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Going_Under_by_justeline*

Good, good news! I just heard that my fairy-taleish story, “Her Hair is a Net, Woven,” has been accepted for Kristina Wright’s upcoming collection, Fairy Tale Lust! I’ll be sharing the book with amazing authors like Jeremy Edwards, Alana Noel Voth, and I’m sure some others, but I don’t know who yet.

My story is based on the old Scottish fairy tale of the waterman’s daughter. Here’s a little bit of the opener:

When he sees her at the market, although he knows what and who she is, he wants her anyway. He always wants her. It’s her face that catches him first, as it often does, makes his gaze focus and puts that steady beat in his breastbone. She half-turns and there it is: her pale face, round and unlined as a rivered stone, as the year’s first full moon, its circle caught against the dark sky of her straight, wet hair. The sight of her washes over and through him, a tight pressure in his head that he can’t shake.

She’s not buying anything. She’s watching the baby chicks cluck and fluff in their cages; putting a lean finger to the curled side of a cabbage covered in dew; canting her head at the puppeteer playing his wooden figures for the flock of children.

He knows he shouldn’t go to her, not here, but she draws him in without meaning to, the way the sea calls to sailors. He moves himself to stand behind her, not close enough to touch, but close enough that he can see the dampened hem of her pale-green skirt. Close enough to see the bits of algae and water bugs and roe caught in the tide of the fabric as it rises and ebbs around her bare feet. Her hair is a long and black, smooth as glass or ice. He wants to fist his hands around the length of it and pull it upward to his nose, inhale the brackish, living smell of her. Instead, he watches her watch the puppetman. Each wooden figure caught on the end of a string, up and down, stride and speak at the manipulator’s command. She doesn’t laugh or smile. Her expression rests in the shift of her hips, in the soft wiggle of her fingers as they flutter against her face.

He says her name three times. This, he knows, is how you catch the daughter of a water-man.

Once, at the place he stands.

Again, a step forward.

Third, as he touches two fingers to the side of her waist, feeling the gauzy fabric and the curve of her hip shimmy and flow beneath his hand as he captures her.

She doesn’t make a noise or step away. She barely moves. Only the dress shifts as she leans back to rest against his chest, the fabric parting to expose the smoothed inner curves of her breasts, the cool length of her neck.

“What are you doing here,” he asks in her ear. He swears he can hear the liquid slide through her veins at the side of her neck, crystalline pulses beneath her pale skin.

“Buying butter.” Her voice catches the water in the wind and shakes it out like tiny droplets. “What am I always doing here?”

There is no butter in her hands. He wonders what omens that might signal. The tales tell of the waterman’s daughter: when she buys high, the markets flood like spring rivers. Low, and everything dries up, hard and hurtful. What, he wonders, does it signify, when she doesn’t buy anything at all?

He brushes his palm up the side of her hip, the place where the swell crests over the bone. “Where are your red stockings? I almost didn’t recognize you.”

They both know this is a lie.

*

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.

*

PS — Pretty image of water girl in a green dress from here.

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