Issiryth's Curse

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CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Convince the Mermaid

I could feel his breath on my bare shoulder like a breeze on a warm summer day. When there’s a chill, the warmth brings you serenity. With the shining sun, living creatures come to life from out of the scarcity of winter. It is there that we find our inspiration. For that small moment in between a wakeful consciousness and deep slumber, I lingered in a state of blissful unawareness, soaking in the warmth of his breath. With each puff of the exhale, I knew that I had found a trustworthy place to lay my head. Contentment presented itself to me in every facet of my being. Little did I know that this tiny sliver of calm that I was experiencing would be short-lived. Thereafter, I was being struck in my head by some dry wisps of bundled straw. The blows weren’t painful, but a small nuisance in this rare, tranquil moment. Their dry, scratchy texture tickled my skin like an irritating rash with each blow to my face.
“Get up!” I heard a voice yell. The sun was peeking through at me, as I rubbed my eyes to make out the features of the silhouette who was disturbing me with her broom.

“Get up!”
“Okay, okay,” I said, trying to focus my eyes. The outline of a woman was nothing but a fuzzy, double feature I found despairing to focus on. As my eyes adjusted to this woman, I could see it was Leila. I turned my head to see Stark was lying next to me in the canvas tent he had set-up for us. As the realization that I had fallen asleep with Stark set in, I began to panic, waving my arms in the air and gathering up my things to scramble away. At this stage, Leila felt she had adequately made her point as she stomped away from me, broom in hand.

“Leila! Wait!”
“There’s nothing to say. I was so worried about you, but it’s just as I suspected. You’re sleeping with that horrible man!” she shouted. I ran in front of her, throwing up my arms to stop and talk to her, but she wriggled away from me and continued walking away. I continued chasing her.
“Leila, I am not sleeping with him. I mean...we fell asleep, but we didn’t have sex. It was an accident!” I exclaimed.
“Save it. We have much bigger things to worry over anyway,” she announced, continuing to avoid my advances to stop her.
“What do you mean Leila? What’s going on?” I asked. She stopped in her tracks turning around to look at me with worry in her eyes.
“It’s Blane. He won’t wake up. I don’t know what to do,” she replied. Gasping in a large breath of air, my arms flung themselves around my belly as I crouched down into the fetal position. As I did so, I could feel Stark’s hands find their way to my back and shoulders to comfort me. The fury of a panic attack hit me like a ton of bricks.
“What? Won’t he wake up? Oh my God! This is all my fault,” I cried.
“No, it’s not Liza,” Stark interjected.
“Tell me what’s going on right now. Both of you!” Leila demanded. As I began to open my lips to speak, Stark quieted me by pressing his finger to them.
“Blane’s going to be alright sweetheart,” he said looking up at Leila. Then he addressed me. “How much of that poison did you give him?”
“Poison? What poison?” Leila demanded. “What in the hell is going on here?”
“I didn’t. He took it himself. The whole thing...” I said.
“The whole thing huh? Well, he may be out for a while. I guess that takes care of that.”
“What do you mean for a while? Like how long?” I asked.
“Both of you need to tell me what’s going on right now!” Leila commanded.
“Well considering you’re only supposed to use a few drops at a time, I assume he’ll be knocked out for a while,” he replied.
“Well, you didn’t give me any instructions! How was I supposed to know that?” I exclaimed.
“You weren’t. I’m sorry. I should have warned you,” he said.
“Is he going to die? Did I kill him?” I asked.
“No, he won’t die. He’ll be fine. He just may stay asleep for a while,” he responded.
“Okay, I’m not going to ask again. What happened to Blane? What did you guys do to him?” Leila asked again.
“He took it himself. I didn’t give it to him,” I protested.
“You’re despicable. Both of you are despicable!” she shouted. I reached for her to seek solace in her arms, but she pulled away from me.
“No! You are dead to me! I’m going back up to the house now, but you aren’t welcome there. When Blane wakes up I’m telling him everything about Stark!”
“Leila! Please, wait!” I pleaded. “I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry.”
“Yea well, I’m sorry too. Enjoy the cove with your new lover,” she said as she left me in tears kneeling down on the beach.
“What have I done?” I sobbed. Stark still had his arms around me, kneeling by my side to comfort me in this moment of tremendous despair.
“You haven’t done anything wrong, Liza. You just want to get your kids back,” he reasoned. “Listen, it’s going to be okay. I’m going to find Serena and you’ll be over to that island in no time. Okay?”
“You don’t understand. He was coming around. He was going to get my kids back for me. Everything was good and now I’ve ruined it. I’ll never see him again and I love him.”
“Stop it. Just pull yourself together. He was going to let himself die and we both know that’s not what you wanted. Don’t crumble on me. Do you understand?” He said staring at me.

