I turned, ready to abandon the dock for the safety of firm ground, when a glimmer of something pinkish-white in Da’s fishing gear caught my eye. I crouched for a closer look. A round object about half the size of a chicken egg rested in a tangle of coarse netting. I tugged at the pile, hoping to jar it loose.
The thing rolled across the dock boards, its surface splashed with the many hues of a rainbow as sunlight caught its angles.
Once the marble-like object came to rest against a bucket, I reached out, straining my arm until my fingers closed over its slick sides. I gazed down at what looked like a giant pearl. It felt like a pearl, too, cool and smooth against my palm. But pearls were never this large. Why hadn’t Da noticed this bright beauty, with so little else in his nets?
I stuffed the pearl in my pocket, deciding to surprise Mam and Da with it later. That way, I could see both my parents’ delighted expressions at once. Maybe Da could find more like it when he went back out to sea tomorrow.
“Bridey,” Da called from the opposite side of the dock. “Care to join us?” He was helping Grayse feed the birds the rest of our cheese.
“I’m fine right here, thanks.”
I glanced down through a wide gap in the boards just in time to see something stirring in the shadows below. A large black fin sliced through the water, making ripples as it swam away. My heart gave a nasty jolt, and I suppressed a shriek. The creature made a splash as it dived under.
“Da!” I finally managed.
His careworn face turned toward me, along with Grayse’s, and a flush crept into my cheeks. “Let’s head home, shall we? Bet you’re ready for a nap, Da.” My pulse fluttered as I tried to form a clear picture in my mind of the creature under the dock.
Da shook his head, oblivious to my discomfort. “I can’t leave my catch sitting here. The guillemots would have a feast before I had a chance to haul it to the market. Why don’t you take your sister for lunch at Ms. Katleen’s?”
He searched his pockets and produced a pair of moldy-looking coins.
Grayse’s lip trembled. “I want to stay and help!” She gazed imploringly at Da. “And I had enough cheese to last me till supper.”
Da smiled. “Can’t argue with that. What about you, Bridey? Are you in the mood to sort prawns for me?”
“Not today, I’m afraid.” I glanced from my bare feet to Grayse’s. I couldn’t stay here with something lurking in the water. Da would insist I’d seen a dolphin or a seal. And if Grayse heard mention of her finned friends in the harbor, she’d want to take a closer look.
“Go eat.” Da handed me the coins. “Then help your mam with the housework.”
“Gura mie ayd.” Distracted, the Manx thank you slipped from my lips.
As Da and Grayse returned to the boat, I assured myself they’d be safe. The morning was giving rise to a rare cloudless day, allowing light to reach deep into the water, which meant Da would be able to spot any dangerous creatures lurking around the dock.
I trudged uphill alone, watching the ground closely—one stray fish hook in my path would keep me out of my beloved woods for weeks—but my thoughts remained with the black fin under the dock.
What fish had fins like that? Could it have been a seal with a deformed tail?
“Morning, Bry!” a lad called.
I glanced up, startled, and found myself gazing into the faces of my two best friends.
“Have you heard the news? Isn’t it awful?” Catreena gushed, latching onto my right arm. Ever since I’d known her—since the day she tripped a beautiful English tourist who’d made me feel as inferior as day-old fish and become my best friend in an instant—Cat had possessed an insatiable appetite for gossip.
“She hasn’t talked about anything else all morning,” Lugh grumbled, moving to my other side and taking my hand. My skin tingled as he laced his fingers with mine. Lately his closeness made me flustered. I tried to focus on Cat’s voice.
“Can you imagine? Drifting through the water, fish nibbling at your toes …” Cat’s dark curls tickled my cheek as she whispered the last few words in my ear. “Her funeral’s in two days. On the cliffs, above the spot where they found her. I heard my mam talking about it last night.”
“Really? What else did she say?” I tried to keep my voice steady, but judging by the slight crease between Lugh’s brows, I hadn’t succeeded. “Did they find any trace of a boat, or … or anything?”
Cat shook her head, her curls bouncing around her shoulders. “Not that I’ve heard. But Nessa Daley didn’t show up to work this morning. She’s never missed a day.”
I stared at Cat as a chill crept up my arms. “Is she ill? I saw her only yesterday, and she looked fine.”