“So, giants aren’t real?” Meredith asked with a drawl, scratching her red pen on the paper to make a scramble of dots that were supposed to be flowers.
“Mhmh.” Tomas nodded, checking the water level on his tealeaves.
They’d been sitting here for couple of hours now and they were still chatting on the weirdest topics imaginable. From being vegetarian giants that reminded Meredith a brontosaurus to how many petals a bloom would have, which lead to a quick scavenging hunt in the flowerbeds for different blossoms for illustrative materials. Which was then followed by another cup of tea. The night had drawled way darker by now and Reed was beginning to suspect the little monkey was way over her bed time. Which didn’t seem to bother Valerie at all. Nor did anyone come searching for their lost kid.
Suddenly the pale phone on the wall went off. She reached out from where she was standing next to her stove, warming herself, and picked it up. They still had the windows open and the coolness of the night was pleasant enough for the rest of them.
“Yes?” she asked into the phone and listened for a minute. “Yes, she’s here.” Another short minute of waiting and she agreed that Meredith would stay over. She put the receiver back. “You’re dad is stuck on mainland for the night.” She explained to Meredith, who hummed something back and continued her letter.
“Does it happen often?” Reed asked quietly, not wanting to disturb the kid.
She shrugged with her right shoulder and kept circling her tea. “Sometimes the boats don’t go out if the sea is too wild.”
“It happens.” She said, cutting him off with a look that the topic was closed.
Reed nodded. He was fine with that, but in his head he tried to think of a reason why a father would leave his daughter in hands of strangers without worry. Or maybe that’s because the two of them were more than neighbors? Were they related or was she her mistress?
Valerie took a deep breath, pulling him out of his thoughts.
“So if giants are real, the ghost on the ship is neither?” Meredith asked.
“What ghost?” From the corner of his eye, he saw Valerie cringe.
“A sailor! It comes out if you disturb its peace!”
“On the shipwreck near Oren’s boathouse!”
“Oh?” Reed picked up, glancing at his brother, who was still confused by the change in conversation.
“Yes! Val said he lives in the captain’s cabin!”
Reed’s fingers scraped on the table. He couldn’t believe Tomas was so slow!
“The big green one on the side!”
“How many wrecks do you have here?”
“Five – four are in the deep and one is on the coast.” Her voice was warningly low.
“And the one on the coast has the ghost?” Tomas asked, intrigued.
While Tomas was fishing for information from Meredith, Reed turned his attention to the woman, who now looked uncomfortable. She had stopped swirling her tea and was now tensely watching his brother and the kid. She tried to look calm, but her brows furrowed still and her full lips formed a thin line. In the warm lamp light she didn’t appear as young as they’d first thought. True, she was younger than them, but it was the way she held herself, the pride she carried in her straight back that spoke of experiences that made people old. She even had light wrinkles on her face, but those were from laughing, not frowning.
You don’t like that Jasper guy telling her stories, but you do the same thing, Reed asked himself in his thoughts. He brushed his smirk off before Val turned around to get the cups.
“… it isn’t far, only couple hundred meters and you can practically walk there!” Meredith went on like squirrel on a coffee.
“How deep is there?”
“Too deep for girls of your age to walk there. I said it is possible, but not that is do-able – the water is up to my chest in some parts!” Valerie tried to fight off what Reed saw coming as inevitable challenge.
“But Martin and Claude did it!”
All eyes turned on Valerie and Reed couldn’t stop himself from smiling. Try fighting with that proof!
“They went by a boat and without their parent’s permission. Besides, they’re in high school, you haven’t even gone to school!”
“So the water is too deep for you, but it would be only up to waist to us?” Tomas asked, curious and that was that.
“Wanna go there?” Reed asked Meredith.
The clank in the sink said this was clearly the wrong thing to say. That made it just perfect.
The little girl perked up and after a quick glance in her guardian’s way, she screamed her approval.
“A simple yes would be sufficient.” Valerie murmured quietly.
“I still want to go there.” Reed refused to give in. “You said it wasn’t far and it was in low water, so we can walk there in low tide. She’ll be perfectly fine if Tomas takes her on his shoulders.”
Tomas nodded. Reed was thankful he didn’t slam it to his face that he didn’t really deal well with kids, but it sounded fun enough to take up.
“I think it’s time you two went home!” Valerie shook the head of the chair under him enough to get him up. Reed rose slowly, keeping the eye contact and Valerie pushed the chair back under the table right after he stepped out of her way. Then she glanced at Meredith showing her picture to Tomas. “I only told her about the ghost to keep her away from that wreck and now you offer to take her out there?”
“You prefer she did it on her own?” Reed asked quietly.
“If you think I’ll let her go alone with two strangers, you are wrong – she’s going nowhere!”
“You’re coming too.” Reed said resolutely. As if that was even a question!
She blinked, taken back. “W-when did I agree with coming along?”
“Of course you’re coming – you probably know where the rocks are, right?”
“Hand in hand, together we stand.” Tomas hummed, rising next to his brother.
Her eyes flickered from one face to another.
“You’ll be our guide.”
“With or without you. We’re going. And if she’s there at the same time, we can’t leave her unattended, now can we?” Tomas asked, his voice so sultry it made his brother’s skin crawl. But it worked. Valerie’s eyes glared back daggers, her shoulders slumped, but she nodded, giving in.