The young woman stood facing the wild sea, her eyes closed, her long, untamed chestnut hair dancing in the breeze. Her skin, as pale as the moon, was chilled as the storm clouds gathered thickly in the air that surrounded her. Among the rushing water, she sensed more of her kind; her family. Opening her eyes, their dark eyes, so like her own, begged her to rejoin them. "I can't." Her voice was soft and entreating. "My destiny is here, on the land, I feel it."
"Réa, no." The voice of her mom reached her. "Human's cannot be trusted. The past speaks for itself."
Inhaling deeply, she turned away from the water, her bare toes flexing as she found her land-legs and started to walk away from the crashing waves that seemed to call her name.
"Réa, please." Her mom pleaded. "So many a human is selfish, with claims of love they will steal your soul-skin and hide it away, binding you to the earth forever."
Réa thought about the words. "The only person who shall tie me to the land is the one that willingly gives me my pelt back." She stated softly. "This is something I have to do mama." She started to walk away. "Goodbye." The whispered farewell tripped easily off her tongue as she continued to walk.
There was a part of her that was anxious about leaving the ocean after so long living in its depths, but another, far greater part of her was supremely happy. She wanted to dance in the rain that had begun to fall, and yet, soon enough, the sun would start to rise and she understood her nakedness would cause shock and alarm, in equal measures, to anyone who came across her in such a state of undress between the beach and her final destination.
Shivering as a particularly biting gust of wind cut through her, she draped her long coat over her shoulders and held it tightly at her chest. She had nothing with her but her coat, but things had been put into place specifically for this moment when she was last in human form, seven years before.
Veering off slightly, Réa followed a small path into a small wooded area where brambles scraped at the bare skin of her feet and lower legs, however, she didn't feel the discomfort of the scrapes, so intent was she in arriving at the place her future would finally begin. Eventually, she stepped into a small clearing holding a small log cabin surrounded by tall holly and oak trees.
Raising her eyes, she grinned at the older woman waiting for her on the porch. "Hi, Grams." Réa greeted.
"You took your sweet time, Réa." The older woman stated with a small, happy smile. "I almost came down to the water to look for you. I was startin' to worry I'd have to wait another seven years to see you, after making all the arrangements." Stepping off the porch, she moved nimbly towards her. When she reached her, her hands moved softly over the coat she wore draped over her shoulders before she was pulled into a warm embrace. "I've missed you, little one." She pulled back and caught her eyes. "Well, maybe not so little." She snorted. "You're going to knock 'em dead at College, Réa, those boys and girls won't know what's hit 'em."
"Bobbsey's, you asked me if I knew of any fairy-tale creatures." Miranda stroked Cassidy's hair from her face and smiled down at her before turning to Caroline and offering the same sweet caress. "I must admit, I am not overly knowledgeable about such things." She considered the Internet search she had done and pulled the information she had read to the forefront of her mind as she watched the twins settled further into bed.
"So you can't tell us anything?" Cassidy's lips pursed in a familiar gesture.
"As I said, I do not know much, Bobbsey, but I do know of one tale. Let me tell you about the Selkie." She stated softly.
"What's that?" Caroline demanded.
Miranda smirked at the imperious tone coming from her four-year-old daughter. "Tales of the Selkie, or seal-folk, come from Scottish, Irish and Icelandic myths and in the Northern Isles of Scotland, the locals insist these stories, of large seals that can shed their skin and turn human, are perfectly real. They call the seal-like women maighdeann-ròin, a seal maiden." She grinned at her daughter's small gasps of surprise. "When a Selkie comes onto land, it takes off its sealskin and becomes human and if an ordinary human sees a Selkie in human form, they fall madly in love with them. The legends state that these shapeshifters are extraordinarily beautiful, but the tales surrounding the myth are not pretty nor romantic, and rarely end happily."
"No happy ever afters?" Cassidy asked softly. "Why not, mommy?
"There are two particular claims that people have made regarding the Selkie. First, that Selkie's lure men and women into the sea in the middle of summer, and these lovesick humans never return to dry land. Secondly, are the tales that humans would often steal the Selkie's coat, trapping them on land, and into a marriage, beholden to their captor until their coat was willingly returned. It is believed the Selkie was forced to have children with their human husband, all the while, mourning for their lost ocean home."
"Oh, those poor Selkie's," Caroline exclaimed sadly.
"You are right to feel sad for them, Caroline. But, these tales also state that once a Selkie finds their coat, they are powerless to resist the call of the sea and drop everything to get back into the water they came from, including their children." Miranda sighed softly. "Occasionally, the children born of the Selkie and human man would be spirited away to return to their mother and their true life under the sea."
"What does a Selkie look like? Cassidy asked.
Miranda sat back and thought about the question. "They are tall and willowy in human form, but as in their animal form, they have dark hair and rather large, expressive eyes." She closed her eyes, to better conjure up the image she was describing. "They are gentle, inordinately kind, and yet also fierce. In the water, the seal is extremely graceful. On land, I imagine them moving in rather a clumsy fashion."
