Drift (Book 1 of the Merallo series)

When Mariah's best friend Jace moves to the other side of town it feels like they are drifting apart. They no longer have any classes together and he starts making new friends and dating Kiara who is pretty, popular & the best at everything.

Then, Mariah discovers something she is good at, swimming. With an unusual offer from Murray, the swim team superstar, Mariah has the chance to ruin the blossoming romance. All Murray wants in return is a kiss.

With a warning from her mum, famous for her fortune-telling skills, to stay away from Murray, Mariah has to choose between accepting Murray's offer or following her or letting Jace go. But her complicated romantic life is just the 'spark' of her problems as Mariah learns she's a type of mermaid. Now, she needs to learn to control her storm summoning powers before she loses control and hurts someone or worse, kills them.


4. 4. Full of Surprises

I woke to the sound of laughter. Groggily, I put on my dressing gown and slippers and made my way downstairs. As I passed the mirror I ran my fingers through my hair and tried to pat it down so curly red strands didn't stick out all over the place. My slippers had little cat heads on the ends and as I made my way down the narrow staircase they bobbed up and down as if giving me an enthusiastic positive yes. I paused at the bottom to see if I could figure out who my mum's visitors were.

"I don't know." I heard Denny's voice laugh. "Is it your magical basil plant or just plain luck?"

"My basil plant." My mum said proudly. "Never doubt the power of a basil plant."

"I am a sceptic, turned believer by you." Denny praised "I followed your instructions exactly and I just wanted to say thank you so much."

I had heard this sort of conversation before.

"You're family." My mum told her for the hundredth time. "No need to thank me."

Just like me, Denny is sceptical about magic. She's tried a few spells under mums direction but they never work.  Mum says the caster has to see and believe in what they are doing otherwise they are just going through the motions.

The step creaked under my foot.

"Sounds like someone might be awake." I heard the voice I longed to hear and bounced down the last step to greet him.

"Jace!" I cheered as I threw myself into the kitchen for a big hug. The feeling was like magic bubbling up inside me and I was awake and alive with so much energy.

"It's such a shame they split you two up." sighed mum.

I frowned at Denny. They could both blame the school all they wanted but I had never felt as divided as the day that removal van took off with Jace and his belongings.

"...guess you two have a lot of catching up to do?" Denny said, wriggling under my glare.

I couldn't help but admit to myself that Denny was glowing.  She was happier than I had ever seen her.   Denny had dark hair and brown eyes, whereas, Sam was her opposite with sandy blond hair and piercing blue eyes.  I had to assume his colouring came from his dad whom we had never had met.

It was difficult to stay mad at Denny. She was so infused with happiness it was impossible to stop a little rubbing off on you. Giving in, I allowed myself to share a smile with her.

I grabbed Jace by the hand and led him up to my room, leaving our mums to gossip. Somehow we managed to race up the thin gap of stairwell together, side by side. We crashed into my room and fell onto the bed.

Jace rolled over and grinned at me, "Still miss you."

"Miss you more." I said and stuck my tongue out. It was so true that the statement weighed heavy on my chest. I had to laugh otherwise I might cry.

"You need to get dressed so we can go out." Jace said.

I quickly grabbed my denim shorts, a vest top and underwear. "Two seconds," I giggled and headed off to the bathroom.  I didn't want to waste a second I could be spending with Jace.  I washed my face and threw on my clothes. I quickly yanked a wide toothed comb through my rebellious red locks. My hair was not behaving today; it just stood out crazy and wild. The only way to tame it was to pull it back into a hair band. Even tied back, little strands managed to escape and curled down my face. I had never liked my hair. There was nothing pleasing about it.

"Ready." I announced as I opened my bedroom door.

There was no need for a 'ready, steady, go'. With just a grin at Jace, he got up and we both raced down the stairs.

"Careful!" I heard my mum yell. She had told us not to race on the stairs hundreds of times but we never listened. We headed out the front door and I found myself skipping next to him down the road.

"Are you alright?" He asked.

"I am just so happy to see you." I answered.

"I am happy to see you too." He laughed and started skipping next to me in mockery but it was him who looked stupid with his long legs it was more like a gallop. Realising he was making me laugh, he carried on until I punched him in the arm "Cut it out!" He then started running and we were racing again, bounding carelessly down the street, dodging into the road to avoid pedestrians, acting like a pair of goons. By the time we reached the park we were both out of breath.

"Who would have thought that could be so exhausting?" He gasped, bent over and leaned on his knees; his eyes still twinkling from merriment.

I followed suit, hunching over trying to get my breath back, "Perhaps we're really unfit."

"You maybe but not me!" he teased, jabbing me in the waist. He began heading towards the tree we usually hung out by. He walked towards it and then sat down. "What's new with you?" he asked, looking at me with inquisitive blue eyes.

I shrugged my shoulders and slumped down beside him. I really didn't have anything to tell, so I didn't answer his question. "You seem to be making lots of friends."

