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Tangled tides the sea mo.., p.12
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       Tangled Tides (The Sea Monster Memoirs), p.12

           Karen Amanda Hooper
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  "Poseidon was immune to the petrifying thing because he was a god, so he secretly visited Medusa and continued the affair—even though she was a hideous monster."

  I nodded. "He still saw her as beautiful. Blinded by love, I suppose."

  Yara shook her head in disbelief. Her fingertips glided across the page. "Okay, so then he created a siren for each of the gorgons; bird women who could travel through water or fly to the heavens to find Poseidon or relay messages for the sisters. But the sirens hated the grotto, so they hardly ever returned." She flipped a few pages back, then forward, scanning chapters she had read several times. "Then Medusa and Poseidon had kids, and Stheno and Euryale were jealous and wanted their own, but couldn't have any because of the petrifying issue, right?"

  "Right. Plus, what man would go into the grotto to have sex with a hideous monster?"

  Yara blushed and tucked her hair behind her ears. "That's why Medusa asked Poseidon to create the selkies. So she and her sisters had creature children that loved the cold and darkness and would stay in the grotto."

  I sat back in my chair, impressed by how much she absorbed so quickly. "Until the grotto couldn't hold all of them, then Poseidon created an ocean to harbor them."

  Yara scanned over the pages again. "But the sisters got bored with the dark selkies, so they asked for children who liked to play and sing. Poseidon created merfolk, modeling them after fish and dolphins. But they needed sunlight and warmth, so he created a whole different realm for them?"

  "Not exactly. We all live in Rathe. Think of our separate halves as different countries. The grotto sits in the middle, directly on the border of our light and dark territories."

  "And Medusa is the one who requested selkies and merfolk be able to travel to the human realm and explore land?"

  "Yes, because the original sea creatures grew bored and restless. The sisters arranged it so they had to return to Rathe regularly or they would die. They didn't want them disappearing for long bouts like the sirens."

  Yara glanced down at her book again. "Is that why the gorgons had the all-seeing mirror in the grotto? So they could watch over their children wherever they were?"

  "You're a fast learner."

  "Who is more powerful, the gorgon sisters or Poseidon?"

  "Hmm, well, Poseidon pretty much gave Medusa and her sisters whatever they wanted. That included the ability to create rules, gift abilities, and control the gateway between the realms. When Medusa was killed by Perseus, the other sisters lost most of their power."

  Yara's eyes widened. "Stheno and Euryale aren't still alive, are they?"

  "They are. Medusa was the only mortal of the three."

  She studied the drawings of the gorgons on the page in front of her; their heads full of snakes, claws for hands, huge fangs, serpent-like tails, and pinwheels of fire and ice for eyes. A small shiver ran through her and she snapped the book closed, placing it back in its case.

  "Why is every book kept in glass?" she asked.

  "They're waterproof so we can store them underwater, and they're charmed so that if a human found them they'd appear to be chunks of useless concrete."

  One nod. From observing her the past several hours I learned her single, firm nod meant she was accepting truths, saving them to memory, not questioning my words anymore—definite progress.

  She pushed a book and plate of food away from her and stretched her arms over her head. "My shoulder feels a lot better."

  "The Violets are amazing healers." One of the Violets, Prynne, had been waiting at the house when we arrived. She nursed Yara's shoulder right away, and confirmed her injury wasn't severe.

  Yara picked at the bandage on her arm. "I still don't get the whole drinking blood thing."

  Explaining the siren and selkies' blood-drinking habits had been daunting, but Yara seemed genuinely disgusted by it and agreed to fight future cravings. I blamed myself for her drinking blood. I should have warned her right away. Moving forward, my job would be to make sure no selkies—especially Rownan—came anywhere near her.

  I pulled a book over to me and thumbed through the pages. "Here." I spun it around and slid it toward her. "Left page, second paragraph."

