“Irish Month” – A short story for your pleasure – Return to the Sea by Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour
RETURN TO THE SEA
©Mary M. Cushnie-Mansour
The smell of salt water was strong in Muirin’s nostrils, and she felt strangely calm.
“Not long now,” Conall informed as he turned the car onto a gravel lane.
Muirin was nervous. She’d never met her great grandmother. Sending her to Ireland had been her father’s idea. “I want you to meet yer great grandmother Keelin afore she passes on,” he’d said, Irish still in his words. “She knows our family history and I ‘ave bin thinkin’ it is time to record the truths along with a wee bit o’ the tales. Since yu want to be a writer, maybe you kin begin with a story that ‘as yet to be told?”
“Well, ‘ere we are,” Conall stopped in front of a large, rambling frame house.
Bushes grew wildly up the paint chipped boards, some even covering the windows on the ground level. A tall, elderly woman opened the front door. “Muirin, welcome to my home,” the voice was warm and musical.
Muirin received a hug and was ushered inside. The foyer smelled of the ocean. She glanced around––shells were everywhere.
Keelin smiled, “You like my shells?”
“They are beautiful; but why so many?”
“They make me feel at home. Come child,” Keelin hooked her arm through Muirin’s and led her into a sitting room. “Conall,” she said, turning back a moment, “please put Muirin’s things in the guest room.”
Keelin turned to Muirin and smiled. “I am so happy you have come. I have a story to tell you.” Keelin examined Muirin’s hands. “They are like mine, I see.”
Muirin had always been embarrassed by her hands, for in between each finger was a thin web.
“Do you know what your name means?” Keelin asked.
“Born of the sea.”
Muirin laughed. “Is that why I have webbed fingers and flat feet to help me propel myself through the water.
Keelin smiled: “Yes, and now it is time you knew the rest of the story…My great, great grandmother, Muirin, was a Merrow, in modern terms, a mermaid. You are the first female in our line to be given her name.
“She was the most striking Merrow in the ocean, and many sailors wanted to capture her for their own, and the possible wealth she might bestow on them from plundered shipwrecks. For years, Muirin evaded them. As many Merrows do, she swam amongst the seals for camouflage; her cloak being made from the finest seal skin!
“One day, a hurricane hit the coast and Muirin was swept up onto the rocks here at Rossan Point. It was there my great, great grandfather, Aidan O’Sullivan, found her, unconscious and with a huge gash on her forehead.
“Aidan was well aware of the tragedy that could befall his family if he kept a Merrow, but she was so beautiful he could not take his eyes from her. He brought her here to this very house, took her seal cloak, hid it well away, and then tended to her wounds.
“When Muirin awoke she was furious her cloak was gone. But then, something unusual happened––she fell in love with Aidan, for he was a man of good heart. She would sometimes stand on the cliff, dreaming of her ocean waters. But then, she’d touch her belly, where grew the seed of their first child, and she’d turn around and go back to the arms of her Aidan. They had three daughters: Aishling, Tanai, and Siofra.
“Muirin’s cloak has remained hidden until now. I am too old to use it, but you may try it on if you like,” Keelin pointed to a wardrobe in the corner. “It’s in there.”
Muirin was nervous, yet curious. What would it feel like to wear her ancestor’s seal coat, especially if it were that of a real Merrow? She opened the wardrobe, reached out and touched the fur. A tingling spread from her fingers into her body. She lifted it out and slipped it on––a perfect fit.
“I must rest now,” Keelin said. “Take a walk if you like. There is a path that goes down from here to the shore. The cloak will keep you warm.”
“Thank you; I think I will stretch my legs.”
Keelin watched Muirin walk to the cliff and then down to the ocean. She watched as her great granddaughter stepped into the water and dove into the waves. She picked up a pen and paper, and began to write the letter she knew must:
Dear Craig: Muirin asked me to write you and tell you she will not be home for a while. She says she feels at home here with the ocean waves crashing against the rocks, sending their salty spray into the air. I hope this is not a problem for you; I will take good care of her. Thank you so much for allowing her to visit––your loving great-grandmother, Keelin.
The smell of salt water was strong in Muirin’s nostrils, and she felt strangely calm as she dove deeper into her new world.