She was only 12 years old when she contemplated ending her life, a rather morbid and obscene subject to fester in the mind of a child. Where there should flit the wistful thoughts of frolic, fancy, fantasy and maybe (just maybe) her first real kiss, there instead sifted a web of helplessness. Yet this was around the same time she met the Kelpie, the creature in the water, and things became different that summer.
Like most girls her age, Jeweliana held a fascination with horses. An urban upbringing with her mother prevented ownership of such a majestic beast but it was a fantasy that she held fast. She knew it was the freedom romantically afforded by a beast of speed and beauty, concepts known to her only in the pages of books and reels of film.
Jeweliana Lazzaro, so named as her mother produced the child and beheld a precious treasure. As treasure is want to sparkle, so too did the newborn with eyes of sapphire and hair of ruby…just like her Mother. She was even born in the dew dappled morning of May, the month traditionally associated with the emerald. Such a gem, impure yet perfect all the same, graced the chain around her neck. Jeweliana often clutched the treasure when she heard the raucous hollering in the room beyond her own threshold. She clutched it tighter when the sound of fist upon flesh resounded through the house. There, surrounded by pale blue bedsheets, Pokemon dolls, American Girls and printed posters of the latest bad boy heartthrob, she clutched the gem. Had it been coal, the girl would have produced an even more precious diamond. And through tear glistened prisms, the girl’s sapphires eyes wept for the woman who loved her dear.
She was indeed a treasure but all metal, no matter how precious, is subject to tarnish. One night, the shouting grew louder, the sour scent of bourbon fueled adrenaline wafted into her room. The striking grew loud, just one blow and an angry, masculine shout. A wet thump, a cry of shock. And then, silence. Silence but the soft sobs of the child. Her two comforts were the emerald and a tiny toy horse named Harold and they watched over her. She knew they were the ones that repelled the man when he entered her room. She held them tight as he staggered in and she pulled her sheets close. She could feel him, smell him, all sour stench of booze and sweat. Biologically, she would call him father but to Jeweliana, he was simply a man. A hairy husk of hatred, with a penchant for cracking knuckles and popping weary joints. He hovered there that night, before he swept out of her room taking with him an air of drunkenness and shattered innocence.
She heard him leave. She jumped out of bed, clutching her two best friends tight. She wandered dazily into the living room, avoiding her prone mother and stepping around her already congealing essence. It blended perfectly with her Mother’s hair and Jeweliana knew that she would look exactly the same if she met a violent end. Her phone was still there, charging in the wall outlet. The girl, the gem, dialed three numbers, spoke through tears to the dispatch on the other end and then sat down to wait.
That was then.
They caught the man rather swiftly. He hadn’t gone far. They found him wrapped up in a jacket on a park bench. Staring ahead, silent and still and lost to the world. The trial was equally swift, open and shut. She testified against him, told the nice people in the jury what she had heard and seen.
She never saw him again. Jeweliana was sent to live with Uncle Auburn, a kind and portly man who flushed with anger at any mention of his younger sister’s fate but never at anything else. He lived in a rather opulent log built home on the edge of a large lake. The lake was oblong, crystal clear, punctuated at its shore by other homes of equal opulence. She settled in and grew to love the man she had only seen at birthday parties and holidays. She became fast friends with Cousin Shelley, a girl in her mid teens. Jeweliana often helped Shelley who had humorously taken her childhood moniker to heart. “Shelley sells Seashells “, home crafts and jewelry. Look for it on Etsy.com.
Yet the girl with hair of ruby and eyes of sapphire felt something that she didn’t want to feel.
She felt the hollowness of the alone, a husk of a smiling girl confined around emptiness. She had learned in Sunday school that the spirits of the passed would ascend to heaven or drop to hell. And those good of heart (as Mother surely was) would watch down upon them from puffy clouds of comfort. Alas, no serephic figure adorned in gold light came to visit and Jewliana knew the hollow shell longed to be ejected.
So, one calm summer night, as Auburn and Shelley (sells seashells) slept peacefully, the girl padded down to the edge of the lake. The air was cold despite the reasonably warm day and the water sparkled brightly under a cloudless, moonlit night. Jeweliana gazed at the sapphire water, the emerald grass, the onyx sky. She gazed heavenward one moment longer waiting for the golden warmth. The warmth never came and so the young girl surrendered herself to the cold.
She had only submerged herself in the lake for thirty seconds before the pressure and the burning began. Her emerald floated haphazardly about her neck as she fought through the agony. But the end refused to come, stubbornly. Jeweliana Lazzaro suddenly felt a weight beneath, the steel glint of scales. She felt the cold rush of the night air as she was propelled forcefully back onto the grassy shore. She gasped, reached about wildly for any sense of reality. And then she settled back , breathing heavily in frustration.
She sat up and gazed at the lake, no longer still and glassy. She knew she had completed her task for there was no creature on this plane of existence that resembled the one gazing back at her. The creature bobbed easily under the moon and stars, 8 feet of shining scales. Its equine head drifted forward, resting softly upon the grass. It snorted gently beneath a flowing red mane and wistful blue eyes. Long, luxurious lashes that blinked away cold water and the stirring of a pescatarian tail and fins just below surface.
At once the girl knew. She scrabbled at the ground, slapped her own face. This was fantasy and yet unbridled reality. She crawled forward, shivering in her soaked nightgown. She reached out to caress the mighty snout of the strange creature. No fear, no trepidation. The creature lowed softly, gently and allowed the caress. She began to cry freely then and pulled the head of the beast closer into a hug.
She shivered once more in the cold and then no longer. In the crystalline water in which the creature floated bloomed liquid warmth. Gentle, gold and precious. Confined to the water yet Jeweliana felt it deeper than she had felt anything before.
The creature nuzzled her neck. A dainty pink tongue slipped between thick green fish-horse lips and stabbed lightly at the green gem around her neck.
The girl cried out once more and hugged the creature even tighter, there on the lakeshore. She called out one word, erupting from her lips with rapturous, renewed faith. And then, as the creature called out once more, the golden warmth enveloped them both before fading to a gentle, unfeeling black.
Jewliana ‘s next conscious thought came from a hospital bed. Uncle Auburn would tell her of how he found her unconscious on the lake shore, surmising she had slept walked to near death. He and cousin Shelley held her hands in gentle relief. Beside her on a small table were a bouquet of flowers (red like her hair, Like the flowing mane of the water-horse), Harold, her necklace and a beautiful picture made of crushed seashells. Jeweliana recognized the being depicted.
She asked what it was.
Shelley told her it was a mythological creature called a Kelpie. She said had chosen the creature because she knew her little cousin liked horses.
Jeweliana said it was beautiful and the thought was sincere.
She allowed herself to drift off surrounded by the white, puffy bed linens. Her family surrounded her, guardian angels in many forms.
She slept peacefully and dreamed of majestic creatures of golden warmth, plumbing the black that surrounded then. She allowed herself to be filled by the light, pushing away the dark.
After returning home to the lake house, she would return every night to the shore, seeking her equine guardian. It never did return but Jeweliana Lazzaro felt that was perfecfly fine.
She knew it was out there, somewhere, watching her and smiling if such a beast could grin. It would surface ever so gently and gaze silently upon its begotten treasure.
A restored precious gem, tarnish and blemish wiped away. Hair of ruby, eyes of sapphire and soul of golden warmth.