I sat at my desk, hands folded, head tilted down. I almost looked to be praying, and I was, praying for the bell to ring anyways. 3.2.1. I thought “Ding!!!” the bell made me jump; I ran out the doors feeling the warm summer ocean air of Florida sweep my hair back. I ran to the beach kicking sand up and clothes off as I ran until I was just a wet clump of bathing suit, hair, and flesh. I reveled in the salty water, I gasped as the fish nibbled her toes, curiosity taking hold of their feeble minds. I dug my toes into the mix of sand and sharp shells and the fish swam away. I leaned down and dove beneath the salty waves only to break the foamy surface with a full sand dollar, I giggled, my sister would be so happy; it was rare to find one of these. I slowly waded out of the water as if afraid to leave the comfort of the wide open ocean, but I walked along the beach picking up my clothes as she went. I walked up to my driveway, the harsh gray rocks digging into the soles of my rough callused feet, my house hiding in the woods, the path to the lake already crawling with life, I walked into my loft room at the top of the house so my sister wouldn’t see me. I changed into clean clothes and hid the sand dollar in my little hiding place compartment in my mirror, and I ran downstairs to grab a snack. There was a note on the counter,
Sweetie, went kayaking across the lake with your sister, there is roast beef in the fridge
love You, mom. I set the note on the counter and went to the fridge and got the roast beef out and chewed a slice. I turned on the TV and changed it to my movie channel, there was nothing on so I sat there and thought. My sisters birthday had to be the best one yet… especially after last year’s party, which didn’t end so well.
The door opened with a creaking noise, and I jumped and sighed, relieved it was only my sister. “Hey steph! How’s it going?” my sister Marissa asked. “Hey girlie good” I smiled. My sister was always the one to make me smile, well Marissa and the ocean that was. “Well I’m going swimming in the lake!” I said with a flourish. “Kay don’t get eaten!!!” Marissa giggled. “I won’t I promise!” I laughed and ran to my room and pulled on my bathing suit, still wet with the salty water from after school and ran down the stairs and ran along the path going “ow” “ouch!” then I got to the lake and dove under the dark surface eyes open, the water purifying my air dried skin. The fish swam away from my black witch hair and pointed nose, my blue eyes sparkling. I broke the surface breathing heavily, the water cascading from my glistening body, the world seemed clearer, almost brighter. “Stephanie!” my mom was yelling at me from inside a green kayak, its nose disturbing the stillness of the lake, I waved to her mom. I dove under again only to resurface next to my mom’s kayak, my mom jumped. “Stephanie!” “Hey mom” I sighed, tired, my mom noticed and rowed away no other words spoken between us. I breathed heavily, the watery world becoming just mine again. I sank into the water, opening my eyes swimming back to my house. I walked up to my room and changed into my pajamas, the warm, soft fleece tickling my legs. I sighed again, I was sighing a lot today. I laid in my bed sinking into the cool mattress, breathing in the scent of my favorite waterfall shampoo, and smelling this I fell into a deep sleep, dreams not bothering me tonight.
I woke to the sound of the early morning water lapping against the banks of the quiet lake, I stood quietly and slipped on my tennis shoes, I tiptoed down stairs and snatched a banana, flying out the door in my pajamas; I slid her dark blue kayak into the still lake making ripples on the surface, I paddled to the other side of the lake where I had my own hidden place, my treehouse, I climbed to the top level and looked down to the beach and ocean edge, I peeled her banana and chewed thoughtfully. I closed my eyes, only for a second. “STEPHANIE!!!!!!” my mom was screaming at me from somewhere, I sat up immediately, and the sun was setting! “Oh no”, I groaned, “coming mom”, I carefully climbed down and hopped into my kayak, paddling furiously; I made it home quickly and threw the kayak to the beach. I ran up the sandy, gravel path, and I burst through the backdoor and smiled “sorry mom I fell asleep” “not an excuse” my mom growled. I groaned and stomped off to my room.
I slammed the door audibly. I laughed and cried all at once, I was still in my pajamas, so I decided to make the best of it, I lay down to sleep and cried till my pillow was soaked to the core, when I woke up the next morning I breathed in for a heavy sigh. I got out of bed and stripped my dirty, sweaty pajamas, and I climbed into a Sunday dress and combed my hair with my fingers. I walked downstairs and walked out the door and all the way to church by myself. I avoided my mother all day, tomorrow was my sister’s birthday and I would get to stay home from school and give my sister the sand dollar. That morning my mom left and took my sister to school. I slid into a bathing suit and dove into the water, but something was different today, it felt like the water was sucking me under… I gasped and went under; only to resurface again coughing and shaking, then it pulled me back under again…, only this time I never resurfaced.
