CH - 1 - ROSA, SEGUIN & GREY
“Our mother named you Seguin.”
This was her favorite story and she always liked to hear her sister tell it. The eldest of the girls whispered the words into her little sister’s ears as they lay on shared pillows. The sheets were soft on their skin and the room smelled of fresh laundry.
“Why did she name me Seguin?” asked the girl.
“Because she loved the sea, and when you were born, she swept you up in her arms, and held you like the sea holds the tiny island she loved so much. She loved you. She loved each of us.”
“And mother named you Rosa, after the beach roses!” interrupted little Grey, forgetting to whisper.
“Yes, shhhhh” Rosa laughed, putting her finger to her lips. She smoothed Grey’s hair and whispered quietly, “Yes, and she named you after the beautiful seals in the harbor. They swim and chase and roll in the sparkling waves. They are fast! Just like you little Grey.”
“But, I’ve never been in the ocean!” she said with a shy giggle.
“Of course you have! We all have. It was just a long time ago.” Rosa continued running her fingers through Grey’s clean damp hair.
“Do you remember the ocean, Rosa?” asked Seguin.
“I do.” Rosa turned her gaze up to the ceiling of the small room. “It’s so big!” she held her arms up and gestured widely over the covers to make the girls laugh.
“Bigger than anything you can imagine. And the sun sparkles and dances on the tips of the waves - like someone poured out a whole bottle of gold glitter over the surface…” she paused, “and it smelled so nice. A salty, cool smell.” She sat up and looked at her sister.
“Do you remember, Seguin?”
Seguin thought about it for a moment. “I think I do?” She rolled closer to her sisters and leaned up on one elbow. She was nearly squishing Grey, but it must have felt cozy, because Grey had a sweet little satisfied smile on her face. “I remember the sound and I remember the smell. But it’s hard because I dream about the ocean. I’m not sure if my memories are real, or if they are dreams.”
“I’m sure they are real.” said Rosa. “Now let’s all close our eyes, and I will tell you the story.”
Rosa pulled the string on the lamp and darkness enveloped them. The bed was small and the mattress was squeaky, but they were together and they had a warm blanket to share. This was the last night they would spend in this house. They had spent the last four years in the care of their great aunt, Jeanette, or Nettie as they called her, and she couldn't care for them any more. Knowing this, Rosa tried to keep her voice steady while she recited the story in the dark. She wanted to comfort her sisters. She didn’t want to cry.
They slept in the laundry room. Which, on the one hand, was lovely and warm from the dryer, and it always smelled nice. On the other hand, it was often damp and cramped and the three girls shared a not very large bed. When they were smaller it was easier, but they were growing quickly and Rosa often found herself on the edge of the mattress with the little girls sprawled out willy nilly in their sleep.
Nettie was a kindly woman, with lots of love to give to her great nieces. She wasn’t wealthy, but she shared with them what little she had. She was in her early eighties, and three little girls were quite the surprise when they arrived on her doorstep four years ago. She had mourned the loss of her nephew and his wife when they were lost at sea, but at the time, Nettie hadn't anticipated that she would be the only family left they could locate for the girls.
Years ago, after her own husband had passed away, she began to take in laundry for the neighborhood. At the time, she had hoped it would be enough to live on, but it proved popular and she ended up with a business to run. When the three girls arrived, she was grateful that Rosa was old enough to help. She helped with the laundry and she helped with the little ones, and together, they did what they could.
Recently, things had started to change. Nettie was forgetting things. She forgot who’s laundry was who’s, and how much money her customers owed her. She left her purse at the grocery store. She forgot to fold the laundry and she forgot to make dinner, and she forgot to put the girls to bed. Nettie left one afternoon and she forgot to come home. That’s when the police brought her back. A nice lady named Cindy began to show up, unannounced, to make sure the girls were ok. Rosa, the eldest, had tried to make everything ok. She tried to keep up with the laundry. She cooked all the meals for her sisters. She tried to help Nettie when she forgot things, but she had just turned thirteen years old this summer, and it was hard.
