The Future in a Wash Basin – Erin Keating

The Future in a Wash Basin – Erin Keating

March 2022

Co. Cork, 1896

Siobhan O’Keeffe Mahoney had never seen her own reflection. It was not for lack of trying. She would pass the only mirror in the house she shared with her father and brother, then quickly turn around, as though she could surprise it into revealing her image. She would stare so long into the gray waters of Schull Harbor on a windless day that, once, one of the rotten neighborhood boys pushed her in. She’d floated, of course. She would press her nose to the long icicles that formed beside their door in January, hoping for the briefest glimpse of the sea blue eyes and coppery hair she had inherited from her mother. But never once had she seen her own reflection.

Instead, she saw the future.

And from Siobhan’s place in the worn armchair by the hearth, the future looked bleak.

Finn MacCotter stood opposite her, wringing his cap in his hands. She had understood all of the words Finn had said individually, but couldn’t make sense of them in the order in which he had delivered them.

Siobhan wiped her clammy palms on her skirt. “I’m sorry, Mr. MacCotter. Am I correct that this is a proposal of marriage?”

Finn MacCotter glanced over his shoulder, where Siobhan’s father, Cormac Mahoney, stood with his arms crossed.

“I certainly hope you’re not sorry to hear it.” He let out a wheezy laugh, and his freckled cheeks flushed. “My Da, eh, you know he’s not well. He wants to see me, eh, settled. And he and Mr. Mahoney being such good friends and all—”

Siobhan’s father cleared his throat. Finn stopped talking.

Siobhan supposed she shouldn’t be surprised. She was newly twenty-two and Finn a few years older, but it felt like there were fewer people their age in Schull Harbor by the hour—all packing their bags for America. Siobhan’s stomach churned at the mere thought. How could they leave the only home that they knew for a place full of strangers?

Siobhan glanced over Finn’s shoulder at the gilded-frame mirror that hung above the hearth. The clear surface of the mirror rippled as she looked at it. Should she marry Finn MacCotter or refuse? Each time she wavered, a misty image bubbled to the surface. That was what she loved most about the future—it was never set. Time ran steadily, like a river, and every decision she made took her down a different route of its forking path.

Siobhan saw herself scrubbing cow dung off Finn MacCotter’s boots if she accepted or scrubbing her brother’s children’s dirty nappies if she refused. She would wash butchered blood from the cracks in Finn’s leather gloves, or she would wash the blood from her sister-in-law’s bedsheets after another birth. She would stare at the ceiling waiting for Finn to finish laboring over her in bed, or she would stare at the ceiling in the attic, displaced from her room, praying her screaming nieces and nephews would fall asleep.

Siobhan gripped the armchair with white knuckles. Her fingernails sank into the worn fabric. Was this it, then? Was she trapped by two tiresome fates—the obedient wife or the spinster aunt—without anything to call her own?

But then the image shifted to reveal a blonde daughter swaddled in Finn’s arms. Siobhan nearly leapt from the armchair, her heart in her throat. If she took this path with Finn, she would have a daughter. Her mother’s line would continue.

Siobhan blinked herself back to the present, to this worn armchair. She managed a smile. “Well, Mr. MacCotter, your proposal is certainly as good as any.”

“Lovely! Eh, thank you. I’ll, eh, go tell my Da.” Finn MacCotter placed the wrung-out cap on his head. As soon as the front door closed, her brother and sister-in-law rushed in from the kitchen. They offered their congratulations, her sister-in-law trying awkwardly to embrace Siobhan around her own swollen belly.

Siobhan looked at her father, but he was studying the mirror closely, as he always did when he caught her scrying, wondering what secrets it revealed to his daughter.

