“And are you doing well out there, Vivian?” My father’s voice was full of a false cheeriness that almost made me wince. My evening with the sea, how I’ve come to think of that time that Genny and I spent on watching the sky grow dark, had cooled my temper though. He was trying to find his way, even if he was hopelessly lost.
“I’m going by Viv, here,” I said slowly, trying to feel it out. “Everyone calls me that, or Vivea.”
“Oh, of course.” My father’s breath caught a moment before he pressed ever onward. “Really fitting in then?”
“Yes, Genny and I have been exploring and meeting some very friendly people.” I paused. I wanted to give my father some reassurance. I couldn’t mention anything magic related. Talking about Bryn was a bad idea, it’d make him protective, thinking of Aaron. Mr. Sarffer was too creepy. “I spoke to a very nice old sailor who lives in a hut made of drift wood. He has all sorts of sea glass hanging around.”
Nainy continued playing whatever new card game Genny was trying to foist on us but I noticed her cock her head, as if listening to our conversation.
“And what were you doing out by the docks?”
“I wasn’t by the docks. There was a storm set to come in later that day, so Genny and I ran to call back the fishing boats. Nainy couldn’t get ahold of Mr. Lewis at the general store. I finished alerting my area of town and I happened upon the sailor fellow. He was very nice. He gave me a piece of sea glass he found. Everyone is really very nice. Genny and I are having an incredible time. You can find beauty anywhere but I don’t think you have to look here; it’s just right in front of you.”
My father laughed, “Wise words, Vivian. Or I guess it’s Viv now.”
I smiled shyly into the phone, “I didn’t say that. Mr. Llyr did. The nice sailor man. Oh, I mean, Dan. That’s what he told me to call him.”
There was a sharp gasp from both sides of the phone. Nainy’s head turned sharply and a cold silence descended over the room.
My father’s voice was cold and hard, “Please put your grandmother on the phone, Vivian.”
Nainy was already standing by my side, composing her face into what I could tell was one ready to bear the weight of the trouble. She didn’t use it very often, mostly to deal with a crotchety old lady that lived in the village and always tried to ward herself against the evil eye whenever Nainy happened to be by. Nainy’s face broke for a moment when she squeezed my shoulder and dropped a quick kiss on top of my head, before gently pushing me towards Genny.
Genny’s eyes were wide and her face full of dread. “What did you say?” she whispered.
I just shrugged bewildered. There was no pretence of playing cards, we just watched and listened to Nainy.
“I didn’t know she had spoken with him, Dylan.” Her mouth thinned into a tight line. “You don’t mean that. I’ve taken that vow very seriously.” She closed her eyes, as she listened to my father’s furious voice slam through the phone and invade the room. I couldn’t tell the words but the tone was enough. She stood impassively strong and let him rage, all whilst trying to control her own rising temper.
“Dylan, I don’t want any harm to befall her either. You know how I feel about your decision but as you stated, it’s your decision to make. I haven’t said anything but I haven’t smothered her the entire time she’s been here. She’s smart. She won’t walk into trouble on purpose. But she’s also a determined and tenacious girl, if she wanted to know something she’d figure it out. Better to be armed with all the knowledge, than go blundering about unaware.” She fell silent and winced as my father viciously snapped at her through the phone and then she reached up to clasp the time piece pinned to her bodice.
“You’re right,” she spoke quietly, her voice full of pain. “That doesn’t always help. But would you rather bumble around in an enforced blindness? I can’t go back and change what happened. I can only move forward but I’d never trade that pain for ignorance.”
There was silence on both ends now. My father had something painful and full of malice and now it sat between them in the physical form of the phone. It wasn’t new, this feeling. And I had the impression that the phone was safest place for them to speak to each other. The silence stretched onward now, heavy, thick, and suffocating.
When my father spoke again, it was quiet but still sharpened with his anger.
“She came by herself. She’ll be fine on the way home.” Nainy’s voice was stretched now, conveying a strong, calm tone but weak from maintaining such a facade. “Yes, I see. Well phone me with the details then.”
The phone was replaced with a heavy, metallic thud that echoed throughout the room. Nainy braced a hand against the wall and took a steadying breath. Without turning back to us she reached for her shawl and wrapped it around her shoulders. “Girls, I need a bit of air.” She paused with her hand on the door and looked back to me, “There is nothing that you should feel poorly about Vivea. We all deal with pain in our own way.” With that, she pushed herself out into the gathering twilight, thick with a strong sea wind.
