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Tangled tides the sea mo.., p.20
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       Tangled Tides (The Sea Monster Memoirs), p.20

           Karen Amanda Hooper
 
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  "You're soulless monsters!" Yara yelled. "All of you!"

  Indrea smoothed down her dress and lifted her chin high, but she looked hurt. "Take her to the library," she told the Indigos. "I will be there momentarily."

  They dragged Yara out of the room as she screamed over her shoulder, "Rownan, how could you? I would have never done this to you and Vienna! Never!"

  If I hadn't been feeling guilty before, that did the job. I slumped into my chair, feeling weak and nauseous.

  Her screaming faded down the hallway.

  Caspian turned to me and Jack. "As much as I hate to say this, we may have to reevaluate our plan. We will spend a few days monitoring the situation, then meet with you at the end of the week to consult. If it truly seems Yara isn't able to follow through with our plan," Caspian hung his head, "we will turn her over to you."

  Jack smiled and reached his hand out to shake Caspian's.

  Caspian put his hands behind his back. "We have no alternative. It does not mean we agree with it, or that we will ever forgive ourselves for letting it come to this."

  Indrea gave one nod of agreement, and then a purple tear ran down her cheek.

  Sunset 10

  The sun had traversed the sky four times since they had separated me from Yara.

  Pango and Merrick had been ordered to stop helping with the crops. Two other greens were assigned to take their place. The Violets worried Pango would deliver messages between me and Yara. Delmar had been allowed to stay on duty, but since he spent his days with me he wasn't allowed within fifty feet of Yara.

  We had finished hanging the plants for the day, so the two Greens said goodbye as Delmar and I put the tools in the shed.

  "You're miserable," Delmar observed.

  He knew what happened at the meeting with the Violets, and I told him I never wanted to discuss it again.

  "Beyond miserable," he continued. "I've never seen you like this."

  I coiled the hanging line and shoved it onto a shelf.

  "Treygan, what can I do?"

  "Make sure all the bags have been picked up outside."

  He rested his hand on my shoulder. "That's not what I meant. What can I do to help you and Yara?"

  "There is no me and Yara."

  "Knock it off. This is me you're talking to. It's tearing you apart being away from her."

  "It's for the best."

  "That's sharkshit."

  "What do you suggest I do, Del? Disobey the Violets, fight my way into Pango's house, and demand he and Merrick jeopardize their rank by letting me see her?"

  "Stellar plan. Do it."

  I rolled my eyes. "It's not rational."

  "Love is not rational. You have a limited number of days left with her. Pango and Merrick will do whatever they can to help you. They saw what I saw. You, for the first time ever, in love and deliriously happy—even when you were trying to hide it. You have to fight for that."

  I sat down on the bench, exhausted by my own emptiness. "I should have stayed away. I made it a million times harder on her."

  "That girl loves you. Even after seeing Kimber and realizing what you're capable of at your worst, she watched you with a sparkle in her eye that any fool could see was unconditional love. You think Yara cares about what happens a week from now? She's dying inside because she can't be with you."

  "She's tough as a seawall. She'll be fine."

  He sat beside me. "Pango said she doesn't eat. She doesn't talk, smile or laugh at his jokes. She doesn't swim or go out in the sunlight. She's not fine. Neither of you are fine."

  Hearing about Yara torturing herself made my stomach twist in knots. "She's smoking, right?"

  "No. Pango said her only saving grace is that she spends a lot of time in his resting pool, but she only does it so she can be alone. She asked to visit Lloyd, and when the Violets agreed she didn't show a hint of excitement or happiness."

  "Not even when she saw him?"

  "He wasn't home."

  I stood up and leaned against the shed's doorframe, watching the last trace of sun disappear over the water. "What do I do? Which path will hurt her less?"

  "What do you want to do? For once in your life, Treygan, do what's best for you. Don't act out of guilt about your mother or your grandmother. Don't do it for your people, for honor, or for Rathe. Do it for you. You've earned it."

  "Earned it? What have I earned? I vowed to protect Yara. I promised her mother I would keep her safe from a future of misery. I've broken that vow. I singlehandedly made her more miserable than she's ever been."

