“…tomorrow we’ll rule the Scorpio Races as king and queen of Skarmouth and I’ll save the house and you’ll have your stallion. Dove will eat golden oats for the rest of her days and you will terrorize the races each year and people will come from every island in the world to find out how it is you get horses to listen to you.“
“In the middle of all this, as Sean slips out of his jacket, he looks over his shoulder at me and he smiles at me, just a glancing, faint thing before he turns back to Tommy. I’m quite happy for that smile, because Dad told me once you should be grateful for the gifts that are the rarest.”
“This time of year, I live and breathe the beach. My cheeks feel raw with the wind throwing sand against them. My thighs sting from the friction of the saddle. My arms ache from holding up two thousand pounds of horse. I have forgotten what it is like to be warm and what a full night’s sleep feels like and what my name sounds like spoken instead of shouted across yards of sand. I am so, so alive.”
“That’s a poor match, Sean Kendrick,“ says a voice at my elbow. It’s the other sister from Fathom & Sons, and she follows my gaze to Puck. "Neither of you are a housewife.” I don’t look away from Puck. “I think you assume too much, Dory Maud.” “You leave nothing to assumption,” Dory Maud says. “You swallow her with your eyes. I’m surprised there’s any of her left for the rest of us to see.”
It is the first of November and so, today, someone will die.
I don’t open my eyes immediately. Images from races past wash over me like the bloody tide, pulling at my hands like they want to pull me down. A phantom breeze washes over my face and a phantom surf washes against my calves and my hands curve over phantom reins. My hand rests on a warm body and, for a moment, I can believe I’m touching Corr. Then she speaks to me.
“You aren’t getting up already, are you?” Puck murmurs sleepily. She gathers a handful of our blankets and pulls, giving my feet a cool kiss of morning air as the blanket goes over our heads. “Oof. That was a mistake,” she says, tucking her knees to her chest. She sounds indefinitely more awake now.
“I’m heading to the beach,” I say. I’m going through my morning list for Corr—change his wraps, muck out his stable, take him for a swim to rebuild his strength—and I can do it, if only just, if I start now.
Puck props herself up on an elbow and fixes me with an incredulous stare. Her hair is twisted into fantastic shapes, like those of clouds, and I swear there’s a running horse lurking just behind her ear. Strands of it are attached to our blanket tent. “You can’t,” she says simply. I reach out for her hand and she gives it to me, a smile flitting across her lips.
“Why not?” I press my lips to the inside of her wrist. I speak now with her skin against my mouth. “I have to start now. If I start now, I’ll be finished by the time the races begin.”
Puck frees her hand and runs it through my hair, resting her palm by my temple. “You’re pushing yourself too hard,” she says. “Besides, it’s not even light out. It must be only four, Sean Kendrick, and you remember what you promised me, surely.”
I do. “Stay in bed until six,” I say, and am rewarded with a smile. I smile myself. It’s only the shorter races in the morning. Surely I can sleep for a few more hours. I adjust so my feet are back under the blankets, and close my eyes.
It is the first of November and so, today, someone will die.
But it is not going to be either of us.
Reporters flock the beach today, their camera bulbs flashing as they spot promising capaill uisce. They swarm to the rich and powerful and take pictures of them doing rich and powerful things, like frowning dramatically at the rolling clouds, or scratching their bums.
Sean and I separate quietly at Dory Maud’s stand with a simple squeezing of each other’s hand. Dory Maud clucks at me as I approach, which immediately puts a scowl on my face.
“What?” I ask abruptly. I rearrange my teapots on her table, moving the more lopsided ones to the back.
“You and that young man,” she replies, and to my surprise she cackles “I never thought.”
“Never thought what?” I’m rather pleased that I manage to stop my reply here.
Dory Maud follows Sean with an amused eye. “I never thought you two would come true,” she says. “You two are a wish I never thought to hope for.”
I open my mouth, certain that there’s something I can say to this proclamation, but nothing comes. I give myself a few moments before closing my mouth in defeat.
“Ah, a silent Puck. There’s a strange sight,” Dory Maud quips. “What on earth are you doing to those teapots?”