"Woah, I wish I could meet a Selkie," Caroline said softly.
"I wonder if it hurts when they take off their skin," Cassidy stated.
Shortly after arriving on land, she'd changed her name, no longer wanting to be known as Réa, since the harsh pronunciation made her want to scream, so she'd chosen the name, Andrea, or Andy for short.
The five years spent on land had seen her making friends with one or two mortals, who in no way realised she was any different to them. If she was sometimes a little naive, she made excuses about having experienced a sheltered upbringing. It was only a little lie, one she felt no qualms about telling, to protect herself.
After finishing school in Illinois, she'd moved to New York to be closer to her family, and despite an initial struggle, had somehow managed to get a job. The New York Mirror was a small newspaper that concentrated on local news and events rather than national or even international offerings.
Walking through the city at any time of the day was a constant source of awe and surprise although she often found the noise of people yelling or car horns blaring overwhelming. That day, after interviewing a local street artist, Andy found herself needing to escape the heavy foot traffic and noise of Times Square and looking around, veered quickly into a small bistro type restaurant.
After being greeted politely, she was led through the classy, dimly lit restaurant to a table. She stopped and shrugging off her fur coat, with a small apologetic smile at the server, she hung it on the back of the chair rather than allowing him to take it, before allowing him to seat her and dropping her eyes to the menu. Taking deep breaths, she let the calm atmosphere wash over her and was soothed.
Despite the fact she was not accustomed to dining alone, especially in such an upscale place, as far as she was concerned, this would be a fantastic experience. It would certainly be a bit of a splurge, but she told herself she deserved a treat occasionally.
Glancing around she took in the mix of patrons. She had dressed for comfort that morning and was grateful she didn't stand out. Looking down at the menu, she felt luck was in her favour since there was plenty of seafood to be found on the menu to suit her diet. When the server arrived back at the table, she looked up and offered a wide smile and he returned it with one of his own and a stuttered query if she was ready to order a drink.
"I'll have a glass of Cabernet, please," Andy replied.
"Yes, right away." The server rushed away.
Andy's attention was taken by a soft, melodious voice nearby. "I find this place rather acceptable, Nigel. It seems you have finally found a restaurant where it's possible to enjoy a meal without having to raise your voice over the masses."
When the server returned, breaking her focus from the voice, he brought a variety of bread, olives and olive oil to the table before moving away briskly again with a promise to bring her the drink she'd ordered.
Glancing around, she caught the eyes of a woman with stormy blue eyes. They drew her in, somehow reminding her of the ocean she had left behind. "Hi." Andy mouthed. She was disappointed when the woman looked away, although she could swear the women's lips twitched in the hint of a smile.
Picking up a piece of bread, she raised it to her nose and sniffed delicately before dipping it into the olive oil and popping it into her mouth, her nose scrunching up at the new taste. She chewed and swallowed quickly before pushing the bread and oil away. Her fingers pushed through the small bowl of olives instead, before picking one up and popping it into her mouth. She bit down into the salty, slightly oily fruit and grimaced.
Feeling eyes on her, Andy glanced up again and saw the woman she'd been watching was smirking at her. She couldn't stop the blush that rose over her face and shrugged a little in embarrassment.
The server set her wine down and she sipped it gratefully before looking up at him. "I would like the Bouillabaisse Marseillaise, please."
"And dessert?" The server queried.
"Oh," Andy glanced down at the menu and looked at the options. "No dessert, thank you."
It had been a productive lunch meeting, for all she could focus on Nigel and his ideas for the upcoming issue. Her lack of concentration was primarily down to the strange, smiling brunette stealing glances at her from time to time as she ate. There was something about the woman that had caught her eye, although she couldn't say what exactly it was, it had her watching her surreptitiously from the corner of her eye.
Despite her lack of focus, she had made all the right noises to Nigel, of course. He believed her sole focus was on what they were discussing, rather than on the captivating young woman, however, upon reflection she'd no idea what they'd spoken of. When the meeting started to wind down and Nigel paused for breath, Miranda excused herself. "I'm just going to visit the ladies room."
As she stood and moved around the table, the dark coat on the floor caught her attention. It looked to be some kind of fur, but it was also like nothing she'd ever encountered before. Unable to resist, she moved quickly and bent to pick it up. It was the softest thing she'd ever laid her hands on and silkier than the finest Hermes scarf.
When she draped it back over the chair behind its owner, she wondered idly who had designed such a thing. The owner of the coat, the young woman she had become entranced by, glanced at her over her shoulder and caught her eyes. Miranda's breath caught, her heart thundered in her chest and her palms grew sweaty. "You dropped your coat." She muttered softly, keeping her voice low. Her fingers ran unconsciously over the fur once more. "It's beautiful." She blushed.
