Thursday, April 18, 2013

THE MAGIC MERMAID #four (School)

   She was surprised that second early morning when an explosion of human-like proportions went off in the deep end of the pool. Storm was thinking about her sisters and how she’d meet Jack properly during the ‘merging’ class they shared after French Literature. It would be the first time she’d speak to him as a real girl. Storm didn’t anticipate they’d meet even sooner. After Storm had finished her laps, Jack dived into the far end of the school pool, barely making a splash.  
    Instantly, Storm climbed out of the wet. She couldn’t risk letting her love see her swim underwater. She’d been enjoying swimming in circles, she’d even become used to the chlorine and began spreading her glamorous tale out under the fluorescent lights just before Jack had dived in. He too, needed to practice. That was the truth. He needed to be faster and stronger in his human form if he and Sara were ever to beat Lavinia at her own game.
    Lavinia and the powerful Minchin sisters at a neighboring school had grown in stature. They’d already had a close call at homecoming. Lavinia’s conjuring had improved; it was almost as good as Sara’s. Lavinia still hid her banned cell phone and checked it whenever she needed answers to secret questions. Jack and Sara needed to build a small army to challenge Lavinia’s power.  
    Meanwhile, Storm needed to resume human form before Jack noticed her tail. She dripped at the edge of the pool as her legs reformed the instant the lower half of her body was exposed to the air. But the change exhausted her. Her face went pink, then slightly blue – she could feel the coldness running in her veins and exhaustion in her transforming muscles. The undetectable changes made her gasp for breath.
    “Are you okay?”
    Jack looked into her face.
    “Hey, don’t I…?”  Her eyes looked familiar. But it couldn’t be.
     Storm shrugged him off quickly. He couldn’t see her like this – hair wet and breathless, tail whirling underneath. This was how she’d first looked to him and he was sure to remember. She wanted him to see her as a real girl; he’d never be able to love her as a scaly, shiny creature of the sea. 
     Storm pulled herself up through the water, her tail transforming as she emerged into air, never giving Jack even a glimpse of her scales. He smiled at her. Storm hurried to the changing rooms without so much as a “hi.”
     It had been a strange introduction.
     When new students arrived, their talents weren’t announced. It was up to the student to ‘share’ when they were ready, according to the guidance officer, Mrs Styles – a ‘fashion victim’ according to Lavinia. Her mean girl trainees would take notes on their tablets and report back to Lavinia that afternoon, but Lavinia didn’t really need their help. Via her smart phone, which told her everything, she considered herself streets ahead of almost everyone else in school – except perhaps Jack and Sara. She’d pretended she wanted a truce with them – but it had all gone pear shaped in the school gym after homecoming. Now they were openly hostile. After her suspension, Sara just acted like nothing had happened. Around them, she even pretended she’d given up her wicked conjuring on school grounds.
    Sara and Jack didn’t trust Lavinia after she’d tried to kill Sara – or at least keep her in a deep sleep for a hundred years. The plan had backfired but over lunch, Lavinia was not deterred. Her new followers - Rapunzel Jones and Reddie Hood -  were ever eager to listen to all her news.
    Lavinia realized followers were better than friends. Already, she was wary of the new girl, Storm. Lavinia, too, had followed her to the swimming pool. Lavinia had spied on Storm and seen her luscious mermaid tale. Storm was too weird even for Lavinia.  
    Over lunch, she told Reddie and Rapunzel to “be careful of the freak show.”
    “Which one?” Reddie asked, eager to please. Her home life wasn’t too great either.
   “The new one – she’s amphibious.”
   “Wow,” Rapunzel said, trying to hide her awe. They’d never had an amphibious student at Sloan Select. She’d heard about them at Venice Beach High, though. Amphibious humans had been nearly wiped out by all the vampires. Mermaid blood, which was blue, was a sweet elixir to bloodsuckers.    
     Arriving part way through the semester put Storm at a disadvantage and Jack was determined to speak with the new girl during lunch. He didn’t want her to sit alone. Besides, Sara had a vision. In this vision, they were all friends.
     Jack had been serious about Sara – or seriously in love with her – since the first time (in Sara’s trailer one night) they’d changed a rock to water and back again. They’d also grown up together in the children’s home where they were discovered in in East LA. They trusted each other implicitly; though Jack wanted to take things further, Sara always held back and kept him at a safe distance. Jack knew Sara wasn’t ready to trust anyone just yet – especially a guy who could shape shift from human to cougar and back again.
     Still, they needed another friend to add to their group since Lavinia had been building an army against them. Lavinia and her new friends, Reddie Hill and Rupunzel Jones sat eating lunch together and plotting the Sloan Select Tournament of Skill – something Lavinia said would, “separate the sheep from the wolves.” Lavinia liked Jack more than a lot. It was a constant source of irritation to her that he and Sara were continuously together.
    The Tournament of Skill was scheduled to begin in one month and all the students attending the ‘gifted and talented schools’ (eight schools in total, including Venice Beach High) – were due to take part. Venice Beach High hosted many covens of vampire teens (including the Minchin sisters) and they were not known for playing fair. Lavinia had been networking for weeks now.
    Meanwhile, Jack and Sara were sure they needed to get a larger team together. Sara had even dreamt they needed a third person. Jack had tried to explain his mermaid vision to Sara but she joked that he was delusional prior to her dream. Now she was sure the third member was coming. Even though he was a shape-shifter and Sara had her own incredible powers to merge and change objects and people, they both knew the existence of mermaids was only speculated about in children’s stories. Still, Sara knew she and Storm would be friends; maybe even besties.
   That night, as Storm lay in bed listening to the ocean in her mind as she tried to sleep, she remembered the stabilizer pills her foster mom had recommended.      “These will prevent you from changing. When you’re in water, you’ll stay human. But remember, you’ll have to teach yourself to swim again. ” Storm got out of her bunk and took a pill. She knew that once she’d started the process of stabilization, it would be impossible to turn back. In order to have the boy she loved, her change had to be complete. Jack Hunter was worth it. Storm knew, deep inside, he was her dream.
   Real life had taken over that first week on land. School, homework, swim practice and a glimpse of him every morning filled her days.
   Storm only had one foster brother – he was nine and slept next door to her. Her foster parents were nice – they were used to dealing with “specific needs” students, as they put it. Storm’s specific need was water and no matter how many pills she took, she knew she’d never stop craving it. That Thursday night, Storm drank an entire glass of H2O with her pill then pulled out the classic novel, Les Miserables, assigned for French homework. 
    Les Miserables was a huge story that her French teacher told her was maybe too huge for a sixteen year old to read. It wasn’t required reading but Storm liked to read about Marius, the young revolutionary. Storm wasn’t a fan of Cosette – the girl who’d won his heart without doing anything to deserve it, except existing. It had occurred to Storm, as she read under the covers, using her torch (her foster mom had warned  her to get more rest) that she was in danger of becoming the Eponine in her own story. Eponine was the girl who loved Marius from afar but who, in the end, always looked on from the sidelines. Eponine was the girl who never knew she was worthy of being loved, the girl who was cast aside.