Back when Gillian still read kids’ books, she believed for a while that Mom had been kidnapped by fairies.
Of course she never told Dad about it – that would have made him angry, as mentioning Mom’s disappearance usually did (growing up, Gillian sometimes thought he was angry at himself, not at Mom: did he feel guilty? Did they argue or something, and then she went away?). But she told herself stories about Mom in fairyland, and the fairyland changed with every book she read.
Once she mentioned this to Miss Gomez, her kindergarten teacher, and she grew so interested and asked so many questions that it made Gillian worried. She demanded that Miss Gomez promise not to tell her father about this.
Later Gillian couldn’t remember that well the exact questions Miss Gomez asked, but one stuck in her mind: “Are you sad?”
“A little,” Gillian answered, or something like this, and in a tremulous voice too – because she wanted Miss Gomez to stop, and she knew she was supposed to be sad.
By now she was pretty sure she had lied to the excessively kind teacher. She was not sad: she knew what being sad was about, and Dad was it – for a very long time, even after he got married again.
Gillian knew kids who lost their moms were supposed to be sad, but she was not sure what she had to be sad about. Maybe about Dad, except that was tricky – he could notice. About Mom, she was mostly curious.
Until Mom came back and it turned out that not only were there no fairies – Gillian stopped believing that long ago; but there were also no real explanations. No making things right.
What was she supposed to do? She got angry. And somehow her childhood belief made her angrier still – at herself, probably (how could she have been so stupid), at Mom, at life: at least that fairytale idea made sense, and nothing that happened in reality somehow ever did.
No answers. Never any real answers, and yet more questions. “How come I was kidnapped? Who did it? Why don’t I remember?”
Was it like that for Mom, she wondered one night, trying to sleep: questions and no answers, world not making any sense. Telling herself stories to make any sense at all.
That night she dreamed of fairyland again.
Away from Faery, May knew at once that she’d have to work at being her own person, not someone else’s copy. Not to be like Toby. But all in all, she thought, Toby made rather a good starting point: if she had to define herself away from someone, she was glad to have Toby for that.
She wondered sometimes, if they were real twins as most people now thought they were, would they have spent their childhood trying to be different from one another? May was not sure; thinking of childhoods somehow always got her tired. But maybe this – now – was May’s childhood, the only one she was getting. And she was all set to enjoy it (well, as much as she could while still worrying about Toby).
It was such fun, too – being herself. Finding out who her self was (pushing away the self that was Toby’s. Was it fun, being Toby? She was not sure she trusted herself to remember). Making her own memories – tastes, colors, Jazz’s body next to hers, the friends she made, Toby’s face across from her, not in a mirror – bright and warm memories which would remain her own.
And yet Toby’s memories still lived inside her: bleaker, less touchable, a little flat. Fall memories: May chose her name for a pun and for being a month, and yet, she realized lately, it was such a neat contrast. May – and October. Spring and fall. Good thing Toby wasn’t named November; that would have probably been a bit too much even for her. Too hopeless.
No sister of hers, not by blood – and yet common memories tied them closer than any common blood. Laughter and pain and love and loss and daring that wasn’t May’s, and yet it was. She suspected probably could have rid herself of some of those now that she was her own person - and yet she never would: Toby’s memories made as much a part of her as her memories of Toby, and they went on and on. After all the still ponds of terminated remembrances, a sea wave which kept moving forward, and May did not want it to stop. She wanted the memories to continue.
The sea felt stormy today. Days like this have the best balance between people and sea: not enough to chase people away, but enough for sea air and sea wind to be really felt.
Lately she started thinking this shore got too civilized; the sea too far, the people too close. Lately she started thinking she would go away, to another shore. Another sea.
But not yet. Too tied to this city, that’s what she was: tied by blood, by memories, by old promises and questions which were not yet to be answered.
Too many memories, perhaps; they washed over her, leaving strange debris, masking her self too much – starting a handy trick of mind like the one that masked her rooms when guests came, those accumulations of being long tied to something were now similar to traces of old volcanoes, spilled onto the same shores and sea floors now, and again, and again. Selkies playing in the sea, far enough so that if you look just with your eyes, you could forget for a moment what they were. Elizabeth on the beach, waiting for what she wanted. Amy, smiling and crying and never stopping to think and listen. Small Toby on the swing, her mother’s pawn, her own smile. Grown Toby with a cup of coffee, all questions and recklessness like and yet unlike Amy.
… chains, that’s what these memories were. Chains from which she could escape into the sea, on own, leaving playing with dangerous blood to Amy.
And yet it was her blood too, the one she shared with Amy. With Toby. Her past, her future. Her own memories, some of them completed like a finished chain necklace, but some – like the ones Toby was making – still open-ended. Still winding around her self so that no sea would let her truly escape.
She would wait, and listen to the sea, and to the call of her blood.
Away, away from it all, and blood was still calling to her. Her blood: painful, sweet and full of questions she did not want to answer. Memories she did not want to recall. Memories she would not let go.