Every year my family gathers for the Fourth of July at my parents’ house in Central Washington. Of the many Americana traditions we partake in–watching fireworks, watermelon-eating contest–one of my favorites is sitting around the fire pit in my parents’ yard. This year, my mom asked me to write a fairy tale to read while we roasted marshmallows. I wrote this for my niece, Adriana.
Adriana, Made of Light
There once was a sea captain’s golden-haired daughter named Adriana who didn’t belong on the sea. She distrusted the wavering water and grew morose whenever forced to consider how far away was the ocean floor.
Her father, Captain Seabury Tredwell, tried to calm her by engaging her in laborious activities, but she found the long days at sea boring and hated the nickel-like taste fish left in her mouth. Her mother said life at sea should have kept her entertained—its mercurial nature was what called her to become a captain’s wife.
But Adriana’s trouble was that she felt something pulling her away with the tidal force of the moon. She stared too long at the water when the light shined on it—like when your eyes blurred while looking at a Christmas tree or street lamps (not that she, a daughter of the sea, had seen much of those). After a while, the lights refracting off the water’s surface began to make sparklers of her eyes. She wanted to go where the light was.
On her sixteenth birthday, Adriana confessed to her parents, “I don’t feel like this is my home.”
Their faces turned grim, cloudy with guilt. Captain Tredwell removed his hat and placed it against his chest. “It’s your sixteenth birthday, and you are a young woman now. We shouldn’t keep this secret from you any longer. Your mother and I were never able to conceive.”
“I blame the waves,” her mother added.
“We gave up on that joy and settled into life at sea, that is until I found you one morning (I remember it was a particularly sunny one) on the deck—a basketed baby, you appeared there like an unexpected bloom to make life more beautiful in our later years. We took you in and raised you as our own; you are our own.”
Adriana cried and hugged her parents tightly. “And you are mine. But I’m not sure this is my home. I feel I’m called somewhere else. I want to find where I belong.”
Together, Adriana and her parents settled on Adriana taking a ride on a fellow captain’s boat that was headed towards dry land. Adriana kissed her withering mother and stone-faced father and said goodbye to the only home she knew.
Dry land proved dusty and dull—full of commerce and gambling and the hard knock nature of those stuck in one place and scrambling to get by there. She befriended two young cousins—referred to by locals as the prince and the mathematician. They worked as thieves in the seaport. The blue-eyed prince sweet-talked visitors to the town while he pickpocketed them, always robbing them blind with a wink and a smile. The mathematician counted cards in the local gambling hall.
They took a shine to Adriana, saw her as a kindred spirit, and promised to show her the way of the land.
“You work hard during the day,” the prince said and threw his arm around her in a brotherly way. “And at night—“
“You work even harder,” the mathematician added, blowing a scruff of hair out of his eyes.
They taught Adriana how to pick her target, how to distract them, and how to make a proper getaway once your work was finished. She took to it quickly, challenging her victims to a contest of who could stare at the sun longest—once they went crossed-eyed, she could swipe whatever they weren’t holding onto.
“You might just be cut out for this life,” the prince noted one night as the three of them enjoyed a friendly game of cards.
“But is this all there is to life on land? We toil all day under the sun and by day’s end count our meager earnings by gaslight?”
“Or losses,” the mathematician said, nursing a fat lip and purpled eye bestowed upon him during the previous night’s not-so-friendly card game.
“What did you expect on dry land? There’s no such thing as generosity when everyone’s working to scrape by. We’re land-dwellers, sweetheart, we take what we can get.”
“You’ve got your head in the clouds already; you may as well go to Cloud Cuckoo Land,” the mathematician suggested.
Adriana’s ears perked at the mention of the faraway realm. “How do I get there?”
“That’s easy,” the prince said, folding his hands behind his head. “You talk to the birds.”
To be continued…