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Authors: Elizabeth A Reeves

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BOOK: Adrift
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I laughed at myself.  Who knew how long I’d be welcome in Maura’s home?  I couldn’t infringe on her hospitality too long.

The palomino I was grooming rubbed her face against me, as if she could sense my sadness.  The liquid warmth and intelligence of her eyes made me smile.  I stroked her nose.

We both shied when Devin appeared out of nowhere.

“Sorry,” he said, a little gruffly.  “I didn’t mean to startle you.  Maura sent me to help you out, but I see that you are done.”

“All clean,” I said, cheerfully, dusting off my jeans.  “Though I’m covered in wool and horse hair.  I don’t know how Maura stays so clean.”

Devin quirked a shoulder, looking past me.  He seemed uncomfortable, for some reason.

The mare I had been grooming nudged him with her nose and he gave her an absent pat, a carrot appearing in his hand as if by magic, and just as quickly disappearing down her gullet.

“Well,” Devin said, briskly, turning toward me,  “I suppose they need some exercise.  Let’s tack them up and hit the trail.”

He turned his back on me to go to the shed. I frowned to myself.  I didn’t know Devin at all, but he seemed to be borderline rude.  I hoped I hadn’t done anything offensive.  I sniffed at my shirt and made a face.  Maybe he was just disgusted by the layers of filth I had all over me.

Horses quickly saddled, we headed off, I on the palomino, Devin on a rangy chestnut gelding that looked a bit like the love child of a moose crossed with a thoroughbred, with his long face, roman nose, and knobby knees.  I knew, from grooming him, that he had quite a character.  Sure enough, the first thing he did with Devin on his back was to spin on his hindquarters and send Devin flying into the dirt.

I stifled a laugh as Devin climbed to his feet, unhurt and smiling wryly.  In seconds he was back in the saddle and prepared for the row of crow-hops the gelding put him through.

Devin grimaced.  “You need to get out more.  I’ve been neglecting you.”

My mount was gentle and sweet.  She carried me like I was made of glass.  Devin kept shooting looks at her and shaking his head.

“What?” I demanded, finally.

He quirked his lips into something akin to a smile.  “She’s being so good for you.  Usually she’s a pain in the…” He paused as she pinned her ears back at him.  “See what I mean?”

I stroked her neck.  “She’s so sweet!  I don’t believe you.  You must just rub her the wrong way.”

He gave me an oddly dark look.  “Yeah, that’s what it is.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing,” he said, but I heard him mutter something like “selkie” and “glamour”.  I glared at him.  His attitude was really starting to tick me off, and that usually took a lot.

“Well excuse me, Mr. Too Big For His Britches.  It’s not like I learned I was half selkie yesterday or anything!  If you’ve got a problem with me, why don’t you just say so?”

He had the decency to flush.  “It’s not like that.”

My mare bared her teeth at him and he scowled.

“What is it, then?” I demanded.  “How can I fix it if I don’t freaking know what’s wrong?”

His brows drew together and his eyes bored into mine.  “It’s nothing you can fix,” he said finally.

“Great,” I huffed.  “What, are you anti-selkie or something?  What is that, racism?”

He ignored me and pointed down the trail I supposed we were heading down.

We rode through the tundra-esque trees and up a steep slope, where the sea of grass seemed to stretch on and on until it dropped off into the sea.  Far in the distance, I could make out steep cliffs and ledges.  It was wild, furious, and absolutely breath-taking.

“Why Trinity?” I shouted to Devin, against the sudden wind.  “What’s here?”

Devin shaded his eyes.  “The gate,” he shouted back.  “It’s very thin here.  We’re in one of the last wild places, but there’s more to it.  For some reason, Trinity is an apex, a place where fairy touches the earth.  There are several of these on the earth, but they have been fading for so long, that Trinity is the last—and strongest—one.  Maura thinks it drifted here, like ice flows, that it used to be somewhere else, like Ireland.  Who knows?  The pull is strong here, that’s for sure.”

I thought of the blind tug that had drawn me here all the way from my farm in Missouri.  “The pull is very strong,” I agreed.

