In the Cornish fishing village of Newquay lived a young fisherman called John Teagel.
For any boy born into this sort of community; fishing was in the blood and bone and John loved the life dearly.
The only things he lacked were a wife and children.
He'd always been confused and bemused by the mystery of girls; and his painful shyness meant that approaching them was just too much of a challenge.
It wasn't that he was short of admirers. He was tall, dark haired and handsome ; with deep warm eyes of a luminous blue/grey, he was gentle, hard working and almost too warm hearted for his own good.
Any girl in the village would have married him like a shot, if he could up the courage to court and win her.
So here he was into his thirties ; as unmarried and innocent as a school boy.
The seals had been spotted in the harbour again. John loved to see them ; watching the boats coming in from their nights work with benign interest in their huge tender eyes.
Rumour was that these were not ordinary seals but selkies; those strange faerie creatures that were seals but could become human at will.
“ That's what you want John lad, “ the older men teased him. “ Them selkie women are said to be great beauties; and not backwards when it comes to getting a man .”
He saw them wink lasciviously as they dug elbows into his ribs.
It was a tempting thought. He had friends aplenty in the village; but in the day when he slept alone ; and each night with no one to wave him off at the door; he knew how lonely he was.
One sleepless Saturday night around midnight he decided to go and have a stroll by the harbour to clear his head.
A full moon shone out from a clear sky and he smiled up at her like an old friend.
When he reached the harbour he was amazed to see a woman sitting on the harbour wall wrapped in a black cloak.
As he got closer he noticed that she was exceptionally beautiful; and to his discomfort realised that the ' cloak' was in fact her own very long hair; beneath which she was entirely naked.
“ Waiting for someone Lass ? “ He asked her; there would be no fishing boats out again now until the Sabbath was over of course; but men still travelled.
“ No, “ she answered in a soft , wistful , musical voice; “ I'm just sitting here dreaming.
I might ask the same of you .”
“ I couldn't sleep. “ John answered her. He began to wring his hands with nerves as he approached a delicate subject. “ Forgive me for noticing, but well, you might catch your death sitting there with naught but your hair to cover you. I can offer you a bed for the night if you've no where to go ? “
The woman stood up, she was slender and tall, her head just reaching John's hawk like nose.
“ That's a good strong nose you have there my fine handsome lad, “ she whispered tenderly placing a single sweet kiss on it's tip. “ suits you very well. Now are you going to tell me your name ? It's not my habit to accept hospitality from a stranger.
“ John,” he muttered, mesmerised by her; “ John Teagel, “
“ Good Cornish name Teagel,” she answered. It means [i] 'beautiful '[/i] did you know that ? '
John shook his bowed head and blushed yet more as she went on; “ got it right with you didn't they just ? but so bashful too, “
She was teasing him but oh so gently. “ My name's Menna by the way, “ she added ; “ now thank you I'll accept your kind offer of a bed. “
John put his coat around her shoulders and took her to his cottage. He gave her an old shirt to wear and fetched bedding from a cupboard.
“ You have the bed. I'll be fine here,” his breath caught in his throat as a long chill hand touched his cheek. “ What a sweet man you are. Sleep well John . “
In the morning she was gone and John might have thought it a dream; but for his folded shirt and a note.
[i]Dear John. Thank you. I will come back. Love Menna xxxxxxxx[/i]
Good as her word she was back that evening with a lobster to cook for supper. She saw him off to his boat; promising to return yet again before vanishing.
For the next month this is how things went. John and Menna spent the late afternoon and evening together and then parted at the harbour as John went to his work.
At the next full moon Menna seemed itching to tell John something. “ What worries you lass ? “ He asked. “ Don't be afraid to tell me, “
“ I'm a selkie John,” there it was out. “ I never expected to fall in love with a man ; but I have and now I'm torn between land and sea. Will you let me have another moon cycle back with my people to decide where I belong ? “
John knew his heart would break if she chose the sea; but he would not trap her and so kissed her with aching tenderness; and for the first time saw her don her seal skin before she slid into the water.
Never had a month passed so slowly for John. His heart and body ached for his lovely Menna as it never had before.
His only relief was an adorable female seal who appeared to follow his boat and watch over it.
Something in her huge grey eyes made him think of his beloved selkie maiden.
At last the next full moon appeared in the sky as he prepared for work. Heart thudding with fear and hope he headed for the harbour.
There she was......even lovelier than he remembered her and this time dressed like a fisherman's wife with her wild hair tamed into a plait.
“ I love my people John,” she whispered; “ but I love you more. I couldn't bear to live apart from you any longer. “
She gave a soft moan as his arms and lips found her again; drawing her close; never more wanting to let go .
“ It was you following my boat wasn't it ? “ he asked; tears of joy wetting both their faces
“ Yes ,” Menna smiled; I had to see you safe;
and tonight I have given my seal skin back to the sea asking her to send you back safely to me in return. “