I looked down at the mermaid child in my arms. She laughed a sweet, light sound. Then she let out a whimper. Her fangs grew from her toothless mouth, and she pushed them into my neck.
I woke up, my hand where her fangs had pressed against my skin. I felt nothing. I flung my sea foam comforter off and swung my legs over the edge of my bed. It was Friday. I walked over to my full length mirror and grimaced at the red head staring back at me. Her hair was matted to her head, and her mouth was crooked.
I could hear Ginger whispering, “Freak,” into my ear.
I walked out of my room.
I sat in my Impala once I arrived to school, since I still had ten minutes until they unlocked the doors. I stared deep into my vanilla bean coffee. I swirled the liquid around slowly in my Styrofoam cup and watched the liquid form a weak hurricane. The coffee began to morph into something new. I continued to twirl the cup in my hand and as it began to take shape, someone opened the passenger door.
Leroy flashed an apologetic smile. “Did I scare you?”
He flopped down into the seat next to me, and shut the door. “Do you always wait out here alone?”
His smile never faltered. “It’s Friday, you know.”
“How could I forget?” How would anyone forget if they had a date with the most popular guy in school?
“Are we still on for our date?”
I went to look into his eyes, but they were guarded by thick black lenses, as usual. He wore a blood-red polo, collar popped, dark jeans and sneakers. His hair laid like a shaggy dog on his head, and for a second I couldn’t see the appeal to him. What made him so desirable? He took off his sunglasses, revealing his almond brown eyes. His smile grew so that his teeth, or should I say fangs, showed. “You’re not backin’ out are you?”
I found myself momentarily lost in the depth of his creamy eyes. “No,” I replied. “’Course not.”
His eyes began to glow an orange-brown, before he masked them with his shades again.
He got out of the car, walked around, and opened up my door. “C’mon cutie, they’re about to open the doors.”
My face grew hot.
I was thankful that Ginger wasn’t in school that day. Her and her mindless drones were off at some Cheer competition or something. If she was there, there was no way I’d be able to escape her wrath. She probably would have had my head if she knew Leroy and I were going on a date. Friday I was safe, but I knew I would not be so lucky again.
When I got home, I was bombarded by Tupaia. She grabbed my hand rushing me into the kitchen, where she pushed me onto one of the stainless steel stools while she quickly made us a snack. “Why are you acting so weird?” I was almost afraid of what she’d say.
Her blue eyes were bulging out of her head and she was mumbling like a crazy person. “There’s hardly enough time…”
She tossed me a plate of salad and as I poured salt over every inch of green, I gathered up the courage to ask, “What are you talkin’ about?”
She looked at me like I was the one who had completely lost her mind. “We have to get you ready for your date.”
I tossed a glance at the clock. “Tupaia, it’s only three-thirty. We have two and a half hours!”
“Yeah. Only two and a half hours. I’m not sure that we’ll have enough time…”
I sighed and finished my salad. I tossed my dishes in the sink and headed towards the back door. “Where are you goin’?”
I had never seen Tupaia this way; it was beginning to scare me. “To go swimmin’?”
She let out a high-pitched chuckle and I was sure she’d gone nuts. “Yeah right! You need to go shower so we can get you ready.”
“But…” I began and finished, I need to talk to Ron, in my head.
“Go shower,” she called from the closet. I didn’t bother to tell her I had already taken a shower that morning.
I sighed and had no choice but to obey, because frankly she was starting to scare me out of my skin. I’d have to wait to talk to Ron when I got home. I dragged my legs up the stairs and started the water for my shower.
Afterwards I wrapped myself into a towel and headed into my room. There was someone sitting on the edge of my bed. I screamed, only to realize that it was just Tupaia. I calmed down a little bit, but only a little, remembering how completely crazy she’d gone. I narrowed my eyes at her. “What are you doin’?”
“The next step is your outfit, because we have to let your hair dry. Modeling has prepared me for this moment.” I rolled my eyes and handed myself over to her. She had a whole new wardrobe laid out on my bed. It looked like she had bought the whole store. I let her dress me up, down, and up, trying outfit after outfit as if I was a Barbie doll. Finally, she picked. Then, not having any time to see what the outfit looked like on me, Tupaia went straight to my hair. She curled my hair, did my make-up (only under the conditions that she wouldn’t powder my face or use lipstick), and she painted my nails black.
