Lost and Found
Aiden ran through the crowd, dodging women in long skirts and tall men who shouted obscenities at him. The red-haired woman had been very kind, but when her hand had reached out for him an odd sensation crept over his skin. He had felt that feeling before and didn’t like it. There was something familiar about her that he could not place. The woman’s friend had been cruel. At least he threw me a couple of coins. His foot caught a rut and he fell into a mud pudlled. The money he had clutched in his hand flew into the grass.
Not wanting to loose any money he searched the grass until he had every last coin accounted for. I can buy myself a proper meal. His thoughts were filled with tasty morsels that made his stomach growl and his mouth water. It had been two days since Aiden had eaten. The baker’s wife, Lila, lived on the other side of the meadow. She would let him buy food and give him a rag to wash his face without looking at him with disgust. Lila had been his mum’s best friend. Now that his mum had passed Lila tried to look after Aideen as much as her husband would allow.
The money jingled in Aiden’s pocket as he traipsed through the grass. Long stalks and an occasional flower hit his shins. Lila was out working in her garden. Her long dark hair was pulled back and her apron was covered in dirt. When Aiden saw her he broke out into a run.
Wiping the dirt off her hands Lila smiled at the boy running her direction. “That you Aiden? Look at the state of you! Well, don’t just stand there. You’ll need to wash. We’ve got some time before Connor comes home.”
Lila filled up two large buckets with water from the well, handed Aideen a rag and a rough bar of soap. “Off with your clothes. I’ll be back with some fresh one. Then you’ll be right as rain again.”
Lila walked into the house to search the clothes chest. Her boy had grown a lot the past year and Lila had kept the clothes secretly for Aiden. Connor, her husband, did not want to take the boy in, but Lila did what she could, even if was against Connor’s wishes. She pulled a shirt and dark trousers from the chest. Holding them up she nodded and headed back outside. Aiden’s body was white with soap suds and he held his hands over his groin when she approached.
“To think there was a boy under all that dirt.” Lila picked up the second bucket and held it at Aiden’s shoulders. “Turn around.” Lila tipped the bucket and let water wash away all the soap.
“Here are some clothes, put them on, then I’ll wash your hair.”
Lila stifled a laugh when the pants practically fell off the boy. Walking to the stables she cut a piece of rope and tied it around his waist to help hold them up. If he lived here, he would have filled out by now.
“You’re to skinny Aiden. You need to stop by more often, I worry. I’ve been trying every since your sweet mum died, to get Connor to take you in, but his mind is set on you.”
“I know you try, but maybe I am wild like my father.” Aiden winked at her.
“That is one thing Connor says that you should never listen to. He never met your dad. He just thinks he saw something.” Aiden shrugged.
“Here, let me wash your hair.”
Lila’s moved her hands tenderly through his curly hair. Dust, grim and a few bugs washed out of it. Lila shuddered, she couldn’t imagine being out there all alone day after day. She looked him up and down and nodded her head.
“Now, isn’t that better? Come inside and I’ll fix you something to eat.”
Aiden reached out his hand. “I’ve got money Lila.”
Lila pushed it away. “I’ll take none of your money. It’s the least I could do for your mum.”
Lila hummed as she went about the kitchen setting down breads, meats, cheeses and pastries on the table. For a moment Aiden just stared, then he gobbled them up one by one until his stomach was full and bloated. Lila handed Aiden a glass of water and patted him on the shoulder. Content Aiden lay back in his chair and fell asleep.
Connor came home to find Lila in a contemplative mood. He had seen that look in her eyes before and it always had to do with Aiden.
“Aiden stop by today dear?”
Lila’s eyes shifted to the bedroom and back to Connor. “Aiden’s sleeping in the bedroom.” Connor rolled his eyes. “Conner, you should be ashamed of yourself. The boy has nothing and no one. If we can’t take him in, at least we can give him a place to sleep for the night.”
“You know how it is, one night will lead to two nights and then soon we’ll have another mouth to feed.”
“Stop being stingy, we have enough to go around.” Lila waved her hands around the room.
Conner held her hands in his. “Lila, you know how I feel about the boy. I’ve told ya, there’s something unnatural about him.”
