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The Siren, Page 46

Tiffany Reisz

Page 46

  Author: Tiffany Reisz

  “I’m glad he made it. He’s a sweet kid. ”

  As Nora said the words, Michael looked in their direction for the first time. His silver eyes widened with shock at the sight of her. His skin flushed and a look of pure panic eclipsed his face.

  “Søren…” Nora was afraid Michael was about to lose it.

  “Just watch, Eleanor. ”

  Michael kept looking at her. But she did as Søren ordered. Michael closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The red faded from his face, his body went calm and slack. He opened his eyes again and met her gaze once more. And then, of all things, he smiled at her.

  “He’s fine,” Søren said. “He is one of us after all. ”

  “You care about him very much. I can tell,” she said.

  “He’s become like a son to me. ”

  “How sweet. Like Abraham and Isaac. ”

  “I know you are still angry that I didn’t tell you his age. Had I told you, would anything have been different? Apart from this impressive claim to righteous indignation?”

  Nora opened her mouth to protest but a boy of about five or six squealed past them.

  “Owen!” Søren called out, freezing the little boy in his tracks. “Come here, young man. ”

  Søren snapped his fingers and pointed at a spot on the floor in front of him. Little Owen slumped over and slunk to the spot. Nora had to bite her lip to keep from laughing. Owen was the cutest little thing with his curly black hair sticking out in all directions.

  “Yes, Father S. ?” the boy asked and kicked at the hardwood, making his soles squeak on purpose.

  “Owen, please examine your shoes. ”

  Obediently Owen looked down. His whole body heaved the most forlorn sigh she’d ever heard come from a child.

  “I forgot. ” Owen looked up at Søren with pleading eyes.

  “You forgot to tie them or you forgot how to tie them?” Søren asked.

  “I forgot how. ”

  “Eleanor? I believe this is your area of expertise. ”

  “I’ll try, but I’m a little out of practice. ”

  Nora knelt in front of him and attempted to demonstrate the bunny rabbit method, the two loops as ears and the loop around the loop… Owen just watched her with his grave eyes.

  “Does that make any sense, Owen?” she asked as she stood up again.

  “I don’t know. It’s just so hard. Thank you. ”

  “You’re very welcome, Owen. ”

  Nora watched as Søren reached out and placed the tip of his finger between Owen’s eyes. Owen’s eyes crossed and both he and Søren laughed. “You’re dismissed. But do try to stay in the slow lane, please. ”

  Owen took off again, but this time at a more restrained pace.

  Nora glanced across the hall, past the tables to where the parents sat talking among themselves but never taking their eyes off their kids.

  “I wanted to have your children once,” she said, not looking in his eyes.

  “I told you, Michael is like a son to me. And you had him, did you not?”

  Nora inhaled sharply. “There’s a difference between sadism and cruelty. I hope you learn that someday. ”

  “Remind me which of those you prefer?”

  “I’m going, Søren. Thank you for another lovely anniversary. ”

  Nora turned on her heel and strode from the hall. She heard footsteps behind her but kept walking. She only made it as far as the entryway when she heard her name.

  She stopped and turned around to face Søren.

  “It’s hard enough for me to come to this place again and see you,” she said. “You don’t have to make it harder. ”

  Søren raised a hand to the side of her face. He brushed her cheek with his fingertips. She glanced around to make sure no one was there watching them. It was a habit she’d never break.

  “Forgive me. This is difficult for me, as well. ”

  “I didn’t think anything was difficult for you. ”

  Søren lowered his hand and stepped out of the sunlight and into the shadows by the shrine of the Virgin Mary.

  “Surely you of all people cannot think so highly of me. ”

  Nora smiled and followed him into the shadows.

  “The day I first saw you, I thought you were omnipotent. ”

  “You were fifteen, Eleanor. ”

  “I still think that. ”

  Søren’s laugh was empty and somber.

  “If I were omnipotent you would still be with me, little one. I didn’t have the strength to stop you from leaving. ”

  “You did,” she said. “But you loved me too much to use it. ”

  “Perhaps I’ve always loved you too much. ” Søren turned his eyes up to the Virgin Mary statue. “Our mutual acquaintance tells me you’ve given up work on your book. ”

  Nora tugged at her shirt cuffs.

  “Zach found out about what I do. He killed the deal. ”

  “Surely you can write without him. ”

  “I’m not sure I can. He made me see my book with new eyes. I was just a smutty storyteller before him. For a little while I felt like a real writer. ”

  “Answer a question for me, Eleanor. Why did you begin your work with our monsieur?”

  “I had nothing. He offered me a job. ”

  “You could have worked any number of jobs. Why that one?”

  “He said I’d make a lot of money working very few hours. I thought it would give me—” She stopped and swallowed. “I thought it would give me time to write. ”

  “Your work with Kingsley was merely a means to an end. It was never meant to be the end. ”

  Nora didn’t know how to answer that.

  Søren reached into his pocket. He pulled out a small black velvet bag and placed it in her hand.

  “What’s this?” she asked.

