Chapter Five~ Handle Bars and Barnacles
“Come on! I thought you said you wanted to try it!” He kicked the stand of his bike down before swinging his leg over to stand to face me.
“I do! I just…don’t want to do it now.” I shrugged, trying to be nonchalant when really I was scared to death even though I really did want to try it.
He stared down at me; a year older than me, he had a good half a ruler on me at thirteen. The slightly confused look of his dissolved into a grin that made his eyes twinkle. “You’re scared! Aw, poor little Lot’! Do you want me to hold your hand?” He started laughing and shoving him only made him laugh harder.
“I’m not scared!” I had to stop myself from stamping my foot as I looked into his taunting eyes.
“Okay then, prove it! Talk is cheap, Your Highness.” He gestured to the bike with a grand wave of his arm.
“What if I fall off?” If my voice sounded small to my own ears, it certainly didn’t go unnoticed by his.
“You won’t.” He said it like it was so simple but really, if I got on that bike’s handlebars and we went down that hill, there was a good chance I could fall off and get hurt pretty badly and the rational, smart part of my brain yelled for me to not get on the bike. But the irrational part believed him just for the fact that he was my Jude: my best friend.
“Okay.” I said hesitantly.
He smiled like a maniac before swinging his leg over and steadying the bike. “Climb on Your Highness; be care-
“Honey, are you awake?” Dad’s voice booms through the door making me jump and sit bolt up in bed.
“I am now. What’s wrong?” Rubbing the sleep from my eye, I hastily swing myself out of bed before stumbling to the door to open it; he’s all ready for work but his eyes are jumpy and stressed.
“I can’t find my wallet. Do you have any cash I can borrow? I’m sure it’s somewhere but I’m lat-
“Sure let me grab my purse.” Picking my jeans off the floor I dig through the pockets till I find my purse before handing him all the cash I have. “Can you pay me back tonight?”
“Sure honey, thank you!” After a pat on the shoulder he’s down the stairs and slamming the front door shut behind him; drowning out my, “you’re welcome.”
A silence settles over the house, allowing me to think for a second and the first thing that springs to mind is the dream. I haven’t thought of that day in ages; strange that it would suddenly appear from my subconscious. Thinking of that day makes me really realise how long I’ve known Jude; the last years of my childhood were spent with him, it wasn’t always safe but we never got hurt. We never got hurt. Isn’t that strange? I was twelve when I first rode on the handle bars of his bike down a steep hill, and I didn’t fall off; how did I manage to stay on?
Unknowingly I’d moved towards the window; I tug at the blind to reel it up before tugging again to lock it in place above me. I can see Dad hurrying off further down the street; with the car getting a MOT he’s having to take the train, luckily the town has one.
The street is quiet because of the hour; not many people are wandering the street at six unless you’re walking the dog or on your way to work like Dad. Work. Tanya! She’ll be leaving her house soon; should I go back to that house? No, they’re crazy! But they talk like they know me and I want to know what they know about me. How am I going to do that though? Hey, come and be my friend, and do tell me what you know about me and then I’ll fill in the blanks; sound good? Is there any other way? Apart from eavesdropping?
With a heavy sigh, I start getting ready; this isn’t the smartest thing I’ve ever done.
“Start with hoovering the downstairs.” She gives me a sharp look before brushing past me to head up to the second floor; still unhappy about me ditching her yesterday.
My back-pocket starts vibrating before a Bon Jovi starts singing. Taking out my phone, I stare at the name debating whether or not to answer; it’s almost on the last ring when I swipe the screen and put it to my ear.
“I was starting to wonder if you were going to pick up.” Jude greets through the phone.
“I was thinking about it.” I lay the hoover down on the floor before walking to the stairs and starting to slowly creep up them. “Where was that mural you said was so big arse?”
“You’re at the house?”
The slight hint of distress that I pick up on makes me pause halfway up the stairs. “Yeah… Why? What’s the big deal?”
“It’s not a big deal, but I wanted to meet up that’s all; Want to meet me in town?” His voice is too casual; too slow and calm.
I start climbing the stairs again. “I can’t right now; I need to stay and help out but maybe later this evening. I’ll talk to you later.” I lower the phone from my ear as the mural comes into view; my ears register the sound of my phone tumbling to the floor and then down the stairs but I can’t move my eyes away from the sight in front of me.
The painting of all the fairies slowing disappears to reveal shards of light dancing behind it. The more the painting disappears the more the light starts to resemble light reflecting off water.
Stepping closer, I realise it is water. My hand reaches out on its own; expecting to feel cool glass under my hand, I gasp when my hand sinks into the water without any resistance. Breathing becomes difficult as I watch my hand bob in the warm water.
Suddenly, almost as if being pulled, I’m tumbling forward into the water with a shriek.
Surprise causes me to breathe in the water but when I turn to push myself back through the painting it’s not there, in its place is a plant swaying it the current of the water.
Panic seizes my chest. Kicking my legs, I push myself towards the light that dances across the surface of the water and just when I think my lungs are going to explode, do I break through it. Drawing in lungful after lungful of sweet air, I turn surveying my surroundings. Where the hell am I?
Forest surrounds the lake that I tread water in and there’s something about it that’s different than anything I’ve ever seen; it’s beautiful.
As nice as the water feels, I know I need to get out and onto shore because my shoes are full of water and the weight of them along with my sodden clothes is starting to make it harder to stay above the surface. For a second I consider sinking under the water and just staying there, I mean, I must be dreaming because this isn’t real! The only time this happens is in books and movies. However something tells me that I need to get to shore so I start swimming.
I haven’t swum two metres when something breaks the surface ahead of me. I freeze but I don’t know if it’s the shock of the fact I’m not alone or the gills gracing the young girl’s cheeks.
She blinks rapidly as she stares at me open mouthed before snapping back to reality. “Are you insane? Why would you come here? If they see you you’re…you’re…” The horror on the girl’s face is undiluted as she shakes her head.
I don’t know what to say, what to do as I stare at the…thing in front of me. Blue-skinned, gills… What is she?
“What are you?” The question’s out of my mouth before I can think of the consequences.
The confusion surfaces slowly before being accompanied by fear. “I am a Marine Fey, what’re you?” She bobs closer.
“Fey? Like Fairies? That sorta Fey?” Staying a float’s starting to become harder as my strength starts to dwindle.
“Answer my question!” Her demand is followed by a flare of her gills. How is this possible? Am I actually dreaming? Or is this real…?
“Barnacles!” She shakes her head like it preposterous.
“I’m not joking! Jesus! Do we have to have this conversation in the middle of a lake?” I sink slightly, water covers my mouth and nose; I have to furiously kick my feet to bring my head above the water again. When I do, I see her expression and it’s like I slapped her.
“You’re human. Oh fishtails! That’s worse! How’d you get here?” She bobs even closer before scanning the trees around the lake. “This really isn’t safe! We have to hide you! If the bandits see you… you’d be like gold to them!”
We both turn our heads when the voices grace our ears; before I can process what I’m seeing, I’m submerged underwater and the girl’s holding me there and all I can this: I need to breathe.