It was the end of the Brown Package season when the women with the wind on their tongues arrived at the house in the mountains. They grasped hands in an eternity sort of way, like past disagreements dissolving into lemons on ice. Their songs were of fairies with broken wings and white lace.
The mailman, being jealous and lonely, lingered every afternoon by their peachy mailbox. His scent wafted through the house, overpowering even the burning sage.
The woman with eyes that are the moon’s craters, Elinor, peeked through the curtains every so often. She was suspicious of villages on the edges of cliffs, but nevertheless her breathing quickened whenever she saw the bluebirds.
Tucked away in the back of her mind, she knew bluebirds weren’t actually blue. It was an illusion, like most other things in their world. The way their feathers were arranged when the light bounced off them created the color blue.
Charlotte, the woman with a frown for a mouth carved into her face, forbade Elinor alongside all her dusty scrolls to leave the cottage. Elinor’s ears were stuck in her feet that day, so her wife’s rules were buried beside her worries under where the lilies used to be.
But it was then, sitting on a small patch of dead grass, allowing doves as pale as funerals to perch on her pointer finger, she realized how different the mountains were from the sea. Elinor didn’t know which she preferred most, as she had only been at the mountains for under a day.
Charlotte returned from the village shops earlier than she had planned. Grunting and slamming the car door shut, she stomped down the path. Her hands were strained from carrying bags and her hair was frizzy and untamed.
Elinor jumped to her feet, and the doves scattered. Her limbs, strong and delicate as butterflies, carried her back into the cottage and onto a recliner chair. Picking up a book of mountain histories, she heard the urgent whispers of the moths.
Charlotte strode through the doorway, pausing when she saw Elinor curled up with the book. What the wife didn’t say was that she noticed her rosy cheeks and distant smile. At the time, she thought nothing of it. Perhaps she had opened a window.
Elinor greeted her by knitting her fingers into Charlotte’s as if they were to create a big quilt of false love and silk robes. She kissed her, barely a sweep over the lips.
“Tea?” Charlotte inquired.
She nodded while gazing out the closed window. An echo of bells ran through the house.
Charlotte frowned while Elinor panicked, “I’ll get it.”
A smile that was weaved with shriveled leaves and antique lamps appeared on Charlotte before she disappeared into the kitchen. Elinor rushed over to the door, which was vibrating with the last ring of the doorbell. She opened it with caution and thick secrets.
There was a man on the other side. He was plump and dwarf-like with gray wrinkles stretching across his face. A bag was slung across his blue uniformed chest. His posture spoke of tattered dreams and deformed willow trees.
Elinor glanced nervously behind her. “Charlotte is back already. Go and never come here again.”
The man grabbed her hands, the same hands that had just been intertwined with Charlotte’s. “But—”
“No buts,” Elinor warned harshly, although her heart was filled with lilac laughter. “Give us the letters, and go.”
He sighed, picking at something stuck in his teeth. He gave a half-hearted smile before removing the flap of his bag, taking papers out, and shoving them into her hand and continuing back up the path.
Elinor stood there for a moment, clutching the envelopes with her fist. Cracks were already starting to form in them from the pressure. The warm breeze rippled through her clothes, and birds chirped faraway like ticking clocks. It reminded her that time was running out.
When she glided back inside, Charlotte sat her down on fluffy cushions littered with roses. She set a cup of tea in front of her. Elinor dropped the letters on the table.
“So who was at the door?” Charlotte asked, uninterested. She picked up a letter and examined the handwriting.
Elinor gulped tea, “The mailman.” It wasn’t a lie.
Charlotte nodded absentmindedly, tearing open a letter. Elinor yawned and complained she was weary from the plane flight the day before. She excused herself to the bedroom. Charlotte didn’t even hear, because she was already lost in sifting through their little mail.
. . .
The next day was a lively green and full of keyless locks. It wasn’t the type of day that Elinor liked to disobey her wife’s orders, but sometimes Charlotte was too overprotective.
Elinor watched her trudge down the path and towards the cottage. Charlotte looked better today, with her hair tied in a tight knot and a thin smile on her face. Elinor knew her wife despised the mountains, but at least she wasn’t saying it aloud. Her expression murmured of holes in pockets and family heirlooms. Charlotte muttered that she couldn’t find the ingredients she needed at the shop.
As she disappeared through the doorway, Elinor heard the violet flowers dance amongst the weeds. She knew everyone had a siren song, and this was hers. Standing on the front steps, she gripped the doorknob. Shaking from pure concentration, she stepped back into the house and shut the door firmly. She wouldn’t be going outside today.
Knocking the books off the shelves, one by one, she finally found the one she was searching for. Charlotte came in, slightly confused, with piping hot tea and left her for the office.
The old book that was falling apart in her soft fingers smelled of rusted nails and slurred words. She flipped through it, being careful not to tug at the pages. There were few pictures in the book, and they were of princesses with golden hair and handsome princes.
Elinor thought of her and Charlotte. It was a happy ever after, just in a slightly different sort of way. She seemed to shrug and a short-lived smile twisted onto her lips. Books with many chapters is what she usually read, but every once in a while she’d settle down with a picture book. This book was very close to what she needed.
Jerking out of her daydreaming, that familiar dong bounced against the walls. Why was he here now? Didn’t he see that Charlotte was home? Elinor heard her wife rise from her chair in the office.
“Don’t worry, Lottie. I’ll get it,” Elinor called, rushing over to the door. She swung it open a crack, so a sliver of light entered the cottage. Stepping outside under the yellow bubbling sky, she scoffed at the man, and led him into the garden.
He offered a sly grin. “Sorry I’m late. Is Char—” He still looked like he was going to crumble into pieces at any moment. Although today he reminded her of picnics on the water and itchy mosquito bites.
“Charlotte’s here,” she confirmed. “You have to go.”
“Don’t interrupt me,” he commanded through grit teeth.
Elinor made her jaw very visible. “Don’t tell me what to do. Do you have our mail?”
“I . . .” he trailed off and stared at something behind Elinor.
She whirled around, just to be face-to-face with Charlotte. Her wife’s face was expressionless, but it smelled of cherries and midnight walks.
“Is something going on here?”
Elinor’s lips parted to speak, but nothing came out.
“Do you two know each other?”
Charlotte’s clear voice rang throughout the garden. The daisies tittered nervously, reaching out to tickle Elinor’s ankles. She wanted to laugh aloud just once in her life, but the frozen silver clouds told her this wasn’t the time.
Finally, the man spoke. “I should go.”
“No,” Elinor demanded, taking a fistful of the man’s plaid shirt.
Charlotte pressed her lips together. “So who is he?” She nudged her chin towards the man.
Elinor blinked a few times to clear the sparkling water from her eyes. She let go of the man’s shirt and slid her hand into his. Charlotte eyed their hands with years of scratched ceramic vases and broken globes that no longer portrayed the world. Elinor then set her hand on her wife’s, and they were puzzle pieces, clicking into place.
“Charlotte, I’d like you to meet George. He’s the mailman . . . and my father.”
Both of their eyes crinkled at the edges, like secrets on paper being burnt to a crisp and forgotten.