Cherry blossoms floated down from the trees lining the serene area away from the busy roadside. Here he could think without the noise of the perpetual rat race. His shoes slid silently into the liquid essence of the fountain that the flowering cherry trees sheltered from the harsh environment of the city. Even as the water soaked into his Kiton pants, creeping up the leg in a lazy fashion, he studied the vivid details of the fountain like he always did when his thoughts led him to this spot.
Cherubs whispering into each other’s ear as their arms stretched out to allow the conch shell in their porcelain hands to cascade the water into the marble basin. Above them shined a half-naked figure of a very renaissance woman. She held a jar above her head as she smiled to the heavens as if giving thanks to the waterfall soaking her pristine features.
He shuffled his feet forward, the distinct sloshing of his Testoni Italian shoes telling him he’d ruined yet another pair, and scattered some of the coins communing at the bottom of the pool. He thought briefly on why he bothered with buying the best when he always seemed to end up here. It was all because of her he threw away all abandon. She was a mystery, a beautiful puzzle he had to solve.
He’d met the vision of a goddess, her auburn hair framing her face in a healthy glow, at this fountain not but a few months ago. Her lips were a shade darker than her blushing cheeks and her skin was as pale as winter’s kiss. It did not take long for him to fall madly for her. She had infected his very being and she was like an elixir to his very soul. It had been just twenty-four hours since he’d seen her and he yearned just to brush his hand down her slender shoulders.
Time stopped for him and the soft pink petals floated in suspension. His breath crystallized and the tiny patterns of captured snowflakes spread across the water. He smiled softly as the sheen across the freezing water spelled out a riddle for his eyes only.
What is it that you can keep after giving it to someone else?
“Your word,” he answered easily, his fingertips smearing the jagged words. The water stole away the illusionary winter and he felt her warm breath on his neck. She had come to him once more. He watched as her finger waved in front of his face. Lucid and slow, it pointed down. Gazing into the tranquil water, trying hard not to turn and get lost in his love’s hazel eyes, he saw the object she’d left for him—A Seated Liberty Silver Half Dollar. Famed coin to have gone down with a Civil War era battleship named the S.S. Republic.
Silently he picked it up for this was her game and he had to follow it or not be in her presence for some time. The coin sparkled in the filtered sunlight, the petals once more making their erratic dance in the air before gliding gently to the now churning water. The statue at the center of the fountain still smiled gaily and the cherubs’ conch shells sprayed an endless supply of glittering liquid. As her lips brushed against his ear, he tensed and his hand clamped tightly around her gift he plucked from the water.
“Nisi credideritis, non intelligetis.” Her angelic voice cooed in his ear. Unless you will have believed, you will not understand. He’d studied Latin in college and sometimes she teased his knowledge.
“St. Augustine.” A jolt went through him as he said the words of the man who first spoke that quote.
She called to him, her watery visage stretched below him. The rare coin slipped from his fingers, embraced by the pool.
Ellen balanced on the ornate statue’s cherubs. Her hands, curled into claws and facing toward each other, held a translucent figure between tangled skeins. One finger twitched, drawing the silken strand tighter. Below, the well-tailored man sunk beneath the crystalline fountain’s surface. The water soaked his suit.
She drew up a corner of her mouth as someone entered the knee-deep pool to rescue the fallen man. A foggy wind blew out of her pale lips, turning the world into a wintry kiss. Frost crawled up her skin in a bluish kaleidoscope of branching patterns. She manipulated the strings, and the figure captured between them jerked like a marionette master’s prize.
“Must you play with your task, Ellen?” Long lanky arms wrapped around the head of the stone woman, Fiona clucked her tongue. Steam lapped at her bare form as she shifted.
“You have just lost the art. Forgotten the beauty of the tapestry we help create.” Ellen, a shuddering shiver shaking her hold on the image betwixt her fingers, chuckled. A puff of vapor dissipated as it met the resistance of warmer air. “Natura nihil frustra facit.”
“Oh, do not pull the laws to justify you drawing out this man’s destiny.” The water shimmered from the conch shells and threatened to burst forward through the thin veil of ice encasing it.
“You do not agree?” Ellen looped a digit in and out of the sheer fibers. The ghostly apparition trapped with twirled.
“Everything that happens does so for a reason and of necessity? Only in Ellen Ainsworth’s world do such things exist.” Fiona stretched out and touched the hoarfrost snaking between them. “You truly wandered the beach of Anzio for far too long before our mistress found you.”
One of the strings snapped in her spider’s web of strands, and Ellen glowered at her intruder. “Do not speak of my past.”
“What did you see on that beach? What passed through your memory before the hail of gunfire took your life?” Fiona swung around, the ice on the statue hissing under her infernal touch.
“Pace, pacta sunt servanda.” Snowflakes formed on the tip of her eyelashes before floating down to the man she held within her spell. “Peace, I will honor my part.” Sadness turned her eyes to liquid orbs. “So be it.” Her fingers extended, the tangled skeins ripping and tearing one by one. The quarry swayed at each snap of its safety net.
The air around the man in the fountain sparkled as the ice shattered along with the cord keeping him in the land of the living. Ellen hummed as the blue gelatinous mass between her palms disappeared into her pores.
The world shuttered alive, winter’s downy bed yielding to the spring time bliss of the cherry blossoms. Ellen floated down to the man she’d sent to the next life. The panic of the humans around her faded—muted by her inability to see anything but the taunt strings binding them to life.
With a soft brush against his cheek, she laid one last kiss to her platonic lover. Already her calm eyes scanned the crowd for that faintest glow of dimming blue. Her next contract—The next to be taken to the other side by the Children of the Fates.
She Whispers was originally published by Golden Visions Magazine