I can't say what inspired this, beyond my infatuation with love stories told from the outside. This didn't turn out to be as much of a love story as I originally planned, but that's alright.


I step off the ferry onto mud that's not quite frozen. It's cold enough for a jacket- though I only have a non-lumpy, non-Puck-knitted hat- and I can't imagine how seven years have managed to erase something I wouldn't have had to think about before.

The air around me feels empty; I am not used to Thisby without Tommy or Beech by my side. But Tommy is dead- the long years since the funeral do nothing to soften the blow of it, now that I'm back on this island- and Beech couldn't make himself come back. I can't find it in myself to blame him.

The mud sucks at my shoes as I make my way toward the heart of Skarmouth. It's another memory misplaced: I would have never worn these soft, light-colored shoes seven years ago. As the mud changes to cobblestone, I wonder if I'll recognize Puck and Finn, or it they will just be another thing stolen by the mainland.

Skarmouth has not changed, however, and it's a relief to find something as I anticipated. Palsson's is still on the corner with its walls of windows. I ran into Ake Palsson nearly four years ago in the city. It was shocking because he was always one I expected to live and die on Thisby.

He'd said he was branching off, with his father's blessing, to start a Palsson's on the mainland. There had been a beautiful woman with him, with a child on her hip. She wasn't from the island, and I remember wondering if she was part of the reason he had left.

He'd said nothing about the Connollys past the fact that they were happy, and I hadn't asked.

I stand in front of the glass and look at the November cakes. With the money in my pocket alone I could buy twenty, at least, but the idea doesn't cheer me the way I thought it would when I last saw the storefront.

Steeling my nerves, I step through the door into a crowd that I'm sure is larger than it was seven years ago. Someone to my left is laying out cinnamon twists, and the smell of them combined with the honey of the cakes and the flour behind the counter hits me like a fist to the stomach.

It's not supposed to be like this. Nearly a decade should have numbed the pain.

I step in line behind a woman with hair so fierce and red it reminds me painfully of Puck.

The wait is long and the room bursting with gossipmongers, but it only seems to take a moment for me to be standing at the counter, still unsure of what I want. The woman behind me clears her throat and for a heartbeat I consider taking my time before deciding it's too much like what Puck would have done a decade ago- though she would have included some poorly veiled insult.

I look around me for a moment at the sun streaming through the windows and the women of Thisby exchanging rumors. What did I expect, after all? That Thisby froze when I left, and only resumed daily life because I was back? That Puck and Finn would be waiting for me with open arms, my sins of abandoning them long since forgiven?

A small part of me winces, because that is what I anticipated, in a way. Which is absurd, really, because I never wrote to tell them I had decided to visit. I never wrote at all.

The woman pointedly clears her throat again. I think about turning around, but all I do is drop my head and place some money on the counter.

"Two November cakes and three cinnamon twists, please."

I don't look up as the person- not Bev, the hands are too masculine, but not Palsson, because the fingers are slender and the skin unwrinkled- exchanges my coins for smaller ones.

I wish I'd cut my hair before stepping onto the ferry, because I feel unkempt and out of place. It's not as eye catching as Finn's or Puck's, but I am suddenly sure that the pieces sticking out from under my hat are going to give away who I am, and I'm not sure I'm ready for that.

The hands return with a bag that smells like heaven and I nod to them before turning. I am halfway to the door, and freedom, contemplating visiting Gratton's to see Peg or Tom, when I hear a voice that could have belonged to my father, and though it's been eight years since their deaths I freeze.

No, I think. It just isn't possible.

It isn't until I'm nearly halfway home- it's not home anymore, and hasn't been since Benjamin Malvern appeared on the doorstep to speak to me on the topic of rent, but I don't know what else to call it- that I realize that maybe, it wasn't Dad after all.

No one is at the house when I reach it, and it's nearly unrecognizable without the Morris and the chickens and the defeated wheelbarrow and the chainsaw Finn was working on when I left. Dove is absent, along with the smell of manure and hay. There isn't a weed in sight and the fence has recently been painted.