The vigor with which he addressed me pushed me to the realization that I truly had no more moments to waste. Not on him, or love, or anything. I had to figure out how to get to Issiryth and fast. The only faces I really wanted to see were those of my children and I could worry about everything else later. I would bring them back to Blane and apologize. Surely he would accept me again. I swallowed hard, nodding my head as he spoke to me. I dried my eyes, wiping the tears away with my hands.
“Okay. Okay, you’re right. So, what should we do?” I asked gazing up at him.
“Let’s go get the book. By the time we get back, Serena should be waiting on me. Then, I’ll talk to her and we can get out across the boundary. Mermaids have the ability to swim really fast. It shouldn’t take us that long,” he said.
“What about my mother? I have to make sure she knows that I’m going to come back for her,” I said.
“She doesn’t know who you are anymore Liza. She’s safe in Blane’s cottage for now. I think the two of us ought to stick together. There’s no telling when he’ll wake up or what he’ll try to do to us,” he said. I supposed he was right, but I remembered hugging her when she said she forgot something and afterward saying that she hadn’t forgotten after all. I knew a small part of her memory must have been awakened by my embrace. I couldn’t bear to leave it all behind without first talking to her.
“I have to Stark. I’ll go back up there without being seen. You get the book, I’ll talk to mom. Then, we’ll meet back here. Deal?” I asked. He thought for a while as if my request were reasonable, but perhaps a bit discouraging as well. We really shouldn’t split up, but I had to do as I must for my mother.
“Okay, kiddo. That sounds like a plan. Just be careful okay?” he asked.
“Okay,” I said as Stark turned to walk toward the forest. “Stark?”
“Yeah?” I rushed to his side, slinging my arms around his neck and hugging him.
“Thank you so much,” I whispered in his ear as a tear slipped from his eye. His arms wrapped around me, meeting me for a mutually sincere hug.
“It’s no problem. I’d do it for anyone you know. It’s not like I have a thing for you,” he said with a wink as he walked away.
My stomach turned in knots as I climbed the hill to Blane’s house. The burning in my legs, climbing up the incline, twisted into my nerves. I crouched down as not be seen beneath the kitchen window as I scuttled around to the back of the house. As I rounded the corner, I could hear Leila humming ‘You Are My Sunshine’ as she cleaned the pool. She extended out the long pole as she gathered leaves and floating insects from the top of the water. I whipped my head back around as not to be seen by her. I pressed my back against the brick wall, with my heart pounding. Her back was turned to me as she danced around to her song, pulling the leaves out and dumping them in a receptacle. She really needed a diversion to go back into the house, but how? I ran around to the front door and rang the doorbell. No sooner had my bony finger touched the button, did I bolt around to the back of the house once more.
Back at my place on the wall, I stood, peeking around the corner. Leila had gone inside to see who was at the front door. My diversion had worked. I sprinted down the cobblestone path and around the bend out of sight from the view in the backyard. The cottages were concealed by foliage, tucked away in small corners of his property. Luckily, I found my way to the tiny house with a red door where my mother had settled down. Grasping the brass door knocker in my hand, I knocked. To my dismay, there was no answer. I knocked again and again, pressing my ear against the door. I could hear shuffling about from within, knowing that mom must have heard me.
“Just a second Blane!” she said. The door rattled and clicked as she fumbled to open the door. “Oh, it’s you. What a nice surprise. Do come in.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Ward,” I said, entering her small house. It was a small one-room house with a tiny living area and kitchenette. It was all decorated just as my mom would have liked it with blue and white dishes and quaint little tea sets. There were beautiful paintings on the walls and vibrant curtains hanging from the windows. The emotion welling up inside of me was almost unbearable. I wrapped my arms around her hugging her as tightly as I could.
“It’s nice to see you too Liza dear. Is everything alright?” she asked. I began to sob and cry without any control at all. I didn’t want to frighten her, but if there was even a small glimmer of memory within her, I wanted to shake it out.
“Mom, listen to me. I’m going to get Noah and Jameson back. Then, we’re going to go home. Okay?” I said with tears flowing from my face.
“Mom? Noah and Jameson? Liza, are you feeling alright?” she asked, feeling my head.
“Mom, just promise me you won’t stay here with Blane forever. Okay? I’m coming back for you. I swear to you on Dad’s grave. You’ll be safe here till I get back,” I said extending my arms out and gripping her shoulders. A look of slight concern came over her, but it soon dissolved away into smiles.
“I think maybe you’re just getting cold feet honey. Blane will make a great husband for you,” she responded.
“Mom, please. Please just promise me you won’t promise Blane to stay here forever. Just don’t okay? Do you promise? Promise me right now!” I exclaimed.
“I’m not really sure what you mean, but okay. I promise. If it’s that important to you. I won’t,” she said crinkling her eyebrows. “Would you like any tea?”