“Come on,” Devin shouted.  He whirled his moose-horse around in a full spin and jetted off, across the sea of grass.

My mare was all too willing to follow.  She bounded forward instantly and the wind roared in my ears and we raced neck-and-neck with Devin across the expansive view.  My heart thudded loudly with every single hoof beat.  The air was icy and ancient-feeling against my face.  It stung, but in a way that was more pleasant than not, like a parent’s cool hand against a feverish forehead.

The wind whipped tears from my eyes.  For a moment I was timeless, spaceless, just existing.  I could forget everything—my father, the pain of his loss, the shock of learning my mother was some other worldly creature.  It all vanished in exhilaration.

I let out a whoop and dug my heels into the mare’s sides.  We flew past Devin and his horse and reached the top of the crest.  My mare reared.  I could feel her own joy at our speed and freedom.  I laughed as she came down gently, prancing in place.

“So,” I told her.  “Maybe Devin is right.  You do have some fire in you, after all.”

She chuffed, arching her neck, obviously proud of herself.

Devin and his moose pulled to a halt next to us.  Devin immediately dropped his reins to the buckle and let the gelding crop at the grass.

“I have something to ask you,” I said.

Devin frowned, as I had feared, but something had been bothering me.  “The other night, I dreamt about my mother.”

He nodded.  “Yes, you told me.”

“But something else happened, too.”  I told him about the strange and beautiful man that had appeared to me.  The line of concern between his eyebrows deepened as I described what I had seen.

“Yes, it was real,” he said, when I was finished.  “And I’m not happy about it.  Somehow you have attracted the attention of one of the Sidhe.”

“Sith?” I asked, “Like Star Wars?”

He cracked a grin for about half a nano-second.  “No, Sidhe.  The High Ones.  You would consider him Faerie royalty, I suppose.”

I swallowed.  “Why would he be interested in me?”

Devin frowned further.  “I don’t know.  That’s what concerns me.  If you have caught the attention of even one of the Sidhe, you must be careful.  He isn’t human, and isn’t motivated by human emotions or anything we as mortals can really understand.  The Sidhe are neither evil nor good.  They just are.”

“But there’s really nothing to worry about, right?  I mean, Faerie is closed.  It’s not like I can talk to him—or my mother.  Not really.”

Devin absently scratched at his horse’s mane.  “Well, it is and it isn’t.  With your selkie blood—and how narrow the Gateway is here, they can both reach you—in your dreams.  Sleep opens us up in a way and lets the Fae enter.  So, they can reach you, and there is cause to worry.  Even dreaming can be dangerous.”

Before I could press him for further information he turned his horse around and started trotting back the way we had come.

I shivered, frightened and elated.  Perhaps I could have some form of relationship with my mother after all, even if it had to happen in my dreams.

All my life the term ‘in your dreams’ had referred to the impossible.  Now, it meant I could have a relationship with my mother.  So much of my life had been thrown off kilter, but for some reason this fact struck me as funny.  I snorted to myself as I let my mare follow after Devin.

We rode back to the cottage at a much more sedate pace.  I drank in the scenery around me.  I could never grow tired of the heavy salt air and the chilly wind blowing off of the ocean.  I could hear the roar of waves against the cliffs below.  A storm was rolling in from the distance, dark clouds surging ominously towards us, pregnant with majestic power and alive with electric danger.  I threw back my hair and inhaled deeply, feeling vitally and vividly alive.

“We’d better get back,” Devin shouted back to me.  “When this breaks, it’s going to break hard.”

I nodded, speechless.

The storm broke right before we reached the horse pasture.  We quickly took care of the horses, and threw them some feed.  By the time we raced back to the cottage we were both soaked to the skin.  My sweatshirt clung to me in a sodden mass and my hair stuck plastered to my cheek and back. 

Maura had a fire burning brightly in the fireplace when we came in.  She laughed at our soaked state and hurried off to find us some towels.  Kip looked up from in front of the fire and wagged his tail lazily, before flopping back down with a contented moan.