The young woman stared wide-eyed, her dark expressive orbs reflecting just how stunned she was by her gesture. Miranda couldn't say what it was about this woman, but she honestly couldn't say if she'd ever met someone so remarkably attractive, with her large brown eyes, wide brows and generous lips. Her eyes were beyond anything she'd ever encountered before with the deep, expressive orbs flecked with hints of amber, green and grey. They seemed to dance in the low light.
Her hands itched to run through the long dark chocolate tresses or caress the soft, sensitive skin of her jaw with her lips. Her body and minds reaction to the woman left her confused and stepping away, she waved awkwardly before moving quickly back to her seat, rather than continuing to the ladies room, and sliding into it, still blushing furiously.
Trying to gather her usual control and pull herself together, Miranda gestured for the bill and it was quickly placed on the table near her hand. Sliding her AMEX from her purse she placed it into the bill folder and pushed it to the edge of the table next to her, without even looking at the total. It was taken away and when the server returned with her card and the usual two copies of the receipt, she quickly worked out the 20 per cent tip and wrote it on the receipt before handing it back to the server with a nod and a quiet thank you.
Glancing at her lunch companion, she raised an eyebrow. "Come along, Nigel. We have work to do this afternoon."
Andy was excited and nervous as she approached the extravagantly modern, glass enriched highrise just off the Avenue of the Americas. She'd dressed for the occasion after finding out who the strawberry-blonde, blue-eyed woman was from her server the day before and completing a vast internet search in her attempt to find out everything she could about the woman who'd walked away from her with incredible grace and elegance.
With an outward show of confidence, she didn't truly feel, she moved through the revolving doors, nearly tripping over her own feet when she exited into a vast marble foyer. She made her way to the reception desk. "I'm here to see Miranda Priestly."
The guard looked up at her, a half-eaten sandwich partway to his mouth as he gaped. He dropped the sandwich onto wax paper and glanced down. "Name?" He queried gruffly, thumbing through a sheaf of papers.
"Andrea—just Andrea." She announced. "I'm expected." She insisted with an air of bravado.
"You're not on the list." The security guard responded.
"There must be some mistake." Andy started to panic. If she wasn't granted access to the building, there was no way she could enact the next stage of her plan. She needed to see Miranda desperately.
"Could be that the newest second assistant forgot to tell us." The voice came from the second security guard as he handed someone else a visitor's pass. "She seems harmless enough and we don't need a disgruntled Devil breathing down our necks 'cause you sent her newest protégé away." He looked up at her kindly and smiled. "I take it you're a model?"
"Uh—ye—yes." Andy stuttered, nodding quickly, willing to agree to anything as long as she got where she wanted to be.
"Give her a visitor's pass with access to Runway." The second guard told his counterpart. "Good luck up there."
"You'll need it." The first guard muttered under his breath. He slid the pass across the counter between them. "Wear that at all times and hand it back when you leave. Any of the elevators will take you up to seventeen."
"Th—Thank you." Andy slung the pass over her head and stepped away quickly, following the flow of foot traffic. She watched the people in front of her intently as they pressed passes against a little square sensor and moved through a turnstile. When it came to her go, the bar moved quickly and she found herself falling forward, landing on her knees in front of a pair of red suede heels.
Her eyes moved up over shapely ankles and calves, to finally take in the deep purple dress under the rich dark fur coat until her eyes met the vibrant blues she'd been seeking.
"You?" Miranda declared, her head tilting to the side in wonder.
Andy was blown away by the other woman's beauty but rather than letting herself be intimidated by it, she told herself once more that this was the woman that "gave" her back her coat. In her eyes, it was the most wonderfully unselfish gesture and at that moment, she knew this was the woman that she was meant to share her life and her secrets. Standing tall, she couldn't stop her wide smile. "Hi, Miranda. I'm Andy."
"And—" Miranda shook her head and her lips began to purse.
"Well, it's Andrea," Andy explained. "My name that is." She babbled.
"Andréa?" She queried lightly. Miranda's almost perfect enunciation of the final part of her name, had Andy wanting to dance in absolute glee and she took it as a sign. Instead of showing her happiness, she tugged her fingers and nodded furiously. "And why are you here?"
"Oh," Andy suddenly remembered her plan. "I have something for you." Feeling a little shy, she put her hand in her purse and pulled out a small box. She awkwardly thrust it into Miranda's hands and watched intently as she flicked the box open and gaped at the Pearl and Diamond Infinity Ring it held.
"I—isn't this—an engagement ring?" Miranda stuttered.
Andy smiled shyly. "Well, we—" She shrugged "—we should get married by human customs as well."
"What?" Miranda yelled.
Miranda paced the small area between the sofa and her desk and ran her fingers through her hair. She couldn't believe what was happening. It felt like the universe was playing some kind of sick joke on her.
She had only recently made a promise to another and yet there was a small part of her that was ready to just throw away the past year with Stephen and embrace this stunning young woman's claim that they were already married, by some strange custom she had never heard of.
