Revenant: (noun) one who returns after death or a long absence
We did not believe our mother was a witch.
Even on the night we were banished from Wild Point Island, when my sister Lily and I were sound asleep and my mother’s chanting echoed up the stairs and woke us.
Even then, we knew she was not casting a spell, but only practicing an ancient rite.
That night, Lily tapped me on the arm, then motioned me to follow her.
“She’s about to do a ritual,” my sister whispered.
I touched her lips then, a sign not to speak aloud. “Something must be wrong.”
I didn’t say those words, but she heard me. I used the special ability we had as half and halves to use thought talk, an ability more powerful than the bond we shared as twins.
We tiptoed down the hallway, then huddled halfway down the stairs, overlooking the parlor, not daring to show ourselves. I prayed for the dawn to come quickly. We had only the moon’s glow through the large picture window to illuminate the shadowy scene before us.
My mother seemed to produce a lighted match from the air, and as she lit the white tapered candles she’d arranged in a circle, the odor of burnt smoke drifted up the stairs. The soft glow enclosed her. She raised her arms and chanted louder.
Nyam. Nyam. The familiar tune floated across the floor.
She went silent and waited for a response.
Then her chanting began again.
Lily squeezed my arm. “Do you see that?”
The parlor walls weaved, and shelves of books appeared where there were none before. My father’s desk replaced the large picture window that faced the street.
I met my sister’s gaze. She nodded encouragingly as if she were expecting something like that to happen.
“Dad’s library,” I said, forgetting the need to be quiet.
“Mom’s done it before.”
“Why do you think?”
My mother turned, her attention on us. “Girls, get back to bed.”
We were caught, but before we had a chance to move, there was a knock on the door. I squeezed my sister’s hand, too curious now to go.
Quickly, my mother began to blow out the candles, but before she could reverse what she had done, the door burst open. Three men marched in-not soldiers-but men in gray suits, commanding attention.
“Council guards,” I said with my thoughts. I climbed to my feet.
“Who have they come for?” Lily asked.
I met my sister’s gaze. “For us.”
Lily stood, wrapped her arms around my shoulders, gripping tightly.
I stared into the darkened room and prayed I was wrong. Maybe they’d come for another reason. I shimmied a little, anything to get free of Lily. She was too close, too clingy, and seemingly resigned to the worst that could happen.
“You know why we’ve come. It is time,” one of the men said.
“You cannot have them.”
They had come for us.
I choked. Lily chirped. Our responses thundered down the stairs. The guards exchanged glances. They’d heard us, and the gray-suited men would be upon us. We would never see our parents again.
The tall one, in charge, seemed to heed the sound for he glanced toward the stairs.
“No.” My mother hissed a burst of wind to extinguish the candle flames. In an instant, the shelves of books disappeared, and the library became a parlor once more.
“Hugh Pattenson, show yourself!” The guard bellowed.
I had seen my father materialize before. As a revenant, he was no longer human, not since the change almost 400 years ago. He could assume his human form for only part of the day. He glided before them now in his revenant form and slowly took human shape. Colored wisps of air became flesh. The men in suits merely stood there, and my father went to them, as if beckoned by some higher power.
Until my mother called to him. The sound of her voice acted like a siren’s call, and he turned, arms outstretched. She ran to him, her white gown fluttering behind her.
My eyes teared at the sight of the long lean bend of my father. My heart ached to see how tenderly he held my mother. Then we heard a click, the signal call from the guard, and my father calmly walked off with two of the gray-suited men through the front door.
My mother sank to her knees. The third man hovered over her. “You and yours must be gone from here in one hour.” The guard enunciated each word as if reading from a decree. “A carriage will come for you. You can never return.”
I blinked, and the man was gone. Vanished, it seemed, into the air itself.
“Mom.” I struggled to shake off Lily’s embrace, but she held me still.
My throat tightened. I searched my sister’s face for signs that she, too, was upset, but she stared only straight ahead, her gaze pinned on my mother. “There’s nothing we can do.”
“No!” I shouted, not caring now if my mother heard.
“Ella, Lily.” My mother stumbled to the bottom of the stairs, her face wet with tears. “We are no longer welcome here.” She sighed, then glanced around the room as if she were searching for something she couldn’t bear to leave behind.
I ran to the bottom of the stairs. “But what about Dad?”
“He can only live here.” She sniffled. “On Wild Point Island. This is his home.”
“But we can visit,” I insisted.
“They took him away.” Lily stood behind me. “And we have to leave.”
But I couldn’t imagine leaving our home. Living our life on the mainland without our father. “You’re wrong. They wanted us. They came for us. We could get Dad back. If we went to the Council…” My mind raced. “What did they want? We could–”
My mother shook me hard. “No. They came for your father.”
