In a place where it rains for ten months of the year and snows the other two, the unsettled weather made for tough folk to tend the land and stay focused on just surviving the elements. The sky was bleak and grey casting no shadows over the Loch water as three female heads slowly rose to the surface looking in the direction of Amazing and Graceful. Zillath, Cleodora and Lanthe floated on the surface of the water just staring at the jail. It was quiet with only a small light that was visible to the mermaids in the pre-dawn. Zillath turned to her friends and said...‘Let’s just see if that land person shows his face in our water again and we will try to talk to him, and then find a few things out about why they killed my husband. Agreed?’ asked Zillath to her friends who nodded in approval then all the mermaids duck dived into the water and three tails disappeared beneath the surface.
Raphael just moved the black queen into the best checkmate position on the chessboard then he set his tree vine to the logs by the fire and threw another log on the fire to maintain a warm reception area. All was quiet at Amazing and Graceful with Raphael and the Dunmours keeping watch over their friend’s home. Raphael retracted his vine with such urgency it spun the chair around to face the window.
Something was outside.
He felt its presence.
The Dunmours noticed how quickly the chair spun around.
They too looked out the window.
Zara floated down to the front door and asked Raphael....‘What is it Raph, did you see something?’
‘No Madame, I felt them. Zair is more than one and zey are watching us.’
Zara squinted her eyes to see anything in the pre-dawn light, any kind of ripple or disturbance in the water that would leave tell-tale rings to show her that something big made some movement. Zara did not move and neither did she have to blink to replenish the moisture around her eyes. She was motionless and her eyes did not move, they remained open and scanned the Loch.
There was nothing.
Whoever it was must be underwater and the mermaid story from Ben started to take shape as being a fact and not the ramblings of a heat deprived mere living male. (That’s not really fair as I thought I saw a UFO one time as a small boy out of my bedroom window and for years I was the subject of many jokes, laughter and ribbing at school. I still think that we are not alone....and I know Ben isn’t either. So there... ner ner ner ner ner nerrrrrrr. AND unbeknownst to the Author, he sits back down into his chair and rests his head against the tentacles of a multi headed jelly that loves chocolate and telephone books for lunch......oops!)
Ben woke up and reached out for Aubrey to snuggle into because it was rather chilly and baby Zara was still snoozing with little baby snores emanating from her crib. Ben heard the shower running as his hand ran across her side of the bed without feeling the warmth of her back on his fingers. He decided to plan a surprise attack. He lost his jammies and donned his snorkel and goggles. He opened the door to the shower and pulled back the shower curtain yelling into the snorkel, SURRRRRRRRPRISE MY LOVE!
The scream that came from Aubrey’s mouth woke baby Zara, the staff, made Hambone and Lamb Shanks charge the bedroom door, Lamb Shanks unsuccessfully and three mermaids who were sitting on the ledge underwater watching the sun light up the Dx4H look back toward the jail and stop what they were talking about. Ben was wriggling his little finger in his ears to make sure he could still hear properly as Aubrey got out of the shower. She was not happy. Hambone stuck his head in the bathroom to make sure everything was okay and then was told in an icy voice to leave by Aubrey.
Something was wrong.
Aubrey wasn’t happy.
Ben was almost deaf.
Hambone was settling back down in front of the fire with Lamb Shanks who had a really sore nose and the three mermaids went back to discussing how to make contact with the land person.
Aubrey got dressed quietly and left the bedroom. She had Zara in her arms as she went into the kitchen and sat her down in the high chair to feed her some breakfast. Today was another lovely bowl of Porridge and Honey with a little touch of cinnamon that was eaten in record time and then it was into the office to check bookings and reservations with Agnes. There was a small baby jail in the office that had Zara’s toys, playthings and an assortment of really comfy blankets for Zara to nap if the mood took her. Aubrey was sure not to let Zara move around the office because of the stairs that led to the cellar that Ben had uncovered. It would be a terrible tragedy to let her fall down the steps being such a small infant, so the baby jail was set up so she was safe and snug.
Aubrey picked up the phone and called Glady Finbuckle on the switchboard in town and asked her to put her through to Australia. Glady told her that it would be too early in the morning there and that it might not be a good time to place that call. Glady then connected the call as her face came back to a normal colour after receiving a verbal Aussie deluge from Aubrey. Zara giggled and gurgled then let go a belch that made Agnes turn around and look at the little infant.
‘I swear luttle one, you soond just like ya father when yoo do thut.’