That afternoon my mom and sister came home laughing but stopped, something was wrong.
“Stephanie?” my mom called carefully, she immediately ran to the lake wading into the water sobbing. “Steph? Please steph!” she saw it a splash in the water and knew it was over for her eldest daughter, she was one of them…
I laughed, wow I thought. My hands only scaly remnants of what they used to be, my throat slit with the gasping gills, and my face was sleek scales formed on my heart shaped face… my nose still pointed and my hair still witch black, but now covered with seaweed and lake grass. I started to cough and made the smallest splash as I dove under the water, and the lands around the lake echoing with my haunting, watery laughter… I was a water demon.
“NO!” Marissa screeched at her mother tears streaming down her face, like rivers that seemed to never stop flowing. “Sweetie she is gone… remember that story I used to tell you about those ancestors being water demons, well your sister is one.” “But mom will I ever see her again?” “I don’t know it’s up to her whether she thinks we can see past the water and scales.” Marissa fell asleep crying that night like she would in many more years to come.
2 YEARS LATER
“Mom I’m going swimming!” Marissa screamed from the back door. “Okay be back soon” “I will” Marissa slid into her bathing suit determined to make her sister come home this time… if she found her. She splashed into the water, so unlike her sister who could slide in without a sound. She dove under the water with her eyes open the water every so often stinging her eyes. She screamed, “Ahhhhhhhh!!!” “Shush Marissa it’s me… Stephanie I’m back” Stephanie hesitated; her sister was young and may not be ready for Stephanie’s scaly wear. “St...Stephanie?” “Hey little sis” Stephanie grimaced her sister was still just wading there staring at her scaly face.
“Jeez sis you would think you saw a demon” Stephanie gave a dry giggle, knowing no humor was to be taken. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR FACE!!!?”Marissa screeched. “Oh god… I knew you weren’t ready” “NO Stephanie wait please I’m ready” but Stephanie had already dived far below the surface. Marissa swam back coughing and sputtering not really swimming like her sister, so gracefully and smoothly through the water. She ran inside still dripping water. “Mom! STEPHANIE IS A DEMON…! It’s so scary” “sweetie Stephanie is supposed to be this and let me guess you weren’t ready…” “No” “oh hunny I’m sorry she thought you were” “have you talked to her?” “Yes” “WHAT” Marissa screeched. “I knew you weren’t ready dear” “whatever”
I swirled in the water. God I thought she was ready, I thought to myself. I swam underneath a rock overhang. “Hey uncle mike!” I greeted. “hey darlin’ did ya show Marissa?” “Yea she wasn’t ready” “oh sweets I’m sorry” “it’s fine I’m going to my room okay?” “Alright”
I swam down deeper into the cave and swam up next to my sewed seaweed coral headboard bed( aunt Helen made it for me) I laid down and let a tear bubble up from the corner of my eye… it really did bubble since I’m underwater. I stared at the rocky ceiling and took a deep lungful of lake water it felt so good down my throat. I wish she would understand that it’s not my wish to be like that.
It’s a family trait that I wish didn’t apply to me. Ughhh. I swam back out to the kitchen. “Hun are you okay? I know what it’s like to have someone not understand.” Uncle mike said with a grimace. “She wasn’t ready! Mom warned me I know but I had hoped she would at least be a little calmer about it!” I screeched in that water demon screechy way. “STEPHANIE NOT IN THE HOUSE!” he screeched back. “GAH WHATEVER I DON’T CARE! THIS ISNT A HOUSE IT’S A CAVE!” I screeched than in a small whisper I said, “I want to go home to my mom and my sister and my warm bed.” I sniffed and swam out of the cave entrance and went to the abandoned pirate ship I go to think at. I swam in circles. She will never be ready.
“Marissa dear are you alright?” her mom creaked in to Stephanie’s old room and looked at Mariah curled on the bed crying “GO AWAY JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!” Marissa cried. “Hunny…” her mom started. “LEAVE!” Marissa screamed “alright sweetie” her mom sighed and backed out of the room. Marissa stared at the door for a minute than began crying again.
I swam around some more than went back to my uncle’s cave and apologized for being a brat and he forgave me… I swam to my room and tried to brush the sea-grass out of the tangles of my long black hair but couldn’t. Ugh what I wouldn’t give for a shower right now I thought to myself sourly.
