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Tangled tides the sea mo.., p.14
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       Tangled Tides (The Sea Monster Memoirs), p.14

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 
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  She tapped my arm. How do they light up?

  Some have cells called photophores, others have a bacteria or protein inside of them that— Caspian blew the conch horn. Three drawn-out notes announced the beginning of the ceremony. Just watch and listen, I told Yara. You haven't yet learned the songs we'll be singing, but you'll feel the power of them.

  Okay.

  Caspian, Indrea, and the other five Violets hovered above the castle floor and linked hands around a raised stone slab in the middle of the hall. They began singing the song of Clearing, creating a scared place for Koraline to rest. Sixel, one of the Indigos, swam through the doorway with Koraline in his arms. Her mangled tail and other injuries were covered with flowers. I looked around Yara at Pango, knowing the flowers must have been his doing. The thoughts running through his mind made me grin.

  Her hair should be in pigtails. I told them pigtails tied with daisies. Like it's such a difficult task.

  Yara reached for my hand when she saw Koraline, but she missed and her fingers scraped the side of my tail. It felt as if a million water sprites flitted along my skin. I tried to ignore the sensation and block my schoolboy thoughts before making eye contact with her.

  My God, she looks awful, Yara said shakily.

  Focus on the positive. She's alive. Yara's chest turned red. A curtain of rainbow light fell over her eyes. I thought she was tearing up, but it was hard to be certain underwater. I touched her shoulder. Sadness won't help her. Only positive thoughts.

  We watched Koraline being placed in the center of the circle. The Violets continued singing, growing louder as they reached the section where the rest of us would join in.

  With the first note of the group singing, Yara raised her head and her mouth fell open in surprise. Hearing one merman or mermaid sing could take your breath away. Hearing all of us sing together—well, someone once proclaimed we must be the souls who taught angels how to sing.

  The opening song, Connecting, strengthened the bond between everyone in the hall and prepared us for the other songs. As we sang, Yara observed everyone in the circle. Most folks' hallmarks were changing colors, moving or shimmering, but it was difficult to see in the dim lighting.

  Indrea motioned to Pango and he moved toward the table, swimming above the Violets before dipping down into the middle of the circle to hover face-to-face with his sister.

  He placed two fingers over his heart, then over his eyes. Finally he reached out and placed them on Koraline's closed eyelids.

  What were those hand gestures? Yara asked me.

  It meant, his heart, his soul, he shares with her, I explained.

  Pango sang the first few notes of the song, Love. The rest of us joined him.

  When we finished, Pango returned to his place in the circle.

  Yara rubbed her rainbow-hazed eyes. They're happy tears. I promise.

  We're underwater. No need to wipe them away. Though if you direct your tears at Koraline, your emotions will carry through the water and bathe her in love—or whatever it is you're feeling,

  Really? Is that part of our ability to control water?

  Tears are water. You should start small.

  She smiled her biggest grin to date. I'm not crying anymore. But it's good to know for next time.

  The yellow blur of Merrick swimming toward Koraline momentarily distracted me, then I refocused on Yara. You'll be the last to go, so follow what everyone else does.

  I'll be the last to go where? She almost sounded concerned, but as calm and love-filled as the hall was, it was impossible for her to reach any level of anxiety or fear.

  Just watch.

  Merrick hovered over Koraline, two fingers resting on her eyes as he led the song of Healing. Yara watched Merrick swim back to his place beside Pango while everyone continued singing. The mermaid next to him swam forward, floated above Koraline, put two fingers over her heart, and completed the pledge before returning to the circle. The next merman went and the ritual repeated over and over.

  I was eager to hear Yara's reaction, but she wouldn't face me. She stared ahead, focused on every merman or mermaid swimming above the stone table as they pledged their hearts and souls to share with Koraline.

  And then I saw them.

  Pango's lantern on the other side of Yara's face offered just enough glow to backlight her rainbow tears. A few iridescent droplets left her eyes and glided toward Koraline, blending with the volumes of water surrounding us. But in that split second in which her tears were visible, I watched Yara control water for the first time.

