Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Sookie set the bags down on the floor of the wraparound porch and flipped over to the house key on her key ring. She was just turning the second dead bolt when the door swung open. “I thought that was you,” Sam, her landlord, greeted her.
“Thanks,” Sookie ducked her head, avoiding eye contact. It was silly because Sookie was pretty sure that with his bad eyes, all Sam could see was a blur where her face was. Stooping for the grocery bags, Sookie marched past him and into the hall.
Sam was taller than both Sookie and her mother, Michele. If Sookie had to guess, she’d put him in his mid-forties. He had sandy hair that was thinning a little on top. He was thick and soft around the middle, the way people got when they didn’t get out much. Sam smiled in his pleasant, slightly vacant way, then stepped forward, forcing Sookie to pause. Rather than simply push past him, Sookie pasted her smile on her face, “How are you, Sam? How’s the book coming?” she asked politely. Sookie sensed that Sam took any conversation she offered as more encouragement than she meant, but she couldn’t bring herself to be rude to her landlord.
Sam didn’t write fiction as the nurse who’d introduced them thought. Sam wrote books on military history. Before he developed the disease that was slowly robbing him of his sight, he’d been a researcher and instructor at one of the military academies. This house was his family home, and it was where he chose to retreat. When Sam was growing up here, this had been a quiet, family neighborhood, but as Boston continued its slow, inevitable sprawl, things grew up, and then started to go to seed all around it. Now, this was a small, unnoticed street that branched off a busy thoroughfare. It was a dead end, and that spared the half-dozen houses from witnessing a parade of cars every day as people sought quicker ways from one place to another.
What the neighborhood wasn’t spared was the occasional squall of street thugs who blew in from time to time, looking for easy pickings. There was a small park only one house down, and young bloods would congregate there, perching on swings and the old-style push merry-go-round, noisy and aggressive. On those days, Sookie would walk past the playground with purpose, her eyes trained ahead of her. She would ignore the calls and hoots, and think, gratefully, of the three heavy bolts that Sam had installed on his front door.
“Can I carry that bag for you?” Sam offered, and Sookie thought he was looking altogether too hopeful.
“Thanks for offering,” Sookie said brightly, her standard answer to his standard question, “but, no, it’s only a little bit this week. Well,” and she glanced at the stairs that led to her apartment, “I should probably get going.”
“Oh,” and Sookie heard his disappointment. “Well, you have a nice day,” Sam told her, “Tell your Mom Hi for me,” and Sam purposely brushed her arm with his fingers as she passed by.
“I will,” Sookie replied, keeping her voice light and pretending she hadn’t noticed his touching her. She deliberately turned the doorknob and walked steadily up the stairs, one foot after the other, refusing to let Sam know he’d flustered her in any way.
Michele was sitting at the kitchen table peeling potatoes for dinner. “You’re looking perky!” Sookie told her.
“Oh!” Michele looked startled. “You went out?”
Sookie held up the grocery bags, and then pointed at the note that sat on the table directly in front of her Mother. “Yes,” she replied. “And you wrote down a note so you wouldn’t forget.” Sookie fought back her frustration. This wasn’t Michele’s fault. It was the result of the surgery. Michele remembered who she was, and she remembered the people in her life, but her short-term memory was impaired. She couldn’t remember whether she’d washed or where people went. Michele would get confused about why she was doing something, and she couldn’t go outside on her own because she’d forget the way home. There was one bright side, though. Michele forgot her strange yearning for her husband, and Sookie found her relationship with her Mother was better than it ever had been.
“I’m feeling better,” her Mother told her daughter. Michele still had her hair, but it was slowly disappearing. ‘Shedding,’ her Mother called it. The first round of chemo hadn’t been as bad as they’d expected, but they were assured that with each round, the effects would intensify.
Sookie set the bags on the counter and started moving around the kitchen, putting things away. “Sam is a nice man,” her mother offered.
“Yeah, he is,” Sookie agreed.
“Did you know he came up today and spent an hour or so just talking? He’s a good talker,” her Mother added. She pointed at a book on the Civil War that was resting on the countertop. “He left that for you. He likes you a lot.”
