Read Fins Are Forever Online

Authors: Tera Lynn Childs

Fins Are Forever (16 page)

misconceptions—her

clearly
dangerous

misconceptions—are wrong.”

“So what?” Brody’s eyes rol away from mine, like he can escape the topic of conversation if he avoids eye contact.

“What does that have to do with me?”

“Wel ,” I begin, uncertain but hopeful, “I know you have feelings for her.”

His gaze swings back to mine. “Not anymore.” I expected this; am ready for it even. He’s hurt and confused and just reacting—which, not so coincidental y, is exactly what Doe is going through. If I can just push through emotion and get to the (hopeful y) rational Brody inside, then I have a chance.

“I don’t think that’s true,” I insist, crossing mental fingers that I’m reading the situation right. “You said you thought she was the one. Your future. Feelings like that don’t just vanish.”

He shrugs, which is at least better than an outright denial.

In al honestly, I’m not entirely sure I believe that. I mean, look at what happened to my feelings for Brody. Three years of absolute, undying,
one-sided
love, gone. In a heartbeat.

But that was different. I discovered what love was real y like, and that made what I felt for Brody seem as shal ow as a tide pool.

But Brody can’t cal his feelings for Doe shal ow any more than I can cal my feelings for Quince the same. I saw the emotion in Brody’s eyes, I felt it, and I know it’s for real. Just as I saw the emotion in Doe’s eyes when he walked out last night.

That’s my main sel ing point.

“And I think—I mean, I hope…” I take a breath. “Doe has feelings for you, too.”

Brody’s gaze sharpens, his brows scowl low, as if not sure whether he should dare to hope there is truth in what I said. I’m daring to hope, so he can too.

“I think we can use your feelings for each other,” I explain,

“to show Doe that humans and merfolk are not so different as she believes. If she loves you—”

Brody’s laughter cuts me off.

“Right,” he snarks. “She hates what I am. Not
who
I am, but
what
I am. Something I couldn’t change even if I wanted to.

How could she possibly love me?”

“Because love doesn’t care about prejudices,” I say. This is something with which I have firsthand experience. “Just look at me and Quince. I thought I hated him for three years.” I don’t add the part about where I thought I loved Brody. “True love didn’t care what I thought, and it won’t care what Doe thinks.”

Brody clenches his jaw and works his lips, like he’s considering my argument. I slip my hands behind my back, beneath my backpack, and cross my fingers as tightly as I can. If I weren’t wearing flip-flops, I’d be crossing my toes, too. This situation needs as much good luck as it can get.

Final y he relaxes and asks, “What do you want me to do?”

Sweet angelfish! My entire body explodes with relief. I didn’t realize until this instant just how tense I was about the outcome of this conversation.

“Give her a chance,” I answer, trying to keep my overjoyed smile from spreading across my lips. “Talk to her. Spend time with her. Make her fal so in love with you, she forgets you’re a human.” I lay a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

“That’s al it wil take.”

I hope.

His gaze drifts to the ceiling, like he’l find the right answer written on the dingy acoustic tiles. I’ve never seen Brody so thoughtful and serious before. This gives me even more hope that my plan wil work. Doe’s already worked some positive changes in Brody. It’s only a matter of time until he works some in her.

“Okay.” Brody nods, not looking at me. “I’l try.” He turns and heads into his class. I take off for American Government, hoping that everything I just told Brody is true.

“Maladroit.”

“Um…” I search my brain for the definition, knowing we’ve studied this one at least twice. Final y, just as I’m about to give up, it comes to me. “Clumsy.”

That should be an easy one for me since I
am
maladroit.

At least on land.

One of Shannen’s study techniques is to visualize an image that exemplifies the vocab word. I picture myself wearing a T-shirt that says MALADROIT—I hope it doesn’t matter if it’s spel ed wrong—and then tripping over my own flip-flops into a giant bowl of today’s side dish, saffron rice.

“Excel ent,” Shannen says. She flips through the stack of flash cards in her hands, chooses one, and reads,

“Pretentious.”

