Read Fins Are Forever Online

Authors: Tera Lynn Childs

Fins Are Forever (2 page)

“You okay?” Quince asks, his voice sounding a little odd.

“Yeah,” I reply, reluctantly letting go of his hand. “We’d better go.”

“I’l meet you right here after seventh.” He presses a quick kiss to my lips before turning and heading into the gym.

I hurry to my study hal classroom two doors down, wondering if everyone is feeling as unsettled as I am.

The administration spends the first half of the period continual y reassuring the students that everything is fine, that Seaview is fine, and that classes should continue as usual. Which is difficult, considering the semiconstant interrupts by the blaring PA system. When Brody shows up in the doorway twenty minutes before the final bel , I’ve only managed to read one (real y short) paragraph of
A
Separate Peace
.

“Hey, Coach Parsnicky,” Brody says to my study hal supervisor. “I need to steal Lily away.”

Parsnicky, coach of the freshman girls’ basketbal team, shrugs and waves vaguely at me and then at the door. He doesn’t even look up from his playbook long enough to see the yel ow pass in Brody’s hand.

“News team?” I ask, slipping a heavily doodled sheet of notebook paper into the book to mark my spot and then shoving the book into my backpack. I like the book wel enough, but I’m relieved I don’t have to try to reread another word right now.

Brody nods, giving me that charming smile that used to make my heart flutter and my legs buckle. Now I just smile back. It’s funny how much things can change in a matter of days.

“Principal Brown wants us to do a special report about earthquake safety for Monday announcements,” Brody says as we step into the hal . “Everything’s great, don’t panic, obey al traffic laws.”

“Basical y everything they’ve been broadcasting for the last half hour,” I reply. School security propaganda.

“Pretty much.”

In my time as the news team cameraperson, we’ve done almost fifty special reports. Most of them are fluff pieces about school dances and sports stars. A very few are what Brody cal s Seaviewgates, uncovering things like unfair grading scandals and faculty criminal records. (Madame El iott was subsequently cleared of al charges, by the way.) And the rest of our reports are school-sanctioned announcements that the administration thinks wil actual y stop locker vandalism—aka spray paint—and parking lot rage.

They have virtual y no effect whatsoever.

I don’t mind the fluff pieces—I’m just the eye behind the camera anyway—but I’d love it if we could do some actual y useful segments. Interviewing marine biologists about ocean warming. Or maybe an exposé about il egal offshore dumping, which happens more often than the general population knows. Or even some tips about water conservation. Something that might mean something to the world.

When we reach the studio, Ferret and our CGI specialist, Amy, are already prepping the equipment.

“I’ve got our cameraman,” Brody announces.

“Camera
woman
,” I correct, slinging my backpack onto the floor from the door and crossing to the video camera. It’s pointed at the green screen, where Amy can add whatever background the newscast needs.

“What’s the plan?” I ask as I remove the dust-deflecting cover from the camera and power it up.

“Just give me a minute to tweak Principal Brown’s script,” Brody says, dropping into the chair behind the computer and opening the file. “We don’t have much time to pul this together. Lily, can you set up the teleprompter?” We al dig into our duties, and as I set up the teleprompter for Brody, I think about how lame this safety speech wil be, even after Brody fixes it. We should real y be reporting on the causes and effects of the quake. Why waste the students’ time when we could, you know,
educate
them instead?

“Brody,” I say, turning away from the teleprompter, “I have an idea.”

“What’s that, Lil?” he asks, not looking up from the screen.

“What if we trimmed Principal Brown’s safety speech,” I suggest, “and add on an expert interview?” Brody actual y looks up at me. “Who do you have in mind?”

“I don’t know,” I admit. “Maybe one of the science teachers? Maybe—”

“Miss Molina.” Brody jumps to his feet. “She teaches earth science.”

“And she’s the Environmental Club faculty sponsor,” I add.

“Perfect,” we say at the same time. Two weeks ago I would have taken that as some kind of cosmic sign. Today I just think we’re on the same page for once.