“But I heard–”
She grabbed hold of my hand. “You misunderstood.” Then she pulled us close to her, and her comforting scent of jasmine and juniper wrapped around us. “I know this is hard, but our life here is over. We must never talk about this night again. From this moment on, we must lead a different life, and you must keep the secret of who you really are.”
(twenty years later)
When Lily and I were born, the Wild Point Island Council told my father we were each half of a circle. Together we represented infinity, a blessing. The Council warned that if we were ever separated, our lives would be cursed, played out like the third act of a Shakespearean tragedy.
An inauspicious beginning, to be sure, and it didn’t help that we were different in every way. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that Saturday night when Lily wasn’t at the Blue Dolphin Restaurant.
I was scrupulously punctual; she was forever tardy.
Her life was more important than mine. The hostess would give us ten minutes, a grace period, before she gave away our table, which I didn’t want her to do.
“Is your party here yet?” The blonde woman stared right through me.
“She will be. She’s parking her car.” A tiny sliver of wishful thinking.
“We cannot seat you until all the members of your party are here,” she said too loudly.
“Yes, I’m aware of that.”
“We will only hold the table for–”
“Ten minutes,” I shot back. “Yes, I know.” I forced a smile, and I gestured toward the bar area, where I could hide away while I waited, fearing that Lily would never make it to the restaurant in ten minutes, and we would lose that table with the perfect view.
And I would lose the perfect opportunity to tell her what I needed to do and how my plans included Wild Point Island. Lily had the right to know, and I hoped seeing the island again would bring back a rush of childhood memories that would melt the icy façade she donned whenever I brought up the past.
Fuming, I slammed my pocketbook on the nearest empty table, slid onto a stool, pulled out my cell, and texted. Where are you? Why aren’t you here? You’re late.
Not that I expected her to read her messages. She hated technology as much as I couldn’t live my life without it. I was about to throw my cell phone into my pocketbook, when I spotted him staring at me.
His dark brown hair, well it was nearly black, fell across his forehead in a careless manner. Lily would have said his hair was too long, but it suited him. The way he leaned against the bar, not twenty feet away, casual and self-confident as if he owned the restaurant and all the people in it, even though he focused his attention on me. I deduced my frustration at my sister’s absence was amusing him.
The intensity of his stare sent a shiver down my spine. My radar snapped into focus. And I wondered if he were from the island and had found some way to get off, if only for awhile.
The cut of his clothes was too perfect, too natty, and although a little dated, they clashed with his too pale skin and day’s growth of a beard, which made him seem not to care about his personal appearance all that much.
His drink lay untouched on the bar. Another clue. Revenants didn’t drink liquids of any kind. The Euphorbia Candelabra was the only sustenance they needed to survive.
I swallowed, nervous that here I was stuck, waiting for Lily, and I’d let myself look interested in him. I’d broken every rule of the casual observer, who would look once or twice and never stare as I was doing. Which I never did. I never put myself out there for a guy. It was pointless. I wasn’t like Lily, you see; I couldn’t pretend to be fully human.
He shifted his drink to the side and sauntered over in my direction. And I prayed he wouldn’t have a smart-ass line prepared. That he wasn’t one of those kind of men. And ruin the moment. The potential of what it could be. Not that I would be interested in a revenant. Only a fool would be attracted to someone they could never have. Island law controlled revenant intermingling with humans. My parents’ shattered lives were the proof that the law should never be broken.
“You can have my table, if you like. That is, if your friend does not make it in from the parking lot.” He smiled at me. And, oh my, what a smile.
“It’s my sister.” I blushed. “And she’s not exactly in the parking lot yet. I was being optimistic. Hoping against hope that she’ll arrive within the next ten minutes, and we won’t lose our table that I had to go to great lengths to procure.” I clamped my mouth shut. Entirely too much information to be sharing with a complete stranger.
He tilted his head and let out a little laugh. “That would be a shame. I suppose you admire the view.”
The view. Every table in the dining section of the restaurant had the same view of the sound, of the water. But that wasn’t what he was referring to. I grinned in spite of myself.
“The location is perfect. There are only three tables in this place that look out over the…” I paused and lowered my voice, and even though I shouldn’t say it, I had to know. Was he from the island or not? “The island.”
His eyes widened. “Am I that obvious then?”
“To me you are, but not to them.” I glanced around the bar area and nobody else seemed to realize they had a revenant in their midst. He wore a blue shirt open at the throat. Tan jacket. Dark colored slacks. And although he looked human, an old world malaise reflected in his eyes gave him away. “I don’t think anyone else has noticed.”