  Yara read out loud in a voice that sounded like harp music. "The gorgon sisters longed to return to the human realm. However, the curse had sentenced them to solitude. Therefore the three united together and devised a plan.

  "The sirens were summoned and offered seductive beauty and the power to control the weather if they agreed to a proposition. The sirens would seduce mortals, a give and take of body and soul, including drinking the life force from the veins of their prey. They would then return to the gorgon sisters and regurgitate the blood, allowing Stheno and Euryale to consume it. Thus they could relive the encounter as their own.

  "As time passed, many selkfolk envied this system. They begged the gorgons to allow them to drink the stolen blood. Medusa refused. As a compromise, she gifted the selkfolk with the ability to share their souls by allowing another to drink directly from their veins.

  "The bloodshed of the original selkfolk was horrific for several moons. Many died because they had no self-control and drained one another of all life. Once the selkfolk had their habit under control, they boasted of their superior ability.

  "This did not please the merfolk. They believed they were equally entitled to pleasure as the selkfolk. The merfolk went to Medusa and requested the same gift. Medusa, still heartbroken over the loss of so many selk, refused to lose any of her mer in the same careless manner. Thus she and her sisters conjured up a new gift."

  Yara cracked her neck from side-to-side and rubbed her temples. What would she think of the next part of our history? "No blood would be necessary for the mer to share themselves. Medusa and her sisters resented their inability to gaze into the eyes of another with great emotion. Thus they chose sight as the manner in which merfolk would share their souls with one another."

  Yara glanced up from the page and caught me watching her, but I couldn't look away.

  "Pretty gross," she murmured. "Sirens regurgitating blood and people drinking it."

  "Not people, gorgons," I corrected. "Birds regurgitate. It's part of their nature."

  "Still. Gross."


  As if defending itself, a heron spread its large wings just outside the window. Yara and I both turned to look at it.

  "No offense," Yara said, "but this house is depressing without Koraline here. Can we take a break? I'm itching to be back in the water and sunshine."

  That was a good sign. She should gravitate toward sunlight and water, though it baffled me that she wasn't curious about the ability to share our souls with each other. "Of course, but only floating. No swimming. Your shoulder needs to heal."

  We walked to the stream in silence and waded in.

  Yara scanned the cottages around us. "All merfolk live here on the island?"

  "We all have homes here. Solis is protected from discovery by humans."

  "Koraline told me that part. I didn't know if all merfolk lived here, or just some. I hardly ever see anyone else."

  At least she wasn't calling us freaks anymore. "Sadly, there aren't that many of us. One hundred and twelve are here in this realm. You make one hundred and thirteen. Most spend days at a time away from here. They like to explore or interact with humans, but this is a safe haven for whenever they return."

  "How many, you know, didn't make it? How many are in the Catacombs?" Splotches of red spread across her chest. Her red must mean sadness.

  "Thirty-one," I answered somberly.

  Her eyes widened as crimson swirls snaked across her shoulders. "I'm sorry."

  How much had Rownan told her? Was Yara apologizing because she didn't know what else to say, or did she know about her parents' broken promise and blamed herself? "The actions of others sometimes affect our destiny. No one blames you."

  She looked thoroughly confused.

o Rownan hadn't told her she was the reason for the gate closing. Good. I felt she should hear it from one of us.

  "Treygan, the night you saved me, what did you do to me? Why didn't I remember you for all these years?"

  How could I explain it to her? We were finally making progress. I didn't want to scare her by telling her part of me was as awful as she originally suspected. The last thing we needed was her running back to the selkies. It was bad enough she drank blood at all. If Rownan offered to let her drink from him she might not be able to resist, and then he would have the upper hand. Jack had unexplainable manipulative power over his kind. The stronger her selkie connection, the better chance Jack would have at controlling her actions too. "It's complicated."

  "My entire life has been complicated. I can handle it."

  "This is an exceptional level of complicated."

  "Is it because you're part gorgon?"

  My people never brought up this topic. They knew I hated that side of me. Many of my own kind feared my gorgon side and stayed away from me because of it. Why didn't Yara?