But then I just laughed, I always knew I was connected to the water. I didn’t know I would get gills. But I knew I was more like a water person than anyone else. I took a breath and felt the cool rush of water flowing through my lungs and let it out again… god I will NEVER get used to the feeling of water and not the warm, slightly moist Florida air going through my body. This is comical, this rejecting my difference, this crazy thinking that it can change. It can’t. It will never change and I will be a freak forever.
I heard screaming from the surface, I recognized the voice. It was little Marissa calling for me…for all of her family stuck down here. I swam to the kitchen and looked at my uncles and we understood something was wrong and floated to the door. We swam towards the wavering light at the surface of the water. Towards the sad, lilting voice of my little sis. When we broke the surface there was more than 20 heads of all our family members staring at my sister and she stared back. You could see the scream she swallowed in her throat. “Um listen everyone, mom has been… Hiding something, she has a form of cancer.” You could hear the gasps all around the lake and Marissa winced and you could tell she was scared about upsetting our kind. “Marissa, what do you mean? Why wouldn’t she tell us and how did you find out?” “Well… I don’t know why she didn’t tell us but I was going through the basement files and saw a new envelope… so I pulled out the paper and read it… she has a cancer that she could die from.” I covered my mouth and squeaked with despair. Salty tears stung my green tinted; slightly scaly face and I wiped my eyes and calmed my breathing.
My sister looked at me with eyes full of wonder, her green eyes staring deeply into my sea blue ones. I could tell she was convinced she saw a sliver of the old me inside the scaly outside. But she blinked and the clearness in her eyes fogged over with the sadness she had when she first arrived. I stared at her and my scaly lids slid over my miniature oceans of eyes, I sighed loudly then opened my lids again, “ Marissa, Tell mom to ride the canoe out to the middle of the lake and that I need to talk to her, please sis, one more favor for the freak?” , I said with a pout.
My sister whimpered, “I promise you I will get her out here tonight at the latest”, she said with a wince, “oh, and Stephanie… you’re so not a freak” she said with a grimace as she turned away. “Marissa!” I yelled after her. “Yea?” she yelled back. “Thanks lil sis” I smiled slightly. I turned to the family, “it’s alright everyone! The protector will live even if I must give my life force to her!” “No Stephanie!” my uncles called to me, swimming towards me. “What about the heir? Marissa, Mariah? Whatever!” my cousin Ariel yelled through the crowd. “ARIEL! You dimwit! That would leave the child if our protector alone to fend against the evils of the land!” I screamed with a menace that would frighten a whale shark. “Jeez! You seem to care about the land dweller a lot” Ariel taunted. I glared and she winced “Ariel, she is my sister and your future protector, so it’s your life as well as the rest of ours that you’re questioning.” Ariel glared and flipped under the water. Great, my cousin is my enemy; I’m doing great in the water world so far…
“Hey Marissa” her mom coughed and looked at her tired and sad but with love. “Hey mommy” Marissa curled next to her mom on the couch. “What’s the matter baby?” her mom looked on worried. “Mom, Stephanie needs to see you… you have to go to the middle of the lake on the kayak tonight please!” Marissa pleaded. “Honey I’ll try but… it’s hard for me.” Her mother said with sadness. “I know mom” “honey I’ll go for you.” “Thanks mom!”
I raised the top of my head out of the water into the liquid black of the night, waiting for the green of the kayak that my mother would be riding to meet me so I could sacrifice myself or make mother better. There it was! The neon green of the kayak, I’d never been so relieved to see it, I swam with a gracefulness to my mother’s boat. “Hello Mother…” I said haltingly. “My Baby girl! My Beautiful Stephanie! I missed you; your sister seemed so distressed I just had to visit you!” “Mom… why? Just why you wouldn’t tell us about something like this is appalling!” “Stephanie I just knew you would get upset” “mother! The fact that my little sister had to tell us and is the next guardian and doesn’t even KNOW is what upset me!” Stephanie I…” “NO MOM! Don’t you dare start with me it’s terrible that you would keep this from us! This affects the whole family not just you. It affects me, Marissa, the uncles, all of the water dwellers as well! I love you mother but this changes my view of you. I see you are selfish” “STEPHANIE!?” “Leave me” “no Stephanie...” “Now Mother” I said with the snarling menace of the water demon inside of me, my piercing shriek hiding on the edge of my voice.