Zara let go of some more wind but in a completely different place and her little eyes glazed over and she began to stare intently at the phone cord. She was pushing her little tummy out and grunting. Something was up.....or should I say on the way out so Agnes excused herself from the office with Aubrey on the phone and she went outside to get some air. Agnes leaned up against Lamb Shanks kennel and cast her gaze out toward the land. She wasn’t concentrating on anything in particular but then something caught her eye. She stood up straight and looked at the water intently. There in the water between Amazing and Graceful and land were three small whales gliding around the steps of the hotel. The tails broke the surface of the water and gave away their position to Agnes. She stopped breathing and stood as still as she could while watching the tails break the surface. The middle tail stopped moving and a red headed person broke the surface of the water. Agnes sucked air and her eyes widened even more. Ben was right. There are mermaids at Amazing and Graceful. Agnes watched as they swam around the hotel 5 times, then the display stopped and Agnes went inside to tell her news to the Dunmours and Raphael.
Agnes knew talking to Aubrey about the mermaids was inviting a tongue lashing so she went to the other end of the reception area and told her friends. ‘I huv seen three Merrows yoo lot, Master Ben was right on tha mark!’ said Agnes in a hushed voice casting a nervous look back at the office at Aubrey on the phone to her parents in Australia.
‘Were they beautiful?’ asked Raphael quietly, awaiting an answer.
‘Raph stop thunking with yoor...chair legs.....suffering duck.’
‘Pardon, excuse moi,’ said Raphael and he turned himself to face the dogs and the mirror, almost sulking away. The Dunmours asked Agnes about the colour of the tails and what she could remember seeing of the mermaids. Apparently the colour denoted the seniority of the mermaids and if she saw the red hair on the middle mermaid, that would be the Queen of the Merrow people. Something was up under the water and Ben had to be very careful or he would end up fish food 50,000 leagues beneath the surface of the waves.
Agnes went back to the office just in time to see Aubrey crying and hanging up the phone. She was really upset about something and Agnes was a bit scared to ask what it was so she just went about her usual chores. She then excused herself to go and find Mr Maitland and explain what she had seen and how he should be treating Aubrey right now. Sometimes he was a bit dim when it came to feelings, trust, faith and the female heart. (:...er I think that can be said of every male who has walked the planet and it is not totally indicative of our Hero...okay? Yes he has his faults but he is a nice guy and he loves Aubrey and Zara to pieces.) (Author jumps to Ben’s defence.)
Agnes went up to the bedroom and caught Ben as he was walking down the hallway to the stairs and she quizzed him about the state of Aubrey and that he needed to see what was wrong with her and why she was crying at the drop of a hat. Ben agreed that it might be time to get off the rock and go to town, maybe even catch a movie and do something else other than sit in Amazing and Graceful. Ben bounced down the stairs to the office and dropped down on his knees in front of Aubrey and held her tight in his arms. She was inconsolable. Her tears cascaded down her cheeks.
She looked up and said, ‘I need to go home for a spell, it’s a bit much for me with all the ghosts, mermaids and the spirit world right now Ben. I am not coping very well, so I called Mum and Dad and they are setting up a bed and cot for Zara. We will be in Australia for about three weeks. Is that okay with you?’
Ben looked at her in such distress and agreed to her having a sabbatical with her mother and father back in Australia. They had not seen her for ages and had only seen pictures of Zara so some time with their granddaughter would be good for Zara and give Aubrey’s nerves a rest from the entire goings on at Amazing and Spookfull. Ben organised a flight for two people on the phone and he picked up Zara from the baby jail and went to sit with her by the fire. He was going to miss her terribly. He was also going to miss her mother as well. There had not been too many days when the two had been apart from each other and being gone for three weeks would seem like an eternity.
Raphael started to sing to Zara in Ben’s arms and she closed her eyes. Ben lifted his sleeping daughter up and tried to sniff her little jumpsuit and could tell straight away that something had climbed in there and died. She needed changing. Ben excused himself from Raphael’s song and went up to the bedroom with the changing table and he placed the sleeping Zara as gently as a feather on the table and started to unbutton her little suit. She slept like the dead and didn’t budge at all while he changed her bottom and gave her a new nappy. He wasn’t going to miss the nappies but he sure was going to miss the little girl inside them.
Zillath and her protectors swam around looking at the old jail and only rarely put their heads above water. It wasn’t like the old days with people screaming and bodies being thrown into the water. It was quiet, peaceful and no bodies other than the land person in the holey skin waving at them underwater. Zillath was still confused. She wanted desperately to see the land person back into the water so she could quell her troubled mind with questions addressed to him in hopefully a language that he could understand. She would be back in two days’ time. She and her party needed to rest.
Ben booked Aubrey’s ticket for the first flight to Australia in two days’ time. That gave him enough time to get some things settled before his wife and daughter went home to Australia for a well-earned visit.