  When it was my turn I glided forward, lantern in hand, and floated above Koraline. I scanned the faces of the Violets surrounding us, but none of them appeared worried. My eyes met Indrea's.

  You will not harm her, she assured me.

  Koraline looked better already. The golden hue had returned to her cheeks and her puncture wounds were starting to heal.

  I pressed two fingers on my chest. My heart.

  I placed them over my eyes. My soul.

  After resting my fingertips on her eyelids, my sadness intensified, so I sealed my eyes shut to be safe. I share with you.

  As the singing continued, I returned to my place beside Yara. She swam forward, not hesitating whatsoever, and completed the final pledge of the circle. When she returned, we smiled at each other. In that brief moment, even with everyone singing around us, I felt like we were the only two souls in the worlds.

  The last round of Healing grew louder, and that's when I heard Yara sing for the first time. She was absolutely the most angelic singer I had ever heard. Even others near us in the circle stole glances at her. Unfortunately, the song ended, and when it did Yara looked at me.

  She said, That was the most beautiful thing I've ever experienced.

  You are the most beautiful thing I've ever experienced. The thought came out before I could look away. Through the glow of jellyfish and lanterns, I saw her cheeks flush. Blue swirled across her chest, expanding to her shoulders.

  Embarrassed, I pretended to focus on the last part of the ceremony. I released the door latch of my lantern and my three fish swam free into the water. Yara followed my lead and released hers. Fish flooded the hall, glowing in fluorescent colors, as everyone emptied their lanterns.

  Indrea sang the final notes that concluded the vigil, and folk began swimming out of the hall. Thankfully, Kai approached us and initiated a conversation with Yara.

  How could I have said something like that to her? Knowing how she feels about me, and knowing she and I could never be together. I wanted to apologize, but how do you tell someone you're sorry for calling them beautiful?

  Pango and Merrick were thanking the Violets, so I waited patiently for Yara and Kai to finish their conversation or include me in it. But then I saw Delmar hovering by the entrance, so I excused myself.

  In spite of the dim lighting, I could clearly see the perturbed look on Delmar's face. That look meant trouble lurked nearby, and I already knew that trouble's name was Rownan.

  Pango floated there, chatting and sharing stories with me, Merrick and Kai. He was laughing and joking, acting like his sister wasn't fighting for her life a few feet away from us.

  I couldn't take it anymore. I confessed to Pango. I told him about me running off, spilling blood all over myself, causing the shark attack, and how guilty and horrible I felt. I must have apologized twenty times. He wasn't angry, and he insisted I stop blaming myself.

  He lifted my chin and winked at me. Don't you worry, my sister will pull through. She's a spunky little sprite. He hugged me, then he and Merrick said goodbye and returned to the Violets and Koraline.

  Kai's hands closed over one of mine. I must go, Miss Yara. So much to do for the celebration at sunrise.

  Okay. See you tomorrow.

  She kissed me on the cheek and swam away with a Green and Blue who had dark skin like hers.

  The hall had nearly emptied. Delmar and Treygan floated on the other side of the room, both lookin
g solemn. They'd been that way for at least ten minutes. I watched them, waiting for Treygan to remember I existed, but Delmar's black eyes found me first.

  For a few seconds we just stared at each other. He wasn't thinking anything, at least not that I could hear, but I might have been too far away to hear his thoughts. He didn't scare me anymore. Not since Treygan had shared that memory of him with me.

  Delmar cocked his pale, pointy jaw to the side and returned his attention to Treygan. They laughed at the same time, gripped each other by the hand and leaned forward in an almost-hug. Treygan looked up and waved me over.

  Hi, Delmar, I thought, when I reached the two of them.

  Happy Welcoming Day Eve, Yara. He smiled. Big day for you tomorrow.

  So they tell me. I shot Treygan a sideways glance but when I looked at Delmar again he was swimming behind me. I only caught the end of what Treygan said to him.

  —you. Only a sun.

  What about a sun? I asked.