She remembered the end of her first marriage to the twin's father and how the gossip surrounding them had launched her into fight or flight mode. She'd fought. Hard. And had taken almost everything he had, including their daughters. She'd sworn she'd never marry again, but her Bobbsey's needed a father figure and stability, so Stephen seemed like the perfect candidate to offer them that.
She couldn't say what it was that forced her to pull the younger woman after her through the foyer of Elias Clarke, nor what had made her gesture for the woman to enter her car ahead of her, but right now, she could see the apprehension in Andréa's dark, expressive eyes as they followed her pacing.
Unfortunately, at the moment she was about to demand further answers, she heard the thundering of feet and the shrill voices of her babies calling for her. "Stay here," she commanded. "And don't touch anything."
Andréa nodded, tears appearing in her dark, almost luminous eyes. "Yes, Miranda."
Miranda felt an irrational surge of guilt, and it made her rush from the room. "Bobbsey's." She called out softly, holding her arms out. When they crashed into her, wrapping their chubby little arms around her, she calmed herself as she smothered them in kisses until they squealed. Eventually pulling back, she smiled softly. "I must return to my guest."
"Is Stephen here?" Caroline asked, her nose scrunching up in distaste.
"No, Caroline, it's—" She turned as Cassidy moved around her and threw the door of her study open. "Cassidy, no—"
"Care, mommy's found us a real-life Selkie," Cassidy yelled, jumping up and down in excitement.
Caroline rushed to her sister and holding her hand peered into the room. "Woah, look Cass, she's even wearing her skin."
Miranda rubbed the bridge of her nose and sighed. "Caroline, Cassidy, this is my friend, Andréa." She moved to the door and took her daughter's hand in hers.
"Réa?" Cassidy asked.
Andréa hadn't moved an inch but nodded, a wide unconscious smile forming on her face.
"That a real pretty name." Caroline insisted.
"It means flowing," Andréa stated gently, her eyes softening as she glanced down at her babies as if they were the most precious things she had ever seen. She caught Miranda's eyes. "Who's Stephen?"
"My fiance," Miranda admitted.
"What?" Andréa's warm, honeyed voice dropped a couple of degrees and Miranda wondered if she had truly made a mistake and allowed a crazy person into her home
As she questioned her decision to bring the woman near her beautiful daughter's, Cassidy broke free and rushed forward, her hand reaching up to stroke the cuff of her coat. "If I run you a bath, will you turn into a seal for me?"
Miranda groaned. The fact was, considering how fixated her children had become on Selkie folklore, letting their imaginations run riot, it was surprising this was the first time they were asking such things. They'd taken her words about how they looked as gospel. She was thankful though that it'd had taken the attention away from Andréa's question about Stephen and his place in their lives.
"I'm sorry Cassidy. I can't do that." Andréa advised lightly. "If I did, I'd need to go back to the sea and I wouldn't be able to return to my human form for another seven years."
"Awww," Caroline groaned. "That's not fair."
Andréa giggled and soon enough the twins followed with their boisterous laughter.
Miranda couldn't explain why she found watching Andréa and her girls interact so fascinating, but she couldn't tear her eyes away from her. Her heart sped up and he was left with an uncontrollable and inexplicable yearning, to have this woman in her life always.
Andy was amazed at the fact Cassidy and Caroline had recognised what she was immediately and brushed away Miranda's attempts to explain.
Over a dinner of salmon, which the twins insisted she joined them for, she told tales of the Selkie folk, and almost allowed herself to forget Miranda's words about the man in her life.
The fact Miranda was betrothed to another made her heart twist painfully. In all honesty, it was unfathomable that the woman would consider spending her life with another. The connection she felt to the mortal woman was written in the stars, of that she was certain. They were destined to be together.
The fact Miranda hadn't tossed her out on her ass left her feeling hopeful that she also felt the connection between them.
"Tell me about yourself," Miranda asked, having returned to the study from putting her children to bed.
"Well, I'm not from New York, but came to the city around a year ago," Andy told her.
"And what is it exactly you do?" Miranda questioned.
"Oh, I work for the New York Mirror," Andy explained happily.
Miranda's lips pursed. "So you are a reporter?" She shook her head. "And what do you hope to gain from me?" She demanded.
"Nothing." Andy was confused.
"So my position as Editor-In-Chief of a large publication means nothing?" Miranda scoffed disbelievingly. "And am I to believe this cock and bull story that by some custom we are already married? Do you believe me to be so vastly naive?" The questions came thick and fast leaving Andy reeling. "Well?" She demanded.
"I am—" Andy faltered, unsure if telling Miranda was a good idea. "—not of the land, but the sea. I am Selkie." She admitted.
"Oh, don't be ridiculous." Miranda rolled her eyes. "That was simply a fairytale I told my Bobbsey's, from old myths, and although I appreciate the way you catered to their questions, I am not of the same age as to believe such a blatant untruth."
