...If he tells her a thing, she's ours." Dundee licked his pointed teeth with his pointed tongue, his eyes looking off into a distance neither of the men could see. "That's the thing about contracts," he said. "they cut both ways." Dundee laughed gleefully.
The men shivered, inching away from the dead man on the floor and followed the black wind that was Dundee out the door and into the bright day light.
Birdie was enthralled with her steps. The tensile strength in the seemingly delicate lily pads. The flowers that arose here and there through the steps.
Images flashed through her mind as she continued climbing, bits of memories or something else. Her sister and her brown eyes glaring back at her like an angry mirror. The taste of white tea and lace cookies. The smell of old books and rotting leather bindings in her grandmother's house in Connecticut. A place she hadn't been in 10 years since grandma died.
She was always drawn to the light
The words were in her mother's voice. Lily. Lost at sea with Birdie's father. It was only an afternoon sail celebrating their anniversary, and everything had fallen apart when the squall appeared from out of nowhere and left their little boat broken and overturned, with no sign of her parents.
The money they'd left paid for art school and more. Maggie had taken her share and run to the other side of the world, doing who knew what. But what did money mean when she was left all alone in the world? Left with only her uncle Samuel who popped in now and again to check in on her and borrow some cash when he'd lost too much gambling.
Birdie shook her head as if to clear her mind and found herself standing improbably high, so high the land below her shimmered with distance.
Why was she not afraid? Why was she not in shock?
She stood and looked around the landscape.
Ah yes. Because she knew this place. She had dreamed it. Sometimes, the dreams had seemed more real than reality. She knew that if she looked in just the right spot, from just the right angle it would be there. She spun around on the lily pad, the warm breeze rising from below and lifting her hair, lifting, almost, her. And there it was.
It was nothing but a hole, really. If seen from the wrong angle it would be invisible, but from the right spot, high in the air, left of the sun, it should be here. She took another step on the pads and she rose higher. If she had wings, this would be so much easier, she thought with a laugh.
And then there it was. A shimmering disc just waiting for her to step through, just like in her dreams.
And just like in her dreams she knew who would be waiting for her on the other side. There was no reason to wait, really. What else was there to lose? She was balancing a hundred feet up on lily pads that were taller than the highest trees. There was no one waiting for her at home but her cat, who seemed to be able to take care of herself, her boss, who while he couldn't take care of himself, could hire someone else to take care of him, and her uncle, who really should stop betting, anyway. Her life was gone, it seemed, why bother holding on to it? Why hold on to the sanity she had always worked so hard to protect?
Why not just go with the dream?
She laughed then, and couldn't stop laughing, and it was with that light in her chest that she stepped through the hole.