Sunday, February 24, 2013
The Mermaid House: The End
VIOLET OPENED HER EYES because she heard the hush of the ocean tide. She shivered. She was wet, but her skin burned. Slowly, she uncurled, lifted herself, winced at the light blazing in her eyes, a car's headlights--
Her vision resolved into colors she'd never thought she'd see again; sun-drenched turquoise and shimmering white, a sky that was so blue it seemed painted on.
She swallowed and pressed a shaking hand to her chest, felt the pulsing heartbeat, breathed out, bit her lip hard and tasted blood.
"Leander..." Her voice was a croak. She staggered to her feet. "Leander!"
She tripped over something in the sand, looked down.
She crouched and gazed at the blue T-shirt wrapped around a boxy shape. It was Leander's T-shirt. Shivering, she drew from its folds a lunchbox painted with the image of a big-eyed girl in pink. It was her own lunchbox, one she'd kept her secret things in, the one she'd been carrying when she'd come across the Gorgon's path. It couldn't be the real thing -- it quivered with Fata magic.
Her hands shook so badly, she was scarcely able to undo the latch. She lifted the lid.
Her cry joined with those of the gulls circling above.
Leander floated in a peaceful nothingness, aware but unable to move, drowsing and numb.
Slowly, he rose towards light and warmth that he didn't feel on his cold skin.
He broke the surface, clutching at the wet folds and bare legs of the thing disguised as a girl, which knelt before him and cupped his face in its hands. His wide gaze was held by her silvery one. Her black hair, glistening with sea anemones, swirled around them as she whispered, "My dear morning boy."
He looked dazedly around at the elegant, glass bathhouse, the crystal chandeliers glittering above, light licking over giant mirrors, the leaves of ornamental trees...and the gazes of the others nearby...slender, beautiful girls and boys with the silver light of death in their eyes.
Amphitrite, smiling, whispered against his cheek, "Welcome home."
Leander thought he would feel cold. He felt nothing as he and his family drifted from the glass bathhouse, separating, to follow the Gorgon's creed.
He found Violet.
She still wore what she'd had on the night he'd died. She was huddled on a park bench, the lunchbox that Amphitrite had kept, the one that had held her soul, set beside her.
She finally stirred, wiped a sleeve across her face, and rose.
He followed her as a shadow, the streetlights occasionally giving him the form of a teenage boy in a T-shirt and denim.
She hesitated at the end of a street of neat houses, where TVs glowed in the windows and a few children were playing a game in the street. She moved forward as if she were on a mission.
"Violet," he whispered and remained in the dark, watching her prowl up the walk of a house with blue shutters and a wreath on the door.
A pain twitched in his chest and he winced, clenched a fist against the hollow where his heart had been. As he watched Violet raise a hand to the doorbell, he felt the seed of something begin to gnaw in that hollow.
He smiled as warmth blossomed beneath his ribcage.
The door flew open. Violet blinked in the cascade of light as a familiar, careworn face emerged.
Violet said, "Hey, mom."
(Illustration: Frederic Leighton)