my mother returned to the sea
Cinda had grown up with several mothers but none of them had given birth to her.
“Your mother drowned in the Myrddin Sea when you were very small.” Cousin Ivy told her–again.
“Your mother was swallowed up by the Sea when you were not even a Winter.” Uncle Fox sighed sadly–again.
“I heard she walked straight into the Myrddin Sea as calmly as you please–and drowned. She might’ve even been eaten,” Her cousin Rafe whispered to her.
“Shut up, Rafe!” Celeste warned him. She threw a punch for good measure, so that both Rafe and Cinda ran away.
“I heard Mrs. Inman talk about it, you know, after it happened.” Rafe was old enough to remember, just not smart enough to keep it secret.
Calder bordered the Myrddin Sea. It was a rowdy little village who grew plump on Fish, Beer, and Song. This was where her Father, Uncle Fox, and Aunt Elise were from. Their Father was a fisherman and a poet; both kept him in drink. Their mother, a songstress and enabler, died when the children were young people. She’d been swallowed and then spit out by the Sea. Her blue sequined gown, twisted about her, appeared to have bled all over her white skin. Cinda could imagine it and sometimes would stick her white hands in the water where Felice was dying a faded cloth anew.
Cinda’s father had become, quite impossibly, a scholar and it was because he was really very smart and very very determined. He and Fox left home together, only the two years between births being the thing that kept them apart. Fox was younger but would not be left behind and so they both collected their earnings, stole a bit more, and traveled to Bellport, to the University. Fox was not book smart nor did he care to be, so he took care of their tiny room and meager board doing menial labor and winning at cards. Father pretended to be someone he was not and they let him in to the school. They didn’t regret it. He was top in his class and they hired him soon after he graduated.
Both brothers swore to never go back to Calder, not even for their eldest sister Elise, who had married a local man at sixteen. Father had been 11 when that happened. But they did go back for Elise eventually. And that was when Father met Cinda’s mother–again.
“There was this Blisterin’ Storm when your Father was 14. It had come up sudden, like they tend to do in the spring, but this one was bigger than anyone had seen in a long while. It stripped the color right off the buildings.
“Some had been caught on their boats and that was what was thought to happen to your Mother. More than a few pleasure boats from further south had been washed up on the Calder shores. An older couple, her parents, had died; found broken nearby where she was laying.
Your father found her and he was gone for her from then on. I think he still is. We brought her home, told the authorities, and she stayed with the Elderly Mrs. Laramore, though not as a child. She was older than us by a few years. She lived two houses down for a year before leaving again, only saying goodbye to your father who was heartbroken. But she was too old for him then, and so strange, as the city dwellers in the south were.”
“But he met her again,” Cinda prompted Fox who was looking deep in thought as he always did at that part.
“He did. He went to the shore one evening, when the sun was touching the water, and he came home with her not long after. He’d gone to that very spot where he’d first found her and found her again.
“We’d begun travelling after that, with our mother’s people. Perhaps we should never have gone back when she became pregnant with you.”
Cinda knew her mother had died not long after she had been born. Her mother had nursed Cinda at her breast and with long walks along the Sea. Sometimes Cinda swore she could remember the smell of fresh soil, of torn grass, and her mother’s tears. She sometimes mixed up the scent with the sound of lapping water. When she missed her mother she would climb into a tub and fill it to the top and push water over the edge, or splash fitfully until someone inevitably screamed for her to stop.
Uncle Fox had taken to recording the stories he heard, and the ones he made, and the even the ones he experienced. He’d commissioned an illustration of the Morwen’s shore, of the cairn and the Myrddin Sea for his piece on Morwen and Fane Wyatt. Cinda had heard the story, the abbreviated version since she was very small, but only upon request and rarely from her father’s own lips. Those rare occasions were less a moment of storytelling, and more a quiet moment of reflection over the black and white and gray illustration.
Since she was 3, whenever they would visit this Calder and its cairn built undiminished beside the Myrddin Sea, Cinda and her father, he would hold her and run his fingers over the water as the sun sank beneath it. “She returned to the Sea, didn’t she, Father,” Cinda would softly say, but her Father wouldn’t. He would only hug her tighter, kiss the top of her dark brown hair, and murmur, “hush, now.”
The book never said, but Cinda knew. She knew her mother had returned to the sea.