Conall Mackay woke with a start. Outside,
the wind gave a haunting, low moan. He could hear the rustle and creak of trees
in the graveyard outside.
He'd dozed off in his chair by the small
cottage hearth, and the fire had long died down to sulky, smoldering coals. His
daughter Shyla, bleary-eyed and wild-looking with her short blonde hair
sticking up at all angles, shook him by the shoulder, mumbling sleepily.
"There's a strange woman, Dad.
In the dim light, Shyla's pale cheeks
and her white cotton nightgown glowed, turning her into a little candle-flame
girl in the dark.
He rubbed his hand over his stubbled jaw,
then reached out to comb his fingers through her messy tresses, trying to tame
them down. "What do you mean, lass?"
"I told you." She paused to yawn, then said, "A woman."
Her big, bright eyes—one blue, one
green—were heavy-lidded. Her voice muzzy with sleep. Conall studied her, then
patted her shoulder.
"You're dreaming, Shyla. There's no
"Yes, there is," she insisted quite matter-of-factly. "She's in the
cemetery, by Maya."
Maya. The angel statue Conall had carved
from stone, which stood in the center of the graveyard.
"Shy, you can't even see Maya from
"I did," the young girl answered. Her eyelids drooped and she
swayed a little on her feet. Conall stood, scooping her up to carry her back to
As he tucked her back into bed, she
settled into soft, faint snoring. Absentminded, he tried to straighten her
hair, then picked up a small stuffed dog from her old, mostly-forgotten toy
box, tucking it in beside her.
Almost thirteen years old, Shyla had
recently sprung up into a lean, gawkish tomboy. Like this, though—curled in her
bed, face soft and thoughtful with whatever dreams she'd slipped into—she
appeared so much younger. His little girl.
"Sleep well," he mumbled. Then
he retreated, mindful not to trip over any piles of books or the small desk chair
she'd dragged out to the center of the room.
Back in the hall, he stood at her
doorframe, watching her. Then his gaze drifted past her to the window, which
faced the cemetery.
The night outside crept close in dense
fog. Gray veils drifted, slow and ponderous, beyond the glass. Even if Shyla had a view of Maya, she couldn't
possibly have seen anything out there tonight.
drifting grays...dancing whorls, like silk ribbons on the wind.
He told himself. Fog, is all. Nothing
else out there.