One day, Cindy came to the house with a nurse in a crisp, white uniform and told Rosa that they had to see Miss Nettie. Rosa had just helped Nettie out of the shower and into her soft pink bathrobe. It was the middle of the afternoon. She knew Nettie was having a forgetting day, and this was going to be hard to hide. Cindy and the nurse went into Nettie’s bedroom and spoke with her quietly for a long time. When they came out, Rosa was waiting, holding both Seguin and Grey’s little hands. Cindy bent down in front of Rosa and said, “I’m afraid it’s time for us to find a new place for you to live. Nettie can’t take care of you anymore.” She paused and looked at each of them in the eye. “And you have done such a good job. All three of you. This is just how things have to be. It’s time for a change.”
Rosa squeezed their hands as Grey let a few silent tears slide down her cheeks. Seguin looked at her feet, then tightly shut her eyes to stop her own tears. She loved Nettie. They all did. Seguin only remembered her parents through the stories Rosa told them at night. Nettie was all she knew. Where would they go? Who would look after them?
“We won’t be separated, will we Cindy?” Rosa asked in a voice barely above a whisper.
Seguin’s eyes grew wide. She hadn’t considered this. Grey clutched at Rosa’s hand with both of her own. Rosa let go of both of their hands, put her arms around each of them and held them close. Cindy didn’t say yes or no. She smiled at them evenly and held up a finger, meaning for them to wait just a moment. Cindy walked down the hall and pulled a phone out of her pocket. She dialed a number and stepped outside to sit on the front porch.
Cindy was on the phone for a long time. As Rosa watched her through the scene door, Cindy listened and shook her head. She answered many questions quietly and dialed more numbers. Occasionally rubbing between her closed eyes and tapping her fingers on her lips as she listened some more. The girls slid to the floor and waited in silence, not knowing what else to do. Eventually, Cindy came back and knelt on the hard wooden floor in front of the girls.
“I think we have found a place for you.” She smiled warmly. “A place in the town you were born in, actually. One of your mother’s distant cousins is willing to take you in until we can find a permanent home for you little ladies.” She took Grey’s hands in hers. “We will be sending you up to Maine tomorrow. There is a beautiful town called Boothbay Harbor, and that’s where your family is from.”
“Is it near the ocean?” asked Grey.
“It is, it is right on the ocean.” said Cindy. “But let’s hold your questions until I know more. Right now, let’s get you girls fed and washed and into bed. Tomorrow will be a big day, and we will know more then.” She touched them each on the head and guided them into the kitchen, where she began rummaging through the cabinets to fix them something to eat.
Now, in the dark, their stomachs full and their hair washed clean, Rosa told her sisters the rest of the story they loved so well, and they all drifted off to sleep.
Chapter 2: MAINE
As the country rolled by, Seguin stared out the window. She loved how the fields of corn turned into cities and then mountains and then forests. In time, she could smell the ocean. She was surprised to find that she knew the scent right away. In the back seat of the car with her sisters, she saw them all sit up and look when that familiar mix of salt, seaweed, mud and sea mist hit the air. “We do remember!” she thought with a bright burst of joy. While Seguin was very eager to arrive, she was also feeling apprehensive about what the future would bring.
In Rosa’s stories, she knew that her mother’s family hadn’t approved of her marriage to their father. In the stories, they had fled the town she loved so much and found refuge on the small island of Monhegan, where artists and fishermen live together. It was close and far away at the same time. Rosa said mother was an artist and father was a fisherman, so in the stories, this sounded like the perfect place for them to live and raise their three baby girls.
“Are you all comfortable back there?” Cindy had stayed with them last night, sleeping on the tiny couch at Nettie’s, and she was now driving them from halfway across the country in her big silver jeep. Her thick curls were swept up into a tidy bun and her long pink nails clicked when she turned the knob on the radio.
“Yes!” they said in unison. They smiled at each other. The girls liked that Cindy was trying to make everything ok for them. They liked her very much. Grey loved her pretty nails. Rosa could tell that Cindy really cared about them, and that made her feel safe. Cindy turned up the radio a touch and sang along with Elvis. Cindy was wonderful. Seguin’s smile faded a little as she thought about Cindy having to turn them over to a stranger.
