Cover image by the absolutely amazing Elena Kalis, go and look at her photos, they are beautiful.
For those of you who are unaware, this is the sequel to my other fanfic 'High Tides'. If you are interested in reading this fic then I'd recommend reading that first, otherwise you may find yourselves a little lost! XD Thank you for checking this out though!
To the wonderful readers of High Tides, I am aware that this, unfortunately, is not autumn, and true to form I am once more late in posting stuff. I did initially start writing this in the summer, but due to a hectic first term at university and illness, combined with some personal reasons I would rather not go into, I have not been able to focus on my writing as much as I'd like. In fact, I've barely been able to focus on it at all. I will post this chapter for now, as I feel like a massive sod for not uploading when I said I was going to, but please be aware that the next chapter will probably not follow as promptly as I'd like. However, I will try and get the next chapter of 'Never Go Back' up as soon as possible. Thank you all so much for bearing with me and my flakiness, updates on my progress and general rather turbulent wellbeing will be posted on my profile. PMs are always welcome, feel free to contact me for any reason, even if it is just to give a me a bit of a kick up the arse with writing and such. There is not as much action in this chapter as I would like, it's mainly scene setting, some of which will continue into the next chapter, but I am building up to something as you will hopefully soon see! I hope you enjoy the chapter, and please know that reviews make me incredibly happy!
Lots of love,
Salt is everywhere. In my eyes, burning my throat, clogging up my sinuses. I wipe a hand across my face, pushing the sodden tendrils of hair and drops of water out of my eyes, looking around for Conor. He manages to gesticulate wildly at me from his precarious perch on top of a surfboard as he careers by on a wave, before his legs go out from underneath him and he wipes out, falling headfirst into the water. I laugh, but get a mouthful of sea as a result when another wave hits me in the face. I emerge spluttering and coughing, and find Conor laughing at me in turn.
"How're you doing, Saph?" he calls over to me, grinning despite the strand of seaweed hanging from his ear. "Having fun?"
To my surprise, I actually am. Conor and Rainbow have managed to drag me out with their group of friends, (ie, Patrick, Mal, Josh and a girl called Eva who I hadn't really met before this summer, but who turned out to be very nice), and the experience has actually be surprisingly pleasant. Everyone's been very friendly, and although things are still a little awkward with Mal, they've all been nice and I've really felt included. I never thought I'd be one for hanging out in large groups, but with this lot, it's not been so bad. And it's got me out of the house, which has effectively got Mum and Roger off of my back about my social life. My summer has mainly involved playing music, hanging out on the beach, eating chips and a load of surfing- well, I've never really gone in for surfing myself, but I bodyboard. Conor really took to it though, when we were living in St Pirans, and he loves it. Eva's the best though; she has this incredible sense of balance and she manages to stay on her board long after all of the boys are off, and she's forever teasing them about it. Rainbow, of course, doesn't join in, especially not after what happened to me a few months ago. She's quite content to sit on the beach with Sadie, taking photos of us and writing songs in her notebooks whilst we attempt to ride the waves, although sometimes I think she still looks more on edge than usual. I can see her now as I turn and scour the beach. She catches me looking, and gives me a wave, and I wave back, smiling as Sadie bounds along the sands, keeping an eye on me like a guard dog on patrol.
I hadn't body boarded in a while before this summer; why skim the surface of the sea when you can ride the currents beneath? But this summer…well. Mum's still not comfortable with me being in the sea alone, not after what happened last April. She keeps a watchful eye on me to stop me from sneaking off. I could go if I took Conor with me, but like hell am I going to have him there when I'm trying to talk with Faro. Not to mention other things. But Faro's had trouble meeting me as well. He must be around eighteen (in human years at least), which probably makes him…well, a man in the Mer community. And as Saldowr isn't getting any younger, a lot of his duties are falling to Faro, especially after this spring. It's been over four months since Mortarow's death, but the rifts he rent in Ingo are taking a while to heal. I sigh softly to myself at the thought, before letting out a yelp as a particularly large wave smashes into me, knocking me backwards. My feet are swept out from underneath me by the undertow, and my board flies out of my hands, but a tug on my wrist tells me that the strap is still attached. I spin blindly in the water, at the mercy of the waves, eyes screwed tightly shut, mouth shut tight, so that none of my precious air escapes. That's the key, that last breath before you go under. It has to be big, big enough to help you float in the right direction, up towards the surface, so that you can find your feet and break through and let it out, gasping for fresh air. I tumble, legs flailing wildly, holding in that breath; but something doesn't want me to. They're singing, and they want me to let go of the air and breathe in the water, and come away, away, away…
A hand grabs hold of my upper arm and yanks, and I'm pulled up through the skin. I breath in automatically as soon as my face bursts out into the air, and a knife stabs down through my lungs. I double over for a second, gasping.
