At the end of Chapter One, Changes, Skye resolves to uncover the truth: had her mother really drowned at Ciarlan Cove in Bannimor ten years ago, or was she still alive somewhere? Skye’s journey continues in Chapter Two, Departures.
The next morning Skye toyed distractedly with her breakfast toast, surreptitiously observing her father. No sign he knew she’d seen his ‘Ellie has left me’ piece. And he looked none the worse for the half-bottle of spirits that had likely set him off writing it.
She’d checked bus and ferry schedules already. Now was really the best time to do this. He was always better first thing. Walking to the percolator she tried to work out how to begin. He hated her going back to Bannimor – something he hadn’t had to worry about for the last three years. She half refilled her cup before moving to stand next to him. “Dad?”
“Yes, honey?” He looked up from the newspaper he’d just unfolded.
“I talked to Morgan last night.” She pretended to be interested in an article over his shoulder while she gauged his reaction.
His face softened with a smile. “Really? How’s that café doing, what is it, Leap?”
“Jump, Dad, not Leap,” Skye smirked, sitting down.
“Close enough. Trust Rowena to come up with a name like that. Guess they know what they’re doing though. It’s going well, isn’t it?”
Skye couldn’t have scripted a better opening. His face was animated as he thought of something new, of people he cared about. “I think so. But Morgan said lots has happened. Like, they’ve moved. She wouldn’t tell me over the phone. She’s missing me, really wants me there for the summer…” She tensed as her father’s expression grew pensive.
“In Bannimor? When?”
“Uh – for the holidays, I guess, which is officially now. There’s a bus tomorrow, or the next one rolls out in a week. So…tomorrow…?” She held her breath.
“But Skye – I don’t know. Bannimor…”
She knew he was thinking ‘Ciarlan Cove’. When was he not?
“What if…” He trailed off, his expression closing in.
“What if what, Dad?” Her voice was sharp as she faced him. “What if I drown? Don’t worry! I probably won’t even get close enough to the water for that. I can hardly think about being in the sea without practically hyperventilating. Happy?” Her voice cracked.
They stared at each other, both white faced. His intense blue eyes widened as if seeing her properly for the first time in years.
“You’re still scared of the sea?” he asked thickly. “It’s been…”
“Ten years. I know.” Skye’s heart pounded. She felt like she’d crossed a line. They never talked about this stuff. About Mum. “I don’t know why you’re surprised.” Her voice felt thin, like she couldn’t put any air behind it. “You should be pleased. Aren’t you the one who’s always reminding me of the ‘hungry seas’? Telling me all your facts and figures about death and the ocean?”
He was silent, swallowing as if trying to process her words. Eventually he cleared his throat. “Right,” he managed.
Skye’s face burned. She stared into her cup, hating herself. Why had she started this? “It’s not you. It’s kind of…nightmares.” She took a steadying breath. “When I imagine being there in the – in the sea, it feels like that. Like my nightmares,” she mumbled.
“You still have those?” His horrified expression startled her. Of course: he’d remember those screaming awake nights ten years ago.
“Not still. Again.” Not the screaming awake kind anymore, but she couldn’t possibly explain the different way they felt to her dad. And they were still terrifying.
“Nightmares…of what, exactly?”
She felt awkward. “Huge waves, darkness. Maybe it’s how I think it would have been for her. For Mum.” Her eyes stung, and she sipped coffee to mask it.
“I had no idea, Skye. I thought you were too young to really remember. They said that it was all just a blank for you.”
All what was a blank? But she couldn’t make herself ask out loud.
He shook his head. “Maybe it is me, tying you up in knots with my craziness.” He sighed. “You’re such a good kid, Skye. You deserve so much better than you’ve had. Than I’ve given you.” The deep breath he took seemed painful. “It probably would be good for you to go back. Go. Remember the good times there, and have more.” He managed a smile that looked genuine.
Astonished and relieved, Skye smiled back, impulsively kissing his cheek as she left the table. “I’ll call Morgan.”
