Chapter 28

Where do selkies come from? When did we become selkies? And why selkies? Why not tigers?

Being involuntarily transformed into a seal hadn’t restricted Tali’s inquisitive nature in the slightest. Even though they were both encased in seal form, the words came into Aveny’s mind as a low hum infused with meaning. Aveny wished she could communicate with Brand so easily.

Tali’s questioning was, if anything, more relentless than ever – not that Aveny could blame her.

A week had passed since all three kids had transformed. They’d all been seals ever since. The part-human family had adapted a strange new normalcy in the interim. Brand took Aveny and the kids to the sound every day. And Miriam made seafood for dinner every night, jokingly referring to herself as a “crazy seal lady,” although Aveny didn’t love thinking of herself as a pet – all evidence to the contrary. 

Despite the comfort of this strange new routine, the strain grew daily. How long would the school and Aveny’s work believe that they were out sick? How long before police officers showed up at the door and carted Brand away for questioning?

They were no closer to regaining their human forms than they had been at the start.

And although Aveny had been arguing with the “ghost ladies,” as Brand called them, nightly, she was no closer to finding an answer than she’d been before. In fact, she was farther. Rionach was starting to threaten retaliation if Aveny didn’t return her skin soon.

When can we go swimming again? Tali pestered. Can I bring a friend next time? Can we go swimming in the pool once? How about in the river? Can we still use the rope swing as seals?

Aveny placed a flipper gently on the side of her daughter’s face, a tender caress. Then she applied pressure and flopped the younger seal unceremoniously onto her side.

Shhhhhhh … she intoned, adding a playful flipper slap.

Tali giggled, wriggling happily in response.

Aveny could hear both boys splashing happily in the tub through the closed door. Why don’t you go join your brothers? She asked.

“Aveny,” Miriam called from the kitchen. “Come here – we want to show you something.”

Aveny wiggled her way down the hall. She hated moving like this, clumsy and awkward. It was almost as humiliating as being stuck as a seal … and using the bathroom … that was definitely the most humiliating of all.

As she entered the room, Miriam lifted a piece of posterboard that she and Brand had been examining and set it on the floor. Aveny scooted closer, as the pair of them knelt next to her. She looked inquiringly into Miriam’s eyes, then down at the paper stretched before them.

“I’ve been doing some research,” Miriam explained. “That first night you came back, I called my guru.”

Aveny flinched involuntarily.

“Really?” Miriam parried, “Is that too far out for you, you magically trapped half-selkie woman?”

Brand laughed, easing some of the worry lines etched into his rapidly aging face.

Aveny grimaced sheepishly.

“That’s what I thought,” Miriam continued. “She’s the one who taught me ceremonial practice. I didn’t tell her the specifics – or anything too revealing – but I did give her a general overview of the elements involved: ocean, stone, and the moon.

“She said those three elements are classic foundational components of any ceremony – water, earth and sky. She said that if something went wrong, it was likely with one of these elements.

“So, I need you to think. Did anything happen with one of these elements that might have sent the ceremony off the rails?”

Aveny thought, then nodded, her eyes widening.

Brand set the computer next to her and pressed the pencil into her mouth.

Aveny typed out, “the stone got really hot and i dropped it. it got sucked away”

“Excellent!” Miriam exclaimed.

Aveny didn’t see how.

“Don’t you see?” Miriam pressed. “The ceremony went wrong. We just need to get our hands on another stone and try to pick up the ceremony where it left off.”

Aveny lifted both flippers and looked at Miriam exasperatedly.

Brand picked up her thought. “But Aveny’s already a seal,” he said. “How can she start the ceremony over?”

“Listen, kids,” Miriam said seriously, “this is the best lead we’ve got. Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t. But if we just sit here thinking of all the reasons it won’t, we’re wasting our time. Now, are you in or not?”

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