The combination of the long journey and the two glasses of white wine must have made me pass out as soon as I’d gone to bed. And when I woke up, it was nearly ten o’clock. I pulled the curtains aside and was instantly hit by bright sunlight that made me squint and pull back a little. I slept in the room that had been mum’s as a girl and then Emma’s. Emma had now moved in to the master bedroom and this room was now the main guest room. It had been redecorated with cream coloured wallpaper and white minimalistic furnishing. Back in the days, there had been a bunk bed in here and the wall paper had been yellow with little pink flowers. I’d seen the old pictures.
I went into the bathroom and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror above the sink as I took off my nighty to have a shower. God, I looked awful. You can say a lot of good things about London life. But it giving you a healthy complexion isn’t one of them. Especially if you spend most of the time in the office and take ages to tan, which I do. I looked pale and my cheeks were hollow. I had neglected the gym for a while. There just wasn’t time. But I had grown thin rather than fat. Probably because we’d been working so flat out in the office for the past weeks. The time running up to the summer holidays was always the busiest. But who was I kidding. The phone call, his phone call, from two days ago hadn’t exactly done wonders for my looks either. A crushing feeling came over me at the thought of the phone call. At the thought of why I was here.
I sighed and stepped into the shower. I needed time to think. Or better. Empty my head of all thought. Let my sub consciousness work on it and maybe then I would know how to react. What to do.
Clean and refreshed, I went downstairs to the kitchen to make some breakfast. A note from Emma lay on the kitchen table saying that I could help myself to anything in the fridge and that both the kayak and motor boat was at my disposal should I wish to go somewhere. I made coffee and a brie sandwich and went to sit outside so I could start working on my complexion and take in the atmosphere with all my senses. It was so wonderful to be here, I thought as I leant back. As a child I’d spent every summer in this house. The whole summer while mum was working in London. Grandma had been living here then. But she died when I was fifteen. She’d only been 74, but she’d died happily in her sleep.. And since then, my visits had been less frequent as well as shorter. I sipped my coffee and wondered what I was going to do today. Kayaking, I decided. The sea was calm, the sun was shining and I felt like getting back into shape as well as getting a tan.
I went into the Annex and found a lifejacket and a wetsuit. After having fitted it, I went inside and got my sunglasses and a bottle of water before I found the kayak and started dragging it down the garden path. “Good day. You must be Eline’s daughter.” I looked up and saw Gerda, Emma’s elderly neighbour who she, mum and grandma had told me had more than a screw lose. She’d always been nice to me though. Invited me over for juice and buns as a child and always gave me some change so I could buy sweets. When I got older, we’d mostly had short, but not unfriendly encounters.
“Hi Gerda,” I said and felt a genuine smile coming to my face.
“Off kayaking are you?” she asked.
She was wearing warn boots and a t-shirt that looked like it had seen better days. Her grey perm was meticulous as always. I’d never seen her with another hairstyle.
“Yes. Got to take advantage of the weather,” I replied.
“Would you like a hand carrying that down?” She pointed to the kayak. I figured I could probably do it myself. But she had a determined look in her eyes and though I’d never actually seen her mad side, I could easily believe it was there. Word had it that she’d killed two husbands. I wasn’t sure I believed it. Though they had both disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Amund, whom she was married to now, and had been for as long as I could remember,, was reputed to be senile, but still alive.
“Thanks that would be lovely.” I replied.
She stepped through the hedge parting Emma’s garden from hers and walked towards me. She was in good shape for her age. But I could tell from her stiff walking that she had some sort of knee problem.
“What was your name again?” Gerda asked as she and I approached the beach.
“Sandra,” I said I was ashamed at how exhausted I was already feeling from carrying the kayak. I really needed to get back into shape.
“Sandra. I’m sorry. You know what it’s like. Memories slip.” She laughed a laugh that somehow sent chills down my spine despite the heat.
“But one thing I will never forget is Nellevine’s revenge. Now that is gruesome. I take it you’ve not heard that story?”
We had reached the point where we could put down the kayak. All I needed to do now, was to push to get it out into the water
“No. I’ve never heard that story,” I said. I knew Nellevine was a lighthouse I always paddled, or drove past by motor boat. As far as I knew, Nellevine had been a lady who had first been the wife of one captain, and when he died had remarried the lighthouse keeper. He gave each of the lighthouses names, simply to distinguish them from each other, and the one that watches over the approach to the harbour was called after his wife. It was a common conception in the bay area that Nellevine’s ghost hung around, but that it was a good ghost.