That night, after some revelry with the neighbors, Siobhan put on her wool jacket, took an oil lantern from the hook by the door, and headed out into the dark. The late-March air cooled her flushed cheeks, warm with whiskey and the heat of a dozen bodies cramped in their small front room. The oil lantern lit only a small patch of road in front of her. It didn’t matter. Her bones knew the way. She trod down Colla Road, away from the yellow, blue, and plum-colored houses of the main street. Between the trees and the shore scrub she could spy the inky water of the harbor and the lone light of a ship.

Soon, she came upon the cemetery. It sat beside the ruins of Saint Mary’s Church, a roofless stone structure overgrown with shrubbery and moss. The old gate squeaked as she entered. Two matching headstones on freshly weeded plots sat at the base of the hill, overlooking the harbor. Siobhan settled down in the grass, leaning against her mother’s cold stone.

“Ma, Gran, I’m getting married,” she whispered.

And somewhere, far away or very near, Bridget O’Keeffe Mahoney and Emer Sullivan O’Keeffe listened. Siobhan felt heat flickering behind her navel—her magic. When she was a girl, she’d felt it strongest in Gran’s kitchen, watching the old woman grinding herbs into healing salves. But in the years since Gran’s death, it felt strongest here.

This was the land where her mother and her gran had practiced their craft. This was the land where her own daughters would learn their arts. Even though the town seemed to be growing smaller each day, she couldn’t bear to leave Schull Harbor and the bones of the women who came before her. This land was her inheritance.

She pressed her fingers to the earth and spoke the Old Irish word for ‘water’. It was a tongue lost to nearly all but the wise women, a language she had learned from her gran. The ground yielded to her touch, and soon fresh water bubbled up and pooled at the base of the stones. She would use the water’s surface to scry.

She had chosen the path in which she would bear children—even if they were Finn MacCotter’s children. Her mother’s line would continue. Her daughter would learn magic at her elbow.

Siobhan whispered, “Show me my line.”

The surface of the water rippled, revealing the image of a blonde little girl. The child hid behind Finn’s legs, his arms stretched out in front of her—shielding her from something. In this vision, Siobhan reached for her daughter, but the girl and Finn both backed away. They looked afraid—afraid of her.

Siobhan sank her fingers into the dirt, felt the comforting hum of her foremother’s magic.

“Again,” she demanded of the water through gritted teeth.

The next vision had the same blonde girl studying a children’s catechism in the MacCotter’s large parlor. The view was at a strange angle, but then the vision grew wider until Siobhan saw herself peering through a crack in the doorway. Then Finn appeared, his mouth in a tight line, and closed the door.

“No,” Siobhan gasped. She could hardly breathe over the lump forming in her throat. “No, no, no.”

She sank her hands into the pool of water, splashing away the vision. “Please, do any of them practice?” she begged. “Do any of them scry?”

The water grew cloudy with mud and when it settled, the image of three copper-haired girls flashed in quick succession.

Then, for the first time in Siobhan’s life, she thought she saw her reflection. A sea blue eye stared back at her, too close to the surface of the water.

It blinked.

Siobhan, startled, tumbled backward into the grass. But she crept forward again, and peered into the pool. The face pulled away from the water’s surface, revealing the girl’s other eye, a pert freckle-dusted nose, and a crooked smile with new teeth growing in awkwardly.

“Hi!” The girl said. Her face rippled as a gentle breeze skirted across the surface of the water. Her voice was strange, an accent with sharp, narrow sounds that grated Siobhan’s ears.

“Hello,” Siobhan said cautiously. Often, she could hear the scenes that she scried, but she had never been able to communicate with them. Something about this seemed touched with fae magic.

“Do you see funny things in the mirror too?” the girl asked.

“I do,” Siobhan answered.

“Have you ever seen yourself?”

“No.”

“Me either.” The girl shrugged. “What did you ask the mirror to see? Oh, I guess you aren’t using a mirror, are you? You’re all—wavy.”

