Walter woke late into the night, moaning as he found his body was stiff and sore. Unsure that he could get back to sleep, he decided to get up. Looking out the window, he sighted the pool, and the hot tub connected to it.
James called his name as he descended the staircase in his swimsuit and towel, inviting him to come and play some new shooter with him. “I’ll pass,” he answered, taking the route through the kitchen to the pool yard. Outside, he laid his towel out on a chair by the fire pit and checked the pool controls beside it. Next, he switched on the heat with the touch screen, then dipped himself in the bubbling water.
“Ohhh, this is exactly what I need,” he crooned, sinking into the water up to his shoulders. Puffs of steam trickled into the air as he relaxed, blowing bubbles in the water. Completely submerging himself, he stayed under until needed to breathe. After that, he resurfaced and sat back, allowing his arms to float in the water. I could go back to sleep, he believed, right here. Allowing his troubles to drift away, the sounds of the island night filled his ears. Waves lapped in the distance while the cool sea breeze played with his hair. Bugs buzzed and sang on the hillside, and the owls in Drea's aviary hooted on occasion. Then he heard a splash.
Alerted, Walter opened his eyes and sat up. Looking all around, he appeared to be alone, but he wasn’t sure. Crossing the tub, he peered over the side and into the pool—then a splash of cool water hit him in the face. Surprised, he fell back, thrashing and splashing. While he stood up to recover, he saw a person leaning on the lip of the tub, snickering at him. Wiping the water out of his face, his vision cleared and Faith the fish girl came into view. Her cool blue skin gleamed by the lights of the pool.
Walter stayed himself from getting angry, taking a deep breath and sitting down. He said, “It’s Faith, right?” She looked up at him with her candy pink eyes, cocked her head and grinned. “I’m Walter. Um…” Looking away, he asked if she would like to join him.
Faith leaned back, squinting at him with caution. She put one hand out, suspending it just over the water. Walter noticed the bandages wrapped around her wrist and fingers like she was part mummy.
“It’s safe,” he assured. “Uh, I panicked, earlier. I…couldn’t control myself. But, I’m calmer now, so it should be fine.”
Tilting her head the other way, she plunged her hand into the water to test the temperature. Then, straightening her arms, she pushed herself over the lip, stepping over with one muscular leg at a time. Walter observed that she was wearing a different swimsuit, a green one in two pieces. The bottoms were like a pair of short trunks while the top was more like a cropped shirt, exposing her toned abdomen. Her skin had a creamier color in the middle, and a pattern of stripes along her sides. She sat down and relaxed at once, dipping herself under the water until it was up over her nose.
Walter had to look away from her, daunted by such beauty. When it passed, he cleared his throat and spoke up. “I’m sorry about what happened. Is there, uh, anything I can do to make it up to you?”
Sitting up, Faith moved her mouth as if to answer, though no sound came out.
“Um, sorry,” Walter felt rude for interrupting. “I can’t hear you.”
Faith paused for a second, then shrugged. She swam across the hot tub toward Walter and took her seat by his side. Nervous, he took his arm off the edge of the tub and dropped it into his lap. “I don’t have much of a voice,” she explained in a muted whisper. “Can you hear me now?” Walter nodded. “Okay.” She looked into the water and grinned, then back at him. “I said, ‘I forgive you’. You’ve been so nice to me and all I’ve done is splash you in the face.” She held up her bandaged hands. “I probably deserve this, huh?”
“No!” Walter disagreed, looking her in the eye. “You, um…you saved my life. I owe you for that, too.” He kept his mouth open as if to say more, but the words wouldn’t come to him.
Hand unseen, she placed it on Walter’s arm and snorted at its nervous twitch. “Don’t worry about it,” she told him. “I’ve been through worse.” She took her hand away and stared into the water.
Walter cleared his throat again. “So, how do you like the island so far?”
She beamed at him once more. “It’s nice. I haven’t been here for more than two days, but I think I’m going to stay.”
“Yeah? What makes you say that?”
“Drea offered me a job,” she clarified. “Do you know her?”
“Oh, cool. I just met her today, myself. I just flew in last night.”
In their following conversation, Walter learned quite a bit about Faith. He told her he was from Sahet[WH1] , and as it turned out, she was from the neighboring city of Nods[WH2] , or Noddytown as they called it. She told him about the time she visited his city and got arrested for swimming in the Fahmdian’s[WH3] fountain. In return, Walter told her some funny stories about his job in Ocast; it was strange to talk about it in past tense.
“Hey, is it okay if I whisper, too?” Walter asked at one point. “It’s kinda weird just hearing myself out loud.”
Faith giggled out her nose and nodded. “Of course you can.”
As the night wore on, they grew more comfortable in each other’s company while their tongues got tired. Faith mentioned going home to bed. Mustering up some courage, Walt whispered, “Faith. W-would you like to go out with me?”
