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.

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5. 5. A Brewing Storm

"He was definitely what you needed." chirped my mum behind me. "I haven't seen you that happy in ages."

I watched as the front door was slowly closed behind them, then threw myself into my mum's cosy cuddliness. My mum was the opposite of Denny. She was short, round and plump and wore hippie style clothing that hung off her and made her look even bigger. One thing mum was better than anyone at, was cuddles – except maybe Jace. Hot tears ran down my face.

"Whatever is the matter?" Mum cooed in my ear.

"I don't feel well." I grumbled between sobs.

She put a hand to my head. "You don't have a temperature. What sort of not well do you feel?"

"I have a funny tummy and feel dizzy."

Mum instantly looked worried as she guided me up the stairs to bed. She pulled back the covers and tucked me in. The curtains lifted and waved angrily into the room.  Mum leant over the bed to pull the window shut. 

She frowned and looked at me,  "The weather has turned suddenly." 

She gave me her look when I'm in trouble and for a moment I thought she was accusing me.  Then she wrapped the top sheet around me, kissed my forehead and gave me a cuddle as she whispered, "Wrap her in cotton, bind her with love. Protection from pain, surrounds like a glove."

I smiled, comforted by the familiar words she always says when I am poorly. She drew the curtains, "May the brightest of blessing, surround her this night. For you are cared for, healing thoughts sent in flight."

She walked towards the door and winked. "I will make you a lemon peel tea. That's always good to stop dizziness."

I rolled over and stared at the wall as I gripped my tummy. It felt empty but I didn't want to eat. Shutting my eyes, all I could see was Jace grinning at me with his sparkling eyes talking about Kiara. I pictured us kissing. Not on the cheek, but on the lips, gentle and warm. My lips would tingle, just as they had when they'd touched his cheek.

*****

During the week, I had seen Jace but he hadn't noticed me. I stood in the stairwell, on the top floor, looking out the window watching him play football with his new friends.

I had a good idea now who Kiara was. A group of pretty girls sat at the benches watching the boys play. Kiara had long blonde hair, as soon as the bell rang, she'd jump up and run to Jace, so they could walk in together.

They weren't ordinary girls. Even though they wore the same uniform as everyone else, they stood out. Kiara's hair was usually pulled back from her face by a colourful band. It caused the layers of her hair cut to flick out and frame her cheekbones. Her heeled shoes made her legs look longer. She had a rich golden tan, the sort earned from a tropical holiday.  

Her beauty made me feel plain. I knew I would have to make an extra effort on Sunday if I wanted Jace to see me in the same light as her.  To make matters worse, the ache in my belly had not gone; it had been heavy with the sadness I had been carrying since Jace had left me. It hung like a weight just above my left hip.

I got my  mobile phone from my knitted satchel and decided to bite the bullet and check how his date   had gone.  He was on the side-lines, squirting juice into his mouth. He put the juice down and began chatting to the girls at the benches. I stabbed the send button - it was better to know than torture myself with soul destroying scenarios.

'Mariah:  Hey Jace, how's it going with Kiara?'

Seconds later, I saw him reach into his pocket and check his mobile. I waited for him to text back but he just glanced at the screen, shrugged nonchalantly and shoved it back in his pocket.

He had just ignored my text!

I felt as if he had punched me in the stomach. This was ridiculous, I shouldn't be so worked up about something so silly but as his best friend I thought responding would be high on his "to do" list.

What if I 'm no longer his best friend?

He was now running back on to the field to play with my replacements.

Then my phone chirped the familiar happy sound of a text message. I clicked to read, relieved that he had text back and glad to be wrong. My smile fell as I saw it was a message from my mum.

Mum:  Meet me outside Tesco.  Going to do a food shop and need help carrying it home. x

I let out a heavy sigh. All I wanted to do was curl up and sulk in bed.

*****

After school I took the detour to meet her in town. The centre of town was full of busy noisy people and I was cranky. A headache was starting to brew from the exhaustion of just getting through the day.Not only did I not feel right but my shoes were making my feet hot and itchy. At least they had now moulded to the shape of my foot so were not rubbing anymore.

I was definitely coming down with something and I wondered if maybe mum could whip up one of her magic concoctions.  I could see mum on the other side of the road. She stood out, positioned in the centre of her makeshift island of re-usable cotton bags. She was standing by the taxi rank waiting for me to join her.

"Are you alright?" Mum asked as I joined her. Her warm hand pressed against my forehead as she gauged how worried she should be.

I just grunted. As the day wore on I was feeling worse and my bed couldn't come soon enough.

She carefully selected the lighter bags for me to carry and then lifted the remaining ones. I struggled to keep up as we walked home. I felt defeated and heavy. The fifteen minute walk felt like forever.

Arriving home didn't give me the pleasure my pitiful mood had desired. I just wanted the ache in my belly to stop. I dumped the bags in the kitchen and started unpacking the items. The task was robbing me of my final reserve of energy.

"What's that?" mum gasped.

"What's what?" I turned to identify what she was pointing at. Following her finger down towards my leg, I saw a dark red line that ran down my inner thigh like paint. It was bright and vivid and I felt faint just looking at it. "...I don't know." I mumbled weakly.

"Quick!" Mum gasped. "Go to the toilet. I'll fetch you some sanitary towels."

The burning heat that had plagued me all day suddenly rushed to my face. I ran to the toilet and locked the door. Sinking down onto the seat I inspected the damage. Sure enough my knickers were soaked. "Just a teaspoon of blood!" That's what my Sexual Education teacher had taught me but this was more, way more.

I felt sick looking at it and wriggled my knickers off and over my ankles, trying my best to touch them as little as possible. Pulling a piece of tissue from the roll, I rubbed at the stripe on my leg but it was dried on. How long had it been there? Had anyone else seen it?

The humiliation eventually got to me and a stray tear found its way down my cheek. I sat there helplessly on the toilet waiting for my mum to return with clean knickers and a sanitary towel. I hadn't pictured my first period being like this, I thought I'd have had more warning and been more prepared. For the first time, I was glad that Jace wasn't here.

There was a knock at the door and I wondered if I could leave the toilet to let her in. I didn't want to make anymore mess and I was worried if I got up I would bleed all over the floor. I leaned forward trying to reach the door but it was too far away.

Mum knocked again. "Come on Mariah, open the door?"

Well I couldn't sit on the toilet for god knows how many days... I quickly made a dash for the door. As soon as it was unlocked mum barged her way in. She handed me what I had been waiting for. I quickly put on the clean knickers and stuck the sanitary pad on. When I looked up mum's eyes sparkled proudly. "My little girl is growing up."

"Get out!"

"It's a good thing." Mum nodded enthusiastically. "Now, you go and get changed and I'll cook you something nice for dinner. Then we'll have a proper chat about this and celebrate."

Was she deaf? Celebrate! If looks could kill... "Get out! Get out! Get out!" I screamed with venom.

"Alright..." mum looked wounded as she hurriedly exited the small room. She grabbed my discarded knickers without even flinching at how unpleasant that must have been. Then she closed the door behind her.

Safely alone with my privacy I was able to cry properly. I felt bad for yelling at mum but I just wanted to be alone. Too many things were changing and it was all happening so fast. It made me feel unstable and I didn't think I could handle anything more.

Then my phone beeped.  I glanced over. 

Jace:  Not great.  Better I explain in person."

I wiped the tears from my cheek and smiled.  Then felt awful that I was pleased things hadn't worked out for Jace. 

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