Chapter Two

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Once she got back to her house, Uma went inside and slipped out of her dress. She hung the pretty blue and black one-piece over the back of a chair. Her funerary attire had complemented her cocoa colored skin and wild mass of black hair while the cut of the dress had accentuated her generous curves. Too festive for a funeral, some might say but it was a gift from Tarah, and the darkest thing Uma owned.

She slipped off her bra and sank down onto her bed. Tarah's scent was still everywhere. Uma slid under the covers. There was something comforting about lying in the bed where she and Tarah had slept together countless times.

Time ticked on with maddening relentlessness. Uma cried and cried until she became hoarse, until exhaustion took hold and she drifted off into a fitful bout of sleep. When she slept, she dreamed of Tarah. In Uma's dream, Tarah was sitting down to breakfast in Uma's kitchen and she laughed and rambled on and on about Marine Biology and Panic at the Disco between mouthfuls of scrambled eggs.

In Uma's dream, Tarah spoke of her plans to go out to sea. In Uma's dream, Tarah turned as pale as ash. Her hair was limp and wet, and she stank of the sea. Her eyes were hollow. Her lips were dark blue. When Tarah opened her mouth, seawater came bubbling out. Uma cried out.

She jolted out of sleep but there was no escape from that horrible visage. The terrible figure loomed over Uma's bed. Fat hairy tendrils writhed and twisted all around the thing that had taken Tarah's form. Salty muck rolled off its body and dribbled to the floor. Eyes white from sclera to irises, it leaned over and uttered a guttural, bone-shaking howl. Uma screamed.

She scrambled to untangle herself from the covers. Her head banged against the wrought iron headboard so hard she saw stars. He eyes squeezed shut and she bit down on her lower lip as her body absorbed the pain. When her eyes opened, there was nobody there. She peeked over the side of the bed, but the floor was dry. There was no sign that strange and horrifying thing had been there.

"Oh, god." Uma sat up in her bed shivering from head to toe. "I'm losing my mind. I'm losing my mind. I am losing my mind."

She glanced at the old-fashioned silver clock on her bedside table. Only an hour had passed since she'd gotten into bed. She sat there for the longest while, just listening to the ticking of the clock and wondering if she would ever be able to sleep again without seeing that god-awful image of Tarah. She hopped out of bed and showered, appalled at herself for being able to carry on at all.


                                                       ***


From the outside, Tierney's Pub looked like a ramshackle shack with rickety steps leading up to the front door. The building was quite solid though. Evan Tierney was an Irish pub owner who'd retired to Jasmin Island ten years earlier and to capture the easygoing charm of island life, designed the building that way. The pub was popular with locals and tourists alike.

Bow and fiddle in hand, Uma stepped up to the front door, pushed it open and went inside. The clash of smells assaulted her nostrils. Rum. Curried goat. Pumpkin soup. At the center of the room was a giant easel with a photograph of Tarah standing on the deck of a fishing boat. She was wearing a wet-suit and grinning from ear to ear. Uma's gaze rested on the curve of Tarah's brows. Her full lips. Her bright, black eyes. Her skin was dark, like nutmeg, smooth and soft to touch. In the picture, her braided hair was tied up into a haphazard ponytail. Whoever decided to use this picture had chosen well. This was Tarah in her element, vibrant and full of life.

People were scattered about, eating, telling stories and laughing quietly. The mood was lively, which pricked at Uma's nerves. Uma walked up to the bar and quietly greeted Evan, a ruddy sprite of a man in his late sixties, who seemed to know exactly what she was thinking.

"It's a celebration of life, Uma," he said sympathetically. "You gotta figure this is how lil' Tarah would've wanted it."

Uma bit down on her lower lip and nodded grudgingly.

"What'll you have then?" Evan asked.

"Disaronno," Uma answered. "On ice."

Evan poured her a glass and pushed it toward her on the counter. "Promise me you'll get a plate of food too," the older man urged. "You look like you haven't eaten much in days."

Of course, Evan knew about Uma and Tarah. Many a night he'd served them late dinners. When Tarah would finish up late at her lab, Uma would meet her in the village square and together, they'd go to Evan's for dinner. The man wasn't judgmental, and he'd kept his mouth shut about whatever he witnessed without being asked.

"Uma!" Eileen Jackson hurried over carrying a plate of curried goat and white rice. "Eat something, please!"

Uma smiled gently at Tarah's mother. "I will if you will."

Eileen's eyes went wide then she sighed and nodded. "I will, I promise."

"Good," Uma set down her fiddle and bow. "Then I'll eat this and come and help with the guests so that you can rest your feet and get a bite too."

Uma spent much of the night on her feet, running to and from the kitchen of the pub. When she wasn't taking food to and drink to guests, she took to the small stage and played her fiddle per requests.

~

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