Panic steals my breath. What if they don't live here anymore? What if they were evicted? Puck used her winnings to pay Malvern, but it's been a long time. Anything could have happened by now, and they wouldn't have been able to tell me, because seven years ago I'd been so mixed up- mad at Puck for racing, mad at Sean Kendrick for letting her win, mad at this damn island for taking my parents and then Tommy- and I didn't leave an address. And I never wrote or sent money or visited like I promised.

By the time it's dark I've almost worked the worry out. Not by pulling weeds, because there are none to pull, and because if someone else really does live here I don't want them to shoot me, but by pacing in front of the old lean-to. I have yet to see hide or hair of Puffin, the blasted cat, even after several undignified attempts at the mewls Finn would use to call her to him. I tell myself seven years is a long time to live, especially for an old cat already almost eaten by a capall, but it doesn't really help.

The cough of a car engine catches my ear, and I stop pacing. Headlights, brighter and steadier than the Morris' ever were, cut across the yard as I hurry to the front door. Better to be spotted early, regardless of who lives here, than to be lurking in the shadows.

Mud sucks at the tires as the car rolls to a gentle stop. It's most certainly not the Morris.

I blink into the brightness of the headlights and, after a moment, blink away the spots when the lights turn off. The car door opens but doesn't close.

"Can I help you sir?"

My chest squeezes my heart too tightly for a second because it's the voice from the bakery. I crush the crumpled Palsson's bag in one hand and stuff the other in my pants' pocket. I try to look when the man should be standing.

I don't say anything until my pulse settles again and neither does he. My eyes slowly adjust to the dark once more and I finally see his black silhouette against the stars.

His tall form leans casually against the roof of the car. There is something lumpy on his head I feel like crying.


The silhouette jerks and I think I understand. In the bakery, the sound of everything else might've covered the similarities in our voices, but here, where there's only us and the faintest whisper of the sea, we sound like twins.

Or, at the very least, like brothers.

The man moves and time slows as if it's caught in molasses. But I blink and he is standing before me and I have to tilt my head back, if only slightly, to meet his gaze.


His voice is deep and his clothes fit him like they ought to and he is nothing like what I imagined this morning when I watched the mainland disappear.

Finn Connolly, who liked physical contact even less than Puck last I saw them, hugs me. He doesn't smell anything like fish or beans and I've never been so proud in my entire life. It either of us cries into the other's shoulder, neither of us mentions it.

Finn pulls back and it's too dark to see him properly, but I think his face is trapped somewhere between a true smile and what Mom called his frog face. I want to laugh, and thank the island that at least some things truly never change.

Four days disappear between one breath and the next, and they pass without a sighting of Puck, her horse, or her friend. I'm not sure I believe the way Finn says the word friend, but he hums absent-mindedly when he tells me, so I don't question it. He looks happy.

He tells me he working at Palsson's, finished with his apprenticeship, and that they let him put salt in the cocoa. I'm not sure why that's significant but I don't ask. He says he'd started at Gratton's, and worked there for several years until Bev approached him when Ake left for the mainland.

He still spends several minutes washing his hands before every meal and I learn he does yard work every Monday afternoon, when he's not at the bakery, but there's a stillness about him that speaks to a quiet confidence he didn't have when I left.

I wake up one morning and realize, with the sort of numbness that always accompanies sudden early morning epiphanies, that today is the first of November. I try not to think too much of it, but I can't help the memories of Puck and Dove, bleeding and limping, and that infernal Sean Kendrick half dead beneath his capall uisce.

Something of my thoughts must show on my face as I step into the kitchen, because Finn takes one look at me and sets down the bowl he was whisking.

"She doesn't race anymore," he says. "That one was her last."

For a moment I get the sense that he's lying, but I don't say anything.

We eat a breakfast as delicious as it was messy to make. I'd been amused to find that he'd never outgrown his habit of tearing about the kitchen like a storm through Thisby, and I am no less amused now.