Siobhan laughed, the sound so loud in the silent night that she scared herself. This girl spoke so many words, and so quickly. The flame in Siobhan’s stomach grew hotter, white heat rippling through her body. It was a powerful feeling, a prideful and protective affection. She hadn’t expected to feel it this suddenly. Perhaps it was because she knelt on her mother’s and gran’s graves—a heritage of blood and bones. This was a girl of her line.

“I asked to see my family,” Siobhan said.

The girl grinned, lips parting to reveal her lopsided teeth again. “You’re Siobhan, aren’t you?” Siobhan must have made a surprised face, because the girl laughed. “My mom’s told me all about you—you’re her great-grandma—I think. I’m Bridget! It’s nice to meet you.”

Siobhan caught her breath hearing her mother’s name spoken in the girl’s strange voice.

“Tell me about your mother,” Siobhan whispered.

She listened to Bridget tell her about her mother, who was attuned to stones and crystals, who used citrine to manifest enough cash to make ends meet, rose quartz to ease her broken heart after Bridget’s father left, amethyst under Bridget’s pillow to keep bad dreams away.

Hearing the stories reminded Siobhan of the tales she’d heard of her own mother, who could press her hands to a stone and hear its history.

As the moon rose and set, the water slowly dried up. Siobhan finally said goodbye to Bridget—this scried girl with her mother’s name—who stared up at her through the water. When Bridget’s image was gone, and Siobhan was alone in the cemetery once more, she whispered a prayer of thanks over the graves. Her line would go on.

But she couldn’t shake the image of her blonde daughter’s wide blue eyes and trembling mouth. What could make a child look at her mother like that?

The next day, Siobhan and her father donned their Sunday best and walked down the long dirt road toward MacCotter’s Farm. The cows in the pasture lumbered up to them, stretching their heads over the low stone walls as though to inspect Siobhan personally. Milk, cheese, butter, and the highest quality meat came out of MacCotter’s Farm. At least a dozen men in town were employed there as farmhands—those who did not go to sea every day, as Siobhan’s father did.

The morning damp clung to Siobhan’s skin. Her cheeks stung with cold when they finally reached the MacCotter’s stone house. Finn MacCotter answered the door, smartly dressed, with his curly blond hair parted and beard newly trimmed.

“Welcome, eh, if you’ll follow me this way.”

“Is that them?” A voice called from the other room.

“Yes, Da!” Finn shouted back.

Finn led them into the foyer. Siobhan had been inside the MacCotters’ house before—they held an annual Christmas party for the whole town—but she hadn’t expected it to look so splendid on an ordinary day. The dark wooden banisters gleamed. She followed the stairs with her eyes, generations of blond MacCotters looking down on her from oil portraits. To their right was a large formal dining room, where the MacCotters hosted Christmas dinner at a table laden with silver. To their left was a dimly lit parlor that was twice the size of the Mahoney’s front room. There Mr. MacCotter sat in a chair by a roaring fire, wrapped in blankets.

Despite the grandeur, a chill shuddered down Siobhan’s back. Without the bustle of the Christmas guests, an eerie quiet sat heavily on the house.

“Cormac, welcome! And Miss Mahoney, come here, come here.” Siobhan allowed Mr. MacCotter to kiss her hand.

“Finbarr!” Mr. Mahoney boomed, shaking Mr. MacCotter’s liver-spotted hand. “All’s well with the farm?”

Though they were the same age, Mr. MacCotter seemed decades older than his friend, stooped and hunched with pain no one could cure. Perhaps Gran O’Keeffe could have healed him, had he fallen ill in her time.

“Fine, fine,” Mr. MacCotter wheezed. “Except I don’t know how I’ll keep staffing it. America is stealing all my farmhands’ sons. It seems a man can’t expect his children to stay in one place anymore. We must be the luckiest men in all of Cork.”

Siobhan glanced at Finn, who stood stiffly beside his father, his eyes fixed to a spot on the floor. Had he ever dreamed of leaving for America, like so many others? Or was he like her—proud to be tied to this land and his family’s history here?

