So, you’ll have heard plenty of stories from the island now. It’s a shame my mother isn’t still with us, she had a fund of stories. To hear her talk, the island was a dangerous place in past times, what with fairies in the hills and sea-folk down by the shore.
This is a story she swore was true. When she was a young girl, 16 or so, her best friend was Jeannie. Jeannie was the prettiest girl on the island, and maybe would have been the prettiest girl on the mainland, too, if she’d ever gone there. The two girls would often walk down by the shore, and out to the little headland where the sea-pinks grow. They would sit and talk, like girls do, about the man they’d marry and the lives they’d lead.
Only didn’t one of the sea-folk fall in love with Jeannie, for her yellow hair and her blue eyes? He’d stick his head out of the water and call to her:
“Come and be my bride, Jeannie, I’m dying for love of you!”
“Come and be my bride, and be queen of the sea folk!”
“I will drape you in pearls and crown you with white lilies, and you’ll never have to work again!”
And Jeannie would tell him to be off, her mother was waiting for her back home.
Still he called, and still she went to be called to, until he told her one day he had a magic pearl she could pop under her tongue, so she could breathe under the water.
Well, Jeannie waded out to him. My mother swears she watched her, and saw the Sea King pop something small and shiny into her mouth before they disappeared. My mother ran back to the house, shouting and wailing, but there was nothing to be done.
Of course, nobody knows what happened next, but not a soul saw Jeannie for seven days. And then her poor body washed up on the strand, all crowned in white lilies, and draped in pearls. He’d told the truth about that. But my mother said everyone that saw her whispered she could only have drowned that day, and not before, so where she’d been and what had happened, I couldn’t say.
They buried her in her crown of lilies. I don’t know what happened to the pearls. If you go to the graveyard, out by Steadman’s place, you’ll see the grave. White lilies flower there every year.
This is a short (not quite micro) story for Jane Dougherty, who offers this beautiful prompt, a painting by John Bauer. The italics in the story are the adjustment I made at Jane’s suggestion. She’s always worth listening to…