Monday, October 3, 2011
Middle Grade, Contemporary Fantasy
Nantucket Island, North Atlantic Ocean
Fifteen years ago
“Congratulations, it’s a boy.”
Brynn lay on the hospital bed clutching her newborn against her chest, the doctor’s words echoing in her head. The baby sighed in his sleep. Brynn smiled down at the peaceful face, longing to share her good news. But she knew that was the one thing she couldn’t do. Father would never congratulate me, nor accept a half-breed into his household.
The King of the Atlantic was a stern ruler… and a strict father. He didn’t approve of his only daughter marrying a drylander. So the Princess did the only thing she could think of and swam away to marry the human she loved.
In the corner of the hospital room, Tom groaned in his sleep. Brynn glanced at him and smiled again. They were barely twenty, but she’d been in love with him since the first time she’d seen him aboard his father’s fishing boat. For many summers, Brynn had watched Tom and his twin brother help their father work the nets, hauling in the cod that this area was famous for.
She stared at him now, remembering their first kiss one moonlit summer night when she had just turned fifteen. The age of consent in her world. He gave her a diamond and moonstone ring the summer they both turned eighteen, the age of consent in his world. Now here they were, not two years later, on the island of Nantucket giving birth to their firstborn. A son.
A half-drylander son who bore the Mark upon his back. Could he be the child of the legends?
The nurse with the white hair and the kind eyes entered the room, interrupting Brynn’s thoughts. “It’s time to take your baby for his first shots,” she said cheerfully, pushing her wheeled bassinet cart up next to the bed. She leaned over to lift the sleeping infant from his mother’s arms. “You should get some rest, too. You look exhausted. Was it a hard labor?”
Brynn shook her head as she reluctantly released her newborn. She watched the nurse settle him into the cart. He looked like any other human baby, lying there asleep and helpless, one arm loosed from the striped hospital blanket and splayed out to the left. “Labor was fine. It was the whole pregnancy that was hard.”
She hadn’t been in the ocean for nine months, afraid her father or his guards would capture her or – worse – discover the pregnancy. Nine months with only the small bathtub in Tom’s house to swim in. Her long blonde hair, once her crowning glory, now hung rather timidly around her head looking more like strands of limp seaweed than her former halo of golden curls. Her milk white skin was also suffering from air exposure, feeling as fragile and wrinkled as the autumn leaves blowing past her hospital window.
Brynn longed for the feel of salt water billowing through her hair, her fingers, her scales… she closed her eyes, imagining the sheer pleasure of the ocean caressing her body.
“I’ll bring him right back, I promise,” the nurse was saying, startling Brynn back into the present moment. “Have you decided on a name?”
“Sheachnadh,” Brynn said, leaning back again against the soft white pillow, staring over to the corner of the room at the still-sleeping Tom. “Sheachnadh Maguire.” Sheachnadh is an old Aequorean word for wandering from the expected path, Brynn thought with a smile. My marriage to Tom was certainly not what Father expected.
The nurse narrowed her eyes. “Hmm. A Celtic family name, I guess? I’m just not sure how to write that…” she said, and started spelling out loud. “S- H- E - A…” She stopped. “How about I leave it at ‘Shea’ for now? You and your husband can fill out the paperwork later.”
Brynn nodded wearily. She watched the nurse wheel the cart with her sleeping son from the room. Her eyes filled with water, the salty tears still a relatively new concept for the mermaid. It was like she was leaking, every time it happened. She closed her eyes and felt the teardrops burn twin paths down her cheeks.
“Where is the half-breed?” The unfamiliar voice startled her. Brynn’s eyes flew open to find a shirtless man looming over, his muscles rippling under the fluorescent lights. His eyes were deep-sea blue, fixed with laser precision on her own.
Merman, not drylander, she quickly assessed. One of the King’s Guard.
They’ve found me.
“Quickly, Princess. Give me the child.”
“There is no baby,” she heard herself lie. “It died at birth.”
“Neptune is good and just.”
She grimaced to hear the religious fervor in the soldier’s tone. Apparently the anti-drylander sentiments had penetrated even into her father’s palace. Her eyes darted over to Tom, who was snoring quietly. The soldier followed her look and advanced toward the sleeping human, unsheathing his dagger as he approached.
“Stop,” Brynn commanded, her voice suddenly regal. Her father’s soldier froze. “I’ll come willingly if you but let him live.”
He looked back at her, narrowing his eyes, as if considering her plea. Or his orders. “So be it,” he said finally. “We must leave at once. There is more unrest brewing, and you are not safe in the company of humans.” He grabbed her wrist and yanked her from under the bed sheets.
“Wait!” she cried, stumbling unsteadily as her bare feet hit the cold tile floor. “I need to say good-bye!”
The merman slipped a necklace over her head, the medallion thumping against her chest as it fell into place. “No,” he said. Without another sound, he dragged her from the room and down the hallway.
No one noticed the pair leaving the hospital, the tall bare-chested man and the woman in the hospital gown. No one saw the second man fall in step with them, flanking Brynn’s other side, as they walked silently down the empty cobblestone street. The three made their way from the medical center to the Nantucket docks, which stood deserted except for the swirling fog of early morning. Together the trio walked straight to the very end of the dock and kept walking, right into the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean, where they disappeared below the churning surface.
Plainville, Oklahoma, dry land halfway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans
It almost felt like an ordinary day.
Almost. But not quite. Something was off.
Shea Maguire tried to shrug off the weird feeling. He couldn’t ignore the tingling sensation running through his muscles. Maybe he’d overdone it in the back fields yesterday. Or maybe it was just the stupid drill putting him on edge.
Finally, the all-clear bell rang and Shea heaved a sigh of relief.
“Okay people,” said Mr. Kelley, clapping his hands to get the attention of the freshmen milling next to the bleachers. “Let’s line up and head back to the classroom. The tornado drill is over.”
“At least we missed most of the class,” said Shea’s friend John Hansen, pushing into line behind him. At a solid six foot four, John was taller than most and built like a blond brick wall. The other kids scattered to give him room. “I really hate history this year. I mean, some things about high school are great. History isn’t one of them.”
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