Mr. MacCotter cleared his throat with a phlegmy rattle in his chest. “Now, Miss Mahoney, let me look at you.”

Siobhan wore a dress of carnation red, a fawn-colored wool shawl embroidered with rosebuds, and her coppery hair neatly pinned. Of course, there had been no way for her to see how she looked. But, that morning, as she peered into her wash basin, Bridget’s face had appeared.

Bridget was older than she’d been when they’d spoken in the cemetery—now a woman in her sixties with elegant white hair. Bridget had said that Siobhan looked beautiful. That was better than any reflection.

“Turn please,” Mr. MacCotter said. Siobhan gave a girlish twirl and Mr. MacCotter let out an annoyed sound like a cow’s loam. “No, girl, slowly, please, slowly.”

So, Siobhan turned slowly in a full circle, feeling the weight of the men’s eyes on her. She tried to make a face to her father, but his arms were crossed, watching Mr. MacCotter closely.

“Very good. Now, if you would please smile,” Mr. MacCotter instructed.

Siobhan did her best lady-like smile, demure and closed-lipped. Again, a cow-like sound burst from Mr. MacCotter, sending spittle flying. “No, girl—your teeth. I want to see your teeth.”

Siobhan realized that she was not a woman, trying to impress her father-in-law, but a cow being inspected at auction. She bared her teeth, curling her lips as far back as she could manage.

“Siobhan!” her father hissed.

But Mr. MacCotter didn’t seem to notice the gesture. “She’s looks healthy, and any daughter of yours must have a strong constitution. Her hips—wideset—good for child-bearing. We’d hate to see her go the way of her mother.”

A flame sparked in the pit of Siobhan’s stomach, equal parts magic and rage.

Siobhan tried to keep her voice level. “There was nothing wrong with my mother.”

“Siobhan, now is not the time,” her father warned, his voice low.

“Of course, my girl, of course. If your kind father had insisted the doctor be present for the whole labor instead of leaving it up to his addled mother-in-law, perhaps she would have made it,” Mr. MacCotter said.

Fire spread through Siobhan’s core, heat moving up into her chest. Frost began to spread on the windowpane as she balled her fists. She muttered the Old Irish word for ‘breath’, trying her gran’s old trick for calming a racing heart.

“What was that, girl?” Mr. MacCotter demanded. The word ‘girl’ chafed at her skin.

The frost grew with a low cracking. Siobhan snapped. “If my father hadn’t called for the doctor at the last minute and had let my gran continue her treatment, my mother most certainly would have made it.”

Gran O’Keeffe had told her the story. Her father, in his terror, called for the doctor, who had thrown Gran O’Keeffe from the room. She had finished brewing ergot tea—a thimbleful of ergot powder brewed in boiling water—that would make her mother’s uterine muscles contract and stop the bleeding. The doctor had knocked the teacup from her hand, convinced ergot was poisonous. He packed Bridget O’Keeffe Mahoney full of cotton, which she bled through, and bled through, and bled through, while the tea that could have saved her seeped into the floorboards. Gran O’Keeffe rocked Siobhan, newly born and wailing, outside the door while her daughter died.

“I said not now, Siobhan!” her father snapped.

The thick ice on the window shone like silver. And in it, Siobhan saw herself in labor, her face red with sweat, screaming in primal pain. When the child arrived in the world, Finn snatched it from her arms, as though Siobhan was diseased.

She squeezed her eyes shut, willing the image away.

“There, there, my girl. I did not mean to upset you. Of course, you miss your mother at a time like this,” Mr. MacCotter said.

In truth, Siobhan rarely missed her mother, though she would never dare say that aloud in front of her father. There was no need to miss her; her presence was constant. Every time she felt her magic tug at her stomach, it was like her mother was there beside her. But in this house, with its too-dark and too-quiet rooms, lorded over by Mr. MacCotter and his ever-watchful gaze, could she practice safely here?

