by Carole Gill
Anya’s granny lived in a timber house on the edge of a glacial lake at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. The house had blue shutters and window boxes full of wild flowers that grew in the alpine meadows nearby--purple and white bellflowers and pink peonies.
It was a magical place for the air carried the sweet scent of spruce trees and conifers which rode upon the generous wind that spread beauty and enchantment throughout the valley.
Every summer Anya and her family would come to spend a week visiting Granny but then Anya’s mother suddenly sickened and died.
It happened shortly after Christmas that she took to her bed. And in between a sad smile and closed eyes she was gone.
“I am sorry, Anya.”
Papa’s words didn’t sink in for Anya could not believe her mother could be healthy one day and gone the next.
“Yes, it is sad. But such is life; death often comes quickly to snatch us away!”
But so quickly?
“Go now and say your goodbyes.”
So Anya kissed her mother’s forehead before the grim-faced men came to take her mama out of the house. How bitterly Anya wept.
Her mama’s funeral was held on a freezing January day when the earth was too frozen to bury her.
“The service will be held as planned but she will be returned to the morgue, Janos to lie with the others and when the ground thaws a bit she will be buried.”
Anya had heard the funeral director tell her papa and she had been terribly upset fearing her mother wouldn’t have liked that, but would have preferred to be interred immediately in the family plot next to the four babies she had unsuccessfully brought into the world.
Granny wept so hard, Anya’s heart nearly broke for her as it did for herself. But Papa seemed to have recovered fairly quickly from bidding farewell to his wife of ten years. He recovered so quickly in fact he had a new bride just about the time of the spring thaw.
“Have they buried Mama yet, Papa?”
The buxom stepmother shuddered, “Of course they did.” How was it that she smiled with everything but her eyes? “Of course she is buried. Now go play. Your Papa and I are busy.”
Busy making cow’s eyes at each other Anya thought.
Life went on somehow as it does, though Anya didn’t care for she was so unhappy.
And then when she least expected it Granny suddenly appeared one day. She looked haggard and drawn and so much older. She looked at Papa and the stepmother with hard eyes but smiled with love when she looked at Anya. “I have come to take you home.”
Anya didn’t know her papa had asked the old woman to take her granddaughter. Nor did Anya realize that he was ready to plead.
But that was not necessary as Granny was delighted. “Anya, should you like to live with your old nanny? I would love to have your company.”
Before Anya could answer Papa did because the stepmother poked him hard in the ribs. “Ah yes! Here is your little suitcase Anya, it is all packed for you!”
Anya was quite pleased really because she didn’t mind leaving the home that no longer contained love.
So she took her little suitcase and clasped hold of her nanny’s hand.
And when it came time to bid her father and stepmother goodbye she hardly looked at them but looked at her nanny instead. “Come Bunicuţă, I am ready to go with you!”
Her Granny smiled. “We shall take the train where we will buy ourselves cakes and hot chocolate for it is a special occasion and when we arrive in Ceahlau I shall buy a nice cooked goose for our dinner.”
Anya was overjoyed.
They rode in a wonderful steam train that snaked its way through the richly beautiful countryside. And the whole time Anya sat with her nose pressed against the window admiring everything.
And true to Granny’s word when they disembarked, Granny bought a lovely roasted goose from the meat shop. “Goose for dinner!” Granny said. “How very grand we shall be!”
She heard the song the first night, a beautiful haunting song that came from somewhere magical, where fairy tales are real and wishes made with love come true.
Granny had given Anya her own bedroom and was sleeping in the parlor.
“You will be happy in this room, for I know how you love it so. It faces the lake and you love looking at it!”
Anya did love the room with its cozy bed and the beautiful French doors that opened onto the graceful balcony.
Nanny tucked Anya in. “Sleep well and have the most wonderful dreams, dreams of love and goodness.”
Anya promised, not even saying, ‘if I can,’ but swearing she would.
Before it was time to go to sleep Granny read Anya the most wondrous fairy tale, all about songs of magic and fantasy.
Anya was nearly dozing by the time it was finished so Granny tucked her in. “Sleep well my granddaughter, sleep well and dream of love.”
Sometime during the night, between one dream and another it seemed Anya dreamt she heard the most wonderful music.
It was so beautiful, she wanted to step outside so she could trace where it was coming from. But she couldn’t though she tried for she was much too sleepy. And although she sat up, she soon sank back into the soft eiderdown only to fall deeply asleep again.
When she woke in the morning, still thinking it was all a dream she told her granny.
“Did it sound like angels in heaven, child?”
“Yes, Anya said. “It was the song of angels I heard. And I so wished to see them too. But I dreamed I was too tired and although I tried to get up, I fell asleep again! It was a dream wasn’t it? It couldn’t have been real could it have?”