  He stood beside me. "She's miserable because she can't be with you."

  "Does she know yet? Has Pango told her the selkies' plan?"

  Delmar's cheeks puffed out as he exhaled loudly. "He wanted to wait until she showed some improvement. She's too emotionally unstable. He's worried telling her will push her over the edge. The Violets agree."

  I nodded.

  "Treygan, the Violets are wavering in their faith. In two days, if Yara isn't ready and willing to do her part, then …." Delmar's skin streaked with shades of green. He rarely showed sadness.

  "What? Then what?"

  "They'll turn her over to the selkies."

  "No! How could they agree to that? It's barbaric!"

  "They don't know what else to do. They're distraught over it."

  My heart pounded. All of my hallmarks snaked around my body. My skin deepened to dark gray. "They can't do this!"

  "You tell me what you want to do, and I'll stop at nothing to make it happen."

  "I need to see her. I have to make her understand our way is best."

  "When?"

  "Now."

  "Give me a few hours. I need to find out which guards are at Pango's and call in favors. I don't want us fighting any of our people if we don't have to. You might lose control."

  "No. I mean, of course." I couldn't think straight. Yara's life was on the line and I had to wait hours before I could do anything to protect her. "Delmar, the selkies can't come near her. I don't care if we have to run away until the Triple Eighteen."

  "I'll work on getting a place for you to hide out, just in case it comes to that."

  I hugged him. "You're risking everything by helping me. I can't thank you enough."

  "You want to thank me?" He clutched my shoulders. "Love her, Treygan. And let her love you. Remember Koraline's motto: Love until it kills you, because there's nothing better worth dying for."

  The sickness made my connection to my mother stronger.

  I couldn't tell Pango. I wanted to, but he would think I was nuts if I told him I was making myself sick so I could see my mother's ghost again. Let him assume I was torturing myself because of depression. No one would believe me if I told the truth. No one except Uncle Lloyd.

  I kept hoping I would see my mother again like I did at the pier. She looked like a white orb of light, but I knew it was her. She tried to tell me something, but I had been in too much pain to understand her.

  Two days ago, the memory of another time I saw her ghost had returned to me. Years ago when I was sick with pneumonia, I had seen her at the hospital. I told Uncle Lloyd and he said I wasn't crazy. He believed guardian angels hung around to help us and communicating with spirits was possible. Maybe my mother could help me and Treygan.

  Pango refused to tell me the selkies' plan until I started eating. All he would say was that it wouldn't work. My mother had been a siren, connected to the gorgons. What if she knew something the rest of us didn't? What if she could help?

  Pango's resting pool was more secluded than Koraline's. He and Merrick weren't within hearing range, so I shut the door to the room. Rain clouds had covered the moon. No light shined through the window. I sat at the edge of the pool and dipped my feet into the cool, liquid darkness.

  My head had been pounding for days. My stomach hurt so badly from hunger it made me nauseous. My muscles trembled from fatigue. But if my mother had the answers I needed, then it would be worth
the suffering.

  "Mom," I whispered. "Are you here?" I kept very still, squinting into the black water, watching for any flash or floating light, waiting for my skin to start prickling from her energy. Then I saw something. At first it looked like a white rock shimmering at the bottom of the pool, except I knew the rock liner was made of black and brown stones. I leaned closer, blinking through the tightness behind my eyes and trying to ignore the headache. I focused on the white blur in the water.

  The cloudy spot was growing bigger, floating toward me, pulsing and flexing. The foggy outline of a face appeared. I felt so weak I could hardly keep my head up, but I leaned even closer, my face inches from the water, my fingers gripping the edge of the pool.

  My mother's voice rippled through my aching head.

  I felt like I had cotton balls stuffed in my ears. Most of her words were a faint stream of murmuring I couldn't understand, but I caught a few of them.

  Truth … secret … visit … sirens … blood … die.

  "Die?" That one word snapped me from my concentration. "Who dies?"

  The cloud shrunk away. The whispering stopped.

  "Mom, please don't go."

