Rating: T for intense situations, theme, and I may toss in a bad word here or there (but not too much)
Genre: Angst/Romance. Not a deathfic, I swear. I don't play that way.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Note: I have momentarily come out of fan fiction retirement for my nieces, who begged me to write them a P.O. K. story (preferably something angsty and definitely Brakayla). It could be better, since I wrote it in about a day. The kids are probably going to be out-of-character in this piece. Plus, I had to use my closed-captioning to get the spelling for some of the islander names (is in Kinkou or Kinkow?), so blame the CC people if the spelling isn't right. The other typos and boo-boos are mine. Also, this story contains references to rogue waves and tsunamis. If tsunamis and themes related to them are a delicate or sensitive subject for you, you should not read this. I picked the name Kalana at random because I liked it. I do not know anyone named Kalana. Kalana is not real or based on any real person. Any similarity to any other fiction or t.v. episode out there is 100% coincidental (I haven't read every fanfiction or seen every t.v. show that's out there, but I'm willing to guess I'm not the only one to use this storyline before).
Finally, my apologies to dear Boomer and Mason for not having a bigger role in this story. Flames will, as always, be ignored, but I sincerely hope someone out there enjoys it, because that's what fan fiction is about, after all.
Here's your story, girls. I hope you enjoy it.
Pair of Kings
Mikayla Mikula was nearly to the beach when she finally heard the roar of the oncoming wave. She was going to be too late, she realized in a crush of despair and terror.
No, no, Kalana, you can't have him, you witch…
Irrationally, she wanted to keep running for the shore, to get there in time, for it not to be too late. But, that would have been suicide, and she still had some presence of mind to know that. Still, the moment she turned away from the cove was the single worst moment of her young life.
She ran for the trees, scrambling as high as she could up the thick trunks only seconds before the rogue wave hit the island. It curled up the shore like a living thing, some monster seeking to devour anything in its path. Luckily, the warning alarms had alerted the nearby villagers and the wave found only empty streets and empty beaches.
Empty beaches…all except for one beach.
She clung to the tree for what seemed like an eternity, praying that it withstood the push and pull of the wave, praying the wave didn't climb high enough to reach her. If it had been a full out tsunami and not a smaller rogue wave generated by the storms, Mikayla was sure that the tree would have snapped and she would have been washed out to sea when it receded. They were lucky the wave hit Kalana Cove, one of the few beaches nearly completely enclosed by high cliffs, tall enough to prevent the rogue wave from tearing into the nearby community. The people would be safe…
…if they didn't happen to be on the beach of Kalana Cove.
Her heart slammed in her chest and she felt the sting of tears burn her eyes.
Minutes crept by with agonizing slowness, but she forced herself to wait. The sea grew calm. That did not mean another wave wouldn't come.
It was a chance she would have to take.
She climbed back down as fast as she could and flat out ran for the cove. Mikayla did not look at the path of debris. The sight of it only confirmed that it was impossible she would find anything—or anyone-on the beach when she got there. She would not believe that. She could not believe that.
This could not happen.
Still, her hope diminished with every step she took. When she finally raced onto the sandy shore of the tiny cove, she found only seaweed and driftwood and fish that had been washed ashore. The beach was otherwise empty. There wasn't so much as a footprint left behind.
One solitary tennis shoe print had been spared by the wave. The print pointed towards the sea. A tiny spot of orange was half-buried in the sand beside the shoeprint. Mikayla bent to pick it up.
It was one of those damned cheese fingers the kings loved so much.
No, no. Kalana, please…
Her gaze swept the shoreline. In the dim light of the cloud-shrouded sunset, she could barely see anything. All that was visible were the white caps of the now-gentle waves.
How could this happen? This could not be happening. Her hand moved to touch the empty gold chain around her neck, repeating her mantra like a prayer in her mind. Not over something so stupid…
She dropped the cheese finger and ran for the water's edge, searching frantically. A cry tore from her lips, but it did not sound like her voice. This voice was not confident or self-assured. This voice was high and terrified and anguished.
Two hours earlier…
The rain suited her mood.
This really should have been the greatest day of Mikayla's life. She'd worked for it. She'd dedicated herself to long hours of studying. She'd sacrificed more than a few nights that she'd much rather have shared at the beach with her friends. She'd given up sleep and barely cobbled together time for a social life in between studying and her duties at the castle.
Here was the big payoff: A simple envelope in her hand and a congratulating handshake from the strange little man with the horn-rimmed glasses who'd flown all the way from America by balloon to deliver it to her. It wasn't even a heavy envelope.
Of course, she'd screamed for joy at the word "yes". She had leaped, she had bounced, and she had squeezed poor Mr. Higgins so hard that his horn-rimmed glasses had popped right off his face. She had started running for home before she regained the presence of mind to rush back to Mr. Higgins and tell him "yes" in answer. The first person she wanted to tell was her father. After that, she wanted to scream it from the tallest mountain on Kinkou.
At first…until she began to think about what it meant. She had to tell everyone her plans now. She had expected that to be the easiest part-sharing her joy, watching her family and friends be happy for her and celebrate her achievement. It wasn't turning out that way. It was real now. She was leaving Kinkou for several years, and it finally dawned on her that not everyone was going to celebrate that news.
The first person she had to tell was herself. Already, she felt the first lump in her throat just walking past the houses and shops of the village on her way back to the castle. She would miss the sunshine (what would it be like living with ice and snow?). She would miss the salt air of the sea and the feel of the sand beneath her feet. She imagined concrete roads and steel towers like the ones she'd seen when the kings had run off to Chicago and she had gone with her father to bring them home. She remembered the bustle of activity, the noise, the light, the smell, and the pulse of the city. It was strange, exciting…so different from Kinkou and more than a little frightening.
Everything was about to change. That was strange, exciting, and more than a little frightening.
Her fingers felt for the single pearl that hung from the gold chain around her neck. Mikayla almost never wore the pearl for fear of losing it, but she had wanted it with her today for luck.
Her Dad had told her the story of the pearl many times when she was a little girl: Her mother had visited the Spirit of the Sea Festival at a tiny seaside village in Japan years before Mikayla was born. One of the vendor was selling the chance to find a pearl by purchasing an oyster and opening it there at his booth. Her mother had picked the oyster with this very special pearl inside.
It was a spectacular pearl, so white that in the sunlight it was prismatic, shining every color of the rainbow. Her Mom had the pearl set into a ring, and she'd worn that ring every day until Mikayla was born. After Mikayla's birth, her mother had the pearl made into a pendant. Mom had told her to wear it whenever she needed luck (or whenever she wanted her Mom close to her heart).
Her Dad missed her Mom every day, and, even if he was supportive about Mikayla going away, she knew he was going to take it hard because he would miss her just as much. It would be strange not to see each other every day. Yes, her Dad would take it hard when Mikayla said goodbye to Kinkou…
…but there was one person who was going to take it worse.
