To say that this chapter is overdue would be an understatement.
To say my life has been busy would be an understatement as well.
I know that this chapter is now more than a year overdue, and I am sorry for the delay. In part, the wait has been due to a number of unforeseen events in my life that interfered with my ability to write this story. However, part of the reason for the delay is entirely different. I find the idea of ending this story daunting.
It is hard to say goodbye to these characters, to bid farewell to Thelxinoë and Erik. I know that I will miss them greatly.
But, while I do not have any plans for them now, who knows? Perhaps we shall see them again someday.
And now, without further delay, I present to you the final chapter of Siren Song.
Parthenope found her sister singing to her still-unnamed child.
It was a simple lullaby with a haunting melody, and Thelxiepeia's clear, sweet voice made every note resonate with peace. But Parthenope could hear the sorrow underneath the sweetness, the turmoil and anguish beneath the peace.
"She'll cry in her sleep if you keep singing her that," Parthenope landed next to her sister. Thelxiepeia was the youngest of the sirens, and Parthenope had always thought that she had the best voice. The sirens all referred to each other as sisters, but Thelxiepeia was the only one to whom Parthenope was actually related by blood. Parthenope was very protective of her younger sister, and hated hearing the sadness that had dominated her voice since the death of her beloved sailor. Her cloudy eyes had grown bloodshot and lost their light since his death, and her auburn hair fell thick in her lovely face. She no longer seemed to have the will to tie the thick waves back, as if her hair was a shield to block out the world.
Thelxiepeia looked at her sister with red, tear filled eyes. "I may not have another chance," she said, "I have to go to his grave."
"Thel, we've already discussed this," Parthenope grabbed her sister's shoulder. "If you go there, Thel, if you visit his grave, they will kill you. His sailor friends haven't left that place since they buried him. They bring their meals from outside. They're waiting for you, Thel, and they will kill you if you go." Thelxiepeia was limp under her sister's grip, like a doll. "I know," she responded, too quiet, "but I have to go there."
"What about your child?" Parthenope's anger mixed with fear. She did not know what she would do if Thelxiepeia were killed. "Thel, you haven't even named her yet!"
"I'll name her when I come back."
"And if you don't?"
"Then you can name her."
In that moment, Parthenope understood that her sister had resigned herself to death, and that nothing she could say would convince her to change her course of action. She sat with her beloved sister and listened to her sing for the last time, that terrible, sweet lullaby to her unnamed child. Thelxiepeia then stood up and flew like an angel into the darkness.
Erik and Parthenope found Thelxinoë in an alley beside the cold body of the sailor, his own dagger plunged to the hilt in his chest. Her dress was drenched in blood. She looked at them with tears in her eyes, and softly sang, "I guess…I really am a siren now," her voice trembled, "I just sang him to his death." She then fell, weeping, into Erik's arms.
For the next three days, Thelxinoë refused to make a single sound. She was catatonic, not eating, not sleeping, eyes glazed and red from tears. Parthenope and Erik tried everything that they could think of to bring her back, to no avail. Finally, Parthenope insisted that she spend one night completely alone with her niece.
Parthenope listened for Erik's footsteps until she was sure that he was on the roof, far away from Thelxinoë and hopefully out of earshot. She then turned to her niece. "Thelxinoë, you have to sing." When Thelxinoë didn't respond, Parthenope added, "This isn't a song for me. This is a song for you alone. I know it will be painful, but never using your voice again would be more than anyone could bear." She placed her hand gently on Thelxinoë's shoulder. "Thelxinoë, when your mother died…I felt like you do now. I felt like I would never be able to sing again," she paused, regaining her composure, "But I had to sing, Thelxinoë. It was the only way to heal," she gently lifted Thelxinoë's head. "Thelxinoë," she whispered, "you have to sing."
After a silence that seemed to last forever, Thelxinoë sang, softly at first, then loud and full. Her song had no words, but the melody was a wild phoenix, a massive, heart-wrenching sob wrought in song. Boundless, it echoed through the empty opera house, resonating in the cavernous floors beneath, twisting its way through doors and windows until it reached the midnight air. Sitting on the roof under Apollo's lyre, Erik heard the music and began to weep. This was not a human melody. This was the ultimate song of the siren, the sort of music that was impossible to hear without being changed. Across Paris that night, people would swear that they heard the voice of an angel on the wind. And even if they could not truly hear her, many in the city wept that night, remembering some lost lover or friend.
It was hours before Thelxinoë finished, her voice finally growing quiet as she ended on one impossibly pure high note. She then wiped the tears from her eyes, and stepped willingly into her aunt's embrace. "I know it hurts," Parthenope whispered, "and I know that for a while all of your songs will be about loss and grief. But you have to sing, Thelxinoë. Even if in words only, you have to sing about love and life. You have to sing about happiness, even if your songs are all sad. Until the day that you can truly smile again, you have to do your best to sing about more than just your sadness and hurt."
When Erik returned to his home the next morning, he found Thelxinoë alone. Parthenope had flown back to Anthemoessa in the night, saying that she had a great number of debts that she owed to the Gods. Thelxinoë's eyes were red from crying, but for the first time since Erik had met her, a great weight seemed to have been lifted from her slender frame. Erik decided not to mention the night's song. Some things could not be truly discussed, and Thelxinoë's outpouring of heart in song was one of them. Still, he felt the need to do something for her, to show her that he knew her pain. He sat beside her and, almost afraid, took her hand in his. "Thelxinoë," he said, "if you still wish to hear it, I am willing to play my opera for you." Thelxinoë looked at him then and whispered, "Yes, I would like that."