Genny and I both sprang to our feet and rushed upstairs to watch her from the window of our room. Her determined gait took her through the gate, to the barest inches of the slowly filling bay and when she was ankle-deep in the water, she stopped. She stood there for a moment, looking out at the waves. Then, without warning, she dropped her shawl from her shoulders and screamed her frustration into the horizon. The wind swept up her pain, spinning it through the sea grasses and trees, buffeting off windows and rattling doors.
A small squeeze tore me from the scene. I looked at Genny’s tear stained face, only to realise I too, had salty tears making small trails down my cheeks. We stood there hand in hand and kept a vigil over Nainy. When she finally turned wearily back to the cottage, we hurried to meet her at the door, with a warm blanket and a hot cup of tea.
She swept us into her arms and we all collapsed onto the sofa in front of the fire. We stayed there all night. The three of us all providing the strength, comfort, and companionship that we each lacked alone. Nainy braided our hair and sang Welsh songs and Genny told us amusing stories from her school. And when the night was deep, we slept curled up, my head on Nainy’s shoulder and Genny’s on her lap, as her Welsh songs covered us in a blanket of warmth and comfort.
Nainy had already risen, when Genny and I woke. The industrious strength of anger must have seized her, for all the morning chores were done.
The morning meal was subdued. Though we hadn’t spoken of it the night before, the weight of Nainy’s conversation hung above us all.
“When will she come?” I asked quietly, speaking more into my tea than to anyone else.
“You’re father is going to phone me with the details when he makes his plans.”
I looked up with a start. “My father is coming? Here?”
“He requested we meet him at the train station in Bangor. But, yes.”
I chewed the inside of my lip, before I asked my next question. “When was the last time he was here?”
Nainy sighed and gazed quietly out the window a moment before she answered. “I don’t think he’s set foot in Wales in almost twenty years.” She looked back at me. “He loves you very much, Vivea.”
I nodded absently. “This is because of Dan?”
Nainy’s eyes grew guarded but she nodded wearily. “I didn’t know he’d spoke to you or I might have warned you that it would make your father upset to hear about him.”
“He’s our grandfather, isn’t he?” Genny spoke a bit belligerently.
Nainy glanced to Genny and then stayed quiet for a moment. I realised she was thinking about her promise and how best to answer. Fatigue laced her answer, “Dan was your grandfather’s name. He had his own family name but I kept mine, when we married. There’s always been a Morgan living here on Anglesey and I couldn’t give it up. Dan didn’t give a care to that and encouraged your parents to keep the name as well.”
It wasn’t an answer but it was the best we’d get.
Nainy rose and began clearing the table. “He’ll be here tonight, right after dinner,” she said as she turned to the sink.
“Dan?” I asked confused.
“No,” Nainy shook her head sadly. “Your father, dear girl. If you’ve a mind to do anything special, I’d do it before today.”
Genny and I seemed to automatically head for the fairy tree.
“I suppose the only good thing out of this, is that our parents don’t really speak with each other. Maybe my mother won’t find out.”
I nodded absently. “They won’t let me come back, you know. This shall be the end.”
Genny didn’t argue, just leaned on the low branch, avoiding contact. “Maybe I can come visit you.”
I didn’t think that would happen but I nodded again anyway. I looked out at the low bay. All thoughts of the posts had been abandon with the drama from last night but now they seeped right back into my thoughts. Nainy’s warning that I only had hours left to explore, echoed through me.
“Do you think Mr. Sarffer knows about the posts?”
“The posts?” Genny glanced up at me confused then saw the direction of my gaze. “Those weird things from yesterday?”
“Maybe,” she shrugged. “I wouldn’t want to go up there again, just for that though.”
I frowned, “But don’t you want to know what they’re for? Why they’re there?”
Genny shrugged again, “I’m naturally inquisitive, Viv, but honestly I don’t care. But if that’s what you want to do on your last day here… We’ll need to bring something in order to get the info.”
“Maybe Nainy would make some more bara brith?”
We left that afternoon, armed with our offering and a great deal of optimism. The trip to Mr. Sarffer’s house was faster than it had been last time as we were more familiar with the way. But as we approached, my excitement was coated with a layer of dread.
“Mind the glass,” Mr. Sarffer’s sharp voice called out, as we approached the workshop. We both carefully stepped over a line of sea glass that now decorated the threshold. Mr. Sarffer was standing in the same position he’d been in whilst telling us the story of Manawydan, as if he hadn’t moved at all since we last saw him.