"Are you okay?" someone asks, and I look up to see Josh Tregony looking down at me with concern.
"Yeah," I manage to reply after a moment. "Yeah, I'm okay."
"Sure?" he says, releasing my arm.
"Yeah," I nod, and this time it's the truth. The burn has gone. "I'm sure. Thanks Josh."
"No problem." He grins, before grabbing his board and charging back off into the waves. I reel in my own board, and decide to take a breather. I wade back towards shore, although it's hard with the undertow sucking at my legs, like treacle, heavy and cloying. When I step out of the waves, they almost seem reluctant to let me go, snatching at my heels with watery hands.
I grab my towel and park myself on the rock next to Rainbow, who is munching a doughnut.
"Hey Saph," she says, smiling at me. "Want one?" She offers me the bag. I grin and take one, biting into it and relishing its sweet goodness.
"They were selling them in a shop up there," she explains, gesturing. "I caught them just before they closed."
"Nice one," I say, licking sugar off of my fingers. "They're yummy!
"I know," she replies, finishing off her own.
It's almost seven o'clock at night now, and there's only a few other people on the beach; which is what we intended. Most of the boys can drive now, so we all headed off up to Tintagel for the day. We had a nose around the old castle before grabbing lunch in a cafe and checking out the shops. Well, Eva and the boys mainly spent their time either in the surf shops or checking out the re-enactment weaponry on sale due to Tintagel's Arthurian history. Rainbow and I mainly nosed around in all the Celtic shops looking at the jewellery and crystal balls and stuff. I never used to take that stuff seriously until I thought about Mum's fortune teller. Now I'm not so sure. I know there is magic in the world, although whether it takes form in cheap love spells is another matter. But the way one of the shopkeepers looked at me made me wonder. Maybe she saw something in my face. The mark of Ingo, perhaps? Or maybe I was just letting my imagination get the better of me.
Anyway, once we were finished with the shops, we all headed a couple of miles down the coast to Trebarwith. The thing about Trebarwith Strand is the tides. Like the cove at home, the beach completely disappears at high tide, which, incidentally was at two. By the time we got there, it was on the drop and the beach was practically deserted; tourists don't really tend to go there in the evening. So we got the great waves mostly to ourselves.
"You nervous about results?" Rainbow asks me as we watch the boys bob about in the water.
"Mhm," I mumble indistinctly, staring out to sea. Truth be told, I'm terrified. Terrified that I've failed everything and will either have to resist the year or be unable to get a steady human job. Terrified that I've passed everything and won't have an excuse to choose Ingo when I'm older.
"I know the feeling," Rainbow says with a sigh, resting her chin on her hands. "I keep getting these nervous tingles going through me whenever I think about it."
"You'll be fine, Rainbow. You're a genius," I say, nudging my shoulder against hers.
"Sapphy! You're soaking!" she protests, shoving my shoulder back with her hand, but she's smiling gratefully at me. "Thanks though. I'm sure you'll have done well though. Don't worry."
"Rainbow, you know I'm useless at exams."
"Conor helped you though, and you're an intelligent girl."
"You sound like my mum."
"Well she's got a point. You are clever, Sapphy. You just…need help focusing. You're such a daydreamer."
It's true. Even when I'm in the hall with the paper in front of me and the clock ticking away and pens scratching all around me I can't help but let my mind drift, like a boat escaping from its mooring. I can't help but let my thoughts turn to the sea and the soft noise it makes and it swishes in and out, in an out…
I blink, and jerk my head up to look at her. "Huh?"
"See? You're even doing it now," she says, but fondly. "If you could focus on your work, it'd be straight A*'s all the way."
I snort. "Yeah, whatever, Rainbow."
She rolls her eyes. "It's true and you know it."
I snort, but I secretly feel pleased. It turns out that I can actually achieve some good marks when I really knuckle down and focus, but that was in class, not in the exams. What if I have completely mucked them up?
"Well we'll soon know for sure one way or another," Rainbows says, as if she's read my mind. I wouldn't be too surprised if she has. She's scarily perceptive. "What about mystery man? Is he sitting any exams?"
I feel my lips twitch slightly. My 'mystery man', as Rainbow calls him definitely won't be locked away in an exam hall. "He's…uh…got more of an apprenticeship thing going on," I reply, which is close enough to the truth.
"God, I bet he's really busy all of the time, isn't he?" Rainbow says sympathetically. "How often do you see him?"
