Read Fins Are Forever Online

Authors: Tera Lynn Childs

Fins Are Forever (20 page)

When I open my eyes, the candles are smoking and everyone is clapping. Everyone but Quince.

There’s stil hope for my wish, though. Because I didn’t wish for something as fleeting as for Quince to not be mad at me. I wasn’t about to waste the potential birthday magic on something that can be solved with a very long conversation.

No, I’ve been thinking about my wish a lot in the last couple weeks, preparing for this moment. In the end, it wasn’t hard to figure out what I real y wanted.

My wish is for Quince to be able to return to Thalassinia with me one day.

Let’s hope birthday-cake magic has some bite.

Aunt Rachel drives me home in my car—
my car!
—because I’m in no state for a driving lesson. Between the pending fight with Quince, tomorrow’s SATs, my interview, and the truth of the situation behind Tel in’s news flash (aka
un
-

becoming a princess), I’m a mess of nerves and nausea.

“It’s a standard transmission,” Aunt Rachel explains, moving the big stick in the middle of the car as we pul into our driveway, “which might take some extra getting used to, but it’s better in the long run.”

I nod absently, but my mind is on Quince. He’s leaning against the front porch of his house, waiting for me, looking ful -on rebel boy in his beaten-up jeans, snug-but-not-too-tight black T-shirt, and lovingly scuffed biker boots. He is so breathtakingly handsome that I don’t want to get out of the car and ruin the image.

Even in the faint glow of streetlamps, through the drizzling rain, from a moving car, I can read the tension in his shoulders.

I am such an idiot. Why didn’t I tel him the truth before? I never lied exactly, I just neglected to tel him something.

Something kinda big, true, but it’s my decision. I knew what I was signing up for.

Stil , we’re supposed to be partners in this relationship.

We’re supposed to share everything, and I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain. I’m about to pay the price for that.

Aunt Rachel puts the car in park and shuts it off.

“I’l be inside in a little while,” I say. As I reluctantly push open the passenger door, I whisper, “I hope.”

“Be understanding,” she advises. “This was a big piece of news, and he probably feels a little blindsided.”

“I know.” Boy, do I know.

She pats me on the thigh in encouragement, and then I climb out of the car, into the drizzle. I straighten my shoulders, deciding to let him have the first words in this discussion. It won’t help for me to begin al defensive and ful of excuses.

I round the corner of his house to find he hasn’t moved. He is staring, unseeing, at the mailbox at the end of his front walk, oblivious to the rain. I don’t say a word, just take the spot next to him on the porch rail and lean back. Waiting.

I don’t have to wait long.

“Were you ever going to tel me?”

His voice is far more calm than I’d expected.

Deciding that honesty is the best possible path at this point, I admit, “I don’t know.”

He forces a laugh. “You don’t know?”

“If it came up,” I explain, “I would have told you. After my birthday, probably. But, truthful y, I didn’t think it was any of your concern.”

“None of my concern?” he roars. “You’re planning on giving up your royal future for me, and you think it’s none of my concern?”

“My decision,” I argue, “was not entirely about you. It’s also about my mom, about the human heritage that I’m only just beginning to understand.”

I sense his mood softening at the mention of my mom.

Even though his dad’s a deadbeat, he stil has both parents around, so he’s extra sympathetic about my losing her before I even knew her.

“And also about Aunt Rachel and Shannen,” I continue.

“And about me. About having choices in my life, my future, and wanting more than a lifetime of negotiations and decrees and royal events and—”

“Bul .” He crosses his arms over his chest, and I have to stop myself from wrapping my hands around one wel -

developed biceps. “You’re giving up too much,” he says.

“Just because you think al that stuff sounds boring right now doesn’t mean it always wil . You’re too young to make that kind of permanent decision.”

I take a deep breath. “You were ready to make that decision for yourself.”

When we were bonded and my feelings for him were just beginning, he begged me to preserve the bond, because he had already loved me for so long. Even when I told him what he would be giving up—his future on land, being there for his mom, everything he had always known—he stil wanted to go through with it.

He was wil ing to sacrifice everything for me. But he doesn’t want me to do the same for him.

“That’s different,” he argues.

“How?” I demand, pushing away from the porch and moving into his line of sight. The rain is soaking my hair, and I shove it behind my ears to keep it from sticking to my face. “You were ready to give up everything for the complete unknown of the ocean and an uncertain future with me. I’ve already been living on land for almost four years, so I know what I’m getting into up here.” I step close and rest my palms on his forearms. “And I know what I’m getting into with you.”

For a moment I think he’s going to relent, admit to being foolish, and take me in his arms for some makeup making out. But I sense the instant his mood shifts. Back to anger.

“You’re being a fool,” he barks. “I won’t let you give up your world, your royal future, for
me
.” He uncrosses his arms, dislodging my hands and breaking our point of contact. Without another word, he grabs his leather jacket off the railing, shoves away from the porch, and heads around to the driveway between our houses.

I fol ow, my flip-flops slipping on the wet grass, seriously worried for the first time. He’s pushing me away as hard as he can.

“Why?” I shout, fol owing him up the gravel path. “What’s the difference if you make the sacrifice or I do? The end result is the same.”

He doesn’t answer as he shrugs into his jacket. He grabs the helmet hanging from his motorcycle handlebars and slips it in place over his head.

“It’s different,” he final y says as he buckles the strap into place, “because you’re worth it.”

“And you’re not?”

“I’m not.”

He turns the key, and Princess roars to life. Even as the sound assaults my ears, I can’t move. My eyes fil with tears, and blinking only seems to make it worse. At least he can’t see them in the rain.

How can he say that? How can he
think
that? Does he real y think so little of himself that he can’t imagine anyone making a sacrifice for him? My heart starts breaking into tiny little pieces, breaking for him.

