Read Fins Are Forever Online

Authors: Tera Lynn Childs

Fins Are Forever (6 page)

She must real y be freaked out. For a girl who can swim at a rate of almost fifty knots, you’d think a quick cruise through a residential area would be no big deal. I wil admit that Aunt Rachel drives like she’s commanding a high-powered race car instead of a rattletrap station wagon, but I’ve gotten used to it. Mostly I just close my eyes.

By the time we pul into a visitor parking spot near the Seaview High front entrance, Doe’s practical y a statue. I climb out onto the sidewalk, my backpack slung over my shoulder, and grab the handle on the back door. She doesn’t move when I swing it open.

“You can get out now,” I explain, hiding the fact that I consider her terror a little entertaining. “We’re here.” The look of grateful relief on her face washes away my joy.

It’s the same look I see on my best friend Peri’s face after a near-encounter with a jel yfish. Definitely no laughing matter.

I’ve never seen Doe look so vulnerable.

“Grab your bag and come on,” I say, uncomfortable with these soft feelings for my squid-brained cousin. “Aunt Rachel’s going to get you registered.”

Dosinia climbs out of the wagon on shaky legs, her new briefcase clutched in her fist. Yes, a briefcase. I couldn’t believe it either—I mean, how
cool can you be—but she said she couldn’t stand the feel of the straps from backpacks and messenger bags. I tried to explain Seaview social law to her, but she didn’t care. Typical.

Everything else about her is trendy perfect. A flowy-yet-curve-hugging purple tunic, black leggings, and knee-high black leather boots. Her stylishly straight caramel blond hair, makeup that would make a Hol ywood stylist proud, a big (fake) diamond-encrusted starfish hovering just above her cleavage. She’s on land one weekend, and she has more style than I’ve developed in three years.

Sea witch.

“You girls wait out here,” Aunt Rachel says as we reach the front office. “I’l get things taken care of in a jiffy.” As we sit, waiting, on a vinyl-covered bench in the front hal , I evaluate my own lack of style. A brown ruffle-tiered skirt that fal s just below my knees. A lime green tank top with little gold bits sparkling around the neckline. Gold bal et flats that Doe practical y forced me to buy. (“You might as wel get something out of this deal,” she said. Then, with a judgmental once-over, “And you can definitely use the help.”)

Today’s selection is not horrible as far as outfits go. It’s when you get to my head that things go awry. Frizzy blond hair I can never hope to control and face devoid of al makeup save lip gloss, because attempts at anything more result in pure disaster.

How is it that my human-hating cousin manages to pul off the movie-star look and I stil look like I’m fresh off the boat?

For three years I’ve blamed it on some mystical human-girl knowledge that no mergirl could ever hope to obtain. Now I have to admit that it’s just me. I’m style chal enged.

“So this school thing lasts, what?” Doe asks. “A couple hours?”

I try not to laugh myself right off the bench. “Look, I know you’re used to the relaxed schedule of the royal tutors, but this is a whole different thing.”

I give her a quick rundown of how school works on the mainland—seven hours of classes, homework after hours, sports and other extracurriculars. If I know Doe, she’l jump up and be out the door before I can say, “Truancy is a punishable crime.” Doe thinks responsibility is a four-letter word.

But she just slouches—fashionably—against the wal , crosses one leg over the other, and starts humming the Thalassinian national anthem. “No big,” she says. “I’ve been on an advanced study track for the past year.” She can’t be serious. When I stil lived at home we had lessons together with the royal tutor. Being two years apart, we were never studying the same thing, but she always seemed beyond bored and whol y uninterested in academic learning. I wasn’t much better, I know, but Doe doing advanced studies? That’s ridiculous.

“What do you mean, an advanced—”

“Morning, Lil.” Brody emerges from the front office, looking like his carefree, charming self. “How are you?” Forcing the Doe-induced scowl off my face, I smile. “I’m great.”

“Did you get the email about the news team meeting after school?” he asks. “It’s time to start planning our graduation coverage.”

I forget al about Doe and her advanced study track. News team cal s.

“Not yet. When did it go out?” I ask, shaking my head.

