When I was a small thing, all blond cowlicks and knees, not even tall enough to ride the shabby roller coaster at the Jetty, I swore the ocean waves spoke words. The water was off limits, no swimming, no fishing, no boats. But the waves whispered a native language only I could hear. These days, I don’t ride the roller coaster because it’s a deathtrap, and I know it was not the sea speaking.
It was the selkies.
For years they were stories my father told me to help me fall asleep at night. Tales of beautiful boys and lovelorn girls who lived in the ocean and shifted into the sleek dark forms of seals. To have their pelt was to have their loyalty, or something like that. I always fell asleep before the end.
Years later, I heard Maddox. I was seventeen. My heart was full of waves and I wanted to be among them. I waded in, though I’d never doggie paddled a day in my life. I couldn’t stay away. I didn’t know how the waves would pull at my feet and my heart so hard that the shore would seem like more of an idea than something I could reach. I was a good swimmer, natural as breathing.
“Jesus Christ, you’re fast.” The voice was smooth as beach glass in my mind, with a lilt that leaned in funny ways.