Along the shore, small watery indentations—each harboring a moon—wandered off in both directions. A woman’s footprints? A selkie’s? Had Mum already been there?
She thought of the day Rowan explained all about selkies. She’d stood in the yard with him and Grandma Teegan, watching Pappy and Mum leave. Pappy sat up tall in the small wagon he’d hired to carry them and looked forward. Mum looked back at Bridget, her eyes full of tears as they rolled away. Grandma Teegan took up the hoe Great-grandpa Seamus had used throughout his life—stains from his hands still on the handle. She walked toward the village cemetery. When Ogan went loping after her, his ears flapping, Rowan let the dog go, but he grabbed Bridget and held her back.
“Leave her,” he said. “She’s wanting to be alone.”
“Why?” Bridget cried. “Why do they all need to be alone of me?”
Rowan held her hand as Grandma Teegan walked away. She moved slow, her back bent, and she used the hoe like a walking stick. Every few steps the metal blade landed with a click on some small rock half buried in the turf.
Rowan headed for the rocky path leading down to the sea. “Come on.”
They moved around waist-high boulders and stepped over rocks pot-sized. At the sea, waves crashed and threw sprays of water. To Bridget, the whole world was crying, and for good reason. Sitting on a flat rock, paying no attention to the spray turning their clothes damp, they watched the waves turn gold and violet beneath the setting sun.
He squinted at her. “What ye doing there?”
“Ye been licking an hour.”
“Mum’s tears taste like salt.”
“Ye like the taste of tears?”
“No. I love Mum.”
He pulled her close. “Ye keep crying like that, it’ll turn ye into an old woman. Don’t look at me so. Grandma Teegan cried herself that age. Crying over all the people she’s lost, believing ye mum be lost, too.”
Sea birds dove out of the air and then leveled just above the water’s surface, flying straight as sticks for several yards before lifting again. “Ye know about selkies?” Rowan asked.
Bridget nodded. Everyone knew selkies came ashore and took off their sealskins and were beautiful people who never got old. Men could be selkies, but Bridget only liked the stories of girl selkies. They married fishermen and had fishermen’s babies and were happy. But the sea was their real home, and they could put on their sealskin whenever they wanted and return to the water for an hour or a day or forever.
“Ye haven’t been told,” Rowan said. With calloused hands, he wiped tears off her cheeks. “Yer mum,” he made a show of looking around, being sure they were alone, and then he leaned down to her ear, “she hasn’t really left you. She be a selkie.”
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