Brenna hobbled out of the house as fast as her crutch would take her, not certain of her destination. The rain poured down in torrents and the wind whipped her thick, heavy, raven hair about her face. Tears streaked down from her captivating, almost unearthly green eyes. The wool sweater she wore was plastered to her skin and the crimson dye from the yarn was bleeding into her faded, denim peddle-pushers. She hadn't even bothered to grab her coat; it didn't matter. Why? Why did you have to go and die Granmam and leave me with nothing but those stupid stories filled with empty promises? I was supposed to be the mean-spirited, older sister. I can't be a caring parent, too.

"Tell me a story," her younger sister, Briar, had pleaded earlier, "the one where you were blessed by the Selkie, the seal-people."

Brenna had blown up at her sister.

"They were just stupid fairy stories! That's all! Granmam made them up to explain to me why I was always the last one picked for games at recess and why I was never asked to my senior Prom. I don't want to hear anymore about such nonsense! I'm through with stories and I'm especially through with entertaining ten-year-olds!"

But deep down, Brenna knew that it was not Briar's fault. Briar was not there yesterday when Brenna auditioned for the new Wharf-Side Theatre Company. The newspaper had mentioned that all applicants would need to do at the audition was sing. Brenna was thrilled. No dancing was required at all. She thought that this time, she might actually have a fighting chance. But no, that was not the case. The people at the audition took one look at her crutch and leg brace and did not even give her a single chance—no, not even half a chance. I sang just as well as those other girls did, if not better.

Brenna found herself by the edge of the pier. The dark emerald waters swirled violently like possessed hands trying to pull her in. One of those waves was able to latch on to her and she found herself struggling for the surface as the cold current plunged her back down again. The water was freezing. It snatched at her with invisible jaws, thrusting sharp icicles into her skin. Brenna tried calling for help but only managed to swallow mouthfuls of saltwater. Her lungs and eyes burned from the salty brine; the pain was almost unbearable.

Slowly, she sank, deeper and deeper. Time seemed suspended for her. Brenna vaguely wondered if this was how Alice felt, plunging down the rabbit hole. She wondered if she should just give in to the shadowy depths. By now, the chilling waters had numbed her entire body and her ebbing consciousness was fleeting. The song of the ocean pounded in her ears at first and then gradually reduced itself to a gentle murmur, lulling her to dream. Calm, soothing waters rocked her to sleep, caressing her in a motherly embrace.

Mother, she thought, Mither o'the Sea.

A serene smile graced Brenna's frozen, pale lips as she was reminded of one of her Granmam's familiar stories. The Mither o'the Sea—origin of all life on earth. She envisioned ethereal beings stepping from the foaming tide onto golden, sandy beaches, casting away silver scales and sparkling fins and forsaking a life of immortality and protection, for a life of mortality and pain. A life of suffering…a lonely life…a human life…her life.

Wouldn't it be so easy to just give in? She pondered. And return to a loving mother who missed her children so much, she would do anything to hold them once again, even if it meant sucking the life from them.

Imagine, a seductive voice echoed in Brenna's ear, no more hurt or painful memories. Just beautiful, sweet nothingness. The voice was warm and inviting. It was a tempting offer to be sure, especially in this helpless state.

She began her final descent into unconsciousness, returning to the watery womb of a spiteful mother, drugged by the nebulous strains of the sea-mother's placid, funereal lullaby. And just as Brenna was about to completely surrender herself to the Mither o'the Sea, a shape shot out of the abyss, stirring her foggy mind back to reality. Something velvety smooth brushed passed her right calf, making her tense.

A shark?

She panicked.

Out of the murky darkness, she could make out a hand…or was it…a fin?

It seemed to be beckoning her to follow. With every last ounce of strength Brenna possessed in her feeble capacity, she reached for the mysterious spectre. Soon the impenetrable vortex around her grew less indistinct and bemired. Rays of sunlight penetrated the somber, crepuscular gloom with their piercing defiance. As Brenna approached the surface, she felt two strong and sure arms pulling her to safety.

She found herself lying on the beach, her body wracking with desperate gasps for air and coughing up bucketfuls of the putrid, brackish liquid. A tangled mass of seaweed hung limply in her hair. Brenna turned to thank her rescuer but all she saw sitting next to her was a brown and grey speckled harbor seal with two of the richest, warmest and brownest eyes that Brenna had ever seen. They were almost…well…human. Stunned, Brenna got lost into their muddy depths until a distant voice seemed to be calling her from far away.

She looked up to see a disheveled Briar running towards her. Her sister's amber locks were in disarray and tears were streaming down her panic-stricken, freckled face. Briar's cornflower blue frock was wrinkled and drenched. Blood was trickling down her left leg from a cut on her knee—evidence from hurrying down the beach on the slippery, hazardous rocks. Brenna turned back around but the creature was gone. Briar knelt down beside her older sister, placing a trembling hand on Brenna's shivering shoulder.

"It was a Selkie, wasn't it?" Briar whispered into Brenna's ear as she picked out the seaweed from her big sister's hair.

"Wh--what?" Brenna stammered.

She wasn't sure what it was, exactly.

"I--I was so scared." Briar's voice quavered. "I didn't know what else to do. So, I started to call to Granmam for help. Then, I looked outta the window, and I saw her! I really saw her, Brenna! Only, she was sort of transparent and misty, 'cuz I could see right through her. She was out on the path, wearing that same old apron with the tattered pockets. You remember, the one that she used to collect seashells with? She was pointing towards the shore. So I ran here as fast as I could. And here's where I found you--and that seal who was here, just about a minute ago. You do believe me, don't you?"

Brenna looked up at the sky. The storm was over now and the sea was calm. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds, causing a rainbow to arch its bow over the sapphire-blue water. She stared into Briar's piercing green eyes—a mirror image of her own. Brenna smiled; something that she hadn't done in a long time.

"Yeah, kiddo, I believe you."

Briar helped her elder sibling to her feet. The saltwater dripped down off of Brenna, mingling with the rainwater and droplets of blood coming from Briar and formed little murky pools in the sand.

"Come on Half-pint, we gotta get cleaned up and treat that scrape of yours before it gets infected. If anything happens to you, Granmam will haunt me for the rest of my days," Brenna lectured good-naturedly.

She chuckled and added cheerily, "Let's go home…and I'll tell you a story."

Briar cocked her head, bewildered. Her furrowed brow and wrinkled nose caused the abundant crop of freckles on her face to run into each other. Brenna always thought that it was the queerest expression, making the sprightly young chit look like a drowned sea trollop.

"What story?" her little sister asked.

Brenna threw her head back and laughed. It was a hearty, musical laugh.

"It's the story about a wicked, ungrateful seal-maiden who refused to believe."


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