“Were you okay with him coming up here?” Sookie stopped her sorting and turned toward her Mother, her hand on her hip. She purposely ignored the comments about Sam’s attraction and focused on the issue that concerned her most. The idea of Sam Merlotte being alone with her Mother, who was so vulnerable, made Sookie wary.
“It was nice, his company,” her Mother replied. “He thinks the world of you,” she repeated again.
“Yeah, he’s nice for an old guy,” Sookie’s tone was not kind and she resumed her motion of reaching from bag to cabinet and then back to bag again.
“He really is smart,” her Mother persisted.
“Then you should get him lined up for once you’re back in action,” Sookie sassed.
“He’s not interested in an old, used up lady like me,” her Mother kept teasing.
“Well, I’m not interested in a fat, middle-aged guy, Mom!” The words came out quickly, and Sookie immediately regretted them.
“Sookie!” her Mother’s mouth fell open, and her face made clear her disapproval.
“You’re right! I’m sorry. That was so mean!” and Sookie sat down. “I’m not myself. I’m tired. I didn’t get off work until past two last night and then I couldn’t sleep.”
Sookie had a job now waiting tables at an all-night diner around the corner. It was a favorite with families for dinner and the Boston bar crowd for later. The place had been in business and in the same family for generations, and for those from Watertown and Newton who were ‘in the know,’ it was the only place to go. The tables were big and the tips were good. Pat, the man who ran the place, cooked whole turkeys for his signature club sandwich every morning, and then he cooked another round of turkeys in the afternoon for the night crowd. He had special ovens lining the back of his kitchen installed just for that purpose. It was like walking into Thanksgiving every day and Sookie loved it.
“You are working too much,” her Mother scolded. “You race around all day chasing down doctors, cooking, running errands, and then you run all night at your job. You need a break, sweetie.”
“It’s okay, Mom,” Sookie assured her Mother. It wasn’t though. Every night before she went to bed, Sookie plotted out the minutes of the next day. She listed and planned and listed again, trying to fit too many needs into the too small bag of the next day.
“Did Aunt Linda call today?” Sookie asked, glancing at the Caller ID on her Mother’s phone.
Michele looked blankly, but then checked the pad of paper in front of her. “She did,” Michele said, not hiding the surprise in her voice. “She asked if you’d found a young man yet,” and Michele waggled her eyebrows.
“Well, I hope you told Aunt Linda that I have more important things on my mind other than getting laid,” Sookie fired back, earning another snort from her Mother. Truth be told, it had been close to a year since Sookie had been intimate with anyone. Putting the last can away, Sookie added, “And you can tell my Mother that Sam Merlotte downstairs doesn’t even make the fourth string fantasy list, so she can just cool her jets!”
“He really is a nice man,” her Mother said again. “He has money coming in and he’d take care of you.” When Sookie turned quickly, her fist on her hip, Michele said, “Just saying,” and picked up the potato and knife to start peeling again.
“There are lots of nice men out there,” Sookie agreed, “but I’m not interested in dating right now. And even if I was, I don’t know where I’d fit one in. I’m kind of busy these days.”
That night as Sookie walked the few blocks to the restaurant, she thought back to the last time she’d been on any kind of date. He’d been nice enough. He’d lived on campus and Sookie had shared his too narrow bed a couple of times in those days before her Mother’s illness. They hadn’t exactly broken up, but neither had they spoken in months, so Sookie figured it was pretty well over.
With the coming of Fall, it was already dark at seven o’clock and the lights of the diner blazed like a beacon into the night ahead of her. There were people sitting in the small entryway and people sitting in their cars. They would be waiting for Fran, Pat’s wife, to call their cells signaling when a table was available. When Sookie opened the door, the noise enveloped her like a great wave and the heat caused her to strip off her coat as she headed to the back.
“Glad you got here a little early,” Amelia, her fellow waitress called out. “We could use another split in the stations. It’s crazy!”
