I’ve incorporated some suggestions that I received on Chapter One of the story and edited the previous post to reflect them. Now I’m on to Chapter Two and introducing a second cover. Our cover designer has made several beautiful designs and I’d love your feedback on which one is your favorite. I’ll post a new one when the next chapter is released.
After Jonathan left I sat down at the desk to think for a bit. I wondered how my parents would feel if something happened to change the land here. They’re both so wrapped up in their work I’m not sure they’d notice. Dad’s always looking at things far away and Mom’s always looking at things too small to be seen. Sometimes they miss what’s right in front of them.
It wasn’t like that with my grandmother. I miss her so much. We were with her for three months before she died. I called her Nan although her real name was Catherine. She was the kindest person I ever met. Even though she was sick she always had time for me and loved to read to me. As she got weaker I would read to her too. We read poems and all the classics for children; Heidi, Anne of Green Gables, the Chronicles of Narnia. I imagined what it would be like to live in those places long ago but of course I wouldn’t have had as much freedom as I do now, especially being a girl.
Nan loved this place even more than I do. What would she have done in this situation? I know she’d try to stop the construction. Mom and Dad will probably listen with that somewhat distracted look they often have and shake their heads and say something not very helpful like “That’s progress for you.” I don’t want progress. I want everything to be just as it’s always been. And if I could have told Nan about the mermaid I know she would have believed me. She may have even seen a mermaid herself after living here for her whole life. If I told my parents or Jonathan that I’d seen a mermaid they’d think I’d imagined it. I wasn’t sure how I felt about Jonathan. He was interesting to talk with and it was nice to have someone listen to me and not treat me like a kid, but I didn’t know if I could trust him yet.
I realized it was too late to go into the village so I decided to look through some of the books at the cottage. Most of the books were about the local birds and plants. There were a couple of books on the history of Scotland and the British Isles and even a handwritten album of the genealogy of some of our ancestors.
My elbow was throbbing as I started looking through the shelves. But it was a strange tingly sort of pain, almost as if the skin were being knit back together. I picked up a book and started leafing through it. It had a brown leather cover and the title read in faded gold The History of Ancient Scotland. I expected it to smell musty but it actually had an odd smell when I opened it. Like the Thanksgiving turkey dressing that my Nan had made. What was the herb that she had used… rosemary? No…was it thyme? No, that smelled more like pencils being sharpened. Oh yes, from the song; parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. It was sage. How odd for a book to smell like sage. There were chapters about the groups that Jonathan had mentioned; the Beaker People and the Picts, Pagans, the Gaels, even early Romans and Christians.
As I turned the pages I occasionally came across small line drawings. The illustrations showed how people might have performed ceremonies and prepared their food. There was a picture of some people standing among a circle of stones wearing what looked like animal skins. And then I found a picture that made me freeze. It was of some of the people wearing animal skins standing on the rocks by the sea and climbing out of the sea was a woman with long hair. And guess what, her feet were webbed.
I realized I had stopped breathing again and now I took a deep inhale. Webbed feet. So was this real or was it fiction? I looked more closely at the drawing and in the distance I saw some rocks and cliffs that looked like the ones near the sea cave that I explored with my dad. We had gone there in Dad’s canoe. He let me swim even though it was like being surrounded by tiny icicles when I dove in. I swam for a few minutes until I began to feel numb. When I got out my skin turned tingly and electric as my blood warmed me. I felt my heart beating all through my body. I shook my head to bring myself back to the present and looked down at the drawing again. I wondered what Jonathan would have to say about this book and the pictures in it. Do archaeologists believe what they see in pictures or would he assume it was a myth? He didn’t know about my feet. There was no reason to have told him or shown him. It’s something I usually avoid because it leads to too many questions and the only answer I have is that I was born this way.
