The sea, the sea, the sea. It rolled and rolled and called to me. Come in, it said, come in.
And in I went, floating, rolling, splashing, swimming, and the sea called, Come out, come out, and further I went but always it swept me back to shore.
And still the sea called, Come out, come out, and in boats I went'in rowboats and dinghies and motorboats, and after I learned to sail, I flew over the water, with only the sounds of the wind and the water and the birds, all of them calling, Sail on, sail on.
And what I wanted to do was go on and on, across the sea, alone with the water and the wind and the birds, but some said I was too young and the sea was a dangerous temptress, and at night I dreamed a terrible dream. A wall of water, towering, black, crept up behind me and hovered over me and then down, down it came, but always I awoke before the water covered me, and always I felt as if I were floating when I woke up.
I am not always such a dreamy girl, listening to the sea calling me. My father calls me Three-sided Sophie: one side is dreamy and romantic; one is logical and down-to-earth; and the third side is hardheaded and impulsive. He says I am either in dreamland or earthland or mule-land, and if I ever get the three together, I'll be all set, though I wonder where I will be then. If I'm not in dreamland or earthland or mule-land, where will I be?
My father says my logical side is most like him, and the dreamy side most like my mother, which isn't entirely fair, I don't think. My father likes to think of himself as a logical man, but he is the one who pores over pictures of exotic lands and says things like "We should go on a safari!" and "We should zip through the air in a hot-air balloon!"
And although my mother is a weaver and spins silky cloths and wears flowing dresses, she is the one who gives me sailing textbooks and makes me study water safety and weather prediction and says things like "Yes, Sophie, I taught you to sail, but that doesn't mean I like the idea of you being out there alone on the water. I want you to stay home. Here. With me. Safe."
My father says he doesn't know who my hardheaded mule side resembles. He says mules don't run in the family.
I am thirteen, and I am going to sail across the ocean. Although I would like to go alone -- alone! alone! flying over the water! -- I'm not. My mule-self begged a place aboard a forty-five-foot sailboat with a motley crew: three uncles and two cousins. The uncles -- Stew, Mo, and Dock -- are my mother's brothers, and she told them, "If the slightest harm comes to my Sophie, I'll string you all up by your toes."
She isn't worried (although maybe she should be) about the influence of my cousin Brian -- quiet, studious, serious Brian -- but she frets over the bad habits I might learn from my other cousin, Cody. Cody is loud, impulsive, and charming in a way my mother does not trust. "He's too charming," she says, "in a dangerous sort of way."
My mother isn't the only person who is not thrilled for me to take this trip. My uncles Stew and Mo tried their best to talk me out of it. "It's going to be a bunch of us guys, doing guy things, and it wouldn't be a very pleasant place for a girl," and "Wouldn't you rather stay home, Sophie, where you could have a shower every day?" and "It's a lot of hard work," and yakkety-yak they went. But I was determined to go, and my mule-self kicked in, spouting a slew of sailing and weather terms, battering them over the head with all the things I'd learned in my sailing books, and with some things I'd made up, for good measure.
Uncle Dock -- the good uncle, I call him, because he's the one who doesn't see any harm in my coming -- said, "Heck, she knows more about boats than Brian and Cody put together," and so they caved in.
The Wanderer by Sharon Creech. Copyright (c) 2000 by Sharon Creech. Reprinted with permission from HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.
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From NYT bestselling author Ann Leary
The captivating story of an unconventional New England family.
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