Mr. MacCotter squeezed her hand, and Siobhan fought the urge to pull away.

Panic flickered and flared in her chest like a dying candle. These men would snuff her out.

Hours later, Siobhan had rubbed her skin red and raw, but still could not shake the chill of the MacCotters’ house. She had locked the door of her little room with its drafty window that overlooked the harbor. Despite her sister-in-law’s incessant knocking, Siobhan didn’t answer. She tried to lose herself in the rhythm of the squeaking floorboards as she paced. Only when her feet had grown tired did she pour some water into the basin by her bed.

“Show me Bridget,” she demanded. The surface of the water rippled, and Bridget’s face came into view. She was younger than she had been when they spoke that morning, when she complimented Siobhan’s dress. Now a woman in her early thirties, the only wrinkles on Bridget’s face were faint laugh lines around her mouth.

Siobhan was sure that Bridget was aging normally in her own time, growing a little older each day. But the mirror carried Bridget back from different parts of her life to this point in Siobhan’s. This point was an anchor, a moment of significance, that had affected the fate of Siobhan’s line. Siobhan took comfort in this—it was a sign that her marriage to Finn MacCotter would not be for nothing, despite her unsettling visions and his father’s frigid, suffocating house.

“Oh! Siobhan! Hi!” Bridget chirped. Her energy never changed—whether she was a girl or a woman or an old lady. She always spoke so fast, Siobhan could hardly understand her. “I’m glad to see you. I’ve got big news actually, something I think you’d really like to know.”

“Go on, my heart,” Siobhan said. Even though Bridget appeared older than her now, she was still overwhelmed by a warm rush of affection. There was a maternal fondness for Bridget that Siobhan could not shake, despite the years that separated them.

“I’m pregnant! You’re the first person other than my husband to know—weird, right?” Light radiated from Bridget’s dewy cheeks. “It’s going to be a girl—I just know it.”

Siobhan’s throat felt tight. Echoing through her head were her own screams of labor that she had scried in the MacCotters’ windows.

“Congratulations—that is…” Siobhan murmured. She recalled Gran’s story of her birth and her mother’s death—the two tangled up together. She clutched the ceramic basin, pressing it into her stomach as a wave of nausea passed over her. As much as Siobhan wanted a daughter, childbirth itself was a nightmare that had haunted her all her life. And to think that Bridget would soon go through it, wherever and whenever she was.

“Are you all right?” Bridget asked. Two deep worry lines creased her forehead.

Siobhan nodded. “My mother…” was all she could manage.

“Shit!” Bridget hissed. “I’m so sorry. Mom told me about your mother. Of course, you’re concerned. But I’ll be all right, I promise.”

Siobhan thought of her conversation with Bridget just this morning. Bridget would live to have crow’s feet around her eyes and sleek white hair.

“I know you will, my heart,” Siobhan said. Then she swallowed hard, trying to speak through the lump in her throat. “Bridget, do you know if our magic skipped over someone in our line. Did your mom’s grandma practice?”

Bridget began to laugh, but caught herself. Siobhan wondered how worry wrote itself on her face—did she have the same deep worry lines as her great-great-granddaughter? “She must have—I’ve heard stories from my grandma that she was a healer. Why do you ask?”

Siobhan clutched at her stomach. Bridget’s words didn’t seem to align with her visions at all. “What about when she was young? How did her gift grow?”

Bridget tilted her head. “Siobhan, you already know the answer. Our magic can only grow if we practice it.”

The wedding was set for August. Though the date was months away, there was already a flurry of preparation at the Mahoney house. Her sister-in-law and three of Mr. Mahoney’s sisters took it upon themselves to tailor Siobhan’s mother’s wedding dress for the occasion. She could never seem to breathe in her wedding dress, no matter how many times they let it out.

