Mist rose above the falls as water slapped down against water, rhythmically and soothingly. Over all else, a child’s cry could be heard. I searched through the fog for the being whose screaming lungs touched something deep within me. When I happened upon a wicker basket in the river, the sobbing died down. I peered over the twine at the little child wrapped inside. For a minute we both simply stared at one another, taking each other in.
Finally I reached in to pull the baby out, and when it was in my arms I was graced with a lyrical laugh that tugged at the corners of my heart. I pulled the child closer to my face, my heart softening at its glowing green eyes which mirrored my own.
All of a sudden, all other sounds ceased. The waterfall stopped, like time around us was frozen. When I looked back at the quite child in my arms, the baby had begun to change. Its emerald eyes were swallowed by black. Its chubby little legs kicked their way out of the blanket, forming a blood red tail which slapped against my arms. Then the baby sprang up suddenly at my face with needle-sharp fangs poking out from underneath its upper lip.
I jerked back, waking myself up. When I found myself at my metal desk, exactly in the middle of the classroom, I realized I had fallen asleep in class…again. I hadn’t been getting much sleep since I was being plagued with the nightmares of the demon, mermaid baby with fangs. I shuddered just thinking about it. I mean, could a mermaid even have fangs? Even though I was a mermaid myself, my knowledge of my own race was limited. There was nothing I knew about them for sure, except for the things I knew about myself.
When I was born, my mother had abandoned me and left me on the doorstep of a water nymph, my guardian Tupaia. All I really know about my mother was that she was a mermaid who had an affair with a human, and I am their result. Since I am half-human and half-mermaid I am able to walk and interact with humans, as well as turn into a mermaid who is able to breathe underwater and communicate with fish. As if that wasn’t freakish enough, my hair and nails change colors with my moods. From the research Tupaia and I had conducted, we gathered that there were many different mermaid species and it was impossible to decipher which one I belonged to. Especially since most of our research has told us that I shouldn’t even be able to transform into a full mermaid since I am not full blooded. Guess it’s another aspect of myself I could add to my freak list.
I looked up at my Honors English teacher who was engrossed in her metaphor speech and the notes she had scrawled out on the black board. I let out a sigh of relief. It seemed she didn’t notice I had fallen asleep during her reading of The Awakening (thank goodness!). Even though I had dogged one bullet, another had her aim directly on me. Ginger.
Ginger had the entire package. She was one of the smartest, prettiest, and most popular girls in school; and her favorite extracurricular activity? Picking on the school’s biggest outcasts, and it just so happened that I was on the top of the list. Why was I the school’s number one outcast? Well, living in South Carolina just about everyone has a tan. Even the pale people have sun-kissed skin. I, on the other hand, was simply translucent. My skin was so light that you could see my veins! Ginger’s purple eyes taunted me from across the room, a smirk playing on her thin lips. I quickly darted my eyes away, although I was sure she could smell my fear.
I was not the only “Mythical Creature” that roamed the halls at Folly High. Ginger was one of them. She was a pixie, one of the cruelest, coldest creatures I had ever come across. Like many of the other creatures in the school she masked her true identity with magic, in her case Glamour. Even though I was one of them, they did not know I was, and I desperately tried to keep it that way. I did not want to give Ginger another reason to pick on me.
I threw my hood over my head. The second the heavy fabric touched my changing red hair, the teacher immediately stopped in the middle of her sentence to yell, “Miss Tal-Reathe! Put down your hood at once.”
I could practically hear Ginger snickering to herself.
There was no way I was going to uncover my light pink hair. I was not going to expose my secret. Like a scared animal under the watchful eye of its hunter, I held my breath and sat very still, hoping I would be spared.
