Gavin entered the spacious living room of the Dolphin Institute and stopped abruptly. The Seer, Linnaeus, stood in the foyer staring up at a painting of Gavin’s mother, Madeleine R. Foster, the Dolphin Institute’s namesake. Linnaeus’s magic swirled around her in soft spirals, plainly evident due to the Sight he’d retained after being healed on Tauri-Psyne.
Her demeanor was serious which gave Gavin pause.
“How long have you been here?” he asked, surprised.
“Your mother was very beautiful,” Linnaeus said, not taking her eyes from the portrait above her. “She always had the best laugh. Somehow, it never failed to sound like sunlight and rain drops all rolled into one.”
“You knew my mother?” Gavin asked perplexed, coming to stand beside Linnaeus. “But you said you’ve only recently been coming to Earth to acclimate new Aquarians.”
Linnaeus turned to look at him and gave him a smile which held the edge of a secret. “I didn’t know her when she was human. I knew her long before that.”
All thoughts flew from Gavin’s mind as the phrase, ‘when she was human’, set his curiosity aflame. “Long before…?”
“Madeleine was a defector, one of the few who managed to escape the Bahree and build a real human life for herself, complete with a family to love.”
Gavin felt as if all of the oxygen had been sucked out of the room. “How can that be?”
Everything he knew about defectors flashed through his mind as he applied it to all the memories he had of his mother.
“But she loved the water,” Gavin said, shaking his head. “She taught me how to swim…”
“In chlorinated swimming pools,” Linnaeus prompted. “Not in the ocean.”
Gavin frowned. “No, there were times when she’d go swimming in the ocean. The natural pools near the coast in New Guinea.” The waves crashing onto the rocks sounded in his mind as the memory surfaced.
“Natural fresh water springs which emptied into the ocean,” Linnaeus explained. “She would’ve never immersed herself in saltwater.”
Gavin exhaled slowly. “The pain would’ve been too much.”
“As a defector, saltwater would’ve felt like acid to her,” Linnaeus said.
A memory rose sharply of when he’d been six years old playing on the private beach his father’s family owned in the South Pacific. He’d found an unusual piece of seaweed in the waves and he’d ran over to show his mother. She’d been sitting on a lounge chair under an umbrella reading a book and when he began telling her about his newest discovery, saltwater from his wet hair had dripped onto her legs. She’d shoved him away with a sharp gasp before running inside the beach house. He’d thought she’d been upset because he’d gotten her wet but could her reaction have been that of a defector instead?
The innocent droplets of saltwater would’ve caused her unimaginable pain.
Gavin shook his head. “How do you explain her yacht? She insisted we spend every summer on it. We were in the open ocean for weeks at a time, surrounded by nothing but saltwater. Does that sound like something a defector would do?”
Linnaeus smiled. “Your mother was the strongest Psyne I’d ever met. She was fearless and she would’ve never let anything come between her and something she loved if she had a say in the matter.”
Gavin looked up at the painting of his mother and grew sad. She’d always possessed a quiet strength about her, yet she hadn’t been able to stop death from coming between her and her family. He lowered his eyes and turned away from her picture.
Suddenly, he thought of his father and he tried to see him as his mother had: a man she’d loved so much she’d forsaken her Psyne magic and her immortality to become human for him. For a moment, Gavin felt anger welling up inside him, the kind readily on reserve for his father.
The man had never been worthy of his mother. He didn’t know the first thing about love, let alone sacrifice, and his mother had sacrificed so much to be with him.
She’d ultimately paid with her life.
But Gavin still couldn’t reconcile his mother as a former Psyne. “It doesn’t make sense. She came from a wealthy family. I used her family’s inheritance she’d left to me in order to build the Institute.”
“All fabricated,” Linnaeus said. “She has no living relatives. Your computers make it exceedingly easy to create records of fictitious lives, especially for a Psyne of her intellect. Your father is very wealthy and had numerous connections to help conceal her from the Bahree.”
A steely coldness settled into Gavin’s stomach as he thought of the Bahree hunting for his mother and he clenched his fists protectively. His mind spun with the ramifications of what Linnaeus had laid out before him but it was only the beginning.
Linnaeus continued. “When your mother produced her auxalis, it was taken away to the hatchery as all Psyne auxali are, and she was never the same after that. Being unable to know her offspring or to cultivate a relationship with her was particularly hard. Not long after, she confided in me that she’d fallen in love with your father and was leaving forever to be with him.”
When I expressed concern about the Bahree, she’d never looked more certain of herself when she told me, ‘They will never find me, try as they might.’ I wanted to make her stay but I cared about her too much to see her live the way she’d been, so unhappy and frustrated.”
“You were her best friend,” Gavin said thoughtfully.
Linnaeus nodded. “For years I never knew what had happened to her but I always imagined her growing old with the love of her life surrounded by many children.” She paused. “Having you gave Rhiautumn the chance to have the relationship she was never able to have with the Psyne who came from her auxalis.”
“Was that her Psyne name?” Gavin asked.
Linnaeus smiled. “Yes.”
“Rhiautumn,” Gavin said again, the soft sounds of the letters like a whisper on his tongue. “It’s beautiful.”
Gavin looked up at the painting again and saw the woman in it in a new light. Madeleine had been his mother for ten short years, but long before that, she’d been Rhiautumn, a member of the Psyne who’d wielded untold magic. This new history made the mystique surrounding her in his memories even more pronounced.
He turned to Linnaeus. “But why are you telling me this now?”
The turquoise color of her eyes brightened. “Now that the Council has been fractured and the Aureate which was responsible for altering our people’s memory has been destroyed, the Seers are able to see the family lines of all Psyne. They are compiling the lineages at this very moment and will soon make the information public knowledge.”
Gavin stared at her speechless.
“You will now be able to meet the Psyne who came from Rhiautumn’s auxalis,” Linnaeus said with a smile. “Your mother would’ve loved nothing more than to see her children together at last.”
A sense of shock settled over Gavin. “You mean I’ll actually be able to meet the Psyne who is my brother or sister?”
“Yes, as well as meet your Psyne grandmother,” Linnaeus said, beaming.
Gavin had been alone for so long.
After his mother’s death, his father had closed himself off to him. With no other siblings, it’d been easy to feel isolated. He counted his cousin, Sabrina, as one of his closest friends but the idea of having family members within the Psyne was more than he could’ve ever hoped for.
Despite his desire to learn more about the Psyne part of his family tree, there was one task he had to complete before he could pursue it.
“I need to speak with my father,” Gavin said, as the secret his father had kept from him his entire life began to fully sink in. “We have a great deal to talk about.”