  "If you don't tell me, I'll swim back to Eden's Hammock and ask my uncle."

  Her uncle. They weren't even related. "Lloyd and you seem very close."

  "He's been like a dad to me. My father died when I was four. My mom and I moved to Eden's Hammock and Lloyd sort of looked after us. I remember the first time I met him. At least, I think it was the first time." She flicked the water with her fingers. "Guess you don't want to hear about my childhood."

  "No, I don't."

  Her face scrunched up in a sour expression. "You don't have to be a jerk about it."

  "Much of human sharing feels superficial to me. It's a lot of talking and very little listening."

  With a swat of her hand she splashed water in my face. "Okay, I get it. I won't tell you any of my lame stories."

  "You're not letting me finish. This is the lack of listening I'm referring to."

  "Sorry. Go ahead."

  "Merfolk share in a deeper way than talking—more intimate." Bonding with one of us was crucial to her siding with us, but her first experience was supposed to be with Koraline. Not me. I had to back-pedal. "But I would never ask you to share yourself that way with me."

  "More intimate?"

  "The mer sight you read about. Sharing your soul."

  "Wait, what?" She cocked her head to the side, reminding me of the Golden Retriever Lloyd once kept as a pet.

  "You can share pieces of your life with other merfolk—if you choose to. You take them into your soul and they relive a memory as you."

  "You're joking."

  "You just read about it. Did you think our history books were a joke?"

  "I thought it meant how we communicate underwater. The eye-contact mind-speech thing."

  "No. Sharing songs—memories—is very different from that."

  "You're telling me that you could relive one of my memories as if you were me? Like flashback to my childhood without me having to tell you about it?"

  "Without verbally telling me about it, yes. Your soul would tell the tale."

  Her head jerked backward like she had been punched. "That's unbelievable."

  "It's our way of sharing ourselves." The Violets' warning not to do anything without their permission rang through my conscience. "But it's extremely personal. You and I shouldn't engage in that practice."

  She grabbed my hand and pulled us closer together in the stream. "Oh no, I have to try it now so I can see if you're telling the truth."

  "How many times do I have to explain this to you? We can't lie."

  "Sorry, I keep forgetting."

  Our bodies were too close. The gentle current of the stream caused her hair and tail to brush against me several times. The sensation of bubbles under my skin returned.

  "Tell me how it works," she pleaded.

  "You concentrate on the memory you want to share with me, then—"

  "No, you share with me first."

  Alarms went off in my head. Not allowed! Not until the Triple Eighteen! "Your first time should be with Koraline."

  "Koraline isn't here. And who knows how long she'll be recovering?"

  I had seen the damage. Koraline might never recover. If that was the case, wouldn't I be the next logical choice for Yara to bond with? I had already started her education. She felt more comfortable with me than any other merfolk. Maybe I could use this opportunity to make her comfortable with the others and give her a glimpse of our realm at the same time. Surely, that could only help matters.

  "Fine," I agreed. "You think Delmar is scary, correct?"

  "I wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley."

  "Well, then. I'd like to prove otherwise. Are you ready?"

  She let go of my hand and drifted backward. "I don't know. What do I have to do? And once I'm there, how do I get out of it?"

  "You stare into my eyes. Most of us feel a tug in our chests. You'll feel like you're being pulled into my body, but you won't actually go anywhere. You'll see, hear and feel what I felt when I lived that moment. When I end the memory you might feel a push. Or, if you want to end the experience early, think of an object back here—in this time and space."

  She glanced around. "Like what?"

  "Like a particular flower, a rock, anything, and then concentrate on its details."

  She studied me intensely for a moment. "Okay. I'm ready. I think. I'm sorta scared."

  I tried to comfort her by smiling. The new experience would be incredible for her, and I was surprised at how happy it made me that her first time would be with me. "Don't be scared. I chose a good memory."

