I felt my knee touch the ground and couldn't believe I was about to do it. The question was lodged in my throat, refusing to come out but the look on her face said she knew what was coming. That look...was it shock or joy, anticipation or terror? It didn't matter now, it was too late to turn back, not that I wanted to turn back. All I ever desired stood before me in the form of a five foot four pixie of a girl with sparkling blue eyes. I tried to say something romantic but my brain seemed to have turned to mush. All I could do was open the box and ask, "Will you...?"
To her credit she never gave the ring a look before throwing herself at me crying, "Yes! Yes, yes, yes, YES!" The stone I slid over her beautiful finger was tiny...but still the most extravagant thing I'd ever purchased. I wished I had more...Eve was worth a million bolder size diamonds, not that she'd ever believe it. She was the most amazing, generous, loving, surprising and humble person I'd ever met. Why she loved me I'll never know.
I wanted to wait till we finished college before getting married but she wouldn't hear of it. She wanted to be Mrs Zack Markel, and she wanted it now. I tried to reason with her; I pointed out the four years of law school I still had to go, not to mention the internship. I reminded her that being broke would be a step up for my finances but trying to dissuade her was like trying to dam the Amazon. Eve believed we could live on air and love. Two months later we said I do in a registry office and couch-surfed our way through a midterm honeymoon.
When the new college-term started I found us a tiny loft over an all night mini-market. It was pokey and crumbling, the pipes rattled when the water ran and the roof leaked...it was perfect. We didn't sleep much those first few weeks. I was floating on air. We both studied during the days and held down an accumulation of part-time jobs in the nights but Sundays we had to ourselves. We liked to go to the bus station, jump on a random bus and see where we ended up. That was what we were doing the day we found Neptune's Tear.
We'd ridden the sixty-four to a town on the coast called Newcove. We spent the whole day exploring, walking the beaches, kissing and more kissing. At one stage we found ourselves walking hand in hand along a tree-lined road, imagining we lived in the amazing houses we passed, naming our imaginary kids and bitching about our imaginary neighbors. One house had it's front door open and a sign on the lawn declared 'House Sale, Everything must go!'
"Want to take a look," I asked.
"We cant go in there, we can't afford anything. I'd be mortified."
"It costs nothing to look, come on!" I said taking her by the hand and dragging her across the manicured lawn.
The house was amazing, a Gothic three-story dream. The hall was filled with people and a steady buzz of conversation filled the air but there was something gloomy about the place.
"It feels damp in here," Eve whispered in my ear. She was right, there was a chill to the air that went marrow deep.
"It might be haunted," I said, then tickled her ribs to make her squeal with delight. Gloomy or not the house was amazing. Things were priced so cheep they were practically giving stuff away. Upstairs in a bedroom, Eve found the most amazing dark-green pendent on a silver chain. It was just thrown in a drawer, not even priced. How could they have overlooked such a thing?
"It's fabulous!" she exclaimed. I turned her toward a full length mirror and draped the pendent around her neck. She sighed in way that made my heart flutter and I couldn't resist kissing her shoulder.
"You look like a princess," I whispered into her ear.
"It suits you," said a voice behind us. We both spun and saw a gray-haired man leaning against the door.
"I'm sorry...we weren't..." stammered Eve.
"I know you weren't," said the man with a smile. "Did you want to buy it?"
Eve went bright red and said, "We couldn't possibly afford it. Its beautiful."
"Most likely colored glass knowing my aunt."
It was my turn to look embarrassed, "Even so..."
The man unfolded his hands and walked into the room. " Show me what you can afford."
I rummaged in my pockets and held out a few coins.
"That looks like enough to me," he said taking the money and slipping it into his pocket.
"Are you serious?" asked Eve laying her hand over the stone.
"Deadly," said the man and his smile vanished. "I want nothing from this place. It was all my aunt Cassie's and the only good thing she ever did was die. Frankly my dear, you could have it for free."
We walked out of that house not believing our luck. All the way home Eve kept lifting the pendent and twirling it in the light.
"There's no way this is glass," she said as the bus reached the station. We agreed to get it appraised the following day.
***That night I woke up to find Eve thrashing in the bed beside me. Her skin was running with sweat and her hands were stretched upward, as if trying to touch the ceiling.
"It was horrible," she said, still glaring around the room. "I was in a grave yard and couldn't get out. It was so dark, I had no idea which way to go but I knew, just knew, something bad was going to happen."
"Dream graveyards are never good places," I said trying to be funny and I put my arm around her shoulder.