There were arguments over what they should serve at the Mahoney’s house following the ceremony, which readings would be best for the mass, whether foxglove or iris would look prettier in a bouquet. Siobhan was seldom asked for her opinion, so she chose not to offer it. Instead, she stood quietly on an overturned soap box, letting herself be pricked with pins, as her mind raced.

The problem had to be Finn. In every vision she’d have of her blonde daughter—Finn’s daughter—he stood between them. She had to convince him that their child needed to practice her craft, that this was Siobhan’s legacy. She could not let her daughter’s magic die.

Whenever one of the aunts held up a mirror for Siobhan to inspect their progress, Siobhan saw the image of her daughter with Finn, with terror in her blue eyes, pulling away from Siobhan.

She breathed deeply until her ribs strained against the seams, and she tugged at the lace against her sweaty neck. The aunts tutted and pinned some more, but Siobhan’s dry mouth couldn’t form the words to tell them that the problem wasn’t the dress—it was her future.

One day, a month into wedding preparations, when the aunts gossiped about a neighbor’s daughter leaving for America, Finn MacCotter knocked on the door. The Mahoney women fussed like hens as they barred Finn from entering until Siobhan changed out of her wedding gown.

“Sorry for the trouble,” Siobhan said when she finally let him in. She tried to smile at him, but felt more like a wolf bearing its fangs. Each time she saw him, she searched his eyes for the disgust she had seen in her visions. A steady fury, like waves beating against the coast, built up in her for all of the things he had yet to do.

“No trouble. But I have, eh, some news. Well, a request really.” Finn removed his cap, wringing it in his hands. “My Da, eh, took a turn. I know there’s so much to do, and, eh, I don’t want to burden your family. But, do you think we could move up the date?” Finn asked. “To next week?”

Siobhan’s stomach clenched so suddenly she thought she’d be sick on Finn’s shoes. She’d expected a couple more months to find a way to convince him that she—and their future daughter—needed to be able to practice their craft. But next week? She leaned against the door to steady herself. “I’m not sure. I—”

But then her sister-in-law and the aunts burst from the kitchen where they’d been eavesdropping. “Not a burden at all,” her sister-in-law said. “We can manage.”

At those words, the mounting fear turned to flame. It started behind Siobhan’s navel and spread outward until her fingertips burned. The air around her rippled with heat. She worried that the house would catch fire if she didn’t do something. Siobhan cast her gaze toward the harbor.

“Finn, come with me.” She grabbed him by the elbow, but Finn yelped in pain and leapt away. His shirt had been scorched.

Siobhan didn’t apologize or explain. Instead, she walked out into the bright May morning. His heavy footsteps followed. Only when they were halfway to the harbor, far from her sister-in-law’s uncanny hearing, did Siobhan dare to speak.

“Finn, you know what I am, don’t you?”

“What do you—” he began.

“Please,” she interrupted. “It’s a small town. You know the rumors. You know my gran was a wise-woman. You know that I—well—I see things.” The fire of her magic grew hotter in the pit of her stomach, as though by speaking it she had fed the flames. She felt her power rippling off her skin. Down the road, the harbor waters grew mirror-still.

Finn tugged at his shirt collar. His neck and cheeks turned splotchy red. “I’ve heard. But, eh, I’m willing to look past it. We’ll have an ordinary life.”

“Ordinary?” Siobhan felt the air rush from her lungs.

“Ordinary. We’ll run a good house, and raise good children, and no one will say that you’re odd.”

“What about our daughter? If she sees things too?” Rage and fear were a potent combination for women with her gift. It was like adding whiskey to a flame. Her power flared up, casting a glassy frost across all of the neighbors’ windows.

“There’s no need to encourage her—abilities. She’ll be ordinary, like any other child. What more could she want?” He reached out to hold her hand, but pulled back. “What more could you want?”

“I want her to inherit what is hers.” She held Finn’s gaze. Long silence hung between them, interrupted only by the sound of groaning ice.

“MacCotter Farm will be her inheritance, if we have no sons.” His voice sounded hollow, like the vast rooms of his father’s house. “And we are done with this discussion.”

