by Megan Auffart
A quarter of an hour after Greg had satisfied himself with me, the children returned from school. Greg greeted them with hugs and kind words, but I merely sat there on the couch and tried not to recall how terrible it had felt. How terrible it always felt. Ten thousand showers couldn't make me feel clean again. And a hundred thousand deaths would not satisfy my craving to see Greg suffer.
Margaret tried to show me a drawing she had made during her class, but I merely nodded and then ignored her. Len had learned far quicker than his sister that I didn't care in the slightest about them. The labor I had been forced to go through with having them had been enough. The children should've been grateful for that small effort on my part.
"I'm going to the tavern, Mer. I'll be back by supper."
I blinked and stared stonily ahead, but Greg just smiled and kissed the children goodbye.
Len went into his room to do his homework, but Margaret stayed in the living room, looking at me.
It was hard enough to live in his house without the constant surveillance.
"What?" I finally asked, trying not to think about how I still smelled like his cum. Like him. Like dirt and sweat and body odor.
Margaret rocked back and forth on her heels. "I'm bored."
"Can I go play in the attic? Daddy never lets me go up there."
I sneered. Of course he doesn't let them go up there. Based on Greg's occasional complaints, the attic was a dangerous mess, filled with rusted nails and precariously stacked boxes heaped with rubbish that he'd collected. Half the floor hadn't even been put in properly, so that it was easy to fall through into the ceiling of the room below if one walked up there without care.
However, although Greg had condemned me through his words to live only on the first floor of his worthless house, he had never told me specifically to keep the children away from any of the rooms in the house. These commands, he had told to them himself. I was free to make my own reply.
"Of course, daughter. Go and explore." Smash your head in. Step on a nail. Slowly bleed to death and we'll see how happy he'll be.
Margaret smiled at me, obviously pleased at how she was suddenly allowed to do something that had originally been taboo, and raced towards the back of the house. I followed her and helped her pull down the ladder that emerged from a trap door in the ceiling.
"Explore everything," I urged her as she climbed up, unable to keep a malicious grin entirely off my face. "Have no fear."
'Nothing can hurt you up there,' I wanted to add, but that would be lying. And the damn spell refused to allow me to lie, even to my own children.
Margaret finished climbing up and I sat in an overstuffed chair that was placed near to where the ladder was located. That way, when Margaret hurt herself, I would have the best vantage point to hear her scream. As I sat down, I noticed that the floor was still dirty with Greg's footprints. I'd have to mop later, hopefully after Margaret bled to death in the attic, or shattered her skull, or at least broke an arm. Greg would certainly regret ever having thought of forcing me to remain his wife. Oh, would he be sorry.
The only thing that astounded me was that I hadn't thought of this a decade ago. I had tried to hurt the children before, of course, but Greg had caught on almost immediately and had given me so many commands that even I, for twelve years, hadn't been able to find a loophole. But the attic...he had never mentioned the attic. Oh, had he not!
From overhead, I heard the sound of rustling as my daughter searched through the boxes. There was no sound of crashing, though, which disappointed me. From the way that Greg had spoken about the attic, obliviously painting colorful pictures of a deathtrap with his stunted words, I expected an almost immediate injury.
Suddenly, muted as though very far away, I heard Margaret laugh. "Oh, pretty!" she squealed and then I heard her tiny footsteps running towards the trapdoor.
"What is it?" I called out as she scurried along. "Run faster!"
Her head appeared and she smiled broadly at me. "Dress up clothes! All sorts of pretty fabrics!"
I suddenly couldn't breath and had to mentally remind myself how to inhale. Could Greg really have been so foolish...? A picture flashed in my head of my precious, silver skin, followed by images of Greg bloody and mangled by my sharp nails and teeth. I pushed away the hope, careful lest I be disappointed once again.
"Are any of them shiny?" I asked, clutching at the wall for support, "Like sparkling silver?"
"Yeah! Some of em!"
I stood up quickly from my chair and looked up at my daughter from beneath the trapdoor.
"Go and get them for me! Drop them down!"
Margaret hesitated for a second, the greedy excitement in my voice alarming her.
I forced my voice to come out smoother to soothe her apprehension, "Please, daughter? I'll give you some extra dessert tonight after supper."
"Okay!" she cried, happy at the new prospect of being bribed, and ran back to what sounded like the far side of the attic. My heart raced. Had Greg been so stupid as to hide my skin, my precious scales, inside the actual house? Anyone with half a brain would've placed it in a safe or a far-off storage house, but then again, Greg had probably thought that forbidding me from entering the attic would've been enough.
