Hi! I apologize for my absence. Life has been pretty crazy lately. I’ve had too much to do and too little time in which to do it. I have a quick announcement before I get to Iyrico.
Llewyn’s Faith is available on Amazon. It’s free for download for the next few days or so and is currently ranked at #9 in the short stories, action adventure category. WOO! Here is the link to the story on Amazon.
Iyrico is available for reading and/or download on Scribd at THIS LINK if you don’t feel like waiting for me to post the various parts. Wattpad is undergoing maintenance, so I couldn’t post it there today. I shall try again upon the morrow. Obooko and Smashwords? I’ll probably work on them tomorrow, too.
Ok, this didn’t get through as many read-thrus as I usually like to do with my work, so I apologize for any kinks in the text. My self-imposed deadline was quite sneaky, ninja-style.
Copyright 2013, Lea Ryan
Cover Art copyright 2013, RL Bender
All Rights Reserved
“This is a difficult time for everyone, Levi. I need you to be nicer to your cousin during this visit. I don’t know what got into you the last time.” Her eyes in the rearview mirror revealed the same expression of disappointment he’d seen before. Pain filtered through as well, quenching the heat of his irritation with the subject.
He looked out the window at the passing orchard and mumbled, “I wouldn’t steal from Grandma Mola.”
They had accused him of taking a necklace – one made from a drachma coin and passed down through generations – from her dressing table. He had always suspected Nessa. Too bad no one else did. The culprit had left behind a clue to frame him for the crime – his sketchbook on the floor, behind the bedroom door, as if he would be so careless. The adults in the house required no further evidence.
“You’re eleven, now. You know better than to take what isn’t yours, especially with all that’s happening. Please don’t make this any more difficult than it needs to be.”
They’d been to Cliff House two years before, when he was nine and his cousin, Nessa, was eight. Neither of them had any siblings. He would’ve liked to get along with her, maybe have someone (aside from his schoolmates) to play with once in a while, but she was a conniving beast, always in search of attention. She wasn’t worth the trouble.
As if sensing his master’s discontent, the old coonhound curled up on the seat next to him, looked up and whined. He dropped his head on the boy’s lap.
As they travelled down the road, ill-tended stone bridges forgotten by county inspectors replaced safer, more modern models with rails. Wilds crowded close to the edge of the road, as if reaching out, to drop the first leaves of autumn to pavement left wet from the rain earlier that morning. The roads narrowed the closer they got to Cliff House, merging to one lane as they passed the neighboring vineyard. Anyone else would’ve enjoyed the scenery. It only reminded him how much he hated the destination.
They arrived just before noon, with the sun riding high in the sky above the thick tangle of vegetation, above the slumping stone walls of the cottage and the sagging roof. With the clouds of earlier having moved on, nothing impeded the growing warmth of the day.
Hound barreled over Levi to hop down to the yard for a stretch on the pavement and a wander over to the grass. He lifted his leg to the crumbling well while Levi and his mother unloaded their suitcases from the trunk of the sedan.
Dean, Levi’s uncle, came outside to help. He was a lanky man, slightly older and taller than his sister and weary. He always had a disheveled look about him, but the impending death of his mother had him dragging even more than usual. His button-down shirt was rumpled like he’d slept in it, and his eyes behind his glasses were red with tears. He took the handle of the rolling suitcase and set it down on the cracked driveway to hug her.
“How is she?”
“The doctor said she might have the day.”
Levi stood off to the side, awkwardly. He didn’t know how to handle such situations. He’d experienced loss, in a way, as a kind of hole in his life because his father had never been around. But death – that was a whole new animal, and to be so near to a person in the act of dying. Mortality was a terrifying thing.
He looked to the front of Cliff House to find his cousin glaring at him from the open front door. Nessa looked like a ghost, pale hair and skin, pale dress, doll-like in many ways, save her disdain for him. She would make everything harder if she could find a way.
“We have lunch waiting.” Dean ushered them inside, lingering with the door open to let Hound in.
They left fresh air behind for the dank interior of Cliff House. Even if not for his cousin, he would’ve detested being there. It was an old, strange place with interior walls made of the same stone as the exterior. It smelled of decaying plants and earthen surfaces that could never really be dusted or cleaned.
