All at once, Eva sat bolt upright.
Shivers ran up and down her spine—for she suddenly felt as if she had been here before. She was in deja vu dread.
A tingling in her nose and watering in her eyes suggested to her that there was something much deeper going on here. There was something secret here.
Shuddering she remembered this couch—and this hearth blazing in this corner. She remembered these walls.
She recalled once in dreams looking through this very picture window―not out from within—but rather in from the outside. She was more than she knew.
“Eva …? Eva …? Are you okay?”
Her breathing became troubled as she gazed long out into the grim distance of the woods. The trunks swayed for her.
It felt more familiar to her than her fresh introduction to it should have allowed. It felt like a dark lost home.
Seven patted her knee reassuringly.
He sensed something was up, but guessed wrongly that she was merely unsettled from being out of her element—out here in the woods, so far from Old York. He knew not how clued in was she.
Outside, the wind shrieked like a hundred banshees, forcing open a small window that had not yet been properly shuttered for the winter—blowing up the drapes. The world outside wound wicked.
The covers whipped and lashed about as if alive—revealing the full moon through snapping red tatters. It was wild.
In the distance, from the haunting fathoms of the trees—a dark, feral choir of coyotes hollowly howled—wood wailing on.
The floor vibrated beneath their feet.
“Do you feel that?” Eva whispered.
The air was charged with energy.
Marietta went over to close the windows. She struggled and forced them.
“These darned things always blowing open …” She carefully locked them up.
“It’s just traffic up on the highway,” Godwin explained from the bar, trying to comfort Eva. “We don’t even notice it anymore. It’s just white noise now …
“You move to the woods to get out the city―and then they go and run a highway right through it … Go figure …”
“Well, I bet it is still nice to live out here,” Eva speculated, amidst lingering jitters. “I mean … I bet it’s so peaceful, living on your own in such nice nature.”
A sharp, tense quiet hit the room.
“We don’t get out that much anyway,” Marietta said dryly. She sat down now, folding her hands in her lap. “So … So … It’s nice to finally meet Seven’s new friend. Aren’t you sweet.”
Eva blushed. “It’s nice to meet you both too,” she said, trying to act casual―but feeling awfully awkward under the sudden scrutiny. She squirmed now.
She was never good under the spotlight—let alone in an interview with family. But she guessed it was her idea.
“Seven says you met at school—but he never told me what program you were in … I sincerely hope you are not in Visual Arts as well … What a dreadful bit!”
Seven rolled his eyes at the old hat.
“Oh, God no … I mean, no, not me.”
Godwin frowned—looking up from where he was working on a miniature ship. He poured himself another glass.
“Please,” Marietta said, touching Eva’s knee. “No religion under our roof … We are atheists here, from the root up.”
“Oh! I’m so sorry … Atheists …”
“Marietta,” Seven said. “Eva is irreligious … You do not need to worry.”
“Excuse me, but I’m very spiritual.”
“She’s spiritual, but she uses ‘God’ like an exclamation point, not in worship.”
Marietta’s mouth fell slightly agape—which she then tried to hide by taking a sip from her tea. She was so aghast.
“I believe God is within us all—not somewhere up in heaven,” Eva offered—trying to exit the subject, to no avail.
Marietta spat her tea all over her own dress. She could not help herself.
“Please don’t be rude,” Seven said.
On a handful of times in his life, he himself had taken a back pew at Church—usually in the early afternoon, when the light was still falling through the stained glass by splayed rainbow fingers. But it was obviously not something that his family had ever really encouraged.
Quite to the contrary—it was his human side, that they could not understand, that ever drove him there.
“We will watch our tongues,” Eva said. “Anyway—you were asking about school―and, well … The truth is that I actually dropped out―just this last fall …”
“Oh! I am sooo sorry, dear …”
“Please Marietta―I think she made the right choice,” Seven said defensively.
“It was my decision entirely,” Eva explained. “I decided I was never going to get into the field anyway―so why pay for the program? Why carry on anyway?”
Marietta frowned. “What subject?”
“Psychology … All very cerebral.”
“Oh! Well―why didn’t you say so in the first place? Good on you for getting out of that quackery. What utter batshit.”
“Yes―I could never spend my life dealing with other people’s problems. It would have driven me nuts. I think so.”
Everyone in the room laughed and nodded in unison, in complete agreement with Eva’s assessment of all psychology.
“Besides, I figured I could still learn what I wanted to know about it at the library―and that would free me up to pursue what I really wanted, which was to write. All I’ve ever wanted was to write.”
Marietta stifled a giggle with her hand. “Oh dear,” she said, holding her nose―as if she would sneeze out so hard.
“Marietta!” Godwin barked. “Leave the girl alone! If she wants to be a writer, let her be a writer … She’ll be hard-bound to be something that she’s not!”
“Thank you Godwin,” Seven said.
“Well, how about some tea everybody?” Marietta asked—not flinching a bit at the backlash to her nosiness. “I was just about to put on another pot.”
“I would love some,” Eva said―even while Seven was shaking his head, thinking that they were already dragging the evening out longer than they really wanted. They still had to make it through tomorrow at least—and there was plenty of time for Eva to be inspected all ways.
But it was too late to retract now.
Marietta was already heading off to the kitchen―and they were stuck there for another while at least. Seven bucked in.
He took to rubbing his temples in teeming dismay. It was going to unwind.
He could feel it in his bones. He could feel the tremors coming in waves.
“I have some new Herbal Dragon Leaf,” Marietta called out from the kitchen. “Everybody would like to try some yes?”
“Sounds good to me!” Eva called back. She was ever one to smooth out.
“So … Did you go by Victory Park at all on your way in through town?” Godwin inquired. He came out from behind bar.
“Yes! It was so beautiful!” Eva said—eager for some easier conversation to grease the gab. She sat more upright.
“Marietta and I used to make it once a year … It was always so pretty to see. I’ll never forget those nights,” he said, flashing his fangs from the shadows.
Eva nodded. “Seven and I met there … We will never, ever forget it.”
“That is sweet, child. Nice memento. I hope you really remember.”
Seven could hardly handle the small talk any longer—so he broke the flow by retiring himself to the bar. Godwin let him pour himself a shot of something dark.
(Special Author’s Note: If you are enjoying The Silverskin, you can buy the full 400 page Revised & Expanded 10th Anniversary edition paperback here. Forever Yours In French’s Forest, Sincerely, Rian Torr)