While I search for this definition, Shannen spoons a bite of yel ow rice into her mouth and Quince flips through a motorcycle magazine. With the SATs coming up this weekend, I’m trying to cram in as much last-minute studying as possible.

Shannen has already taken—and, of course, aced—the test.

Quince, on the other hand, has no intention of taking it. He already has a job lined up with a construction company, thanks to his current job at the lumberyard. With his brain and skil s, I think he’l be foreman within a year.

If only my future were that easy.

“Lily,” Shannen prods, waving the definition flash card before my eyes. “Pretentious?”

Without thinking, I blurt, “Pompous. Arrogant.”

“Awesome!” Shannen cheers.

This mental image pops into my mind without any effort.

The terrible trio. I can’t imagine anyone more pompous or arrogant than Astria, Piper, and Venus. Of course, several other vocabulary words apply equal y. Vindictive. Malicious.

Haughty.

In my mind, the words transform into giant foam letters and start bonking the terrible trio on their heads. I suppress a giggle.

When Shannen starts digging through the stack again, I beg, “Please. No more. My brain can’t take it.” She shrugs, as if it’s my funeral if I don’t cram in ten more vocab words at lunch, but doesn’t argue the point. Honestly, I think my brain is completely ful . I couldn’t handle another piece of information, and I just hope the ones I already have don’t start fal ing out before Saturday.

Coming to my aid—as al good boyfriends should—

Quince asks, “Doe cal ed in sick today?”

“Yeah,” I say. “I think it was for the best. Gave me a chance to talk to Brody first.”

“Why?” Shannen asks. “What happened?”

I hesitate, not sure if Shannen should know what Doe did.

I’m not sure
anyone
should know what she did. I wish I didn’t.

Now I total y understand why Daddy kept her exile—and the reason for it—a secret. She’s a dumb kid with a big grudge, but some people wouldn’t be able to see that she was acting out from a place of pain. I didn’t, at first. Others might hold it against her forever. If I can help her overcome her issues, then it’s better if they don’t know about her big mistake.

So, even though I hate lying to my best human friend—to anyone, real y—I say, “She and Brody had a fight. I’m trying to help them patch it up.”

“Why?” she asks. “I thought you wanted to keep them apart.”

See, lies always lead to more lies and more complications.

“I’ve had a change of heart,” I admit. “Realized they might actual y be good for each other.”

Shannen shrugs. “If you say so.”

I exchange a glance with Quince. He nods. I think we both know this is the only option—keeping Shannen in the dark, trying to encourage Doe’s feelings for Brody. It’s the only possible way for everything to end up right in the end.

Shannen pul s another set of flash cards from her backpack. Sliding one across the table to me, she says,

“Solve for x.”

I groan. Math is… not my strong suit. Then again, when it comes to the SATs, I don’t think I
have
a strong suit. I dutiful y pul out a pencil and prepare to spend the rest of lunch trying to beat the equation into submission. Then I sense a presence at my side.

“Lily?”

I turn to smile, relieved to be saved from math by Miss Molina. Then I see the concerned look on her face. The disappointment.

Son of a swordfish! The interview. In al the craziness when I got back from Seaview, I completely blanked on the interview with Miss Molina’s friend at Seaview Community.

“Oh, no!” I gasp. “I’m so sorry. I completely forgot. I’m so, so sorry. There was this whole…” I struggle to find the words to describe what happened without real y describing what happened. Where are my vocab words when I need them? “Crisis!” I final y blurt. “My cousin got sick and it was real y bad. I—” The look in her eyes, like I’ve failed her big-time, is kil ing me. “I should have cal ed or something. I’m just… I’m real y sorry.”

“I don’t know what to say.” She looks at me like she doesn’t even know me. “I didn’t remember you to being so irresponsible.”

“I’m not,” I exclaim. “I mean, I was. This weekend. But I’m usual y not at al .”

She takes a deep breath, like she’s trying to decide what to do about me. I silently wil her to give me another chance.

Maybe she doesn’t buy my sick-cousin story, but if I could tel her the truth, she would total y understand.

