Read an Excerpt
The Sea King's Daughter
By Barbara Michaels
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Barbara Michaels
All right reserved.
Don't call me ariadne. That's not my name anymore.
I changed it legally a few years ago. Not that anyone had ever used it, even Mother. She called me Sandy, like everyone else, even when she was mad at me.
I must have been about ten years old before it really hit me that Sandy wasn't my real name. That was the day the package arrived -- a fascinating package, big and battered and plastered all over with bright foreign stamps. The package itself looked foreign, with its thin shiny paper and unusual string. It was addressed to Miss Ariadne Frederick.
I was disappointed. I had hoped it was for me. I didn't know any Ariadne Frederick. My last name was Bishop.
I knew it wasn't really -- at least I knew Jim Bishop was my stepfather. Mother had left my other father when I was a baby, not because he didn't love us, but because he loved something else more. I couldn't get it into my juvenile brain precisely what it was he loved -- some strange, hard-to-pronounce word that was my father's job. That was incomprehensible to me. How could a person love his work more than he loved a person? Mother tried to explain; I remember her soft, anxious voice going on and on, while I fidgeted, picking at the scab on my knee and wishing she would stop talking so I could go back to the baseball game down the street.
It may seem strange that I had forgotten myown name. A psychiatrist wouldn't find it strange; he would say I wanted to forget it. Maybe so. But I think the explanation is simpler. Children have a culture of their own; they are no more interested in adult values than an Australian aborigine is interested in the rules of Emily Post. I wasn't interested in the name, or in the forgotten father who had given it to me.
I remember thinking it was a weird name, not one I'd have wanted to claim. People didn't have names like that, except in the boring stories we had to read for English. My friends had sensible names, like Debby and Jan and Penny.
Mother arrived while I was inspecting the package. She always tried to be there when I got home from school, but the lines at the grocery store had been longer than usual that day. I went to help her carry in the bags, and then I saw that she was standing quite still, staring down at the big battered parcel. She had the most peculiar look on her face. I know now that what I saw was a struggle, internal but intense, and when I said casually, "Hey, I guess the mailman made a mistake," the struggle showed in a facial contortion so extreme that I mistook it for physical pain. I asked her what was the matter.
It was several seconds before she answered.
"He didn't make a mistake. It's for you. Have you forgotten?"
If I felt chagrin at being reminded that the weird name was my own, it was quickly forgotten in delight. The package was for me, that was the important thing.
I dismembered it there in the garage, too excited to notice Mother's silence. She stood watching while I tore the wrappings off and removed the lid. The interior of the box was filled with scraps of newspaper. Even in my anxiety to reach the object buried within, I realized that the paper was unusual. The language wasn't English. Even the writing was funny, not like English print.
My groping hands found a hard surface among the shreds of paper. I pulled out the object and held it up. My first thought was that someone had played a mean trick on me. This wasn't a present. It was a joke, a piece of junk.
The object was a statue, about a foot high, made of white stone. The arms were missing and so was the nose. The stone was stained and chipped and worn. At first I couldn't even decide whether it was supposed to be a man or a woman. It wore a long robe, carved in stiff pleats; but I knew that men used to wear long robes, and this object had an air of extreme age. Yet as I continued to stare, disgusted and disappointed, some quality of the small, marred face got through to me, and I felt sure that the subject was female.
Not that I cared. I was about to set the thing down, with a decided thump, when Mother's hand caught mine.
"Be careful. It is probably valuable."
"Valuable! This dirty, beat-up, old -- "
"Very old. Over two thousand years old."
I sat back on my heels and looked at the statue again. I felt more respect for it; the difference between ten and two thousand has to command a certain awe. The more I looked, the more the thing got to me. Even the disfigurement of the nose could not destroy the haunting quality of the face. The mouth was curved in an odd, disquieting little smile, and the sunken eye sockets seemed to stare directly into my eyes.
Mother was on her knees, digging with both hands among the crumpled papers. She leaned back with a short, high-pitched laugh.
"Not even a note," she said, as if to herself. "How typical."
I paid no attention to the comment, which was obviously not addressed to me. I couldn't rid myself of the notion that this was some kind of practical joke. I turned the statue upside down, thinking there might be a note, or a rude remark, on the base. Sure enough, something was written there in black ink. It wasn't a word; the shapes looked more like code than letters of the alphabet.
I showed it to Mother. She gave another of those funny little laughs ...
Excerpted from The Sea King's Daughter by Barbara Michaels Copyright © 2006 by Barbara Michaels. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.