He moved closer, pulling a nearby stool up to the small, round table I was leaning against. “Who are you?” He enunciated every word as if he knew already I was something different, special, like he was.
I hadn’t anticipated the conversation going in this direction. “I’m Ella,” I said, determined my name was all the information I was going to give.
“You must be from the island.”
“Why do you say that?”
“But you have been there?”
I wasn’t ashamed of what I was, but telling him the truth was risky, even if he were a revenant himself. “I thought only revenants were welcome on the island.”
“But you can see the island?”
The fact that I could see it would take some creative explaining on my part if I dared to be so honest.
I tilted my head, as if perplexed. “I thought only revenants could see the island.”
If my responses frustrated him, he hid it well. “I always keep a table reserved. It is over there. You are welcome to it. I will not be dining this evening.”
I followed his finger, twisted in my seat, and spotted the table he was referring to. Off by itself, it sat in an alcove, directly facing Wild Point Island. It was perfect. I swiveled back to thank him and ask him how he could manage to keep a table reserved in such a posh restaurant, and why he would even want to, considering he didn’t need to eat, but he’d edged in closer. I was thrown off guard. His face was inches from mine, and I realized he’d deliberately distracted me, then used the time to examine me as if I were some rare object on display at a museum.
Thankfully what I was couldn’t be determined by the naked eye.
“What are you?” he asked.
“What do you mean?”
He leaned back against the stool. “You are more than human.”
“Hardly.” I fought to catch my breath. My half-status was one secret I had sworn to keep—for my own welfare and for that of my family.
“My name is Simon.” He extended his hand, and if I hadn’t guessed already, this would have confirmed my suspicions. Handshakes are common, but they are done carelessly. Most people are barely aware of how they thrust their hand into the air. Simon’s hand waited, poised for mine, harkening back to an earlier era when a gentleman really held a lady’s hand.
My heart pounded in my chest. I felt an irresistible urge to make contact, but I held back. He would know I was a half revenant as soon as his skin touched mine.
I met his gaze.
He smiled. “You can trust me, Ella.”
I trusted so few. And a revenant? I wasn’t sure if I should take the chance, but he seemed sincere, even vulnerable. My gut quelled. I couldn’t, didn’t want to keep the secret of what I was anymore. Too many years of being alone. Holding out my hand, I touched his.
Tiny heat waves coursed through me. “You feel warm.”
“Yes.” For a moment, he seemed at a loss for words, and I gulped, knowing he was, no doubt, registering the warmth of my skin.
“Our body temps run a little higher than humans,” he noted.
I nodded, neglecting to breathe as I waited for his reaction.
“What are you then?” he asked.
There was no getting around an explanation now. “My father was a revenant, but my mother was human. I lived on the island as a child.”
“That is very strange.”
“Which is why you did not shun me when you knew what I was.”
“I would never do that,” I protested.
He was right about that. Even my sister Lily, who was half revenant also, would have. I looked down at his hand, and following proper protocol, slowly slid away from his grasp even though I’d liked touching him, feeling the warmth.
“Ella,” he rolled my name on his tongue. “I think you wanted to tell me who you were.”
“Perhaps I did.”
He leaned in close. “There are advantages to being what you are.”
“Advantages?” I couldn’t think of any. In fact, my mind was too preoccupied with the idea of him. Talking with him. This was the first time I had dared to freely share with anyone what I really was. “Do you like living on the island?”
“I have no choice but to live there.”
His quick response surprised me. “I’m sorry. I just assumed–”
“It is a restricted life,” his voice faded. “As you can imagine.”
“But you are here now, off the island. How–”
“I can venture only here, to this restaurant.”
Council business, I assumed. “Well, my uncle predicts that revenants might be accepted someday as equal citizens, that is, if they ever make themselves more public.”
“Live off the island, you mean.” He sniffed as if he didn’t believe it.
“So you’re not for it then?”
“It is complicated.” He avoided my question. “Island politics.”
I knew something about the Council, the ruling class of the island. I had kept in limited contact with my father’s uncle, my great uncle, these past ten years. In secret.
“Do you miss the island?” Simon asked.
I wasn’t ready for the question. Not because I hadn’t thought about my life there. I had. I still wasn’t over what I had lost. Even as my throat thickened with tears, I struggled to stay blasé. I almost lied, but I didn’t. “Yes. I do miss the life I had there. We were a family. We were together then. I fit in somehow. But that was a long time ago. Now no one knows who I am.”
“Your sister knows.”
Which didn’t help me at all. “And she hates what we are.”
“And you do not? I thought most humans despised being different.”
“No.” I was truly offended he would think such a thing. “Being half revenant doesn’t bother me. Besides, we’re not all that different on the mainland.”
“So you cannot–”
“…walk through walls? No. Nor read minds.”
