Authors: Anna Davies
“I think I do. I want to,” Miranda said slowly. She tried to imagine them
together. It was something she’d barely let herself imagine. Going out on dates. Introducing him to Eleanor. Having him pick her up from Calhoun. It just wouldn’t work. The only thing that would work would be to leave. They wouldn’t need much, just enough to somehow get started somewhere, maybe across the world from where they were now. A smile played on Miranda’s lips. It all sounded so ridiculous, but it just might work.
“You can. Just trust me,” Christian repeated, more urgently.
Miranda locked eyes with him. She wanted to say yes,
she trusted Christian. But the conversation with Coral kept
turning in her mind. Did Christian have a girlfriend somewhere else, too?
The waitress slammed a silver tray onto the table. Steam was emanating from the greasy layer of cheese on top of the pizza. Miranda grabbed a slice and took a large bite, the cheese burning the roof of her mouth. Now she didn’t want to talk.
Christian took a slice and took a smaller bite, his eyes not leaving Miranda’s face.
Miranda finally put the slice down. “Who are you,
” she asked. “And don’t change the subject. Seriously, whatever it is, I can take it. I just need to know,” she said, silently praying he wasn’t some criminal. But she knew he had to be hiding a big secret. Or else why wouldn’t he have come forward and announced he’d saved her?
Christian mashed his lips together and looked around. But the only people were the few men at the bar, who were all engrossed in ESPN playing on the TV in the corner. “I’m not from here,” he said.
!” Miranda exploded in impatience. The waitress glanced over curiously. “You say that all the time. I know you’re not from here. I get it. And I don’t care. I don’t care if you’re a runaway, or if you live on the beach, or whatever. I just need to know,” Miranda repeated, her voice bordering on hysterical.
Christian gazed down at the Formica table. “What I’m about to say may be hard to understand. Just trust me,” he said.
“Yes!” Miranda said angrily. “I get it. I trust you. Except the more you ask, the more I wonder why I should.” If what she felt for Christian was real, then she needed him to be honest with her, without any theatrics. After all, she’d told him everything about herself, and always with a clinical distance, as if she were just a reporter, detailing a tragedy. And Christian had to act all mysterious and brooding and dramatic, when whatever it was, she was
it was not as terrible as anything she’d experienced.
“You need to tell me,” Miranda said. “I don’t care what it is. Are you a murderer? Escaped from prison? A drug dealer? I can take it.”
“I live Down Below,” Christian said haltingly.
“What, like you’re from Hell? What does that mean?” Miranda asked. If he kept talking in riddles, she was going to stand up and leave.
“I’m not like you. There’s a whole race of people who live below the sea, and I’m . . .”
“What, like a mermaid?” she joked. But his face was dead serious.
“You’re a mermaid?!” Miranda asked, completely hysterical. What was he
about? This was
than him being homeless; this meant that he had some type of serious mental disorder. He’d probably escaped from some mental institution, and what she’d mistaken for sexy broodiness was straight up insanity.
Christian shook his head and clamped his hands against Miranda’s.
“No!” Miranda yelped, pulling her hands away as if they’d been burnt. At the bar, the group of men watching TV turned to stare.
” Miranda said, wishing it was true.
“I’m not a mermaid. I’m a betwixtman . . . it’s similar. We can go up to the Surface, and we can walk among you. There are more of us as well . . .”
“I’m not crazy. I promise.”
“No!” Miranda repeated. She couldn’t hear this. She didn’t want to hear this. “I need to go,” she said thickly. She hated the fact they were on an island, that she couldn’t just run away and disappear forever.
“Miranda, just listen . . . you’re in danger. The night of the accident . . . well, there are some of those Down Below who felt that you should have been left to die. I was supposed to come back here to get your soul.”
Miranda looked at Christian with fear and anger in her eyes. Was he saying he’d been trying to kill her?
“I’m leaving. And if you try to follow me, I am going to scream so loudly . . . ,” Miranda said. But she didn’t have to. Two of the men from the bar were standing over their table.
“You need help, miss?” One of the grizzled men asked as a larger, burly one clapped his hand on Christian’s shoulder.
Christian shot her a pleading glance. “Listen to me. It’s not what it sounds like. I’m watching out for you. I was never going to do it! I’m trying to save you!” he hissed.
Miranda felt frozen to her seat. She wanted to believe Christian, but she also knew she should call the police.
“How about we escort him out?” the grizzly guy asked. Not waiting for her answer, he half-dragged Christian out of the tavern.
“Miranda!” Christian called. The door closed with a thud.
“You okay?” The waitress came up with a glass of water.
Miranda shook her head, the beginnings of a headache throbbing at her temples. “Everything’s fine,” she said thickly.
The waitress glanced at her skeptically. In the corner, ESPN had been unmuted, a sign that the scuffle was all but forgotten by the men at the bar. “You need us to call anyone, sugar? You’re not from around these parts,” she said.