“Traitor,” Devin muttered.

“Don’t get too down on him,” Maura teased.  She tossed me a blissfully warm towel and I sat by the fire to dry off.  “He’s been working hard here, with me.”

“Working hard, huh?” Devin stared at his dog, disbelieving.  “What, he helped you make dinner?”

“Something like that.”  Maura’s eyes twinkled.  “At least he took care of the scraps.  Hot lentil stew tonight, once you two are ready.  I had a suspicion it might rain.”

Something hot sounded delightful.  My stomach rumbled hungrily as I changed in my room.  I fought the urge to try to look nice for Devin.  I admitted to myself that I found him oddly attractive—homely face and all—but it was blatantly clear that he had no interest in me whatsoever.  I threw on a t-shirt and my favorite ratty jeans and padded back out to the kitchen in my favorite toe-socks.

Maura ladled out thick bowls full of a gorgeous lentil stew.  She topped each bowl with a dollop of sour cream and passed them around.  I inhaled the scent of beef, lentils, and kale.  With Maura’s own homemade bread and butter, it was a perfect rustic meal.

We ate in silence: Maura, comfortably; me, too shy to speak up.  Devin seemed perfectly happy ignoring my existence.  I focused on the food instead, savoring each spoonful.  I half-watched Devin as he practically inhaled two servings before slowing down to enjoy his third.  Half a loaf of Maura’s bread had also vanished in his direction. 

Maura smiled maternally at her offspring and started clearing the table, bringing out dessert bowls for berry cobbler and homemade whipped cream.  I jumped up to help her, but she waved me away.  “I can manage this little bit,” she laughed.  “I grew up one of twelve siblings and as the youngest the dishes always fell to me.  A few little bowls won’t trouble me at all.”

I stared at her, trying to picture a child Maura cleaning through stacks of dishes, with a loud boisterous family filling the room.

Maura’s smile widened, as if she could hear what I was thinking.  “We were quite a clan, in those days.  I’m the only one that stayed here.  I had Devin’s father to keep my heart here, and then Devin.  It does seem strangely quiet at times.”  She laughed.  “But Devin did his best to keep things wild, when he was a child.  He was always getting into trouble and scrapes.  We never thought he’d live to see double digits, let alone manhood”

She ruffled his hair as if he were still a boy.  He smiled up at her for a moment, his ears turning red.

I swallowed a lump in my throat.  I wanted what he had so badly.  My father and I had been so close, but he couldn’t ever really replace a mother.  Watching Maura dote on her dour son just made me all the more aware of what I had been missing my whole life.

After dinner I presented Maura with the bundle of horse hair I had gathered up for her.  She eyed it thoughtfully, pursing her lips, then nodded.  “I can work with this.  What a wonderful thought!”

I glowed under her praise.  Oh, how I wished she had been my mother!  I would have been so happy, learning all her skills at her knee.

I just hoped Devin appreciated what he had.

 

I dreamed of Faerie again that night.

It started, again, with the ocean.  I floated gently on the surface, letting the waves pull me where they chose.  The stars hung overhead, bright as crystals, singing out of the heavens.  I let my fingers drift through the water.  It calmed and caressed me, gentle and quiet in the stillness after the storm.

A seal appeared beside me and I knew immediately that it was my mother.  She darted around me, twisting playfully through the water, moonlight glistening along the sleek curves of her sinuous body.  I laughed gleefully and splashed after her, diving through the waves, trying to catch her slippery form as she rippled around me.

She pressed her nose against mine and I could gaze into her beautiful, sad, eyes.  Tears rolled down her cheeks.

“Did you love him?” I whispered.  “Did you ever truly love him?”

She nodded, once, slowly and with much gravity.  The tears rolled down her seal face and mingled with the salt of the sea.

Then she was gone.

 

I found myself on a sandy shore, lit by moonlight nearly as bright as sunlight.  My feet left little hollows in the soft, white sand.  I wore a simple linen shift, which played gently around my knees, the hem wet with salt water.

BOOK: Adrift
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