Sookie, Holly, and Amelia all covered the tables. The counter was run by Pat himself and Fran pinch-hit. There was a constantly changing rotation of bus boys who all seemed to last two nights before they would end up fired. When things got too crazy, the women bused their own tables to keep things moving. Sookie slipped into the ‘swing’ station and introduced herself to her tables. The tips for these guests would go to the original waitress, that was the deal, and it kept things civil, but you always hoped that when you did step in, the tables you inherited were closer to leaving.
The night passed like a blur, and then things slowed down as they always did between ten and eleven. Holly would stay until all the side work was done, and then she’d head home to her family. Sookie usually stayed until three when the waves of people staggering in from the bars slowed. The diner itself would close at four in morning and not open for business again until noon the following day, and then it would start all over again.
“You interested in taking a boat ride?” Amelia asked as she slid into the booth where they were filling ketchup bottles.
“What are you talking about?” Sookie felt startled by the question. It seemed so out of place in the routine she knew.
“Sunday, during the day,” Amelia persisted. “We can grab the harbor taxi out to Spectacle Island. It’s a national park and they’ll be closing it down soon for the season. We could grab our last tan of the season and have a final Fall picnic.”
“I don’t know,” Sookie said slowly, thinking of her Mother.
“Don’t say no,” Amelia huffed. “You don’t do anything, you don’t go anywhere! You’ve been living here for what? Months? And you haven’t seen Quincy Market or any of the tourist stuff! This is six hours, and it’ll only cost you ten dollars. Island? Ocean?”
“I’ll check with my Mother,” Sookie promised. Amelia knew about Sookie’s situation, but she also knew Michele was between chemo treatments.
“Of course you’re going!” her Mother exclaimed when Sookie mentioned it the next day.
“It’s not all that,” Sookie shrugged, trying not look too interested. “Who knows? I’ll probably get sea sick and be a big drag all day.”
“You love the water and you know you’ll have a wonderful time,” her Mother scolded her. “Just find out what you can bring for the picnic and we’ll figure out what you should wear. Oh, Sookie!” and her Mother made clear that she was more excited to be helping her daughter than she would be if she was going herself.
“It may turn out to be a bad day,” Sookie persisted, “Besides, what are you going to do here all day, all alone? The thought of you and creepy Sam wandering around the house kind of gives me a chill.”
“Just stop it!” her Mother scolded. “You are too hard on Sam! He means well, and he’s lonely just like everyone else. Besides, he’s busy trying to finish his latest book. They brought a new screen for his computer, and I swear it’s bigger than our television. It won’t be much longer and he’ll be stone blind unless they find something to cure him, so you might try to find a little Christian kindness in that hard heart of yours!”
“You’re right,” and Sookie felt ashamed. “I can’t imagine not being able to see. It must be terrible.”
“It is,” her Mother looked mollified, “and as for me? I intend to binge watch “Vikings” without my daughter scolding me about wasting my day away in front of the television, and there’s an apple pie and vanilla ice cream with my name on it!” Another thing that happened after the surgery was Michele’s tastes in food changed. Before the surgery she’d always preferred vegetables. She would make whole meals out of tomatoes and beets. Now she preferred sugar and her waistline was suffering. “So, you’ll be doing me a big favor,” her mother concluded, pulling a beach towel from the closet.
Sunday came, and it was not cold or rainy. In fact, it was forecasted to be sunny and unseasonably warm. Sookie took her bag with her beachwear and sun screen along with a small cooler filled with her Mother’s best coleslaw, the one with the vinegar and pimentos, and walked to the end of the street to wait for Amelia.
Just a few minutes after the appointed time, Amelia’s beat-up Jeep pulled over and Sookie jumped into the passenger seat. “You remember Dawn and Hoyt,” Amelia motioned to the couple sitting in the back seat. Sookie had met the couple from time to time at the diner, so they weren’t exactly strangers.
“Yeah, sure,” Sookie smiled. Amelia hadn’t mentioned there would be others coming with them. Sookie had thought it would be a day where the two of them would just hang out and talk, but Dawn and Hoyt’s presence told Sookie she was mistaken. “Nice to see you,” Sookie acknowledged them.
