Charlie and his grandpa lived in the small coastal village of Depot Bay between the larger communities of Lincoln City and Newport. Tourists invaded the area each spring and fall to see the whales migrating off the Oregon coast; the pair made their living taking these seasick landlubbers, 4-5 at a time, out to see the whales on their small boat. Grandpa manned the helm, while Charlie spotted the whales, passed out binoculars and life jackets, and kept their foolhardy guests from falling overboard. This time of year, however, the whales were wintering off the coast of California, and Depot Bay was quiet. Charlie and Lorelei slowly made their way to the small cabin he shared with his grandpa, just two short blocks beyond the sea wall that kept the ocean from flooding the town’s main street in stormy weather.
Charlie reached for the old brass doorknob and the cabin door, unlocked, swung open. He ushered Lorelei inside before him, quickly settling her in an old wooden chair next to a rickety table. This room served as the cabin’s kitchen, dining room, and main social area. There were doors leading to a bathroom and small laundry closet at the far end of the room, and stairs winding upward to the second level where Charlie and his grandpa had their bedrooms. At the end of the room nearest the table, a sink, stove, and wood-burning fireplace. It was a small place, very utilitarian, but neat and tidy all the same.
Charlie was busying himself building a fire. The cabin door slammed behind him once, as he disappeared briefly outside, and then again as he returned with his arms full of firewood. He felt the intensity of the woman’s gaze on his back as he stacked the wood and lit kindling. It made him slightly uncomfortable; he could feel his cheeks flush. He crossed to the laundry room, grabbed an old quilt off the shelves that lined its walls, and turned back to Lorelei. To his surprise she stood, dropped the windbreaker to her feet, and held out her arms for the blanket. Charlie had been too concerned about her safety to stare while they were on the beach, but now he paused for a few beats, hungrily gulping down a full view of the loveliness that was Lorelei Strange.
Her hair was dark, the color of a raven’s wing, with a blue sheen in the firelight. The wet, matted strands were beginning to dry and curl with the heat of the fire. It snaked its way around her shoulders and down her back to reach her hips. Her breasts were full and round, the nipples the same dusky color as her lips. Being only seventeen, Charlie didn’t really make it much further than her breasts in his assessment before Lorelei quirked a raised eyebrow at him. He cleared his throat uncomfortably, cheeks burning even hotter than before, and thrust the quilt at her.
Lorelei was wrapping herself in the musty but soft quilt when the door to the cabin opened abruptly, with force. Charlie’s grandpa stopped briefly in the doorway to stamp his boots – one stamp per foot – on the doormat and slung the line of fish he was carrying into the sink. Charlie spun on his heels and beat a hasty retreat up the stairs, presumably to collect himself in his bedroom before facing up to an explanation. Grandpa did not seem to notice Lorelei as he crossed the room in two big strides. He bellowed up the staircase: “Charlie! I was just up at Old Jack’s place and your uncle told me he saw you with a half-naked girl headed toward this cabin! Get your butt down these stairs right now!”
A few seconds passed, and the reluctant scraping of boots was heard overhead. Charlie poked his head around the staircase, sheepish.
“I promised your mother I would keep you out of trouble, and you know I don’t abide with unchaperoned guests in my house,” his grandpa continued. “Where is she? Your uncle saw you with her. I know she’s here.”
Charlie sighed. He nodded across the room, in Lorelei’s direction.
His grandpa turned, another comment at the ready, but stopped himself when he saw her. A few years older than his grandson, this woman was obviously way out of Charlie’s league. What was going on here? And why was she sitting at his kitchen table wearing only a blanket?
“Her name is Lorelei. I found her on the beach, no clothes, acting like she’d been in a coma or something,” Charlie stammered from his perch on the staircase. “She don’t have no bruises or broken bones, though, so I don’t think she’s hurt. That’s all I know about her. She don’t say much.”
“She got a last name?” his grandpa asked coolly.
“Strange. She said her name is Lorelei Strange,” Charlie replied.
“Odd name,” Charlie’s grandpa crossed to Lorelei. As he approached, she tilted her head to the side and looked up at him.
He was suddenly enveloped by a mysterious sense of calm amidst the confusion of his arrival back at the cabin. As if this woman were meant to be here, to share dinner with them, and that her sudden appearance were the most natural thing in the world. Charlie’s grandpa was a straightforward man – no bullshit – but for a moment, he lost himself. Lorelei’s gaze was magnetic; he had the same difficulties as his grandson in pulling himself away from it. Time stilled around him while he locked eyes with her. He began to feel warmth spreading through his bones, something he had not felt for years; since he lost his Mary, since Charlie’s mother died. He was captivated.
A derisive snort from the staircase broke the spell.
“Charlie,” he said, his voice stiff and gruff, “I am going to clean these fish and fry up some dinner. You go upstairs and find some clothes for this lady – a pair of your trousers and a shirt will do for now. Maybe some socks, too.”
“Don’t you think we should call somebody? The police, maybe?” Charlie called to his grandpa’s retreating back.
“There’ll be time for that. Let’s get some food in her first. Maybe if she’s been fed, we’ll get a story out of her,” his grandpa replied, turning to the task at hand. The discussion was over.
The above post is a beta excerpt from an ongoing novel-in-progress tentatively titled “The Curious Tale of Lorelei Strange”. To read all related posts, click on the associated category. All post titles in this series contain numeric labels so that you may read the story in consecutive order (i.e., LS1 is the first installment, LS2 the second, etc.). ©Awen Blackbird/Jamie Waggoner, all rights reserved. Featured photo credit: Issara Willenskomer via Unsplash.