Mam gave her a look, then smiled at Grayse. “He’ll be back tomorrow morning. And hopefully this time, his nets will be bursting with scallops and big, fat lobsters for Mally to sell at the market.”
I tapped Grayse’s shoulder. “We’ll wake up early and greet him at the harbor,” I suggested in a falsely cheery voice. “How’s that sound?” I’d rather eat a whole pot of fish than set foot in the harbor where Da and the others moored their boats, but more than anything, I wanted to make Grayse happy.
She gave a smile that stretched across her whole face, showing off her missing tooth again.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
After helping to clear the table, I stood by the sink before the open window to take my turn washing the dishes. Bowing my head, I tried to ignore the cold breeze mussing the top of my hair. I added the wind to the growing list of things I longed to put behind me.
I was about to dip my rag in the water when Mam appeared at my side. She closed the window and latched it. Not for the first time, I wondered why that window had a latch at all. It wasn’t as though anyone would want to climb through it in the middle of the night. There was no crime in Port Coire. Not until today, anyway.
The shutters rattled as the wind forced its way through the cracks. “I want you to latch your bedroom window, too, bird.” Mam’s voice sounded higher and thinner than usual. But when she saw my frown, she smiled and swatted my arm with a rag. “Now get to work!”
I lay awake long after Grayse and Liss had drifted off on either side of me. Their warmth made me drowsy, but my eyes wouldn’t stay shut. I shifted until I could see moonbeams streaming through the latched window.
A knot formed deep in my stomach as my thoughts returned to the drowned girl. She hadn’t looked like a murder victim. There had been no bruises or grisly wounds visible. Yet remembering the sight of her drenched limp figure made my skin damp with cold sweat.
How did she end up in the water? Had her boat capsized in a storm? Had someone pushed her in? Or had she—like Grandad—dived for the water with a look of ecstasy on her face, as though summoned by some invisible force?
The sea did strange things to people. It played tricks on the mind. Its vastness hid things … Bodies. Secrets. The deadly bulk of icebergs.
A month ago, people on both sides of the Atlantic had mourned the one-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. People had called the giant ship unsinkable, but the sea had proven them wrong. Maybe she didn’t like being challenged. Maybe that’s why she took the ship and most of its passengers to a place no one living could follow, in a tragedy that continued to haunt me from the pages of the newspapers Da brought home.
I turned away from the moonlight and closed my eyes. Even with the window shut and Liss’s familiar breathing in my ear, I was sure I could hear someone wailing away on his fiddle, playing a mournful tribute to all those lost to the sea. And along with the melody came the unmistakable sound of water slapping against the rocks far below us, slowly eroding the foundation of Port Coire and everything I loved.
I’ve had this dream so many times. Often enough to know I’m dreaming, but helpless to wake myself, even knowing what’s about to happen.
Knowing, and dreading.
I’m nine years old again, walking along the cliffs at Grandad’s side, hand in hand. Mine is small and sticky, his huge and leathery. Together we navigate the sweltering summer dusk, eavesdropping on seabirds’ conversations. We have to strain to hear them over the hiss and roar of the ocean below.
The persistent breeze has already dried my tears and cooled my burning face, but Grandad and I keep walking away from town. He seems to know that I’m not ready to go home and face Liss just yet. She thinks I cut her favorite doll’s hair—the expensive, irreplaceable one Gran gave her for her birthday—but it was really Mally. She’d wanted to give the doll the latest style.
The fight that ensued had everyone, even Mam, in tears.
It’s a good thing Grandad had come for supper. He scooped me up, letting me bury my damp face in his shirt, and brought me out here to clear my head.
“I’m never talking to Liss again,” I announce as we pause beyond a rise that hides town from view.
The first stars are just appearing, sprinkling Grandad’s worn face with pale light and making his once-gold hair look even whiter as he smiles and says, “Ach, that’s going to make life rather difficult don’t you think, my Bridey-bird? I remember when I was a lad, my older brother …”
His words trail away as he glances toward the sea, his head tilted, listening.
“Grandad?” I tug his hand, wanting to hear the rest of his story.
“Hmm?” He blinks, like I’ve startled him. Like he’s seen a ghost. “I’m sorry. What was I saying, my little love?”