Once upon a time became thrice upon a time when a selkie chose to remain on the green and verdant land of Ireland. She made this first choice when she felt the breath of the young man who led her to his home. She would stay until he no longer needed her so much.
The second time was when her eldest bairn found her seal skin in the attic. She clambered up there, of course, clutched the skin to her human form, breathed in the smells of the sea, embraced it tenderly as her own watery self. Her four bairn peered round the open attic door in awe of her, terrified that she would take her seal form and rush to the sea leaving them motherless. “She’s leaving us. We will never see her again as our mother,” they whispered through their tears. They had all heard of such tales as that: a woman they knew well from their community finding her old self, launching out to the sea, swimming up now and again to the coast near their home, a lithe and beautiful seal. The selkie there in the attic was raising three bairn in addition to her own, dark children of selkies who heard the call of the sea and were lured back, leaving all for the sea life with her seal family. She loved her man. She loved her bairn and those she had taken in. She would stay until they were grown and could fend for themselves.
The third choice was when her last bairn left home to find his way in the world leaving only herself and her man. The selkie sat at her kitchen table, pen and paper in hand. She loved the color sepia, so much like the rich humus of the earth she had grown to love. Her hand shook with old age as she drew the sepia ink into her pen and began to sketch. So well she recalled the shape of her sea form as she drew her seal skin. The drawing was like velvet in its form, lightly dappled, soft and pliable, wet again as it was when she crawled out of it. She pinned her drawing to the wall to admire its vibrant contour.
Her man returned from town, tipsy from drink. He found her at the table with pen and paper. “So, what are you drawing there, Woman?” He found her sketch on the wall and approached it, squinting in the pale light to see it better. He turned ‘round to look at her. He sat next to her, remembering when he found her on the shore sleeping. He recalled bundling up her seal skin and wrapping it in a piece of canvas, draping a net around her naked human body, taking one of her hands to lead her to his cottage. “Perhaps you are considering returning to the sea? Shall I go and find your old skin where I’ve kept it? I suppose can find another selkie for myself, young and playful.” He pinched her in jest.
Am I not young enough for you, Laddie? Not playful enough? Out with you, then. Go and capture a fresh selkie and I will wait to see how swiftly she scrambles back into her seal skin and paddles out to sea with her little seal flippers.” She smelled the ale on his breath. “Phew! Drinking so early in the day, you are? Surely makes a dark lass like me consider the lure of the sea.” She pointed to her sketch hanging on the wall.
He smoothed back what was left of his hair. He hurried to the kitchen sink, filled a glass with water flushed out his mouth and spewed water into the sink. “Forgive me, my selkie wife. Sometimes I forget the honor you bring me in staying by my side.” He kissed her lightly on her brow.