We separate to dress properly- Finn lends me a jacket that is too long in the sleeves, and I can only imagine what Puck would say- and meet again at the front door. We settle into the car, which reminds me of Father Mooneyham's, which reminds me of how long it's been since I went to any sort of Mass. I try not to feel too guilty as Finn coaxes it to life. It doesn't sound as bad as the Morris did, toward the end of its days, but the engine turns over in a way that has me gripping the door handle when he finally gets it going.

As with so many times in the past five days, the ride into town is both sluggish and instantaneous. Finn parks the car near Gratton's shop. I consider, again, going in to see Tom or Peg, but realize I don't know what I'd tell them, so I just allow Finn to steer me away.

He pulls me through the town and a sea of unfamiliar faces. I can't tell if they're all tourists or if I just can't distinguish the locals anymore. I see a flash of Dory Maud but then she's gone.

The gossip buoys around us as we walk, and I find myself listening.

"Who's the favorite this year?" Asks a man to my right. For a moment I think he's talking to me and I nearly shrug before seeing he's half turned in the other direction.

"Sean Kendrick, of course," says the man next to him. Neither of their voices have the Thisby sound. I wonder if mine does at this point, before shaking the thought off like a pesky fly.

It's no surprise to me that Sean Kendrick is still riding in these blasted races, but I wonder about his mount. If I remember, Puck was inconsolable when I left, because the capall would never run again.

Closer to the cliffs my unasked question in answered.

"I hear he caught it on a new moon," a man with a Thisby accent and scarf says in a low voice to the woman at his side. "They say the lack of the moonlight makes them untamable."

The woman gasps and my heart stutters. The thought of Puck around a capall uisce that can't be tamed makes me want to strangle Kendrick.

The couple moves on but my pulse continues to gallop. What did I leave Puck to?

We reach the edge of the cliffs and Finn ignores the open spaces in favor of a man with a flamboyant red hat but dark, practical boots. I follow.

The man turns around when Finn taps his shoulder and grins. "Ah, Finn Connolly! Good to see you m'boy, how're things over at the bakery?"

Finn launches into a description of epic proportions and the man listens to all of it, bobbing his head and agreeing in a bright voice. I stand by, not sure what to do. After a minute or two, the man's eyes slide past Finn and land on me instead. He waits for Finn to take a breath and then jumps in.

"And who's this? I haven't seen you around before, sir. I'm George Holly."

I stretch out my hand and he takes it. "Gabe Connolly. I'm-"

He drops my hand. "I know who you are." He squints at me in a way that makes his feelings for me perfectly clear, and I wonder what I've done to make this stranger dislike me already. But then he turns to Finn and smiles, and I think I know why after all. "I'm going to go find the bastard, he's late. Care to join me?"

Finn smiles but shakes his head. "Make sure to bring him here."

George Holly nods and takes his leave. When he's far enough away that all I can see of him is his red hat, I ask, "Who is he?"

Finn turns so he's facing the beach and stares down at the sand, his smile becoming wistful. "He's a friend. He met Sean the year Puck won, and after Malvern died he bought the stables. He lives here for most of the year."

I turn too and watch the short race that's taking place, and wonder what type of person chooses to move to a place like Thisby.

Two more races finish before George Holly returns, and for a brief moment I consider jumping from the cliffs when I see who he has in tow. They stop in front of us.

"Gabe," Sean Kendrick says. I nod in response.

He, unlike Finn, hasn't changed much. He's not as thin as he was before, but his gaze still cuts. I look him in the eye and wonder who he is to my sister.

Finn tries not to fidget, but I can see from the corner of my eye that he's looking at George Holly with that half-grin half-frog look again. I try not to scowl.

A high, fierce voice slices through the sounds of the sea and the crowd. Sean flashes a smile, Finn and George Holly nod to each other, and I freeze.