"Yeah," he grinned. "I joined the footie team and most the lads are in my form.  We practice most breaks and after school."

"That's cool..." I concentrated on how happy I was for him but deep down I was just a bit jealous. Jealous of his new friends, who now got to spend so much more time with him than me and jealous that he found making friends so damn easy.

"How about you?"

"What about me?"

"Are you making friends?"

I felt my cheeks turning red. I was annoyed at my inability to speak to anyone. "It's different for girls!" I snapped. "We don't have a football team!"

Jace ignored my outburst and traced patterns in the soil with a twig. "Sorry to hear that." he said quietly. "I'm sure you will make friends soon."

He sounded sincere but we both knew it was too late for me. I was doomed to be a friendless loner. Even the outcasts and weirdoes were in groups.

I glanced down at the pattern he was drawing and saw the outline of a love heart. He was drawing something in the middle. I glared at it. He had definitely drawn a K. Then, he drew another line. He dragged the stick through the dirt, cutting a rough O shape. Finally, he stabbed a dot between the two letters. His actions had a physical effect on me, piercing a hole in my heart.

"Who is K O?" I demanded, reading his doodle.

He quickly scratched out his sketch with his stick. "K O?" he asked innocently. "Knock Out like when I beat you on Combat?"

"Jace, I just saw you draw a love heart and her initials in the soil. Assuming it's a 'her'?" I spat out nastily.

"Of course it's a girl!"

Now there was no denying there was a girl. "Who is she then?"

"Fine, it's Kiara O'Malley. Just some girl in my form."

"Does she like you too?"

"Everyone seems to think so. She always watches me play but she could be watching anybody." His smug smile told me his coy attitude was just for show. He knew she liked him back.

I wondered if Jace would have noticed me, if I had watched him play. Maybe, he would be carving my name in the soil. I shook the stupid thought out of my head. Jace and I were just friends.

Hearing him talk about another girl hurt. Never before had it bothered me. The difference was, usually I was the one pointing it out to him, encouraging him to go for it. This was an unknown threat, I didn't know who Kiara was or her influence over him. I didn't like not being involved.

"Are you going to ask her out?"

Jace looked at me with warm eyes and nodded. I dropped my head to hide my eyes, prickling with tears. I laughed to throw him off the strange sensation I was feeling. Inside, I was slowly dying.  I didn't want him to be with anyone else. It was supposed to be us forever. I felt my mouth fall open at the revelation of my own feelings for Jace.

"Are you alright?" he asked.

I felt a chill of a tear slowly trickling down my cheek. Think fast, I told myself. "I am just so happy to spend time with you again. I've missed you so much."

"Come here you silly girl." He grabbed me and pulled me into his arms and I didn't want to ever let him go again. Suddenly, the afternoon felt too short.

In that moment our relationship changed forever. He was not yet aware of what had happened but the gentlest touch from him felt like electric. Even his voice could cause my body to tingle with excitement as he spoke. I found myself gigglier than usual and just wanted to touch him all the time. I didn't recognise the person I was turning into and if I could just get a grip of myself for five seconds, I'd slap myself real hard.

As we walked back to my house to get lunch, I clung to his arm and leaned against his chest. "Mmm, cheese sandwiches." I grinned up at him.

"With cherry tomatoes."

It wasn't even funny but I found myself giggling, "and Branston sauce"

"Or piccalilli"

I giggled and a careless hand ran its way across his chest, "and pickled onions."

Jace shook his head. "I don't know what has gotten into you. Maybe I should stay away more often?"

"No." I gasped in horror and then pouted.

We passed his old house and pushed open my little white gate and entered the house.  Sure enough laid out on the dining table were the jars of pickles and spread and a cheese board. We both loved 'Saturday Sarnies' and it seemed like forever since we had shared one together.

As I sat at the table, I didn't feel that hungry. My stomach felt all over the place, yet I had this stupid goofy grin across my face. I tried to force a sandwich down but I wasn't interested in eating. I found myself picking at little chunks of cheese and popping cherry tomatoes in my mouth to feel them burst and explode.

The time came too quickly for Jace to go. "Can't you stay?" I begged.

"I can't. Brian's got a massive garden and he's invited the team over for a game." Jace said apologetically.

"You never were that into football?" I complained.

"Things change." He said with a shrug, and then gave me a hug goodbye. He had no idea how true that statement was.

As he hugged me, I had an urge to kiss his cheek. It was such a simple act but the rush it gave me was scary. My lips tingled where they had brushed his skin. I was terrified how he might react. It was all too much, making my head spin. Then I felt his lips gently brush against my cheek, reciprocating my kiss. It was the most amazing thing ever. I felt accepted. I wondered if he could feel the way my heart raced by that simple act and whether I had affected him the same way.

"I'll see you again soon." Jace promised as he went out the door.

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