Times like this are when I real y wish Tel in’s what-if could come true. Not that I would relish tel ing a teacher that one of my relatives tried to wipe her and the entire East Coast off the map. It would be a better explanation than the one I’ve got, though.

“Since this was so uncharacteristic,” she says.

I suck in a hopeful breath.

“I told Denise there must have been an emergency.” She schools her features into a very stern look. “She has graciously agreed to reschedule for next Saturday.”

“Great. I can—”

Shannen clears her throat and nods at the flash cards.

“Oh. Oh, no.” I give Miss Molina what I imagine is a pained look. “The SATs are on Saturday. I’l be there al morning.” She gives me a reassuring smile. “I know. Your appointment is at five.”

“You’re awesome,” I say, meaning it. “I won’t let you down again.”

“I know you won’t.” But as she walks away, I think I hear her mutter, “At least I hope you won’t.”

“You.” I point at Shannen. Then at Quince. “And you. Make sure I don’t miss this meeting. It could mean my entire future.”

“Got it,” Quince says before returning his attention to the magazine.

Shannen pul s out her cel phone—a huge no-no on campus, but I guess this qualifies as an emergency—and starts punching buttons. “I’ve sent myself an email reminder.”

I relax a bit.

Nothing can keep me from making the appointment this time.

“Now,” Shannen says, waggling the flash card on the table, “solve for x.”

I groan, but it’s halfhearted. After the freakout about missing my meeting, a little math equation seems like an easy task.

Chapter 10

he first thing Quince and I hear as we push through the Tkitchen door is Doe laughing. Maybe she’s sneaking television online again. I caught her watching an
I Love
Lucy
marathon last week, although she pretended that she just didn’t know how to work the mouse.

Then I hear another voice. A male voice. A non-Brody male voice.

“She’d better not,” I mutter as we head into the living room.

But when we get there, I’m shocked frozen at the sight before me. Doe is sitting on the arm of the corduroy armchair, feet on the coffee table, and the male in question is sitting on the floral sofa. The shock of cinnamon red hair identifies him immediately.

“Tel in!” I blurt.

He stands and faces me, arms wide for a hug. “Liliana.”

“I didn’t know you were coming for a visit,” I say, jumping into his hug.

“Nor did I,” he says, “until I found myself swimming ashore in Seaview.”

A loud throat clearing from behind reminds me of my manners. I pul out of Tel in’s hug and grab Quince’s hand, tugging him forward. “Tel in, this is my boyfriend, Quince.” Tel in gives him that male nod that girls can never quite replicate exactly.

“Quince,” I say, beaming at him, “this is Tel in. One of my closest guppyhood friends and crown prince of Acropora.” They shake hands, and I get the feeling there’s a little battle of grips before they separate. Tel in has fil ed out a lot since we used to play together, but my money is stil on Quince. Though his arms are hidden by the sleeves of his leather jacket, I can imagine his biceps flexing nicely in the up-and-down movement

“Pleased to meet you,” Tel in says, shaking me out of my reverie. “Lily told me much about you last weekend.”

“Funny.” Quince throws me a questioning glance. “She didn’t mention you at al .”

Down, boy. I lean closer into his side to reassure him that there’s nothing to worry about. Tel in is an old friend, nothing more.

“I forgot,” I explain. “If you’l recal , we found a bit of a crisis in motion when we got home.”

Quince crosses his arms over his chest, not appeased by my excuse.

He definitely has a bit of a jealous streak in him, but for the most part he keeps it under wraps. It’s stopped peeking out around Brody, but I guess strange boys showing up in my living room bring it back to the surface.

“Tel in’s practical y my brother,” I say, to clarify.

Quince nods, showing he trusts me. “I need to get to work.

I’l stop by after.”

Then he leans down to kiss me, just like that time in the library. Hand behind my neck, ful lips soft and warm on mine. When he sees what must be a completely dazed look in my eyes, he winks. And then, with a wave good-bye to Doe and Tel in, he’s out the front door.

When we three merfolk are alone, I ask, “This wasn’t just a coincidental visit, was it?”

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