Thankfully the bell rang before the teacher could step any closer. I gathered my papers in my arms and blindly darted out of the room, blending in with the swarm of eager students. Before I was even halfway down the hallway Ginger’s voice echoed against the hollow walls, calling my name. “Oh, Morgan!” I cringed. There was no escape. My only options were to stay and take whatever Ginger had planned, or run only to endure something much worse later. I stood, still as a statue, my eyes squeezed shut, and my papers clutched to my chest. My heart sped up with each step she took towards me. Her cold, boney hand clutched my shoulder as she flung me into a wall of olive green lockers. Pain spread through my back causing me to let out a low whimper.
“Morgan, it was so sweet of you to wait for me.” She began to chuckle, a crazed yet beautiful sound. Her fellow cheerleaders, otherwise known as her mindless drones, started in after her like the perfect group of horror they were. When their laughter died down, Ginger brought her attention back to me. Her face was inches from mine as she whispered, “That was quite a show you put on in class.”
Her breath filled my nose, smelling like dirt. I winced away: a move that only displeased the “Highness”. Scowling at me she growled, her upper lip turning into a snarl. “You will always be a freak, and don’t you forget it.” She grabbed the fabric of my navy blue sweatshirt in her fists as she pulled me towards her only to slam me into the lockers once more. A lock jammed into my spine, the pain rippling through my entire body, as my papers rained around me. I slid down to the floor, tears pushing at the back of my eyelids, as Ginger and her perfect gang walked briskly down the hall, their tan, toned legs visible under their short-shorts, and their blond hair swaying with each step.
My hood fell over my hair as I dropped my face into my hands. I could never compete against her. She was perfect in every way and just as she said, I was only a freak. A deep voice interrupted my thoughts. “Maybe if you got a tan they would leave you alone.”
I snorted. “Yeah, and maybe I could try some lipstick.” Truth was, I had tried both those things. Nothing worked, not tanning lotion, spray, the sun, or any kind of lipstick for that matter. I was cursed with being so pale that I was practically see-through and I was stuck with lips so blue that I looked like I was suffering from hypothermia.
I lifted my head from my hands to find myself faced with a hand full of my papers. I slowly allowed my eyes to travel upwards from his large hands, to his bulky arms, masculine neck, and finally his face… I looked up at his chiseled chin, sharp jaw bone, and shaggy auburn hair that swooped right above his dark sunglasses. I gasped. I was face to face with no one other than the hottest guy in all of Folly. “I’m Leroy,” he introduced himself, clearly amused with whatever expression happened upon my face.
“I know,” I answered, snatching my papers from his hands. I knew all about Leroy. He was new to Folly but was quickly acclaimed the hottest guy after joining the football team. He and Ginger were rumored to become a couple. I mean the captain of the football team and the head cheerleader is textbook for the perfect couple. But that wasn’t all he was, he was also a vampire. I jumped up so we were both standing. “I’m Morgan,” I finally managed.
I nodded awkwardly. Of course he knew. I began to squirm in my skin. What could he possibly want with me? Did Ginger put him up to this? I checked the nonexistent watch on my wrist. “Oh look at the time, I should get to class.”
I turned to leave but he just stepped in stride with me. “Where are we headed?”
We? “AP Art?” I squeaked.
“You like drawing?”
I nodded. “Painting mostly.”
“That’s cool. I’m no good at that stuff.” There was more awkward silence as we neared the classroom.
“Wait!” He interrupted. I froze. “There’s this party Friday night…”
I shook my head. “I don’t do parties.” I went to go into the classroom when his ice hand grabbed ahold of my forearm. “Then we don’t have to go.”
I stared up at him, startled. I tried to look into his eyes, but they were guarded with the thick dark lenses.
He took my silence as an OK to continue. “Just go out to dinner with me. Please.”
I shook my head. “I have plans.”
“Cancel them.” A breath caught in my throat. Was this really happening? He took his sunglasses off and begged me with his creamy brown eyes. “Please.”