“Amy, pul up the interview backdrop.” He heads for the door. “I’l go get Miss Molina. Have everything ready when we get back. This is going to be a bel chaser.” Yeah, we’re going to cut it close on time.

He disappears into the hal and the rest of us scramble to get everything into place. By the time he returns with Miss Molina in tow, we’re ready to go.

“Hi, Miss Molina,” I say, waving from behind the camera as Brody gets her situated for the interview.

“Hel o, Lily,” she replies with a smile.

I was in her class freshman year. She inspired me to sign up for the Environmental Club, but once I joined the news team and became swim-team manager, I didn’t have time.

Considering the reason for my choices—spending time with Brody—I kind of regret not sticking with the Environmental Club.

“Okay,” Brody says, adjusting his body mic. “Ready.” Ferret does the countdown, I start recording, and the segment begins. There’s no time for clever angles and splicing cuts, so I just leave the camera on a wide view and let it rol . I listen eagerly as Brody asks a few mundane questions about the sources of earthquakes and why scientists can’t predict them.

I don’t usual y interrupt his interviews because he’s pretty intense about the process, but I can’t help asking, “What about the effects offshore?”

“What do you mean?” Miss Molina asks, turning to face me.

I glance at Brody, expecting a dirty look for stealing the focus, but he looks intrigued.

“Um, I mean,” I stammer, “if we felt the quake so strongly on land, then surely it was felt in the ocean, too.”

“Most likely,” Miss Molina answers.

“Then what kind of effects wil it have on ocean geology and sea life?” I feel a little self-conscious, especial y since I already know the answers. The students of Seaview probably don’t, though. And maybe they should. “Do earthquakes cause the same kind of destruction underwater as they do on land?”

“Not usual y,” she responds, speaking directly to the camera. “The vibrations, which cause so much damage up here, are absorbed by the water.”

“How interesting,” Brody says, wresting the interview back into his control while sticking to the new direction. “Tel us more about underwater quakes.”

I smile behind the camera, content to watch Brody go after the topic with his usual determination. For the next ten minutes, he quizzes Miss Molina about earthquakes and plate tectonics and undersea land shifts with the agility of a seasoned reporter. I throw in a couple more questions, when the interview slacks, but for the most part Brody is masterful.

With only a few minutes before the bel , he cal s the shoot a wrap. I hand him the video disk, and he heads to the editing station with Ferret to pul together the final cut. I shut down the camera and start to strike the teleprompter.

“Can I have a moment, Lily?” Miss Molina asks.

Her serious tone makes me a little nervous, but I say,

“Sure.”

I careful y coil the cable that connects the teleprompter to the computer.

“I was very impressed with your knowledge of under-water geology,” she says. “You plan on going to col ege?”

“I do,” I answer. “
If
I get in. My grades aren’t great and I stil have to take the SATs.”

She reaches into her purse and pul s out a green paper.

“Do you know what school you’d like to attend?”

“Whichever one wil take me,” I say. Slacker mer princesses can’t be choosy.

“You should think about Seaview Community,” she says, handing me the paper. “Their admission requirements are not as stringent as at the four-year col eges, but their classes and professors are first-rate. I’m actual y a graduate of the marine biology program.”

“Real y?”

“Don’t tel anyone earth science is only my second love.” She nods at the paper. “They offer a summer internship program for incoming first years. Unpaid,” she explains,

“but terrific experience.”

I skim over the paper. According to the bul et points, students accepted into the program are set up with internships at the aquarium, the zoo, or a local scientific firm. That’s a huge opportunity for anyone who wants to go into marine biology. Which I just might. I need a career now, and that one seems like a perfect fit. The program has a special concentration in marine ecology and conservation.

That would give me a chance to help Thalassinia, even if I’m not the queen.

The paper also says that students must demonstrate sufficient interest and aptitude for the field, as wel as having both practical and educational experience.

Wel , that takes me out of the running.

“I don’t think I have enough experience,” I insist. “I’ve only had one year of biology, and I haven’t been in Environmental Club since freshman year.”

