Chapter 1 : They Sing in the Rain
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Lily sighed. This had supposed to be a fun trip: she and her boyfriend had come to this seaside town to celebrate her 17th birthday (much to the horror of her father) but almost as soon as they had arrived, it had started to rain. At first, Lily hadn’t minded so much; the hotel had a good restaurant and there was a small fireplace in the room they had rented. Lily had planned on spending a cosy evening with Ciaran watching films while lying in front of the fire. Then Ciaran had received an owl from his family, carrying a note telling him to him to contact an employee of theirs stationed in the town. It had been something about a delivery he had sent late, Lily hadn’t really been listening. She had merely forced him a smile and told him she could keep herself amused for a couple of hours.
Ciaran had returned late that night, well after Lily had gone to sleep. She had had high hopes for the day after. If the rain had stopped, they could have gone for a walk in the beach and explore the town a little but the rain hadn’t stopped and as soon as she voiced her plans to Ciaran, he had looked very apologetic and told her that he would have to continue sorting the case of delivery-sent-late that day.
“But I’ll make it up to you”, he had said. “I’ll have Father to pay us another trip. To France, for example, to that place you told me about.”
Lily had smiled and told him that she would be holding him onto that promise. As Ciaran had kissed her goodbye, Lily had made a mental note to have a little chat with Cormac McLaggen about what would happen if he ruined another holiday with her boyfriend. Idly she had wondered if this was some kind of payback for the time when Aunt Hermione had stood him up.
That had happened four hours ago. Lily had tried to venture out a little but it was raining so heavily she had ducked into the first open café she had found. She had spent some time there but had finally grown bored at watching a group of old men talk about politics and had returned to the hotel. That was where she had been for the last hour or so, sitting on the window sill watching the rain.
Lily sighed again. “Happy birthday to me”, she muttered crossly to her reflection. Naturally Ciaran had had to choose her birthday to stay away to deal with matters his father couldn’t be bothered to do himself. “Happy bloody birthday to me, indeed…”
So engrossed she was in her thoughts (most of which were concerned with turning Cormac McLaggen into a toad) that she almost missed it. Soon she became aware of another sound besides the rain drumming steadily against the glass: a soft, haunting tune that sounded like… singing?
Lily pressed her face against the glass in an attempt to see through the curtain of rain. Who in their right minds would be out singing in this ghastly weather? Despite her efforts she couldn’t see anything so she gave up and focused merely on listening. It didn’t sound like a human voice, she decided. It was too eerie and too beautiful and if she listened hard enough, she could almost make out what she (the voice sounded feminine in her opinion) was singing about.
“Come… come to… join us under…”
“Under what?” Lily asked out loud. No matter how hard she listened, she could not make out the last words. How irritating. Perhaps if she went outside…
Startled at the sudden sound, Lily banged her forehead against the glass and nearly fell from the sill. She stared at Ciaran who had appeared at the doorway with a dumbfounded expression. The song had ended; the only sound left was the rain against the glass.
Ciaran approached her carefully. “Are you okay?” he asked.
Lily sprang to her feet. “Didn’t you hear that?” she demanded.
Ciaran blinked. “Hear what?”
“That song someone – a woman – was singing a moment ago.”
“I didn’t hear anyone singing anything.” Ciaran eyed her worriedly. “Are you sure you’re okay? You look like you’d seen a ghost.”
Lily just stared at him. He hadn’t heard anything? But she was so sure that she had heard someone singing!
“Lily?” Now Ciaran looked honestly scared.
She shook her head. “I must have fallen asleep and imagined it all”, she said, though she didn’t quite believe her own words. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to make you worry.”
“I’m sure that’s what happened”, Ciaran said. “Hey, have you eaten anything yet?”
Lily shook her head.
“Good, let’s go then. I’m starving.”
Little reluctantly Lily allowed herself be lead to the hotel’s restaurant, she had wanted to stay and find out if the voice returned. There was no way she would be able to hear it in a noisy restaurant.