Andy considered the 70 years she'd been alive. Like with many of her kind, the ageing process had slowed so she still looked like she was in her mid-twenties. She'd already lived a full life though and had spent eight years of her life on dry land before this while she was still a pup. Her previous time on land had been spent rather unhappily, after all, it wasn't exactly by choice after a young man had seen her frolicking naked in her human form off Taylor's Island and having found her pelt, took it and announced she would be his wife.
She'd spent those long, miserable years with the man, Nate, and had born him a daughter. She'd spent the time pining for the sea she couldn't hope to return to since her pelt had been hidden away, but then her daughter, Elizabeth found it and offered it back to her willingly, breaking the magic involved. She'd had to leave, unable to resist returning to her family, even though it meant leaving Elizabeth behind.
"I know it's hard to believe, but it's the truth, Miranda," Andy muttered. "Look inside yourself. Surely you feel that something? The indefinable pull towards me? The magic?"
"I feel no such thing." Miranda insisted coldly. "You are a stranger to me and although I initially went along with this and invited you into my home in an act of epic foolishness, to gain some further clarification, frankly, I have heard enough of this madness." She flung her arm out. "Leave now."
"Miranda, I—" Andy saw no hint of wavering in Miranda's eyes, only steely determination.
"I said leave." Miranda insisted.
Closing her eyes, Andy let out a shuddering breath. "Okay." She agreed. "I apologise for disrupting your day." She smiled sadly. "You won't see me again, not unless you want to." Moving past the editor, she headed towards the front door and opened it quickly.
Before stepping onto the street she stalled when Miranda's voice called to her urgently. "Andréa—" Miranda stepped quickly towards her having followed when she left the room at her request.
Unable to resist, Andy stepped into her personal space and placed a soft, chaste kiss on her lips before muttering her address softly into her ear. "I'll be there for the next two days, but after that, I'll be gone. Just think about it." She pulled back and turning away, stepped out of the large house without looking back.
Miranda woke up with a start and knowing she wouldn't sleep again that night, threw on her robe and made her way down the narrow path to the beach.
Her heart ached as she stared up at the full moon, deep in thought, without even glancing upon the water crashing at her feet. It had been over seven years of longing, with hope ebbing and flowing like the tide. "Andréa. Please, come back." She begged. Her eyes closed involuntarily when a solitary tear trailed down her cheek. "It's been seven years. Why haven't you returned to me?"
She considered that moment all those years before, upon being let into the small apartment Andréa had lived in. What she hadn't accounted for, was that she would come face to face with someone else instead of the brunette, an older woman who had explained, rather gently, that she was too late and she had gone. Andréa's grandmother, Eliza, had simply been there to pack up her belongings and to put them into storage until such a time as she decided to return.
What she had come to realise, after some time spent with Eliza on that memorable afternoon, was that unable to lie to her, Andréa had spoken the truth. She was a Selkie and unable to bear the thought of staying in New York after being rejected, had returned to Shelter Island. What had solidified everything she'd been told was being shown Eliza's silver pelt and hearing the story of her life, of the love of one mortal man she'd chosen above her love of the ocean.
Where she was standing now, was the exact spot Andréa had stripped out of her clothes and wading into the ocean in her naked human form, had slipped into her coat and transformed into her true self, leaving the land and swimming away from the heartbreak she felt.
The breaking of water caught her attention and looking down, she caught the sleek, dark pelt of the head rising from the sea, followed by a pair of expressive dark eyes. She'd know those eyes anywhere. "Andréa." She moved forward quickly, entering the icy water until the seal let out a bark of warning. "But—" Her eyes closed once again and with an acute sense of hopelessness, her tears flowed earnestly, dripping off her chin and into the salty ocean as she turned back to the shore.
She sank into the sand, putting her head in her hands and sobbed for her lost chance at love but when a shadow was cast over her, she looked at the delicate bare feet, her eyes moving up long, toned legs, devouring the sight of the flared hips, narrow waist, flat stomach and full breasts of the magnificent creature stood naked and proud in front of her. "Andréa, I—."
"Why did you call for me, Miranda?" Andréa asked.
"I made a mistake. I—I should never have sent you away." Miranda sobbed. "I should have believed—" She hiccupped. "—I should have trusted—"
"You told me to leave, Miranda. I waited two full days for you to come." Andréa said sadly. "It hurt me when you didn't." She advised. "There's a magic involved, and I claimed you as my wife. You just don't understand."
"Then make me understand," Miranda yelled through her tears. "I'm here, willing to listen, as I have been for the last seven years."
"Did you marry him?" Andy asked, starting to pace the sand in front of the woman.
"Yes," Miranda admitted. "But—"
Andy stopped and glared down at the woman. "Are you still married to him?" She demanded.
"After a fashion," Miranda mumbled. "We are in the process of finalising our separation. It should occur in the next few weeks."
