Adam sat quiet and interested, listening to the tragic story of Mathilde and Eric.
“They had four little children and no money, so Eric worked very hard as a fisherman, sometimes for weeks on end. The family lived in dilapidated shack at the top of a cliff overlooking the bay. It was freezing in winter and unbearably hot in summer, but Mathilde refused to move to another house on lower ground.”
“Four kids, no money, ramshackle house. The woman must have been a glutton for punishment,” teased Adam, ticking off her troubles on his fingers.
“She loved that house because she could see Eric’s boat in the bay while he was out fishing. And because she was clever, he could see her too.It started with a lantern that she hung from the porch. It was a little flicker of light that he could see all night long from his boat. Mathilde told him that every time she thought of him while he was at sea, she’d attach a crystal bead to the lantern, making the light flicker just a little bit brighter. It was her way of sending him love. It was a long distance billet-doux.”
“I like that story,” Adam murmured.
“That’s not the end,” I said, shaking my head. “After a long fishing trip one winter, Eric never made it home.”
“Let me guess,” said a sarcastic voice from somewhere behind me. “The boat sank in rough seas and she never saw him again.”
I didn’t need to turn around to know it was Ryan. I straightened. Ryan dropped a stack of papers and joined us.
“I guess you’ll never know,” I told him.
“Pay no attention to him, Charli,” urged Adam. “Finish your tale.”
“There’s no need to finish it on my account,” said Ryan, checking the time on his watch.
“Trust me. You’re going to want to hear the end of the story,” insisted Adam. “If you don’t, it’s going to torture you for the rest of the day.”
Ryan squinted at me. “That probably would be one of your magical powers – stealing lucid thoughts.”
“Amongst others,” I said, pulling a face at him.
“Continue,” Ryan demanded.
I looked at Adam as I spoke, ignoring the evil brother as best I could. “Poor Mathilde was heartbroken.”
“Maybe he just wasn’t that into her and he took off with a mermaid or something,” suggested Ryan.
“Shut up,” scolded Adam.
I could feel my temper giving way but I continued. “Convinced he was still seeing the light from far out at sea, Mathilde continued attaching crystals every night. Eventually her children all grew up and left home, leaving Mathilde alone with her grief.”
“Did they ever go back and visit?” Ryan’s curious question floored me. I looked across at him, grinning as if I’d just accomplished something huge. His sheepish expression led me to think maybe I had.
“Not for years and years – long after Mathilde had died. The old shack was worse than ever, barely standing. But still hanging from the porch was the lantern with thousands of crystal beads hanging from it – every one of them representing a moment when she’d professed her love for Eric. It was a crystal billet-doux.”