Seguin’s thoughts turned to her mother. From Rosa’s stories, she knew their mother was a sweet, lovely and talented woman. She painted beautiful seascapes and everyone loved to hear her sing. Their father only had eyes for her, and always said he only left her to fish everyday because he had to. She sang songs just for him. Sometimes he sang with her. Rosa remembered their singing. Seguin was almost sure she could remember too. Their father was a trim, sturdy man with strong hands and a sun bright squint. For generations, his family had worked on the ocean. Rosa could picture him standing at the edge of the water, light glinting off his knife as he shucked an oyster. He slurped it noisily and pulled a face to make her laugh. She missed him very much.
“If this cousin loved our mother, maybe she can love us too” she thought with deep hope in her heart. Seguin closed her eyes and wished very hard for just that. Grey reached over, clasped her hand, and leaned her little head into Seguin’s shoulder. In the tight backseat, with trees racing by, they held hands for a long time.
(Overall Story Arc / Outline Thus Far)
The three orphaned girls find themselves moving to Maine
new house - new guardian
the new guardian is very loving but not able to be around very much, the girls are sort of on their own and unsupervised
summertime - no school
the girls adventure a little bit, exploring the town and meeting people, a little naive about safety, ride bikes everywhere - Taffy shop, Wannawaff, Pier 1 Pizza, Enchantments
the girls are overly confident about the ocean and find a boat that their guardian said they could use “someday, once they’ve learned how” on Linekin Bay - Sheepscot River - whirlpools - close calls
A storm blows in and the rain lashes the little sail boat and blasts it out into the deeper open waters. The oldest sister is blown off of the boat and we stay with the two younger sisters not knowing what has happened to the older one. They are terrified and alone.
We go through Rosa’s eyes and see under the ocean as a seal. The storm is raging above, but she is able to find relative calm in the depths. It is revealed that the new seal is Rosa and she suddenly comes to the realization her sisters are still in trouble.
As Rosa the seal races back to the boat to save her sisters, she watches from afar as they are also knocked from the boat and are fruitlessly trying to save each other. They drift slowly down as they begin to drown, when suddenly they morph before Rosa’s very eyes. Their feet expand and slide together, turning the girls into seals from the bottom up. Rosa realizes this is what must have just happened to her as well.
Rosa wakes up the girls by nuzzling them under their chins and they come out of their fog. They swim as seals through the waning storm, but are a bit lost. They come upon a raft of seals and eat their fill of fish. They swim past a whale! They pull themselves up onto a tiny island with many other seals and bask in the storm broken sun. They spend the night with the group and wake up feeling pretty comfortable in their seal skins. Their communication isn’t easy, but it’s a little bit like telepathy.
Feeling like they may forget that they are humans, Rosa has the little girls follow her back in the direction from which she thinks they came on the boat. They see many boats and many fish on their way back. They watch lobstermen throw their traps. As they approach the beach they finally recognize, they see that their boat is wrecked on shore and their guardian is there crying, holding their shredded life jackets surrounded by police officers.
Knowing they can’t just show up on land as seals, they swim away and find a private cove. They try to turn back into human form, but don’t know how. A larger seal swims up to join them. She ripples and unfurls her seal skin and it splits into a coat as she changes back. She pulls herself up onto a rock and beckons the girls to come over. They are shocked, but get as close as they can. She folds her skin coat up into an impossibly small bundle, which she hides in the rocky ledge. She leans over the edge and speaks with them closely.
In the hoarse whisper of someone who hasn’t used her voice in a long while, she asked, "Who are you?” - The girls each stumble over each other’s words all at once, but little Grey says simply “we are lost” - “But who is your family?” and Grey said “Our parents are gone.” - “You poor dears, what I mean to say is, whose lineage do you share? Who is your sealkin? Where do you belong?” Their blank stares were enough of an answer for her. I could feel you out there, you know. I knew you were sealkin and you were close. As if noticing for the first time how small the younger two are, she begins to comprehend that this is a very new experience for them. “Are you girls alright?" she asked, with a touch of alarm in her voice. “Oh my lord, is this your first time shifting?” They discuss and she teaches them how to shift back. From now on, she explained, you have to keep track of your coat. It is your ocean heart and it is very difficult to come by another if it is damaged or lost” - and they are coveted by the non-sealkin who know about them.