Like, wailing and rending garments worse.
Which was another reason why, instead of running around sharing the greatest news ever with every person she encountered, Mikayla had spent the last two hours pacing in circles, in the rain, around the plaza, trying to figure out exactly how she was going to handle this.
She stared at the castle door. This is ridiculous, Mikayla. It's like ripping off a Band-Aide. You walk into the castle and say, "Brady, I've been accepted to Vassar. I'm leaving Kinkou for four years." He'll scream for awhile, but he'll survive. Or else he'll start the whole wailing and rending his garments thing. Or possibly try to issue some royal order banning anyone on Kinkou from leaving the island to go to school. Or stow away in the balloon. Or jump from his balcony…oh God, this is going to be so bad…
Mikalya stopped in front of the door, screwing up her courage. No, this is a good thing. He'll get over this silly crush he has on me-well, okay this completely obsessive slightly stalker-ish crush he has on me-and find some other nice island girl. Someone with a little lower I.Q. than me. Possibly someone very nearsighted. The point is, by the time I get back, he'll finally be over me.
Her hand clenched into a fist, crumpling the envelope in her hand.
Good thing. It's a good thing. Come on, Mikayla, get in there and rip off that Band-Aide.
Squaring her shoulders and taking a deep breath, she pushed open the castle door and marched inside-
-right into a tripwire, which dropped five pounds of fishing net right down on her.
There was a time in her life when something like this would have been unusual. Now, it wasn't even the strangest thing likely to happen to her that week.
The throne room had been transformed into an elaborate assemblage of levers, pulleys, ropes, weights, nets, bells, and whistles of a complexity all the more impressive considering who had dreamed it all up. The coup de gras was the one hundred pound rock suspended from the center of the ceiling above a bowl of milk and a plate of moldy cheesebread, bait chosen by pure speculation on the part of the hunters as to what food would entice their prey.
Of course, bearing in mind who had put this elaborate trap together, the royal staff had unanimously decided to avoid the throne room as one would avoid driving a truckload of sweaty dynamite down a bumpy mountain road. Preoccupied with her own dilemma when she returned to the castle, Mikayla had forgot for a minute that she was head guard of a royal nuthouse.
And, even though the throne room looked empty, she knew the two people responsible for the tripwire and the net were in the room somewhere.
"Your Majesties, for the last time, there are no catroaches on Kinkou. There are no catroaches anywhere on the planet!"
The twin kings poked their noses out from their hiding place behind the couch. Somewhat embarrassed at having been caught hiding from their prey, Brady and Boomer came out from behind the sofa, trying to affect an air of dignity-not easy to do while dressed for the 'hunt' (catcher's mask, flak helmets, oven mits, and for reasons that only made sense to the two teenage boys, baking pans duct taped across their chest) and carrying the tools of battle—tennis racquets, a lacrosse net, and a can of "Raid".
Boomer held his head high despite the undignified situation. "I know what I saw."
Brady backed up his brother. "How else do you explain all the weird things going on in the castle? Strange inhuman screeching in the middle of the night? Thumping in the walls? Cat hair everywhere? Our entire supply of cheesefingers vanishing in one night. Who, or what, besides the elusive catroach, could eat twenty pounds of cheesefingers in one night and live to tell the tale?"
Mikayla stared at Boomer…more precisely, Boomer's fingers, which were conspicuously coated with powdered cheese.
"You ate all our cheesefingers?" Brady gave him a wounded look.
"Not all of them. I saved you some." He pulled the last remaining cheesefinger on all of Kinkou from the pocket of his cargo shorts and handed it to Brady.
Brady rolled his eyes. "That's great…."
"I'm sorry…they were so cheesy and I eat when I'm nervous." Boomer quickly directed the conversation back to Mikayla. "And this doesn't explain the fur, or the screeches, or the thumps."
She was prepared. "The screeching that Brady is hearing is you singing in the bathtub in the middle of the night."
"Ah-ha!" Brady had her this time. "We all know full well that Boomer does not bathe."
Boomer stared at his shoes. "Actually, I have been sneaking in a bath while you were sleeping. I didn't want you to know. It's just that I wrote away for this awesome bath tub submarine with the boxtops from our 'Gummy-Os' cereal…"
Mikayla continued. "And the hair is not catroach hair. It's hair from the faux polar bear skin rug you bought for the photoshoot in Better Castles and Gardens because you thought it would make you come off as rugged and sophisticated. And the thumps is probably that gerbil you turned loose banging his little hamster ball against the walls."
Boomer sniffed. "Poor Diego…someday, when he's ready, he'll come back to us."
"You do seem to have explained everything," Brady conceded.
"Great. Can you get me out of this net?" Mikayla's efforts to pull off the ropes only seemed to get her more entangled.
Brady moved to help her out from under the fishing net. That was the first moment he noticed that she was dressed to the nines, looking almost as beautiful as the night of the prom. He faltered for a second, halfway through tugging the ropes off her, and stared. "Whoah…where are you going dressed like that? Did you change your mind about that dinner and moonlight swim-?"
Mikayla cut him off, shuddering, "Not even if my only choices were that or being dipped in honey and dropped on a hill of fire ants."
As usual, the rejection didn't quite faze him. He just smiled his usual dopey, adoring grin. "I like the part about being dipped in honey…"
Boomer was still struggling with the net. They'd done a good job with the knots, if he did say so himself. This net would have held the catroach for sure if Mikayla hadn't messed up their trap. "Man, this thing does not want to come loose. Here, give it a good tug…"
He and Brady put all their weight into pulling the ropes, and the net finally began to untangle itself from Mikayla. But, as the net fell away, she felt one of the ropes rub against her neck and heard something hit the cement floor with a soft plink.
Automatically, her hand went to her neck, feeling for her necklace. She could feel the gold chain still there, but her Mom's pearl was missing. "Oh my god….my necklace," she cried. "My pearl…where is it?" She shoved past the two boys, dropping down on her knees so she could feel around the floor for the pendant.
Her urgency was lost on the kings. "Mikayla, relax, it's right there." Brady spied the pearl where it had rolled to a stop beside the small bowl of milk on the floor. "I'll get it for you."
"No wait, I'll do it!" Mikayla tried to stop him, afraid he'd drop it or scratch it, or worse step on it.
Too late. Brady's foot caught one of the tripwires and set the kings' elaborate trap into motion.
Boomer yelled a warning: "Hit the dirt!"
Mikayla, Brady, and Boomer flattened themselves against the walls as the heavy rock suspended overhead was released with the click of a lever and came crashing down right on its target-the large "X" painted beneath the bowl of milk and Mikayla's pearl.
She blanched. "Oh no." Feeling sick, she lifted the rock and found the pearl. It was crushed into sparkly dust.
Boomer frowned at the rock, unhappy for an entirely different reason. "We have to work on the release trigger. That rock has to drop faster if we're going to squish us a catroach."