Passing the study as she dialled, she glanced into the empty room. The computer had been turned off, the monitor dark. Ellie has left me…to be with him. Was it true? And who was him?
“Hey!” Morgan answered.
“Sure you’ve got room for me?”
“Of course! You mean it? You’re coming?” Morgan whooped, and Skye laughed, imagining her victory face.
She took the stairs two at a time, and soon had her travel bag zipped, and her shoulder bag full of the necessities: a travel-sized sketchbook, pencils, something to read. What else?
Stacked against the wall were her jumbles of paint tubes and brushes, and her art boards. Unfinished underwater scenes, fantasies of colour and light, like a positive twist on her nightmares. Too big to take. And maybe best left behind. Like an unbreakable habit, her mother’s old fairy tale book was already packed, along with a mystery novel she was reading.
Anything else she might need? Holiday apartments: did that mean noisy neighbours? She got irritable if she didn’t sleep. She shouted downstairs, “Dad? Have we got earplugs?”
There was silence for a second, then he called back, a smile in his voice, “Really? Earplugs, Grandma? Top left-hand drawer I think.”
Skye bounced to his bedroom and searched the cluttered drawer. No earplugs. With a “tsk” of frustration she pulled it right out and shuffled things around. A tiny cardboard box was pushed into the back corner. That must be it.
Pulling it out, she admired it. It looked old, the size of a slender matchbox, pearly cream with sky blue edging. Lifting the lid, she went still. It wasn’t earplugs.
Sinking onto the edge of the bed, fingers trembling, she lifted her mother’s lost necklace from the box. Miniscule golden links glistened as it slowly spun. Threaded on it were two familiar twisted rings of white shell. She rested them on her palm. One, flecked with pink and fawn, felt light enough to blow away. That was weird. Skye remembered it being heavy, as if carved from some dense precious material. Nestled against it, the other, pure white, Dad had given Mum when they fell in love, romance village-style.
Mum had missed this not long before she’d disappeared. Skye remembered the hunt for it and her mother’s desperation. She’d been distraught. They’d all helped look, but it had vanished. Eventually it had been forgotten. Or had it been found? Because here it was.
Mum never took it off. But she hadn’t been wearing it that day. That last day.
But how could Skye know that? And yet she did. Her mother had gone into the stormy sea without this necklace around her neck. Skye could see her as clearly as if she’d been there herself.
Her skin prickled and she stood abruptly. She didn’t want to think about this. Hesitating, she stared at the necklace. Then drawing the delicate chain over her head, she slipped it beneath her T-shirt. Returning the empty box to the drawer as close as possible to the way it had been, she left the room, her cheeks hot and her heart thumping, earplugs forgotten.
That evening her father took a break from writing, joining her to watch TV, no drink in hand. It was awkward at first, but eventually they relaxed, watching an old Mike Myers movie they’d both seen before, laughing and groaning in equal measure. It felt – well – great. Normal. Skye almost regretted the pending trip.
But the next morning as the bus pulled away and she waved goodbye, relief flooded her, tinged with guilt.
Hours later Skye woke to the jostling murmur of other passengers gathering possessions and commenting on the town passing by. She stretched, and the necklace beneath her T-shirt shifted against her skin. The necklace. And her dad’s inexplicable document. Her stomach squirreled sickly.
Forcing her thoughts away, Skye stared resolutely out of the window as the bus swung through the familiar streets of Fallsmouth. A few more blocks and they’d be disembarking at the wharf. And then she would board the ferry for Bannimor. She felt jittery, excited.
The bus lurched around a corner and the ocean filled her vision, hard glittering blue, with infinite points of light stretching to the horizon. Sunlight lit her as she leaned forward, her reflection like mist against the tinted glass, a ghost on the water. The nebulous call of the sea she’d felt all her life rose like a riptide.
Minutes later, the bus sighed to a stop at the ferry terminal, the driver making the usual announcements and giving instructions about the ferry to the Bannimor Peninsula. Over her distracting hum of nerves, she tried to process his directions as she collected her things and joined the shuffle off the bus.