He took his time before turning toward us. Just as before, his gaze was difficult to bear, but now the sea breeze wasn’t there to alleviate any tension.
“You’ve come for another story?” He said after a moment then paused and tilted his head, viewing us with sharp eyes. “No, you’ve a question.”
“We brought a fresh loaf of bara brith.” Genny held it out with both hands.
Mr. Sarffer regarded it disdainfully. “I’ve had enough of Mrs. Morgan’s treats.”
“But you took it last time,” I stepped forward protesting. My pleas fell on deaf ears. Mr. Sarffer merely shrugged and began to turn back to his work. We’d come all this way for nothing. I was annoyed, frustrated, and in a state of despair. The curiosity had returned, making me even more desperate, more hopeful that I had found an answer to that which I sought. And although it seemed silly, nothing was truthfully as important as I was treating this quest. I couldn’t stop. I shoved my clenched hand into my pocket, the delicate clink of the shell and glass colliding seemed to echo throughout the room.
Mr. Sarffer’s head swivelled in my direction and he looked quickly to where my hand was in my pocket. “Why Miss Vivea, do you have a fairy shell in your pocket?”
Instinctively, I fiercely clenched my hand around both treasures.
Mr. Sarffer must have taken my silence for acquiescence. He began to smile softly. “I would tell you what you want to know, for the fairy shell.”
Genny gripped my elbow, “Don’t do it, Viv. They’re just some stupid posts.”
Mr. Sarffer just looked between us, calm, collected, and confident. He spoke softly, “You know, I know what you want and you know, you’ll leave soon. You may never have another chance to find out. It’s just a shell, there’s plenty more.”
“Then why do you want it?”Genny snapped like a small terrier against a mighty beast.
“It means a great deal to you and therefore is valuable.” Mr Sarffer’s smile bordered on malicious. I could feel the temptation plucking at my hand. Had it been last week, I would’ve denied this request and went straight back home. But the curiosity that the posts and the looming deadline of my father’s arrival grew into a need demanding to be met. The need morphed into a roar and I begin to draw the shell out of my pocket.
Genny gripped my elbow tighter, “No, you can’t do this. This is the one thing you have. You may never come back here.”
Mr. Sarffer said nothing and just watched unblinkingly. Outside the wind began to pick up, growing to a howl; the branches slapped back-and-forth against each other and angry rhythm. None of that seemed to touch us here.
“Take mine,” Genny said suddenly stepping forward.
Mr. Sarffer blinked, looking startled.
“What?” he asked.
“Take mine,” she reached into her pocket and pulled out the shell that she found at the fairy tree that day. It became more real now that it wasn’t mine. That now Genny would be the one to pay for this information.
My eyes widened, “Genny, no.”
“Stop,” she said. “If this is what you want, then I’m willing to do this. I can come back. I have the rest of the summer. It’s ok.”
“No,” I said but before I could do anything Genny darted forward and laid her shell on the workbench. Almost instantly, Mr. Sarffer’s hand shot out like a cobra and snatched it up.
“Genny, you shouldn’t have done that…” I began, but was distracted up by Mr. Sarffer’s strange and sudden humming.
“And our question?” Genny demanded stepping forward with an angry indigence.
“I abide by agreements, Miss Genny. Will it be the posts that you want to know about then? Ask your questions, you’ve earned three.”
Genny opened her mouth but I cut her off. “Wait. We need to phrase it the right way. He’d probably try and get away with a yes or no answer, if he could.”
Mr. Sarffer’s smile took on a serpentine edge but he didn’t deny anything. Genny nodded and stepped back. Trying to think through all of the possible answers was difficult. I was distracted with guilt over the loss of the shell but I owed it to Genny to get the best information that I could for such a treasured sacrifice.
“The post are encircling a mound of sand; why are they, the mound and the posts, there?”
Mr. Sarffer fixed me with his unblinking stare, “The posts are there to protect the mound and the mound hides a great treasure of immense power.”
I nodded. “What is the immense power of the treasure, precisely?”
He blinked this time, “It has the power to change fate. But the change is based on whoever shall touch it.”
I took a breath before my final question, “How could I use the treasure?”
Mr. Sarffer’s cold laugh echoed about the darkening room, “Why Miss Vivea,just walk through the posts and dig it up.”
Genny dashed forward and dragged me out the door. We both ran at a break neck speed back down the hill, crashing though the undergrowth and fighting to put as much distance as we could, between us and the horrid house. The sky had darkened and the trees whipped about in a frenzy. Only a crack of thunder was missing to complete the monstrous effect.