Fiction: Siren Call

By Christina Keller

Nick stood off to the side and watched Lexie for few minutes. She looked like an elegant heron in the moonlight. Although a cool summer night, she wore a sleeveless dress and sandals. Her hair, a dark reddish-brown color, rested in a neat coiled bun on top of her head. He looked over his clothes, wishing he had splurged on something better for their first date.  Reaching up and tugging on his ear, a tick he picked up whenever he got a new hearing aid, Nick said a silent prayer that all would go well.  From the first moment he saw her picture he wanted to meet her. Everything should go smoothly, even if he had left out the part about having a hearing aid on his own dating profile. He wasn't completely deaf, but the aid helped him hear better in noisy settings. He saw Lexie's body tensed in anticipation, no doubt waiting for him, and unaware that he was already there.  She hopped from one foot to another and then pulled out her phone to check for a message.
He saw the gesture as his cue to appear. As he approached her, he waved.  “Lexie! Over here.”
She smiled and waved back. Instead of moving closer to him, she let him come to her. Once face to face, he realized they were the same height. He could've sworn her profile said she stood five inches shorter than him. She wasn't wearing heels, but perhaps he made a mistake. Her other physical descriptions seemed to be accurate.
He asked in what he hoped was a confident, but sensitive, way what she felt like doing. She demurred and said since it was so hot could they go for ice cream? Was it hot? When he left his house, he had thought it cool. But now that she spoke, he burned. Sweat began to creep around the edges of his hair line and down the back of his neck. The idea of ice cream sounded perfect. He slipped out of his jacked and the two of them fell into step as they walked toward the dessert shop down the street.The empty shop stood like a beacon in the night. Once inside, the cool air soothed him and he focused more on Lexie.  She stood close to him, not touching, but enough that he could smell her crisp, fresh scented perfume the reminded him of the outdoors after a rainstorm. He longed to touch her bare shoulders and undo her hair, but refrained, knowing how wrong that gesture would be on a first date.  Instead, he cleared his throat and asked, “Do you know what flavor you want?”
She turned to face him. Later he would tell anyone, anyone who would listen, about her eyes.  He would swear up an down that they were blue, but when she faced him, eye to eye, they shifted black.  The effect was brief, barely perceptible had he not been so close.
“Vanilla please, Nick.”
A big, beefy guy, with a tattoo of an anchor and the words Semper Fi on his forearm, stood behind the counter and scooped two cones of vanilla for them. His eyes glanced at Nick, but lingered for a few more seconds on Lexie. He didn't say anything, except to grunt the price.  Nick paid and then they sat in a booth off in one corner. She eased into the seat across from him, her face a mask of innocent curiosity. Her eyes shimmered their normal deep, sea blue. He handed her a cone and she licked it, smiling at him as if he had brought her a gourmet meal.
“You're just as pretty as your profile picture,” he blurted out. Christ that was a stupid thing to say!  She was probably regretting meeting him already. He should have played it cool.
She licked a pat of vanilla, and stared back. If she was embarrassed, she didn't show it. “How old are you?” she asked.
The answer didn't interest her and she went back to licking as if he hadn't spoken. She didn't look older than him, but he did remember from her profile that she didn't list an age. She didn't list much personal information at all. He like the mystery and that she didn't feel the need to share everything with the world. Because of this, her profile stood out to him and propelled him to ask her out. He felt himself drawn to this girl.
He licked his own cone, letting the vanilla slide down his throat and cool his belly. The heat he'd felt dissipated and he watched her waiting for another question. When she didn't speak,  he swallowed another bite and asked, “What about you?”
“Older,” she said in between licks.
He scratched his ear again and Lexie did notice. Her brow furrowed and he launched into an explaination. “I'm not completely deaf, but I do need a hearing aid to pick up some sounds. Sorry I didn't tell you sooner.” When she didn't reply, he changed topics and hoped she didn't dismiss him. She acted more interested in the cone than him. “And what do you do for a living?”
She shifted her gaze from the cone to him. He had her attention. She leaned forward as if to tell him a long held secret. She said, “I'm a singer. Would you like to hear me sing Nick?”He nodded yes.
She closed her eyes and opened her mouth in a perfect circle. A low pitched call emanated from her. The quiet of the shop made it easy for him to hear the nuanced tones of her voice. She sang more than one note and her voice vibrated with an unnatural clarity. He concentrated on the very bottom notes, letting them wash over him. Though he stared at her face, he saw, in the corner of his eye, her ice cream cone start to melt. His own dissolved into a soggy mush of melted cream and waffle. He dropped it on the table, just as the sound stopped. Transfixed, he continued to stare at her, wanting the sound to continue. It made him remember family holiday meals, hugs from his parents, and laughing so hard he would start to cry. Joy. Her voice made him think of joy.
The crack of the baseball bat on the table pulled him back to reality.
The guy from the counter stood over them, baseball bat in hand. He raised the bat again, a smudge of vanilla dripping off the end. His eyes were dull and flat and his mouth twisted in a sneer.  Nick leaped up from the table and grabbed the end of the bat. The guy focused on him, like he was seeing Nick for the first time.
“Let go. Don't you know what she is son? I know her kind. I recognize that voice anywhere. They damn near killed me and my men off the coast of Greece. She'll kill us all. Let go now.”
Nick didn't move. He couldn't let him hurt Lexie. The guy tried to pull the bat back, but Nick held firm. The two struggled back and forth, until Nick reached out and pushed the guy as hard as he could. Staggering backwards, the guy crashed into the ice cream case cracking the glass. Nick held the bat and raised it.
“Get back! Don't come near us!”
Behind him, Lexie sang a new song. It was a high pitched hum that reminded him of a drill or saw. Pain and terror rushed across his mind, but his adrenaline pumped through his body and he ignored those feelings. He held the bat tight, ready to swing at the guy if he made a move. But instead they guy shook his head, as if in a trance, and left, heading into the back room. Nick lowered the bat and turned back to Lexie.
She stopped humming and reached for a fistful of napkins. Wiping her hands, she smiled at him and slid out of the booth. He watched her with bat still in hand, not sure where the danger was, only that the danger existed. She sauntered past him and out of the shop.
The guy came out from the back. He held a jug of cleaning fluid. Methodically, he unscrewed the top and poured the liquid all over the floor, the counter tops, and himself. One whiff of the fumes made Nick turn and run out of the shop. He turned back one final time long enough to see the guy reach into his pocket and pull out a lighter.
Down the block, Lexie waited for him. Her face in the moonlight was like chiseled stone that gave no emotion away. Nick rushed to her, his danger senses on full alert. He was ready to pull her even further away, but the closer he got to her, the more he forgot his words. She reached out and grabbed his arm. Her hand burned into his skin.
“I had such a nice time Nick,” she said. “After you speak to the police, come and find me.  I would love to do this again.”
She leaned toward him and pecked him on the cheek. He smelled her scent of ocean, blue sky, and salt water. He wanted to take swim. Eyes closed, he could feel her presence and wanted her to stay forever in the moment with him. But when he opened his eyes she was gone. He was alone on the street, bat in hand, the scent of fire and ash in the air. From the distance, he heard the sirens.

Christina Keller lives and works in the Washington, DC area. She is a book lover, TV and movie junkie, and a thrift whisperer. Her work has appeared in 4 Star StoriesScarlet Leaf Review and other anthologies. She is currently working on a novel.