But my hurt was apparent. My mother looked hurt then her eyes hardened with an evil look and she practically dove out of the kayak for my neck, I screeched and dove but the woman I had thought as my mother chased me towards the black abyss of my home and her human lungs should have burst but she continued and I realized that this thing… this mutant was NOT my mother. “UNCLES! PLEASE SOMEONE HELP!” “Stephanie?” my uncles swan from their cove and saw the creature. “CARTIE!?” my uncles both screeched. “The one and only brothers” she said with a wink in a sickly sweet voice that grated and caressed my ears at the same time. I was frightened, Cartie was not my mother’s name it was Katie. “Brothers how I have missed you so” “I wish I could say the feeling is mutual my dear sister, how are you feeling, what with your cancer and all? That’s funny Protectors are not supposed to get sick. Oh wait that’s right, you were not named the family protector.” My uncle said with a false smile and a nod knowing he had hit her where it hurt with his words. “You always were a Jackass” the woman laughed, it was painful to hear a laugh that wasn’t heartfelt like my mothers. “So sister dearest, what have you done to your twin sister, the one all of us liked?” I gasped “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MY MOTHER YOU BITCH!?!” I screeched the way only water demons could. She laughed a deep evil laugh that chilled me to my light weight bones. “You see my dear, your mother and I were identical in every way… except one, she loved life. Her life, animals and all other living things lives. Me on the other hand, I was a Goth, emo and scene all rolled to one, I cut myself, had the sweep hairstyle and wore all black. I hated life.
Your uncles were the one water demons to be able to turn back and forth between water and land; they saw your mothers good, her love so they named her the protector of the water dwellers. I wasn’t meant to know, but I snuck your mother’s precious diary and read the entry, I went into a rampage. I threw and broke things, I sliced a cut so deep in my arm I needed the hospital and ten stitches, my sister was so worried for my life, it made me sick, Insulted me. So I fought for a way to be a dweller, I couldn’t be a protector so I decided I would be a dweller. Sadly my efforts were slashed when my brothers caught me in the middle of a successful experiment and stopped me. But not before I felt it, the urge to go to the water, to breathe the water. I smiled a wicked smile and my brothers thought me insane, shipped me off to an insane asylum the next afternoon. I knew I wasn’t insane, so there was a way to escape, because of my true mental capacity I was able to escape. But only after many years of constant planning. I came back home to see my sister and she welcomed me with open arms, stupid woman, compassion gets you nowhere. So I did what I had to do to make her smart, I sent her to my mental home, so they would have a look alike to replace the original. And I of course took her place as loving mother and protector, what do you think Stephanie my dear? Has your evil auntie been a nice mother?” she finished her story with a smirk.
I took that moment to call her a few choice words and take a wild murderous dive for her throat. But she caught me with a fist to the jaw, sending me in a wild spin backwards, my salty tears bubbled towards the surface, the blood pooling in my mouth. I’d never been hit before. “Hurts don’t it doll” she said with a wink and a smirk. I hope I get a chance to tear those lips right from their setting in her vile face, so like my mother’s yet so different. This face was full of menace and betrayal, and a hurt so desperately tried to keep hidden. Her brothers looked at her with hatred; I looked at her with eyes clouded over with hatred not quite formed yet, but it was there. I looked on from her eyes and realized, her life needed love, but she was never the favorite twin and she would not ever be.
I sucked up my hatred and let my eyes shine; my evil aunt gasped and swam backwards. The blue of my eyes is astonishing and bright; it’s like looking into an ocean made of crystals. You could tell my aunt was frightened by the way my eyes were endless, like you were drowning and I was staring into your soul. It is a frightening sensation at times, I agree. “Your eyes…” my aunt whimpered. “Yep, deep as the ocean, calm as the moon.” I laughed genuinely. My aunt was taken aback by the sweetness of my voice. She squinted, the curiosity displayed clear on her face as was the sheltered vibe I was getting off of her. I smiled brightly and her guard lowered visibly. I grabbed her hand, “come on auntie, I want to show you something” I said with warmth that would have persuaded a deadly sea serpent to dance and be a vegetarian in the same sentence.
I pulled her towards the abyss my home dwelled at the bottom of, towards the one place I feel safe, my pirate ship. “Auntie this is my place, my sanctuary. I come here to think out loud”, I said with a smirk. “And why am I here?” “I want you to think, really think, about what your actions have done to us.” “Stephanie I am evil, I’m dark and twisted to the very soul. Nothing can change me.” “No something can change you, try compassion, you are the only one who can go on land and release my mother from the asylum.” “Stephanie it’s not that easy! It requires me to go back into the asylum to be able to release her.” “Auntie, my sister needs a true protector in order to be trained to become one. Please at least help her escape the way you did!” “Stephanie… I’ll do my very best” she said with a genuine smile, so like my mother’s I shed a solitary tear of joy and hugged my aunt close.
