House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig Read Online (FREE)
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Candlelight reflected off the silver anchor etched onto my sister’s necklace. It was an ugly piece of jewelry and something Eulalie would never have picked out for herself. She loved simple strands of gold, extravagant collars of diamonds. Not…that. Papa must have selected it for her. I fumbled at my own necklace of black pearls, wanting to offer her something more stylish, but the battalion of pallbearers shut the coffin lid before I could undo the clasp.
“We, the People of the Salt, commit this body back to the sea,” the High Mariner intoned as the wooden box slid deep into the waiting crypt.
I tried not to notice the smattering of lichens growing inside the gaping mouth, drawn wide to swallow her whole. Tried not to think of my sister—who was alive, and warm, and breathing just days before—being laid to rest. Tried not to imagine the thin bottom of the coffin growing fat with condensation and salt water before splitting asunder and spilling Eulalie’s body into the watery depths beneath our family mausoleum.
I tried, instead, to cry.
I knew it would be expected of me, just as I knew the tears were unlikely to come. They would later on, probably this evening when I passed her bedroom and saw the black shrouds covering her wall of mirrors. Eulalie had had so many mirrors.
She’d been the prettiest of all my sisters. Her rosy lips were forever turned in a smile. She loved a good joke, her bright green eyes always ready for a quick wink. Scores of suitors vied for her attention, even before she became the eldest Thaumas daughter, the one set to inherit all of Papa’s fortune.
“We are born of the Salt, we live by the Salt, and to the Salt we return,” the High Mariner continued.
“To the Salt,” the mourners repeated.
As Papa stepped forward to place two gold pieces at the foot of the crypt—payment to Pontus for easing my sister back into the Brine—I dared to sweep my eyes around the mausoleum. It was overflowing with guests bedecked in their finest black wools and crepes, many of them once would-be beaus of Eulalie. She would have been pleased to see so many brokenhearted young men openly lamenting her.
“Annaleigh,” Camille whispered, nudging me.
“To the Salt,” I murmured. I pressed a handkerchief to my eyes, feigning tears.
Papa’s keen disapproval burned in my heart. His own eyes were soggy and his proud nose was red as the High Mariner stepped forward with a chalice lined with abalone shell and filled with seawater. He thrust it into the crypt and poured the water onto Eulalie’s coffin, ceremonially beginning its decomposition. Once he doused the candles flanking the stony opening, the service was over.
Papa turned to the gathered mass, a wide shock of white streaked through his dark hair. Was it there yesterday?