Seal Coat - Ocean Heart
The power of the coat transforms the wearer into a seal. The owner of the coat is of course the most adept at using the coat. They are highly valuable on the black market, worth millions to the right buyer.
The woman’s name is Etta and she is a native to this town. She is a fisherwoman, which excuses her time missing out in the ocean. She prefers to live as a seal, but she also loves her family and friends on land. She explains that the Sealkin no longer allow the humans of the land to know who they are, as they were persecuted and taken advantage of in the past by having their seal coats stolen and blackmailed to get them back. There are some that know, but they guard the secret out of loyalty for the old families and their favor is returned by the sealkin helping them to locate good fishing grounds.
There was a time when the sealkin had to hide and some of them forgot how to become humans again. They lived as seals for the rest of their days. She thinks her sister Flora is one of those seals. Flora had a hard life and lost her husband to the sea. Etta thinks she shifted and never came back.
The Girls Return
After teaching them to return to human form, Etta escorts the bedraggled girls back to their guardian, telling her that they were rescued by her fishing boat. Everyone rejoices knowing they are safe and sound. The girls are a bit overwhelmed with their new found seal life and possible links to other people in the community. They support and console each other following their harrowing wreck and rescue.
Seguin and Rosa want to study their family lineage. Their guardian is delighted by their interest and allows them to check out the local historical society. Rosa discovers a slightly grisly period in local history, where fisherman took to shooting seals with guns near their fishing grounds, thinking of them as competition - before they discovered it was they who were overfishing the area. At this time, several townspeople mysteriously went missing as well. Rosa starts putting together the family lines that she thinks make up the Sealkin families. She finds that many people in her family tree have been lost at sea, and they have been considered a little bit cursed because of it. Less cursed than pitied perhaps. An unlucky family. The girls learn that while yes, their parents were lost at sea, they were also there and they had been rescued by another fishing boat. Rosa remembers being injured, but her memory of this is fuzzy and the little girls have zero memory of this event.
The girls know they have to keep their coats a secret and they have to keep them safe, but they are also young and a little too trusting. When they are out on a sail boat with a neighbor boy, he starts showing off and goes too fast, purposely scaring little Grey. Grey falls from the racing boat and is struggling to swim so far from land in the strong currents. Seguin makes a rash decision and decides to transform in front of him to go after Grey. She leaps out of the boat as she shifts and he is shocked by the scene and stops his teasing and turns the boar around to help pull them from the water. He immediately goes home and tells his father what he saw, leaving out all of his actions of course. His father makes some ominous phone calls.
Bring them out
The father with ulterior motives arrives at the guardian’s house with some local law enforcement and demands that they be able to search the house under the guise that the girls have stolen something from him. He is an upstanding member of society, so he is generally believed. Grey is able to make off with 2 of the seal coats and escape before they are discovered. The third, Seguin’s, is found by the father and she sees him jam it in his pocket. Grey, in a panic, runs and runs and gets turned around in a coastal forest. She falls through a crumbling ledge into a seaside cave & is stuck.
The search for Grey
A wide search begins with many of the townspeople pitching in to help find Grey. The mean father tells everyone she must be feeling so guilty for the theft and that she likely doesn’t want to be found and he keeps purposely throwing off the search. In the meantime, he is searching very hard for her in hopes of taking the other two coats for himself.
Grey is trapped in the cave and the water is rising. She panics and imagines drowning. She remembers the last near drowning and she realizes that she might be able to get out of her trap more easily as a seal. She transforms and escapes. She swims quite far out by accident, confused by the swift currents and is turned around by a whirlpool. She spots a group of seals and heads out to open ocean. Suddenly there is a vicious slice through the water near Grey’s body. She realizes she must have come between the group of seals and a shark. She swims for her life as the shark chases her down. Another seal is suddenly swimming beside her, rushing her along. The other seal pushes her into a tight jetty formation of rocks and defends her against the shark. The other seal is injured by the shark, but manages to get into the tight rock space as well and they get up on top of the rocks. The other seal is bleeding profusely and as Grey returns to human form, so does the other seal.