At the moment, Brady was more concerned about Mikayla. She seriously looked like she was going to start crying over her smashed pendant. He would have reached out to pat her shoulder or arm or something to be comforting, had she not previously warned him what would happen to any part of his body that came into physical contact with her. Now was not the time to see if she'd been serious about that threat. So, all he could do was try to apologize, "Mikayla, I'm sorry about your pearl. You know the code for the royal vault-take two minutes and grab any jewelry you want out of there…"
Mikalya's face flushed red with her fury. "I don't want jewelry from the vault! I want my Mom's pearl not to have been crushed by…." She waved her hand at the kings' elaborate trap, unable to find a suitable adjective for the contraption. "…that!"
Brady had a horrible moment of clarity on why she was having a meltdown. "Wait-your Mom's pearl…?"
She was beyond hearing anything he had to say. "I want the two of you to stop acting like a pair of immature, irresponsible morons and start acting like real kings! And I want someone to tell me why I had one minute of difficulty deciding what I have to do!" It was harsh, and Mikayla knew it, but the words tumbled out of her for frustration before she could help it. She threw her hands up in exasperation. Suddenly needing to be as far away from them as possible, she turned on her heel and stomped out of the throne room.
Brady and Boomer stared after her in stunned silence.
"Hey, Mikayla…" Brady took a few steps towards the door to follow her, to at least try to apologize.
That was the moment a fuzzy, black, eight-legged creature the size of a small dog scurried out of the corner. It hopped over Brady's foot, dashed around the rock that had crushed the bowl of milk, and swiped the cheesebread from the untouched saucer before it skittered back towards the kings.
Boomer jumped onto Brady's back, screaming "CATROACH!"
The strange old woman found Mikalya standing by the sea wall above Kalana Cove a short time later. The rainstorm was beginning to move off shore, but the girl had stood there, lost in her troubled thoughts, long enough to get a pretty good soaking. She barely noticed and she didn't care. She watched the breaks of the storm-generated waves and the play of lightning in the distance, trying to clear her head and ease the knot in her stomach.
She didn't even notice the old woman suddenly appear until a voice startled her out of her musings: "Dear, you need to come out of this rain!" A blanket suddenly draped itself over Mikayla's shoulders.
"What? Oh-" Mikayla turned to the stranger. The old Kinkou woman was a head shorter than the girl, with hair so blonde it almost had a green tint to it and eyes that were blue as the sea. She balanced herself with a gnarled driftwood walking stick adorned with seashells and braided bits of colorful twine. Her smile was kind, if missing a few teeth, but something about it made the hairs on Mikayla's neck stand on end a bit. The woman even smelled a bit of the ocean breeze. She was right, however, Mikayla was drenched, and the blanket she loaned was warm and oddly comforting. "—I hadn't noticed. Thank you…?"
"Callie," the woman supplied her name. She leaned heavily on her walking stick, staring at Mikayla in a way that did nothing to make her less creepy. "Must be some important thoughts if they've brought you here in the rain."
The way she said 'here' made it sound like this little section of the coast held some grave importance that was lost on Mikayla. "'Here'?"
"Kalana Cove." The woman pointed a bone-thin finger at the section of isolated beach below the high cliff walls.
Oh, right, Kalana Cove. Mikayla understood the implication now. She hadn't wandered here on purpose, but it kind of made sense that she'd found her way to this particular spot. 'Kalana' was the islanders' name for the Spirit of the Sea. People always came to this beach when they were troubled or had an important decision to make and wanted guidance from the Spirit of the Sea.
"Dear girl," Callie repeated, staring closely at the broken chain Mikayla wore. "What's happened to your necklace?"
"Would you believe me if I told you it was crushed in a giant catroach trap?"
Callie nodded as if no further explanation was required as to what happened or who was responsible. "Oh, yes…how are the kings incidentally?"
"They're…" Once again, Mikayla lacked a suitable description. "…you know."
Callie settled herself beside the girl on the sea wall. "So, would you like to talk about what's troubling you before we catch our deaths in this rain?" Her wrinkled face was a mask of eagerness to help. She seemed like a harmless enough woman, but still, something about Callie unsettled Mikayla. She was about to refuse, until she looked into Callie's big, sea-blue eyes…so piercing the girl almost felt like the old woman was staring directly into her soul. Those big eyes, beseeching trust, made Mikayla relent. "I'm told I'm a good listener," Callie added.
"It's nothing-okay, no, it's everything. This was supposed to be a great day for me." She pulled the letter from her pocket. "Do you know what's in this envelope?"
Callie pursed her lips, staring at the envelope. "A very wet piece of paper?"
"It's an acceptance letter. To Vassar. Vassar. Full scholarship."
The woman was appropriately impressed. "Well, that's wonderful, dear. Isn't it?" She cocked her head a bit. "Why so glum?"
"Exactly! Why? I worked for years for this. I studied every spare minute I had. I even wore my Mom's special rainbow pearl for good luck today when I interviewed with Mr. Higgins." Mikayla tugged at the empty chain on her neck.
"The pearl that the kings crushed in the catroach trap?" Callie asked.
Mikayla rolled her eyes. "Predictable, wasn't it?"
Callie patted Mikayla's arm. "You shouldn't feel so badly about your pearl. Your mother would be proud of you. You were accepted. You should be celebrating."
"Then why am I feeling so…."
"Nervous?" Callie supplied.
"Angry," was the first word that popped out of Mikalya's mouth. A second later, she added, "Sad."
"You have the jitters," Callie told her. "You still want to go, don't you?"
"I want it more than anything."
Now the old woman raised an eyebrow. "More than anything? Are you sure about that?"
Mikayla finally had to look away from Callie's intense stare. She felt like she was hooked up to a lie-detector when the old woman asked her questions. "Yes…no…yes. I don't know anymore."
"Is something keeping you on Kinkou?"
"Kinkou's my home. My father's here…" Mikalya tried lamely.
Callie wasn't satisfied. "Is there something else?"
Boomer was plopped on the couch, deep in a game of 'Angry Birds' when Brady returned to their room. "So, did you apologize to Mikayla?"
"Nope. I lost her near the coi pond when she threw a machete at my head…"
"That's what I was trying to tell you-when a woman is mad and carrying a weapon, you give her some space."
Brady paced the room. "This isn't a joke, Boomer! Mikayla's really mad this time. What are we going to do about it?"
"You're a king. Go buy her a new pearl…buy her the whole strand."
"That's not going to cut it. You heard her. That was her Mom's pearl and I smashed it. How do I make up for that?"
"Boomer, let me try to explain this." It was clear to Brady that his brother just did not understand how monumentally angry MIkayla was. He had to use something just as valuable to make his point. Brady went to their closet and pulled out a silver box…one of the only things that they owned that Brady cared about more than his guitar and Boomer loved more than his mini-fridge. Brady set the box in front of Boomer and opened it. "Do you remember Mason telling us about these rings?"
