Sophie Jamieson + Elodie Olson-Coons

Alba

Above, the other gannets hang, gravity-suspended, winking shards of flexible feather thrown into the air and held there. Constellated, they sink and lift just a little with the wind.

Alba strokes her hard yellow beak along the quiet rise and fall of miniature lungs, the soft downy skull. The tiniest of fingers curl around her yellow leg. He does not belong here, where the cold greens and blues of sea glass fold and unfold. Sometimes a sleek fin curves below, suggesting the slow slide of leviathan skin into the deep. The waves and the whales beneath, they remember this tiny pink Icarus; once borne higher and higher away from the waving arms, the barbeque fallen in the sand, the father wildly and uselessly running into the waves. Patient, they await his fall.

But now the child sleeps, dreaming perhaps vague dreams of flowers, or ice cream. Perhaps he hears a mother’s breast crying out unsucked under stiff tweed. Or perhaps he has forgotten, and knows only the oily, saltpeter crush of fishbones, the nourishing squish of another mother’s acid.

Alba hears him cry at night, but nuzzled under her wing he sleeps content. She arranges the fluff and squawk of her own nestlings around him to keep him warm. Far away, wet dogs at play kick up the hard wet sand, shaggy hair tangled and stained green with seaweed. Some day, perhaps soon, his soft and pink will harden enough that he can nestle comfortably into the rock-face, picking at lichen with his long baby nails, a prickle on his back like the shaft of feathers.

Marianne

‘You don’t know what love is!’ the father spat at his daughter, Marianne, across the dinner table.
So the next day, Marianne tucked her white rabbit into her pocket and set out to find out what love was.
First, the heat of her father’s anger still hot in her cheeks, she walked to the jungle, where snakes hung like ropes of liquid emerald and overripe mangoes swayed heavily in the breeze. A sleek black panther padded up to her, and goosebumps rippled down her spine. It swung its muzzle into her chest and pressed her to the ground with sharp claws. ‘This is love,’ it purred through its teeth.
Marianne stood up shakily and brushed off her dress. ‘You are not love for me,’ she said.

She walked home quickly. ‘Where were you?’ her father shouted from the doorway. She hung her head in shame. That night, as her father’s slaps burned into her skin, she felt tears there too. ‘Your mother knew what love was. She would never have left me alone.’
So Marianne got up the next day, and she walked to the mountain. The craggy redbrown rock towered over her, a tangle of trees clinging to its sides. Mosquitos buzzed in her ears as she grabbed onto a knobbled root and began climbing upwards. As she neared the sky, she came upon a nest of four white eggs. Suddenly, she felt talons biting into her shoulder and wings beating either side of her head. She lost her footing and slid down the rock in a scrabble of shale. Looking back, she saw the eagle diving down after her, shrieking ‘I am love!’ Marianne ran as fast as she could, panting as her feet beat the ground, ‘You are not love for me!’

Marianne ran and ran until her lungs burned and the sun went down and she was farther from home than she had ever been. And then suddenly, stretching out in front of her, she saw the still, dark sea, and she heard a slow, gravelly voice by her side. ‘I am love,’ it said. She looked down and saw a great sea turtle, waiting for her in the shallows. Marianne climbed carefully onto its back and, by the light of the moon, she cried until her rabbit’s fur was damp. They paddled slowly out into the deep, lonely sea. ‘Where are we?’ she asked the turtle quietly, ‘Are you taking me home?’ But the turtle did not answer and soon, lulled by the sound of the lapping waves, Marianne fell asleep.

She woke with her head on the dark, wet sand of a beach near her home. Her rabbit was still asleep. She picked him up and walked slowly to the house. ‘Marianne!’ Her father was running towards her, and she saw his face was red and streaked with tears. She looked up, shrinking in fear, but her father only opened his arms and carefully wrapped them around his daughter. ‘You look so much like your mother,’ he said gently.