Things got better as time passed. Julian and I began the awkward two-step of dating, but we never one stayed overnight or had any sexual contact other than a few make out sessions that almost pushed the ticket. But I was happy learning how to be in a functioning relationship – I was too damaged to jump into something physical.
Becca was growing like a weed. I spent as much time as I could with her while Fennec was at school and in between my chores on the farm.
It was because I was spending more time with Becca that my mother took it upon herself to start milking the cows every evening.
Something had been off in the air. I knew before it had even happened, I think. I remembered smelling something familiar, something chemically and disgusting that turned my stomach. Something that I always associated with Beau.
The scream echoed through the islet.
I was outside in an instant and stopped on the porch when I saw her, my mother, lying on the ground. I stood there, a hand over my mouth, shaking from the sheer fear that enveloped me.
My father went to her in an instant, picking up her limp form and trying to stem the blood leaking from her punctured throat. “Call an ambulance!” he kept screaming at me in between his sobs.
By the time the ambulance arrived, she had been long gone. A knife wound to her jugular bled out in an instant, even my my dad trying to hold the wound shut. The knife was found on the port leading off of the island. I knew whose finger prints would be on it. I knew it had been Beau.
I went inside and up to my room, screaming into my pillow. I fell asleep like that, my tear-stained face mashed into a wet pillow.
Time went on, as time does. My mother was buried in the family plot and my father was always on the back porch, staring mournfully at the gravestone.
Jasper, too, sat near the family plot and and night, as if standing guard or trying to call Layla out to play. His old, wizened muzzle would whimper every once in a while. Until, one day, he too passed. We knew he would be with Layla now; his favorite place to be.
Becca’s birthday wasn’t too long after – we were excited to see her age up with a sudden interest in books and reading and anything studious. I knew she, unlike myself, would make it to college. She had the motivation and the smarts for it.
For her birthday, I had commissioned a barn to be built where mom’s old garden had been. Giving in to all of Becca’s pleading, we were going to get her a horse. Well, Julian was getting her the horse – his father bred them and he promised he would find a gentle but spirited one for Becca.
After Becca’s party, Julian took me out onto the back deck overlooking the water. We sat and watched the sun sink lower when he suddenly started laughing. “You know, Becca isn’t the only one I got a present for.”
“What?” I asked, confused.
“Hold on,” he bade me, standing up. I followed suit, but he held me in place. “Just a second, impatient!” He was still chuckling as he fished around in his pocket for box. When he removed it and presented it to me, I knew what it was immediately. I didn’t even bother opening the box – I launched myself into his arms.
“Of course!” I breathed excitedly. “Of course!”
A few weeks before the wedding, dad got a call from the police. I was milking Bette, one of our cows, and my heart leapt when I heard him speaking to the officer.
“You caught him? Beau? You really – well yes, yes of course! The DNA on the knife, it matched?” He listened for a while and his relieved look became a bit clouded. “There was more than one trace of blood? Other than Layla’s?”
Silent for a while. I stopped my milking and came over to stand near dad, trying to hear better.
I couldn’t hear anything. Instead I heard father sigh deeply. “Thank you, officer. Have a good night.”
“Dad?” I asked hesitantly.
He turned to me, his eyes watering. “Ella, I need to talk to you. I don’t know how without your mother, but… there are things you need to know about before I go. Before I pass. Things you must know to-“
“Dad,” I interrupted sternly. “Really. You’re right here. Nothing will-“
He shook his head. “There is evil in this world, Ella, that your mother and I have seen. You have no idea how much evil. Demons.” He shood his head. “I wish we hadn’t run off your grandmother. If there was one thing she was good at, it was explaining the curse.”
I was pretty sure dad had gone officially nuts.
“Dad, there’s no way Grandma is still alive,” I murmured softly. “I mean, I have her old number, but she can’t still be alive. You and mom are old. She would have to be… God. I don’t know… I thought someone would have told you when she-“
“She’s alive, child,” he groaned. “Call her. You’ll see. But tell her that murderer Jeremie isn’t allowed on our land.”
The call had been answered by someone who sounded just like my grandmother – only sadder. When I invited her, and only her, over to speak with myself and my father, she agreed in an instant.
I don’t know what I expected, but when she came through the front door, my heart stopped. She looked so young. Maybe five years older than myself.
She came in and got right to business. “So, Sergio, you wish me to tell Ella about the curse?”
Sergio nodded once, short and clipped.
She sighed and settled herself on the couch. “Lets begin where we always begin, shall we? A long, long time ago, your great-great-great grandfather-“
Faeries, demons, curses, and a promised land? My head was reeling. “This makes no sense,” I said more than once.
Julian kissed my cheek, reaching around me to make himself a drink. “I think it makes perfect sense. I mean, you saw your grandmother. That’s not natural.”
“How can you be so okay with this?” I asked huffily, taking another gulp of my gin and tonic. It tasted terrible, but I needed something to take the edge off before I started pulling my hair out.
He shrugged. “I don’t see anything so wrong with it. So we have to live on this island and take care of the animals and land? We needed to do that anyway. I can sell my house and we can all live here.”
“I like your house,” I mumbled, sounding like a grouchy three year old.
“So long as we’re together, I couldn’t care less,” he murmured in my hair. “Now, lets get you to bed. Tomorrow, we can talk about faeries and demons all we want. But first – sleep.”
“You can stay over, you know?” I offered with a yawn. “You don’t have to go all the way back to your place.”
He smiled and kissed me. “You’re drunk and I am respecting your previous wishes to remain chaste for another six days.”
“You knight in shining armor, you,” I groused, turning and heading toward my bedroom.