Here is the second story for the Dissonance giveaway! (If you just found out about this and want to know details about how to win, click here!) Reads for the first story and responses to that question still count, you can find it here!
Thanks for joining me, and I hope you enjoy! Again, here is the lovely graphic explaining simply how to win!
David West had given his old denim jacket good use. He never explained his attachment to the thing, but now it was battered and threadbare. The material was too soft and it smelled of the ocean, testament to the times Peter spent with his father out on the boats.
Peter hounded his dad to get a new jacket countless times, especially when the buttons began to come off. Now he was the one wearing it.
He picked at the last remaining button he’d secured to the cuff with extra thread. Memory of that hounding filled him with regret. Not long ago this jacket was a cause of embarrassment, but after David’s death, Peter picked up many habits he had once despised.
He still didn’t understand Dad’s attachment to the jacket, but it didn’t matter. Peter sometimes thought he would die wearing it; sometimes he fell asleep wearing it, though his father’s scent was long gone. It kept him warm where his father’s embrace once did, this ratty jacket he’d once despised.
Just like Dad, he refused to part with it, even when Enna offered to buy him a new one.
Road trips made it too easy to get caught up in sad memories. They were headed to the plantation, and had been on the road for several hours. Last time they visited, Peter hadn’t left the car. It had been too soon after the accident; he couldn’t marvel at Julian’s magical world without Dad in it.
A year had passed and Peter wasn’t sure he believed the things Julian told him. More than that, he wasn’t sure if he disbelieved on purpose for the sheer delight of exasperating the Muse—like last week, when he finally lost his patience.
“We were friends before,” Julian cried last week, “and you believed me! Why would I lie to you now?”
Peter hadn’t responded. In the past he’d accepted Julian’s tales because David never questioned them.
Dad’s not coming back, said the voice in Peter’s head he hated. It’s time to make your own judgments.
He tuned it out, letting the monotonous crunch of tires on pavement numb his mind into silence.
Before long they’d turned up a driveway, heading for a sprawling plantation with creamy yellow walls. The air around it appeared to shimmer with power Julian said was present—proof the Muse was not lying, proof Peter refused to accept.
But Dad’s not coming back.
“Are you awake back there?” Enna asked over her shoulder.
He could not be mad at her. Julian was easy to snap at, but his wife only tried to be a friend. “Yeah,” Peter replied.
She peered at him with a faint smile. “You’re quiet.”
Peter shrugged and nodded to the book next to him. It told of explorers who conquered the ocean; it spoke of ships and brave captains who sailed them. One of Dad’s books—his name was written on the front page, David James West.
A sad glint darkened Enna’s smile when she turned away. She didn’t drag on the conversation, giving him space like she promised on the morning after the accident. Peter liked her, but wasn’t sure about her husband. The Muse had once been his best friend; now there was a chasm between them, and it was probably of Peter’s making.
Julian broke the silence, asking a tentative question: “Do you want to go in? I imagine there’ll be lunch.”
Peter imagined what his dad would say—We’re going inside, boy, you haven’t eaten all day. It’s rude to hide in the car. Julian never did that, keeping his distance as if scared of Peter, who would fight if the Muse told him what to do.
This time Julian hadn’t ordered him in, asking if he wanted to. Peter did feel rather hungry, so he replied: “Yes, I do.”
The Muse raised both eyebrows in surprise at the sound of Peter’s voice. He exchanged a glance with his wife. Peter bit the inside his cheek; they made him feel like a badly behaved puppy who’d finally learned a trick.
“You’ll like it in there,” Enna promised. “The architecture is beautiful. They have a lot of sailing relics, too,” she added as an afterthought, triggering in him a rare spark of interest.
Peter hadn’t gone sailing since the accident. He tried filling the void with books about sailors, but words on a page did no justice to the freedom he felt at sea. Seeing maritime objects in person might fill the void a little.
God, he missed his dad.
“How should we behave?” Enna asked her husband, as he switched the car off. “Are we in mourning?”
Peter remembered the baffling announcement Julian made earlier that week. One of the twins who lived in the plantation had gone missing. She vanished without a trace; none of the search parties had any luck to this day.
Julian tapped at the steering wheel, torn. “Perhaps it’s best to only speak of Georgiana if she’s brought up.”
“It’s still her house, though. Wouldn’t it be rude to pretend nothing happened?”
Peter listened, sliding the book into his backpack. He’d never met the twins, because the last time they came he’d been hiding in the car. However, he sensed a supernatural sadness in the glimmering fields. The Van Meteren plantation was in mourning.
“Let’s not make it the dominant topic, darling,” said Julian, taking her hand. “I’m sure by now he’s had plenty of guests give condolences, not knowing for sure if she’s dead.”
Enna nodded with a sigh, holding his gaze as if searching for stability. Peter watched, torn. He’d always harbored the guilt of an intruder, having joined them six months after their wedding. They had a magic bond stronger than marriage, one he’d never understand.
Dad knew about this bond. When Peter asked about it, he said Enna saved Julian’s life. He was careful to cloak the details, as if masking a crime.
“Let’s go, then,” Enna said, turning to Peter with the smile she always had for him. “I’m sure they’ll let you explore.”
Explore. He almost smiled, egged on by the word he’d read so many times in his book. It might not be an ocean and he wasn’t in a boat, but he needed an adventure.
He slung the backpack over his shoulder and followed them up the sidewalk. It smelled like roses and rainwater, though the ground was dry. The calendar said it was July, but the weather was mild for the south.
As if reading Peter’s mind, Julian said, “We aren’t in Alabama anymore. We’re in a place called Bonifay.”
He knocked at the front door, assuming a confident gait he always wore when meeting other Muses.
Perhaps it was the Muse’s confidence, but this time Peter didn’t question his claim. If Julian said they’d taken a left turn into a different universe, Peter didn’t need evidence. His life was chaotic to begin with.
The door opened a heartbeat later. Peter tried to look dignified in his ratty jacket. Lear Van Meteren looked like he’d left a corporate meeting, complete with a red necktie, hands clasped behind his back.
“Ah,” he said, gray eyes flashing, “Giulino, welcome back—”
“Julian,” the other man corrected him as they shook hands. When Lear raised an eyebrow, he explained, “I had to change it. I couldn’t keep on with…the other name.”
“I see,” said Lear, words meditative. He glanced at Peter, who shifted uncomfortably, then turned to Enna. “I assume your name has remained the same, Mrs. Alzarsi?”
She smiled, the sadness in her face replaced with pride. “It is,” she said, accepting his handshake daintily. “Thank you for having us…” Peter could hear her unspoken words: Even though your daughter is missing.
If Lear heard them he didn’t respond, instead barking over his shoulder, “Meredith! Hurry down and say hello.”
Peter frowned, thinking it a harsh tone to use on one’s daughter. Then a girl he assumed to be Meredith hurried down the winding stairs and he lost his train of thought. Graceful and blonde, something about her energy distracted him.
She curtsied and greeted the guests with enthusiasm to counter her father’s steely distance.
“Meredith!” Enna cried, embracing her. “What a delight to see you again!”
Meredith turned to Peter with eyes of curious blue. He realized his hands were sweaty; he did not know how to greet her. He could only nod, because his hands were too clammy for a handshake.
He thought with distant embarrassment that yes, Julian’s words were true. This had to be another universe because her smile changed something inside of him. For the first time in over a year, he didn’t think of his dead father or his ratty clothes or even sailing.
She’d changed something in him, and perhaps one day he’d find out what.
Question #2: What tragedy has befallen the plantation?