Dry Your EyesFandom:
This one's odd, I'm warning you now. Something weird happened in my brain the other day... I can't explain it. I hope it's not too self-involved or sue-like, you know me though, I get a little involved with some of my muses - especially Nerrie. Title and summary are from Ophelia
by Natalie Merchant
who is quickly catching up theme music wise for my oldest Brutality muse >.> Summary: 'Through sacred doors, down corridors she'd wander them alone...' Dry Your Eyes
The moment I met the woman I knew that she could help me, that she was perhaps the first out of all the multitude of people I had spoken to over the past two months who could really help me.
I didn't know if the name she gave me was real, all that mattered was that she
was real. Tangible.
Her hair was long and blonde, though the exact length I couldn't tell you for she kept it bound back, away from her porcelain face in two plaits that looped around the nape of her neck together in sweeping, gentle folds which gave off the distinct but unobtrusive scent of rosemary. Not tall but not short, she was slender and her hands thin and small, tapered fingertips looked as though they might break if I shook her hand too tightly; she drew her hand back so swiftly after our introductions I wondered if that was what she feared. Perhaps most striking though were her eyes. Not for their size, they were an average size. Not for their colour, for I had met enough people with eyes as green as hers. No. It was their depth that struck me. Their awareness. In her gaze there was something knowing and wise, and desperately sad.
I knew she could help me; she understood pain.
That was what her eyes told me.
"Please sit," she said, her accent was English, a hint of some other country from that continent in there too, a lilt to her words that spoke of Ireland maybe, or Wales. I had been to neither so I could not tell you which. In either case I obeyed and sat down on the very edge of a green velvet chair, she sat opposite me in a matching arm chair, those pale, cold hands folded on her skirt and her eyes staring at me, unwavering and faintly curious and desperately sad.
I opened my mouth and my voice seemed to fall out onto the rug that was spread across the wooden floor, beneath both our seats and for a moment I stared at her, unable to find words. She was patient though, a slight smile curved at the corners of her mouth as she watched me; 'take your time' it said to me. Darva did not need words to communicate, not to me at least.
It took five minutes to find my voice according to my mental calculations; "My sister," said I after that time, the gaze fixed upon me had not strayed the entire time; "I miss her."
Darva nodded, "I am sure she misses you too." She spoke with the same small smile scarcely accenting her words, as if she knew why I was there already. Of course, given her profession, could there be any doubt?
"I don't think it was her lungs." I continued. My sister had died of consumption, or so they had said. She had been bed ridden for weeks, yes, but in the end something else took my baby sister away. Someone else. I paused then; confused that she did not answer me, or indeed react in the slightest, just continued to watch me with the mild inquisitiveness I might have granted the still life portrait above the hearth. An everyday object. An everyday occurrence. What did she want from me? Tears? A tantrum where I would wail and toss myself into the padded back of the seat and bemoan the cruelty of the world that it had taken away one of my nearest and dearest? I didn't know, but I could tell from her relaxed expression that she was not going to be giving me any hints.
"Please...I ...I didn't know what else to do," I offered, stammering my words awfully in my confusion, "Someone told me that you're good. The best. You can do things..."
Damn that smile. Small and soft and utterly angelic until you looked into her eyes and saw the darkness there, the marrying of such a placid disposition and the grim mystery of her eyes had somehow set me off course. I felt all at odds in her presence, up was down and left was right and she alone knew which was truly which. Without condescension she made me feel like a child.
"I can do many things." She said slowly, "What you are asking me for is not an easy thing. For you, I mean. I can perform it readily enough but you may hear things you do not want to. Things you may never forget even if you want to. I have no power over what you or I discover here. You must be sure, I think, that this is what you want. If you are ready."
I wasn't expecting a speech. Let alone a warning. She was giving me a chance to back out, to get up and walk out of the door, that much was evident and that I didn't understand. I was ready to pay her for her work. A hundred women took payment for their work readily enough; the memory of five or more hands, leathery and and old and sinewy from years of toil concertinaed through my mind. Darva was young though. The youngest I had met with, my age at least but no older, I thought. Maybe that was what intrigued me so about her. To be so young and so sad seemed tragic to me; a waste that such an apparently gentle creature was weighted down with despondency twisted my insides.
I warned myself against empathy as I nodded to tell her I had heard her words and understood them. To feel for her was to pity her and with that might be the ensnarement of the meeting. She might decline my money; she might show me the door but win me over with sad sighs and melancholic glances.
To remain stalwart was my only chance, I thought.
"Please." I repeated, nodding again and steeling myself.
Darva nodded too, a slightly movement of her head that dislodged the precarious wisps of hair from around the curve of her cream coloured neck. She swept them away without care and rose form her seat to take light, almost silent steps towards me, across the braided, circular rug on the floor. She sat down next to me but not close enough to touch me with her thigh of her shoulder like so many of the others had done. I stared at her, mouth opening to find that once again my voice had fled. I imagined she had trodden on it as she had crossed the soft rug, careless of her. Cruel.
