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Don't Let Me Go

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Jane is sinking, but she doesn't mind. She watches her long red hair curl and twist around her shoulders, suspended like the grass that grows at the bottom of the lake. She clings more tightly to Tom's hand for fear she'll soon lose him. The surface of the water sloshes and moves, but through the distorted transparency, Jane can see the moon and the stars. She keeps staring up, never daring to look over at her love, afraid of what she'll see.


Tom bent at the waist and kissed her extended hand. "It is a pleasure to meet you, madam," he said, daring to lift his blue eyes to meet her yellow ones. They were cold and unfeeling. His friends had warned him against pursuing Maura, but he'd been drawn in by her striking beauty and figured there was no harm in introducing himself.
She laughed at the handsome young man before her. "Yes, I'm sure it is."
Tom seemed to be floundering for a moment after he'd straightened, so Maura prompted, "Aren't you going to ask me to dance?"
Tom nodded curtly. "Of course."
He took her gloved hand and she led him to the dance floor. They spun through the music, hearing the lutes and mimicking their melancholy in each carefully placed step.


His hand becomes white hot like it is on fire, though she knows that can't be. They are too far underwater. At last, Jane dares a look, and is horrified to see a black bear clutching to her. It is gouging five holes in her palm, claws where Tom's hands once were. She holds her breath, praying for it to be over. Jane turns her head to the side away from him, staring into the black unknown at the bottom of the lake. She keeps reminding herself she can't break her hold, even for a moment. Then Jane sees something darker than night flash past above the surface and she isn't entirely sure she wants to return. She looks back at Tom, seeing instead a thrashing lion, his golden fur turned brassy in the murky water.


As the evening wore on, Tom began to tire of Maura's energy. At the end of the third song, the clock stuck eleven. His focus on her eyes severed for just a moment, but it was enough. He glimpsed her true nature, and was horrified. He saw the wrinkles and lines of an old woman, and the glare of a snake in the grass. He broke her spell and stumbled back.
"I'm sorry. Your face..." he trailed off.
"What about my face?" She asked, an edge hidden in her words.
Tom ignored her warning. "You look... you look like a snake."
He stumbled away across the ballroom. Maura stared after him. Her cold, beautiful face remained placid, but her mind was already working out a plan. "A snake," she thought. "We shall see who is the snake."


The lion gazes at her with the same eyes as Tom, reaffirming to Jane she'll be able to make it, even as her breath dies underwater and the lion transforms into a serpent. She is concerned the remedy isn't working, but she doesn't dare let him go. She is struggling now, against the pressure of the water and for breath. She thrashes at the bottom of the lake in the sands. She sees Tom, in human form, rising to the surface on pockets of air, curled around his body like wings. She holds her hand up in front of her face. She let him go. The last thing she sees before she blacks out is the dark figure pulling him from the lake. If only she had known yesterday. She closes her eyes, letting the water fill her mouth and lungs. Then Jane is gone.


"I've been trying to catch your eye all night," Jane said, thrilled to be engaged in a conversation with the handsome knight at last.
"Is that so?" Tom asked, trying to concentrate on the woman he was talking with. She was pretty. But in spite of his horror at Maura, he realized Jane didn't hold a candle to her. He found his thoughts wandering back to their dance, when he thought he could do anything. The open sky could've bended to his will. Even as he spun Jane around, even as he lost himself in the moment, in the twirling ball gowns, the glittering chandelier and the elegance, Scottish high life at its finest, he couldn't stop thinking about Maura. He kissed Jane at the end of the night, as a knight ought to, and he could feel her falling for him. He waved her carriage off into the night, then turned to embrace Maura.
"I thought you'd never get rid of her," she said with a widening grin.


Maura helps Tom out of the lake. "I didn't know if you were going be able to go through with it."
"Of course I was." All Tom can think about is how intimidatingly stunning Maura looks in her velvet dress. The rubies at her throat look like drops of blood. He is entranced by her. "The woman was infatuated with me. It was the only way."
"So the spell wasn't too much for you?" She takes his hands.
"No. It was kind of enjoyable, being all those different things. You don't realize how your view can change..." He realizes he is babbling, and stops.
Maura presses her lips against his, not seeming to mind. She slips her hand into his and when she finally breaks away, leads him off through the forest. She looks into his eyes and glimpses his true nature. She sees the wrinkles and lines of an old man, and the glare of a snake in the grass.


Loosely based on The Ballad of Tam Lin by Steffen Mallory

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