Today concludes this year’s NaNoWriMo and I want to thank everyone who read the stuff, and supported me throughout. Two shout-outs in particular: Thank you Sarah/Calypte for your unwavering enthusiasm and endless retweets – I owe you. And thank you Giliam for your daily grins and comments at the dinner table – I love you. Now, on to the very final last bit of the story…
“Who in their right mind has a party on the beach in winter?” Julia shivers even though she has a blanket wrapped around her shoulders.
Betty cocks her head to the window, behind which a flurry of spectacularly colourful people are parading and dancing and having what seems to be the time of their lives. “They do. And right they are too!” She lifts her face to the terrace heater that is right over them. “With a bit of imagination it can be just like high summer. Except without the wannabe hipsters and homophobes, of course.”
“Do they come here often?” asks Marina. She seems fascinated with the drag crowd, and has been asking questions about them since the moment they arrived.
“They only party here in winter,” Betty shrugs. She reaches over and pats Julia’s knee. “I am so glad you could come, darling! My new favourite neighbour!”
Julia beams. “Hardly your neighbour, a few streets down, but it is nice to drop by your shop from time to time.”
“Well thank you for doing so. I love our little chats. And one day I will even get you to change your wardrobe, I am sure. One thing at a time!” Betty laughs.
Julia rolls her eyes but smiles. “You started with this lovely necklace,” she says and fingers the thing around her neck. It flickers brightly in the disco lights from inside. A bird can just be made out on the medallion.
Berry smiles fondly. “I got it from my friend Benny. He has an eye for these things. Apparently it’s nineteenth century, although I don’t know much about it myself. It is the least I could do after all you did for our Lena!”
“Yes, I will drink to that!” Marina says, “if only we had something to drink!” She looks over her shoulder.
“On our way! On our way!” Helena and Rick come out of the steaming and thumping beach club and made their way to the little group sitting under the heater on the terrace. Helena is holding three glasses between her fingers. She is followed by Rick who is holding two more. He looks very excited.
“Do you know there is a woman in there called She-Ra?” he gushes while handing a glass of wine to Marina who accepts it gratefully. “Think she’ll talk to me?” he asks with a frown.
Helena stares. “Rick, honey, I don’t think…”
But Betty interrupts her. “Yes Rick, I think she would love to talk with you. Go and say hello!”
Rick hesitates but only for a moment, then darts quickly inside again.
Helena sighs. “Betty, you do know that Rick is not…”
“Don’t worry darling, She-Ra will talk with anyone! They will enjoy it, I am sure.” She raises her glass to the disco inferno. The bright green of her cocktail clashes mightily with the powder pink dress she is wearing.
“By the power of Greyskull,” Helena mutters, and sips her Bailey’s. It is good to settle down here with her friends, old and new, and she can feel her stiff muscles relaxing. “So tell me about the house, Julia. What is happening?”
“He had to sell it,” Julia shrugs with her hands wrapped around a steaming mug of tea, “He has a load of debts of course, keeping up his lavish lifestyle with two houses and everything but no income except my meagre rent, and Fred’s pay.”
“Forest rangers are not big earners,” Helena shakes her head.
“And here is us thinking that Fred’s man was bringing in the big cash!” Marina says.
“Indeed. No big cash comes from ordering tailor-made suits and Italian shoes. As his buffers dwindled, he started taking an interest in his family history, trying to figure out why he could not keep up financially as they had once done.”
“Working without a demon to back you up must be a bitch,” says Betty.
“Yes it is,” Helena agrees, “we do it every day. Yet we never really consider going all occult on each other’s asses to get ahead.”
“Speak for yourself” Betty mutters with a grin.
“Poor Fred though,” Marina sighs, “caught in his husband’s plotting and scheming.”
“And scaring poor old me half to death, thank you very much!” Helena said, “I think he should get what is coming to him, but I agree that it all turned out pretty grim for him.”
“In a way, he got caught in the mill, just like Stephan’s grandmother and her scarf” Julia says.
“And much like with her, the scarf was not caught in the mill by accident but by design. Things may often seem self-inflicted when in fact they are not. And therefore I agree: Poor Fred.”
They raise their glasses. “To Fred!”
“May he push his husband as deeply under the bus as possible,” Betty adds.
“Well anyway, the house had to be sold and it seems that your director-“ she tips her mug to Helena and Marina “-had a word with the director of some other foundation or other. Apparently she was pretty pissed with Mister Not Such a Big Donor After All. Long story short, the Crow House will probably be turned into an office for a national trust for historical buildings. I have yet to hear the particulars.”
“Not a residence then!” Helena calls out, “But what about you?”
“Oh don’t worry about me,” Julia winks, “I know my rights as a tenant, I do. And I have the legal power to exercise them. I will live there until my dying day, I am sure. But I will be ever vigilant, you can be sure of that!”
They fall silent. The everlasting roar of the sea can just be heard over the nineties’ latest hits blasting inside. Despite the party going on it feels peaceful and calm. They watch the lights of the windmills out at sea, and the ships moving over the horizon.
“Where did you say Dasha was going?”
“Do you think one of those lights is her ship?”
“No, she left yesterday. She must be on the Atlantic by now, don’t you think?”
The ocean is calm under the stars. Danny loves it when it is like this, with the moonlight playing on the water like fairy lights. It reminds him of the twinkling lights on the canals of Amsterdam when the clubs go out and the crowd is saying their goodbyes. He has always been a sucker for goodbyes – the drama of them, the nostalgia for things that happened only thirty minutes ago, and the yearning for the next time when they would all be together again. It could be a day later, or a week, or – as it is now – six months. Next time he will be in Amsterdam it will be summer. He must pick up a new dress in Sao Paolo!
The radio crackles. “Danny. Confirm status. Over.”
Dasha-née-Danny sighs. Can’t have a moment to yourself even on a cargo ship in the middle of the Atlantic ocean! He unclips the radio from his belt, wraps the wrist tie on, and presses reply. “Yep! Over.”
“Where are you? Over.”
“On deck. Where else would I be? Over.”
“Over board? Don’t get pissy about it, just checking. Over.”
“Wanna come in and play cards? We need an extra player. And your money. Over.”
“Hang on, there is something I need to do. Over.”
He clips the radio back on his belt, then fishes around in his pocket and pulls out a ball of wool. As he unfurls it in the moonlight, a greenish golden sheen blinks in the night. The chain dangles from his hand for a moment as he examines the pendant in his hand. A crow is etched in its surface, but it is rather crudely done. The thing seems to be vibrating slightly, but that could also just be the ship. Not a very pretty trinket, overall, although it seems a lot of trouble to get rid of it just for being ugly. Danny shrugs. Oh well, who is he to judge?
Picking up the Craay necklace, portal of demons and bringer of both fortune and misery, he swings it round and round a few times and then, expertly timing his movements, lets it fly over the railing. He doesn’t even see the splash as it lands in the ship’s slipstream.
He unclips the radio again. “I am coming down, pour me a beer. Over.”