"It felt so real. I was drawn to one grave, one with a huge black headstone, black as coal. There was only one word on it...Simpson. As soon as I read that name two hands shot out of the ground and grabbed on to my legs. They were old and withered, like mummy hands or something but they were so strong. They started pulling me into the ground..." then she started crying.
"Sush...its over, it was only a dream," I cooed and rocked her in my arms. As I did she mumbled into my chest.
"I was wearing the necklace and a voice said over and over again, It's mine!."
***The next day was Monday so we took the morning off to go get the necklace appraised. We went into the most expensive jewelers shop in the town and approached the owner.
"Could you tell us what this is?" asked Eve as she handed over the necklace.
"Mummm," said the guy as he rolled the stone around in his hand, then held it up to the light, before producing an eyepiece and examined it closely. He even licked it.
"Is it an emerald?" I asked, because that was the only green gem I'd ever heard it.
"Ha! You wish," said the man taking out his eyepiece. "An emerald about this size would be worth more than fifty thousand dollars. Now that would be something."
"So it's not worth anything," asked Eve and I remembered the man saying it was most likely glass.
"I didn't say that, it's a Tsavorite Garnet, a type of gemstone. They cost about two hundred bucks a carat but its unusual to find one this big. It could be four...four and a half carats, and its got a good setting, solid silver. All in all I would say about two thousand. That's retail of course. If you folks are looking to sell I could offer you...say....nine hundred."
The man waited for an answer but his body betrayed him. While he waited he kept the necklace in his hand, as if he were unwilling to let it go.
"Oh boy...nine hundred," said Eve excitedly. She knew how stuck we were for money but I knew how much she liked that necklace.
"We're not looking to sell it," I said, taking the necklace and putting it around Eve's neck.
"Fair enough...but if you change your mind the offer stands," said the man. We were about to leave the shop when he spoke again. "Its got a name you know."
I stopped and turned. "Sorry?"
"The stone, there is a tiny name engraved in the setting. I saw it with the glass," he said indicating the little magnifying monocle. "Neptune's Tear."
"Neptune's Tear," I repeated and felt a chill run over my body. Eve didn't seem to feel it as she cheerily thanked the man for all his help.
If you had asked me at the time, I would have said the next few months passed without incident. It's only with the benefit of hindsight that I know differently. It all started so very slowly...insidiously. Eve's workload in college must have increased because she spent more and more time with her head in the books. Some of the intense fire went out of the time we were spending together. I just thought it was natural that a little spark would go out of our relationship, it happened to everyone. But her moods steadily got darker...and lasted longer. One day I came home to find her crying hysterically for no reason and when I tried to comfort her she flew into a rage. She only picked at her food and had started to drink a little more than normal. I put it all down to the stress of her studies until I happened to bump into one of her classmates and discovered that Eve had been missing all her lectures.
That night I waited for her to come home from wherever she was...because it sure as hell wasn't college...and confronted her. Of course I assumed she was seeing someone else and went in with all guns blazing. The fight that followed could only be described as biblical. It got so bad that the owner of the mini-market came up demanding we keep the noise down or he'd call the cops. Eve told me I was stupid, and jealous, and stupid again. She said things had all gotten on top of her; being married, settling down when she was only just a kid herself, the college work...everything. She said she knew she needed some time or it was all going to explode on her so she had been going to the coast and spending hours just sitting staring out across the waves. She said she had been going to Newcove, it was the only place she felt at peace.
At first I didn't believe her but she swore that there was nothing more to it than that. I was still worried, even if there was no secret lover, our marriage was in trouble. We talked long into the night and eventually she agreed to see the college counsellor. Eve needed help, real help and I was going to make sure she got it.
The next morning I ditched my classes and went with Eve to Dr Stanton's office. At first he saw the two of us together but he soon asked to speak with Eve alone. I waited outside the door and it was the longest forty minutes of my life. When Eve appeared she nearly looked like her old self. She was smiling and her amazing sparkle was there for all to see.
"I feel great. Thank you so much," she said throwing her arms around me and kissing me deeply. Dr Stanton appeared at the door, smiling.
"This time next week, Eve," he said shaking both our hands before closing the door of his office. All the way home Eve talked about how much it helped to talk with someone. I smiled and nodded but wondered why she couldn't talk to me. I know it was selfish but I wanted to be enough for her, just me. I had to put that to one side and if Dr Stanton worked, then Dr Stanton it would be. I needed Eve and would do anything to have her. I was walking on cloud nine but the good times were short lived. That night the nightmares came back.
