A continuation from my last post. The final chunk is pending.
Mother will rise soon. Since my return she has not shed the tiredness that goes in hand with grief. I slide my bare feet across the floor to spare the boards from creaking, and set our breakfast ready. We have black bread and water, without butter or the luxury of jams. There is nothing else. There won’t be until spring is here, and at the moment the season of life has the hazy, fable character of a distant land.
Dawn breaks over the horizon in streaks of paper-yellow, and even with the sea so close there is a dryness to the air. It fills my lungs as though it is something of greater presence, and ghosts out as moon-hued smoke.
My mother shuffles out of the hovel-bed in the corner, still garbed in her blanket.
She is greying, and at speed. I am in part responsible. Death is natural, and a concept that the mind can reconcile, but there is no way to reason losing the fabric of a person. She misses me, even when I am sitting beside her.
We eat in silence, and before the hour is out we have washed and dressed and made ready for the day. When I am by the door she calls my name in her broken, husky voice, and knots the silver line a gypsy sold her around my waist, fastening the other end to hers. The hags say it is woven from a dryad’s hair, that its sylvan magic will temper the thoughts that tempt me to throw my body to join my soul.
I think my mother ties the cord the same on us both in an effort to preserve my dignity. For the observer there is no telling who the rope holds, or why, though I am a story for miles around. They know, as my mother and I do too, that I am lost. The barren coastline is full of such tales.
My mother and I must walk half a mile on the twisting path to reach the well we drink from. Laden with our waterskins, we make this trek every other day. It is a short walk, but winding. By the time we arrive we are both tired, and have scraped our palms on the steep climb. Easier to go along the beach, and take the steps cut into the cliff, but my mother does not consider venturing so close to the waves a worthy risk. We take the harder path, watched though it is by the nameless dead beneath our feet.
At the well my mother sits whilst I pull up the rickety, rusting pail. It has the haggard character of a thing always close to, but never quite at its own end. Water slops into the sewn sealskins, and as we drink I look into the fathomless depths of the well. I drop a stone, but do not hear it hit the bottom. My mother slaps my wrist.
Foolish girl, I ought to know better than to disturb the dark.
I suppose I do, but that piece of me is corked in the seabed, buried in the deep off Redruth.
I am not happy, but I am not unhappy. I have no power to reclaim what I have lost, but I no longer possess the capacity to truly mourn this.
My mother takes my hand, holding tight, holding on, and as my nose turns towards the smell of brine she draws me away. We walk back along the ribbon of white rocks.
Redruth is an Avalon. It appears and disappears based on the laws of an older time. Sometimes it stretches half a mile, a strip of dark sand blotting the ocean, and at other times the ships cut the waves where it should be.
At night the sirens congregate, and it is on Redruth that any fool who sought them would see the crystalline power of their song lighting their faces in rapture.
No one lives there. How, after all, could anyone of one world live in a place that spends its time between the sea and the open air?
When I sailed with my father we sometimes saw the skeletons of houses on the western side. The fishermen say that when the island is below the tide it belongs to the mermaids, but if that is so then they are far from houseproud.
The fishermen say many things. My mother scoffs at their superstitions. They are inferior to her own.
I lack the conviction to put faith in stories.
We arrive back at the old cobblestone house my family has lived in for generations, and my mother casts a wary glance over the sagging roof. The thatcher from the village over is disdainful of widows with cursed daughters. He will not service our dilapidated house, and my brothers have revealed their aversion to charity. Before long we will be on the street.
I pity my mother. Had I died, or would she surrender me, she might know happiness again. Sometimes I think her mad, but love is a reason for all behaviours.
A breeze stirs our skirts around our ankles, and her hold on my arm tightens as though I am liable to blow away.
“Come inside, Adeline.”
The wind pulls my hair, and the sea is crying for me to go to it like some wretched child. My mother does not pull, but holds me until the moment has passed. She is an anchor on a vessel that the ocean is making every effort to take away from her.
Will she lose me?
Inevitably. For the most part, she already has.
© Deanna Scutt, 2016
Update: find part three here.