Tempest Rising: The Second Summer
Big thanks to everyone who read, reviewed, or favorited my other Sea Change story, Til The Summer Comes Around, especially Fanpire4000 for encouraging me to write a sequel.
Disclaimer: All real credit goes to Aimee Friedman, the author of the original novel which inspired this sequel
"Welcome to Selkie Island, folks. But beware…"
I felt a tingling sensation as Sailor Hat began his 'magical creatures' spiel. Last year, I'd found it ominous and a bit creepy, but this year it seemed like a promise. I have to admit I was shocked to see him this morning as we got on the ferry, but I was even more surprised that he remembered me. As he neared the end of his speech, he caught my eye, tipped his hat, and smirked. "Miss Miranda here knows all about it, don't you?" I'd been too embarrassed to respond, though I knew he was right. But there wasn't much time for reminiscing. I was on a mission.
As soon as the gangplank was lowered and the deck gates had swung open, I was on the move, pushing past the other people who had crowded onto the ferry that morning. "Excuse me! Sorry. Pardon me." Ignoring the dirty looks I was getting, I focused on the familiar sound of my converse pounding the ground below me.
As soon as I reached the end of the dock, I stopped. "Miranda!" My poor mother, the more courteous of the two of us, was struggling to make her way towards me, juggling our duffel bags and suitcases, all the while trying to avoid plowing over the hoards of small children that buzzed about the harbor with their parents. "Slow down, sweetheart!"
Waiting for her to catch up, I studied my mother. She might be a famous surgeon back in New York, but here in Georgia, she was Amelia Hawkins, belle of the ball, and always dressed the part. Her usual uniform of hospital scrubs had been replaced with flowing skirts and sundresses. A wide-brimmed hat shaded her face. She looked much happier than she had the year before. So much had changed since then. We had enjoyed a pretty good year together and our relationship had certainly grown stronger since the last time we had occupied my grandmother Isadora's - now our own- summer home, simply called "The Mariner".
"Well then." She huffed. I reached out to help her with the bags but she shooed me away. "Oh no, don't worry about me." Her eyes twinkled mischievously. "If memory serves, you have a date. And I," she winked "have one as well."
I gasped. "Mr. Illingworth?"
"Yes." She paused, the smile on her face wavering slightly. "Is that okay? Because if it's awkward at all, I can cancel. You come first, Miranda."
"Of course it's fine!" I grinned at her and watched her happy smile return. I understood her timidity, though. After all, she had tried to set me up with his son, T.J., last summer and let's just say it didn't work out that well. But that didn't mean I couldn't be happy for my mom and her childhood crush.
"I'll see you later then?"
"Yes, you will. Now go," she waved her hand "God knows you've waited long enough!" She hugged me tightly. "Tell him hello for me."
Making my way down the crowded sidewalk, I had only one thing on my mind. It was the same thing that had haunted almost every single one of my thoughts for the past twelve months. Leo. I needed to find him and tell him three simple words, preferably before I lost my nerve and had to wait another year to tell him how I felt. And honestly? That was not an option.
"Why if it isn't Miranda Merchant!"
Despite my whole preoccupation with looking for Leo, I felt a small smile creep across my face. I'd know that high-pitched, southern drawl anywhere. Turning, I suddenly found myself enveloped in the midst of a Chanel-scented, pink-sundress-wearing cyclone. But something was missing. Once CeeCee had settled down and wasn't squeezing the air out of my lungs, I decided to go for it. "So," I asked, trying to sound all offhand and casual, "where are the girls?"
Even after one summer as neighbors and sort-of-friends, I knew enough to expect that CeeCee never traveled without her posse- her best girlfriends Virginia and Jacqueline, along with an assorted group of the cutest boys they could find, all happing to be conveniently blessed with their family's considerable fortunes, of course. And frankly, the type of people that she found to be excellent company made me want to scream, especially after last year's fail of a Fourth of July party, where I had managed to single-handedly embarrass myself in front of every single one of those people. CeeCee, however, had genuinely proven herself to be a good friend.
"Actually," she sighed and flipped back her hair dramatically "I'm alone this summer." Noticing the look that I was trying (and failing) to conceal, she continued. "Virginia, bless her heart, managed to snag herself an internship at Teen Vogue. And Jackie, well, let's just say she had a pretty Juno year, if you know what I mean."