After hesitating over her options, she extracted a cash card and her mobile phone from her bulging shoulder bag and put it with her travel bag on the trolley. With time to kill she explored the nearby shops.
Forty minutes later she waited at the crossing for the walk signal, idly watching the busy wharf across the road. Odd: from here it looked like the ferry was gone. She stood on tiptoes. It really looked like it was gone. Her heart began to thump. Ignoring honking horns, she crossed, dodging the slow-moving vehicles.
The ferry mooring was empty, as was the luggage trolley. She looked frantically up and down the wharf. No sign of the ferry in either direction. None of the strolling passers-by looked familiar, and no one was waiting. The ferry wasn’t anywhere. It had left without her.
Skye felt an edge of panic rising. She couldn’t stay in Fallsmouth by herself, with no gear, overnight. She gripped the handle of the empty luggage trolley. It was a ferry, she reasoned. By definition that meant return trips. Feeling slightly more rational, she crossed to the small ‘Cruises and Crossings’ terminal just yards away.
The woman behind the counter didn’t even bother checking. “No love, the last ferry to Bannimor was forty minutes ago. When it returns in, oh – about twenty minutes, it’ll be docking for the night.”
Skye felt like an idiot. In her distracted state leaving the bus she’d heard ‘hour’ ‘departing’ and ‘returning’ and jumbled them together to get ferry departing when it would actually be returning. Duh, it had left straight away.
“There’s an evening cruise heading up harbour if that’s of any interest?”
Skye shook her head, panic threatening again. There had to be some way of getting across. She swallowed and met the woman’s mild gaze. “Is there, I don’t know – like, a hire boat? Or water taxis?”
An unhelpful pause followed. Skye prompted, “So, unofficially?”
“Well, unofficially, the Mulligan boys have been known to run the odd tourist across. Tourist, are you, love?”
In the interests of moving things along Skye agreed she was a tourist, and was pointed in the right direction.
Following instructions, at the end of the wharf Skye came across men stacking plastic crates of iridescent fish. The fresh-catch smell mixed with the rank, sweet odours of old salt and bait. She approached the nearest man, wet weathers rolled down to his waist revealing a dirty singlet, hefting the loaded crates as if they were half empty.
“Hi…um – I’m looking for the Mulligan boys?”
He looked at her appraisingly. “After a ride to Bannimor?” Skye nodded. He turned and called to one of the others, “Hey, Tank. The Mulligan boys – they left yet?”
“Yup, ‘bout twenty minutes ago.” Tank glanced over at Skye. “Don’t want to get in with them, sweetheart. Nothin’ but trouble for a nice girl like you.” He spat over the edge of the wharf.
Trouble or not, they were supposed to solve her little problem of being stranded. Mumbling “thanks” Skye turned away. Then she remembered her phone. She dialled Morgan’s cell: ‘switched off or out of range.’ Ergo, a flat battery. Why today of all days…? Next she tried the Lauder’s apartment, and groaned when their answer-phone picked up.
“Hey – uh – it’s Skye. You probably already left to meet me. The ferry went without me. Got it completely wrong… Call me back?”
“Rescue on the way?” Tank called.
Skye looked around. “Um – not exactly. Hey, do you think…do you maybe know of anyone else going across?”
He peered along to where the wooden wharf stepped back into concrete moorings. “Try the first few boats there. Any problems say Tank sent you.”
Skye smiled, “Thanks.”
“You got it,” he grinned and went back to hefting crates.
As she neared the first boat he’d pointed out, she heard a voice calling, “Excuse me!” Turning, she recognised a young mother and her toddler from the bus. She’d taken pity on the frazzled woman on the journey, and distracted the little girl with ‘peep-o’.
“Sorry to bother you,” the woman said, reaching her, “but do you have a boat waiting for you? We missed the ferry…” she puffed a little, peering anxiously at Skye.
“I’m trying to find a ride over too. You’re welcome to come with me?” Skye offered. The woman’s strained expression relaxed a little. “Yes, thank you.”