Suddenly I don’t care anymore about the fight or my renunciation or Tel in’s proposal or anything except wanting him to realize how exceptional he is.

“You’re wrong,” I shout over Princess’s muffler. “You’re more than worth—”

“Why is Tel in here?”

“What?” I ask, startled by the change of subject.

“He’s not just here for a visit, Lily.” Quince refuses to look at me. “Why is he real y here?”

I take a deep breath and wipe the water off my face.

There’s no way I’m going to lie to him. Not now, not ever again. My lie of omission is already costing me too much.

“He wants to bond with me,” I yel . “In name only, a bond of convenience. So I can become crown princess and eventual y queen. So he and I can rule together.” Quince sits silent, staring down at the gray and white gravel, the thunderous roar of his motorcycle echoing between our houses. I don’t think I’m breathing. Final y, after what feels like a lifetime, he turns to face me.

“Bond with Tel in,” he says, soft but hard, and somehow I hear every word despite the noise. “Stay a princess.

Become a queen.” He starts backing down the driveway, and I have to step back to protect my bare toes. “Forget about me.”

I can only manage to shake my head as he increases his speed, zipping down the driveway, into the street, and then, shifting into gear, speeding out into the night. I race down the gravel path, reaching the sidewalk just as Quince disappears around the corner at the next intersection.

I’m not sure how long I stand there, letting the rain soak me to the core, staring at the spot where he disappeared from view. Eventual y the drizzle fades into a mist and then stops entirely. My skin prickles with eelflesh in the evening chil . The tears streaming down my cheeks dry into sad streaks. I’m not sure I blink at al until I feel a pair of soft hands on my shoulders.

“It’s time to come in, dear,” Aunt Rachel says. “You need your rest for tomorrow.”

I feel myself nod, but everything else is numb. Sometime later I realize I’m in bed, wide-awake and staring at the ceiling. I’m not sure what upsets me more: the fact that Quince left me, or the fact that he thinks so poorly of himself that he felt the need to.

One thing is certain. I can’t possibly fol ow his instructions.

Nothing on earth wil ever make me forget about him.

Chapter 13

or this section of the test you may use a calculator,” the FSAT administrator explains, reading from the script she has to recite before each part of the test.

I reach down into my bag and pul out Shannen’s birthday present. As the administrator drones on, thoughts of Quince and Tel in and Doe and Brody and my future and my past keep trying to push their way into my brain, but I shove them away. I have to. When the test is over, I can soak in my worries. Until then, I need to maintain my focus. Whatever the future brings, I want to have choices. Can’t have choices on land without col ege.

“You may open your test booklet to the math section. You have twenty-five minutes to complete this section. You may begin.”

Forcing al thoughts beyond the world contained in the packet of papers before me to disappear, I tel myself I exist only for math. Groan. But every time I start to read a question, it’s like the words begin to swim around. It takes me a few questions to realize it’s because my eyes are swimming with tears. How am I ever going to do decently on the test if I can’t even read the questions?

When the administrator instructs us to put our pencils down almost half an hour later, I’ve managed to finish almost al of the questions. I have serious doubts that I even read them correctly, let alone answered them with any degree of success. And to be honest, I don’t real y care. In the scale of things, my fight with Quince—one that might not be easily resolved—seems far more important than a single test. There wil be other tests. There can never be another Quince.

After two breaks and another three equal y incomplete test sections, the administrator final y announces that the test is over.

Cheers go up around the room, but al I can do is slump my shoulders—in relief and in anticipation of what I have to face beyond the cafeteria doors.

Shannen is waiting for me in the parking lot when I step out into the bright sun. Yesterday’s rain is gone without a trace. Since I haven’t magical y learned how to drive overnight, she brought me to school early this morning and promised to pick me up after.

“So… ,” she says. “How’d it go?”

“Froggin’ crabtastic,” I answer with a shrug.

“I’m sure you did fine.” She slides into the driver’s seat and starts the car. “Should we go celebrate?” As if I’m in the mood to celebrate anything. I’m not even in the mood to talk. I just want to go home and see if Quince is there so we can work through this. I have to believe that we can. The alternative is unacceptable.

But I have an unavoidable responsibility to take care of first.

I shake my head as I drop into the passenger seat.

“Can’t.”

“Plans?”

I heave a sigh at the thought of what I have to do. It’s not the most important thing to me at the moment, but it’s time sensitive.

“Tonight is the new moon,” I explain. “If I don’t separate Doe and Brody before moonrise, their bond wil become permanent.”

A permanently bonded Doe and Brody couldn’t be good for anyone.

“How do you do that?” Shannen asks. “Separate them, I mean.”

“Daddy gave me the power to perform the ritual.” I tug at the seat belt where it rubs against my neck. “Al I have to do is say the magic words and get the happy couple to sign the separation papers.”

“No big, then.”

“Nope,” I agree. “No big.”

As we drive the few blocks from school to my house in silence, I keep thinking about the next thing on my list of worries. Making up with Quince. This isn’t our first fight—

heck, we’ve been fighting since long before we started going out—but this one feels more real. More significant. I don’t want it to linger any longer than necessary.

“How about lunch tomorrow?” Shannen asks, pul ing her car to a stop at the end of my sidewalk. “Before you head home for your birthday celebration.”

“Sure,” I say, unbuckling and opening the door. “Sounds great.”

“I’l come by around one to pick you up.”

“Perfect.”

I wave good-bye as Shannen pul s away from the curb.

When I push open the kitchen door, the house is eerily quiet. With four people living in our house right now, there’s usual y at least some sign of another occupant.

“Aunt Rachel?” I cal out. “Doe? Tel in?” When I get no response, I wonder if every living creature in the house has disappeared. “Prithi?”

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