“We’re going to take the T into town,” Amelia was saying. “The station in Watertown won’t charge me for parking. The boat goes out of Rowe’s Wharf and you can’t find parking down there for less than thirty bucks a day. Besides, it’s so close to the Aquarium that we’ll be sitting in traffic.” Amelia then launched into a one-woman monologue about her night and who she’d seen, which didn’t include anyone Sookie knew. She talked about what shows were coming into town and the latest gossip from the restaurant.
Amelia screeched into the large, open lot and Sookie grabbed her bags. Together, they headed for the platform. Hoyt and Dawn had passes and walked right through, but Sookie and Amelia spent time at the kiosk. “I didn’t know today was going to be a group,” Sookie told Amelia. “I hope I brought enough coleslaw.”
“Oh, don’t be silly!” Amelia dismissed her, and that was Amelia.
Amelia was a fine friend as long as you remembered that Amelia’s best friend was always Amelia. She did what was convenient and best for her, and if that worked out for you, too, Amelia was honestly happy. If what you wanted didn’t fit into Amelia’s plans, she’d cut you loose as if she’d never known you at all. Still, spending time with Amelia was fun and, when happy, Amelia could be generous and kind.
As they rode the T into town, Sookie had to acknowledge Amelia was right about one thing. Sookie was still a stranger to most of Boston. Once they passed the areas Sookie knew, those closest to the cancer center, the stops seemed to get larger and more crowded. Amelia made up stories about the people they passed, and Hoyt launched into a string of dirty jokes that had Sookie’s cheeks burning. Before she knew it, Sookie was walking down city sidewalks, trailing Amelia and her friends under trees that were just showing color. They passed the Boston Aquarium, winding their way through children and tour groups. Amelia led them toward the water and soon they were passing under a gate, and then down the gangway toward the harbor itself. There were several passenger boats tied up here, including the Aquarium’s Whale Watch boat. Amelia hustled them further down the dock and Sookie saw two boats with the Harbor Ferry logo painted on the side.
Amelia had pre-purchased their tickets and they all walked on board together. Dawn immediately headed for the back. “Come on!” she called, then turned to race other people to get to the top deck.
“She’s running to get us chairs,” Hoyt explained. “From up there we can see everything.”
They emerged on the open, flat roof of the boat, and Dawn was standing near the front, talking with a man. “There you are!” Amelia called out, and Sookie realized that Amelia was meeting a boyfriend. Sookie felt her fake smile paste across her face. It was her shield every time she found herself in an uncomfortable situation, and growing up the way she had, the new kid in every town, she’d had a lot of experience with those.
Sookie looked away as Amelia wrapped herself around the man and began examining his tonsils with her tongue. Instead, Sookie looked at the other people who were standing at the rails or were claiming tables. They all seemed to be couples. There were couples holding hands, and couples leaning into each other, pointing to landmarks on the shore. There were couples chatting and groups of couples laughing. In that moment Sookie felt profoundly lonely, even standing in this crowd.
Amelia detached herself from the guy and walked over to grab Sookie’s arm, “So, did you bring a swimsuit?”
“I did,” Sookie replied, her crazy smile stretched across her face.
“Good,” Amelia laughed, and Sookie realized Amelia was oblivious to Sookie’s discomfort. Amelia dragged Sookie back toward where the group was standing. “The water will still be plenty warm and there’s a great little beach there.” Amelia steered Sookie with one hand and the guy she still hadn’t introduced with another to a table and chairs that faced the Boston skyline.
Hoyt appeared with soft drinks for all of them and they settled in, placing their feet against the metal rails and watching the buildings and boats slowly slip past them as the Ferry headed away from the dock.
The ride took a little over twenty minutes, and Sookie soon forgot her frustration at being a third wheel. She couldn’t stop staring at the scenery around her.