It took me a while, but I’ve final y got the hang of using the computer. We don’t have much—okay, anything—in the way of electronic technology in Thalassinia. Water and electricity don’t exactly mix.

But I’m mostly computer literate.

“Just now.” He jerks his thumb toward the office. “I was showing Principal Brown how to see the final earthquake safety video and managed to sneak a peek at email.”

“I’l ask for a computer-lab pass in homeroom so I can check.”

“Don’t bother,” he says with a charming grin. “We’re meeting in the studio after school. That’s al the email said.”

“What’s an email?” Doe asks.

Next to me, Doe looks Brody up and down before focusing her attention on his golden brown eyes. Oh. No.

Al of a sudden, life drops into slow motion. I see Brody’s attention slowly shift around me to Dosinia’s—fashionably

—slouching form. Doe bats her heavily mascaraed eyes at him, each bat taking three ful seconds, I swear. Her glossy pink lips purse out into an extra pout.

On my other side, an even more charming smile spreads across Brody’s lips.

Warning, Lily Sanderson. Danger approaching.

Brody steps around my knees to stand in front of Doe, on the pretext of making a polite introduction. I feel like I’m watching a school of tuna swim into a gang of great whites, but I can’t look away from the inevitable feeding frenzy. Not when there’s nothing I can do to stop the catastrophe. I feel completely helpless.

“Hel o there,” Brody says, the words drawn out in my slo-mo world. “I’m Brody.”

Even though Doe hasn’t moved an inch, there’s something about the tilt of her eyebrows, the pul of her mouth, that tel s me she is quite interested in the specimen of boy standing before her. Whether they’re human or not, she’s boy crazy on an incomprehensible scale.

Doe has never been afraid to go after what interests her.

And she usual y gets it.

When she sits up, holds out her elegant hand, and says,

“I’m Dosinia,” my world final y bursts back into normal speed.

“She’s my cousin,” I explain, jumping up to stand between them. Desperately clutching for the cover story we’ve agreed upon, before she slips up and reveals our fishy secret, I say, “She’s here as an exchange student. From the Bahamas. Just swam in this weekend. I mean flew, of course.
in. We picked her up at the airport.” Brody accidental y found out I was a mermaid once before. I had to mindwash him, and although I think it worked perfectly, it gave me a roaring migraine. I’d rather not have to do that again anytime soon.

Oblivious to my panicked babbling, Brody leans to his left so he can see around me and makes the kind of eyes at her I’ve only ever seen him give his ex-girlfriend. When she wasn’t quite as exas she is now.

No, no, no, no, no. This is bad. Brody’s a girl hound and Doe’s boy crazy. Bad, bad,
combination. Especial y when I glance back over my shoulder and see her flash him a seductive smile.

I have to do whatever I can to keep these two apart.

Besides the fact that Doe hates humans—cute boys included—and that Brody’s mind has been washed—by yours truly—to make him
mermaids real y exist, the idea of my baby cousin and my ex-crush hooking up is just…
. In every possible way.

Desperate to derail this col ision, I start to suggest, “Why don’t we—”

“Al set,” Aunt Rachel announces, pushing out of the front office, thankful y saving me from whatever lameness I was going to invent. “No problem with your, um…” She casts a wary glance at Brody. “. . . records.”

Meaning that the records Daddy’s royal scribe forged to give Doe a land-based background and an academic history have passed administration muster. We did the same thing when I first came here.

“Here is your class schedule.” Aunt Rachel hands Doe a computer printout. “You have economics first.” Before the terrified thought can even form in my head, Brody says, “Me too! Let me walk you.”

He grabs Doe’s briefcase off the floor and does that chivalrous-guy thing where he holds out one arm toward the hal way, indicating that she should precede him in the direction they’re going. Brody’s being chivalrous. Doe’s being… Doe. This can’t end wel .

“This is bad,” I mutter as they disappear down the hal .

“This is real y bad.”

“She’l be fine,” Aunt Rachel says, laying a reassuring hand on my shoulder.