  Treygan shook his head. We should go. You need your rest.

  Delmar floated at my side. Kimber is looking forward to meeting you. We'll see you in the morning. Sweet night, Yara.

  His wife was in this world with him. Good. That made me happy. I look forward to meeting her too.

  Treygan was eerily quiet on the way back to Koraline's.

  Once we were in her living room I tried breaking the awkward silence. "It feels kind of weird staying at Koraline's house without her here."

  "I'm sorry. My place isn't ideal for guests. Plus, she would want you to stay here. That was the plan. Koraline is a stick-to-the-plan kind of girl."

  My stomach flipped with guilt. The ceremony tonight gave me hope that she would survive, but I would never forgive myself for being the reason she almost—and could still possibly—die.

  "What were you and Delmar saying about the sun or whatever?" I asked.

  He walked around the room, looking out the back door and every window. "The hallmark on your back. The sun represents you being mer. Everyone's looks different."

  Like an idiot, I tried looking over my shoulder to see it. "Oh."

  I had studied the symbols and artwork on Pango, Merrick and Kai tonight, mainly to keep my focus on something other than Treygan. I didn't want them hearing my thoughts about him. I glanced at Treygan's blue hair and all of his blue, black and silver hallmarks, and fought back a laugh.

  His eyebrows lifted. "Did I miss something?"

  Kai had told me about one mermaid who couldn't come to the vigil because she was stuck granting a wish to a human, which led to Pango explaining further. "Just remembering something Pango said."

  "Do tell."

  I kept a close-lipped smile, fighting back the visual of the blue genie from the Disney movie, Aladdin. "He explained the duties of blue merfolk."

  Treygan stood up straight. Any trace of a smile disappeared. He didn't say anything, so I continued.

  "He said if a Blue is discovered by a human, they have to grant the human a wish before returning home."

  "It's a stupid rule. We're fighting to have it nullified."

  Pango warned me that Blues were sensitive about it. Most stayed away from populated areas to avoid running into humans. They referred to it as the genie complex. Everyone tried to get through blue rank as fast as possible. Treygan definitely seemed touchy about it in an unbearably cute way.

  Maybe I could use this knowledge in my favor. "Well, you're my Blue guardian, so you have to grant me a wish."

  His chin jutted forward in one of his cocky know-it-all grins. "We grant wishes to humans. You're no longer human."

  "But you didn't grant me a wish when I was a kid, or when you showed up at my house during the hurricane."

  "Oh, but I did. The times when you were a kid you don't remember, but I most certainly did. And during the hurricane you specifically said you wished for me to take you some place safe."

  "But you had me in some kind of trance. You made me wish for that."

  "No, I made you feel comforted and told you that you had to wish it if you wanted me to take you someplace safe. I didn't force you to wish for anything."

  Figures. The loopholes always seemed to work against me. "Don't you want to know what I would wish for right now?"

  "I'm fairly certain I know."

  "Oh, yeah? What would I wish for?"

  "To not be a mermaid?"

  "No."

  My heart beat so hard I could feel it between my ears. I could do this. I could say it. I struggled to say the words louder than a whisper. "I would wish for you to kiss me."

  His eyes met mine and I struggled to breathe. Neither one of us moved. Deep wrinkles appeared around his eyes. Then he looked away and stared at the floor.

  God, why was I such an idiot? What was I thinking saying that to him? To Treygan, who had never dated anyone and admitted he wasn't romantic. I huffed out loud and tried to play it off.

  "I was only—" Crap. I couldn't say the word kidding out loud. "I didn't really mean—" Nope, that would be a lie too. "This is so embarrassing," I moaned, covering my face with my hands.

  I never heard his footsteps—probably because my heart was hammering too loudly. His hand touching mine startled me into looking up. There he was, only a couple inches away, staring at me with those hypnotic, cobalt eyes. He placed my hand against his chest, raised his other hand to my cheek, and ran his thumb along my lips. His heart pounded against my palm as glorious pins and needles pricked and teased the deepest parts of me.

