What It Took To Realize & Voodoo went through some professional editing and rearranging. They are now one book titled, What It Took, and it is available on Amazon for Kindle and Paperback, or order a signed copy off of my website.
Give me a reason
Like leaves in the seasons
To change, for you
It’s been a long hard winter
I’m prepared to wither away
But you say you don’t want me to
Oh, you want me to stay
But oh, I don’t want to stand still
Just give me a reason
You beg and you’re pleading
But you have nothing to give
Winter has ended
I don’t want to get left stranded
Watching you walk away
Oh no, no, no, no
Just give me a reason to stay.
A song written for a Fantasy in progress, What If. Read the first few chapters on my other blog authormercedes.weebly.com
“What?” I cried.
“New York City! For the weekend! Aren’t you excited?” She began to bounce up and down.
“Why?” I asked.
“Well, I’ve got a few jobs there this weekend, and there’s this big party tomorrow night…” She slowly trailed off.
I shook my head. “Tupaia,” I whined. “You know I don’t do parties. The last time I went, everyone laughed at me.” The thought of it pushed tears up through the back of my eyes. I couldn’t dance, and when I tried I hit someone in the face. Everyone stared at me, leering, laughing, and pointing. As if that wasn’t enough, they started making fun of the way I looked, the way I was dressed. My ribs began to suffocate my heart, which began to beat wildly trying to escape like a caged bird.
She jumped over my luggage and wrapped her arms around me. “I know, but it’ll be different this time. You don’t have to dance, and it’s a masquerade ball! Masks; no one will even know it’s you!”
Doubt gripped my throat. I continued to shake my head.
“I promise you, it won’t be like last time.” Her sapphire eyes pleaded with me. They were soft, childish, and naive; even though Tupaia was older than a few eras.
She squealed, jumping with me still wrapped in her arms.
This is going to be a disaster.
We arrived in New York City around noon the next day. As soon as we arrived in the “Big Apple” we dumped our luggage in our hotel suite. The suite was four rooms big and lavished in all shades pink. Light screens hung at the windows which presented us with a front-row view to time square. The streets were busy with buses and taxis. With people on foot or bikes. The buildings reached endlessly at the sky where music videos and ads played on them. The bedrooms were just as big and elegant as the rest of the suite. My bed was all round and covered in equally circular, silky blankets and pillows.
After ditching our luggage we fled to get ready for the ball. Tupaia wore a long elegant sapphire gown that complimented her soft defined curves and matched her eyes. Her wavy brown hair was wrapped up in a bun, and she wore a peacock feathered mask upon her face. She was stunning, as usual.
Tupaia had “her people” dress me in an emerald mermaid dress with a blue sequined mask that almost looked like scales, and my red hair flowed down my back. They all gasped, exclaiming, “She looks like Ariel!”
I grimaced. I was always jealous of Ariel; she had a father, loving sisters, and married her prince charming. She was beautiful and everyone loved her. She was everything I wished I could be.
Tupaia grabbed my hand, “You look like a model.”
As soon as we entered the facility where the party was being held, Tupaia went on her way to make a good impression with various modeling agencies and photographers. I went to the back of the club, where I sat alone for most of the night. The club was dark and gray. People were scattered everywhere dancing with strangers, mingling by the bar with blue lights and drinks in their hands. I was out of place.
I was surprised when the song, “Voodoo” blared through the speakers since I hadn’t heard it until a few days ago. But that was not the weirdest part of the night. No, the unusual thing was after the song had just ended, when a hand was held out in front of me. “Dance with me.” I looked up at a boy dressed all in black, with a black hat which covered his hair and a black mask covering most of his face, but his sunray eyes, curvy mouth, and soft chin.
I looked around for someone else that he could be talking to.
I looked up into his golden eyes, and for some reason I could not say no. I took his hand in mine and let him lead me out into the middle of the dance floor. “Resistance” by Muse began to pound through the speakers. He pulled me close against his soft chest. “Follow my lead,” he whispered into my ear. His voice was a little higher pitched than I imagined, but still comforting somehow. My heart threatened to break through my chest as he began to glide us across the dance floor. The lead singer’s voice sang into my ear “Is our secret safe tonight and are we out of sight?” The tempo began to pick up, as he twirled me around, and around. Everything became blurry, but his golden eyes that my gaze had become fixed on.