“I-“ Then before I could say another word his cold hands brushed against my burning face as he took ahold of the back of my head and delivered a soft kiss onto my lips, his brown shaggy hair tickling my forehead. My first kiss. He slowly pulled away, his light eyes still begging. “OK.” I finally agreed.
“Great, I’ll pick you up at six!” He placed his sunglasses back on his head and dashed away before the bell rang.
For a minute I just stood there. Slightly confused as to what had just happened. When I entered the classroom I was faced with students who looked as baffled as I was; their thoughts written on their faces. “Why her?” I shrugged as if to say, I don’t know either.
I was relieved to sink into the back of the room where I settle into my seat, grateful to lose myself in my art once again. I was comforted by the symphony of light brush strokes, pencil scrapping against uneven canvas, lulled breathing and soft hearts’ beating. I let myself once again, be swept away by the memory of my mother as her unfinished portrait sat in front of me. Her blond locks danced around her soft face curling and uncurling around each flawless curve of her head, as if each strand were alive. Her thin, light brows pinched together ever so slightly as we said our silent goodbyes. Her emerald eyes, which resemble my own, gazed down at me with love and worry. My itsy-bitsy fingers reached for the shell which dangled from her neck, her name May scrawled on hers, much like mine that says Morgan.
I hadn’t even realized I was painting until Mrs. Vigoss woke me from my spell by gasping, “She’s beautiful.”
I continued painting the fiery highlights in her hair. Smiling I agreed, “She is.”
“Who is she?”
I tried to tame the swirl of emotions which bubbled within my stomach like an active volcano. “My mom…” I felt something wet roll down my cheek. A tear? I quickly swiped it off my face with the back of my hand. So much for controlling myself.
She delivered an assuring squeeze on my shoulders before moving on to another student, leaving me alone with the sense of loss. A feeling I’ve shouldered all my life. I hardly knew anything of the woman I painted, of the person who had caused me so much grief. Who was she? Who was my father? Where are they? Why did she leave me behind?
I was all too grateful, when the bell rang, to pack up my supplies and get the painting of her out of my mind.
As soon as the final bell rang, I sank through the crowd, tip-toeing around people like a mouse, until I stepped into the school parking lot and was greeted with the fresh, salty air of Folly, South Carolina. I headed to the very back where my two-thousand-nine Chevrolet Impala, a Winter Solstice gift from Tupaia, was parked.
I climbed into the driver’s seat and leaned into my royal blue seat covers. Taking a deep breath I inhaled the tropical car sent. I pulled the key from the front pocket of my messenger bag; put it in the ignition to start the car. Rolling down all the windows, I let the tasty air in, and began my drive home. It was only a thirteen minute drive, but the traffic leaving the school was terrifying as always. When I finally escaped the parking lot I got caught behind another car turning right down Folly Beach Road. It was a silver VW Beetle with its top down. Ginger‘s long blonde locks danced behind her as her sharp violet eyes pierced through me in the rearview mirror. The girl driving was someone that I did not recognize. All I could see of her was her light brown bob.
I could hear a unique voice trail out of the VW’s speakers, singing the words, “It makes me stop and wonder, what spell have I been under? Who taught that voodoo that you do? I can see your glory. I wanna write your story! Somebody’s voodoo’s got me binded to you.” I didn’t even notice my fingers lightly strumming to the beat on my steering wheel until the Beetle turned right, and the music began to fade. Shrugging off the weird sensation the song brought, I turned left, the song playing on repeat in my head.
Air flooded my car as I drove down the road to home. I passed layers upon layers of thick forests filled with Red Maples and White Birches. The closer I got to the beach, the more I could taste its salty air on my tongue. When I got to East Huron Avenue, I followed it onto East Hudson, and then took a left at Sixth Street. I pulled into the paved driveway in front of my dark grey, two story house. There were two sets of white stairs that met together on the porch, making an arch. I took the pair of white stairs on the right and opened the wooden door.