The city skyline became clearer the farther they traveled away from it. Sookie glanced down at the water and realized there was a whole world of people at play out there. Everywhere she looked there were small fishing boats and ski boats. A couple people raced by on Jet Skis and the water’s surface was studded with the triangles of sails. When they passed a boat, the people on board would wave and shout. When they passed another ferry or a whale watching vessel, the boats would exchange long blasts of their horns. Sookie found herself caught up in the joy of it and when strangers waved, she waved back. At one point, they motored past a point of land and Sookie saw what looked like an old fort of some kind. There were people walking on the flat parade grounds that surrounded it, and Sookie could see heads of other people standing high on the walls. There were old cannon stationed around and an American flag flapping on a flagpole out front. Sookie turned to ask about it, but Dawn and Hoyt had disappeared, and Amelia seemed intent on merging her body with her boyfriend’s. ‘I’ll find out later,’ Sookie told herself, turning back to look out across the water.
Sookie realized that Boston was a harbor within a harbor. As they cleared the arms of the land, she could see that there were many islands between the City and the open ocean. What felt even odder was that every few minutes, a huge jet would pass overhead, and soon Sookie could see them taking off, one after another, across the bay from a runway positioned to run into the sea. After a few more minutes, Sookie could see other jets coming in from the ocean landing on another strip of land and she spent the remainder of the trip watching the ballet of airplanes, each timed with beautiful precision.
“We’re here!” Amelia startled her, and the boat made a wide turn to pull into a dock.
The island wasn’t large. Sookie could easily see both ends. It was made up of two hills and there was a building nestled in the valley in between. “This used to be where Boston hauled all their garbage,” Hoyt told her as they walked down the gangway that led to the dock. “It got so bad out here that the place caught fire. I saw pictures where you could see the column of smoke over the harbor. The whole island was burning deep down underground in the piles of garbage.”
“It was on the news,” Dawn nodded. “Folks here were embarrassed and they should have been. When they finally got the fire put out, they stopped dumping.”
“Until the Big Dig,” Hoyt nodded. “They figured they should make something of the place, so they brought all the dirt they dug to make the tunnels out here, buried all the garbage good and deep, and planted the trees. We’ll take a walk around later. There’s hiking paths and picnic shelters now. Pretty nice.”
“It is,” Sookie replied, and meant it.
They walked as a group down the concrete dock and found a place where they could spread towels on the small beach. “You wearing your swim suit?” Amelia asked Sookie.
“No,” Sookie shook her head. “I figured I’d change once I got here.”
“Good,” Amelia smiled, “so did I. Come on!” and Amelia grabbed her hand and pulled her toward a building with large doors and an open bottom.
Sookie changed into her one-piece swim suit. It was the first time she’d worn it in a long time. It was pretty conservative, a plain navy blue with a sweetheart neckline. She threw a shirt over it and toed into her sandals, then walked out to wait. Amelia came out a minute later in a bikini that emphasized how thin she was. “So,” Amelia glanced at the beach, “what do you think of Sean?”
“Who?” Sookie asked.
“Sean, the guy I’m with,” Amelia rolled her eyes toward the guy she’d been kissing on the boat.
“Oh,” Sookie smiled around clenched teeth, “Oh, he’s okay. Known him long?”
“About a month,” Amelia shrugged. “I met him in the City. He’s Irish, but not off the boat Irish. Anyway, he plays in an Irish band on weekends. I love musicians,” and she flashed a smile in Sean’s direction.
Sean grinned and Sookie had to admit, with his wavy brown hair and straight teeth, he was attractive. Sookie followed Amelia back to the beach. Dawn was already wearing her swim suit and stretched out on a blanket next to Hoyt, who had opted for gym shorts. Sean pulled his shirt off and brushed sand off the blanket beside him, inviting Amelia to sit down. Sookie pulled her towel out of her bag and laid it out on the sand beside Amelia. As she sat down Amelia called, “Come on, Sookie, take the shirt off. You’re so pale! It will do you good to get some sun.”
“Yeah, sure,” Sookie smiled gamely. She stood up again and pulled her shirt over her head. As she folded it and bent down to tuck it into her bag, someone whistled and Sookie had the uncomfortable feeling the sound was aimed at her. Amelia seemed to confirm it when she said, “Holy shit! Wow, Sookie! I had no idea you were hiding that under your uniform!”