"Every year without fail, you come here and you call out to me. Why?" Andy asked.
"I hoped—" Miranda shrugged self-consciously. "—by coming here each year, of keeping the fleeting memory I had of you alive, that one day we could finally come together."
"You came here, even when you were with him?" Andy was amazed.
"Yes," Miranda swiped at her tears. "Honestly, if I'd come to you in time rather than dithering over the decision, I would not have married him. I would have been your wife and we would have had this time together."
Andy sat beside the woman. "You said you want to understand?" She questioned. When Miranda nodded, wiping at the tears under her eyes, she continued. "Okay, so once a Selkie coat had been taken by a mortal, the pelt has to be willingly returned by the one who took it, or a descendant of that person. The taking of it acts as a thing to bind a Selkie to the mortal, but the giving of it back, that—" She trailed off. "—you gave me my coat rather than taking it and keeping it to yourself to tie me to you." She shook her head. "—you took my pelt in your hands but gave it back to me immediately. In that pure act, I was besotted." She admitted. "And you became my wife, but you had to accept my claim."
"If that is the case, why did you make me wait?" Miranda demanded.
"I've watched you over the years, the nights spent calling to me, the days spent playing or relaxing with the twins. I even saw him, once or twice. I saw your hair fade to the silver it is now and I was stunned by how you grew ever more beautiful." Her eyes closed. "But I couldn't return to you, Miranda. As I said, there's magic involved and you had to accept and want it."
Miranda sat, staring out contemplating the shadows moving in the waves. "It's been over seven years and this is the first time I've allowed myself to cry." She whispered brokenly. Andy inched closer and wrapped an arm around her, pulling her close. "After everything that's happened this past year, Stephen filing for divorce, almost losing my job, I just couldn't remain strong any longer."
"Just so you know, you don't always have to be strong, Miranda," Andy told her lightly.
"You keep saying there is magic involved?" Miranda queried.
"I could have returned of my own free will earlier this year, on the exact anniversary of my return to the sea, but I didn't believe you would—" Andy sighed. "—instead, you broke the spell, Miranda." She mused. "Seven tears fell into the ocean, one for each year we have been separated." She cuddled closer, forgetting her nakedness. "Did you know that the number seven has magical properties?"
"Tell me more?" Miranda asked, curling further into her.
"There are seven days of the week, named after various ancient gods and planets. There's Sun-day, Moon-day, Tiw's-day, Woden's-day, Thor's-day, Frigg's-day, Saturn-day," Andy explained. "Then there's the superstitions, that you'll have seven years of bad luck from breaking a mirror or that the seventh son of the seventh son possesses magical abilities." She smiled softly before pressing a kiss on Miranda crown. "There are seven notes in a musical scale since the eighth forms the octave and harmony and, finally if you blend the seven visible colours of the rainbow, you get white." She lay back, pulling Miranda down with her. "The number seven represents the sum of the spiritual and material realms, Miranda. That is why I must wait seven years between my transformations, it is also why seven tears can call a Selkie to her mate on the land."
The sound of splashing water had Miranda pulling away and sitting up. "There's something out there." She nodded towards the sea. "In the water."
"It's my mom, sister and Grandma," Andréa stated without moving from her reclining position.
"Grandma?" Miranda stood and squinted at the water, trying to get a better look. "But Eliza passed—" Andréa sniggered. "—she left me the cabin and—"
"She returned to us," Andréa stated, finally interrupting her. "Gifting you the cabin was my idea. You and the twins seem to love it here on the Island."
"We do, but—" Miranda started.
"But nothing," Andréa said. "It was time for Grams to return to the ocean. She'd been here alone here for far longer than we expected after Hayden passed."
"But—" Miranda tried.
"But nothing, Miranda." Andréa insisted.
Miranda found the interruptions infuriating. "Why are they waiting?" She demanded.
"To see if I'll return to them." Andréa sighed. "Well, my mom is. Grams and Jill are rooting for us to work things out." She sniggered again. "Jill reckons someone needs to bang our heads together." The low bark that greeted her words sounded like laughter.
Miranda turned back and looked down at the woman sprawled in all her naked glory below her. "Us?" Her eyes trailed over her hungrily. "Is there an us?"
Andréa opened her arms. "Come here and let me show you." She couldn't stop herself from falling into them, letting her full weight land on the naked woman so she expelled a low breathy chuckle.
Pressed against the naked woman, she couldn't stop herself from catching her lips in a searing kiss and deepening it as Andréa opened up to her. As their lips and tongues fought for dominance, she focussed on something that hadn't flagged in her mind until that moment. Breaking the kiss and resting her weight on her elbows, her body still covering Andréa's, she looked down into hooded eyes. "Where is your coat?"
"Down there," Andréa nodded her head towards the small dock. "Safe."
Miranda shot up and running on bare feet towards where Andréa had gestured, scooped up the soft fur and buried her face in it, inhaling deeply. She heard the pounding of feet on the compacted sand rushing towards her and turned to see the brunette.