“Why black?” I asked.
“He won’t notice if black changes its shades, because it is a shade,” she said while deeply concentrating on perfecting my nails. I just sat nodding my head. “Finally,” she squealed. “You’re done!”
I got up to look at myself in the mirror. I gasped at how I almost looked normal. My hair curled perfectly around my face, the blue laced blouse fit perfectly on my body. For that moment, I was just a normal girl going on a normal date. My eyes began to tear before I could stop them. I turned to Tupaia and hugged her tightly. “Thank you.”
The bell rang.
She held me out in front of her and dabbed my tears with a tissue. “You’re welcome, beautiful.” We hugged each other tight, and when I pulled away she smiled crookedly at me. “Now stop cryin’ or you’ll ruin your make-up.” She kissed my cheek. “I’ll go answer the door.”
I turned back towards the mirror, trying to remember that moment. Remember how happy I felt and looked. I turned from my reflection in the mirror and began down the stairs. Leroy was at the front door, wearing a black buttoned-down shirt that showed his well-shaped muscles. His sunglasses hung in the V of his top.
Leroy waltzed over to me, taking my hand. He put his palm on the small of my back and whispered into my ear, “You look beautiful, Morgan.”
I felt my face turn scarlet and worried about my hair. If anything happened, he didn’t seem to notice. Instead he leaned down and kissed my cheek. His lips were soft and cool on my burning skin.
Tupaia bounced towards us with a hat, fashion scarf, and a pair of black flats in her hands. “Here you go,” she said dropping the flats by my feet and putting the hat on my head.
I took the scarf and wrapped it around my neck. “Thank you,” I said as I slipped on the shoes and gave her a hug.
“Y’all have fun,” she called as Leroy led me out to his car. “And don’t be out too late!”
“We won’t!” I called back. I climbed into Leroy’s black Lamborghini asking, “Will we?”
He smiled at me, a smile so gorgeous that it made me sick. “’Course not. We’re just goin’ out to dinner.”
I didn’t go out much, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It felt like we had only been in the car for a minute when we pulled into a local restaurant. I was interested as to what it would be like. “What kind of food do they have there?” I asked, trying to figure out what to order, before even seeing the menu.
He laughed. “Good food.”
I glared at him. He just chuckled, shaking his head as he got out of the car. Before I could even take my seatbelt off, he was opening the door for me. I smiled as a thank you, thinking, I’m going to have to get use to that.
He held me real close against his hard chest until we were seated at a dark wooden table with a window view. Leroy pulled out my tweed chair for me, with white crabs dancing on the blue backs. After we were both seated, the waiter asked what we wanted to drink. “I’ll just have water,” I said. Leroy raised his brows then asked for the same. I gazed out the window towards the dock. The tide drew in, then out, as if the ocean was breathing. I longed to be inside of it, be a part of its mystery, but I promised Tupaia a long time ago that I wouldn’t go in the sea. There was always a possibility that it would take hold of me for all of eternity.
Leroy squeezed my hand and his deep brown eyes gazed at me. “I’m glad you came with me tonight,” he said.
I snapped back to attention and nodded my head. I was trying to keep myself from saying too much, but ultimately was keeping myself from saying anything at all. “Me too.”
“I wasn’t sure that you’d come.”
I squirmed uncomfortably in my seat. “I almost didn’t,” I confessed mentally kicking myself.
“I’m the school’s biggest freak and you’re the school’s best looking guy. I’m still convinced that there’s a loophole somewhere.” I couldn’t believe that I was actually telling him some of my deepest thoughts.
He chuckled sweetly and kissed my hand. “There’s no loophole, sweetheart. I simply thought that you were amazingly cute and had to ask you out before someone else did.”
I snorted. It was the first date I had ever been on and I was positive that I wouldn’t have had one at all if it weren’t for him. I still didn’t know if I could believe that he really liked me, but I had no reason not to. I knew that it was time to “loosen up” as Tupaia had said.
“May I take your order?” The waiter asked.
“Oh, I haven’t looked at the menu yet!” I gasped.
Leroy kept his eyes on mine. Smiling he told the waiter, “She will have the Grilled Pineapple soup and I‘ll have the Grilled Hanger Steak, rare.”
Once the waiter was finally gone, Leroy leaned over the table and kissed my lips. I sighed at the wonderful feeling of being liked by someone who was neither family nor fish. He let go of my hand, got up, kissed my cheek, and headed for the bathroom.