I woke up and found the bed empty. I turned on the light and nearly jumped out of my skin. Eve was standing in the corner, her eyes were wide open and there was a snarl on her face. She was actually growling and her body was shaking as if something was trashing around inside her skin. She was completely naked except for Neptune's Tear hanging on her chest.
"Jesus, Eve, what are you doing?" I asked, getting out of the bed. A guttural growl passed her lips and I stopped in my tracks.
"Eve?" I was frightened now.
"It's mine," she whispered, but it was not her voice. The voice that came out of her mouth sounded a hundred years old or more. It sounded like nails being pulled across a black board. I couldn't believe what I was seeing or hearing. What was happening to her?
"Eve," I said again, louder this time, trying to stamp some authority on this impossible situation. I looked more closely at her eyes and they looked distant, as if she were in a trance. I thought she was sleep walking so I rushed to her. She attacked me like a wild animal. She clawed me, digging her nails into my face and chest, drawing blood and leaving gouge marks in my flesh. I fell backwards and Eve clutched the pendent to her naked breast. Again those words came.
As I lay there, feeling my blood trickle through my fingers, I saw something change. Her eyes swam and came into focus. The tremble subsided and her hunched shoulders relaxed. She was waking up. She looked confused, gazed around the room, then down at her own nakedness and finally at me.
"Oh my God! What happened?" she said when she saw the blood.
"You. You happened," I said softly but she just shook her head. It was like she knew the truth but couldn't face it. What ever I had just seen, what ever was affecting Eve was not just stress. Something dark was at work here and the only thing I could see was that green stone glinting in the light of my bedside light.
The following morning I insisted Eve see Dr Stanton. She was frightened by what had happened the night before and was happy to agree.
"Are you coming with me?" she asked.
"Wish I could but there is something I cant get out of...and I don't particularly want people seeing me like this," I said indicating the dressings across my cheek.
"I'm so sorry," she said looking ashamed.
"It wasn't you, it was the nightmare," I said, taking her in my arms and holding her close. How could I tell her I thought she was being haunted? I couldn't but I knew I had to find real help, not Dr Stanton.
I left the flat moments after she'd gone. My mind kept going back to the way Eve protected the necklace and the words It's mine. As stupid as it sounded, I was sure this was all connected to Neptune's Tear.
An hour later I got off the bus in Newcove and found my way back to the house where we'd bought the necklace. Today, the door was locked and all the windows were boarded up. A for sale sign was hammered crookedly into the lawn. With nobody around I decided to try next door. A woman in her sixties answered the door.
"Sorry to intrude, Ma'am. I bought something from the house next door a few months ago and I was wondering if you could tell me how to get in touch with the owners."
The woman gave a dark look at the house and said, "Nothing good ever came from that place, particularly that bitch, Cassie." It was a real shock to hear such vulgar language coming from a sweet old lady.
"I take it you didn't get on with her."
"Nobody ever got on with her. She was the most vicious, self centered creature. She could never abide anyone being happy. Cassie was a real looker and that only made her more dangerous. She had a mean streak a mile wide. Do you know she even slept with her sisters husband and then told her about it! That poor girl killed herself and it was all that bitches fault." The old woman actually spit on the ground.
I was shocked, but I guess I shouldn't be. Still it was hard to imagine. I scratched my head and said, "The man seemed so nice that day."
"That must be Peter, Betty's son, the poor thing. He is a sweetheart. He is the last of the family, all the rest are dead now. She..." the woman said throwing a thumb toward the house, "Was the last to go...typical."
"Do you know where I could find Peter?"
"Sure, he has a Cafe on the main street. Simpson's."
"Simpson's?" I asked, shocked at hearing the name from Eve's dream.
"It was Betty's before she married. Peter run's it now. Simpson is the family name." I walked away with awful thoughts of Cassie Simpson and what might have caused her wickedness. Could it have been the stone? Could it be happening all over again to my beautiful Eve?
The coffee shop wasn't hard to find and when I entered I immediately recognized Peter Simpson, but he didn't recognize me.
"What can I get you?" he said as I approached the counter.
"You probably don't remember me but I bought something from you a while back." I could see by his face he didn't remember. "It was a necklace with green stone."
"Now I remember you, a very pretty young lady, blonde? Right?"
"Yes, Eve. It's because of her that I'm here."
"She's been having a hard time and as silly as it sounds...I think the necklace could be behind it."
"How can that be?"