"Please," Andréa whispered as she stood warily in front of her. "Please, give it back to me." Her huge, dark eyes pleaded with her as she fell to her knees. "Please. I'll do whatever you ask of me, Miranda," she begged. "Just give me my pelt back."
Miranda was surprised by the sudden whirling panic she could see in Andréa's eyes, but at the same time, giving her the coat back would allow Andréa to leave her again. "This would keep you with me." She insisted.
"But not by choice." Andréa cried. "You would be imprisoning me and—"
"I told you this would happen, Réa." A furious voice broke their focus on each other.
Miranda stiffened and turning her head sharply, she saw a tall woman stepping from the water, a light brown pile of fur held in front of her, covering her nakedness. "This is a private moment between me and Andréa." She insisted coldly.
"It became my business when you took her pelt to force her to remain." The woman hissed. "Binding a Selkie to the earth forever so that they can never return to the sea is an unforgivable thing."
"Mom," Andréa begged. "Just leave it. Miranda's right, this has nothing to do with you."
Miranda's thumbs ran unconsciously over the fur in her hands and she noticed Andréa shuddering with each caress as if she felt them. Unable to resist, she raised the fur to her face again and inhaled. Pulling it away from her face, she shook the fur out, loosening the sand clinging to it, and turning to Andréa, she placed it around her shoulders gently. "I don't want you to feel you have to remain, a prisoner to this magic." She bent and pressed a soft, chaste kiss onto her lips. "I have missed you so much but I have lived with the loss of you, the feeling that half of my heart had been torn from my chest, and I can go on as I have, living without you, although admittedly, I do not want to."
As Miranda made to walk away, Andy rushed to her feet and started to walk after her, totally ignoring her mom.
"Réa, you cannot—" Her mom's voice was strident and demanding.
Spinning on her heel, she glared at her mom. "I cannot return!" She shouted, her heart aching from the thought of leaving the woman she adored. "She's not a Selkie and I can't live without her." The words shouted over the crashing waves, had Miranda coming to a standstill and turning back to face her but ignoring her, Andy continued to shout. "I was fifteen when I was forced to live on the land, but I am no longer a pup who doesn't know better, mom. I know my own heart."
"She broke your heart, Réa." Her mom stated coldly.
A low bark of warning came from the shoreline and a small grey seal moved onto the sand. The two naked women ignored the warning.
"Perhaps, but she didn't understand. You know our ways are not necessarily the ways of the human race." She caught the eyes of the grey seal and smiled softly. "Grams was lucky with Hayden, he was of Celtic descent and knew the tales of the Selkie-folk. He recognised her for what she was from the moment he found her washed up on the shore here." Andy declared. "But Miranda simply had someone turn up where she worked, claiming her as their wife." She licked her lips. "I acted from the blind belief of our customs, totally forgetting that the human's don't abide by the same ones."
Moving away from her mom, Andy moved to stand in front of Miranda and removed the pelt from around her shoulders. "Do you know what happens when a Selkie gives you their pelt, Miranda?" She asked.
"No," Miranda admitted. "All I read was about men stealing it, trapping you on land and into marriage."
Andy smiled sadly. "That part of our folklore is often the truth and it has been mine. It's an extraordinarily rare occurrence for someone to give us our pelt back and my kind often simply fade away from their pining for the sea. Even rarer still is for us to willingly give our pelt to another."
"Réa, no." Andy's mom sounded aghast.
"Just go back, mom." Andy insisted, glancing at the woman over her shoulder briefly. Turning back to Miranda, she spoke softly. "I claimed you as my wife seven years ago, but I went about wooing you the wrong way. I blundered my way into your life, expecting you to accept it." She shook her head. "I was an idiot. I was so caught up in my need to keep you in my life, in my certainty that you were the one I had been searching for, I didn't let myself think it through properly." Taking one of Miranda's hands in her own, she brought it to her lips and placed a gentle kiss on her palm before letting it fall. Smiling down at the woman, she took her coat and placed it over Miranda's shoulders. "It's yours now."
"Andréa, I do not deserve—" Miranda started.
"Ssh," Andy hushed her gently, placing a finger against her lips. "I would give you the world if I could, Miranda. But instead, I have simply given you my worldly possessions, and in doing so, I have bound myself to you. Mind, body, heart and soul, I belong to you. I'm yours." She removed her finger and waited.
"Mine?" Miranda queried, her eyes glistening with tears.
She saw the slight disbelief in Miranda's eyes. "Only ever yours. That I can promise you." Andy reassured. "And when this life ends, we'll find each other again, to live another life together. And then another, and another, for all eternity. I will never leave you, Miranda." She lost herself in the gaze.
"Réa?" Miranda's tone was urgent, almost pleading.
"Yes, my love?" Andy responded softly.
"I believe it's time for us to consummate our marriage, my darling," Miranda whispered.