“You’re beautiful,” he breathed into my mouth.
I lost my breath. As the words, “Love is our resistance. They’ll keep us apart and they won’t to stop breaking us down. Hold me, our lips must always be sealed,” poured from the speakers our lips began to draw close to each other, like negative and positive attraction between magnets. When our lips were practically grazing, he drew away to lift me above him, and spin me in the air. He slowly brought me down as the song drew to an end and another song began. Our eyes were locked into one another’s, and for that moment, the world had faded away.
I heard the light sound of someone clapping, and I was pulled out of the spell I was under. I looked around to see that people had gathered and began to clap. They smiled and pointed, whispering to their friends. I fell back through memories, and all of a sudden I was at my last party, where everyone was laughing at me. I had to get away.
I pushed past the mystery boy’s shoulder, a wave of his vanilla scent followed after me along with his cry, “Wait!”
I sprinted through the doors and into the brisk NYC’s February air. The sidewalks were lined with slush, and the roads were busy with taxis, but I didn’t care as I ran across the streets, through the slush, while cars honked at me. I could hear his voice distantly crying, “Where are you going?”
I didn’t, I couldn’t stop until I was in my hotel suite. I flung myself onto the king’s size bed and cried myself to sleep.
In the morning, I woke to Tupaia sitting on the edge of the bed, stroking my hair. “I heard about what happened last night,” she said. “Everyone thought you and that boy were fantastic!”
I buried my face into the silky pillow.
“So why’d you run out?”
A tear burned its way through my right eye. “They were all lookin’ at me…”
“They thought you were amazing, Morgan!” She exclaimed.
I tore my face from the pillow, and looked up at her. Her hair fell over her shoulders like a waterfall, and in her silver silk pajamas, she looked like a goddess. “There was somethin’ about him,” I told her, “that made me forget everyone was there.”
She smiled, and her eyes grew distant. “I’ve felt like that before.” I wondered when. Tupaia hardly ever talked about what her life was like before she took me in. “It must be love,” she said at last.
I fell into the pillow. Love? With a guy I don’t know? I didn’t even know his name, how could I love him? And what about Leroy? I stared at Tupaia contemplating how it would be possible to love someone you only met once. “I’ll probably never see him again,” I sighed.
Tupaia laid down next to me, and held me in her arms like she use to do when I was young. “You never know. Things have a funny way of working themselves out.”
I bummed around the suite watching re-runs of H2O, my favorite TV show, while Tupaia went to her modeling jobs. I watched, for about the millionth time as three girls, unlikely to become so close, had no choice after they are transformed into mermaids with powers over water. I fantasized that I was one of those girls, instead of who I was. I didn’t even have powers.
I imagined how great it would be if my life were like the TV show. Being surrounded by friends who knew and accepted my secret, being able to lean on them when things were tough… Would I ever gain friends like that? I wondered. Doubtful.
That afternoon I drove the thirteen and a half hour drive back to Folly alone. Tupaia had scored more modeling jobs in the city from the ball Saturday night, so I decided to go home on my own to get ready for school the next day. The white lines on the thru-way melted away. All I could see was the mystery boy’s golden eyes. The whole way home, I smelled vanilla. I’ll never see him again.
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I hadn’t read a book in so long I forgot why I love reading them (and just as importantly, writing them!). It’s about losing yourself in another world, a different time, someone else’s inside, messed-up life. It’s about leaping into the rabbit hole.
My reading cycle slowly began to sputter back to life over the Christmas Holiday when I picked up David Levithan’s Every Day. The book called to me from the display of a second floor Barnes & Noble. It was a gravitational pull that lead me to “What Teens Are Reading”. There was something about this paperback. The pale yellow cover or the lettering. All I knew is I had to have it. Like a sponge; I soaked half of this book up in a comfy oversized arm chair in the lounge part of the Pittsford Barnes & Noble. The mere idea of this character- someone who woke up in a new body everyday, was interesting, but it was the objective thoughts on racism, genderism, and love that had me so intrigued. The was a subtle message that was so well placed, so well said, I finished the book in awe. It was a moment where you step back, begin a slow-clap, and tip your hat saying, “Well done.”