"You said that necklace was a favorite of your aunts and I've heard what she was like. The thing is...Eve has started to change. I think the pendent is evil and the same thing might have happened to your aunt. I know its a mad idea but I'm just convinced."
"Look, Zack. I'm sorry that your lady friend is not doing so well but I really don't think it's anything to do with the necklace. If anything was evil in that house it was Cassie. She was a terrible person long before that necklace ever came into her life. If I remember correctly she only purchased it a few years ago at auction."
I didn't know what to say. I felt like a total prat. I was so sure that the gem was responsible for the change in Eve but now that I had said the words...the idea sounded ludicrous.
"Can I get you a coffee, you don't look great?" he asked, and seemed genuinely concerned.
"I think I've taken enough of your time. I'm sorry for the intrusion," I said turning and hurrying toward the door.
"It's quite all right," he said but I didn't wait to answer him. I felt foolish and wanted to get back to Eve as quickly as I could.
Eve was in the kitchen making dinner when I reached the flat. She looked totally drained. "You're late," she said.
"Sorry, I got delayed. How did it go with Dr Stanton?" I asked hanging my coat on the back of a chair.
"Fine. He wants to send me for tests," she said as she started chopping carrots.
"He's the doctor," I said and wondered how to broach what was on my mind. "Eve?"
"I think we should sell the necklace."
"What?" she snapped turning toward me. I could see the dark green glint of the stone resting against her skin and I knew, just knew, I had to get that thing out of our lives.
"We could do with the money and I have a feeling..."
"What kind of feeling?" she asked, raising her hand to touch the stone.
"There is something not right with that thing. Nothing has been right since we got it."
"It's mine, I don't want to sell it," she said and her tone was a lot sharper than I liked.
I stood and walked over toward her with my hand extended. "Please, Baby. You got to trust me."
"No," she said backing away.
"Give it to me," I said advancing a little more.
"No!," she said, there was something unnatural in her voice. As I took another step Eve's eyes glazed over and her body went rigid.Her face pulled down in a terrible grimace. When she spoke again the voice that came out was not hers. "No! Its mine!"
I watched in horror as Eve's lovely body spasmed, she was being torn apart. I was frozen to the spot, not knowing what I could do. I watched as her eyes cleared and she became the woman I knew. She looked so frightened and fat tears rolled down her cheeks. "She's in side, Zack. Help me!" she screamed and tried to move toward me but something invisible yanked her backward and slammed her into the kitchen counter. Once again she was racked with shudders and her eyes clouded over.
Her deformed face turned on me and screamed, "Never!" I rushed forward trying to grab the necklace from around her neck but as my fingers closed on the stone I felt the knife plunge into my gut. I refused to let go as the knife plunged again and again. I fell backward, my fingers wrapped around that evil thing and the necklace snapped. I felt hot and cold at the same time and there was a funny smell in the air...metallic. I lifted my hand and saw the dark green stone running with scarlet blood.
Eve leaned over me, the blood dripping from knife still held. Her face was a mask of hate and the most evil voice I had ever heard filled the air.
"It's mine!" she said but made no effort to take the green gem from my hand. An evil grin replaced the scowl as she touched a bloodied hand to her own chest. "It's mine!"
That was when I got it. It was never about the stone. The it was Eve. She dropped the blade on the ground and calmly walked out. I tried to cry out but everything went black.
That was one year ago. Thankfully the manager of the mini-market had seen Eve covered in blood and called the police. I spent two months in hospital and nearly died twice. Eve was arrested but it was clear she wasn't in control of herself. She was committed for mental assessment but I was told that there is a good chance she'd never stand trial. I'd told them about the stone and Cassie Simpson but they looked at me like I was getting the padded cell beside Eve. Nobody would listen, nobody could help. As soon as I could, I got out of the hospital and arranged to visit Eve.
I walked into that room and the woman chained to the table was not my wife. She had my wife's skin and hair, she had her hands and legs, but it wasn't Eve. Her eyes were hard and merciless, her mouth permanently turned down at the corners and the things that came out of her mouth were vial. I talked to her, pleaded with her to fight this, I said I knew she was in there somewhere and I would never give up on her. None of that worked so I played my last card and pleaded with Cassie. This got a reaction. The creature in front of me smiled. Spit dribbled from her tranquilized mouth and her dull eyes focused on me. She leaned closer and a voice I had heard before whispered, "It's mine."
I left that room with cackling laughter ringing in my ears. In the years that followed, I visited her every week, always trying to break through to my darling wife, I know she's in there somewhere and as much as Cassie might want her....now and forever..."She's mine!"