As soon as I set one foot over the threshold and onto the grass green carpet in the hallway; Tupaia came bouncing out of the home gym in her turquoise sweats. Her long brunette hair was tied back into a pony-tail with a teal, silk ribbon. She smelled of cream and sugar, despite the sweat trickling down her face. Her blue eyes glowed as she greeted me with a, “How was your day?” and a swift kiss on the cheek. I hung my messenger bag up on a brass fish whose tail was bent up into a hook. I gave Tupaia a hug, and kissed her back.
“Today was weird,” I confessed.
She skipped into the kitchen, directly ahead, with me lagging behind. “How so?”
I sat down at the sky blue counter, on top of our stainless steel bar stools. I didn’t want to tell her, because I knew that she wouldn’t understand my conflicting feelings about going out with Leroy. So instead I watched her reach up into the cupboard with her long, thin limbs and take out plates. She set the plates on the counter and pulled the lettuce out of the white refrigerator, and then sprinkled lettuce onto our octopi plates, cut up some carrots, threw in some cherry tomatoes, and topped them off with a few croutons.
She sat next to me, handed me a silver fork, and took a bite of her own salad. “Well?” She asked, raising one of her thin, dark brows.
I sighed, pushing the food on my plate around with my silverware. “I have a date for tomorrow…”
She squealed, almost falling off of her stool. “Really!” she cried. “What’s his name? Is he cute? What time? Should I go buy you a new outfit? What are you going to wear?”
I sighed and then took a deep breath. “His name’s Leroy, he’s the hottest guy in school, and he’s a vampire!”
She just continued to stare at me with her round eyes, waiting for something more.
I shrugged. “That’s it.” She pinched her forehead together with her sculpted brows and I explained. “I didn’t know if going out with Leroy would be a good idea because he’s a vampire, and they’re dangerous, and I don’t feel like getting hurt or having my blood drained out of me.”
Finally she came to life, but her reaction was not what I was expecting, though I should have. Nymphs had a tendency to be irresponsible, and have a hard time being serious. Tupaia was like a child disguised as an adult. She laughed and waved her hand, “You are silly! Why would he ask you out if he was going to hurt you?”
I could feel the steam coming out of my ears. “To get me alone? To gain my trust?” I stated in a “well, duh” way.
She shook her head. “If he wanted to hurt you, he would have done so by now.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Did she care about my well-being at all? I turned my attention from her to my plate and ferociously stabbed a tomato with my hand-held trident.
Tupaia shoveled her salad down her throat without chewing. With a full mouth she began to explain, “I got called in for another modeling job tonight, so I won’t be home ‘till late.” I nodded. “Don’t forget to do your homework, and I’ll pick up a new outfit tonight for your big date.” She winked at me, gave me a kiss on the forehead, and was out the door.
“Bye,” I called. I tossed my salad, dropped the plates in the sink, and was also out the door. I sprinted into the woods and off the trail southward. Birds chirped around me, trees bristled in the breeze, but I did not stop to admire this scene. Instead I kept going. I did not even stop once I got to the pool. While sprinting, I tore off my clothes and dove right in. The cool water welcomed me and the tingly feeling began to quake my being as I began the transformation. As soon as the fresh saltwater touched my skin, I shuttered in delight. Just like stripping down in heat, I stripped my human self and released the real me. I let my legs fuse together into one emerald green tail, flapping behind me. The scales did not end there; they engulfed my entire body, so tiny my skin seemed to shimmer. I swam to the bottom of the pool, where Tupaia had real seaweed planted. I clutched the soft textured sand in my fists and rolled around in the seaweed, laughing. The pool, my pool, was my home; my haven. There, on the bottom of my ocean, no one could touch me. I was free. I just laid there for a while, my eyes closed, and breathing the wonderful taste of saltwater. I imagined that I wasn’t at the bottom of a giant saltwater tank, but in the vast ocean with my mother; swimming and laughing, no idea where we are going, but just enjoying each other’s presence. It was a day dream that I often revisited. It was a wish I knew could never come to existence.