Since that book I had been hungry for something more. Some other book to blow my mind.
While I have a few in progress, I really hadn’t found the one that would kick-start my book frenzy. Until, of course, Splinter.
Again, I’m at Barnes & Nobles, wandering through the Teen section when it catches my eye. The glowing green vines that frame the cover, blond hair shaping her small face as her big blue eye makes contact with mine.
I’ve seen this cover before.
I pick up the book and as I suspect, I had seen it on Nathalia Sullen’s website when I was checking her out as a potential cover designer for What It Took To Realize & Voodoo. This was one of the covers that made me send that initial email.
I buy it. The second one too.
And finally, I have found the book I’ve been looking for. The one to ignite that little flame in the back of my brain that flickers as it chants: Must read. Must read.
Then it all clicks. Reading. The solution to my pressing anxiety and headaches of frustration and unhappiness that cloak me at work. Read.
Now, when I tell you I have books spread out everywhere, I do mean everywhere. From Real Mermaids Don’t Wear Toe Rings in the bathroom (you know… for bathroom-ly things…), to A Blue So Dark in the livingroom, Splintered at the bedside, and Coyote Blue by the hilarious Christopher Moore propped open next to my computer at work for some sly entertainment.
Maybe books are consuming my life… Or maybe they’re just the thing I need right now to keep my sanity through my own rollercoaster.
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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It was midnight. I was up like usual, writing that poem on the left page. It was a Saturday, so I knew I wouldn’t hear from him. Weekends are the hardest. They linger like an unpleasant odor. Soured like rotten milk. And my guts feel like twisted steel. Most Saturdays I spend biting my tongue so hard it bleeds, just to keep from crying. I spend Saturdays wondering why I had to fall in love with a man I couldn’t have.
I heard the familiar sound of tires against asphalt, but when I pushed the blinds aside, I couldn’t see anything through the sheets of white rain; no headlights. I wasn’t expecting him to be knocking at my door just moments later. But there he was. White collared shirt, black vest, and gray tie. He looked like he did everyday in class. So handsome. He loomed over my in my doorway, his sleek black hair dripping over the threshold, a drop even plopped right down onto my big toe. There was a darkness overcasting his face like a shadow, but his brown eyes glowed like a shooting star. “I, I shouldn’t be here.” His voice vibrated through my chest like thunder. I couldn’t even open my mouth. What was he doing here, I kept wondering. Even after his right foot stepped in through the doorway and his strong hands cupped my face. I kept wondering even when his lips met mine and they were hard, and cold like ice, but melted into liquid under mine.
His tongue tasted like candy apples. And all I could think about was the time at the carnival with Bobbi- but that was a different time. This was now. It was happening. The very thing I had been dreaming about since the moment I saw Mr. Prent in Global history. Since the moment my name was uttered through those perfect peachy lips of his.
It was all so hot, and I mean literally hot. Clothes felt like thermal heating fabrics wrapped around my limbs. They itched like bugs crawling all over my skin. Like that time I sat on a red ant hill and was bit all over… Focus… We ripped our clothes off, freeing ourselves of the constraint and somehow we found the bedroom. Somehow we found eachother. Somehow… We managed to fit.
This morning was bittersweet. I watched Jon dress, my chest tightening. Don’t cry, I kept telling myself. Don’t cry. He stood in front of the window, the faintest light shining through the blinds as the sun began to rise. His black hair, even after patting it down, was still askew. I resisted the urge to touch him. Like maybe he wasn’t really here. Maybe he wasn’t.
After looking out at the parking lot, he turned back to me. “I shouldn’t have come here.”
I smiled- or something like it- to cover my trembling bottom lip.
He kissed my forehead. Then turned to leave. I reached out for his hand. Savoring his warmth… But I couldn’t say what I wanted. Don’t go. Stay with me. I love you. Instead, I watched him leave.
It was the best. And the worst.
Another Picture It & Write inspiration!
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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