The next day the rain had finally stopped. That morning Lily had once more bid goodbye to Ciaran who had sworn this would be the last time and would make this up for her. Lily hadn’t really been paying attention to what he was saying; in fact, she had been glad that he was leaving. This way she could use the entire day to search for the mysterious singer.
She had been walking around the town for almost an hour now but there was no sign of the singer. Lily was getting very desperate. She had to find out who had been singing that song, but she didn’t dare to ask any of the locals if they had heard the song – what if they thought she was out of her mind?
Without realising it, her feet had led her to a small cove just outside the town. With a sigh, Lily flopped down on the sand. Since her search had failed to yield any results, she might as well sit here for a while and enjoy the sea breeze. It felt so good on her face after being forced to stay indoors for so long. It was a shame she hadn’t thought about bringing something to eat with her. Lily was just about to get up and return to town to fetch her a lunch when something moved in the corner of her eye.
Lily froze, her hand immediately dropping on her wand. She stared at the waterline but nothing moved save for the waves. Had it been just her imagination or… something more lethal? Hastily she ran in her mind a list of every magical creature living near or in water. There were the merpeople, or course, but Lily doubted they would come this close to a town populated mostly by Muggles. Then there were sea serpents… but they were too big… in fact, the likeliest choice was the kelpie. Lily really hoped it wasn’t the kelpie, for she couldn’t for the life of her remember how you got rid of them. There was some kind of spell, but what was it again?
Lily’s train of thought was abruptly brought to a halt when a girl’s head rose from the waves. Lily nearly laughed out loud. Had she been scared by some swimmer? She made a mental note to have a serious conversation with her father about what he was teaching to his children; him and his ‘constant vigilance’!
Lily let go of her wand and approached the girl in the sea.
“Hi there!” she called to the girl. “Isn’t it a bit too cold to be swimming?”
The girl smiled broadly as she swam closer. However, instead of getting out of the water like Lily had been expecting, she laid down on the sand in the shallow water. Lily stared at her in shock. From the waist up, she was indeed a girl (a naked girl, at that) but in place of legs she had…
“You have a fishtail”, Lily blurted.
The girl laughed in delight and rolled over to her back and lifted her tail in the air so that the sunlight glittered on its tiny scales.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” she asked excitedly. “I have the most beautiful tail out of all of my sisters, everybody says so!”
“It is very beautiful”, Lily agreed, uncertain what else she was supposed to say. It wasn’t like it was a lie; the tail was beautiful. It was a lovely shade of orange – coral, Lily thought the shade was called – and the colour gradually faded down so that it was nearly transparent at the tip.
The girl beamed with pleasure at the compliment. Lily gradually got over her initial shock as she came to stand at the waterline. This girl clearly wasn’t one of the merpeople. Lily had only seen them at pictures but her father had told her that they weren’t particularly beautiful to look at and could only speak Mermish above water. This girl, however, had long jet black hair and big round eyes; save for the tail and the faint scale patterns on her arms and shoulders she could have easily passed for a human. Lily regarded her thoughtfully. She clearly wasn’t interested in drowning her or eating her internals or anything of the sort. On the contrary, she seemed just as interested in Lily as Lily was in her.
“What are… um, what’s your name?” Lily asked, inwardly berating herself. It couldn’t possibly be in good manners to ask someone what they were within moments of meeting them! “I’m Lily.”
The girl flicked her tail. “They call me Morgelyn.”
“Morgelyn, huh?” Lily smiled. “That’s a nice name.”
Morgelyn returned the smile. “I like yours as well. I love flowers.”
Lily was starting to feel comfortable around the young mermaid (she wasn’t certain if that was the correct term but it described well what Morgelyn was). She kicked her shoes and socks off and rolled her jeans above her knees and stepped into the water. It was colder than she had expected but she gritted her teeth and waded bravely onwards till she reached Morgelyn’s side. She made room for Lily and helped her to sit down on a rock protruding just above water. Once Lily had made herself comfortable, Morgelyn prodded her toes curiously.
“How odd”, she said. “And you can actually walk on these flat things?”
