Sally had no words when she woke. I don't mean she didn't understand us, because she did, but all she had were mime and strangely eerie cries. She was scared to start with unless she could see Tom but she slowly became more certain of her safety and words began to come.
We named her Sally before she had words, just because we had to call her something and she never felt the urge to change it. If she had another name before she came to us, she never said and we never asked. It was almost as if, everyone was nervous of what she might say. It was a conspiracy of silence, of turned heads and a determination not to know.
She would gaze at the clouds and the waves crashing on the shore and smile to herself, her eyes darting as if she were watching some story unfold. Sometimes she frowned, or looked uneasy at what she saw. It reminded me of the look Maria got when she stared deep into the fire. She knew the weather too and the sight of her scowling at Tom taking the boat down the slipway was enough to stop any boat from moving into the waves.
No one was surprised that she stayed at our house or that they jumped through the fire, hands tied together one night. Those that gathered to wish them well, told stories of where she had come from to the visitors from other villages and I heard several as passed through the gathered.
'She is Maria's cousins daughter, you know the one that moved North to marry that herbman that had been apprenticed to her Da.'
'Oh she took ill while traveling along the coast with the metal carriers and they left her here to get well and when they came back by, she chose to stay.'
'A traveling herbwoman she is for Scandria I think.'
I could see the puzzlement on the faces of our near neighbours but they would get no more from us. We were a close knit settlement of twenty grown souls with a number of wild children and squally babes. but all could see the love on Sally and Tom's face and joined in the merry making and dancing around the fire.
My life changed for the better. Again there was someone in the kitchen to help and tasks were easier with two. I had struggled to do all that needed to be done alone when Tom was at sea, because whether we like it or not, he had to go. She never tried to be my mother, although I would have had her as such, but more of a older and wiser sister.
She taught me how to sew and in particular how to embroider. This was not a common thing in our village for what need did we have of fine embroidered cloth but she had an urgency to her as she taught me. It had taken Tom a while to find a peddler with the needles she wanted and he doted on her so he didn't begrudge her fine silk threads.
As we sat passing the needle back and forth through our cloth she would mutter nonsense beneath her breath. '...and this stitch is for binding and this for calling' or 'this shows the soul shining bright'. Her sewing began to take on subtle meanings for me, stories she wanted to tell, great flights of fancy bound in thread.
She made me a beautiful dress that I would wear to the Summer Fires which would the first time I would stay up with the adults as one of them. I would be old enough to take a man then, if I wanted for it was always us women that decided, no matter what the men thought. I knew my dress told a story, subtly webbed in pretty designs. A story of happiness and long life, of babies and freedom from hardship, of a love deep and true.
When the dress was finished I excitedly ran with it to show Maria. She took the dress and her first comment was that it was a pretty and fine dress but then she took a deep breath, as if she had suddenly seen more. Her forehead crinkled in thought and she took a long moment before turning bck to me with a smile and a compliment on it's prettiness.
I was looking forward to the fires and they were only a few short days away now. We were eagerly awaiting the return of the boat. They had been out longer than expected and a storm had blown up yesterday. We all chose to think that it was a local storm and Tom had been fishing further out, which was likely. In deeper water, he would have been safe. For our boats could be sealed up tight like a bubble in the water and no wave could push them down so deep they wouldn't bob back up again to the surface.
Sally had sent him off with a smile but the storm blew up so sudden like, I knew it had surprised her. I knew she was on edge and watching the sea. The more on edge she became, the more nervous I felt. I went to bed that night knowing she would be up earlier than the sun, making bread and kneading dough. If she slept then I would be surprised, because I knew I wouldn't.
Although I did. I woke early to see the storm clouds glowering over the cliffs. I hurriedly dressed and ran down stairs feeling un-renewed by my sleep. The dough was on the side untended, rising in an uneven shape. The door was not shut properly which surprised me and I knew something was on.
I stepped outside and caught a flash of red from the cove and ran down the slipway. I stood on the sand at the edge of the waves as the sun came out and hit me in the face. I couldn't see through light and salt water for a long moment until the sun hid away again. I heard old man Blue shout to wake others and hobble down the slipway to me. He flung his arms around me and drew me from the sea and the red in the foam, dragged in by the horses in the waves and then left there idling.
I fought free and turned to pull the wood and leather from the sea. Old Man Blue helped and others joined. Jack, Blue's Grandson was first but not last and soon what remained of the keel was on the sands which shifted beneath me.
I feel to the sand, my head in my hands and wept.
Long moments passed before I returned.
The thing that bought me back was Sally. She had left the house but she wasn't here. I heard the shout behind me 'Sally! Ho! Sally!' and turned to find Maria with a worried expression, leaving my home.
I think the same thought occurred to all of us. If anyone had known it would be her, and if she wasn't here, then where would she have gone. We all set off in different directions calling to her. I found myself on the rocks where we first found her and it was there I found her shoes. One lay on the rock I had pulled her up onto and the other lay in a pool beneath it.
Jack called from the cliff top above me and we all knew what must have happened. At least we thought we did and I fell down on my knees again as Daisy came to me. Maria was close behind and I found myself willingly taking the drink she offered, knowing the sweet and dreamless sleep it would bring...