride.
Along with everyone else who has grown up near the falls, Rena knows the tragic tale of the bride who walks the cliff on moonlit nights. But when her grandma tells her that the legend is real, and worse, that the ghost bride has cursed the women of their family, she dismisses it as just another of her mawmaw's famous stories. But when Rena Faye's life begins to fall apart, she must delve deeper into the stories surrounding the legend, and reexamine who she can trust, as well as the truth about her town and family history. before the curse takes everything--and everyone--she holds dear.
An eerie thriller of a ghost story filled with twists and turns until the final page.
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The Legend of the Ghost Bride
as told by Alice Slocum
Every town has its legends, and ours is no exception. In fact, Corbin is unique, because we’ve got two—the moonbow and the ghost bride. How they came to be intertwined, well, that’s a story all its own.
It happened long ago, on a night much like this. Clear skies, aglow with the light of a full strawberry moon. The scent of honeysuckle so thick you could bathe in it. The air warm and heavy with the possibility of rain and the promise of summer. Nothing holds more promise than early June in Kentucky.
I reckon that’s why our bride picked it. She was young, so young. And beautiful. All brides are beautiful, but this girl, there was something special about her. Radiant, some said, glowing with the kind of light that comes from pure happiness.
And why shouldn’t she be happy? It was her wedding night.
But that part was a secret. She hadn’t told her family about him—she was afraid they wouldn’t approve. Which is a pity. If only someone had been there to help her. Or to warn her.
Really, it’s a wonder no one guessed, what with the time she must have spent on that dress. Hand-stitched white lace, with a train long enough for its own caboose. She’d designed it to match the jewel-encrusted hair clip, which had been a gift from her lover—a sure sign his heart was pure. For a man doesn’t give away a family heirloom if he doesn’t have intentions. She wore it twisted into her hair just so, with a cluster of violets tucked in for luck. When she smiled, it put the sun to shame. How no one knew that girl was in love is one of life’s great mysteries.
But she managed to keep her secret up until the wedding night. They were to be married, she and her lover, on the bluff overlooking the falls. They planned to meet at sunset, so they could say their vows as the sun slipped behind the mountains and the moonbow rose to bless their union.
Now, it wasn’t as easy to get to the Leap back then. There was barely a path, let alone parking or pavement or cobblestone steps.
Certainly no safety railing.
But even then, it was the best view for miles.
The falls, churning and rolling beneath her. The sheer rock wall of mountain, rising behind her, moon-kissed and unbroken. Atwater Manor in the distance, lamplight flickering in the upper windows.
And so our bride was content to wait, surrounded by all this beauty.
As she did so, the air turned cool, and she shivered in her lace. The shadows grew long as the day faded into night. The perfume from the honeysuckle became cloying. Her radiant smile began to dim.
But somehow, the light from the manor grew brighter.
Only it wasn’t lamplight flickering in those windows.
It was a fire.
Now, some say she should have gone for help. Had she run to the house and tried to help them escape, or even headed into town to alert someone, maybe the house could have been saved and the whole tragedy avoided.
But those people are fools.
For the girl knew how quickly fire can snatch away life.
As she watched, the flames grew ravenous, consuming everything in their path. Only seconds passed before the roof collapsed. Everyone inside—gone. Swallowed by a cloud of thick, dark smoke.
And only she was left, the full moon like a spotlight on the burning clearing that was now as charred and empty as her heart.
Just yesterday, he had held her in his arms, in this same spot beside the rainbow. But where a rainbow is a promise, a moonbow is the ghost of one—that wisp of colorless light really just a whisper of missed chances and loves lost. Of broken dreams and broken hearts.
Or so the girl thought, as she stepped off the cliff.
To this day, when you see the moonbow rise? So faint it only shines from the corner of your eye?
That’s a sign she’s nearby. Wanting. Waiting. Wandering the river, searching for answers. Or for the love she lost, so long ago. Might be she’s still hoping for a happy ending, for those promises at the end of her rainbow.
But since she only walks at night, she’ll never find them.
Anyone raised up around here has their own version of the ghost bride story. She’s an urban legend, a spooky tale we pull out at slumber parties after the sleeping bags are rolled out, flashlight tucked under our chins, eyes wide and voices low. A clever trick used by our sweeties to get us to cuddle close in fear, or by our older brothers and sisters to scare us out of the woods and into our beds. It’s a warning from our parents: a reminder to stay away from the falls, or boys, or both. Sometimes the story ends in screams, sometimes laughter, and occasionally even tears as we cry off all our mascara over the thought of that poor, sad bride and her dead lover.
My mawmaw, Alice—Malice to me, because I couldn’t get my mouth around the rest of it when I was younger—tells it best. Malice is a genuine storyteller, by birth and by trade, and her story about that lovelorn bride will make you shiver so hard you’ll shed your freckles. When I was little, I begged to hear it every chance I got, though after seventeen years and maybe a hundred tellings, I know the whole thing by heart. Every pause, every whisper, every gesture—from the finger Malice presses to her lips as she reveals the secret wedding to the tiny shiver and her slipping smile as the bride’s happiness shatters.
The ending is my favorite part. The rise of the moonbow illuminating the ghost bride as she wanders, heartbroken, through the darkness. Ever searching for what she’s lost.
Except, as it turns out, that’s not the end of the story at all.
It’s only the beginning.