As they banked the fire and got ready to leave, Máiréad was watching her friends and realizing that tomorrow morning would be the last time in a long time, if ever, until she saw them again. She watched them chat and put things away and generally just do what they always did but it was a bittersweet moment for Máiréad because she would imagine them like this while she swam into the open ocean tomorrow and tried not to think about the perils that lay ahead. Then Máiréad realized she would always imagine them like this, in the normalcy of the world they had created for themselves as she prepared to leave.
The Cailleach turned the conversation to the morning and their plans and before Máiréad knew it she had agreed to meet her friends before dawn for a last breakfast. And then they were gone, and Máiréad was left to wonder what she was going to do until they came back. She was sure she was too nervous and excited to ever sleep so she decided to write a letter to the Cailleach and another to Liam the expressed her gratitude for their friendship and all the help they had given her so she could leave tomorrow.
She sat at the table and struggled to figure out how to express her thoughts to Liam, so she started with the letter to the Cailleach instead.
My Dear Friend,
I am not sure how I could ever fully express my gratitude for all you have done for me. When the Seanmháthair passed away, I felt lost and alone. But then you stepped in to be sure I would have the help I would need on the next leg of my life’s journey and I didn’t feel alone anymore. You were there when I needed a friend and a confidant and a mentor, and you filled all three roles. I appreciate you for knowing that was what I needed and for making sure I had exactly that.
Thank you for the help you have given, the conversations we have had, the advice you have shared, and the suggestions you have made. I also want to thank you for letting me make my own decisions about striking out in search of my family and my birthright.
I know I may be presuming on our friendship, but I hope you will grant me a favor. I want to know that I am not leaving Liam to fend for himself without friends or allies. I know that if he explores his gift of sight, the few friendships he has will likely fade away, and I don’t want to think of him lonely and alone. Could you find it in your heart to monitor him so I know he has someone looking out for his best interests?
I will miss you greatly and I can only hope that, however it happens, we will meet again in this lifetime.
Yours in friendship,
When she finished writing the letter, she had tears in her eyes. She was not sure what was going to happen or where she was going to end up, but she was sure that she was going to miss the Cailleach.
Máiréad blinked a few times to clear her eyes and when she was sure she had control over her emotions, she picked up another sheet of paper to write a letter to Liam. As soon as she did, she felt a choking sensation in her throat as she realized she did not have her emotions under control at all and promptly burst into tears.
Máiréad wiped her face furiously, stopping the tears through sheer force of will. She couldn’t cry right now. She had to write this letter. She was tired. That was it, she decided. She was overly tired and her emotions about leaving the only home she had ever known were running high.
Even as the excuse ran through her mind, she knew she was lying to herself. She could feel the wound deep inside where she had buried it as the day she would leave came closer and closer. She had never looked too deeply at it. She knew it would be hard to bear, so she just buried it under a list of things to do. But now that there was nothing left to do but say goodbye, she couldn’t pretend the pain wasn’t there, that the hurt wasn’t real, and that the idea of saying goodbye to the Cailleach was hard but the idea of saying goodbye to Liam was almost unbearable.
She clenched her jaw and concentrated on the clock on the mantle. It was late. She should go to bed. But she didn’t want to leave without telling Liam what he meant to her. The problem, she decided, was that she didn’t know exactly what he meant to her. She didn’t know what to say because she didn’t know how she felt. She wished she had been able to talk to him before the Cailleach had come upon them at the beach and changed everything by telling her she had to leave at dawn.
She wished for a lot of things. She wished now that she had given herself more time. At the same time, she already chafed at waiting as long as she had. How could she want two entirely different outcomes at the same time? She sighed deeply and hugged her shoulders, massaging them to loosen up and relax. She knew she’d never be able to get words to come out the way she wanted them to if she didn’t find a way to calm her mind. She’d always been like that, needing at least a few moments of peace to make a decision or start a project, so she was clear on the outcome she wanted.
As her shoulders dropped and her neck loosened up and her jaw unclenched, she realized the only way to write a letter to Liam would be to pour out all of her thoughts. And so she began.
I thought about the things I wanted to say to you and after sorting through a hundred questions and a thousand details I realized what it all came down to was that I will miss you more than I thought was possible when I strike out to find my family and claim my birthright.
I remember sitting here, thinking about whether or not to reveal my secret to you one night, just like I am sitting here tonight. That night I was torn because I didn’t know if I could, or even wanted to, trust you. Tonight I am torn because I trust you so much I don’t want to separate myself from the comfort your presence brings me.
I’ve spent the past month shifting back and forth between fear and excitement, and in spite of the fact that I never said anything, I suspect you know that already. You always seem to know what I’m thinking and while it has taken some getting used to, now I don’t know how I’ll live without knowing there is someone right by my side who can sense my mood and have a care for my thoughts. You’ve become an important part of my life, and I’m afraid that without you I won’t be strong enough to complete the journey or live the adventure at the end of that journey. Only by knowing you are here and living a full life will I be able to focus on what I need to do.
I need you to know that you’ve become my family and, because of that, I need you to be safe and well while I’m gone. So I must ask you a favor. I need you to promise you’ll follow the Cailleach’s advice and learn to use the Sight. You’ve been given a gift, just as I have, and it’s time for you to learn to use it to whatever capacity you’re meant to. I know it’s not easy to have a gift that others can’t know about, but trust me when I say, you’ll be a better man for learning how to use it and knowing you’re working on that will make my mind easier while I’m away.
I don’t know what will happen and where we will end up when all is said and done, but I wanted to let you know how grateful I am for having known you. You’re a good friend and a good person and I wish you well on your journey.
Máiréad felt better having words down on paper and, with that realization, she yawned, finally feeling like she could rest. The combination of fear and excitement had sustained her all day, but now she was tired and since she would need her rest to swim hard and get ahead of the storm, she left the letters on the table and crawled into bed and immediately fell fast asleep.