FOUND IT. Now I just need to fix it to be a bit more collegiate...
There's a diverse set of legends wherein an older married couple who cannot have children adopt a foundling, who later turns out to be either a prince or a monster. Then there are the many mermaid and selkie stories that involve a fisherman catching a woman in his nets and marrying her, and her later proving to be a mermaid or a selkie...And the biggest selkie story of them all (the Great Selkie of Sul Skerry) is about a mother who has a child and doesn't know who the father is until he comes to claim the child, and the father and the child both turn out to be selkies.
So...Throwing all of that into the blender and adding a bit of spice,
Her 'uncle' is a very old fisherman, retired now. He and his wife never had children. He found the girl huddling asleep in soaking-wet rags beneath the dock the day after his very last voyage was cut short by a tremendous storm. That was three years ago. She spoke almost no english. As best can be guessed, she was swept off the deck of some vessel in the storm...but she didn't match any missing persons bulletins. The state tried to put her in a foster home but she was so visibly terrified of being separated from the fisherman that the social workers themselves advocated that the old couple try to raise her. Paperwork was filled out. Identity was created. She is officially adopted. She has been home-schooled for the past two years, as best her adopted parents could, but they're old, indulgent, and physically incapable of keeping her from going out, so better that she has some experience in school with other children.
And here we are.
Her english is...okay. Not wonderful. As best she can explain, her first memories are of the sea and the storm (not true, but she knows better than to say otherwise). Her understanding of human society is a mixture of 'If a martian watched from the shore' with a strange muddling of awareness of human interventions around the ocean...And the peculiarly distorted views her adoptive parents have given her to expect of school, remembering that they attended high school probably six decades ago. She's clever...Her math scores are fantastic barring deliberately confusing word problems...she just has no social context for a lot of things, and more importantly no experience interacting with people her own age.
Oh, she has undoubtedly picked up some ideas from books, from movies, and from television...But how much bearing on reality do those have?
Short and lithe, but most people would assume short and dumpy because even the least fashionable person can tell she has no idea how to dress well...So she resorts to 'comfortable' clothing which does nothing at all for her...And then there's the sleekly muscular young woman who just joined the swim team and shares her name, who moves like an otter once she's in the water. Standing ready to dive? Nothing to see here. Barely in
balance. Awkward. And then a moment after the splash she's furrowing the water a full body length beyond anyone else and any onlooker can see that the gap between her and the other swimmers is only going to increase. Her dark hair hints at curl just below her waist, and lacks any styling or even the gloss of proper maintenance. As for her eyes, it isn't that they seem too large for her face, it's that there's a distance in them; they are far away, somehow, even when she's looking right at you. Drowning pools that take the color out of their surroundings: murky, dark sea-grey-green or green-black with the occasional angry flicker of deep blue jade. Hard to say where she's from, exactly. Her name taken together with her pale skin, dark hair and eyes suggests what used to be called black Irish...But the fullness of her lips and something about her nose echo Polynesia.
Curious, and curiously lacking in social skills. She'll chew her lip in hesitation until the strain of waiting or wanting overcomes whatever fear or uncertainty was holding her back...And then explode into talk or action, either clumsy-sullen or flailing-passionately. Can't talk without moving her hands. Asks stupid questions. Accent from where-is-that? No, I know a guy from Russia and he sounds nothing like that. Lost her memory, if you believe that. Speaks as clumsily as she moves, has trouble finding the right word about everyday things, waves her hands and points and gets frustrated. Good math grades, though.
Michael MacLear was a fisherman...From a long line of fishermen. He spent most of his life fishing well off the Pacific coast, working his way on far-ranging tuna trawlers. His wife Tracy was a good, stubborn woman who adapted well to the life of onshore waiting which has plagued sailor's wives since time immemorial. By the time Michael took on his last five-year gig, captaining a tuna trawler out of Ensenada, the couple had been long-resigned to their inability to have children. They were good, Christian folk, and while advancing medicine and the bureaucracy of adoption might be options for some, they felt unaccountably wrong to the MacLears.
"And then," as Michael would later tell his drinking buddies, "...the miracle happened."
It was meant to be his last trip out. He'd filed his resignation beforehand. That threw some official scrutiny on what happened, but it was officially decided that Hurricane Rick had skewed around far too sharply for anyone to predict, and the rogue waves which forced him to turn the Rosa Maria towards land so as to take shelter near Bahía Tortugas were perfectly capable of swamping the old CMT fishing boat...Other, similar vessels were lost.
The fact that the boat was silted in...unable to leave the bahia until after the storm's wrack had been dredged from the bay was quite beyond his control. It was an unnecessary lot of excitement for a sixty-five year old captain on his final voyage, but he'd lost neither his ship nor a single crewman, only those tuna they were unable to keep iced in the tropical heat.
And of course they tried to stick him with that. Failed, but they did try.
But the miracle was not the survival of the Rosa Maria. Rather, it was the survival of another storm-tossed arrival on the shore of Bahía Tortugas. The girl looked to be about thirteen, didn't seem to speak any English...or Spanish, or any other language they tried her on for that matter...But she latched onto Michael MacLear the instant she saw him.
It was a strange situation. During the weeks which the Mexican Federal bureaucracy tried (and failed) to establish who the girl might be, she refused vehemently any attempts to take her away, first from Michael, and then from his wife when she came out to Bahía Tortugas to stay with him until matters with the Rosa Maria were resolved. By the time the old couple moved to Mexico City, it was fairly well established that the young girl didn't fit the descriptions of anyone lost at sea, or even missing from the Pacific coast of north and central America, during the past three months. And she seemed to have no memory. She picked up a little English and a little Spanish quite quickly, and seemed determined to disavow knowing of any family or friends, and just as determined to stay with the MacLears.Eventually, after much prayer and counseling (and a look at some unfortunate aspects of the Mexican foster care system), the elderly couple decided to adopt her. It took a bit more clearing with the U.S. embassy, but surprisingly little effort before the way was smoothed and the three of them retired to [OH HECK IT'S NOT LOS ANGELES].
In the intervening three years, 'Morgan' has mostly been home-schooled, but as time has worn on it has become apparent to all involved that her elderly parents really aren't up to dealing with a sometimes-rebellious teenager, more socializing will be better, not worse, despite her lack of it to date, and that she's coming and going out into the wide world regardless of their heartbroken desires. Morgan's relations with her foster-parents aren't hostile, but her side of it has been much more about 'take' than 'give' from the moment she first decided Michael MacLear was the one.