It had been shortly after they met that Thelxinoë had first noticed the sheet music for Erik's opera. When she had asked about it, he had told her it was his master work, Don Juan Triumphant. "One day I will finish this. When I do, I will go to sleep and never wake again." He almost laughed, the sort of laugh that was somehow more terrible than a sob. "The trick is to work on it as little as possible."
Thelxinoë had gazed at the sheet music in interest. "I would love to hear it," she said, "would you please play a piece for me?"
Erik had become almost angry, and he could see the shock in Thelxinoë's eyes when he responded. "No. You must never hear this work. This work is no mere music. This is no simple melody. I could play you Beethoven, and that would make you weep. But my music would change you. It would destroy you. No, Thelxinoë, I will not play you my work. Now let us return to your practice for the opera." He had almost spat the last word, mocking it.
But instead of backing down or growing frightened as Christine had, Thelxinoë had become willful. "Fine, then," she said, "I'll sing it." And she proceeded to do just that, singing the aria written on the sheet music directly in front of her. When she finished, she saw Erik's shocked expression, and said, "I worked at La Scala before coming to Paris, Erik. I may not have ever had voice lessons, but I'm not incompetent. I can read sheet music." Her face softened. "It really is beautiful, Erik, but I understand why you refuse to play it for me. This is the sort of music that will change the world, but if the world is unable to comprehend it, it can only lead to harm." Her voice became sorrowful. "Erik, your work does not have to end you. This piece does not have to finish you." She smiled. "Besides, I would be too sad if I was never able to see it performed."
Just as Thelxinoë's song was the expression of her heart, Don Juan Triumphant was Erik's expression of his. He realized now in looking at the pages that he had not added to it since meeting Thelxinoë. He would have to add to the piece at some point soon. He began to play, the piano singing his anger, his sorrow, his grief and longing. The opera was an endless sob, created from every kind of suffering and pain imaginable. In the music of this opera, Erik told his life story, even if the words did not conform, the music alone was enough to convey his anguish. Finishing the final note he had written thus far, he felt as though a load had been lifted from his heart. Thelxinoë, he realized, was the one person he could truly share this music with, the only one who understood him enough not to be destroyed by hearing it. As he lifted his hands from the piano, he heard Thelxinoë whisper, "Erik, I want you to know about me. I want to tell you about who I am." Erik turned to her and, this time without fear, took her hands in his. "I feel the same way," he said, "I want you to know what I have experienced."
They spent the next week telling each other their stories, this time without falsehood or concealment, the way that they wanted their stories told. Thelxinoë held nothing back about Matteo, about her short time on Anthemoessa, and the ship she had warned to stay away, an act which had lead every aunt except for Parthenope to reject her. Erik told Thelxinoë about Christine, about his mother and the mask she had given him as her first and only gift, the way she had despised him. He told Thelxinoë about his travels in the Far East, about his experiences with the Persian, about how the Daroga had saved his life.
And, one night, as they sat together beneath Apollo's lyre, their fingers twining together like ivy, they kissed. Small, frightened, trembling, their kiss was short and electric. A sensation of softness and warmth, of a single shared breath, and it was over. They looked at each other and knew. They needed no words, no music for this night.
And as they walked back into the opera house, returning to the home they now knew they would share, Parthenope sat atop Apollo's lyre, stopped humming, and smiled.
They were both too shy for their own good, or perhaps they were both too wounded to open up so readily. But Parthenope had known since she saw how Erik took care of her niece that the feelings between them had been mutual. They had just needed a little unseen coaxing to finally admit it to each other.
Parthenope flew away into the night, back to Anthemoessa, to pray to Aphrodite to bless the new lovers and to offer a sacrifice to Hermes to thank him for making her invisible for the night.
One month later, the opera had returned to what could tentatively be called normal. Carlotta still yelled at anything that dared to threaten her status as Prima Donna, Meg and Victor kissed and cuddled like puppies or heroes in children's tales, and Christine was showing more each day, her womb growing rich with her husband's child.
And Thelxinoë continued to be called Alexandra Olympia by all except for those who truly knew her, by all except for Erik and her aunt Parthenope.
There were certain sensations Erik and Thelxinoë knew they could never fully grow accustomed to, that they would never truly be able to suppress a gasp of shock and happiness when they experienced these things. Long, slender fingers combing through downy feathers hidden in starlight hair. Lyre-formed callouses pressing gently against twisted, misshapen flesh. Slightly chapped lips, impossibly soft, that pressed against one another and tasted of all the spices in the world.
And those wonderful moments in which their ecstasies would transform from the musical to the physical, transmuting gold into gold, where melodies were replaced with hurried breaths and fumbling, tremulous hands, and their mouths would turn from songs to searching, gasping, kissing passionately and deeply, as if trying to taste each other's souls.
Thelxinoë knew that there would always be a small but present place in Erik's heart where he would always love Christine, and would always wish that she could have loved him back. Thelxinoë accepted this without complaint.
And Erik knew that there would always be a small but present place in Thelxinoë's heart where she would always love Matteo, her smiling sailor with the sky-blue eyes, and would always mourn his death. Erik accepted this without complaint.
Because, at the end of the day, while they each knew that their lover held these feelings deep within the recesses of their hearts, they also knew that they loved each other most of all, and would continue to do so until the far-off day when the Fates would snip their threads and part them for a time.
And as they lived and loved together, as they sang and slept and smiled, Thelxinoë and Erik knew that they had found a place where they could truly belong. Within each other, they had found their happiness.
And what more could they have longed for, really?