“No, Mrs. Ward. I’m okay. I have to go now,” I said kissing her cheek. I turned to leave out her front door.
“Liza wait!” she said.
“Yes?” I asked.
“Why did you keep calling me mom? Do you miss your mother?” she asked.
“Yes, very much,” I mustered trying to hold in the tears.
“Where is she? What’s happened to her?” she asked.
“She’s on vacation. She’ll come back to me,” I replied.
“Oh well, that sounds very lovely. You can call me mom if you want to Liza. I really like it,” she said grabbing my hand.
“I like it too. I’ll see you soon okay?” I asked grabbing her hand.
“Okay, Liza. Take care,” she said walking me to the door. As I left her I began to cry, but I couldn’t hold on to that emotion. My focus now was getting those boys back and I knew I had to do what I must. Going around the cobblestone path and staying concealed in the foliage, I crouched down to see if Leila was still cleaning the pool. I couldn’t see her in the backyard anymore. So, I did what any logical person would do, I made a run for it. My legs pumped as fast as they would carry me as I dashed away through the backyard and around to the other side of the house. I didn’t look back or try to contemplate my next move, I just ran and ran until I found myself in the cove again. Perhaps Leila had seen me there on premises, but it didn’t matter. By the time Blane awoke I would be long gone and away from his influence. Stark was seated in the folding chair awaiting my return, reading the large, red book as I approached him.
“Has she shown yet?” I asked as he thumbed through the pages.
“Who?” he asked without looking up from what he was reading.
“Serena of course,” I replied.
“No, not yet,” he said still glued to the words of the book. I took the book from his clutches, closing it and setting it in the folding chair next to him.
“Can you look at me please?” I asked. “It’s polite to make eye contact when someone speaks to you.”
“Yes ma’am,” he responded. “I was looking at the shape-shifting chapter. It’s very important to our goal. The thing is that you and Serena have to connect. You have to be able to trust her and she you. When you’re able to do that, the fibers of this world interconnect the two of you and you’re able to become what she is. If the connection is broken, or if you move more than five feet from her, then you turn back to your normal form.”
“Okay Stark, I think I knew all of that already. Did you learn anything else? Like how to protect me if she tries to kill me?” I asked.
“Well, there is a potion the pink fairy gave to me. It’s good to kill one creature and one only. If you run into trouble, all you have to do is throw the vial at the target and it will kill it,” he said pulling out a small pink vial with a string intertwined through it. He put it around my neck like a necklace and my stomach clenched up. It was unnerving to think I may actually be faced with having to fight something. I wasn’t an adventurer or a hero. I was just a regular mom who wanted to see her babies again.
“Thank you. I don’t know what I’d do without you,” I said looking up at him, wrapping my arms around him. He hugged me back, wrapping me up in his security. “You’re coming with me right?”
“Yea of course. I wanted to make sure you had the potion in case something tried to kill you. This is your gig. I’m just helping you along,” he said, pushing my hair back out of my eyes and tilting my face toward his.
“Don’t kiss me. Just don’t,” I whispered.
“You wish,” he said pulling away. “Now let’s look out for the mermaid. Surely she’ll be along soon.”
We looked out into the ocean waters watching the waves rise up and tumble down, rippling their way to the shore. It was a comfortable silence listening to the sound of the ocean waves and looking for Serena to pop her unpleasant face out of the ocean water. Such an occurrence didn’t happen though and I began to feel a slight sense of panic. Who knew when Blane would awake? Would he be willing to understand the desperation in my actions or would he view this all as a betrayal? My children were dependent on getting me back. I had been all they had for the majority of their lives. I couldn’t imagine if they were scared, happy, or had altogether forgotten me. I couldn’t torment over the potential answers to these questions. There were too many and not enough answers. Come hell or high water, Serena had to show her face to me and by God, I would turn into her kind. As the ocean waves continued, her absence persisted like a headache that can’t be cured with a simple painkiller. My pain was ever present and hanging on a maybe. Maybe she would show up. Maybe I would turn into a mermaid. Maybe I would get across to that other island. Maybe I would save my children. The maybe was enough for me to remain optimistic.
As we stood there, I found myself drawing closer to Stark, feeling the warmth of his arm next to mine. As our skin stood still within inches of one another, hanging next to the longing in our souls and bodies, we stood united with a powerful synergy. Together, we vibrated with our silent, yet screaming auras to call upon the experience. We would not accept the failure of her absence, but celebrate the power we shared, two headstrong humans never willing to relinquish our precious memories. No matter how sad or negative the feelings, we just wanted to retain it all, knowing that a real existence is a balance of good and bad.