“Some of them came out wonky,” I reply, glad to have something to say. “And before you say something about wonky and people being wonky—”
She interrupts with a wicked gleam in her eyes. “I wasn’t going to,” she says. “I was going to let your future babies do that for me.”
“Dory Maud!” My ears are utterly flaming, I can tell.
Dory Maud just shrugs, pleased with herself.
“I must say, I’d be intrigued to see those children myself,” a familiar voice says in a familiar broad accent. I look up and am unsurprised to see George Holly standing arm in arm with Annie, Dory Maud’s blind sister. He’s wearing a pressed green sweater and about half of Annie’s lipstick.
He’s also holding a gigantic paper bag from Palsson’s, which undoubtedly holds at least a dozen November cakes. Seeing them makes me think of Finn, who likely carefully selected each cake as if his life depended on it. That’s one of the things I’m most grateful for, that my winning the races meant Finn doesn’t have to apprentice with Thomas Gratton. Aside from being able to keep the house, and Sean keeping Corr, the fact that Finn doesn’t have to deal with blood every day means the world.
“Are those to share?” I ask, ignoring Dory Maud’s pointed look and Annie’s unfocused glare. Years of trying to survive on the kindness of others doesn’t go away that quickly. George Holly smiles widely at me pulls out three individually wrapped cakes.
“One for the both of you and one for Mr. Kendrick,” he says, which is strange, because I know he calls Sean ‘Sean’ and he knows I know he calls Sean ‘Sean’. I don’t worry on it, though; tourists never made much sense to me.
I thank him, hand one to Dory Maud, and head off to find Sean.
The crowd parts around me much easier this year. It’s a strange thing, this awareness. We acknowledge you, the movement seems to say. Curious eyes meet my gaze so frequently that I instinctively jut my chin and glare back.
It takes a little while to find Sean. There’s so much movement on the cliffs that I step back and let my eyes relax, the better to find a small corner of stillness. After three minutes I find him standing just off to the side, hands in his pockets, his face the same sharpness as the cliff face. He’s watching the short distance races with a politely distanced expression on his face, and I know it’s not just for show. Sean raced because he loved Corr. He doesn’t now because he still does.
I go up to him from the side, as I would with Dove if she was stressed. I’m not sure why. He doesn’t comment, instead taking my hand as he had this morning. His fingers play with the red ribbon bracelet he’d given me before we raced together.
I miss it sometimes. The exhilaration, the speed. But standing here with him, it’s enough.
I’m not watching the races after Puck takes my hand. I accept her November cake, leaving the box in my coat pocket. I think she can tell how nervous I am, because she looks at me from the corner of her eye as the short distance races finish.
They’re calling all those entered for the real race to the starting line and I feel everyone’s attention taughten. Some look at the lineup and then at me and I can tell they’re wondering why I’m not racing. I tighten my grip on Puck’s hand. She runs her thumb across my knuckles.
I breathe in the sea, in the smell of Puck’s hair, in the sensation of her hand in mine, and I am so, so alive.
Then the riders are off.
It’s a bloodbath. The capaill uisce in the middle are the ones I noted early in October, the ones whose riders are lazy or cruel or indulgent, the ones whose reins are just too loose and whose manes are covered in flowers and chains and bells. The ones who are hungriest, the most determined to return to the sea.
It’s over in minutes. It’s an eternity on the beach, but it’s over before I finish my November cake.
“Strange,” Puck murmurs. Her voice is like the sea, and it calls me back to myself. Her eyes mirror the color of the waves. “It seemed so much longer, when it was us.”
And I know at her words that I’m right. It couldn’t have been anyone else. I smile at her faintly.
She narrows her eyes curiously. “What?” I shrug, my usual response. She turns to face me fully, free hand on her hip. “No, what? What’s that face?”
“Will you marry me?”
I’m immediately horrified. This isn’t at all what I planned. She doesn’t reply right away, staring with her mouth slightly open at me. I’m holding a half eaten November cake, my jacket’s streaked with salt from this morning’s swim with Corr, there’s blood on the beach below, and this isn’t what I planned. I have no bread to give her.