“You would like it to be real, my child?”
“Yes, I would as real as love can be.”
Granny sighed. “I did read you a fairy tale probably that was the cause of it all.”
Anya thought that might be so. “Yes perhaps.” She sighed. “Do read it again for I would very much like to dream it all again.”
And so Granny did. She read the same lovely story about maidens who danced by a lake – maidens who were really water nymphs and whose sole purpose in life was to sing songs for little girls who liked to dream of magic.
Anya grew sleepy as she listened. And when the clock struck nine she had to be carried to her bed.
“Good night my child, everything will be alright. You will see my precious one. You will see more magic than you can imagine!”
Granny kissed Anya’s forehead and quietly slipped out of the room and as strange as it seemed, the singing began almost immediately.
This was no dream Anya soon realized. As a matter of fact, it seemed more distinct—for now she clearly heard the sweetly sad refrain about loss and love—about parting and unrelieved sadness and heartache. It was so sad in fact that Anya wept.
“I will see these maids. I will!” she shouted as she hurried toward the French doors.
There happened to be a pearly moon that shone brightly and lit the lake and the land enough for Anya to see three maids dancing. But not only dancing for they were singing too. And as Anya opened the door, she heard the music so clearly and spied the fiddler there who accompanied them.
How beautifully he played and how graceful they were, twirling about—singing and dancing.
Anya stepped closer to the balcony wall and as she did, she suddenly realized they were all watching her.
“I only wish to listen!”
She heard them giggle when she said that. And she giggled too but that was before she saw them begin to slowly drift upward toward her!
Up, they went like the slow rolling mist that lifted off of the lake at dawn.
Anya gasped. For as much as she liked them, she didn’t want them to come to her. They were frightening her a bit now. For the closer they came, the louder they sang and the song they sang sounded odd and scary almost and they looked different too with their arms outstretched as though they were reaching for her! But worse than that was they were calling her name: “Anya! Anya!”
How did they know her name? How had that happened?
She began to cry and to back away. “No! No go away!”
But they didn’t. They kept on coming, slowly—but steadily.
There was only one thing to do. Anya quickly closed the doors and locked them.
They were on the balcony by then, having drifted down so very gracefully, their bare feet gliding just above the smooth brick floor.
Anya was transfixed and couldn’t move for she wanted to see what they looked like. But a cloud passed over the moon then so that she could only see them in shadow.
“Anya, let us in… let us sing to you…hear our song…!”
“No please! Please!”
Suddenly the bedroom door opened and Granny appeared. She rushed to the doors. “Free the latch and you free your spirit!”
Anya watched incredulously as the doors swung open and a familiar scent of mimosa surrounded her, a sweet scent that brought back memories of her mother for her mama liked mimosa.
One of the maids was coming ever closer and when she reached Anya she smiled. And Anya could see her face, for her Granny held up a candle. “She has come for you child.”
“Come my Anya, come to me…” Her sweet voice, slightly discordant spoke the words Anya was thrilled to hear. “Let me kiss you, daughter.”
But Anya hesitated because none of them looked right. Their skins were deep gray and their eyes were yellow, but her Mama called again and wept and since Anya could not stand to see her cry she walked into her mother’s chilly embrace.
And when the icy blue lips brushed her check Anya smiled for her mother had whispered: “My child it is the only way.”
Anya snuggled closer and as she did her mother gently bit into her neck. It was only a slight sting and nothing more. But her mother did feed. And as she fed, the two other maids began to feed also.
They made quiet sounds of enjoyment while they fed, low moaning sounds in their throats. Afterward they all gave Anya their blood to drink. And it was sweet and tasted of the lake and more besides, much more—for with each swallow Anya could see another world opening up, a world of endless night and dark magic where anything was possible.
The fiddler appeared then. He glided over as gracefully as a cloud and spoke in a soft voice: “I will play the song you like Anya. It is the song of life eternal—it tells of a world where there is no death. It is my song I play for those I raise from the dead and for those who will go to them.
Anya smiled for she understood everything then as she now understood all the wisdom of all the ages.
And as Mama guided Anya into the sky she said: “You will live forever with Mama now, child, come.”
Granny was crying but Mama blew her a kiss and promised: “After I take my revenge on those two who murdered me I shall come back for you, my mother. It will not be long. Do not weep, for soon you shall hear the song again—and when you do, it will be for you!”
Granny waved as she watched them drift away—gladdened in her heart for the child’s passage was easy.
“I will wait!” she called. And although she wept, she wept tears of joy for soon she would not be alone but would be with her loved ones forever and ever.
© Copyright 2010 Carole Gill. All rights reserved.
Carole Gill has granted Knight Chills non-exclusive rights to display this work.