I’m almost done with another Tindiere novel so that ‘verse is very powerful in my mind right now. So many pieces that have been separate and broken are coming together and wow, it’s so much fun to see! :D
Thus, I have a Tindiere short story for this week’s Free Fiction Friday. Enjoy!
Kinipela fought with her magic, strictly controlling the need to work the weather and waves surrounding her island. The broken heart left behind by Moanna, her ex-wife, made control that much harder.
Then Kinipela’s little brother arrived with news of storm clouds approaching against the wind, pulling Kinipela out of her grief and into a battle against her heart, her magic and everything she thought she was.
Boiling the Ocean Away is a story of magic, loss, life and discovering your true self that is sure to excite.
Boiling the Ocean Away
By Meyari McFarland
Wind flowed around Kinipela, slipping gentle around her cheeks, tangling in her hair like a lover’s fingers drawn slow and gentle to comfort and tease. She could smell pineapple, sharp-sweet, on the wind. Kinipela turned away, shifting in the sand so that she would not have to look up the beach to the other homes, to the one at the far end where Moanna sat.
Moanna was signing, a happy hymn of thanksgiving to the Gods for the bounty of the sea, the fruits of the land. Her long black hair, sleek as the skin of a seal freshly emerged from the ocean, hung at her back. Even at this distance Kinipela could smell the sweat at the nook of Moanna’s neck, feel the silk of her skin, the skin she’d never touch again.
Nets. She needed to fix the nets. The goddess of the sea had been angry with Kinipela the last time she’d gone out fishing. Her nets had half a dozen holes, some tiny, one huge enough for a reef shark to slip right through.
It was her fault. The first thing that Kinipela had learned as a child was that calling the magic of the sea, the wind, while angry was dangerous. Futile. Painful. She’d watched her mother waste away as the magic raged inside of her after Kinipela’s father died.
At least death was final. Kinipela didn’t get that closure. There was no ending for her pain. Moanna had moved out of Kinipela’s home, taking her sarongs and the fine wood comb that Kinipela had carved for her. There were no songs in Kinipela’s home anymore. It was empty, lonely, abandoned by the one that had given it a heart, just as Kinipela had been abandoned, cast aside for a man with a weak jaw and shifty eyes who rarely brought home enough fish for the two of them, much less for the babies that Moanna had always wanted.
Babies. That was the real problem. Kinipela had not been able to give Moanna babies, even though she had been perfectly happy to invite men into their home for that purpose. Moanna hadn’t wanted that. She’d wanted a man of her own, not a woman who fished and fought with the magic inside of her, too stiff and stern to dance and sing with Moanna when joy ran through both their hearts.
“You’ve never had an honest emotion in your life!”
Kinipela winced, barely restraining herself from ripping the net in half. Moanna’s final words still hurt. They would always hurt. She didn’t understand, Moanna didn’t understand that magic demanded control, required strength, punished emotion. No matter how much Kinipela wanted to shout her love and pain and rage to the sky, she couldn’t. It would endanger the whole island, everyone living on it.
Lie, Kinipela whispered in the back of her mind. The mental voice sounded like Grandmother, scolding with her eyes and expecting perfection no matter what Kinipela did, felt, learned. Lie. Kinipela couldn’t possibly be strong enough to threaten them all.
The wind shifted, harsh and hard, carrying now the taste of ocean salt and the dying fish that flopped and struggled in shallow hollows after being swept up and away from their life-giving water, deposited to struggle and die on baking hot volcanic rock, crabs picking at their eyes until they died blind and gasping as salt crystals formed on their quivering bodies, every flop calling more crabs to come and feast.
Kinipela jerked her mind away from the wind, away from the magic that surrounded her as surely as the water surrounded the fish. Angry, she was angry. Too angry. Touching the magic was a foolish idea, such a foolish idea. Grandmother would sniff, would sigh and mention Mother while eyeing Kinipela from the corner of her eye with that expression that said ‘I always knew you’d follow in her footsteps, foolish girl.’