  Treygan and I stared at each other. My whole body tingled, even my tail and fins. For a split second silver clouds passed over his eyes. Then I felt the tug in my chest and everything went bright blue and silent.

  I was Treygan, sitting beside Delmar on the rocks of a shoreline of violet sand and gazing out at the water. My tail—Treygan's tail—was sage green, but each shining scale looked as if it was outlined in chrome. Delmar was a Yellow. His hair was blond and shorter, but he looked the same age as his present day self. A rainbow-colored sun beat down on us as our tails splashed in the surf.

  "Will you be singing today?" Delmar asked with a grin.

  As Treygan, I watched water sprites sparkle below the surface. "Of course. I'm your best man."

  Delmar skipped a sapphire shell across the water. "You're like a brother to me, Treygan. I marry my true love today, but that doesn't mean our bond weakens."

  "Kimber is first in your heart. I'm happy to step down from my post."

  Delmar shook his head. "Love knows no rank. I love you and Kimber differently, but I would lay down my life for either of you in a heartbeat."

  "You would lay down your life for any of our kind."

  "I'd like to think that's true, but now that I have Kimber, my priorities are shifting. I would do anything to spare her from pain and suffering. Her happiness means everything to me."

  I smiled, even though part of me felt sad and lonely. "All the more reason to get you to the grotto on time. Kimber already worries too much."

  "Race?" Delmar asked.

  "I won't let you win just because it's your wedding day."

  Delmar waved his hand and a large wave crested up out of the water and pulled us deep into the surf. He clutched my forearm and grinned at me underwater. Stop stalling and race.

  He darted off, but I floated in place, watching him swim away. A water sprite flitted around my head like a glowing, miniature tornado. She stuck tiny bunches of kelp in my hair, skidded to a stop and sat on the tip of my nose.

  Her tinny voice sounded like coins dropping in an empty fountain. You always give him a head start.

  I winked at her. Today I'll give him an even longer one.

  I felt a steady push against my chest and opened my eyes to see Treygan turning away. For a moment I was disoriented. Switching so fast from being Green Treygan—living and feeling as i
f I was really him—to seeing Blue Treygan in front of me left me dizzy.

  "Treygan, that—that was incredible! I was you! I didn't have any thoughts of my own. Your thoughts were my thoughts. Your feelings were my feelings. I wasn't scared or confused. I was whatever you were. You were peaceful, then sad, then … so happy."

  He dipped his head back into the water, wetting his long hair and rubbing his hands over his face. "Do you still think Delmar is a bad guy?"

  "I—well, no. But where were we? Or where were you? Everything was so beautiful. That beach had lavender sand and the sky swirled with colors I've never seen before."

  "We were in Rathe."

  I thought Eden's Hammock or Solis was paradise, but the other realm trumped them by a landslide. No wonder everyone wanted to return home. And I felt awful for judging Delmar so harshly. Was he here without his wife, or were he and Kimber living together in this world?

  "Did you let him win?" I asked.


  "The race."

  He squinted into the sun and his shoulders bounced with silent laughter. "Maybe someday I'll let you see how it ended."

  "Why did you push me out? I could've stayed there forever. The water sprites were gorgeous. You didn't feel that way about them, though. You felt so indifferent, like they were as common as a fly. I didn't even have an opinion about them until I came back here. Or got inside me—or—I'm still confused about how that was possible."

  "Many things about our existence are considered magic or impossible to humans. It seems normal to me because I was born mer. You'll become used to our way of life over time."

  Maybe being a mermaid wasn't so bad after all. I searched the stream around me for any sign of flying lights. "How come I haven't seen any sprites yet?"

  "They were the first to die off after the gates closed. None survived on this side."

  "That's horrible." My chest turned a splotchy red. Had Treygan realized red meant I was sad, or did he even notice the color change? "Some are alive in the other realm, right? They aren't extinct, are they?"

  "We have no way of knowing what's happened in Rathe. Not until the gate opens."

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