Boomer did. The rings were bands of the purest gold anywhere in the world. Each band was etched with the individual crests of every previous ruler of Kinkou. At the center were the crests that would symbolize the twin kings for their reign. The crest on Boomer's ring had the most minute variation from the crest on Brady's ring, so imperceptible that only the most trained royal scholars could have told one ring from the other. Brady and Boomer had solved the problem of telling the rings apart by scratching their initials on the inside of the bands. (It has seemed like a good idea at the time, until the obvious problem of their having three identical initials had ruined it. Afterwards, they had just written their names on the inside with a Sharpe…).
The rings had the whole history of their family and were the symbols of their authority in Kinkou. Mason had not trusted them with the box, afraid they'd lose or destroy the rings. So, Boomer had distracted the royal advisor one day by faking a pulled hamstring and Brady had snatched the box out of the vault. Mason never took the box back because it was safely tucked away in the one place no man or woman in Kinkou-including Mason-was brave enough to search: Their underwear drawer.
"Sure Mom and Dad had those rings made the day we were born. Dad used gold from his own crown and the onyx in the birds' eyes came from a pair of grandma's earrings." Just seeing the box made Boomer feel closer to their parents.
Brady nodded. "Mason told us about these rings the day we came to Kinkou. Now, imagine two…well-meaning and ruggedly handsome kings took our rings and smashed them with a giant rock."
When he put it like that… "I'd be mad," Boomer agreed.
Boomer went back to the angry birds. "Good luck with that. Let me know how it goes."
"You're the one who tripped the wire," Boomer reminded him.
"You were the one who wanted the catroach trap!" Brady argued.
Boomer shook his head. "No, no. I wanted a cage and a saucer of milk. You were the one who said we had to think bigger and bolder. Every time you say that, something gets flattened or blows up or we end up being chased by an angry mob. The point is nothing good comes of you going 'bigger and bolder'. Buy the girl an "I'm sorry" card…maybe one with puppies on it…and let it go."
"Or…if bigger and bolder got you into this mess, why can't bigger and bolder get you out of it?" Lanny poked his nose in the door. He edged his way into the kings' room, having learned over the course of that week's catroach hunting not to enter any room in the palace without a thorough sweep for booby traps. He stepped over the tripwire for the next above the bedroom door. After hearing the story about the smashed pearl…and the machete…from the palace guards, their cousin had been eavesdropping, waiting for an opening like this.
Boomer shuddered and stared at his arms. "Look at that. Just the words gave me little goosebumps..."
Maybe his brother wasn't interested, but Brady was open to suggestions. "I'm listening."
It was just what Lanny had hoped to hear. "I'll paint you a picture: Once upon a time, Mikayla's mom braved the tide pools of Kalana Cove to pull that magnificent rainbow pearl from the jaws of the sea for her little girl…"
"Ooh, Jaws-Boomer write that down. We'll add it to our Netflix queue as soon as we figure out what the heck a 'queue' is..."
Lanny snapped at Brady. These two had the attention span of fruit gnats… "Focus, my king. You have to make a gesture just as big if you want to prove to Mikayla that you're sorry. The oyster beds of Kalana Cove are full of more rainbow pearls. Here's what you do: You go down to the cove, dive past the razor rocks, avoid the rip tides, pay no mind to the sharks, fight off the stinging jellyfish swarms, find the biggest oyster in the sea, and scoop out that pearl." Lanny put an arm around his cousin's shoulder in encouragement. "What could be easier?"
"I've got a better plan: Get a pearl from the royal vault, put on a wet suit, hose yourself down, and just pretend you dove for it in Kalana Cove. Mikayla will never know the difference," Boomer said.
Brady had made up his mind already. "No, Lanny's right. We have to do this if we're going to prove to Mikalya that we're sorry."
Boomer frowned. "What do you mean 'we'?"
"You're coming with me, aren't you?" Brady asked.
"In case you've forgotten, there's a giant catroach loose in this castle. I'm not setting foot outside this room until it's dead or I'm dead."
Lanny shrugged. "Either way."
Boomer added, "Besides, you know I have phobias about rip tides and razor rocks…and shellfish. I sometimes have nightmares about being eaten by giant mutant oysters."
Brady snapped his fingers. "Oooh, sweet idea for a monster movie! Have Mahama bang out a script, we'll shoot it next Wednesday-"
Lanny said again: "Focus."
Brady turned to the younger boy. "What about you, Lanny, are you coming with me?"
His cousin's eyes widened and he blanched just a bit. "Um. I would, but…but it will mean more to Mikayla if you do it. Besides, I had a big dinner and you know you shouldn't go swimming for at least an hour after eating…"
Typical. If someone was going to make a big gesture and save the day, it was up to him, Brady sulked a bit. "Fine. I'll go get that pearl for Mikalya by myself and I'll get the thank you hug…and maybe she'll like it so much that we'll make it into a ring…"
"Focus!" Lanny barked.
"Right." Brady squared his shoulders and marched for the door, pausing only long enough to grab his swim fins and arm floaties. "Watch out oyster beds of Kinkou…the king is coming to get that pearl."
Boomer shook his head. "Those oysters have nothing to worry about…"
Lanny nodded, satisfied. That was too easy. One down. Now, if I could just get Boomer to stand under that catroach rock, the throne will be all mine.
"So, that's why you came here? To ask Kalana what you should do?"
Mikayla denied it. "I don't believe in the story of Kalana."
Callie's eyes widened, as if she were personally insulted by the remark. "After all you've seen on this island, you can't believe in the Spirit of the Sea? If you ask-"
"I know: 'Tell your troubles to Kalana and Kalana will show you your heart's true desire'. I don't need Kalana to tell me my heart's desires. I know what I want." The old woman meant well, but Mikayla wished she'd go on her way. The whole conversation was beginning to drift into areas she didn't want to discuss.
"Then why such doubt?" The old woman cut to the heart of the matter.
That was the million dollar question, wasn't it? "I know I have to go. It's not like there are any universities on Kinkou. I tried to get the kings to build one, but somehow the plans changed from 'Institute of Higher Learning' to 'Mega Water Slide Theme Park'. And I'm scared. I know part of it is because I've never lived anyplace but Kinkou. It's my home. My Dad is here. I'm excited about school, but…I just didn't expect it to be so hard to say good-bye."
Callie was all sympathy. "It's always hard to say good-bye to someone you love."
Mikayla held up her hands and shook her head, adamantly protesting. "Whoah…whoah…back up. Not 'love'. Wrong word. 'Like', maybe. Tolerate. Not actively planning to kill. Occasionally fond of. Sometimes. When he's not smashing my family heirlooms with catroach traps, or turning evil sorcerers loose on the island, or waking up mummies with bat medallions that I specifically told him not to touch. Or spending all Kinkou's money on giant robots and rockets…"
The old woman was baffled. "Your Father bought a giant robot?"
"Oh, you were talking about my Dad. Cause that's who I was talking about. Yep. Dad and his giant robots." Mikalya covered quickly.
