The Siren's Call
There was a sweet warm breeze in the quiet hamlet of Corran, Ontario. Stella Hardy joked with some tourists as she passed two London Fogs across the counter of the Dancing Goats tea shop. She was a slight but spunky lady in her early 40s with a brilliant shock of purple hair and a bright smile for everyone.
“Well the real one’s having a heat wave I read…burns off all the fog. Be glad yours is in a mug then.”
The man grinned back and ushered his lady friend to a pair of squashy chairs by the window. Stella watched them for a moment with a wistful gaze and then her attention snapped to the window as emergency vehicles tore by, sirens blaring. They slowed and took the next left, coming to a stop behind the tree line. “Oh shit.” Stella thought. It was one of their own.
The few locals and Stella drifted to the front step to assess whose house it was and Stella’s hand covered the quiet gasp from her mouth that met the realization. Maxine Turner’s house was alight with the intermittent red swivel strobe effect. Maxine was Stella’s long time dear friend despite a vast gap in their ages. Vaguely aware of a warm hand patting her shoulder supportively she patted lightly back and then broke away and trotted down the steps, breaking into a run as she hit the asphalt. She cut through the trees and went along the side of Maxine’s house only to be stopped by a burly police officer before she got to the door.
“Miss….we need to give the paramedics some room to work in there. Are you family?”
Her eyes filled with tears and she shook her head “Not technically…but she’s the closest I have…and she hasn’t got any.”
His look was kindly “I’m sorry. I don’t have any information yet. They could be awhile in there. Do you live close?”
Stella wiped at her face “I run the tea shop across the street…” She patted at her pockets and then sighed “I don’t have a business card on me…Dancing Goats. Could someone let me know what hospital she’s gone to? I’m guessing
right? I can’t leave the shop without locking it up.” Owen Sound
“Of course Ma’am. What’s your name?” He was already efficiently poised to jot it down in a small notebook.
“Stella Hardy. Thank you.”
She reluctantly stepped away and slowly walked back to work. There was a small line at the counter of more out of towners. One of the locals looked like they were trying to cover for her but she stepped in and politely shooed him off. Stella took each customer in turn and met their requests on autopilot. Her eyes shifted to the tree line behind Maxine’s house. The lights stopped flashing after awhile and the waiting created a hollow pit in her stomach.
What felt like hours later, the same officer who had taken her info came walking through the door of her shop. He removed his uniform cap and carried it over his heart space. Stella felt the breath leave her body until it hung in the awkward pause between them as he stopped in front of her. He looked sympathetic. And she already knew Maxine Turner was dead.
“Listen…is there someone you could call to come sit with you…for this…?” He fumbled.
Stella crumbled and half laughed half cried “Yeah…Maxine. But that’s not an option is it?”
“I’m so sorry Ma’am. It was her heart. They tried so hard but they just couldn’t revive her.”
Stella sniffed and nodded through quiet sobs. The officer took more information from her and offered to stay for awhile. Stella assured him it wasn’t necessary. As the last of a rush filed out of the tea shop she wordlessly tiptoed to the door, flipped the sign to closed and locked up early.