Saturday, August 25, 2012
The Mermaid House: Part Three
THE GIRL'S EYES SEEMED TO glint a fey silver before she hunched forward, into the last of the light. "I live there. You see that frame carved around the door? I made that."
"I'm not looking into windows or anything."
She rose. Trailing smoke and ash, she drifted past him. "Come with me."
As the sun set, he realized the house wasn't as derelict as it had seemed. What he'd mistaken for boards across the ground-floor windows were actually wooden shutters. The upstairs windows were open, not broken, and gauzy curtains billowed, revealing hints of antique furniture beyond. The door was made of stained-glass, its image that of a mermaid swimming up through the waves. Around the door was a frame of dark wood into which images of squid, seahorses, and starfish had been carved.
She looked over her shoulder as she ushered him into a cozy parlor scattered with shells and fossilized sea life. "Come on in. Funny thing -- me inviting you."
"Is it? I'm Leander."
She looked at him again. "That's an unusual name."
"My mom was really into Shakespeare. She wanted to be an actress before she got into real estate."
"I'm Violet." She turned, holding out a hand. The cigarette had vanished. She didn't smell of nicotine, but of fresh-cut flowers.
He grasped her hand, which was cold and slender and decorated with several rings engraved with skulls, fish, and Celtic designs.
Something thumped upstairs. He looked at the ceiling, frowned at the water stain there. A drop fell. "I think something's leak--"
She was gazing intently at the wet patch. "You need to go. Damn, it's so early--"
"My family is home. They don't like company." She backed him out the door. Before she closed it, she said, "You should avoid places with the three Ws growing around them."
"Witchweed, white clover, and watercress. Look at our garden."
The door closed.
He stared at the glowing mermaid in the stained glass. Slightly unsettled, he moved down the stairs, looked back at the house, in velvet darkness now, its lamplight hidden.
He thought of the wet, dark-haired girl he'd filmed on the porch and shivered. My family is home.