Chapter 33: Swimming Free

If anyone had seen the family heading down a wooded path for a seaside picnic, nothing would have seemed out of place. If they’d noticed them skipping rocks over the water, or snacking on sandwiches atop a fallen log, they’d have smiled and thought nothing else of it.

But had they seen the seal emerging from the water and approaching the giggling children, they would have been taken aback. And if they’d witnessed the children running their hands over its furry back as it rolled playfully over in return, they would have been astonished indeed.

Of course, no one saw any of this.

But for Aveny, viewing it through both her human and selkie eyes, this moment embodied more joy than she remembered feeling all at once in the preceding three decades.

And as she sailed through the water afterward, tiny bubbles tickling her skin as they spiraled around her sleek form, she savored a delightfully contented glee. She felt light and free – liberated from the chain of secrecy and enlivened by the healing power of love and acceptance.

She and Brand had elected not to tell the kids, not yet anyway. They were too young to be trusted with a secret so big. Aveny and Brand didn’t trust them not to trot it out as particularly provocative Show & Tell fodder.

But the kids often enjoyed the brief company of a particularly friendly seal on their Sunday adventures. Being relatively recent transplants to the Pacific Northwest, they had no idea that personal encounters of this kind were anything out of the ordinary.

They did tell Miriam, however, who took it as if they were relaying the next day’s weather report. “Excellent,” she’d said happily. “I’m so glad that’s all out in the open. You know, secrets are like lawyers; they’re a necessary evil at times, but the fewer you have hanging around, the better.”

As the sun began its journey out of the sky, it sent shocks of electric light across the sound, shooting up sparks of light with each undulating wave. A quorum of gulls flocked overhead, skimming easily atop the breeze.

Miriam rocked Tali gently while the boys added the finishing touches to their sandcastle nearby. Brand relaxed into Aveny’s embrace and, for a moment – so brief it was almost imperceptible – everything made sense and all was right with the world.

That night, as Aveny slid into sleep, safe in her own bed, she couldn’t imagine life getting any better than this. She rested easy in the knowledge that whatever may come, her family would face it together.

What she didn’t expect, however, as she slid into oblivion, was that someone would be there, waiting for her.

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