Callie raised an eyebrow at her.
The girl sighed. "Okay, so I wasn't talking about my Dad."
"No kidding. So, someone else that you don't want to leave…but, not exactly Prince Charming?"
"Prince Self-absorbed. Prince Childish. Prince Immature and Irresponsible…" Mikayla pasued, admitting to herself that she wasn't quite being fair. "…but sweet on occasion. You know, sometimes I see of glimpse of something really…noble…underneath all that goofiness. I kind of see who he could be if he tried. And then, the next minute, the castle's covered with coconut sunblock and cheesefingers and you're trying to hide his giant pumpkinhead from Aunt Nancy…"
"I see your point," Callie told her.
Mikayla realized she had been pacing back and forth nervously. The blanket had gone flying while she was waving her arms during her rant, and she was getting wet again. She stopped, returning to stand beside the woman at the sea wall. She watched the storm again for a minute. "I always pictured myself with someone like my Father. You know, strong and brave and heroic. Someone who would do absolutely anything to make me happy. Is it selfish that I don't want to have my friends ask me, 'Hey, Mikayla, is that your boyfriend being treed by a catroach'?"
The old woman soothed, "Most girls don't want that, dear."
Mikalya almost laughed that time. "Is it weird that I'm hesitating because I'm going to miss all that?"
The old woman leaned on her walking stick and chose her words carefully. "Let me tell you a secret handed down from generation to generation on Kinkou: Love is weird. I guess you know what's bothering you now, dear, you really should get out of this rain."
Mikalya stared down at the cove. Oh what the heck… "Okay, I'll bite-how about it Kalana? Can you show me what I really want?"
The surf pounded and the wind whistled through the trees, but no disembodied voice offered any advice.
Mikayla shook her head. "Didn't think so." She turned away from the beach and the old woman and walked over to retrieve the blanket she'd dropped. "I guess I should get back and apologize for screaming at the kings. The last time Brady was depressed, he sat on the pool table in his boxers for three days eating raw cookie dough. Thanks for the talk, Callie…"
When she looked back, Callie had vanished as if she had never been there.
"Weird," Mikayla said.
Preoccupied, she did not see the lone figure wander onto the empty beach below, nor did she notice until almost too late when the waves began to slowly recede an unnatural distance from the shore…
Pearl diving was not as easy as Lanny had made it sound.
That was probably why Brady's first attempt ended with him running, screaming, from a stinging jellyfish that turned out to be a plastic shopping bag from the Kinkou Dollar Mart. Frustrated, he hopped on one foot, not easy to do while wearing a wet suit and fins, trying to wrestle the bag off his ankle. All he managed to do was catch his arm in the bag's handles—twice—before he finally lost his balance and wound up falling flat on his back in the sand.
Just to add insult to injury, the plastic bag was caught up in the sea breeze and blew right across his face. He wadded up the evil bag and tried to pitch it away. "Don't people know these things are no friend to the environment?" he complained to the empty beach.
Brady picked himself up, shaking off the run in with the evil bag. Okay, Brady, man up. This is important, he told himself. It's only a sea full of crabs that can pinch you and sharks that can eat you and stinging jellyfish that are not Dollar Mart bags and razor rocks that can cut your air hose…no, no, stay positive. This is for Mikayla. You can do this…
He made it far enough into the surf that the water went up to his knees before he turned around and ran back to the beach. Those waves are seriously huge…maybe Boomer was right about buying the pearls instead…
He nearly collided with an old woman who had magically appeared on the shore. Brady let out an involuntary cry, partly surprise and partly because the woman was so utterly creepy looking (what was it with Kinkou that the island spawned such super freaky people?) with her green-hair and sea blue eyes and her very large stick and the odor of seaweed about her. He could almost swear her dress was made of sailing canvas and fishing net. Then there was her stare, which reminded him of the way Aunt Nancy stared at him and Boomer whenever they tried to sell a lie to her.
Jumping to avoid colliding with her, Brady tripped over his fins and fell to the sand again. This time, he somehow managed to entangle himself in the oxygen line.
"Yagh! What the…how long have you been there?" he asked the woman.
"I saw the plastic bag," she answered.
He nodded, "Of course you did…"
She leaned on her walking stick, staring at him with concern. "You do know it's raining, don't you, dear?"
"Hello…" Brady gestured to his outfit with the arm that wasn't entangled in the oxygen line. "…Note the wet suit."
"Whatever are you doing out here in this weather?"
"Uh, at the moment, I'm trying to untangle this oxygen line. Little help?"
The woman kindly helped untie the boy. She offered him her walking stick to help him up, but when Brady saw something that looked like barnacles on the wood, he decided to handle standing on his own. She smiled at him. "Whatever you're doing, surely it isn't so important that it can't wait until tomorrow?"
"Don't be so sure…do you know what it's like to be on the wrong side of a woman who owns her own closet full of spears and swords and some freaky-looking spiky-thingies?" Brady asked her.
"Let's just say it's not a good place to be if you like keeping all your body parts." The sooner Mikayla was back in her happy place, the better everyone in the castle would sleep. Especially Brady.
She pointed to the wet suit. "So, you're planning to go live under the sea now?"
"That would be cool…but, no, can't do that, either." He looked somewhat sheepish when he admitted. "I'm kind of on the wrong side of some nasty mermaids, too."
"Any other woman you've gotten on the wrong side of?" the woman wanted to know.
"Well, there are these smoking hot twin Queens on a neighboring island…but this girl is kind of special. We're kind of an item."
She saw through that one faster than Aunt Nancy would have. "Really?"
"But she likes you?" The woman persisted.
"She…hasn't dangled me off a balcony or karate flipped me over her shoulder lately, so I think I'm winning her over. At least, I was until I smashed her Mom's pearl with a giant rock. Then she threw a machete at my head…"
"I see. And now you're going diving in the rain to find her a new pearl? You do know that you can buy a whole strand at the Kinkou mini-mall?"
Brady was put out now. "It's a gesture! Why does no one appreciate big gestures anymore?" Determined now, he struggled with adjusting the goggles, which seemed bent on sliding down his nose.
The old woman watched quietly while the king struggled with the uncooperative wet suit. After a while, a soft, approving (and almost toothless) smile graced her lips. "Don't give up, dear. I can see you have a good heart. If this-machete girl-is worthy, one day she will appreciate that."
He didn't know why the strange woman's blessing warmed him a bit, but it did. "Thanks."
"May I suggest, if you're intent upon diving, you might ask Kalana for help."
"Awesome…does she own a submarine or something?"
Now, the woman's smile was amused. "I'm afraid not."
Disappointed, he asked, "Then, can she tell me how to work this scuba suit?"
"Kalana is the Spirit of the Sea, the one whom every sea traveler on Kinkou asks to bless and protect them on their journey," the woman explained.
"Can she protect these sea travelers from giant octopuses? Because that would have been helpful the last time I took a sea trip."
