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“ Oh, human…” the banshee sighed. “What are you trying to do?”
“You say you sing death,” Bridget pressed. “Does it have to be anybody’s death in particular?”
The banshee raised its hands and shook its hooded head.
“Human…Bridget…no. Just stop. I’ve heard this so many times before. What you want is forbidden.”
“Ah, there now, that’s an interesting thing,” Bridget said triumphantly, pointing as she always did when she had someone good and pinned down. “You tell me it’s forbidden, but nobody bothers to forbid something that can’t be done. There’s no laws against counterfeiting by shitting gold coins, after all.”
“Bridget,” The banshee said, taking hold of the pointing hand and – not ungently – moving it away. “If I could do what you wish, not a child would die in this world as long as there was a parent left to say ‘take me instead’.”
Bridget just shook her head. “Oh, come now, what kind of fool do you take me for? Fool enough to think Old Man Death would find taking me sooner rather than later to be a deal worth making?”
“What deal are you making, then?”
Bridget grinned to herself. She had the spirit’s attention now. “This isn’t the first time you’ve been to these parts, you know. Do you remember?”
“I’ve been to all of Ireland,” The banshee answered “I remember it all, but I don’t know which part you want me to remember right now.”
“When last you were here, you sang for my husband.”
There was a long moment of silence. If the banshee had been human, Bridget would have guessed that it was stunned at being confronted by someone who’d been hurt by its work, at being forced to think of that person as someone who hurt instead of a simple singing engagement.
But it wasn’t human, now was it? Surely a creature who “sang death” couldn’t feel such things.
But sure, and didn’t that sound like a sigh that came out from under its hood before it spoke again. “Bridget, I’m sorry. I really am. But I’m afraid that doesn’t change anything.”
“I didna think it would. And there’s no need to be sorry.”
“…what’s that again?”
“Jimmy Flanagan was a good man, God rest his soul, and I loved him.” Bridget said. “But his death was no harder than most I’ve seen – a heart attack is head and shoulders above what our Meaghan is facing right now – and my heart didn’t break when he died.”
Bridget shook her head. “No. I loved him, but I never could love him the way other wives loved their husbands. When he took me to bed, it was doin’ me duty, not kickin’ up me heels like it is for most women at least once in a while.” She interrupted herself to shake a finger at her spectral companion. “And not because his idea of getting me ready was ‘brace yourself, Bridey’. Jimmy did the best he could, poor man.” She paused a moment then, and her eyes went very far away, and when she spoke it was much softer. “And I never knew why. Why I couldn’t love him like that, I mean…until I heard you sing, and it was like a mermaid instead of a banshee.”
The eerie blue lights within the cowl blinked, and the hooded head cocked. “What in the name of Oberon’s knickers do you mean by that?”
Bridget rolled her eyes. “Ye bewitched me, that’s what I mean. I couldn’t tear meself away. If I’d known ye would be this easy to find, I would’ve come to you on the moment.”
“Well most people don’t want to find – “ The banshee began. Then she realized what she was saying. “Are ye daft, woman?”
“Most likely,” Bridget admitted. “I certainly thought the other girls mad when they acted like I’m acting. Thought my way with my Jimmy was more sensible. Now they’re thirty years past it and I’m acting like a girl with her tits just starting to bud making calf eyes at a boy at her first dance.”
“And I’m…the boy?” The banshee asked, still struggling to understand just what this mad human was saying to her.