Sergio sat across from me, the tape recorder light blinking at me. He tapped his pen to his pad of paper while he watched me, waiting.
“So, he had been staying with you?”
“Yes,” I repeated for the third time. “After lunch when we all talked about the photos, I went straight home. He was on my porch. He… we talked a bit and he said he was planning on looking for a job in the area.”
“Did he tell you where all he applied?”
I shook my head. “We didn’t really… talk much.”
Sergio cleared his throat. “So. You and he -“
“Had intimate relations for much of those three days, yes. And then I woke up and he wasn’t there. I sat out on the porch all day, waiting. Knowing he wouldn’t come back. I figured he took off with another girl – he has a history of doing that.”
Sergio nodded, making notes. “How did this make you feel? The thought of him with another woman?”
I rolled my eyes. “Are you a shrink now, too?” I bit my lower lip. It had started to tremble. The shock was wearing off again. “It feels like crap. Being rejected. Being replaced. But we were having fun, things were fine, I didn’t think he would leave-“
“But you say he didn’t leave?”
I shrugged again.
“Answer for the recording, please.”
“I don’t know. All I know is while I was awake, he didn’t come in or out of my house. And then I… found him… God, please don’t make me retell that again. I can’t do it again.”
“No more questions for now, Miss Derelict,” he said gently. “We’ll have a uniform staying at your house and two more patrolling during the night. Please let your staff know not to be alarmed and to go about their duties as usual.” He reached out and flicked the tape recorder off.
“So you’ll be staying at my house?” I asked.
He shook his head. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea, what with what happened last time.”
I shrugged. “Whatever. I don’t want your bitchy deputy in my house, though.”
“She will protect you.”
“Not too sure about that. She doesn’t like me too much,” I laughed humorlessly.
“Well, she doesn’t like me too much, either,” he admitted softly. “She’s my ex’s sister.”
We both smiled and, for a moment, it felt like my world wasn’t crashing down around me.
Home. Home doesn’t feel like home when you have another person, especially a woman who hates you, living there, too. I set up the guest bedroom for her and she didn’t say a word. I brought her food and she didn’t say a word.
I busied myself with the horses again and Sergio stopped by briefly to clean up the blood in the sculpture room. It wasn’t part of his job, or his duty, but he has a soft heart. He didn’t want to make me see that again.
As he was leaving, I called out, “You know, there are three guest rooms. You and the other patrol guy can stay here some nights. If you wanted.”
Sergio raised an eyebrow at me. “That sounds innocent enough, but I think Gary would like to return to his wife and daughter in the evenings.”
“Well, what are you returning to?” I asked.
“A thankless tabby who would rather claw my hand off than let me pet her,” he chuckled.
I smiled. That’s right – a cat man. “What’s her name?”
“Annabelle,” he said softly. “I always liked the name. Thought I’d name a child that, but – lo and behold – the missus didn’t want children.”
I swung down from Bonnie’s back and patted her rump. She dutifully ran toward the open barn where Clyde was already turning in for the night. “Well, since you are spending so much time here, I think it’s only fair Annabelle is allowed free roam of the house so you can see here now and again. And you’re welcome to one of the bottom floor bedrooms – you know, so I don’t use my wily charms to convince you into my bed,” I tried to tease.
He nodded slowly. “Sure. I think Annabelle would like the space. Maybe even having a dog to torment.”
One week later, the deputy, Sharon, left and Sergio moved in. With Annabelle, the little spitfire. She was cantankerous and downright mean at times, but when she wanted your attention, she was as lovey as a dove.
The weeks with Sergio living in the house passed quickly. Nothing out of the ordinary happened, other than a phone call from my mother inquiring if I was alright and if Sergio was treating me well.
She was appalled to hear about the death of my former lover and even more stunned at the words scrawled on the floor.
“We need to talk soon, my love,” she murmured gently. “In person. We knew people would be after you, but we have no idea who would toy with you in these ways. This is not what we expected.”
“Why would anyone be trying to hurt me?” I asked softly. “What did I ever do?”
“You were borne of our blood, dear,” was my mother’s reply. “We’re all cursed, some of us more than others. Your grandmother shared a messy fate that you seem destined to follow. Always skirting danger – always having to be close to the land.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I know, dear. When can I come see you?”
“Alone?” I asked. “No offense, but Jeremie creeps me out. And Damon has always been weird.”
“You have my word I will come alone,” she promised. “Tonight?”
“Sergio is here.”