Sookie looked around and it seemed like everyone, not just their group, was staring at her. Hoyt’s mouth was actually open and Sookie could feel the heat of her blush rushing over her. She felt ridiculous and humiliated, and she pulled her shirt right back over her head. “Come on!” Amelia crowed. “What are you so embarrassed about? You’re hot!”
“Smoking,” Sean agreed, which had Amelia spinning around to smack his arm.
“I guess I just don’t get out much,” Sookie said quickly. She kept her eyes trained to the ocean, and when her face wouldn’t stop burning, she flashed a quick, tight smile at Amelia, stood up, and said, “I’m going to get some cold water from the café. Anyone else want anything?” and she walked away as quickly as she politely could.
Amelia came up behind her after a minute, “You’re not upset, are you?” she asked.
“No, just… I don’t know. Embarrassed,” and Sookie smiled again before looking away.
“I guess you don’t get complimented much,” Amelia looked sympathetic, “but you are kind of, well, gorgeous,” which make Sookie blush again. Amelia glanced back toward the beach, “Come on, keep the shirt on and hang out with us. I won’t let anyone hit on you if you don’t want them to.”
“I’m being a baby,” Sookie sighed. “I just never really thought of myself like…well…like that.”
“Huh,” Amelia snickered, “So, what? You don’t have any mirrors in your house?” and wrapping her arm around her, Amelia dragged Sookie back to the beach.
It did turn out to be a fun afternoon. When it was time to eat, they picked their blankets off the beach and headed up the smaller of the two hills using wide, well-marked paths. “There are picnic shelters up there,” Amelia told Sookie. “We’ll find one with a view.” They walked up to the top of the hill, looked around, and then headed back, finding their perfect spot on the other side down near the water.
The food was good. There were ham sandwiches and peanut butter. The carrot sticks and celery somehow tasted better with the taste of salt air, and everyone complimented Sookie’s coleslaw. Amelia pulled out brownies for dessert, and she and Sean stretched out under the shade of the pavilion leaning against the leg of the picnic table, facing the sea.
Sookie wandered toward the water and waded out into the waves so she could scramble up onto a boulder that seemed to remain just above the waves’ surface. They were on the far side of the island and Sookie had that sense that she was surrounded by ocean, looking out toward the mystery of the great Atlantic and all the lands that lay beyond the horizon. She glanced behind her and saw Dawn and Hoyt. They were standing together on a little spit of land that reached into the ocean, their arms around each other.
Sea birds flew past her and Sookie could see boats and waves and sunshine reflecting off the water. For some reason, the beauty of the place made Sookie think of her Father. He loved the sun. They hadn’t lived near the ocean often, but they did live near lakes and Sookie’s Father would take them to spend the day sitting on sand or rent a small boat so they could fish. They were some of Sookie’s happiest memories. Her Mother would go, too. Sookie knew her Mother didn’t love boats, but she loved being near the water because her husband loved it so much. Sookie thought of her Mother sitting alone in the dark apartment in Newton. She thought about how much she would love this place and she wondered if her mother would ever be well enough again to take a boat ride and stand here on this boulder, like Sookie was.
Before she knew what was happening, Sookie was crying, her tears falling down her cheeks and into the ocean around her. “God, what a cry baby!” she scolded herself out loud, and she swiped at the tears with the back of her hand. Biting her lip, Sookie looked purposefully back toward the horizon. That’s when she saw it.
It wasn’t far, but far enough that Sookie wasn’t quite sure what she was seeing. There was something out there in the water that almost looked like a dark ball floating on the waves. Sookie stared at it, squinting to try and bring it into focus, but then, the ball dipped and disappeared under the water. Sookie blinked, wondering if she’d really seen it when the ball appeared again, but this time it was closer. Sookie could see its large, dark eyes, and peaceful, watchful expression, and realized she was looking at a seal. What’s more, the seal appeared to be watching Sookie.
“Do you see that?” Dawn called. Sookie turned to see Dawn looking at Hoyt, but pointing in the direction of the seal. Sookie fully expected that when she turned back the seal would be gone, but it wasn’t. If anything, the seal seemed to come closer, watching her with soulful eyes. Sookie wasn’t sure how long they stayed there. She didn’t want to move and the seal seemed content to remain where it was, bobbing up and down with the gentle action of the waves.