"You mean she's…?" I asked, shocked.
Laughing, CeeCee shook her head. "Oh gosh no, nothing like that. Not our Jackie." She leaned forward and lowered her voice conspiratorially, "She totally flipped over Christmas and went all alternative."
I gave her a blank look, failing to see the scandal in this. A lot of people I knew back in the city were like that. "I don't know about New York, but where we come from, that is a huge no-no." CeeCee frowned. "Her momma almost had a heart attack when she came home with those purple streaks in her hair. Actually," she trailed off, brightening, "they were kinda cute. I was thinking about getting some for myself- pink, naturally. I can get her to send you a picture if you want. She should be getting out of her counselor's office riiiiight now." As if on cue, her phone buzzed. "Well, toodles!" And with a final wave of her perfectly manicured fingers, CeeCee Cooper was gone.
I followed her lead and took off in the opposite direction, my stride solemn and purposeful until a thought stuck me and I stopped dead in my tracks. Where the heck was I going? I know he'd said I would always be able to find him, but aside from the beach and possibly the marine center, I had no idea where he'd be. While I was standing there, a group of local girls brushed pass me, almost knocking me out of the way, but in the process giving me the answer I needed. Of course, I thought, mentally slapping my palm against my forehead. Fisherman's Village.
So instead of walking straight ahead, I veered off to the right and picked my way down the rocky lane until the idyllic vacation homes (more like mansions, if you ask me) gave way to the real Selkie- a ramshackle collection of shacks and buildings that made up the tiny community where the year-round residents lived. Suddenly, I couldn't stop smiling. This was where I truly belonged, I just knew it. People pushed past me, hardly knowing or caring that I was the granddaughter of Southern, Selkie royalty. Here, they treated me like one of their own- the version of myself that I liked best.
"Excuse me?" I asked a woman carrying a bag of groceries. "Where could I find Leo Macleod?"
She nodded her head towards a rusted metal shack across the way. The hand-painted sign out front read Harlow's Bait & Tackle. "He does some work there sometimes." I thanked her, and summoning all my courage, entered the dingy shop.
"Hello?" I called, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dim light. A few lonely lightbulbs hung from the tin ceiling, providing hardly any light at all.
"Who are you?" A burly fisherman emerged from the back room. He scratched his scruffy black beard, eyeing me critically.
"Miranda Merchant, sir. Is…is Leo Macleod here?"
"Leo?" he gave me a wary look. "What do you want with Leo?"
"I'm his girlfriend. At least, I think I am. You see, we sort of ended things a little weirdly last summer, but…"
"Do I look like I care?" he thundered, taking a seat behind the counter. "He ain't here anyway."
I gulped. "Ok, well, do you know where he might…?"
"Listen here, girlie. You ain't from around here, are ya?
I shook my head no.
"Yeah, I thought as much. You don't belong here. And you don't have the right to go pokin' around, getting into things you don't even know the first thing about- that boy being one of them!"
"I'm sorry, sir. Really."
"Just stay away from my shack, aye?"
Nodding, I began to back out of the store, knocking over a display. I could tell the man was about to explode again, so I did the only thing I could think of- I ran. I ran and ran until I couldn't see the building anymore. Suddenly exhausted, I plopped myself down on a bench to catch my breath.
Well that was weird, I thought to myself. I wracked my brain trying to think of what I possibly could have done to make that man hate me. I didn't recall ever crossing his path before, so why on earth had he singled me out like that? And what did he mean about me not knowing anything about Leo? It didn't make sense. Sadly, I could feel the scientific, overly analytical side of me begin to take control of my mind. I hopped off of the bench and started to walk. I needed to find Leo now- and fast.
I didn't have far to go, however, before a pair of strong but gentle arms encircled my waist and slowly turned me around. I closed my eyes, reveling in the moment, knowing what was about to happen. When I had made a complete one-eighty degree turn, I opened them and let my heart skip a beat as I gazed into the adoring sea-green eyes I had seen every night in my dreams.
Grinning, Leo kissed my forehead and whispered in my ear. "Hello, beautiful."
And just like that, I was home.