  A white bird crashed against the window above me. It threw itself against the glass, over and over. The loud noise made my head feel like it was cracking open. Sharp pains shot through my temples.

  I reached out to where the light had disappeared and fell forward, splashing into the water. I was too weak to swim. My eyes drifted closed as I sank to the bottom of the pool, reaching for my mother and for a way to save Treygan, but never finding either.

  I never actually passed out.

  My body went numb and my mind was hazy while everything happened around me, but I remembered bits and pieces: Pango pulling me out of the pool, being wrapped in towels, and then sinking into a bed. At one point I saw Merrick, his lips moving above me, but I couldn't hear him. I remember smelling rubbing alcohol, a sting in my arm, then, eventually, the wood ceiling beams came into focus.

  I stared at the beams for a long time, thinking I needed to move my body or do something, anything, but I couldn't. I couldn't keep my eyes open, but I never fell asleep.

  For a long time my world consisted of nothing but the inside of my eyelids. I hadn't noticed they had a shimmery, golden hue. I couldn't recall what I saw when I closed my eyes as a human, but it wasn't all bright and sparkly.

  I forced my eyes open and stared at the ceiling beams again.

  Then I stared at the back of my eyelids.

  Ceiling beams.

  Eyelids.

  Over and over, until it changed: ceiling beams, eyelids, Pango.

  I kept my eyes open and he smiled.

  "There she is. Welcome back to Oz, Diva Dorothy. We've missed you."

  My stomach didn't hurt anymore. I sat up and my muscles didn't feel like wet noodles. Pango stuffed pillows behind me. I was lying in his bed with a catheter in my arm. An IV fluid bag hung from the trident floor lamp beside me.

  I felt much better.

  Crap.

  "It's a good thing you're a mermaid," Pango teased. "Otherwise you would have drowned in that pool. You're supposed to rest face up, ya know? Face down gives you saggy skin."

  "Yara, how do you feel?" Merrick asked, sitting on the other side of me.

  "Better." They had ruined it. I had made notable progress with making myself sick and contacting my mother, and they had ruined it by pumping me full of miracle juice.

  Pango rested his hand on mine. "Please tell me you aren't on a suicide mission. Self-pity is so not in style."

  "I'm not suicidal."

  "Then why did you let yourself get that sick? Between you and my sister, my fragile heart can't take any more."

  "I'm sorry, Pango." He deserved to know the truth. We only had a week left. If I explained everything he might understand and we could try again. "It was the only way I could …." I looked into his emerald eyes and took a breath. "Communicate with my mother."

  The bed bounced as Pango and Merrick both sat up straight.

  "Come again," Pango said.

  "The night Nixie took me to Rownan's party I got sick—really sick—and I saw my mother. I think she's been trying to tell me something. Right before I fell into the pool she said someone might die. I think she has the answers, but I have to be sick to talk to her."

  Merrick's bulging eyes resembled lemons. "You do know how crazy that sounds, right?"

  "Are you kidding me? We're half fish. We control water, talk through our minds and relive each other's memories, and communicating with spirits is crazy?"

  Pango massaged his temples. "What else did she say?"

  Merrick jumped up. "Pang, you don't actually believe this?"

  "Yara's right. Why shouldn't it be possible considering how magical the rest of our existence is?" Pango laid his hand on top of mine. "Go on, what else did Mommy dearest say?"

  I went over the words in my mind. Visit … siren … blood. "I think she wants me to visit the sirens."

  "No way," Merrick said. "Not happening."

  I tried to push the covers off of me, but the catheter in my arm tugged at my skin. "Think about it. The explanation on how to open the gate came in the form of a poem, and merfolk and selkies interpreted the poem very differently. The sirens were created as an extension of the gorgons to deliver messages for them, right?"

  Pango nodded, but Merrick looked at me like a suspicious bobcat ready to pounce.

  "So wouldn't it make sense," I continued, "that the sirens would be our best bet at interpreting the poem correctly?"

  Merrick put his hands on his hips. "Do you think the Violets didn't think of that? They asked for their interpretation as soon as the gate closed."