She’s still not saying anything. I take my hand back and twist around to reach into the pocket on the other side, and pull out the little box. Puck’s eyes widen as I one-handedly open the box and sink to my knee.
The people around us have noticed now. Reporters point their cameras at us, and I hear excited whispers and our names echo around us as I say, “Puck Connolly. Will you marry me?”
Puck gives me a blazing look that’s belied by the tears streaming down her face and nods. She runs into my arms and knocks me over, laughing through her tears.
“Is that a yes?” I say, laughing slightly myself. I take the ring out of the box.
“Of course that’s a yes,” Puck replies. She wipes her eyes fiercely with her sleeve and I take her hand and slide the ring on.
I sit up, heedless of the reporters taking photos, and kiss her. My arms are full of Puck and my stomach is full of November cake and I’m getting her hair sticky with the honey and icing. And I hear someone that sounds suspiciously like George Holly call out, “What did I tell you? It’s a good thing you aren’t a gambling man, Mr. Kendrick, or you’d be out a lot of money.”
But I wouldn’t have cared.
Puck kisses me back, hard, and our spectators cheer. We ignore them. She smiles underneath my mouth.
It’s the first of November and so, today, our lives will begin anew.
Sean Kendrick & Kate ‘Puck’ Connolly (The Scorpio Races)
swallow her with your eyes. I’m surprised there’s any of her left for the rest
of us to see.”
reaches between us and slides a thin bracelet of red ribbons over my free hand.
Lifting my arm, he presses his lips against the inside of my wrist. I’m utterly
still; I feel my pulse tap several times against his lips, and then he releases
he says. He takes Dove’s lead from me.
say, and he turns. I take his chin and kiss his lips, hard. I’m reminded, all
of a sudden, of that first day on the beach, when I pulled his head from the
“That night, instead of dreaming, I lie in my bed and stare at the small square of black sky that I can see out the window of my flat.” … "I can’t stay in bed any longer. I roll to my feet. My jacket is still wet and gritty where I hung it over the iron curl of the radiator.”
Ok, first of all, Sean, do you ever do laundry? Smh. Now what this post was really about:
"So I set my alarm for 5 o'clock and saddle Dove before she’s properly awake.” … "For endless minutes Dove and I exercise like this, trotting one way and then the other, then cantering one way, and then the other.” …
“I think I see someone standing up at the top of the cliffs, watching us, but when I look again, there’s no one.”
Sean are you spying? You literally just met – not even met really, you both saved each other’s lives and then you yelled at her – this girl, and now you’re watching her alone in the dark? Boy, you had it bad from the start! But thats also really creepy, why you gotta be so Extra™ Edgelord Equestrian?
Ok, ok, maybe it’s not Sean. Maybe it’s Brian Carroll no one. I just noticed it for the first time in the audiobook, and I thought it was hilarious and definitely plausible. Also excellent fan fiction material. Have at it!
A Puck x Brian fic for @skatzaa :) I hope you like it, it’s a long time coming Mercedes <3
In my father’s boat, the story goes like this:
There is a boy who loves a girl long before the nets are cast when he is six. She fusses over knots and my father shows her how to tie them with quick, stubby fingers. She has dirt under her nails and I am holding my rod out for a fish and when I catch it it pulls me splashing down into the water.
In Palsson’s, the story’s splattered with flour. It goes like this:
We are nine by now. I want a November cake and it sticks to my throat when I swallow. She thumps my back. The riders come storming down to say that Eirnin Kendrick has been trampled on the beaches. We have to ask Palsson what the word means, and he gives us cakes to distract us.
Outside, later, she tells me she’d spit on my grave when I died, and I think that I’m a little in love with her. Her hands are sticky from the cakes.
Her mother teaches me how to play chess and the story goes like this:
Her mother explains the rules while my heart watches, blowing on her hot chocolate so hard it splatters against my cheek. She sticks out her tongue when her mother tsks, and they both laugh. I do too even though I am annoyed. I move my knight forward, and when her mother corrects me, she laughs and drops her mug and her hot chocolate floods over my feet.
In the classroom the story is awkward, and it goes like this:
She grew up during the summer, and I missed it while on my father’s boats. She is taller than me. We are fourteen and she is taller than me and I don’t know how to talk to her. I try to say something about fishing, but I flounder. And class is starting, now.