“I hope so.” But my I’m not holding my breath. “Because a messy situation between Doe and Brody could make last week’s earthquake look like a slight drizzle on the scale of trouble storms.”

Just cal her Hurricane Doe. Category Five.

I guess that makes me the emergency response. Any trouble Doe causes is ultimately my responsibility, my final duty as princess of Thalassinia. I’l be the one on the floor with a sponge and a bucket.

By lunchtime I’m a nervous wreck. Doe and I have not had a single class together—which isn’t surprising, since she’s enrol ed as a sophomore—but besides knowing that she and Brody both had econ this morning, I found out they also have the same homeroom and fourth-period typing class.

Al that unsupervised time together, who knows what might have happened.

Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe Brody just walked her to class and they haven’t spoken since. Maybe flying fish wil hop up on land and start salsa dancing. Stil , it doesn’t hurt to be cautious.

Straining to see over the sea of bodies in the lunch line, I hunt for the blond and brown-haired pair in the cafeteria.

But there are so many heads in my way, I can’t even get a good view on tiptoe.

“What are you looking for?” Quince asks.

I growl in frustration.

“Dosinia,” I mutter. “I think she has her eyes set on Brody.”

“Wel , that’s not great,” Shannen quips.

How observant. “Duh.”

I try to jump, hoping to propel myself above the crowd while not spil ing my trayful of lunch. My box of milk ends up on the floor.

Quince, who’s brought his lunch as usual and is only keeping us company in line, bends down and retrieves my half pint. “Why are you so worried?”

I throw him a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding look. But when he doesn’t shake his head and say, “Omigosh, you’re right,” I lean close and whisper, “Think about what happened with us.”

His lips spread into a very-pleased-with-himself smile.

“Nothing wrong with that.”

“Now imagine that happening between Doe and Brody.” He shrugs. “Stil not seeing the problem,” he says. “Your cousin is nice enough, and Benson’s not completely void of redeeming characteristics.”

“Bennett,” I snap. “And that’s not what you said two weeks ago.”

“Two weeks ago I was trying to keep your eyes off him, princess.”

“Wel , you were right before.” I try another jump and land on Quince’s foot. “He’s a shal ow, self-absorbed jel yfish.”

“I’m confused,” Quince says. “Are you looking out for Brody? Or for Dosinia?”

“Both of them,” I half shout. Why is he being so dense about this? He knows al the possible complications that might ensue if anything happens between them. “The two of them hooking up is bad news no matter which way you look at it.”

Shannen nods in girlfriend solidarity and says, “Prime-time trouble.”

With a shrug, Quince strains up to see over the ocean of students around him. With a few inches on me, he easily scans the room.

“They’re at a table together,” he says, coming back down to my level. “Want me to go out there and join them?”

“Uh-huh.” I nod my head vigorously. As he heads off into the crowd, I shout after him, “And save us seats.” As Shannen makes it to the cashier, she says, “I know you don’t like your cousin, but is she real y that bad?”

“You have no idea.”

“Would she real y kiss Brody?” she asks as she hands over her money.

“I hope not, but with Doe it’s impossible to say.” I move my tray forward when Shan picks hers up. “I mean, she hates hum—” I jerk back, realizing what I was about to say in a room ful of humans. “Wel , you know. So that’s a point in the favor of sanity.”

“But… ?” Shannen prods when I’ve col ected my change and my tray.

“But,” I say, leading the way between the lunch tables toward Quince’s dark blond head, “Doe is boy crazy and unpredictable. And she’s always been a little reckless.

Consequences don’t mean much to her.”

“A very bad combination.”

“Oh, yeah.” We reach the table and I slide onto the seat next to Quince. Across from Doe and Brody, who are sitting way too close together for my nerves. “Hi! How’s your first day going?” I ask, maybe too brightly.

“Fine,” she replies, not sparing me a glance.

Brody, however, does. “Doe’s been tel ing me some great stories,” he says with a big, teasing smile.

“I’l bet she has,” I answer with a growl.

Doe flashes her who-me-I’m-innocent eyes at me. As always, there’s hint of mischief in them.

Quince places his warm, reassuring hand on my knee.

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