Puck emerges from the chaos of the race tourists. I'm knocked back in time again- she looks so much like our mother it hurts- and I wonder if I'm the only one of the three of us that didn't inherit some key part of our parents.

It's not until she's halfway to our little group that I discover three things at once: the first is that she's wearing Sean Kendrick's old blue-black jacket; the second, she has a red ribbon tied to her wrist; and third, though it should have been the first, is that she is shouting at a severe looking child with dark eyebrows and wild curls.

The cliffs feel like they're falling from beneath my feet as I watch Sean Kendrick step forward and scoop the child- a girl, who can't be more than three- into his arms. She shrieks as he tosses her in the air and catches her. He doesn't exactly smile, but his face softens in a way I remember from that last dinner before everything went to hell.

Sean Kendrick clutches the girl to his chest and looks at Puck. She smiles at him.

"Is Morag ready?" He asks, hand cradling the girl's head. Puck nods. Sean hands the girl to George Holly, who smiles and moves away a step or two, chatting about something I can't make out.

Sean steps forward and takes Puck's wrist- the one with the ribbon- between his fingers. He rubs his thumb against the stripe of red, eyes downturned.

"I'd better get down there." Puck nods again and presses a barely there kiss to his cheek. I can't tear my eyes away as he rests his forehead on hers and closes his eyes. He sighs. She whispers something to him that I don't catch, but I hear his response. "I love you, Kate Connolly. Puck Connolly."

My sister rolls her eyes and laughs, but kisses his cheek again. It's a game of familiarity that reminds me of our parents.

It isn't until after I have watched him disappear that I realize which last name he used. I turn back, hoping to catch a glimpse of Puck's hand, only to see that exact hand flying toward me. I pull back, but not soon enough.

Her slaps still hurt like hell.

George Holly and Finn snicker in the background as Puck glares at me. I rub my palm across my stinging skin, and confirm my suspicions. She isn't wearing a ring.

"Gabriel Connolly, what were you thinking?" I don't respond, but she doesn't expect me to. Puck rages on, and I acknowledge that while she may look like our mother, she has our father's temper.

I wait until she runs out of steam to look at her again. She's still glaring, but her gaze is caught by my hand as I drop it back to my side. She grins. "You're wearing Finn's jacket. It's too big."

I dip my head forward and try to smile at her. She smiles back and reaches out to hold my hand. I let her.

"The riders are mounting," George Holly says. Puck steps to the edge of the cliff. Finn is now holding her daughter, whose name I still don't know. I watch Puck watch the beach, then try to pick out Sean myself. It takes a moment, because despite everything I still expect to see him riding that red capall, but I spot him mounting a dappled grey water horse that looks like it's still part sea foam.

"You have a daughter," I say to Puck, who is motionless by my side.

"Her name is Breda. We talked for a long time, before deciding we were ready for her."

The poles begin to squeeze the capail together, pressing them toward a half-hearted line drawn in the sand.

"He called you Connolly." A horse screams.

"Sean and I have never needed the approval of others to do what we know is right."

The crowd stills, and though the capail uisce move, I cannot hear them over the sound of the sea. I look at my sister, with her fierce hair and fiercer eyebrows, and the sharp frown that tugs the corners of her mouth and eyes down. And in the near silence of the moment, I see in her the part of Thisby I never understood, older than thought and stronger than the Scorpio Sea.

"Alright then," I say. There's more, so much more that it bubbles under my skin, but it can wait.

The calm lasts for a moment longer. Puck closes her eyes and whispers a prayer, but if it's to the god we worship in Mass or some older, wilder deity, I don't know. And then the horses burst forward on the sand, and the ocean of people drowns out the sea. I watch Puck and I watch Sean control the sinuous beast he rides and whisper a prayer of my own.

I really struggled with whether or not I should include Breda. I didn't want it to seem like marrying Sean and having children would be the pinnacle of Puck's life (because we all know it wouldn't be), but I felt like they might have at least one child.

I hope you enjoyed it! Reviews are welcome!

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