He turned away from her, but, just before he did, she saw in his eyes what she had been searching for, for weeks. Disgust. Anger. A shadow of fear.

This was the Finn MacCotter of her visions, the one who shielded her own daughter from her, who banished magic from their home, who cast Siobhan into loneliness. This was not the life she had chosen when she accepted his proposal.

The fire of her magic roared inside her. All of the power that she’d stoked released in a rush. A sudden frost descended on the streets of Schull Harbor, the town encased in a mirrored sheen of ice. And in it, Siobhan finally understood her visions.

On the icy road ahead of her, heading back toward her father’s house, she saw the blonde daughter and her fearful eyes. On the road leading down to the harbor, she saw a copper-haired girl, reading in Siobhan’s lap.

Siobhan laughed aloud and, with it, icicles crashed to the ground.

How had she forgotten? In her panic at her line dying, she had forgotten the simple truth. The future was not fixed. That blonde-haired daughter she had seen was only one possible child that would come to be—Finn’s child. But she remembered the line of copper-haired girls she had first scried in the puddle at the cemetery—those were the daughters of a life and a love yet unknown to her.

Siobhan raced back to her father’s house, ignoring the frantic questioning of her aunts and sister-in-law. In her room, she dragged her wardrobe in front of her door, straining and sweating under the effort. She didn’t know how long she’d have until her father found out about her fight with Finn. And she needed time to think.

She filled her wash basin, splashing half of the pitcher on the floor with her shaking hands. “What should I do?” she begged of the water.

The water rippled and bubbled, showing her glimpses of every possible future. She could marry Finn MacCotter and have their miserable, magicless daughter. She could stay in Schull Harbor, unmarried, tending the graves of Ma and Gran. She could take the path that traveled past the curve in the coastline that had marked the edge of Siobhan’s whole world. Limitless possibilities danced across the water’s surface until Siobhan grew dizzy.

She gripped the ceramic basin to steady herself. “Stop,” she hissed. The water stilled. She should have known better than to ask the water such an open-ended the question. It could only show her the paths—it could not tell her what to do.

Downstairs, the door slammed. The whole house seemed to rock as her father stormed in.

“Show me Bridget,” she demanded. Her voice was tight in her throat. She didn’t have much time.

The water rippled, and then Bridget was looking up at her. She was a young woman, nearly Siobhan’s age. Her sea blue eyes were watery and red-rimmed, and her coppery hair was disheveled. A few hair pins still clung to her curls. At the edge of the basin, Siobhan glimpsed the neckline of a black dress.

Siobhan’s fevered thoughts stilled. Her chest ached as she studied her great-great-granddaughter’s quivering chin.

“Oh, my heart, what happened? What’s wrong?” Siobhan murmured.

“My grandma—she—” Bridget wiped her eyes. “Could you—could you tell me about yours?” she asked.

But then there was a pounding at the door.

“Siobhan—Siobhan, open this door this instant,” her father roared.

“Siobhan, is everything all right?” Bridget asked, drying her eyes.

“Everything is fine, my heart. Don’t worry about a thing,” Siobhan murmured.

“Finn MacCotter is down at the harbor calling you a—he was calling you a…” Even after all these years, her father still couldn’t bring himself to say it.

Siobhan whispered the Old Irish word for ‘quiet’. The room stopped rattling, her father stopped thundering. A thick blanket of silence had fallen over everything except Siobhan and her wash basin. Bridget needed her, and Siobhan would let nothing interrupt them.

Siobhan sighed, returning her attention to Bridget. “You wanted to hear about Gran O’Keefe, yes?”

Bridget nodded, her red-rimmed eyes wide with surprise.

Gran O’Keeffe had been Siobhan’s whole heritage—serving as both grandmother and mother. The air around Siobhan crackled with Gran O’Keeffe’s memory. Since Gran’s death, there was a word Siobhan hadn’t spoken. But Bridget deserved to hear it.