He smiled a slow, lazy smile. “Are you sure you are unable to do those things here? Have you ever tried?”
I hadn’t. Lily and I had this special bond where we often exchanged thoughts, but I considered our ability to thought-talk privileged information he didn’t need to know. What Lily and I could do had first happened accidentally when we were children. He spoke of the deliberate power to communicate with precision. I looked up at him. “Are you saying you and I could telecommunicate?”
“We could try. If you let me in.”
A dangerous game. But oh so seductive. Especially with someone like him. “I don’t know if I should.”
“I did not mean to offend. Perhaps such a skill could help you in the future.”
I swallowed and thought of my father. What I was sworn to do. The skill could come in handy, especially when dealing with the Island Council. “Yes. All right.”
He took my hand and gently held it in his. “You must invite me in.”
I nodded. How curious the invitation requirement. The other requirement—the blanking of the mind—was familiar to me. Blanking your mind of thoughts in the beginning was like opening a door.
“Simon, please come in.”
His expression grew stern, and his stare penetrating. “Relax,” he ordered.
Relaxing the mind was easier with Lily. I barely had to invite her. “I’m trying.”
Silence followed, and having him inside my head sounded like the patter of a cat’s paws on a bare wooden floor.
His face was lean and linear with strong cheekbones and eyes so blue, a blue darker than the usual sky. As he probed, I felt as if I were drifting in that sky with him.
“Do you think we are becoming too personal?” His gaze touched on every inch of my face.
“No. This is the first time I’ve been myself with someone.”
“You will never find a human man who will accept you like I will.”
The truth of that statement struck me to the core. “I suppose you’re right.” And then without meaning to let the thought be formed, I realized another truth. “That’s why I like being with you so much.”
He looked into my eyes. His breath quickened.
My heart flipped, a hearty flip.
He dropped my hand on the table. “You have abilities, Ella. You need to develop them.”
All along I had known I could do more with the revenant spirit in me lying dormant. After all, I was more than human. My hands began to sweat. I wiped them on my skirt. “I should be going.” I grabbed my pocketbook.
“What about your sister?”
I faced the cold, hard truth. “She won’t come. I made a mistake in showing up here. She hates the island and everything it stands for. I should have known better than to invite her here. To get her approval for something I must do.”
“Do you need her permission to come to the island?” Simon stood, blocking my exit.
I’d let him into my thoughts, and was it my imagination, or did he now know things he couldn’t possibly know?
“How do you know I need to go to the island?”
“You will do it because of your father.”
I froze. Yes, all of this was about my father, but how could he have known that? “What do you know about my father?”
“You feel compelled to help him. Because you feel responsible for what happened.”
“How do you know that?”
He stood so close to me I could feel his breath on my cheeks. “You were thinking about him while I was inside your head. I am sorry. I invaded your privacy. Now I have obviously upset you.”
“I’m not used to being with a revenant. It’s different. It’s a lot to absorb so quickly.”
“I understand.” He stepped aside as if he were deliberately letting me go so I could walk away and, perhaps, never see him again. It was the prudent thing to do, but I didn’t move.
“Ella, I would like to see you again.”
“See me again?”
“If it were possible.”
Simon was a revenant, and by their very nature they were dual creatures. During the day they relinquished their physical form, but when they took on flesh, they did it completely. Like now. And they were bound to live on the island. Could I have a relationship with him? My heart quivered.
I didn’t mean to, but I sighed. “You live on the island and your time off is very limited.”
“You age when you come off the island, don’t you?”
“Yes.” But he persisted as if all that didn’t matter. “Would it please you to see me again?”
I smiled. “It would please me very much.” But was it possible?
He leaned in. “May I?”
I wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, but I nodded.
He touched my hair, running his fingers through the strands as if he were caressing delicate gold filaments. “When I look in your eyes, I see reflected there the life you have lived, the places you have been to.”
I heard regret, the sad awareness that he hadn’t seen all those places I could travel to on a whim, places he’d been kept from.
I reached out. The tips of my fingers skimmed his cheek, feeling the rough, uneven day’s growth of beard.
Here I was touching him. For the first time in my life I wanted someone. I felt desire. Despite the taboos that existed, I wanted him.
I leaned closer, arched on my toes, and in the fullness of need and want, not knowing how he would react, I kissed him.
WILD POINT ISLAND WAS PUBLISHED ON JUNE 15, 2012. IT IS AVAILABLE IN MASS MARKET PAPERBOOK AND IN EBOOK FORMATS. IT CAN BE PURCHASED FROM AMAZON.COM AND BARNES AND NOBLE.COM AND CAN BE FOUND IN SOME BRICK AND MORTAR BOOKSTORES.