Callie smiled as she watched him wade towards the water. "Yes, I remember that."
"You what?" Brady turned to look back at her.
The old woman was gone.
"Okay, that was creepier than the catroach. Ask the sea lady…as if I believe in sea ghosts."
Another giant wave sent him hurrying back to shore once again.
"On the other hand, a good king should humor his people's superstitions, even if they are creepy and weird." He wished the old woman hadn't hurried off. He didn't know if he was supposed to pray or burn incense or sacrifice some small beach critter or what to get this sea ghost's attention. He ended up staring up at the sky. "Okay, Sea Lady-Katrina or Cala Lily or whatever your name was-I really need that pearl. Sooo…how about it?"
For a minute, nothing happened. But, then, as Brady watched, the sea grew calm and slowly began to recede farther and farther from the shore. The tide pools that had been hidden beneath the churning waves were revealed as the water retreated. Brady could walk right up to the creatures in the shellfish in the pools.
"Now that is a handy trick. Thanks, Sea Lady."
The rain had stopped by the time Mikayla returned to the castle. The long walk had worked off some of her anger. Better get back and apologize to the kings…and rip off the Band-Aid. She looked over her shoulder, glancing back at the sea. Wish me luck, Kalana.
She was about to step into the plaza when something made her turn around and take a closer look at the beach. There was something not right about the shoreline of Kalana Cove. The water had begun to recede, she could tell because the tide pools were now visible. Every man and woman on Kinkou had learned how to read the tides, and Mikayla knew that low tide at this time of year came at six a.m., not at sunset. As she watched, the tide pulled further from the shore…too far to be normal.
Mikayla knew what it meant. Kinkou had seen more than its share of rogue waves and tsunamis being set in an ocean prone to bad storms and underwater earthquakes.
She ran for the palace. Mahama was on watch at the gate. "Mahama, sound the warning horns for tsunamis. Make sure the beaches are empty and everyone in the village gets to higher ground. I'll get the kings up to their tower."
With a nod, Mahama hurried away, calling for the other palace guards to help.
Mikayla found Lanny in the throne room, scrubbing a foul-smelling substance off the walls. She wasn't about to ask for an explanation. "Lanny, have you seen the kings?" was all she asked.
Lanny turned to give her a withering glare. It was then she saw that the acrid muck also covered the front of his shirt and most of his face. "No. Have you seen a catroach projectile vomit moldy cheese bread and milk?" he countered. The boy shook his head, gathering up his mop and bucket and muttering complaints under his breath. He stomped into the kitchen, yelling, "Where are the people we pay to clean this stuff up?"
Mikayla raised an eyebrow. "There's really a catroach?" She'd have to take the kings more seriously next time they imagined seeing mutant critters in the castle.
Speaking of the kings... She continued on her way to the kings' bedroom.
The door was barricaded—another defense against the catroach no doubt-and she nearly had to break it down to get into the room.
Another fishnet fell onto her head.
Sighing, Mikayla turned to Boomer, who was smiling sheepishly from the balcony. "Really?" she asked.
Boomer hurried to help untangle her from the net. "Sorry about that, Mikayla. I haven't quite got all the traps de-boobied yet, but if it makes you feel better, we caught the catroach."
"Well, I'm glad you're both up here where it's safe. I wanted to apologize to you for this afternoon," she admitted.
"For which part? Calling us morons, chasing us all the way to the strip mall, throwing a machete at Brady's head…or doubting our mad catroach hunting skills?" Boomer asked.
"Will you forget the catroach?" she begged.
"Sorry. Seriously, though, it's okay, Mikayla. You were right to be mad, and Brady and I feel really bad about your mom's pearl. But not to worry, we are working on an 'I'm sorry' gift that's going to blow your mind-"
Mikayla looked around, suddenly realizing there was no sign of Brady in the room. Usually, he had hit on her at least once if she was in their room more than two minutes. "Wait, Boomer-where's Brady?"
"That's what I'm telling you, girl. He's down at the beach right now digging up the biggest pearl in all Kinkou for you. Of course, I told him that nothing says I'm sorry like a jet ski and a fistful of cash, but he's into big gestures…"
Her heart leapt into her throat. "What? Brady's on the beach? Now?" Oh God, this is my fault. If I hadn't got so upset over a stupid pearl…
The warning alarms began to sound outside the palace. Boomer cocked his head, frowning at the unfamiliar sound. "Mikayla, are we having an air raid?"
Mikayla ran for the balcony, using the boys' telescope to scan the beach below. There was no sign of Brady down there. "That's the rogue wave warning, Your Highness. The storms kick them up. Boomer, this is important: Do you know what beach Brady went to?"
Boomer nodded. "Lanny said the best oyster beds were in Kalana Cove."
"There are no oyster beds in Kinkou!" She spoke a little harsher than she'd intended due to her increasing fear.
"Hmm. You'd think Lanny would be more up-to-date about that, considering it involves expensive pearls…"
Mikayla abandoned the telescope and rushed for the door. "I'm going to get Brady."
Boomer started to follow her. "Wait, I'm coming, too."
She caught him by the shoulders, stopping him. "No, promise me you'll stay in the castle!"
He protested, "That's my brother out there!"
Mikayla spoke with calmness that she did not feel. "And I'll find him, I swear. But, it's too dangerous out there right now. Your Majesty, find my Dad, tell him where I've gone, but swear to me you will not leave this tower until he says it's safe!" Her eyes pleaded with him. This was one time she needed to know that he'd do as she asked.
He relented. "Okay, I swear." When she nodded and ran for the door, he called after her: "Mikayla-?"
"I'll find him," she promised again.
Mikayla screamed his name over the thunder of the pounding surf, searching the water for any trace of him and finding nothing. No, this can't happen…why did I yell at him about that dumb pearl? Why did I leave him alone? I should have known he'd feel bad.
She waded into the water, not willing to give up. Come on, Kalana. I get it already! I get it now! Please don't take him. Kinkou needs its king. Boomer needs his brother. Unimpressed with her prayers, the waves continued to crash without pity.
Please don't take him from me.
Then she saw something.
In the fading afternoon light, with the spray of saltwater in her eyes and tears blurring her vision, she almost missed it. She blinked, she squinted, she prayed with all her might, and she saw it again: Near the rocks just off the shore, a dark Brady-shaped figure bobbed in the waves.
Mikayla dove, swimming towards him as fast and as hard as she could. She could barely see, but her hands finally caught an arm covered in wet suit. Blindly, she felt for Brady's face. His head was underwater, she realized with a fresh stab of fear. Frantically, she caught him in a lifeguard's hold, lifting his head above the waves. She could not tell if he was conscious or breathing. Please, please be breathing…
"Brady? Do you hear me?"
He did not answer.