“That’s more than most of their applicants wil have,” she argues. “I can guarantee you a good chance at acceptance into the program and a tuition scholarship.”

“How?”

“Because I can see you have a passion for the field,” she says. Leaning back, she smiles. “And I have brunch with the program director every Sunday.”

“That’s—” I shake my head. “Wow.”

“If you’re seriously interested,” she says, “I could set up an interview for you.”

“That would be awesome, Miss Molina.”

“How about next Saturday?” she suggests. “Denise is free in the mornings, and you could swing by her office on campus.”

I do a quick mental calendar check. “Next Saturday would be perfect.”

“Great,” she says. “I’l set it up. Meanwhile, you go online and research the school and the program.”

“Absolutely!”

I shake my head in awe as Miss Molina walks away. Talk about a perfect situation. Me studying marine ecology.

Working to protect the oceans from up here on land. I shove the paper into my backpack, promising myself I’l go online tonight and check out the program’s website.

The school bel rings, sending me scurrying to clean up. I finish with the teleprompter and then help Ferret put away the sound gear. We’re just locking the sound cabinet door when Brody finishes his edit.

“Done!” he announces as he clicks the send button, shooting the digital video to Principal Brown’s email account for approval so it can run during homeroom Monday morning.

We give one another a round of high fives and then grab up our bags. I flung mine farther than the rest, so I’m the last one left in the classroom.

“I figured you’d be in here,” a deep voice says.

Quince! I turn and find him leaning in the doorway, arms crossed over his chest and an amused smile on his face.

He lifts his brows. “I thought we were meeting outside the gym.”

Damselfish
.

He’s teasing, but I stil feel bad. I completely blanked.

“Sorry,” I say, hurrying over and slipping my arms around his waist. “I lost track of time. Miss Molina was tel ing me about the marine biology program at Seaview Community.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“She’s going to set up a meeting for me with the head of the program. She thinks I have a good chance of getting in and getting an internship and a scholarship.”

“That’s great.” He slips a hand beneath my backpack strap, pul s it off my arm, and slings it onto his shoulder as we leave the classroom.

I hope I haven’t made him late for work.

Quince and I fal into a comfortable silence as we walk to his motorcycle and then on the ride to our street. Al in al , it’s pretty handy having a next-door boyfriend. Especial y when he has transportation.

He pul s into the shared driveway between Aunt Rachel’s house—my house, too, I guess—and his, purring his bike to a stop.

I climb off and remove my pink helmet.

“How late are you working?” I ask.

His arm darts out and around my waist, tugging me closer. “Until eight.”

I make a little pouty face, but I’m not trying to guilt him or anything. I don’t begrudge his job at the lumberyard. Not only does it help out with his mom’s expenses, it also helps out with those strong muscles that are holding me against his side right now.

“You’l stop by after?”

He raises up and presses his lips against mine.

“Absolutely.”

I’m tempted to sink in to him and col ect on the promise of more kisses, but I don’t want to make him later than he already is. He missed a bunch of work the last few weeks because of the time we had to spend in Thalassinia to get our separation. He and his mom can’t afford the lost pay for being late.

You might think I’d regret choosing to sever the magical bond that formed between us when Quince gave me my first kiss, four weeks ago. At the time, though, it was the only choice I could make. I wasn’t sure of my feelings, I didn’t trust them, and I wasn’t about to ask him to make a lifetime commitment on a hunch. He would have been tied forever to me and Thalassinia, forced into whichever body form I was in for the rest of his life. That’s a lot to ask for a land-loving guy with a struggling single mom who relies on his help and his paycheck.

And now that I’m sure of my feelings… wel , I guess I’m stil glad about the separation. If we’d stayed bonded, I’d probably be in Thalassinia right now, performing some kind of boring princess duty or tedious ceremony or critical judgment. Part of me belongs on land. An even bigger part of me belongs with Quince. The rest of me is terrified of the kind of responsibility that comes with becoming crown princess or—worse—queen. Yep, I’m happy with my choice.

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