She scooted away from him, staring him down with wide eyes.
“Uh,” Walter stammered. He didn’t know how to backpedal from this.
Then, she reached out with both hands, putting them on the sides of his head—and pulled him under the water with her.
“Walter.” Her voice spoke his name with sudden sonorous volume. It was high and clear as an angel’s song while her gills undulated with excitement. “I would love to go out with you.”
Losing his air, Walter had to resurface. Wiping water off his face, he said, “Why didn’t you tell me we could’ve just talked under water?” Faith laughed, then jumped forward to kiss him on the nose. Next, she dove backwards into the pool, swam out of the other side, disappearing into the night.
“Oh, that is so sweet!” Kriskin sighed.
“Spying again?” Drea remarked between forkfuls of rice. “Are you listening to them too?”
“Oh, whatever,” Kriskin scoffed, closing the blinds to the kitchen window. “Isn’t it amazing?”
“Yeah. He melts the skin off of her fingers and asks her out the same day.” She drank a sip of water. “I’d call it more than amazing.”
“She doesn’t seem to mind.” Kriskin finished rinsing her plate, put it in the dishwasher and left the kitchen. “Good night, Drea.”
“Good night,” she replied. “Hey, thanks for introducing me to Faith, she’s going to be a huge help.”
Kriskin gave her a thumb’s up and retired to her bedroom. Changing into her pajamas, she checked to see if her trees needed water. Then she snuggled into bed with her tablet for a few hours of television. It had been a while since she’d been able to relax like this, though she didn’t feel entirely comfortable. It just felt…off, like there was still something that needed resolved. She ignored the feeling for as long as she could, trying to enjoy her shows. But the feeling remained in the back of her mind. It wasn’t until she plugged her tablet in to charge that she remembered—she was supposed to help Walter shop for a new computer.
Feeling dumb, she promised herself to bring it up with him tomorrow. But then, as she tossed and turned in her bed, that wasn’t it. Something still bothered her. Kriskin climbed out of bed and looked out the window, hoping the view would put her mind at ease.
“Hey, Kriskin,” called Drea from outside her door. “You still up?”
“Yeah,” she answered, turning towards the door. “What is it?”
“Do you have Walter’s number?” Drea asked as she let herself inside the room. “It’s the dumbest thing; they agreed to go out but neither one of them thought to give each other their contact—what are you doing?”
Kriskin shrugged. “Standing here. In the dark.”
“…Okay. Anyway, I’ll text you her number and you can send it to Walter. Good night.” She closed the door. Not long after she left, Kriskin’s phone buzzed with a new text. Feeling like a matchmaker, Kriskin got to it right away.
Here’s her number you doofus :P
He had answered within seconds, making her smile. Then she remembered. Her eyes zipped toward her nightstand, and she returned to the window. Opening it up, she tossed a ring outside and directed it to travel around the corner of the cottage. Looking through another loop, she got a new angle on her outlook, spying up at Walter’s bedroom window. Observing that his light was on, she closed the window and returned to bed.
This is probably a really bad idea, she said to herself as she watched the window. But I have to know. She didn’t know how much time passed as she played with her phone, checking every minute or so until Walt’s lights finally went out. Kriskin put the phone and her rings down on her nightstand, swapping them with her tool in this plot. Holding it tight within her fingers, she felt its smooth, straight edges, and drifted to sleep.
It’s a beautiful, warm summer day. I can feel the sun on my shoulders and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. I find myself at the peak of a bridge, looking over the edge at an amazing view of a small gorge. It’s a stunning refuge of nature secluded in a vast suburban neighborhood. To get a closer look, I hop down ten meters from the bridge to the habitat below, scaring lizards back into their dens. The area is thick with foliage and wildlife, so much of it thriving on the trickle of water beneath my feet. I watch as a scorpion catches a cricket, and remember why I’m here. Hoping it’s not too late, I climb up the side of the canyon and onto the stony cliff, reaching a high brick wall to guide me. I follow it toward the sunset, until a young boy climbs over the wall and lands in front of me. His hazel eyes lock on to me for a moment, until he dashes ahead and up the path. I glide along, following him to the road until—I see him. I sigh out of relief and catch up to the boy and the young man beside him.
“Excuse me,” I call to them. They both turn to stare at me. The boy with freckles waves hello. “Hi. I think I’m lost. Can you help me?”
The sun sets, a little too soon. It is nightfall now, and I feel a burden lift from my shoulders. The older boy seems to recognize me, looking me up and down with incredulity in his deep, yellow eyes. His hair is much longer, dangling down the sides of his face and curling into wings on both sides. He’s so fresh and full of life.
We’re alone now. Everything around us vanishes, replaced by the starry sky. Dark shapes rise in the distance, and a bright needle splits the sky. He still hasn’t said anything. Folding my hands in front of me, I felt it was time to speak.
“Hello, Walter. Remember me?”