"What are you doing?"
I spun around, my heart racing fast. Len stood there, solemn and guarded, keenly intelligent for all his twelve years. With black hair and thick brows, he took after his father in facial features, but he had my eyes. Deep blue ones, that took in everything but gave back nothing unless he wanted. Len knew very well that I didn't love him, or even want him. He'd never even been compelled to ask.
He looked up at the attic, cringing when he heard Margaret running back. He turned towards me, his eyes narrowed and accusing from behind his thick glasses.
"You put her up there to hurt her."
I answered honestly. I had no choice, since keeping my silence would have confirmed the truth, anyways. "Yes."
"Why?" he spit. I could see the hate that filled him, the emotions that he'd never showed, the ones he had striven to keep hidden. He was the most like me, except for his facial features, which were far too like his father's for close comfort.
From overhead, Margaret came stumbling into view from above us. "I got them," she announced happily, a bundle of clothing in her hands.
"Throw them down!" I cried, temporarily forgetting Len, forgetting everything, as I spied something silver and glistening from within the tangled folds of the bundle.
Margaret complied and threw them down, causing Len to yell with anger and confusion as one of the old dress shirts detangled itself from the rest of the clothes and landed on him, covering his hateful face. The rest of the clothing hit the floor with rising cloud of dust. And there, lying on top as shiny and clean as it had been the day I'd left it unguarded on the beach, was my skin.
"Oh yes..." I breathed, more excited now than I'd ever been during the entire twelve years of my imprisonment. With almost trembling hands, I touched the scales with one of my fingers. The release came almost immediately.
It was like a sudden wind. I convulsively jerked forwards as I felt the magick move through me like fingers running through knotted hair and then, finally, I was my own again.
Smiling, I turned towards Len, who had gotten the tattered shirt off of his head in time to see my release. He must have realized that something had happened, because he didn't continue to shout at me, but merely stared with his thin mouth hanging open.
After a moment of enjoying his reaction, I realized that it wasn't at me, exactly, that he was looking at. Instead, he was staring at the scaled skin that I clutched in my hands. I followed his gaze and was startled to see that it was glowing, like the creatures that swim in the crevices at the bottom of the ocean, too deep down for the sunlight to reach. A light golden aura surrounded it and I hugged it close to myself, like I'd never hugged my children.
It was the first time that I'd ever seen my scales glow. It was not unknown amongst my kind for that to happen, so I wasn't seriously alarmed. The occasional sea nymph emitted light when down in the blacker depths of the ocean, but it was a rare trait and one that was often envied as a sign of beauty.
"It changed, in all that time it was separated from me," I realized and said so aloud, unaware of what I was doing.
"What?" Len demanded. I heard the sound of steps as Margaret laboriously climbed down the ladder, probably curious to see what all the arguing had been about. As I glanced at her, I recalled that Greg would be home soon, that he rarely had more than one or two drinks at the tavern before he returned. And I'd have a surprise for him.
"Come on, children. We're going for a walk down to the beach."
Margaret grinned widely. The idiot child had inherited too much of her father's dimness for her to recognize the threat in my voice, but Len had taken after me in intelligence. He stepped back and shook his head.
"No. We're not going anywhere."
Power. Oh, the power to do as I pleased! How I had missed it! Smiling at Len, I reached over and grasped Margaret by her chubby upper arm, making sure to dig in my nails.
Predictably, she gasped and started crying, but I ignored her in favor of watching my son.
"Come with me, Len," I grinned, pleased to discover that already my teeth were sharpening themselves, "Come with me or your sister will go with me alone. And then no one would be there to protect her."
I shook her roughly and she screamed loudly, too loudly, so that my head felt like it would burst. My ears were changing as well, it seemed. She stopped when I slapped her and Len took a step forward, protectively.
I put my hand over her head, two of my fingers resting gently over her eyelids.
"Now's time to go for a nice walk along the beach, isn't that right, Len?"
He hugged himself and stared hollowly at Margaret as she stood there and cried. Finally, just when I thought I was going to have to put out her eyes to convince him that I was serious, he nodded.
"Okay. I'll go. Just don't hurt her." His voice sounded like a choking seal. I smiled and relaxed my grip.
I gestured over to the door with the hand that was holding the skin. Len nodded and walked outside, Margaret and myself behind him, as I glanced at the clock and smiled.
Greg would have such a surprise.