  “Your real anniversary gift. ”

  Nora opened the bag and a silver pendant on a chain poured out into her hand. She held it close to her eyes.

  “A saint’s medal. ” She laughed. “I haven’t worn one of these in years. Who is it? St. Michael? St. Mary Magdalene?”

  “St. John the Apostle actually. ”

  “St. John…patron saint of fools and ex-lovers?” she hazarded a guess.

  “No,” Søren said, his voice and eyes gentle. “The patron saint of writers. ”

  Nora’s hand shook slightly and she couldn’t quite get the necklace on.

  Søren took the medal from her and clasped it around her neck. She closed her eyes and relished the brief moment when his arms encircled her.

  “Our Lord Jesus had twelve disciples,” Søren said, taking a step back. “After His Ascension all were scattered to the four winds and were persecuted unto death. Oddly enough it was only St. John, Patron Saint of Writers, who didn’t die a martyr. ”

  “You always hated it when I played martyr. You know, I’m not sure I deserve to wear this. ”

  “Genesis 1:1, God said let there be light and there was light… God created the world with words, Eleanor. Words are the thread in the fabric of the universe. You write because it brings you closer to God. I was foolish enough once to think I could do that for you. I know better now. This is who you are. ”

  “Zach doesn’t think so. ”

  “Then he’s a bigger fool than I was. I know you, little one. You wrote your way out of hell once. You can do it again. ”

  “The book’s not done, not even close, and I’ve only got a week left before he leaves for L. A. Not that he’ll even bother to read it if I do get it done. ”

  “Then in your vernacular, Eleanor—fuck him. Finish the book. Not for me or for Zachary or for Wesley or even for God. Finish it for you. ”

  Nora laughed against her tears.

  “Is that an order?”

  “Does it need to be?”

  Nora thought
about it a moment, thought about the energy that now surged through her veins. She had one week before Zach left for L. A. What if she did finish it without him? She could walk up to him and throw the book in his face. The contract be damned. She’d finish it just because she wanted to know how it ended.

  “No, I think I’ve got this one. ”

  “Then go. ” Søren nodded to the entrance.

  Nora almost ran to the door. But she stopped at the last moment and turned around.

  “You could have kept me, you do know that, don’t you?” she asked.

  Søren struck a match and lit a candle under the shrine.

  “I would that you had kept me. ”

  Nora didn’t, couldn’t speak. But it didn’t matter if she spoke or not, as long as she could write. She stepped out of the foyer and into the sunlight. She took one last look back at Sacred Heart and knew her most sacred heart remained inside. Sometimes, she thought to herself, I wish you’d kept me, too.

  * * *

  Wesley was waiting for her in the living room when she got back to the house. He wore a look of profound relief when he saw that she was unharmed. She smiled at how much more thankful he would be in just a few minutes.

  “You came home,” he said.

  “I’ve got a book to write. ”

  A smile as bright as the sun spread across Wesley’s face. But it wavered when he held out her red hotline phone.

  “It rang while you were gone. ”

  Nora took the phone from his hands and pressed the number eight. For herself and no one else she would finish the book. But this at least she could do for Wesley.

  “Pardonnez-moi, madame,” Kingsley began as he answered the phone. “Mais—”

  “Forget it, King. Don’t take this personally, but Mistress Nora is out of business. ”

  “For how long this time, chérie?” She heard the laughter in his voice.

  Nora looked at Wesley and smiled.

  “Forever. ”

  She dropped the phone on the floor. With one quick stomp she smashed the cell phone with the heel of her shoe.

  Wesley hugged her so hard he lifted her off the ground.

  “Down boy. I don’t have a lot of time and I’ve got a helluva lot to write. Brew coffee and turn off all the phones, unplug the internet, don’t answer the door. For the next week, it’s nothing but all-nighters. ”

  “I thought you said Zach said—”

  “Fuck Zach. I’m writing it for me. ”


  One week left…

  Zach sipped his coffee and grimaced.

  “You know, you should really let me make the coffee, boss. ” Mary entered his office holding a Starbucks cup. She passed it to him, and he took it with gratitude. “Yours is disgusting. ”

  “You’d think with a doctorate from Oxford I’d have learned how to make a proper cup of coffee somewhere along the way. ”

  “Some of us have the gift. Some don’t. Poor you, swilling gross coffee all your life. ”

  Zach grinned at her as she sat in the chair across his desk. “Grace always made our coffee. She had the gift apparently,” Zach said. “American coffee is vastly superior to English coffee anyway. She knew some little shop in London that carried the real beans. She got up early to brew it every morning. ”

  “She sounds like a keeper. ” Mary smiled and then seemed to realize she’d said something she shouldn’t. “I’m sorry, Zach. ”

  “It’s all right. It’s apparently no secret that Grace and I fell apart. Even that arse Finley knows. ”

  Mary shuddered with revulsion. “I can’t believe he went to all that trouble, leaving all those dirty little presents, just to get under your skin. And then all that stuff he said about Nora…I never told you this, but I really like Nora’s books. ”

  “Mary, I had no idea you were of that persuasion. ”