Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Susan Cooper. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This is a companion story and prequel to "And Both Shall Row," explaining how Cally and West made lives for themselves after returning from Taranis's country. As before, I am assuming that Cally is from England, Westerly is from Pakistan, and Seaward is set somewhere between 1978 and 1982, in the years following General Zia ul-Haq's coup.
Summary: Cally had the sea; West had a fight. When they returned from their journey, they switched.
Wings to Fly
Calliope had thought, as she stepped through the doorway out of Taranis's and Lugan's country, that when she and West met again it would be for a dramatic reason. Perhaps she would visit his country in an attempt to outrun her grief and he would rescue her from being kidnapped or arrested in her ignorance of the dangers he lived with every day. Perhaps he would seek asylum in England and she would be the one who read his petition, gave him shelter, and taught him to navigate British culture. Perhaps he would become a soldier or a statesman, and she would see him interviewed on the evening news. Perhaps she would find a cure for an impossible disease, and he would see her name and photograph in a newspaper.
But life, as Lugan might have told her, was rarely about grand gestures and events. Life was about living, about moving with each moment as openly and completely as she could.
Cally grieved long and hard when her aunt told her, solemnly, that her parents were dead, and Cally would have to live with her cousins now. But she returned to school, she renewed ties with her friends, and she learned, slowly, to take a new and deeper interest in the world around her. She began to watch the way sunlight shone through the slow, spindrift fall of dust. She studied the positioning of stones and sticks and bones by the sides of roads and walks. She walked up each hill with an eager stride, as if a new world lay ahead for her joy, or danger snapped at her heels to her sorrow.
She stopped dreaming of the sea.
She went to university, moved to London, and got a job with a newspaper as a staff photographer. First they had her snapping photos of council meetings and school sporting events. Then she moved up to front page news. Finally her boss called her in to his office and asked if she wanted to go abroad as a foreign correspondent.
Cally said yes. The world was so beautiful despite its cruelty and pain, and she wanted to share that beauty with as many people as possible. She wanted to bring both splendor and suffering into the light so people would recognize both the heights and depths of humanity and shake off the complacency of their everyday routines.
Cally wanted to fight.
Westerly had not thought about how he and Cally would meet again. He thought about how to survive long enough that they could meet at all. His mind was full of guns and magic.
In the end, he needed none of it. The little door in the wall his mother pushed him through led to a balcony in such disrepair that every one of his steps nearly plunged him through rotting wood and rusting metal to the street below. But he took the pack his mother had left him, hurried to the far end of the building, and climbed down a decorative waterspout. Then he lost himself in the streets, another hungry, homeless, nameless boy among hundreds just like him, tossed like driftwood on the restless tides of the city.
Karachi had a harbor. He found a captain willing to look the other way about his age and lack of papers, at least until the next port. Westerly thought that if he could get out of Pakistan, he could claim asylum somewhere that hadn't descended into coups and civil war. He could explain what had happened to his father and mother, and ask for help. There were organizations that took up the cause of political prisoners and refugees - if he could find one, if they would listen.
But he could not hold on to his anger and grief forever. Nobody was chasing him; he knew that with a strange certainty. And while his country was anything but free under General Zia's rule, the news he heard over the radio when the ship was close to shore suggested that the fighting had calmed. Maybe his father would still have gone back and spoken truth to power, but Westerly was tired. He could take up his father's cause some other day. For now, he wanted nothing more than to breathe the sea air, watch the ocean in all its changing moods, and live.
At first he moved from ship to ship, traveling west as his name instructed. Then he just traveled. He built a reputation as a strong, reliable sailor and dockworker, though somewhat taciturn and prone to staring at the passing waves as if mermaids or sea-serpents might dance in an iron ship's wake. He didn't know what he expected to find, and he never saw anything, but he never stopped looking.
Westerly loved the sea.
AN: Thanks for reading, and please review! I appreciate all comments, but I'm particularly interested in knowing what parts of the story worked for you, what parts didn't, and why.