The story was that his great grandfather built the house with his own two hands after finding that precarious patch of land atop a cliff. If a person judged it by the swampy smell alone, they would never guess that ocean waves crashed against rocks at the bottom of the cliff out back.
Dean accompanied them to their respective rooms so they could drop off their suitcases. Levi’s room was a glorified closet on the northern side of the house. It had one window, which faced a bit of yard leading into a patch of thorn bushes growing among the trees.
Deadly, red berries grew there, mingled with the green leaves like poison Christmas. Nessa had tried to get him to eat some once. Lucky for him, he had already known not to trust her.
He wedged his suitcase between the small chest of drawers and the wall with the window. He would unpack later. First, they had to spend quality time with their hosts.
Levi liked his uncle well enough. Dean was obsessed with history, so he always had some new old story he’d dug up in the library or heard from one of his history buff friends. In a past life, he’d even taught a history class. He abandoned the teaching profession entirely after a series of problems left him with too much stress to continue.
Levi had overheard his mother discussing Dean’s various issues with their sister, Aunt Marion. He overheard lots of things adults said. He discovered early on that if he remained quiet, they almost forgot he was in the room and when that happened, the internal censor that usually kept grownups from speaking frankly about the darkest aspects of one another’s dealings would fall away. His silence was his pass into the secret world of adults.
Levi stood alone in the hallway outside his room to wait for his mother to come out of the room next to his. Down the hall, Grandma Mola’s door stood open. Hushed voices spoke inside. Levi listened to them discussing death in medical terms. A strange voice, no doubt belonging to a doctor, offered instructions on who to call when it was all over.
Afterward, Dean showed the almost-elderly man in a business jacket and blue jeans to the front door. They shook hands and the doctor departed, leaving Dean looking even more withered than before.
Levi didn’t understand the surrender. Doctors should be heroes. While the patient still breathed, didn’t they have some kind of hope? He looked at the open door to his grandmother’s room.
She mumbled, he thought, a half-singing through the labored breathing. He didn’t want to see her, but they’d make him go in. And what if the death rubbed off, somehow?
He caught a word in her frail voice, practically whispered, “Iyrico.”
She went on to other words in a dreamy voice, more sad than panicked about the encroaching darkness. He tried to make the words out as they tumbled from her lips.
Gibberish, he decided. It meant nothing – that strange word, despite the fact that it remained in his mind. A part of a lucid dream had touched him; that was all. His mother had talked in her sleep before. He heard her when she left her bedroom door open at night.
“What are you doing?” Nessa’s voice said in his ear.
He jumped, startled.
She laughed and passed by him, “Chicken boy.”
They had a lunch of cold cuts and cheeses on hamburger buns with potato chips, and fizzy lemonade on ice. The kitchen was as old-fashioned as ever. A rough wooden table with benches for seats still sat across from the large hearth that Dean used to cook some of their meals. Modern appliances shared the far wall with ancient looking cabinetry.
His uncle had opened the shutters on the front window. The rippled glass pane transformed the light, which had been so warm outside, to a stark unnatural presence in the dark kitchen that highlighted the ugliness in everything it touched: the scars on wooden surfaces, the sadness on Levi’s mother’s face and on Dean’s face.
The smile Nessa wore took on shadows, removing the doll mask and revealing the monster in her. She had a scheme in mind for later; he could tell. He would make a point to avoid her, perhaps stretch the task of unpacking his suitcase into an hours-long affair.
“You kids have to stay inside.” Dean changed the subject from talk of death. “Animal control is rounding up a pack of stray dogs from the property today. The mongrels made off with the neighbor’s dog yesterday. Levi, you’ll want to keep Hound indoors as much as possible.”
With those words, the house became more of a prison. The land outside Cliff House always had its dangers. The forest plants like the berries, the well out front, the cliff out back, and the occasional sinkholes were always concerns. He could escape outside, though, from his cousin as long as he kept a watchful eye. He walked with caution and not too close to the rocky edge of the world. Now, he had no escape, save his room.
Tune in tomorrow for Part 2!