A/N: Hey y'all! I just want to thank some lovely people. This would never be possible without my person, Kris and my ghost twin, Athena. I lava you! Secondly, major thanks to my beta's and prereaders: Sally, Krystel, BeLynda, and Carolina. Early thanks go to Mina as well. I have been enchanted by mermaids since I was a child...but I'm also drawn to the dark and morbid. I hope you enjoy!
Marcus helps me from the carriage, and I cringe as I try to take a deep breath; this corset will be the death of me.
"Mind your face, Isabella. The look you want is demure," Marcus scolds as I take his arm, and we walk up to the entrance of the hall. He's right, of course. I'm here to fulfill my duty, and while I have some tools up my sleeve, the initial contact needs to be natural.
I lower my eyes and continue to follow where Marcus leads me. I hate this mountain of skirts, and the lace is beginning to itch. As much as I hate the place, I would rather be back home.
Marcus checks us in; he's acting as my chaperone tonight. Yesterday, after weeks of waiting, I finally felt him near. After gossiping with some local girls, I found out who he is and where to find him. I am anxious ... I want to lay eyes on him. Not that it's necessary, but I want to size him up; really take him in.
Then, I feel it just as Marcus hands me a cup of punch. The clench in my belly, the sting in my heart. He catches the cup as I frantically search the room.
I zero in on a young man who has just entered the hall, pale yellow hair and fair skin. He isn't terribly tall or broad. Sadly, I have a feeling he'll be easy, just like the ones who came before him.
Moving into his line of sight, I send him a coy smile. Marcus snickers behind his hand as the arrogant boy makes his way directly toward us. He bows and introduces himself to Marcus, who then introduces me as his sister. The young man presses a wet kiss to the back of my hand. It takes all I have to keep my expression in line.
We dance for hours, and when we feel exhaustion sneaking in, he pulls me to a balcony for some fresh air. Being in Essex is nice. We're close enough to the coast that I can smell the salt in the air, and we can hear the soft lapping of the waves upon the sandy shore. The man is droning on about how he's taken over the family business and how important he is now. But when he mentions that all he wants to do is sail, I know I have my opening.
I tell him how much I wish to touch my bare feet in the cold water of the ocean; I lie about how I've never been on the shore. I bat my eyelashes and force a blush as he lifts my chin with his fingertips. I'm repulsed, and the rage is boiling in my belly as I look into his icy blue eyes.
He tells me how we can sneak out undetected and meet at the water. How he won't look as I strip off my stockings and lift my skirt to step into the water. So, we form our plan, and he disappears first. I walk slowly back inside and find Marcus. He's eager for me to be finished. This is his last job for Hera, and then he's free. I thank him for his help; after all, he fed me and kept a roof over my head while I waited. We part ways, and I make my way outside.
I find him waiting, casually leaning against the natural jetty that rests more than 200 paces from the house. I make my way to him and twirl my finger, motioning him to turn around. He obliges, and I quickly rip off the shoes and stockings. I hate them and want nothing more than to be free of all these trappings; however, I need to keep up appearances with this fool. I force a giggle, and he turns to watch me timidly make my way to the water.
What follows is one of my greatest roles to date—a carefree young girl having this experience for the first time. Laughing and shrieking as the cold water hits my skin. Then he moves to chase me, and I run. He doesn't know that I'm quick and agile. He doesn't know that I'm leading him to his end. I glance over my shoulder, and the rage sends him a sneer that's masked as a smile in the moonlight.
I pick up my pace slightly and run directly at the jetty. I know the power I have over him is blinding him to the danger he faces. When I'm close enough, I leap and land on top of the jetty with just enough time to turn and watch him slam into the jagged rocks.
I jump down onto the sand and lean over his unmoving body. His eyes are closed and his breathing is shallow, but he's still alive. I rip the dress from my body, and when I'm only covered in my corset and underskirts, I grab him under the shoulders and begin to drag him into the surf.
"Michael Anthony Newton," I begin, and I can hear the Irish lilt of my youth come out again. It has faded with time, but is always so strong in these moments. "Your grandfather committed a most heinous and violent crime." My voice was rough and raw, as I tasted the salt water that filled my lungs. We make it past the surf when the seaweed begins to wrap around him.
