“I always enjoyed it when my father came home from his travels. His face would be rugged and worn with stubble, but his eyes would shine through that dishevelled appearance and once he’d looked us up and down, my mother and I knew that he was back. I always thought that each time he came back would be the last time he would leave. I tended to be wrong. One time, when I’d found out that he’d left once more, I ran out into the garden and screamed at the top of my lungs, telling him to come home now, come back to us now. I shouted and wailed for so long it felt like my throat was being ripped out. But, by leaving once again, he was the one doing the tearing. By leaving once again, it was his fault that my throat hurt. At least, that’s how I saw it.
The last time I saw him, he’d been through our rickety wooden door less than two hours. Mother says that door’s an air loom, whatever one of those is. He’d docked the night before at Havenport after several weeks out at sea. The stories he would tell me! God, how I enjoyed them. The monsters he saw, the captains he hated and the songs he sang; all of these were conveyed to me with the utmost care in description. My father couldn’t write with a pen and paper, but he had the words to tell the most engaging and beautiful of tales. He kissed the top of my head and told me that I was nearly as tall as him. I laughed at that. My father was always the funny one at home. Mother would roll her eyes occasionally, when she didn’t want us to know that she found it funny. He even asked me how old I was. I knew he was joking and that he really did remember, but the look on Mother’s face said it all! I wouldn’t have minded if he did forget. I mean, he is out at sea for a long time. I do understand.
Mother cooked a wonderful stew that night. I think she did it so nicely because she loves Father so much. Maybe that was her way of convincing him to stay. Father says that Mother has special powers over him but I don’t really know what he means. Unless he means her cooking, because that is rather special! There was even a bottle of wine at the table. That’s how I knew Mother loved him. It was only ever on special occasions like Christmas or Easter when the wine was brought out. Then there was another. Then there was another. I tried to keep my eyes open, but when I rubbed them I felt the sleepy bits scratching at the back of my hand and, as much as I tried, the lids just kept closing and I imagined my eyelids as lids on jars and my hands were trying to stop the lids from being screwed shut. The next time I opened my eyes, I was in my room and the candle was out. I could feel that my hair had been swept to one side. My throat hurt. I wanted a glass of water.
I climbed out of bed and opened my door. I did it so often that, even in the dark, I know exactly where I’m going. I could also open it without making any noise. Sometimes I need to go to the toilet during the night and Father’s shouted at me for waking him up. But only when he’s here, obviously. I got to the top of the stairs and stood still for a second. I was confused. The lights were still on downstairs. My confusion passed shortly afterwards when I realised that it was just my parents. They weren’t talking though. They were shouting. At each other. I couldn’t move my legs. I wanted to go back to my room, to put the pillow over my ears and cry and not hear anything. Especially not the horrible things they were saying to each other. What happened to Mother’s powers? Why did her food not work? The wine didn’t work either, why?”
“Do you remember what they were saying?”
“Yes. I don’t want to, but I cannot forget such words.”
“He said that he longs to fly North once again. His wings are cramped in this house and she treads on them far too much. Being on dry land in the South was torture for him, pure torture. In his dreams he could smell the sea, taste the salt in the air and feel the wind batter his face. With that last comment, Mother…she…”
“What did she do?”
“I didn’t see it, but I heard a slap. A loud one. It sounded horrific. It didn’t stop him though. He carried right on, telling her that the only time he’s ever felt in love and loved was when he was stood on the prow of the ship just before turning in to bed one especially cold night in the North. He said that the embrace of the wind was more than anything she could ever have given him. There was love in his heart, he said, but it wasn’t for her. No matter how much she could try. She said that she hoped he felt guilty, but he replied saying that he didn’t feel anything towards her. Mother stopped at that. She was silent for so long. I can’t remember breathing at any time during this argument, but I must’ve been. I still couldn’t move. Some obscene force inside me wanted to stay and hear what they had to say to each other, and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t resist it.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“You deserve to know. I feel that you’re owed an explanation for certain things. I feel like I ought to tell you stories that I think will help to explain how I am, why I do or don’t do certain things and, more importantly, so that you can be aware of what I’ve seen and done.”
“I see…It means a lot to me that you would tell me that. Honestly.”
“I’m glad it does. I don’t like to open up. Telling the truth is difficult for me to do, lying is far easier for certain things.”
“Did he ever come back?”
“Do you think he wanted to?”
“I’d only be kidding myself if I didn’t say ‘no’.”
“Sometimes that’s the best way to be.”