  "And what did they say?" I asked.

  Pango rocked his head side-to-side. "I believe it was something like, 'Drown in hell.'"

  "They wouldn't help you?"

  "Of course not," Merrick said. "They love it here. They don't get sick like we do. With the gate closed they don't have to spend their time regurgitating memories for the gorgons to consume. They don't want the gate to open."

  The sirens knew the answer. I was sure of it. That's what my mother had tried to tell me. I had to see them. "My mother used to be one of them. Doesn't that give me some kind of family rights to their secrets?"

  Merrick laughed, but Pango stared at me all seriously and contemplative. It was odd to see them reverse roles.

  "The Violets will never agree to let you see them," Merrick said. "Nixie kidnapped you, for gods' sakes."

  "He's right," Pango murmured. "The Violets won't allow it."

  "All of this is ludicrous." Merrick stood behind Pango, rubbing his back. "We have to meet with the Violets tomorrow to update them on Yara. Is this what we want to tell them? That she is conjuring up a new plan with her dead mother?" He snickered. "I think not."

  I sat forward. "Pango, you have to tell me what the selkies' plan is. Maybe it will help me figure out what my mother's message means."

  Merrick bristled. "Not until you're feeling better."

  Pango snapped his head around. "Merrick, I love you, but shut up. You're hovering behind me like a henpecking old biddy. Go whip up a pie or something."

  "Don't tell me to shut up. If you don't want my help, just say so."

  "So." Pango stood up and pushed Merrick out of the room. "I'm not saying I believe these spirit shenanigans, but I love a good story, and this one is a Moby Dick. So shoo." He waved him out the door and shut it. "Great gorgons, that man can frazzle my nerves."

  Pango downed the glass of juice on my nightstand. "My how I wish that was a pomegranate martini. The good liquor lord knows I need one for what I'm about to tell you. We don't have much time, so I hope you're wearing your brave girl panties."

  "I can handle it."

  Pango crossed his hands over his heart. "The selkies' plan is to kill you."

  "What?" I croaked.

  "I know, right? Heartless h
ooligans."

  "Rownan would never let them hurt me."

  "Aww, it's sweet that you believe that, but in their screwball minds, Rownan is the only one who can take you to the gate. Anyone who isn't a gorgon—or at least part gorgon—and swims into the Catacombs will turn to stone."

  I could feel the blood draining from my face. "This is why Rownan mysted me? He wanted me to trust him so he could take me to the Catacombs and turn me to stone?"

  "No, Senorita Sunbeam. According to the gorgon curse, the soul has to be sacrificed. Selkies and merfolk have very different interpretations of what that means. Remember, they share their souls through blood."

  I swallowed so hard I nearly choked. "Rownan wants my blood?"

  "They believe your blood has to be spread over the tombs in the Catacombs—all of it. There's malarkey in the poem about sacrificing for all the lost souls so they can return—or some rigmarole that those brain-freezed morons deciphered incorrectly. A rumor surfaced that your bloodshed will resurrect the souls entombed down there."

  "My—could that possibly—no, right? That's insane."

  "Of course it's insane. When you're dead, you're dead. I have friends entombed in the Catacombs that I would love to see rise from the ocean floor, but don't you think they might be peeved that they've been living the life of a rock for eighteen years? It's not logical."

  I fidgeted with the tube attached to my arm. "You don't believe my mom talked to me, do you?"

  He glanced at the door and lowered his voice. "I might. If she learned something from wherever she is, then maybe she's trying to teach you before it's too late. Currently our only two plans end all Romeo-and-Julietish. No mother would want that for her daughter."

  My mother didn't care much about me while she was alive. Maybe she was trying to make up for it from the other side.

  I itched at the tube in my arm. "Can you take this thing out? It's annoying."

  "Sure." Pango stood up and started playing nurse. He let out a frustrated sigh when Merrick knocked. "In a minute, Mrs. Grundy!"

  "Two minutes, Pango!" Merrick shouted through the locked door. "By then, if you two are still planning a séance, I'm calling in the Violets to perform an exorcism."

 
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