I shuffled my feet closer still to him until our arms were flush with one another. Our knuckles and fingers tapped each others beginning to intertwine. I squeezed his hand hoping he would recognize the surge of energy we were creating. The breeze blew around us, my hair tumbling about in the wind, almost as if to answer our plea. We maintained our silence, holding strong to the intention. We were watching the ocean waters for signs when like a miracle, Serena’s head appeared from the distance.
“That a girl Serena,” Stark said from beneath his breath, releasing my hand and scooting himself away from me. I supposed it was alright considering he and Serena had been close in the past and it would take some convincing to make her want to help me. As her head popped up out of the water and plunged back down beneath the surface, her face was irritated at my presence on the beach. Stark’s assumption that their playtime was all in fun may have been an embellishment on his part. This mermaid was certainly jealous. She drew closer and closer to us, rendering me speechless and paralyzed. She frightened me and yet I was expected to trust her.
“Seriously Stark? If you’re going to mess around with a human, you’d think you would have a lot better taste,” she said looking at me and dropping her tongue out of her mouth.
“Serena, we need your help,” Stark began.
“With what? With her? I don’t help humans. You’re lucky I let her go when she did the little rowboat stunt,” she snapped.
“This is serious. She and I are both grateful that you let her go. We really need your help. Just hear us out. Please,” he said bending down to her and holding her hand.
“No, I don’t think so,” she said as she turned away. Stark grabbed her arm, refusing to allow her to leave us. His strong arms picked her up as she flailed about. She wriggled and flopped her large blue tail, but her efforts rendered no success. He was too strong. He placed his hands on top of her to steady and pull her ashore.
“There now. You’ll bake in the sun, unable to protect yourself until you agree to help us,” he said.
“If you think I’m afraid of this little stunt of yours, I’m not,” she said lying down as if she weren’t phased by him at all. He hovered over her, holding her arms down.
“Listen, this is serious,” he said with his face close to hers. She reached up to kiss him, but he pulled away from her. I crouched down next to the two of them to remind her that I was still standing there.
“Serena,” I started. “Please help me. I don’t like this any more than you do, but if you don’t help me, I won’t ever see my kids again. Don’t do this for me or Stark. Do this for them because they’re innocent bystanders in all of this,” I said. I suppose at that moment, she could see the desperation in my eyes. Her eyes appeared to soften a bit.
“I don’t see how this is my problem,” she started.
“It’s not, but if you do this for me, then I will be indebted to you. If you want Stark, then you can have him. I’m not after him and I’m not trying to break Issiryth’s rules. I’m just trying to get to my boys. Do you understand?” I asked.
“Yes, I think I do,” she replied and I knew she did.

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