Skye returned to her quest with the newcomers in tow. The first two boats looked empty. The third, a pilothouse boat, had Pixie painted in cursive script on the side. Two guys about her age were on board, one untying the mooring rope, the other firing the motor. Skye broke into a run, yelling “Wait!”
The boy at the motor looked up, adjusting the throttle, and the revving diminished. “Wait for what?” he said, and both boys laughed as if that had a double meaning. They looked all right though, and she didn’t get any weird vibes off them.
“Tank said you could maybe…help us out…with a lift to Bannimor?” She was breathless with nerves and the sprint hadn’t helped. Her stranded companions caught her up.
The guy with the rope shrugged, “All of you? Sure, come aboard.” Skye took his proffered hand and he helped her jump down, followed by the others. “David,” he pointed at himself. “Kurt” he pointed towards the other boy, now pushing off from the wharf.
Skye and the woman added their introductions – Lisa, and her toddler Emma.
“And that’s Harvey” David said in falsetto, nodding at a boy coming out of the cabin. Harvey was good-looking behind his glasses, slight compared to the other two. He threw an empty can at David who laughed. Lisa, clutching Emma, sat near the motor.
“Missed the ferry?” Harvey raised his eyebrows, looking amused.
Skye nodded sheepishly, then staggered as the boat accelerated away from the wharf in a sweeping curve. Being on the water would be fine, she told herself, pushing down fear.
A large yellow inflatable passed them, heading in. The two people on board wore yellow shirts with lettering picked out in red. Surf rescue, she guessed. That made the boat an IRB – Inflatable Rescue Boat, she remembered. One of the occupants shouted something that sounded like “jackets” as they passed. Skye grabbed at the side rail as the Pixie surged forward. Reminded by the shouted warning, she glanced around the deck for life-jackets, but didn’t see any. It was a short trip, she told herself. They’d be fine this one time.
The three guys began a shouting banter among themselves. Realising she wasn’t expected to join in, and seeing Lisa absorbed in her child, Skye made her way to the prow and faced into the wind. Bannimor’s green hills drew closer. The motion of the boat beneath her, the cries of gulls overhead, told her she was coming home. A surge of joy replaced her fluttering fear and she tilted her face to the sky, closing her eyes.
But when the tone of the boys’ banter changed, she looked around. Closing in on them like a wave over the water was rolling white fog.
In moments it was on them, blotting the late sun and blanketing Skye in coldness. She shivered in her T-shirt, glad she’d worn jeans. Sound was muffled. Light filtered through swirling particles. She peered around, trying to glimpse something, anything. They were still moving forward steadily, travelling blind. Surely that wasn’t smart, she thought anxiously.
Then without warning the boat swerved and tilted sharply, and she fell against the railing. The deck became almost vertical, and she found herself balanced above the water, the railing digging into her stomach. Terrified, she gripped the rail with all her strength, willing the boat not to overturn and herself not to fall.
She stared into the dark swell, so close its chill seemed to reach for her. Then below her a form appeared. For a moment she looked into silvery charcoal-grey eyes – a boy beneath the surface, her own age or maybe older, his face washed about with a dark halo of hair. Then mist swirled between them and the boat rocked back the other way, tossing her onto the deck.
Scrambling back from the railing she pressed against the cabin, bracing against the rocking of the otherwise stationary boat. She felt breathless. Icy chills raced through her. She’d imagined him, she told herself. It must have been reflections, her mind playing tricks. But closing her eyes she saw vividly his storm-grey eyes, meeting hers. Her heart pounded.
The churning of an engine swelled out of the mist, and at the sound of screams she turned to see the ferry bearing down on them. She caught a fleeting glimpse of frightened faces, then an ear-splitting crunching ricocheted through her body. The Pixie fell away from beneath her and she plunged deep into shocking cold water.
Thanks for joining sharing the Find Me journey. What – and who – will Sky meet when she follows the pull in her heart and her quest for answers, and returns to Bannimor, and the sea…
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