I heard the clock chime and realized it was nearly 5:00. I’d been daydreaming again and Dad would be home soon. Mom prepares meals for us to heat up every week before she goes to Edinburgh. I usually make a salad or a vegetable to go with our dinner and I like to have it ready for Dad when he arrives. It makes me feel like I’m almost grown up.
Dad and I get along really well. We have the same silly sense of humor and we both have brownish blond hair and a gap between our front teeth. When I was younger the dentist mentioned that I should get braces but I like that it makes me look like Dad. We can shoot water out from between our teeth which is a lot of fun when we’re swimming. He has really nice brown eyes that have smile lines around them. He said it’s because he’s always squinting into a telescope. My eyes are the same color as my mom’s and my grandmother’s. They’re kind of grey and stormy looking.
Mom had frozen enough casseroles for three days. She made shepherd’s pie with ground beef and mashed potatoes, a tuna casserole with noodles which looks disgusting but actually tastes pretty good, and lasagna with meatballs and tomato sauce. She cooks on Sundays before she gets ready to leave. I could make our meals myself but she said Dad and I would just eat sandwiches and cookies while she’s gone.
I took my Nan’s old apron off the hook in the kitchen and slipped it over my head and tied it in the back. I don’t really need to wear an apron to make a salad but it reminds me of her. It’s so soft and worn that you can almost see through it. She used to keep things in the pockets like safety pins, sometimes a butterscotch candy or a caramel and always a few tissues.
I had already put the lasagna in the refrigerator to thaw this morning so now I put it in the oven. I was just getting the vegetables out for the salad when I heard Dad’s car in the drive. The screen door to the kitchen swung open and he came in and hung up his jacket.
“Halley my girl. How’s it going?”
“Hi Dad, everything’s good. Just fixing some lasagna. Do you want olives on the salad?”
“However you make it always tastes good to me. Need any help?”
“No, it’s almost ready. I’m just going to slice some cucumber.”
“Great, I’ll go get washed up and make myself a drink. Can I get you anything?”
“Yeah, I’ll have a ginger ale. ” I said.
“One ginger ale coming up.”
Dad brought our drinks to the table. I like it when he pours my soda in a wine glass and I pretend I’m drinking champagne. We’re both a little silly like that, especially when Mom isn’t here. As we settled in to eat Dad asked me in his best imitation of an English upper class accent “And how is everything proceeding at the Irving-Armstrong Estate today Lady Halley?”
I giggled and replied “Splendidly Lord Thomas, just splendidly. Although I did hear some rather troubling news today.”
Here we both dropped our accents and Dad looked more closely at me.
“Really? What happened?”
“Well, I saw a sign near the shore that there’s going to be some kind of luxury nature resort built here. And there are already those little orange survey flags all over. Did you know about it?”
“Mm hmm,” he said, chewing thoughtfully. “I did hear something but I thought it was further north of here. That would be a shame. I know how much you like to go to the shore.”
“Dad, it wouldn’t just be a shame. It would be a tragedy! It will ruin the view and scare away the birds and destroy the environment. And I won’t be able to walk on the sea path anymore and I might not be able to swim from the beach. ”
“Well Halley, I don’t know if it really constitutes a tragedy but I can tell that you’re upset by it. Let me look into it a little. Maybe we could go to a council meeting and find out what’s going on.”
“Do you think that would do any good, Dad? I mean haven’t they already decided by the time they have a meeting?”
“There’s always a chance that a decision could be reversed. Their job is to represent everyone and weigh the pros and cons. That’s what government is supposed to do anyhow.”
“Thanks Dad. I really love it here and I don’t want it to be ruined.”
“You’re most welcome Lady Halley”, Dad replied, resuming his upper class British accent. “May I serve you another ginger ale and offer some of our fine chocolate chip cookies for dessert? And where is that maid? She never comes to clean up after us.”
I laughed when Dad mentioned the maid. We always pretend we have one and that she only comes on payday to collect her check.
“I’ll get the cookies Dad, you get the ginger ale. I don’t think the maid is coming tonight.”