May, 1763

The blue grey of dawn erupted across the drunken black sky in the silent violence of dawn. Waves crashed against the rocks, breaking the still windless air of the bay. There upon a looming hill, facing the ocean like a reckless youth, immortal and fearless, stood the cottage. Its white washed walls were creased with dirt and salt, the thatch roof was thick and strong, and a wild garden angrily devoured the hut. The sun suddenly sang in the navy sky, cold gold, hard set and determined to face the day it was to create. Inside the cottage, the fluttering curtains drew back with the breeze, the salt and light mixing on the sheets and pillows of the bed.

Meriel opened her eyes, her hand slowly moving over to the edge of the bed, knowing all along it would find no one. She lifted her head and kicked the twisted white linen from her legs. She was not a small woman, but not a tall one. With a slim, almost girlish figure, she seemed to be less than what her 18 years boasted. She was not an ugly girl, but not a beautiful one. She was fair, with honest hazel eyes and brown locks that were usually tied back meticulously from her face. She stood by the window, in her shift and hair wild from sleep and stared out at the sea.

She had known he would have left early. It had been unspoken but mutual knowledge, even as she had taken him to her bed. She also had known it would be long before they would see each other again.

"I'll come back for you," He had whispered when he thought she was sleeping, in the darkest hours of twilight before he left, "I'll be back, I swear it."

And with that, he kissed her temple and softly shut the door, leaving her alone in a barren bed. The candle burned out in a smoldering knoll of melted wax on the sill as he passed by the window outside, away into the darkness.

I'll come back

Donagh's voice still lay on her cheek, his breath still in her ear.

I'll come back

Donagh was the young fisherman with the spirited green eyes and the dark curls who could speak with seals and predict the tides.

He had caught her eye when she was just a girl.

July, 1757

She was 12 years with a kerchief tied around her head and dirty bare feet when she first saw him. She ran down the beach with her basket, collecting seaweed. It was a strange day, the moon full and milk fed in the clear eastern sky. To the west, over the sea, the sky was steeped in grey. She dared the surf to retrieve a piece of seaweed when up from the water, not ten feet away, Donagh emerged from the sea. The strangled rays from the veiled sun glinted off the fair skin of his chest, his curls dripping. He noticed her lithe figure, the hem of her dress soaked and eyes clear and youthful, standing close to the shore.

And it started to rain.

It was at that moment that she knew she wanted him. None of those crude, chubby boys, or the thin, pale ones with shy eyes and no conversation would do. She wanted him; Donagh, who was a full four years older, tall and almost a man. She wanted the boy from the sea, and if there was one thing about Meriel, it was that she always got what she wished for by determination and a quick wit.

**** October, 1759

When Meriel was fourteen, her mother tied the stays of the green dress tightly across her small chest. Though Meriel was quickly becoming a woman in her face, her body was still lean with small hips and breasts. Her grandmother shook her head and clucked her tongue in her ancient mouth.

"She'll have a hard time birthing babes, that one," She spoke, taking a puff from her pipe, the pale evening sunlight invading every one of the creases in her face.

"Aye, but she will stay young longer then we," Her mother said, tucking a strand of hair that had fallen loose from the bun that sat atop Meriel's head.

Her mother was a smiling woman called Bree. She was more vigorous and lovely than her daughter, with full lips and ginger waves that she rarely tied back from her face. Meriel envied her vivacious, beautiful mother almost as much as she loved her.

"You know, I met your father during Harvest time," Bree said softly watching the peat fire seethe in the fire place.

Meriel glanced at her mother. It was rare that she spoke of her father.

"He was so charming," She gave a breathy laugh and looked over at Meriel with a sad smile, "Swept me right off my feet."

Meriel broke their gaze, looking out the open door at the setting sun.

"Well then," Her mother said, back to herself, "We must have you down at the village. The evening grows no younger, daughter."

Meriel gave a small smile and watched as the Donahue's wagon rolled up.

The Donahues were a large family who lived nearest to Meriel's cottage. They were a boisterous crew, with five children; Arlen, Mary, Frances, Brigit, and little Brody. Arlen was the eldest and had been Meriel's childhood friend and confidant. When they were 13, however, Arlen had stolen a kiss that resulted in being slapped by the surprised and indignant Meriel. Afterwards, their relationship dwindled to more of an acquaintance then a friendship.

The young October moon was just a sliver in the navy sky, but a passion of stars gave just enough light as they rode. The road to the village was a sandy ribbon on the edge of the green shore. The sighing of the waves could be heard and when you licked your lips you tasted the archaic salt of the ocean.

Meriel took a deep breath as the village came into view, illuminated by a bonfire and the lanterns from inside all of the buildings. No one who lived within the little brightly glowing parish would find sleep tonight. Soon the singing and shouting, the sounds of drunken fights, laughing; the music of hard worked men and their women celebrating the end of the season could be heard. The wagon bumped on into the village and stopped. Meriel took Arlen's hand as he helped her from the wagon onto the ground.

Merriments of all sorts were commencing beneath the fruitful sky, the bonfire reaching high into the heavens. The fiddler and drummer played gaily with dancing couples twirling around in their finest garments. The ladies, with their bouncing curls and smiles shining at their beaus, twirled in their rose, golden, azure and olive dresses that meshed with the brown trousers of their men. All smiled, either sober or drunk. All laughed, either adults or children.

Meriel stared at the scene and searched the faces. The ones she had come with had all dissipated about her, leaving her alone on the side. She watched with intense eyes, taking it all in her memory.

Her thin eyebrows arched as she noticed a figure similar to herself, standing off in the darkness. But the shape of the remote stranger was not watching the prospect as she was, but watching her. At least, she thought he was watching her. She glanced around to make sure none were about her. Alone she stood, all alone, except for the eyes of Donagh Kelly gazing at his fellow isolated soul. Meriel blushed and looked away, walking into the crowd toward him.

Sometimes the hunter and the hunted switched roles.