  "You are such a mystery to me," he whispered.

  I exhaled shakily. "I've never felt like this before. Is this a mer thing or … is it you?"

  His eyes darted around, studying my face. Then he stared at me so intensely I was sure he could see every secret inside of me. "I don't know, but it wouldn't be fair to wander down a dead-end road."

  Dead-end road? He started to pull his hand away but I held it against my face, pressing my cheek against his palm. "I don't care how it ends. Kiss me, Treygan. Please."

  He closed his eyes, rested his forehead on mine, and we pressed against each other. I fought to lift my lips to meet his, but he kept his mouth beyond my reach, even as his breath warmed my chin.

  "Yara, I care about how it ends. I refuse to break your heart."

  "My heart can handle it." It felt like a lie. The thought of being hurt or left by him seemed painful, but I said it out loud, so it must be true. Besides, we had no idea how it would end, or if it would ever end.

  He pulled away, ran his hands through his long hair, and turned his back to me. My face felt so cold without his warmth against me. I asked him to kiss me—twice—and he said no. How much more pitiful could I look?

  "You may think you want this, Yara, but you don't. I'm protecting you."

  "Get out."

  He turned and gaped at me. "What?"

  I clenched my teeth together, fighting back my humiliation. "I said get out."

  His confused expression turned to concern or hurt, I couldn't be sure which, but it didn't matter. He stepped toward me, but I took two steps back. "Yara, I didn't mean—"

  "Get out! The longer you stand there, the more pathetic I feel. Just leave me alone and pretend this never happened." I ran for the bathroom before the last words were out of my mouth. I slammed the door, leaned against it and slid to the floor, hugging my knees and feeling like a total loser.

  How could I ever face him again? He didn't feel the same about me. He probably couldn't see me as anything except a girl who had dated his brother. He hated Rownan. He would never consider being with someone who had kissed his worst enemy. How could I have been so stupid? My attraction to Rownan wasn't even real! Even when I was mysted my feelings were nothing compared to how I felt for Treygan. Every time he looked at me, or spoke, or I heard someone talk about him, I felt—

  "Yara," Treygan called out, his voice muffled by the door between us.

  "Go away!" I burried my face in my arms.

  Th
e sound of him sliding down the other side of the door made me lift my head. I pictured us sitting there, back-to-back, with nothing but a slab of wood separating us. His voice sounded closer. "Do you have any idea how badly I want to kiss you?"

  I sucked in a stifled breath. "What?"

  "I want to kiss you. I've wanted to kiss you since we collided on your front porch. But you have to trust me when I tell you it's … we shouldn't. You could get hurt, and I vowed to protect you, not harm you."

  I turned around and reached for the door knob, but stopped. "Explain."

  "What?"

  "You've said I shouldn't want to kiss you, so it has to be true. But you're saying you want to kiss me too. So explain. Why does this have to be so complicated?"

  "Can you open the door?"

  "Not until you explain." I leaned closer, not wanting to miss anything he said. I barely heard him sigh.

  "I'm half gorgon."

  "I already know that."

  "Most gorgons can turn living things to stone."

  "Know that too." Did he think I hadn't been paying attention?

  "If my emotions get too intense, I lose control of my ability. Accidents happen." His voice was quieter, but I heard every word. I had to process it for a second, then I crawled onto my knees and leaned closer to the door.

  "You mean you could accidentally turn me to stone?"

  I heard one soft thud, like he had banged his head against the door. "Yes."

  I was glad he couldn't see me. I must have looked terrified. "But …." I knew he had turned the sharks to stone, and I got the impression he could do the same thing to people, but this was crazy. He couldn't kiss anyone without possibly killing them? "How do you know that? Maybe it's only when you're angry."

  He stayed silent. The longer I sat there, staring at the crystal doorknob and imagining him sitting on the other side, the more I didn't want to hear his answer. Then I realized. "Oh. It happened before, didn't it?"

  "Once," he said. "I was practically a child. My first kiss was with one of my best friends.

 
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