• Vol. 09
  • Chapter 03
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The Selkie Ghosts

The first selkie ghost appears the day after Isabelle’s first birthday. I’m taking an hour for myself in the tub, while Will’s family take Issy on a nature walk. They want to put her down in the bluebells and take a picture of her looking angelic in her new pink dungarees, which she’ll have grown out of in a month.

I bet she’s screaming.

The selkie ghost slides from the overflow, plopping into the water by my feet. I scramble to sit up, sending a tidal wave of water across the bathroom floor. The ghost tuts, familiarly.


My grandmother’s ghost climbs onto the soap dish. She peels off her pelt and hangs it over the edge to dry. I slide back down, trying to hide my body under the bubbles.

“Why are you so small?”

“I could ask you the same question.” She leans back against the bar of soap.

She explains that she watches over me, as well as over my sisters who never gave away their skins.

“You don’t have to,” I say. “I’m getting along fine.”

She gives a “Hah!” and flops into the water, where she swims seal-formed around my ankles until I pull the plug and whirlpool her away.



The Selkie Ghosts

The second selkie ghost is my mother, which is a shock, because I thought she was still alive. She appears in the toilet as I’m cleaning it, which is my version of me-time now Isabelle has started nursery. I pick up my mother with a rubber-gloved hand and rinse her off in the sink.

“What happened?” I ask. “I’m sorry we haven’t visited. Isabelle hates the sand.”

“Where’s her skin?” Mother asks.

“Issy? She doesn’t have one.”

Mother shakes her head. “Put me back in the toilet. You’ve forgotten your roots.”


Isabelle finds the third selkie ghost while we’re feeding the ducks. Or rather, I’m feeding the ducks and she’s cramming stale bread into her mouth. Are all human children greedy, or only mine?

“Mum!” she yells. “This seal’s my great-auntie and I need to go with her!”

Great Aunt Mabel sits translucently on the concrete side of the pond, holding a pelt.

“That’s mine!” I say, shocked to see the skin I thought I’d given up forever.

“Not any more.” Mabel offers the skin to Isabelle, who takes it and slips into it with a dexterity I would never have guessed she had, having wrestled her into her coat every morning since she started school.

“You can’t go with her,” I tell Isabelle. “You know nothing about being a seal. Anyway, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Why do you think I left?”

The two seals slide into the water, leaving me alone with the ducks.


The Selkie Ghosts


Will nods gravely when I tell him about Isabelle.

“I believe you,” he says.

“Should we try to get her back?”

“Do you want to?”

I think back to how happy we were, before she came along, and shake my head.