Mikayla tried to swim for the shore, but he was caught on something. She felt along his arms and legs as best she could while trying to keep both of them afloat. She found the small knife on the belt of his wet suit. She felt some kind of tubing…
Oxygen line! The hose from the oxygen tank had wrapped around Brady's left arm. Her hand followed the hose. The wave had tossed the tank between two rocks and it had become wedged there. The line around his arm had tethered him there. It very likely had broken his arm, but it had kept him from being dragged out to sea by the wave. Being caught behind the tall rocks had shielded him from most of the debris pulled off the beach...another bit of dumb luck. That was the good news. The bad news was that it had torn the regulator mouthpiece away from his mouth. Mikayla did not know how long he had been without air. She prayed it had not been very long.
She used the diving knife to cut him free of the tubing that ensnared him. After that, towing him back to the shore was a simple matter, but it seemed to take an agonizingly long time. Mikayla dragged him only as far onto the beach as she needed, then she carefully turned Brady onto his back.
He was a mess-pale, scrapes and bruises from the rocks dotting his face, and his lips had just a faint tinge of blue. She took a deep breath and tried to stay calm, but her hands were shaking when she pressed her fingers to his neck to feel for a pulse.
There! It was faint, but she definitely felt a pulse…but he wasn't breathing. It's not too late…it's not too late.
She started rescue breathing, hearing her own pulse pounding in her ears. Come on, Brady. Come back. She paused only for moment to see if her father or anyone was coming to help, then determinedly resumed her efforts. Mikayla started talking in between breaths without realizing she was doing it: "Come on, help me out here, Brady. You have to help."
Mikayla all but pleaded with the unconscious boy this time. "Please, Brady…if you really do love me, don't make me live with this…"
She froze. Had she just seen his hand twitch…?
Brady coughed suddenly, gagging on a lungful of seawater. Mikayla rolled him onto his uninjured side, trying to help. "That's it, get it all out…are you all right?" It was a dumb question and she knew it, she just kept talking a nonstop patter of encouragement until he finally stopped spitting up water.
When his eyes fluttered and finally opened, she nearly passed out from relief. She could have cried again-could have slugged him if he didn't look so pitiful at the moment…
Mikayla kissed him instead.
It probably wasn't the best thing for someone who had almost died only a minute or so ago and probably could use all the air he could get right then. She'd convince him it was all a concussion-dream later (for she was pretty sure he was going to have a concussion to go with the bruise on his head), but she kissed him anyway.
She kissed him until she heard the first shouts from the search party-Boomer shouting for his brother and Mason calling Mikayla's name. She definitely did not want to be found in this position. With reluctance that surprised her, she broke the kiss.
"Dad! Over here!" she shouted back.
When she looked back down at Brady, he smiled up at her with a weak, goofy grin. He rasped something so soft that she had to lean down very close to hear the words: "Brakayla lives."
From the top of the cliffs, having shed her guise as "Callie", the Spirit of the Sea watched the pair with a smile of satisfaction.
Three days later…
Mikayla was in the throne room, re-reading her acceptance letter (or rather, what was left of her acceptance letter, since her swim in Kalana's Cove had pretty much soaked it beyond legibility) when she heard shuffling footsteps coming down the stairs from the tower. She was surprised when Brady—head still bandaged and left arm secured in a sling-hobbled into the room, still not looking very steady on his feet.
"Brady!" She rushed to help him over to the couch. "Are you supposed to be out of bed?"
Boomer and Mason had been, if possible, even more freaked out by Brady's nearly drowning than Mikayla. It had kicked both of their protective instincts into overdrive.
After they'd brought Brady home, Boomer had taken charge of his brother's recovery. He had sat up all night that first night, waking Brady every hour per Doctor Umberto's strict instructions. For the two days after that, Boomer had not left his brother's side. He'd made sure Brady obeyed the doctor's orders for bed rest and crushed Brady's pain pills and mixed them into pudding cups. He'd helped his brother hobble to the bathroom. He had seen to it that the room was stocked with every kind of snack and dvds and that the cooks brought all of Brady's favorite foods for each meal.
Mason was pretty much a third occupant in the bedroom, sleeping on their couch for the past three nights where he could see for himself that Brady was safe and recovering. He practically called in the E.M.T.s if the boy winced. Or sneezed. Or scratched his nose. It wasn't just because it was Mason's job to protect the kings. Her father might act like the big, tough, (one-eighth) Sasquatch, but Mikayla saw through that act. He cared about the twins like they were his own sons.
In a way, she was grateful for her father's insistence on camping out in the kings' room. It gave her an excuse to check on Brady as often as she wanted for the past three days and to sleep there, too, that first night.
Not that she'd slept. When she closed her eyes, nightmares about what could have happened haunted her.
Brady had appreciated their help for the first two days. By the third day of lying in bed all day with the two of them hovering like mother hens and treating him like he might break if he so much as sneezed, Brady was beginning to get a little stir crazy.
"I had to do something to get Boomer out of that room, so I told him that there was a carnival two villages over. He'll go anyplace if there are funnel cakes," Brady said. "He's going to be mad when he gets back, you may want to steer clear."
"Okay, that explains how you sneaked past Boomer, but how did you talk my dad into letting you out of the room?" Mikayla asked as she arranged the couch pillows to cushion his injured arm.
"I'm the king. I just reminded him who's boss," Brady said. "And then I agreed to wear this…" He held up his right hand to show her the small device strapped around his wrist.
She raised an eyebrow, "What is that?"
"Oh, just something Mason put together. It monitors my vitals and tracks my exact location by GPS, and if I don't push this little red button every five minutes, it calls in Mason, the palace guards, Doctor Umberto, the paramedics, and Tweets my Aunt Nancy…she's taking the next balloon to Kinkou so that she can ground me in person."
Mikayla gave him a sympathetic grin. "They'll calm down in a few days. You gave us all a pretty bad scare, you know." She plopped down next to Brady on the couch. "And, it's basically my fault...I can't believe you really tried pearl diving for me. I mean, no offense, but you need floaties to get into a bathtub…"
His ears turned bright red. "Who told y-I mean, no I don't. We both know I never bathe." He was joking, trying to cheer her up. She'd been walking around three days with that sad, guilty look on her face, and he couldn't stand her looking sad because of him. "Well, I can't believe you went running into a tsunami for me."
"Brady, I'm trying to apologize. I shouldn't have lost my temper like that," she said.
"I've forgotten about that."
She shook her head, not ready to be let off the hook just yet. "You don't have to say that…"
"No, really. It's the concussion. I can't remember anything between when Boomer and I set up that catroach trap and waking up in time to convince Doctor Umberto that temperatures should only be taken from the neck up." Brady gave an exaggerated shudder. "Which reminds me, do you have any idea who changed me out of my wet suit? Please don't say Hilda-"
"Oh…so you don't remember anything that happened on the beach that night?" Mikayla asked. That explained why he hadn't mentioned the kiss yet. Part of her was happy to be spared that awkward conversation. Plus, something like almost being carried away by a rogue wave was probably something that was best not remembered.