We have not seen Sean Kendrick since the first race he won. I don’t think we’re going to. They keep his desk open just in case. We both look at it with fascination.
In Gabe’s eyes, the story is a determined one. It goes like this:
I am sixteen now and so is she. She is Puck through and through, as clearly as if she’d been dyed Puck by Dory Maud or someone else. I leave her seashells and flowers and fish on her doorstep, and Gabe catches me one day. I have just put down a necklace and he leans on the open door and doesn’t say a word, just raises his eyebrows in that way he has. The way that makes you feel guilty, somehow. He asks me my intentions for Puck. I smell like the sea, but I tell him.
In Fathom and Sons, the story is as tense as conversations with Elizabeth. It goes like this:
We are eighteen and she’s telling me she’s racing. That Gabe is leaving and that she’s racing to save the house and Finn and herself. That she might die, and if so would I please take care of Finn, he’s more fragile than he lets on, please Brian, and then I reach out a hand palm up and she takes it. I tell her, I will not let your brother starve, and she bites down a sob so hard she bites her tongue and makes it bleed.
On the sands, the story is a tense one. I whisper it over and over and it goes like this:
That she and Sean Kendrick have a plan to make it work, to play this race in their favor. They will tie somehow or Puck will take the money for the house and will help Sean somehow or something else; the island works for them, somehow. Puck rides wearing the necklace I gave her around her neck and Thisby’s colors around Dove’s.
They will make it. I sing this like it’s a prayer to keep the sea calm, like the ones we sing on the boat, and it must work; she’s over the finish line in first place even with the skirmish with Mutt Malvern, and then she’s running to me because my feet have moved without me having noticed, and then she kisses me. She and Sean take their photos bruised and salt-stained and she kissed me.
Father Mooneyham looks at us over his glasses, Peg Gratton tapping on the horn of his sin-red car. From their eyes, the story goes like this:
He has agreed to marry us. I ask him about modifying the traditions and he goes white, but Puck smiles. The Father turns to compose himself. She says, We can ask Sean, and Father Mooneyham walks away as fast as he possibly can. He is old, so it’s not very fast.
We are on the cliffs now, and Sean marries us. Finn kisses us both on the cheek twice and the story goes like this:
I feel like I could catch the horizon line in both hands. Puck hugs Sean, and he traces a circle on her back with his thumb. He says, Do you know what to wish for? and she looks at me and smiles. She says, Yes.
In Dory Maud’s arms the story is crying and screeching. It goes like this:
That’s Puck’s chin, I say, and her cry, and then Puck bumps my arm. Sean bumps his chin on my shoulder and hums in agreement. Puck bumps him too.
Dory Maud says, He’s perfect, and Finn whispers to me that she’s crying. We tell them we named him Jonathan and they are quiet at that.
Sean asks us when we think he can ride a horse and he and Puck debate it. Finn mentions a soft dessert he can make us and Dory Maud just looks at our son in her arms like she’s holding the world.
Jonathan meets his uncle one day, and it goes like this:
He is six, and the sand underfoot shifts without warning when the sea whispers to the beach. Puck fusses with something in Jonathan’s little bag to give us a moment.
I kneel so we are eye level. Jonathan looks at me, big eyes solemn, and he is too young, probably. I remember when my brother looked like this. I am going to pick him up and turn us away, but he says, Where’s Uncle Jonny? and I’m crying, now.
Puck has to tell him. Uncle Jonny is that sunshine there, the one on the wave, she tells him while I cover my face. He’s the seagulls too, the smell of brine. That one blobby cloud.
Jonathan drags my hand from my face and tugs on me, then takes Puck’s hand. He pulls on us both and we lift our hands without thinking, hoisting him up. Then Jonathan says, Why’s Dad crying?
I tell him, He was my brother, and Puck wraps us all up in a hug.
In our living room and kitchen, the story goes like this:
From his armchair, Finn explains electricity and storms while Jonathan does his homework. Puck murmurs low about the bills, how Sean offered to help pay with his earnings from the stable, how we told him we could do it. I look at our dirty dishes from dinner and tell her that the capaill have eaten holes in all my nets. We haven’t had a catch in eighteen days. She knows this, but her forehead pinches like she’s hearing it for the first time.