The nets. Her hands trembled as she bent her head to repair holes in her net. The net had to be fixed. She needed to go fishing or there’d be little to eat tonight other than sweet potatoes baked in the coals of her fire. Nalani would have to go eat with Grandmother instead of staying with Kinipela. He always came back subdued, quiet, rubbing his upper arm as if Grandmother had grabbed and squeezed hard enough to bruise though bruises never bloomed.
That was a magic Kinipela didn’t have. Blood and flesh didn’t answer her as they did for Grandmother. No, Kinipela had inherited Grandfather’s magic, the magic of the wind and sea, the magic that moved and shifted, ebbing and flowing like the tides. It curled around Kinipela’s ankles, sucking insistently at her attention despite her efforts to focus on nothing but the nets in her hands.
“Kinipela!” Nalani called.
His shout echoed across the beach, drawing quiet laughter and smiles as he ran towards her, eyes wide and smile broader against the rosy brown of his cheeks.
“Sister!” Nalani shouted again.
“I hear you,” Kinipela said. “The whole island hears you.”
“Kinipela,” Nalani complained, his full bottom lip pouting out after he skidded to a stop by her spread nets. “I’m not that loud!”
She smiled, nodded and patted the sand next to her. “Maybe. I think that your voice echoed off the volcano, though. At least half the island heard you. Mm-hmm.”
He huffed, stomping around the perimeter of her nets to flop on his back in the sand, little feet just resting on the hem of the nets. Kinipela shook her head before turning back to her nets. Sometimes she wondered how they could have come from the same mother, the same Grandmother. Little Nalani never worried about offending people. No matter how much noise he made, he didn’t draw inward, didn’t bit his tongue and hold himself stiff.
Grandmother complained every time she came to their side of the island. She scolded him and told him that he would never be married if he didn’t learn to behave properly. Kinipela had struck the old woman the last time she’d tried to dim Nalani’s bright soul. Thankfully, Grandmother hadn’t come back since. It was a blessing and all the more reason to make sure that she had food for Nalani tonight. Sending him around the point to Grandmother was the very last thing that Kinipela wanted to do.
“There are clouds,” Nalani observed once his panting eased.
“You’re looking at the sky, little one,” Kinipela agreed. “Clouds live there.”
“No, clouds on the horizon,” Nalani said. “Big ones! Off to the south, like a hurricane is coming in hard and fast.”
He sat up, spraying sand over both of them as he gestured wide with his arms. Kinipela blinked, staring at him. Nalani nodded and did the gesture again, spreading his arms wide enough with such a serious expression that Kinipela’s stomach roiled.
The wind was from the north, blowing strongly south. Her mind darted up into the sky, feeling the flow of the wind above where the gulls flew. South. It blew south. No storm could come from the south, not with the rivers of wind overhead flowing so strongly, so directly against them.
Kinipela frowned at him, set her nets aside, and stood. The sand under her feet seemed to quiver for a moment, responding to the water under the surface that danced for her. Wrong. Something was so very wrong. It shouldn’t respond like that when nothing was happening.
No, this wasn’t Kinipela’s broken heart betraying her. The waves on the shore were farther in than they should be. The tide moved in when it should be moving out. Kinipela looked at the ripples of the waves, studying the flash and shift of them. The ocean was moving south, moving towards the southern shore as if someone had gripped the ocean itself and sought to draw it to her.
When she offered her hand to him Nalani scrambled to his feet and beamed as he took her hand. He took her hand with joy radiating off him. Kinipela couldn’t bring herself to smile, not with her heart aching and the ocean telling her that something was very, very wrong, but she did squeeze his little hand gently.
“Show me,” Kinipela said. “There shouldn’t be a big storm this time of year. It’s the dry season.”
“I know,” Nalani said as he tugged Kinipela away from the nets, the beach, Moanna’s song. “I told the others that something was wrong but Halia laughed and said I was being silly. The others laughed too so I ran to get you so you could see the clouds and tell them that it is important, that everyone should pay attention. The clouds stretch that much,” he waved his hands about the length of Kinipela’s forearm, “across the horizon. You told me that storms from the south that stretch a long, long ways are bad so I knew something was wrong.”
“That… is wrong,” Kinipela said. She let Nalani’s hand go, gesturing for him to go first. “Let’s run, little one. I need to see this quickly.”