“My Gran O’Keeffe was a witch, like us.”

Gran O’Keeffe was the one who named Siobhan’s ability. Scrying: that was the word for seeing the future in the mirror, in water, in ice. Any witch worth her salt could learn to scry, but only once in several generations was a witch born a natural scryer. Gran O’Keeffe’s own mother had been one. It had been enough, to see the look of pride on Gran O’Keeffe’s face, rather than ever seeing her own.

In this very house, Siobhan had learned the healing arts at Gran’s elbow—borage seed oil for aching bones, honeyed marshmallow root for cough, yarrow tea for fevers. Though the plants would not speak to Siobhan as they had to Gran O’Keefe, it had been enough to feel the heat of their shared magic ripple through the small kitchen as old and young woman worked side by side.

In this very room, Gran O’Keefe had brushed and braided Siobhan’s copper hair, describing the face that had eluded Siobhan all her life. “You look just like your ma did at this age,” Gran O’Keefe would whisper as she worked her knobby fingers through Siobhan’s hair. “Big eyes as blue as the sky.”

Schull Harbor was her home, where memories of Gran O’Keefe were embedded into the grains of the wooden house and the cracks of the cobblestone streets. Schull Harbor was all she had known, and she loved it—despite its smallness that only got smaller—because it was here that she had learned her craft. This town was all she was. Could she really leave it all behind? Leave Ma and Gran O’Keefe’s bones, their memories?

Siobhan watched the lines of grief ease on Bridget’s face as she spoke. Siobhan didn’t care how many generations stood between her and her daughter’s, daughter’s, daughter’s daughter. Bridget was flesh of her flesh and blood of her blood. She loved her as though she had carried her herself—as Gran O’Keefe had loved Siobhan.

Gran O’Keefe would understand.

Siobhan realized then that she did not need the water to tell her what to do. There were hundreds of paths that could lead to copper-haired daughters learning their craft. But she wanted just one path—she wanted the future that led to Bridget.

Her magic smoldered in her stomach. That tugging, fiery sensation behind her navel burned brighter than it had in years. Siobhan had always thought that her power came from this land, from the buried bones of her foremothers. But as she watched her great-great-granddaughter’s face—the one she has seen age in the rippling waters of her wash basin—she understood the truth. Their magic was not tied to the land. Their magic was tied to each other.

These abilities were her inheritance and her legacy—hers to remember and hers to leave behind. This young woman who scried the past while Siobhan scried the future was proof of that legacy.

“You come from a long line of extraordinary women.” Siobhan’s voice crackled with power.

With those words, the wash basin in her hands turned to crystal. The surface of the water stilled into silver glass. The future itself turned solid and clear.

“Bridget,” she asked her great-great-granddaughter, “where are you?”

Bridget grinned, because she had known this future all along. “Brooklyn.”

“Brooklyn.” The word fell from Siobhan’s lips like an irreversible spell. It was a place that sounded too big for her wash basin, so Siobhan threw open the window. “Show me,” she demanded of the harbor. The blistering heat under her skin seeped out of her, until the air around her hummed. The harbor turned to solid ice—boats were trapped, fisherman’s frozen nets were too heavy to pull, children splashing in the shallows skated along a sheen of glass.

Siobhan feared the ice would show her the future of Schull Harbor with wild grass growing over her foremothers’ graves. But it didn’t. Instead, she witnessed her own line stretch for generations beyond the harbor and across the Atlantic. Tears streamed down Siobhan’s cheeks. In those faces, she saw Ma’s blue eyes and Gran’s knowing smile repeated and changed like an old incantation.

Siobhan tore away from the window to peer back into the crystal basin. Bridget raised her eyebrows, as though to ask Siobhan what she had seen, even though she already knew. How Siobhan loved her, this girl of her line.

“My heart,” Siobhan breathed. “I’m on my way.”

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