“Do not fret, darling, he’ll never know I’m there.” She hung up and left me wondering why I got brought into the family of crazy.
Sergio sat down in the living room after dinner and his eyes closed and didn’t open up again.
At first I was terrified he had died, but his breathing relaxed me. And then I remembered my mother’s words. He’ll never know I’m there.
“Mom?” I called. And then, hesitantly, “…You can come in.”
The front door opened with a gentle breeze of lavender. My mother graced through, her hair down and flowing. She looked like an angel. “Darling, it’s good to see you. You look well – not so terribly thin,” she added approvingly.
Like she was one to talk. I glanced at my waist and realized that it did seem like my hips were a bit wider and my bust a bit fuller. But that didn’t matter.
“Tell me everything.”
When our family moved to this island, we fought a lot of things. Insects, the land itself, the neighboring tribe of natives. The soil was nothing but rock and clay on the top layer and your great-great grandmother was convinced we were going to die out before crops could evolve to grow here.
But your great-great grandfather held a secret from his wife. He met a faerie in the woods who he had captured and held against its will in a silver jar. Fae, when they are small and elfin, cannot escape silver bindings.
The faerie agreed to bless the new land we inhabited. This land would produce the best crops and the magic would tinge everything that grew, or was born, on the land. It is a Fae gift, in essence, that the faerie gave up in exchange for his life.
Your great-great grandfather only wanted what was best for his family. He did not care about the riches that he received from the crops that grew in no time at all; from the horses that gave birth in less than a fortnight to large, athletic horses. The calves borne here used to produce the most delicious honeyed milk you could imagine. Even his children were borne in weeks after being conceived, all healthy as mules and smarter than their peers.
But the Fae had given a warning. The Fae warned that one day, one generation, a woman would fall ill. The illness would come about without warning and would warp her belly, which would be heavy with child. The child would be warped in the womb and suck the life from the mother slowly, its growth taking many moons. The child would be born monstrous, faceless, demon-like, and wreck havoc on the land and kill all who shared its blood.
“But what does it mean?” I interrupted.
I was that one who fell ill, child. I was pregnant with you and your brother. This land blesses us with unnaturally fast births and strong children – but when I became ill during the pregnancy, it drew out. I had you both in my belly for eighteen months – and when you were finally born, you were near death. Your brother, the cursed one, the warped one, had taken most of the nutrients of my body for himself, leaving you weak.
I knew your brother was the one of the Fae legends. I knew he would grow stronger and stronger and destroy everything if he remained here. And he would destroy you first.
“Why didn’t you kill him?”
Oh darling. You could never expect a mother to kill her own child. I had you both with me for eighteen months; feeling you grow, feelings your heartbeats – I could never have harmed a hair on either of your heads. So I did the next best thing – I took him far away where he would never know about the family. Where he could never find you.
“Why was I so important?”
You carry our blood, love. The land and animals wither and die if we are not here to protect them, to cultivate them. In return the land offers us bounty in every form. Keep the garden going. Keep the horses thriving, and you will protect yourself.
“I was planning on selling the farm-“
“No!” she snapped quickly, eyes widening. “You are a gift of the Fae, child, and you came with consequences. One of our line must remain here and care for the land or we all perish.”
“Yes, I am dead. But you are very much alive – and if you leave this farm for an extended period of time, you will wither and die. Until you have an heir to pass the estate to, your life is tied to the farm.”
I went to bed once mother left. Annabelle had taken to sleeping in my room with me, annoying Jasper since he would get scratched if he so much as tried to get on the bed. I put Jasper’s dog bed next to my side of the bed so he could still be close, but he didn’t like it.
After about thirty minutes, I heard a soft knock on the door. “You can come in, Sergio,” I called.
He entered, looking sheepish. “I must have passed out, I’m sorry. I wasn’t even tired!”
“No biggie,” I smiled. “I’m fine. You going on your rounds?”
He nodded. “I’ll be outside if you need me. Call me or yell.”
“Will do,” I said, stroking Annabelle’s coat absently. “You be safe. I don’t want to wake up to any more dead guys.” I tried to make it a joke but it fell flat. Bile was rising in my throat and I had to launch myself out of the room and past him, scampering to the bathroom.
I vomited for a good minutes before weakly flopping on the floor, closing my eyes.
“I’m fine,” I called. “Go on your rounds, I just feel sick is all.”
He mumbled something in response, like ‘get back to bed’ before I heard his feet moving down the stairs.
I lay on the tiles, my stomach in turmoil, and feel asleep.