So, why did she feel just a little twinge of disappointment when Brady shook his head 'no'?
Brady concentrated, trying to recall something from that night. "I have this image of being treed by a giant plastic shopping bag…otherwise, no. Why?"
"No reason," Mikayla lied. "Anyway, I still want to explain what happened that afternoon. When I came back to the castle-before the catroach trap and the pearl smashing-the reason I was a little edgy that day…"
"A little edgy? You threw a machete at my head!"
"Oh, so, Boomer told you about that? Yeah…before that, I had something really important to tell you…and Boomer. You and Boomer. The reason I was acting so psycho was that I'd had a meeting that day-"
"You were accepted to Vassar," Brady finished for her.
She gaped, amazed that he knew…more amazed that he knew and he calmly sitting there instead of having a breakdown about it or clinging to her ankles begging and bribing her not to go. Doctor Umberto must have him on the good stuff, she thought. "You know about that?"
"Boomer and I saw Mr. Higgins' balloon come in. We thought it was the mail balloon bringing our new snow cone machine. We kind of burned up the old one making snow cone igloos," he explained. "Mr. Higgins asked where he could find you and we kind of got the story out of him."
Mikalya nodded. "It doesn't matter. I told Mr. Higgins that I'm not going."
Brady looked surprised by that, but it didn't look to her like he was happy to hear it. He started nervously messing with a loose thread on his sling, as if he was trying to think of the best way to say what he wanted to say. He knew that, in a way, it had been good that he'd been stuck in bed for the last three days, otherwise he really might have tried done something even dumber than pearl diving in a tsunami to try to talk her into staying. "Listen, Mikayla, if you're saying that just because of what happened to me-I already feel bad enough about your mom's pearl. I don't want to be the reason you don't go to Vassar…"
"You aren't," she told him.
This time, he was the one who looked a bit disappointed. "Oh."
She patted his arm. "I mean, I did have some time to think about the past couple of days. I was already having second thoughts when I talked to Mr. Higgins." Mikayla stared at the floor. "I really want to go to a university-and I will-but I was nine-years-old when I decided to try to get into Vassar."
He raised his eyebrow. "Wow. The biggest thing I decided when I was nine-years-old was which Power Ranger was my favorite…"
"Anyway," Mikayla continued, "getting into Vassar stopped being a dream a long time ago and kind of turned into something that I had to do just to prove to myself that I could. You know what I mean?"
He shook his head, then regretted it when the motion made him dizzy for a second. "Not even a little bit. So…you're definitely not turning down Vassar because of me?"
"No," she promised.
"Okay. In that case, I still owe you a present." He fumbled for something that he'd hidden inside his sling. Mikayla started to protest until he pulled out a carefully folded piece of paper and offered it to her. "It's a combination 'I'm-sorry-about-your-mom's-pearl-thanks-for-pulling-me-out-of-the-tsunami-please-don't-ever-throw-a-machete-at-my-head-again' gift."
"Brady…" She tried to refuse, but he pushed the paper into her hand.
"Go on. I've been working on it for the last two days since the Sasquatch wouldn't let me out of bed."
The paper was a sketch. Mikayla puzzled over it. "These are your and Boomer's blueprints for the 'Kinkou Mega-Water-Slide Theme Park'," she said, confused.
"Not anymore." Brady turned the paper over so she could see what was drawn on the other side. "Now it's the blueprint for the 'University of Kinkou-slash-Mega Water Slide Theme Park'. "
She was stunned. "You're building me a university?"
"And Mega Water Slide Theme Park. Admittedly, it's going to be something of a party school." He looked somewhat embarrassed, ears turning red again. "I figured if you really want to stay on Kinkou and you really want to go to a university, why should you have to choose one or the other. Besides, you're always telling me and Boomer that we should do something important for Kinkou."
"That's a big, big gesture." She raised her eyebrow at him. "You really don't want me to leave Kinkou, do you?"
The very idea was like a little ball of ice in the pit of his stomach, in fact. "I occasionally have nightmares about it," he admitted.
"Thank you." Mikayla would have hugged him, if she could figure out how to do it without hurting him in his present condition. She settled for kissing him on the cheek.
His telltale vitals monitor beeped when her kiss made his heart speed up. Brady hurriedly pushed the button to silence it before the alarm brought Mason and Boomer and half of Kinkou came rushing into the throne room and spoiled the moment. This time, he couldn't hide the next little wave of dizziness caused by the movement (and somewhat by Mikayla). She noticed when he swayed again, and when he winced a bit at the dull ache in his shoulder.
"Brady, you need to get back upstairs and rest. Come on, let me help you," Mikayla stood up, offering him her hand.
He tried the puppy-dog eyes on her. "I can rest here."
Mikayla relented. She couldn't blame him for wanting out of that bedroom for awhile. "But, I'm going upstairs and getting a pudding cup for that shoulder..."
Halfway to the staircase, Mikayla paused. No, that wasn't good enough, she decided. "Brady…there was one thing that happened on that beach that I do want you to remember."
"Yeah, what's t-"
Mikayla turned around, walked back to the couch, and kissed him. Brady was so shocked that several seconds passed before he remembered to kiss her back. When she finally broke the kiss and pulled back a bit, he stared at her, completely speechless. In fact, she thought, he looked like he actually might pass out…
The vitals monitor went haywire, triggering alarms throughout the castle.
Mason's voice came from the upper tower: "My king! Hang on! I'm coming!"
Doctor Umberto shouted from somewhere near the kitchen: "Your Majesty! Not to worry, I'm bringing the good thermometer!"
Boomer shouted from somewhere outside the plaza. "Brady, did you lie to me about the carnival? You know you should never kid about funnel cakes!"
Next, there came the sounds of sirens and the flash of approaching ambulance lights. Footsteps pounded on the upper level as the palace guards ran down the stairs towards the throne room. The rotors of a search and rescue helicopter thumped in the distance, closing in on the castle.
Brady grabbed Mikayla's arm, begging, "Hide me?"
With a nod, she wrapped her arm around his waist and helped him off the couch. "Come on. We can hide in the library….they'll never look for you there."
He lifted his wrist. The monitor still beeped. "What about this?" There was an entire army of well-meaning but very overprotective islanders closing in on the signal from his monitor.
Mikayla took the monitor and stashed it beneath the couch cushions, all the better to tell her father later that it had come off accidentally, then helped Brady hobble off towards the library.
Lanny was the first one to burst into the throne room, searching for the source of the commotion. "What is going on in here? So help me, if those two morons have put an alarm on the toilet again…" He spied the flashing light of the vitals monitor and retrieved it from beneath the sofa cushions. So, this was causing the ruckus. "How do you shut this thing up..?"
When he woke up the next morning, the last thing Lanny remembered was a helicopter, ambulance lights, and his own scream when Mason, Boomer, twenty palace guards, five E.M.T.s, and a doctor with a frightening-looking thermometer burst into the throne room and dog-piled right on top of him.