Finally I opened my eyes, staring down at my skin, practically glowing with the microscopic scales woven in. I ran my webbed hands over the rough emerald scales that made up my lower half. I was a freak. No one else I knew looked as different as I, even without their glamour, their shields from human eyes. They usually were just as beautiful, or more so, but me? I didn’t look like I belonged, at least, not at school. In my enormous tank, however, the fish accepted me. We played together, we swam together, and we talked to each other. They were my only friends, and I trusted them with my life.
“Morgan!” Ron swam to my side.
“Hey.” Ron was my best friend, and a seahorse. We usually restocked the pool with new fish every few years. So I had made many friends, but never a best friend, until about four years ago when we got Ron.
“How was school?”
I rolled my eyes.
“The usual?” He asked.
“It started that way, but it became very… unusual.” I tossed myself onto my back and stared up towards the end of the water and the beginning of the sky.
“Did Ginger apologize for being so mean to you?”
I laughed. “Close.” I rolled onto my side and stared into Ron’s eyes. “Leroy asked me out.”
Ron’s entire expression changed from joking, to serious. “You mean the vampire?”
Finally someone who was as worried as I was! “Yeah,” I sighed, “I’m not sure what to do.” I fell onto my back again, staring up into space. “A part of me is begging to go, and the other part is too cautious. It says: ‘he’s going to try to drain you of blood, or worse, make me just like him because he pities me’.” A tear escaped my left eye and dissolved into the water. I hoped that he didn’t pity me, that wasn’t something I needed. I hoped that he actually liked me, thought I was cute when everyone thought I was a freak. But I also knew that it couldn‘t be possible, no one would ever like me. “What do I do?”
“What does Tupaia say about all of this?”
I tried to keep my voice calm, to cover up the emotions that clutched me tightly in its grips. “She thinks I should go for it. That he wouldn’t ask me out if he had any intention to hurt me.” I laughed a little too hard, “Can you believe that?”
“Yes,” he confessed. “Your guardian is very irresponsible. She doesn’t know how to worry about stuff like this. It’s not her nature.”
I looked over at Ron, who floated beside me, stiff, and his eyes flamed with anger.
“I know it’s not her fault that she is the way she is… I guess sometimes she could at least try to act like a mature adult who is taking care of a teenage girl.”
I sat up and scooped Ron into my sparkling arms, wishing that he had arms that he could hug me back with.
“It’s not fair that I can’t comfort you when you’re upset.” He sighed, as if reading my mind. “It’s something that’s bothered me since the first time I saw you’re beautiful face and sad green eyes…”
I blushed, filling up with happiness. “How do you know what beautiful is?”
He shook his head. “I may be a seahorse, but I am not a fool.”
I hugged him a little tighter. “You’re the best friend a mermaid could have.”
He butted me softly with his head, “You’re the best friend that anyone could have. Those humans at school are nitwits.”
I laughed a little. Nitwits? Ron always said the weirdest things. I kissed him on top of his head. “How’s it that you always know just what to say to cheer me up?”
He laughed, a noise filled with unexplainable beauty. “I have had many years of practice.”
I laughed too. “I guess so.” Sighing, I said goodbye and swam to the surface.
Before my head broke the top of the water I heard Ron call, “Be careful with that vampire boy!” Then my body was stung with the chilly night’s air. I carefully maneuvered myself out of the pool and completely dried myself with a towel before my fin broke into two pale, stick-thin legs. I used those legs to run me home, where I put on a night gown and did my homework.
Curious, I took out my laptop and searched for the song lyrics that played out of the mysterious VW. I discovered that the song “Voodoo” was written by some Canadian Singer/Actress named Alexz Johnson. Whoever she was she made great music. I downloaded her album and fell asleep listening to the words of “Voodoo” on my IPod.
Stay tuned for Chapter Two!
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