On a whim, Sookie raised her hand, holding her palm open toward the seal and, when she did, the seal seemed to raise itself up in the water, and then, with a quick movement, it disappeared under the waves. Sookie watched and watched, but the seal didn’t return.
As they got off the boat in Boston, Sean kissed Amelia and then turning to Sookie, said, “We’re playing, me and my band, in Cambridge next week. You should come. Say you will. There’s people there you need to meet.”
“I’ll have to see,” Sookie stammered, thinking of her Mother.
“Don’t you like Irish music?” he asked, laying his hand on his chest as though she’d mortally wounded him.
“I do!” Sookie laughed. In fact, Sookie was keen on traditional music of almost any kind. She could spend hours watching musicians, their fingers flying as they brought melody from acoustic instruments. There was something so pure and honest about it. It touched some place in her heart. “I’ll try, I really will.”
“You need to bring her,” Sean told Amelia, and he punctuated his words by kissing Sookie’s friend. “Call me when you get home,” he growled into Amelia’s neck, and then turning to leave called out again, “Nice to meet all of you, Dawn, Hoyt. Sookie! I mean it! Best music in the world!” and he was strutting down the street, whistling a jaunty song.
That night as Sookie lay in her bed she thought of her day. She thought of the light and the water and the crisp smell of ocean. She thought of playing Frisbee and the feel of water on her feet. As her eyes closed, she thought about the feeling of recognition she’d felt when the seal watched her and she wondered at it.
When the boat came into the city, no one noticed the seals who followed. Seals in Boston Harbor were not common, but with the improvement in water quality, they weren’t unusual either. What was not in any way common, though, was when one of the seals slipped under the abandoned pier a few steps down from the dock where the harbor taxi docked and shed its skin, taking human form. Reaching up under the old decking, the now man retrieved the bag of clothes and found his way to the end of the pier closest to shore. There was dry space here and he used it to dress and then place his sealskin inside the bag. Tucking the bag back up under the decking where it wouldn’t be found, the man used his glamour to hide his wet hair and his slightly webbed hands. He became just another tourist joining the stream of tourists enjoying the sights near Boston Harbor.
It had been the tears. Seven tears, falling from the eye of an unhappy woman into the ocean that summoned a Selkie, and the tears of a Fae were irresistible. This woman, whoever she was, was not full Fae, but she was more than human, and that suggested a possibility.
For over fifty years, Rogan, King of Northern Ireland had been searching for a family that was half Fae, and for over fifty years, no hint of that family had been found. Every Selkie knew of Rogan’s interest, and there were riches and favors promised for any who found them. Now, at last, there was a possibility.
The man searched the sidewalks near where the Wharf emptied to the street, but he didn’t see her. He closed his eyes and sniffed. The air was thick with the smells of the city and impending Fall, but there, just on the edge of his senses, he smelled it, the golden honey tang of Fae. Turning his head, he hurried in that direction and saw the group she had been with. There was one man and two women with her, and he could see them walking down into the T station. He followed, not bothering to pay. The turnstile always worked for him and no one would question. It was easy to stand close to her. She was even more intoxicating up close and he struggled not to lean into her.
Her friend turned as if to protest, but he caught her eyes and she turned back to the others in their group and ignored him. The ride wasn’t long. She exited with the others at the Watertown station and he followed them to the parking lot. The friend was driving, and he memorized the license number. It was easy to walk into the store nearby and glamour the person behind the desk to allow him to use their phone. This stranger would be annoyed when they saw the long-distance charge on their bill later, but there would be no memory of how it happened. He would probably write it off to butt dialing.
The Selkie gave the license number and description to his contact in Ireland. He described the girl, the whole time stroking the cheek of the man whose phone he was using. Humans! They were so simple to manipulate!
“Good job,” his contact told him. “I will relay the information at once.”
The Selkie handed the phone back then, and looking neither left nor right, made his way back to the T that would take him back into Boston and from there, home.