I feel the terrifying and familiar sensation of the rope coiling around my legs as they begin to fuse together. "He helped to bind my arms and legs, and he and the rest of those cowards hoisted me over the side of that ship." I could see him stirring, starting to come to. The seaweed bound him tightly as he gurgled blood and whispered, "Please! Don't hurt me!"
"Aye, you're scared, aren't you? So was I, but your grandfather was the captain and gave the order to throw me to my death."
I could feel the skirts deteriorating and my flesh flaking from my body. The current under me changes as the fish come to wait for their prize.
"I took his life and your father's… And now I've come for you. What do you have to say for yourself?" He sputters incoherently, "Please! Not me! I-"
"You're scared, aren't you Michael? So was I." I hiss at him as he continues to struggle against me, against the seaweed, against his fate.
"I won't tell anyone. Let me go and no one needs to know." His words echo in my head; I want to release him…
"Isabella! Everyone saw us together! They'll know it was you...they'll arrest you and hang you!" I find this interesting. He's changed tactics, choosing to threaten me. As if I was afraid of anything he could do to me. "I have a business, a fortune that would be lost without me. And-and my mother, she needs me too!"
"Nothing is worth more than a life, Michael, and trust me...no woman needs you." The seaweed tightens at my will. This is a foolish boys grasping at straws.
"I'll give you anything! Money, property...have mercy on me!" He begs and I like it. I like when they beg for their lives, just like I did. The rage was overwhelming at this point, completely taking me over.
"Mercy?!" I scream, my voice is warring with the sound of the sea. "Who showed me mercy when a crew member tried to violate me? Where was my mercy when I bound and gagged and thrown overboard? No, there will never be mercy."
I grasp his shoulders and push him under the water as he squirms and struggles, trying desperately to bring himself back to the surface. I bring him back up only to hear his pleas for his life. Disgusted, I shove him under again and hold him until he stills.
I let out a soft cry of a song, and schools of fish that have been waiting beneath me come and began picking away at his clothing, bit by bit, then his flesh. When the bones have been picked clean and the schools have disappeared, the seaweed tightens until his bones turn to dust. With a flick of my tail, I send the seaweed to the shore and watch with keen eyes as the dust mixes with the sea foam.
I swim for days until I reach the sunken cave off the coast of Ireland that I call home. The guilt of the past days weighs heavily on me, just as it always does. This is nothing of the life I used to dream of. I was once a young girl, just 17 years old, and I was traveling by ship to the English colony in Xaymaca to work as a housemaid for the Governor.
But then a sailor decided he wanted more than I was willing to offer, unlike the other girls I was traveling with. So, they bound us all and threw us overboard. I struggled and fought against the bindings, but as I sank, I gave up hope.
That was when Hera came to me and breathed immortal life into my being. The salt water filled my lungs and ravaged my throat. My legs fused together and formed a tail to keep me moving.
"Daughter, the men who have harmed you have broken my heart and shall not survive. Will you take up this oath and see that all of them meet their end?" I foolishly nodded my head. I was young and stupid then, and I had just been murdered. Had I realized at the time that I was being cursed, I may have reacted differently.
That was 162 years ago. Hera has cursed me to find every male who came from every bloodline on that ship. Some had died out just by having only girls born for generations. Some male children had died during birth or from disease. I even knew that some families were so fearful they had taken the lives of some of their sons. Those are the ones who break my heart the most.
I didn't want to kill anyone… But once I feel the trigger, the bloodlust sets in, and I can't see anything else. I can't change the path I'm on at that point.
Now that I'm home and the weight of my actions has fully caught up to me, I'm feeling exhausted. I sleep, and while I sleep, she comes to me in my dreams.
It's how she's always communicated with me since the night I was tossed overboard. She tells me where to go and about her minions who will be waiting for me. They are the ones who help me and guide me in the time and place I wash up. They're indebted to Hera for one reason or another, and most of them either hate me, for whatever reason, or are just indifferent. This life that I now lead is lonely, quiet, and solitary.
For now, I rest and wait ... and pray that one day I'll be set free.