I finally was happy, “but auntie wait… don’t you have cancer?” “Yes, I am due to die in a year or two.” “But auntie, just when you became good, you will die?” “I’m sorry Steph.” “It’s okay auntie… I’ll always miss you; if no one else will I promise I always will.” “Thank you love”, she hugged me. “Now if you will excuse me! I have a sister to jail break!” I squealed and hugged her so tight she coughed. She grabbed my hand and pulled me to the surface, “Stephanie you can’t breathe above water and this is where I must leave you.” “Good luck auntie, be safe!” “I will my dear” I swam under and called for my relatives, they swam to the surface and we began to sing, in the haunting voices of the water demons, voices that lure men to their deaths in the ocean but not in our lake, our song was for luck and love and trust. The once evil twin of my mother turned and with a loving smile waved goodbye. Please god let this work, I thought desperately. Hoping for a miracle. There was my sister, staring at my mother’s twin, as she explained who she was in the short version. My sister, so loving and forgiving, hugged the evil stepsister whole heartedly. I smiled and knew that if she dies she will die loved. Her smile was so bright you could see it from far out in the water.
I felt a tingling in my heart, I wanted to go on land and get a hug like that from my sister without her cringing at my scaly skin and me coughing after a few moments of fresh air. I felt the need so powerfully that I felt something starting at my toes, it was a tickle, I looked down and screamed, my toes were turning human slowly but surely and I gaped at them and saw the human skin creeping up my legs, I swam towards shore, my gills fading into my neck and my scales receding to a lightly tanned skin, my hair becoming a silky black wave down to my waist. I swam faster but I could only swim at a normal human speed. “MARISSA! Get me clothes and a towel! QUICK!” I screamed towards the land. “Oh my god STEPHANIE! You’re a… human!” she gaped at me. “Towel… Now” I growled “okay okay jeez” she still smiled at me brightly. She ran towards the house to get me a towel and I looked out over the water and saw my uncles staring at me with a look of surprise, and I stared back at them.
I then recalled what my aunt had said earlier, your uncles were the one water demons to be able to turn back and forth between water and land…oh my god! I was one of the water demons that were able to turn back into a human… I was amazed and frightened at this thought. I ran towards the house, meeting my sister on the path. I snatched the towel and sprinted to my room taking the stairs four at a time; I busted in and took a deep breath. It still faintly smelled of waterfall shampoo and Hollister perfume, familiarity swept into my mind and I remembered all the times I had been in here, painting my nails or just lying. It all came back. And I about cried, but I breathed and pinched the bridge of my nose, my anti stress method, and walked to my dresser. I pulled out a bra and underwear, then some shorts and a tank top. I pulled them on and felt the soft fabrics rub against my skin and sighed at the feeling of clothes again. I loved it! I ran back down the stairs again and slipped on my favorite flip-flops, listening to the smack sound it made as I walked, I looked around my house once again after a long time… I love this place; I smelled peanut butter and looked towards the kitchen. There was my sister making peanut butter and jelly like any other normal day, “well hey steph, how does not being forever naked feel?” Marissa asked with a smile. “Weird, now all the boys can’t see my boobs! It’s quite frightening”, I said with a giggly voice. “OH GROSS! Stephanie half the guys in that lake are our COUSINS! That’s just… oh my god, nasty”, she wrinkled her nose. “ dude calm down I was KIDDING!”, I laughed and fell and the couch laughing so hard, so she ran over and started to lightly hit me with the peanut butter and jelly covered knife and I screamed. “EW!!!! Dude really? Now I am super sticky!”, I whined. She giggled and walked the knife back to the kitchen and tossed it in the sink and the loud clanking sound was almost louder than our laughter. “So steph… do you think mommy and auntie will both be able to get out of the mental hospital?” my sister questioned. “Well Marissa I don’t know, they need someone there I guess…” I hesitated, “although it’s been long enough maybe auntie will go and pretend to be mom one more time and bail mom out” “true” she said slowly. “You doubt my mind reading abilities!” I said with false hurt. “Why yes I do! Prove you have them!” she mocked me. “Okay I’m getting a vibe off of you right now…. I’m getting… you want the tickle monster to get you!” and at that I jumped at her and tickled her till she begged for mercy with an out of breath voice. “Haha still can’t take the tickle monster little sis?” I mocked now. “No… I can’t!” “Good” I looked at my sister, her emerald eyes and my sapphire ones both connecting and we saw each other’s thoughts, just like we could when we were little.