Lily grinned and lifted her leg so that Morgelyn could take a better look. “It takes a bit of practice”, she said. “But eventually humans learn to walk on two feet. It’s not easy, though. Take for example high heels. Those are a real nightmare sometimes!”
Morgelyn looked confused. “High heels?”
Lily began to explain to her about different types of shoes, about clothes and human customs. In return, Morgelyn told her about her life in the sea: which fish were friendly to them and which were to be avoided, where and at what times the fishermen laid their nets (Morgelyn looked like she had bitten a raw lemon as she said the word) and the best way to free yourself if you got caught up in one of them. It did sound very romantic, Lily thought, to swim all day long in the sea, playing with fish and dolphins and seals… In fact, she was so caught up in Morgelyn’s story that she hadn’t even noticed that the sun was setting. Lily sighed and stood up.
“I’d better get going”, she said to Morgelyn. “My boyfriend must be wondering where I am.”
Morgelyn’s expression became suddenly serious.
“I wouldn’t go back to him”, she said, shaking her head. “He is not who you think he is.”
Lily stared at her confusedly. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“His love is not for one woman alone as it should be”, Morgelyn said sadly. “You’d better off with us. No more heartache.”
Morgelyn stared at her intensively. “Haven’t you always suspected, deep down, that he was not true to you? You must have, you could not have heard our song otherwise.”
“Your song? Wait, you mean that you were the one who sang last night?”
“Yes, my sisters and I”, Morgelyn nodded, then beamed at her. “I’m so glad that you heard our song. You’re so nice, Lily.”
Lily just stood there, staring at the mermaid dumbfounded. Was Ciaran cheating on her? Was that what she was trying to say? Her mind suddenly made, she waded back to the shore and pulled on her shoes.
“Where are you going?” Morgelyn called after her, confused.
Lily looked at her over her shoulder. “I’m going to ask Ciaran what’s really going on. I’m not just going to trust blindly a word of a third party.”
“He’ll hurt you”, Morgelyn warned.
Lily shrugged. “I’ll take that risk.”
Morgelyn sighed, clearly defeated. “Do as you see best, then”, she said, adding just before she disappeared back under the waves, “But remember, you’ll always have a place by our side.”
Lily wasn’t really listening; she was running as fast as she could in the sand towards the hotel. Ciaran couldn’t possibly be cheating on her; he just couldn’t. But still… wasn’t it odd that he would receive a note just after they had arrived? And how he spent two whole days dealing with someone who had forgotten to send some baggage and he still wasn’t finished with it? It was certainly suspicious… but it could very well be the truth, couldn’t it? Maybe the other guy was unwilling to cooperate and claimed that he had done nothing wrong? It still sounded suspicious, though…
Lily stopped to catch her breath. Why was she now suspecting Ciaran when there had been no reason to do so before? Had Morgelyn been right? Had she suspected him deep down, without realising it herself? If she had, why would those thoughts surface now? Why…
“Had a chat with a mermaid, did you?”
Lily nearly jumped out of her skin with fright. Sitting nearby was an old fisherman, clearing his nets under a few trees. His eyes bored into Lily as he took his pipe out of his mouth.
“Judging by your look, I’d say you did”, he said.
“Why would I be talking with mermaids?” Lily asked with a faked laugh. “They’re not real, are they?”
“Oh, they are very real, missy”, the fisherman said darkly. “Crafty, cunning creatures the lot of them. They sing during the rain, but it can only be heard by a woman who bears any doubt, big or small, in her heart. They take advantage of that doubt and lure them into their deaths.”
“You better believe it. My wife threw herself in the sea after she spoke with the mermaids. That was some twenty years ago. Never found her body.” He spat on the ground. “If you know what’s good for you, missy, you leave this town before it gets dark. That way they won’t get a hold of your heart and call you back to them.”
“Right”, Lily mumbled. “I’d better go get my boyfriend, then…”
“Hurry!” the fisherman called after her.
Lily started running again. If the fisherman was telling the truth, she was running out of time. She had to find Ciaran, fast, and convince him leaving with her no matter what. They’d go away, far away from the sea and never return. That way the mermaids wouldn’t find her.