Lila’s eyes saddened. “How can you say that? His mother was a good friend to me and to you.”
Connor released her hands and walked over to the fireplace. “That she was, but you never saw his father. He was wild, untamed, a drifter of the sea. Very strange he was, almost like a–”
“Connor you’ve never been one to believe in such things. Selkies are a myth, made up by sailors lost at sea and love lorn girls.”
“After seeing his father, my faith has been tested.”
“Please Connor, let Aiden stay the night. Your own heart would have broken if you saw the state he was in today. Dirt form head to toe, skinny as a rail. It breaks my heart.”
Connor remained silent. If I don’t give into her, I’ll have hell to pay for it later. “Ok Lila, the boy can live with us.”
Lila’s face lit up as she rushed to Conner and kissed him. “Thank you Connor, you are a good man.”
In Aiden’s dreams he was always swimming in the ocean. Waves, blue water and furred bodies surrounded him. As he glided through the water a sense of freedom filled his chest and his skin rippled with a strange sensation. The feeling was so overpowering he had come to dread waking. The sun peaked in the window casting its light on Aiden’s eyes, he blinked. A shadow moved across the window and Aiden felt the presence of someone else in the room. At the window a raven rested on the sill and tapped the window with its beak, beckoning him to come outside. Aiden pulled on his pants, grabbed his shoes and tiptoed out the front door. The raven was waiting for him and hopped forward towards a large tree. Aiden followed putting his shoes on as he went.
The raven flew to a branch just above Aiden’s head. “To the sea, to the sea, you must go, to the sea.”
Aiden blinked at the bird. Am I dreaming? “Did you just say to the sea?”
The raven spread its wings. “Yes, to the sea, he waits for you, Misty Cove.”
“Who waits for me, my father?”
“Yes, Misty Cove, hurry.” The raven cawed and flew away.
Aiden tightened the rope belt around his waist and sprinted into the woods. My father, he’s come for me! I knew he would! Aiden didn’t stop until he reached the cliff above Misty Cove. Out of breath he looked down to the beach. The mist hung low creating pockets of white, but there standing next to a boat was a large bearded man. That’s him! Aiden ran down the trail, his heart thumping inside his chest.
Chief Aric stepped out of the mist. As soon as he saw Aiden, he knew the boy was his grandchild. A warm feeling filled his chest. Kneeling down he rested one knee into the sand and let Aiden run into his arms.
“I knew you would come! I knew you would!”
Chief Aric gripped the boy tightly, breathing in his scent. When he let him go he searched his face. Yes, my son is in this face. Chief Aric pulled on the necklace the boy wore. Aine was right, I have found you.
“I am not your father Aiden, I am your grandfather.”
A look of disappointment swept over the boy’s face. “Where’s my father?”
Chief Aric placed a hand on his shoulder. “I do not know, but we have found each other. It is time for you to come with me.”
“Come with you where?”
“To our home, your home. You will be safe there.”
“Yes, child, your time is coming.” Aiden gave him a confused look. “Has your skin felt pecular lately?”
“Yes, it has, kinda itchy, kinda burns, I thought it was a rash. Wait…how do you know?”
“Your body is trying to shift, it’s natural for our kind. You cannot do that here, you must come with me. The Elders will take care of you.”
Aiden stopped, his face paled. “Our kind? What am I going to change into?”
“A Selkie, like your father, like me, and all those that came before.” Aiden’s eyes grew wide.
Chief Aric felt Aiden’s hand wrap around his. “You mean the legends are true? I’m a drifter of the sea?”
Chief Aric laughed and his whole belly shook. “Is that what they are calling us these days? Drifters of the sea, that seems more fitting for the Finnfolk.”
“There are Finnfolk too?”
Chief Aric ruffled Aiden’s hair. “Looks like we’ve got a lot to talk about.”
Friday Flash Fiction Series
This is part of a flash fiction series I am doing for side characters in Pearl of the Sea (previously The Vanishing Island – rethinking the title) with Emperor Wei Shu and Aine the Selkie. Check my other flash stories – The Revenge of Emperor Li Long, The Escape of Wei Shu, Kail’s Sorrow, Flight of the Raven Part 1 and Flight of the Raven Part 2.