Sunday, December 23, 2018

A holiday tale for my readers.

Alert hearth/myth readers will recall that last Yule, I wrote a short, holiday-themed story for the blog. I had so much fun with it that this year I've done it again.

The main character is Raney Meadows, who also happens to be the protagonist of Rivers Run, the NaNo novel I wrote last month. This story is a prequel to the novel, but not by a lot. Hope you enjoy it. 

Happy holidays!

Copyright glayan | depositphotos.com


So here’s why I gave the ex the old heave-ho. I refer to it as the Christmas mermaid incident.

Don’t look so surprised. Elementals celebrate Christmas, more or less. My mother, who’s an undine, knows Water Elementals who were there when Moses parted the Red Sea. They weren’t acquainted with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, of course, since they lived in the desert and all. But the sylphs of the Air carried the story to the Land, Fire, and Water Elementals, although some details might have gotten lost along the way. Sylphs are Air-headed, my mother always said.

Anyway, the point is that Elementals do celebrate human holidays, particularly when they’re passing as human, as Mam and I were. I’m half human anyway, and Mam thought the best way to keep my father from finding us was to live as if we weren’t Elementals at all. “Hiding in plain sight,” she called it.

I didn’t learn why we needed to hide from my father until much later.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Focus, Raney! Do you want people to think you’re a sylph?

We moved around a lot when I was a kid. Mam would get a feeling that my father was closing in on us and she’d whisk us off to a new place. A lot of the time, we left in a hurry, with not much more than the clothes we were wearing. But Mam always made sure we saved one thing: a Christmas ornament in the shape of a mermaid. Now this wasn’t one of those Disney princesses, or some sexy siren in a coconut bra. This lovely lady wore a black off-the-shoulder bodice with white trim, and her blond hair was in marcel waves. I thought she was the most beautiful, most elegant creature in the world. She’s probably the reason I decided to become an actor. I wanted to be just as beautiful and elegant as her.

Anyway, wherever we washed ashore, she was the first thing we hung on our Christmas tree. Mam said if she was there, we were home.

When I got my big acting break – the lead in a TV crime drama – and I bought the beachfront house in Malibu, Mam gave her to me. “She’ll like it at your house,” Mam said. “It will be like going home for her.” She pretended she wasn’t crying, so I didn’t say anything. I just got a stand for her and put her on a table in the living room that overlooked the ocean. That’s where she was when the ex moved in.

I don’t want to say his name because it might draw him back, but you know who I mean. Our relationship was in all the magazines. He was tall and hunky, and I was short and cute (I could do beautiful, but not without a couple of hours in a makeup chair). Unfortunately, he knew how good-looking he was. And the only thing he was really interested in was money.

Why did I let him move in? It was the classic Hollywood story: We shot a movie together, during which we spent several hours every day in and out of bed. Pretty soon it felt real.

The trouble started the first time he didn’t see me in the pool. As an undine, I have an affinity for water. Which is to say that when I’m in it, I can become one with it.

It’s not a thing I let many people know about, because they tend to react the way T&H did: “Where did you come from? One minute the pool was empty, and the next, you’re climbing out of it naked! It’s like you materialized or something!”

“Or something,” I said. “Hand me that towel, would you, sweetie?”

He struck a pose and smirked. “Maybe I’ll just let you get out on your own.”

It took several months, but eventually he got the full story out of me – and then he started pestering me to go public with it. “You should tell Sid,” he said one day as we sat on my sofa together. The French doors were open to the pool deck and the ocean breeze.

Sid was my agent. I got cold chills just thinking about what Tall and Hunky was suggesting. My father was still looking for my mother – if he heard about the undine in the movies, it wouldn’t take him long to track me down, and then her. “That would be a bad idea,” I said to T&H.

“Why? You could make millions of dollars from this gimmick!”

“It’s not a gimmick,” I said. “It’s part of my nature.”

“Nature, schmature,” he jeered. “You just don’t want to be rich.”

“I thought we were doing pretty well already,” I said, pointing to the view. The conversation was giving me an urge to run out onto the deck, pass the pool, and swan dive into the waves. Strong emotions do that to me.

“I’m sick of this, Raney,” he said, pulling out his phone. “If you won’t call him, I will. What’s his number?”

I took the phone from his hand – he was strong, but I was Elemental strong – and tossed it out onto the deck. “No!” I said. “It’s too dangerous! You don’t understand what you’re asking me to do!”

He stared hard at me. “Oh, I understand, all right,” he growled. Then he pushed past me – to retrieve his phone, I thought. But he snatched the mermaid ornament from its stand. “You care more about being a mermaid than you do about me!” he said, clenching her in his fist.

I gasped in fear for her. “I’m not a mermaid,” I said. “Give her back.”

“Call Sid!”

“Not until you give her back!”

An evil smile lit his face. He wound up like a major league pitcher and threw the ornament out the open door. It sailed in an arc over the pool and the deck beyond, and was gone. “You were never gonna call him,” he said.

I was so livid, I didn’t stop to think. Instinct caused me to call upon the water in the pool. It rose up in a towering wall and, with a surgical strike, swept T&H off his feet and out my front door.

I followed and watched him tumble down my driveway to the street, screaming all the way. “And don’t come back!” I called. “I’ll ship your junk to your wife!” I slammed the door and locked it.

Then I sat on the sofa, trembling, as loss and relief tumbled around inside me. True, I’d averted disaster for my mother and me – but at what price? The man I’d spent three years loving was gone. He’d proven himself unworthy, but still. And I’d lost the mermaid ornament – my only tangible connection to my childhood.

I walked to the other side of the deck and peered over the side. It was a sheer drop of hundreds of feet to the surf below. Nope, she was gone for good.

I turned and and bleakly regarded my empty pool. If I hadn’t been so upset, I would have thought to leave enough water in the bottom for a soak.

My bathtub was a poor substitute, but it did the job. I submerged and dissolved, letting the water leach my overwhelming emotions from each individual molecule.

Sometime later, after I’d reassembled and gotten dressed, I called Sid. “Look,” I said. “I need to get out of town for a while and clear my head. I’m going to…to…” My eyes lit on a Blu-Ray that T&H had left behind: A Walk in the Woods. I smiled and said, “I’m going to hike the Appalachian Trail.”

Now? Can’t it wait ‘til shooting wraps for the season?”

“No, it can’t,” I said, thinking fast. “If I want to start in Georgia, I need to go now, before it gets hot.”

He gave me a long-suffering sigh. “Okay, Raney, I’ll call the producer and see what he says. But you know the show’s teetering in the ratings. If you take off, the network might just cancel it.”

“I won’t be gone long,” I said. “I just need to get out of town for a while.” Long enough for T&H to convince himself I wasn’t magical – just crazy.

As I ended the call, I thought I heard a giggle and a distant splash. Puzzled, I walked into the living room – and stopped. 

A watery trail led from the deck railing to the table where the mermaid used to hold court. To my surprise, she was back – dripping wet, but otherwise undamaged. I swear she winked at me.

I rushed to the railing and yelled, “Thank you!” into the wind. I wasn’t sure what I’d done to deserve the mermaids’ favor, but I was grateful anyway.

Little did I know that payback time was coming. In just a few weeks, in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, I would find the body of a kayaker who wasn’t a kayaker but who was definitely dead.

But that’s a story for another time.
These moments of damp but festive blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.
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