"Hardly ever these days," I say morosely, poking a pebble with my bare toe. "His life's a bit hectic at the moment."
"Where do things kind of…stand? With you two?"
When I first told Rainbow that I liked someone else, it hadn't exactly been the truth. Well, there may have subconsciously been some truth to it, but I'd still been denying that truth to myself at the time and was trying more to get out of an awkward situation than bare my soul to her. Once things between Faro and I started changing, however, it was only natural that 'mystery guy' and Faro became one and the same. She doesn't know his name or, you know, that he has a tail, but she knows a fair few things. That we've kissed being one.
"I'm not sure," I say after a long moment, still poking the pebble. "I mean…he likes me. And I like him. But we haven't actually sat down and said 'okay, so yeah, we're going out now, yay'."
How would you even go on a date in Ingo? A ridiculous image of Faro dressed up smartly and sitting in an underwater restaurant swims into my head, and I have to suppress a laugh, even though it makes me feel twisted up at the same time. We come from such different worlds, how can this ever work? Going out on a date with Faro…it just seems wrong. So does calling him my 'boyfriend'. The very idea is like a discord in my mind, out of place, alien. Human. And Faro definitely does not belong to the human world. The Mer are something so mysterious, exotic, fluid, like midnight silk over molten silver, a strain of delicate music that pierces your soul and makes you ache in the most beautiful way. You can't contain something that wild in a smart shirt in a restaurant. It just doesn't work. And I don't know if I'd want it too. It would just feel too wrong.
"Give it time," Rainbow is saying. "Maybe when he's not so busy you can sit down and talk. You need to know where you stand, Sapphy. Until you've straightened your mind out, you won't know if you're ready for a relationship or not."
I smile slightly. "Thanks Rainbow. How are you and Conor, anyway?"
She blushes. "Well…well, I…"
"Come on Rainbow, be assertive. Just go ahead and ask him out."
"Oh no, no, I couldn't possibly…"
"No, Sapphy, I can't, what if-"
I sigh. "Rainbow. The worst thing that will happen is that he'll say no."
"That is a pretty terrible thing to happen!"
"But he'll never say yes if you don't try."
She sighs as well. "Look, just…give me time. I need to gather up my courage."
"Fine, fine..." I reach out and give her hand a squeeze. "But in the unlikely scenario that he does say no, he's an idiot and I'll smack him."
"I'm joking, I'm joking!" I grin. "He'd still be an idiot though."
"What are you girls gossiping about?" We look up to see the boys and Eva walking across the sand to us.
"Nothing," Rainbow and I say in unison.
"We weren't gossiping, anyway," I say indignantly. "We were discussing results day tomorrow."
They all pull faces.
"Good luck, girls," Eva says, setting down her board and picking up her towel. "I remember my GCSE results day…that sucked."
"Didn't you throw up on the head of Biology?" Mal says with a grin.
Eva grimaces. "Look, I was really nervous, okay? I really needed an A! I got it too, I just had to scrape the vomit off of the results papers with the envelope."
Everyone groans, pulling faces.
"That is so gross!" Patrick crows, grinning.
Eva smirks slightly. "Not as gross as your face."
Everyone starts packing up their stuff, still arguing playfully. I whistle to Sadie, and she comes sailing over the sands wagging her tail. I clip on her lead and we head up the beach towards the car park, lugging surfboard and body boards over our shoulders. We've just reached the passage that leads up from the beach, cut out of the stone by the tides when I stop, frowning.
"Saph?" Conor stops as well. "What's the matter? Is it about tomorrow? You know it's going to be okay, don't you?"
Conor can talk; he got an A* and two A's in his A-levels; pretty much the top results in his college. He's running off to Exeter at the end of September to study Maths, leaving me stuck down here trying to figure out what the hell to do with my life. But it's not the idea of results that's niggling at me right now. I shake my head and turn to look behind me, gazing out to sea with narrowed eyes. For a moment I almost think I've imagined it before I hear the cry again.
"Peryl er dos….peryl er dos dhe Ingo… "
I stare around, looking for the source and my eyes light upon a seagull perched on a rock, looking at me intently. "Peryl…" it croaks again. "Danger. Danger is coming…"
With a rush of feathers, it takes flight, spiralling up into the sky, screaming it's cries to the heavens. I gaze after it as if transfixed, unsure what to make of its message.
I turn around to meet Conor's concerned eyes.
"It's nothing," I murmur softly. "I'll tell you later."
I turn back to face land and start once more up the slope to catch up with the others.
Reviews would be really, really appreciated. I've missed writing fanfic so much as it's always the reviews and the knowledge that someone actually takes the time to read my writing that really makes my day! Thank you all so much! xxx