Thirst shook my body at its core and took over from not being in my pool all day. So while he was gone, I poured salt into my water and gulped it down. The taste was sweet in my mouth, but it didn‘t dissolve my thirst. Before I knew what I was doing, I poured salt into Leroy’s water and downed it just before he returned. I still had a few seconds to spare, and peered around the rest of the restaurant. Most of the tables were filled with tourists, even though it was only February. They must have been from far up north where there was still snow on the ground, because down in South Carolina it was already sixty degrees. The place was hot, despite the temperature dropping outside, and it smelled of cooked fish. The smell made me sick. This is why I don’t go out, I reminded myself. I couldn’t stand the thought of people eating my fish friends.
When Leroy returned from the bathroom, he sat down, saw the two empty water glasses and raised his eyebrows at me. I grew embarrassed, looked down, and sat on my hands out of habit. Then I remembered my nails were black so they wouldn’t be changing colors. I placed my hands awkwardly back onto the table and bit my lip instead. He took my hand and the confession spilled out of my mouth, “I just got real thirsty. I drink a lot of water, I can’t help it. It’s like genetic… or somethin’…”
He kissed the back of my hand, smiling. He said, I think more to him than me, “So cute.” It wasn’t fair that such a simple word made me blush like I had never blushed before. He looked into my eyes; his were so bright that they were almost a golden color. He reached out to me with his other hand and stroked my cheek. “I’m so grateful that you came with me. Next time we’ll go where ever you want.”
“Next time?” I never thought of the possibility of another date. I never even considered the idea of him wanting to go out with me again. Does this mean we’re going to end up being boyfriend and girlfriend?
His eyes faltered for a moment, deciding on a light, creamy brown. His smile grew as he said, “Well, that is, only if you want to.” He kept looking at me and begging me with his eyes; which were growing progressively darker.
The waiter stopped by and handed us our dinner. He saw the empty glasses and asked, “Would you like any more to drink?”
“Please,” I answered, a little too eager. He took the empty glasses, leaving me with Leroy and his darkening eyes. I took a sip of my soup, the taste exploded on my tongue, tangy and exotic. I took another spoon full and hummed. It was like nothing I had ever tried before. “You know, since you ordered for me so well, I wouldn’t mind if you ordered for me again next time.”
His eyes lit up and glowed their normal creamy brown. “I hoped you’d say that.” It was then I realized that his eyes changed with his mood, just like my hair and nails. Must be a mystical creature thing, I figured. His sunglasses suddenly made sense. I realized that he wore them for the same reason that I wore hoods, or hats, and why Tupaia had painted my nails: exposure. He didn’t want any one realizing that he wasn’t quite as normal as everyone thought he was.
Finally the date began to pick up as we asked one another questions, unraveling our pasts and truly getting to know one another. He asked me about Tupaia. Is she your mom? What does she do for a living? Then when I clarified that Tupaia was just my guardian he began to ask about my real parents. When I explained I didn’t feel comfortable talking about my real parents he gracefully switched the spotlight off of me and onto him. Although, I doubted that most of it was completely true because I knew that he must have been a vampire for at least a few decades.
“My parents died in a house fire when I was five,” he told me. “Afterwards I was sent to an orphanage where I was lucky enough to have gotten adopted by my current step-father.” He looked off for a moment before saying, “He made me who I am today…” A vampire? Leroy told me about how he owned a business out of town and planned to skip college and focus on further promoting his business. I would widen my eyes and nod my head enthusiastically so that he thought I actually believed him. Truth was I kind of did.
Leroy dropped me off at nine-thirty. “It’s not too late, is it?” He asked me as we walked up the stairs to the porch.
I shook my head, “It’s still before midnight. I’m sure we’re okay.”
He wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me close to his chest. I shivered against his cool body. “That’s good,” he breathed. “I had a great time with you tonight…”
“Me too.” A breath caught in my throat. He leaned down and kissed me; his lips, which were as hard as steel, melted against mine.
He rested a hand on my cheek, “Goodnight.” Then he ran to the car and drove off.
“Goodnight,” I whispered to the empty space where he used to be. Left with the feel of his lips on mine, I ran upstairs to my room to fall asleep, but Tupaia had filled the hallway with bags.
“We’re goin’ to New York City for the weekend!”
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