Such thoughts were only to allay my empathy.
"May I hold you hand?"
Her question should not have taken me aback, yet it did. It was so simple; no glass balls, no cards or incense burning or flickering naked flames of tall, dripping candles. Just her. A simple skirt and blouse, a shawl on the back of the chair she had exited, she wore no jewellery that I could see save for the glint of silver around her throat. A locket or something, I thought, hidden beneath her linen blouse. I held fast to my decision to be strong, not to give in to the feminine breath that washed across my cheeks, for she was close enough for me to taste the rosemary on the air now, feel it fill my senses as she extended a hand and the other hovered close by. I offered mine silently, voice trampled and broken on the rug, my head bowed slightly in something close to shame. Where her hand was small and cold, smooth and gentle mine was rough. Calluses hardened the webbed skin between my thumb and pointer finger and the skin was dry and cracked; putting my hand in hers was like bathing it in aloe, cool and refreshing.
A sigh now, gentle and carrying a breath of perpetual winter with it. Her eyes closed, her expression remained relaxed and mild, gentle even.
"Emily." She said.
I was breathless.
"Emily." The name came again, spoken softly as though the word were everything. "She loved the outdoors. There's rain in her hair and grass stains on her dress. She smells of pine."
"Is...she..?" My voice had come back damaged. I was caught in a mudslide; the reality of where I was and what was happening seemed to occur to me suddenly but thickly, and robbed me of my senses. I felt dizzy and started to sweat, my vision blurred at the edges.
"She is safe. Happy even, there's a woman with her, holding her hand, stroking her hair..."
Darva went on to describe my grandmother in frightening detail, right down to the beaten and tarnished brooch she was buried with, a small boquiet of metal flowers, lupins and irises. I must not cry
, I repeated the words as a prayer of sorts. Her words were too true... they felt too true to be real, the burned through my mind, hurtling through me, as tangible as the cut grass my sister Emily had rolled in before she'd died. Before she'd been taken. "Emily
," I sighed.
There was a long pause. I watched the dust motes circling through the air in a shaft of twilight that eked its way through the drapes over the window between bookcases. I thought us finished. I thought it done. She had contacted my sister so swiftly, so smoothly. My Emily. I was satisfied and she was real. Incredible. A real woman who could speak to the dead. It wasn't as good as having Emily back, but she was happy and I could remember how I should have done from the start; sitting on my knee, laughing in my ear in her bold, brash way with her slightly bucked teeth and her freckly nose, beautiful in her own way. Free.
"It was not her lungs." Darva said suddenly, her head had dipped a little and she was frowning, though she remained still and gentle, her hands were as cool water, caressing mine as a wave rushed the shore. "It was him."
It was him.Him
Green eyes found mine again. Dray and deep and green and knowing fixing on distraught and wet and stinging brown ones; not a tear had fallen but I was struggling. Angry and struggling. Struggling because I knew who 'he' was, I knew who the faceless, nameless terror was and she seemed to know too. Further she seemed to know that I knew. A faint frown traced her kind face, I saw it as kind now, the trickey I had suspected gone from my mind.
"You are not to go after him."
"He killed her."
"My baby sister."
Darva nodded grimly, "I had a baby sister too," she said at length, hands still holding mine in a cool cocoon of talcum soft skin, "I understand. She does not want you to go after him. But I know you will."
Common sense. Of course I would go after him, the man who had killed my sister, who had robbed her of her future and me of mine.
Or did she see something more? She was staring at me now, the vagueness was gone and intensity had replaced it, she was staring
at me. Through me. Daring me to open my mouth and challenge her. I felt uncomfortable all of a sudden. My shirt collar was too tight. The room was too small for the both of us and this woman... this witch
was too close. My hand was trapped in a block of ice, frozen solid and I was frightened for the first time since I had walked into the little parlour.
"You have what you need," she told me firmly, her hands squeezing mine lightly, the tips of her fingers glowing white for a moment before she withdrew them and folded them back on her knees quietly.
I went to draw out my money purse, understanding her words as the closing of our business, but she shook her head and rose form her seat, stepping away from me. I followed her with my eyes, taking in the slant of her shoulders and the curve of her spine. The sadness hit me again, crashed against me like ice water, enough to make me want to gasp for a breath of air I felt I lacked.
"I must pay you."
"I do not accept dead man's money." she countered sharply, a tone I hadn't expected from her.
There was an unpleasant silence. The mute pact of civility that we had made seemed to have crumbled away and now I felt the full force of her complexity. I left my payment for her on the table all the same, not drawing attention to it in any way. She didn't turn to stop me, nor to watch me leave or show me to the door. I didn't know what she would do with the money, maybe she would give it to someone else, she seemed the charitable type; it felt likely to me. In the end of the day she had left me with more than I could ever give back to her.
'Dead man's money
' I would repeat to myself over and over on the walk home.
I did not know what it meant, but I was sure I would find out. ~*~