"Finally." Andy declared and before Miranda could react, she bent slightly and her long arm swept behind her knees, knocking her back into her arms. When she straightened up, Miranda's arms wound around her neck and her hands tangled into her hair as she quickly carried her off the beach, over the small path through tall trees and into the clearing that held the small cabin her Grams had gifted to her wife.
Gazing down at the woman in her arms, she smiled softly. She did not have much in the way of money or possessions, but by having Miranda, she felt like the richest person on Earth.
"My beautiful Selkie bride," Miranda murmured, her lips pressing hotly against Andy's. "Take me to bed."
After Paris and her divorce, Miranda had found herself becoming disillusioned by her life in the spotlight. With that in mind, and having Andréa return to her, she had spoken to the twins and eventually came to the decision it was time to step down from her position as Editor-in-Chief.
Upon offering up her resignation and seeing Irv's disbelief turn to malicious glee, the board had stepped in, and after some coaxing, she had agreed to act as a consultant to Runway when needed. Over the following two months, she handed the reins to her dearest colleague and sometime friend, Nigel Kipling.
When the parcel of land next to her own on Shelter Island came up for sale, she purchased it quickly and the townhouse was put up for sale. The Priestly family, including their very large Saint Bernard, moved out of the city to Shelter Island and into the Cabin that once belonged to Andréa's grandma. It would, for a time, be their home, until some of the existing acres were cleared and a larger family home built for them.
Upon settling into the cabin, Miranda insisted they marry by human custom and Andréa agreed. And so it was their marriage was arranged quickly and with little to no fanfare, with only the twins, Eliza and Jill, who acted as the required witness, present at the ceremony as they spoke their vows and exchanged rings. Afterwards, she took an announcement out in the New York Times International to inform the world of her recent nuptials.
The announcement itself had been rather generic, outlining how they had met by chance in a popular New York eatery, had not seen each other for a handful of years until reconnecting and realising how much time they'd wasted. No details regarding Andréa's upbringing was mentioned, although they wrote about her college education where she had graduated summa cum laude from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern and her stint as a journalist for the New York Mirror. The photo they included was one of her favourites and showed them sat close together, simply gazing at one another with soft smiles on their faces as the sunset lit up the sky behind them in orange and purple hues.
The news of her marriage, to a woman, had been met with surprise, and rather a bit of scepticism, but having found happiness, she realised she didn't care what the world thought.
Living by the ocean and away from the prying eyes of the press offered a simplicity to Miranda's life that she never anticipated she needed. For years she had thrived on the hustle and bustle of life in New York, at the forefront of a career that had seen her achieving unmitigated success. She'd lived and breathed for her life as the Queen of Fashion, but what had also grown from the successes, was her reputation as a stone-cold bitch; the dragon, the snow queen, the Devil in Prada. The names had been bandied around for years, hurting her and by extension, her beautiful children.
Cassidy and Caroline, almost teenagers now, thrived in their new surroundings. They adored Andy, having remembered her from their single shared dinner, and had not questioned the truth of what she was. They began to attend the local public school less than a mile away from their new home, alongside 200 other students of various ages, and despite initially missing some of their friends, made new ones quickly. Each afternoon saw them dumping their school things, changing out of their regular clothes into beachwear and rushing down to the shore. They adored living by the water, learning to snorkel and canoe in the calm waters and sharing their lives with the handful of seals that hauled out on the secluded shoreline of their private beach overlooking Cedar Island Cove.
As a family, they grew closer, spending glorious days at the various beaches, walking through the Mashomack Preserve, buying chocolate croissants at the Marie Eiffel Market or browsing in the Black Cat book store. They took trips to various places across Long Island; the Hamptons, Montauk and Sag Harbor became firm favourites, however, they also enjoyed weekend trips into Manhattan to watch a show, enjoy dinner and a stay in one of the many luxury hotels.
There were times Miranda asked herself what she would have done if Andréa hadn't come back to her. What she would have done if she'd not been able to break the spell that kept her in her seal form. More often than not, she tried to shake those thoughts, and the nightmares they created, away, but somehow knowing, Andréa soothed her, either by making gentle love to her as she had on the night of her return, cuddling up to her and talking of their life together or, on warm nights, leading the way to their private beach hand-in-hand. On these nights on the beach with her beloved, she sat to watch her wife frolic in her naked glory in the water with her sister or dance in the moonlight.
Gentle, affectionate, laughing and carefree, Andréa brought so much joy to Miranda's life, she was awed by it and wondered how she got so lucky.
Although she still absolutely adored fashion and believed in the importance it held in the world, she saw what she had before, the empty, miserable existence, with her work and her daughters her only comfort, and knew she wouldn't change a thing. Because what she had now, was worth it. She had a love of the kind she never believed she'd experience and she was truly thankful for the magic that brought the gift that was Andréa to her world.
Her Selkie bride and most assuredly, her happily ever after.