There are wrinkles on her face. I remember when I thought we’d never grow old. She looks up and I think I wouldn’t trade it, not for anything. I take us bills and all.
She looks at me funny and then I tell her this, and Jonathan asks about lightning while the two of us breathe in deep.
I am in my and Puck’s room and our son is in the doorway. This story goes like this:
Jonathan is sixteen now. He looks like both of us, still; Dory Maud had always said he would turn out more like me, would look like he was part of a boat, but I don’t think that’s true. He has Puck’s attitude and her hair and freckles but my way of speaking, my hands, my shoulders. He is perfectly both of us.
He has not come in yet. I say, What’s on your mind?
Jonathan twists his cap in his hand, earnest. How did you know Mum was the One?
I consider this. He keeps wringing his cap.
She makes me want to listen, I say. To try. To see the island as it is and still stand sure on my own feet. I didn’t let myself do that before. And I do now, even when the fish don’t bite.
He doesn’t say anything, just nods with a smile. I follow him out to the kitchen and watch him go out the door. He picks a yellowy-red flower and sets off.
Puck kisses me. What’s that for? I ask her, and she says, You make me not mind sitting still.
We are on the cliffs again and Sean marries Jonathan to Livy Falk, and their story goes like this:
They met at the festival when they were sixteen. She reached for the mare goddess’ shell at the same time he did, and they wrestled for it. She won. Jonathan brought her flowers for a year before she asked him to go with her to the festival. Four years later, and here we are.
She is Tommy Falk’s niece. I think Puck catches on that when she sees her, or did that first time. Sean did too, just now. Livy has Tommy’s hair.
In their house, their story cries too. It goes like this:
Puck and I are fifty-five and she is holding our fourth grandchild for the first time. They named her Kate. Tom crowds around Puck, his cheeks still chubby from infancy, while Maude talks about how happy she is to have a sister. She has Tommy’s hair too. My hands though.
Jonathan presses a kiss to Livy’s forehead while Sean does his blessing of the sea over Kate. Ian clings to Sean’s arm, like always, and Sean’s mouth twitches in amusement when he says the final syllables. Finn purses his lips at his knitting, trying to finish Kate’s blanket.
Later that night Sean and Finn come over and we talk about the stable, about Finn’s bakery, about the fishing. Sean brings us bread, one hand awkwardly tucked into his ancient jacket. He will not let us buy him another. We’ve decided, Puck and I, to buy him one for Christmas.
Finn says, Let’s drink to Dory Maud, and we do. I still can’t believe she isn’t here.
Puck holds my hand tight when the sea takes Sean’s ashes. The story goes like this:
He never slowed, no matter how much his apprentices would remind him. But he wouldn’t be Sean Kendrick if he had, not really.
Our family is the only one here. There was a reporter with a camera, but Livy handled him. We are the only ones on this beach, us and the memories.
Puck holds Corr’s reigns and whispers to him. He never slowed either; he whuffs at her hair, but they know each other now. She spits on her fingers and holds them to his neck and he turns his head away.
Thisby used to talk about how it came to be that Corr stayed. They used to talk about magic, more so than the usual kind, of deals made and dances danced. It was magic, but magic of a different sort. Corr always returned to him.
Puck lets go and Corr returns now to the sea and to Sean and I am there to catch her when she collapses from crying. We return home soaking.
In our house, the story looks like this:
We are quiet and she is painted faintly blue by the night. We don’t talk much, but I make us hot chocolate and she sets up the chessboard and we are both slow. We play until it’s too dark not to turn on the living room light and then she fiddles with the radio while I clear the furniture away. This hurts my back, but I don’t mind.
We are old now. She says, Brian, right before the radio catches on the mainland dance station. It’s a slow one. I meet her in the middle of the room. The lamplight sparks off her grey hairs.
I say, Puck, and she rests her hands easy in mine and on my shoulder.
The music swirls softly around the room. We dance until we are too tired not to go to sleep.