“You’re so nice, Lily!”
Morgelyn’s voice suddenly echoed in her head. Lily slowed down a little, suddenly uncertain. Had Morgelyn been lying to her? But she had seemed so sweet, so childlike. She had been everything Lily had always imagined a sister to be like. Sure, she was close to her female cousins… but it wasn’t the same thing. It would be nice to have sisters… Lily shook her head. She shouldn’t be thinking like that, that was what they wanted.
She had reached the hotel now, but with a start she realised she didn’t know where Ciaran might be. She started jogging in the direction she had seen him disappear every morning. If she asked around, someone might be able to point her in the right direction… She was about to step into a nearby store when she saw him… with another woman. As she watched, she laughed at something he had just said and threw her arms around his neck. Much to Lily’s horror, he returned the hug, even spin her around.
Lily just stood there, staring at the two. It was like a bad dream, watching them talk and touch each other, only that she could not wake up. With a sob she turned around and ran. It had been true… it had been true all along. Why hadn’t she listened to Morgelyn? She had tried to warn her but she hadn’t listened…
It was dark when she reached the sea; or perhaps the darkness was all in her head, caused by her black thoughts. Her ragged breathing and sobs were the only thing that broke the silence as her legs gave up underneath her and she dropped down to the sand. She felt so angry, angry at herself and especially at Ciaran. It was unfair, she thought furiously to herself. She had sacrificed so much to make this work and there he was, seeing some other woman. She banged her fist against her knee. It was so unfair! Everything was unfair! If only there was someone who might understand how she felt… Someone who would hate him as much as she did.
“I warned you.”
Lily looked up towards the sea and saw Morgelyn staring at her sadly. “I tried to warn you”, she continued sadly. “But you wouldn’t listen.”
Lily sniffed. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, don’t be”, Morgelyn said softly. “He is the one who ought to be sorry, not you.” She swam a little closer. “Would you like to make him sorry?”
Lily perked up. “How?” she whispered. “How can I do that? How can I hurt him?”
Morgelyn held out her hands. “Come with us”, she whispered. There was almost a hypnotic quality to her voice. “Come with us and he will never be able to forget what he did to you.”
Lily hesitated a little. Perhaps it had been a misunderstanding, after all. If she just spoke with him…
“Come with us, Lily”, Morgelyn repeated. “Come with us…”
Two other mermaids appeared on either side of her and held out their hands as well. “Come with us…” they whispered enticingly. “We’ll take care of you…”
Lily’s mind was oddly blank as she started walking towards the waiting trio. The more she thought about it, the more she realised she didn’t want to hear what Ciaran had to say. All that mattered now was the feeling of revenge and hatred that had awakened in her heart. Yes, she would make him pay… him and all the others… Every man would pay…
She didn’t feel the coldness of the sea as she stepped into the water nor did she feel fear as the mermaids grabbed her arms and dragged her deeper into the sea…
The next morning her clothes were found on the shore by the distressed Ciaran who had been become worried when she hadn’t returned to the hotel. A massive search immediately took place but when they could find no sign of her, they had to conclude that she had most likely gone swimming but, not being familiar with the area, had been caught in a strong current and drowned. The currents must have carried her body away by now, they said. It would be impossible to find it. All that the grief-stricken Ciaran could now do was to notify Lily’s parents. He blamed himself for her death. If only he had spent more time with her… If only his cousin had picked another time to come visit him… Perhaps he could have prevented it…
The old fisherman watched the commotion from afar, shaking his head. He had seen it all before. A young woman went missing and was presumed dead when in reality she had been lured away by the mermaids. He had tried to warn the young missy, but apparently the mermaids had got a stronger hold of her than he had expected. They hated all men, the mermaids did, and they took away their loved ones in order to make them suffer. Those loved ones became consumed by the same hatred and turned into mermaids themselves, thus continuing the cycle. Without a doubt the young missy was now searching for her first target, another insecure young woman, just like his late wife. Briefly he wondered if it had been his beloved who had lured her to her doomed, but dismissed the thought with a shrug. What was past was past. He now had an appointment with his nets.
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