“Of course. But let me tell you about Nellevine’s revenge.”
“You probably know Nellevine to have been a good woman.” Gerda started. “And people say too that her ghost is good.” She looked at me questioningly and I nodded. “That’s quite right,” she said. “Nellevine was and is good through and through. You see, I am in touch. I have spoken to her ghost many many times. And not just her ghost. I speak to a lot of dead people. My parents, my brother and sister, even my two dead ex-husbands.”
I didn’t like the way Gerda spoke and I was keen to get going on the water. But I felt I had no choice but to listen to her story.
One day in 1925 to be precise,, a terrible tragedy happened. A young, newly married woman by the name of Helene Hansen drowned under mysterious circumstances when she was going out to Lillesand in her husbands boat to meat a painter with whom she had an affair. Her husband, a carpenter by the name of Christian Hansen was utterly grief-stricken. They had only been married for six months and they were expecting their first child. Clearly, he did not know about the affair at the time. The day of Helene’s drowning was also a bit of a mystery. There had been no storm, and no reason for her to drown. Well, she wasn’t wearing a life jacket and she wasn’t reputed to be a good swimmer. It had happened so quickly. One minute she was there and the next, she wasn’t. The boat was found floating bottom up, unharmed. She was never found. But drowning could be the only explanation. It happened right near the lighthouse Nellevine, which is curious, because Lillesand is in the completely opposite direction. She must have been dragged there by a supernatural force.
“Then, ten years later, a local teacher, Janne Olsen also drowned. She was out kayaking when it happened. It was in the evening, but it was still light outside and the sea was calm. This also happened outside the lighthouse.. And digging into her life, the police found out that although Janne Olsen was seemingly a respectable young woman, loved by parents and children alike, she had been questioned about the death of one of her pupils five years previously. Also a drowning. The class had been on an outing to learn about local marine life. Some of the boys had gone out swimming, and thinking they were in control, Miss Olsen had not stopped them. She only told them not to swim further than she could see. What she didn’t know was that Tore, one of the boys had a heart failure and wasn’t supposed to swim. You can guess the rest.”
“Then it was my husband Sven in 1955. He went out with the fishing nets, although I told him it would be dangerous. I have grown up around here and I knew a storm would come. But Sven did not listen to me. He just laughed. Said the sea was calm. But I was right wasn’t I? The storm came quickly while he was out. He didn’t come back for the full two days the storm raged along the coastline. His body was washed to shore and found when it was all over. It later came out that Sven wasn’t just going out with the fishing nets. He was also going to meet his other woman. She eventually came to me and confessed everything.
Then, my husband Nils in 1970. Such a handsome man. And we’d just had a baby who had suffered one of those rare crib deaths infants sometimes suffer. Suffocated by its own pillow. Although I have a strange feeling Nils was behind the baby’s death. He always complained about it screaming and disturbing his sleep so that he was tired and performed badly at work. Well. He drowned too And neither he, nor his, my, motor boat were found. But they had last been seen outside the lighthouse Nellevine.”
You see Sandra. Nellevine is a lady who doesn’t like anybody getting away with things they’re not supposed to get away with. You could say crimes that can’t be proven to be crimes because there is either no evidence, or the majority doesn’t see it as a crime. Having a mistress for example, that’s not a crime. But it’s a horrible thing to do. And poor Tore, it could be murder. It was certainly careless. So that’s what Nellevine does. She punishes those who would otherwise get away with their, hmmm, crime is not the right word, misdeed is perhaps a better one.”
I stared at Gerda for a few seconds not sure what to think. Except I was now sure she had at least two screws loose if not more. “Are you sure about this?” I asked hesitantly, not knowing how she’d react if I upset her. “I am as sure as I am sure that something bad is about to happen again very soon. The last act of justice, that’s what I and Nellevine’s ghost like to call them, happened forty-five years ago. And it’s been quiet for a long time. But now…. It’s just a sneaky feeling I have. And I am usually right.”She looked out over the calm sea in front of her with a thoughtful glance. “But don’t you worry yourself dear. I’ve been talking quite enough now. Get out there now and enjoy yourself.”
With a smile she turned on her heel and walked back up to her garden.
I didn’t believe Gerda’s story in the slightest. It was farfetched. At least the part about Nellevine who was long passed away having something to do with it. Although, I made a note to ask Emma about the drownings. And although I was still convinced Nellevine’s ghost was a good one, I couldn’t help but paddle a little faster past her lighthouse towards the open sea.