Seguin and Rosa
While still incredibly worried about their sister, Seguin pulls Rosa away from the search to discuss her coat in the man’s pocket. Seguin knows it’s there and wants to plan a way to get it back. Rosa wants to confront the man, but doubts they will be believed. They brainstorm and come up with a plan.
Rosa knows the man is following she and her sister, as they duck into a large wooden lodge at the top of a hill. They pretend to be calling for Grey and looking in the hotel rooms as they split up and circle back behind the man, hoping to sneak up on him, grab the coat out of his pocket and run! Unfortunately, he finds them first, and corners them, threatening them with terrible things unless they give up the other 2 coats. Unbeknownst to them, their guardian followed the man in and witnessed his terrible threats, recording them with her phone. She silently calls the police and confronts him before they arrive. He seems dangerously angry, fed by greed and power, but the police arrive before he can carry out any threats.
Now the Guardian Knows
She hugs the girls up and tells them she’s proud of them, but to never put themselves in danger like that again. You must always ask for help! Seguin promises her that they always will. They are whispering so that the police around them don’t overhear. Their guardian is unfazed by the truth about the Sealkin, and says she always wanted to believe in the legends. Having been raised in a long line of fishermen, she’d heard many tales & always hoped they were true. She is very matter of fact about believing them. They are in the midst of all of this action when on the police car scanner, they hear that Grey has been found, and she is being brought in on a fisherman’s boat immediately. Someone has been injured and they hear the words "shark attack” and are frozen to the core in fear. They are calling for an ambulance to meet them at the dock. Possibly an airlift will be required.
They race to the docks to meet the boat as it arrives. Seguin recognizes the boat as the one which belongs to the fisherwoman who helped them the first day they turned. She deftly pulls up to the dock and Grey pops up to help with the ropes as they come about. Rosa and Seguin run to her and she is beaming through tears when they reach her. “She saved me! She saved me! Come quickly!” The girls jump onto the deck to see what Grey is talking about and a beautiful woman is wrapped in blankets, supported by several piles of rope. “My girls, my girls” she says weakly, holding out her arms to them. There is no doubt in their minds who she is. They each resemble her in some way and she looks familiar though they’ve been apart for years. They fall all over themselves to hold her and the ambulance pulls up just in time to break apart the reunion. She has a long winding scar on her arm and her leg is a mess from the shark and the rocks. Etta bound her up using tourniquets as best she could and saved her life.
Maybe somehow, the mother has been held captive because of her coat, and she managed to escape the same day she saw the littlest seal in trouble. She had been kept from them with threats on their lives.
Maybe the mother has been stuck as a seal for this many years, following the death of her husband, and she thought her daughters too. She couldn’t bring herself to change back until she found that she couldn’t change back at all. All of this time, she’d been trapped as a seal until she saw the littlest seal in danger from the shark out in the deep. She’d been living on the edges of the seal colony for the last 5 years never truly belonging to the group. She'd felt a pull toward the little seal. She felt truly awake for the first time in years.
She’s bleeding badly, but they are able to treat her locally. The girls stay by her side until she is well. The guardian invites their mother to live with them all together - and the girls just can’t wait to be a family all together.
Swimming as seals, the four seals splash and roll and chase each other through the waves. They are so happy and free. Back on land their mother waves to them and they all return to the dock. Their guardian turns back first, disbelieving the act as it happens. “I’ll never get used to that!” and hands the coat back to their mother. “Thank so much for letting me take her for a spin!” and the mother laughs and hugs the guardian tightly “Of course, I don’t mind taking a break for a while. I’m getting to enjoy being a human again. Besides, you are really getting the hang of it!” Her eyes fill with pride as each of her daughters turn back to human form. “Come on girls, lets go home and warm up by the fire”. “Can we roast marshmallows and have hot chocolate?” asks little Grey, shivering from the chilly ocean. "Yes my dear, of course. It’s waiting for us on the stove.” mother says with a warm smile. And they each hold hands as they walk up the path to their cozy home on their little cove.