Miranda shook her head numbly. “Do you know what time the ferry heads back to Whym?” She asked.
“Ah, you’re one of those. Figured. Whym Islanders always seem to be looking for trouble,” the waitress said, clearly trying to stir up a mock rivalry between the two islands to try to cheer Miranda up.
Miranda didn’t laugh, and a puzzled expression crossed the waitress’ face. Still, she pulled out the pocket-size ferry map and gazed at it. “Well, if you want Whym, you’ve got to wait an hour. But the mainland one leaves in ten. Are you sure I can’t get you something? Tea? You seem pretty upset,” she said.
“I guess I’ll go to the mainland,” Miranda decided. She fished a twenty-dollar bill out of her bag and put it on the
table, then headed into the parking lot. She slid into her car and was about to back out when she noticed a figure appear in her rearview mirror.
Miranda shrieked and slammed on the brakes.
“Wait!” Christian yelled, his voice clear even though the windows were rolled up.
Miranda rolled down the windows. “You need help! Please leave me alone!” she cried.
Miranda rolled up the windows and Christian reluctantly stepped back from the car. Miranda floored the accelerator and drove on to the ferry. Only then did she breathe a sigh of relief.
HRISTIAN WATCHED MIRANDA
S CAR TURN OUT OF THE
parking lot and disappear, feeling an aching loss in his stomach, in his chest, in his heart. He strode back and forth in the parking lot, wondering what he could do. It felt odd to be up on the Surface somewhere that wasn’t the beach at Bloody Point. He was cold and confused and angry at himself. Why had he tried to tell the truth? He knew she wouldn’t understand. Deciding to tell Miranda his secret had only distracted him from his main goal of figuring out how to destroy Sephie to save himself, save Miranda.
The sun was sinking low in the sky. In the distance, Christian could just make out the ocean, and the green and white ferry making its way to the mainland. He felt uncomfortable
enough Up Above, but especially when he lost sight of the water. He knew that his ability to breathe air was all too tenuous. Sephie had the power to instantly reverse the spell that allowed him the freedom to live as a human.
Movement on the water caused Christian to look up and squint. It was a hulking ship, far off in the distance. But instead of the ferry, it was a luxury yacht. Christian squinted. On its side,
was written in gilt-gold script.
Christian’s blood turned to ice. Sephie was here. And if Sephie was here, Up Above, that meant she was vulnerable to fire. It also meant that Miranda was vulnerable to Sephie. And he didn’t have any time left to waste.
M HERE FOR
IRANDA SAID BREATHLESSLY
at the ICU unit at Westmoreland General. She’d driven here as fast as she could from the ferry dock, and felt disoriented and dizzy and hungry. Except for the few small bites of pizza, she still hadn’t eaten all day.
“Fletch King?” The nurse repeated. She was a nurse that Miranda didn’t recognize.
“I’m Miranda O’Rourke. His girlfriend?” Miranda said impatiently as the nurse keyed in a few letters on her computer.
“Only family,” the nurse said, offering Miranda a sympathetic smile.
” Miranda repeated.
The nurse shook her head firmly. “I’m sorry.”
“I’ve seen him nearly every single day. I need to see him,” Miranda said firmly, panic and confusion rising inside of her. What was the problem?
Miranda glanced around wildly, hoping for
to help her. She’d only skipped a day of visiting, and it’s not like she had been exactly welcomed before.
“Olivia!” She called, recognizing the young nurse from last week coming out of a patient’s room down the hall.
Olivia turned and smiled tightly. She hurried over to the nurse’s desk, her shoes squeaking on the ultra-polished floor.
“Miranda,” she said, lowering her voice. “I’m sorry. Fletch is doing okay, but they just want family.”
“But . . . ,” Miranda said, confusion crossing her face.
“They think . . .” At this, Olivia glanced around and lowered her voice. “They’ve decided it’s time for him to go. He’s gone.”
“He’s . . .”
Olivia nodded. “His parents decided this morning that they were ready to say good-bye. I don’t think they called any of his friends. I’m sorry,” she added, holding her arms out.
Miranda wordlessly accepted the hug. Fletch was free. And so, in a way, was she. Finally, she pulled out of the embrace.
“I tried to do everything I could,” she said, almost to herself.
“Oh, I know you did,” Olivia rubbed Miranda’s back and Miranda stood, rooted in place. She wasn’t sure what she was supposed to do anymore.
“’Bye,” Miranda whispered finally, to the hospital, to Fletch, to her guilt. Turning, she left the hospital and hurried back to the house.
“Hi,” Miranda called woodenly as she walked into the house. The lights in the kitchen were off, as if everyone in the house was asleep, even though it was only nine o’clock. “Hello?” Miranda called again.
Teddy shuffled into the kitchen and turned on the lights.
“Where is everyone?” Miranda asked.
” Teddy countered. He opened the refrigerator and pulled out a gallon of milk.