Authors: Heather Allen
Just Breathe Book 2
Published by Heather Allen
Copyright 2013 Heather Allen
Cover Art by B Design
All rights reserved. This book contains material protected under International and Federal copyright laws and treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without express written permission from the author/publisher.
Dedicated to my boys,
Kelley and Conner,
may you alw
ays believe in the unexpected, and savor it!
The Forsaken Merman
Up the still, glistening beaches,
Up the creeks we will hie,
Over banks of bright seaweed
The ebb-tide leaves dry.
We will gaze, from the sand-hills,
At the white, sleeping town;
At the church on the hill-side—
And then come back down.
Singing: "There dwells a loved one,
But cruel is she!
She left lonely forever
The kings of the sea."
I wake with a start glancing around and realize where I am. My unbelievable reality is now in the sea. I'm in the room I've called home for the past week. A far cry from home though. I miss my things and my mess that my mom constantly pesters me about.
A knock at the door startles me, “C...C...Come in”.
I glance at the door and Jack walks in.
“Hey, I was just checking on you.” His voice sounds flat.
He stands there looking miserable and uncomfortable. What's his deal? I'm the one who's life has been turned completely upside down.
I mutter, “Dude, I’m good, considering…"
He shakes his head as if clearing a thought, “Jaspen wanted me to let you know that your training starts today.”
I nod. There’s not much more to say. Training, yeah that's the word being thrown around lately. 'Get James trained so he can defeat the Lior.' 'James, you're the most powerful.' Whatever.
He inches back out the door and says as an afterthought, “I guess I’ll see you in a little while.”
I get up to find something to eat. I’ve found one of the set -backs of living here is that they eat a lot of seafood, uncooked, not a real big fan. I walk out into the hall glancing from side to side. Both directions seem to go on forever. The cave I’m in is currently not filled with water which suits me fine. I am still getting used to the whole fin thing. I choose a direction and slowly walk down it. The walls have designs reminding me of sea serpents swirling together. I run my hand down the carvings as I walk. I finally find the entrance to a room resembling a kitchen of some sort.
I find an apple sitting on a table, which is rare here and sit down. I’m alone with the exception of Jaspen’s 'cook'. Or so he calls himself. Don't understand where cooking comes into the equation, there are no ovens or fire for that matter, under the sea.
He comes over and sits down across from me, “So would you like something fishy to eat?”
I shake my head not appreciating his little joke. He gets a kick out of teasing me about my lack of appreciation for their nourishment. He looks at me expecting me to say more but realizes I have nothing to say. He gets up shaking his head and leaves the room.
I was so sure of this life. I felt as if something was missing at home on land but now I’m not so sure. I would give anything to talk to someone back home about all of this. My sister Ever, would be the perfect person, but she’s missing. Every time I ask Jaspen why she isn’t here, he avoids my question telling me, he doesn’t know where she is.
Jack was her boyfriend but something must have happened between them. The few times I’ve brought her name up, he walked away and avoided me for a day.
I’ve been here for a week now. I've learned very little about the true nature of what’s to come except that the Erebus, the side I am fighting for, is gearing up for a big battle.
I push myself up from the table and head down the hall to the training cave. It is the furthest point of the cave formation. It is also the largest, probably measuring the size of a football field.
I walk through the door and hear, “There’s our guest of honor now.”
Jaspen’s voice. I smirk at him and shrug my shoulders.
He walks up and puts his hands on my shoulders facing me, “Don’t underestimate yourself, boy.”
I look down.
He pats my back, “Let’s get started.”
I follow him to the center of the room. I can feel the eyes of the Erebus in the room, staring at me. I keep my eyes averted to the floor. Jaspen grabs two spears off a stand and hands one to me. The far wall has five bulls eye stands mounted to it.
He tells me, “After you,” and glances at the wall.
I look up and focus, squinting to see a clear path to the center of the third stand. I pull my arm back and whip the spear forward, releasing it. It sails through the air and hits a few inches to the right of the center.
Jaspen shakes his head and clucks, “This shows we have a lot of work to do.”
I glare at him, “Why are we doing this? I can just use my 'wills'. You said yourself, I am the most powerful here.”
He starts walking toward the door but says over his shoulder, “James, if you can’t fight and use strategy, your ‘wills’ won’t help you because you will be dead.”
The door slams behind him. Two Erebus step up.
One hands me a spear and orders, “Again”.
I take it and sigh. We train with the spears for what seems like hours. I can barely lift my arm by the time they let me leave to go back to my room.
Once back in my room, I drift back to sleep. My last thought; uneasiness, so far this life is very different than what I had imagined.
The next thing I know I am gasping for breath and something is covering my face. I grab at it and notice it is soft like a blanket. I tear it off of me and open my eyes, trying to get my bearings. I’m confused because above me is white, not the dark cave ceiling I saw before I fell asleep. I sit straight up and recognize my room on land. It is exactly as it was when I left. The walls are plastered with my posters, my computer is sitting unused and my floor is scattered with worn clothes. I hear a noise on the outside of the door. I scurry to get out of bed and change. I’ve been living in my swim trunks for a week. I slip on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt just as the door creaks open.
My mom peaks absently around the door. She is about to close it but then I see surprise in her face. She throws it open and stands there, staring at me. Tears start pouring out of her eyes.
She whispers, “James, is it really you?”
I nod uneasily. She bounds for me and wraps her arms around me.
I wince, “Ah mom, I think you’re squeezing the life out of me.”
She loosens her grip but still holds on tight. I pat her back to comfort her.
I’m going to have to come up with something really good to explain my disappearance. Where is my sister when I need her?
I hear a knock on the door and it swings open. Amber swims in with pleading green eyes. I just stare at her then glance away and cross my arms in defiance.
She starts, “Ever, please at least eat something. You have been in here for a week and you’ve barely eaten anything.”
I shake my head, “Not hungry.” I’ve lost my energy to give her complete sentences anymore.
She glides over to sit on the bed, “You have to eat to keep your strength up. I know you are heartbroken but there is nothing to be done about that.”
I know we are deep in the sea but I can still feel the tears brimming in my eyes.
She pushes up so she is taller, looking down at me, “You have to get out of this, I have made all the excuses I can for you.”
She crosses her arms and says firmly, “Alex is coming for you today, whether you want to go with him or not.”
I look at the fish and fruit she brought for me and pick up the apple, take a bite and ask sarcastically, “Happy?”
She smiles and turns to leave and says over her shoulder, “For now.”
This seems to be a recurring pattern for me. I am left heartbroken and alone, feeling sorry for myself. Just once I would like to be the one to feel what it’s like to be on the other side.
The past week has brought many things to light for me. I made a choice to live in the sea as a mermaid, as unbelievable as it still is. I have foregone high school and friends and supposedly there's a battle on the horizon. And the worst is that Jack is gone. Everything we were to each other was a lie. This just rips my heart in two. The reason for my choices was never tangible. I can't even grasp that he's gone and this is my reality now.
I take a deep breath to fight the emotion rising and rise up to swim out into the hall, glancing down toward the kitchen to listen, nothing. I start for the front room and find Amber is sitting in a chair drinking out of a water bottle.
She startles, “Wow, look at that sight.”
I smirk at her, not even giving her the satisfaction, “What time is he coming?”
She looks thoughtful, “I guess he should be here soon.”
I ask quietly, “Am I doing the right thing?”
Kidding aside, her look turns serious, “I know it’s hard to see, but yes, this is the right decision. You will save our people.”
I nod, still unsure but determined to make a decision and stick with it.
An hour later we hear a knock at the door. I open it and I'm greeted with eyes greener and brighter than any meadow on land, I have ever seen,
. He grins a wide smile and his eyes crinkle. I look past him uncomfortably.
He tells me, “I guess Amber told you I was coming.”
I shrug my shoulders and turn away.
He glides in and tells me, “Seamus wants to see you but I would like to take the long scenic way, will that be alright?”
I glance back at Amber with a questioning look.
“You go ahead, I’ll catch up later.” She smiles and looks away as if she is hiding something.
I shrug and follow him out closing the door.
He guides us left out to the deep as the mer-people call it. I remember not so long ago, I followed Amber this way on our way to explore my ‘wills’ when I first chose this life. It seems like it's been years since that day. So much has happened. So much heartache, my stomach sinks thinking about it.
Alex asks, “Ever, did you hear me?”
I shake myself out of my memory, “What, um sorry, what did you say?”
He states, “I was just telling you how sorry I am that things happened the way they did.”
My eyes meet his and I quickly glance away.
I change the subject, “Where are we going?"
He smiles and tells me, “Well, it’s kind of a secret or maybe more of a surprise.”
I glare at him, “A secret, huh?”
“Yep, just follow me, you won’t be sorry, I promise.”
We swim for about an hour. We pass a familiar field of sea grasses but not anything else I would recognize. I would know. He finally slows when we approach what looks like a small cave on the sea bottom. As we get closer, I notice wood instead of rock. Finally as we swim over it I realize, it’s a very old, sunken ship.
Alex smiles and explains, “This ship has been here since 1940.”
I gasp unbelieving, “How is it still so intact?”
He shrugs, “Not sure, maybe it was just built well. Do you want to go inside?”
I nod amazed at the beauty of it, the sea life mixing with something from the land reminds me that land and sea are beautiful together. We glide into a hole in the side that used to be a window. The inside is completely transformed from what it would have been like gliding across the water for the first time. Growing up through the middle is a bed of coral in pinks and yellows. Fish of every color as well as lobster and crab have made their homes in the nooks and crannies. The boat is actually bigger than I had originally thought. The length is probably half of a cruise ship nowadays. Alex swims through various windows and down broken halls. I rush to keep up. He glances back and smiles occasionally. I smile back. It feels good to be back in the open water.
“Where have you been?”
We are sitting at the kitchen table. I am officially getting the third degree.
“Mom, I was just…”
I’m so at a loss for words. I remember when Ever came back after being gone for three days around the time when she found out about the sea. She let my parents come up with a story, on their own. It worked out pretty decent for her. I should probably use it as a reference.
Then it hits me, an “aha” moment so I tell her carefully, “Mom, I answered an ad in the newspaper. A band needed a new guitar player. I tried it out for a few days but it didn’t work out so I came home."
She gapes at me, “You are telling me that at seventeen, you think it’s appropriate to leave home, without telling anyone to…to join a band!”
When she puts it that way, it sounds so much worse than when I thought of it a few minutes ago. I nod knowing that whatever else I say, can and will be used against me.