“What do we do now?” Cassandra asked as we floated on our backs out in the open water, staring up at the sky as the stars appeared.
“I don’t know.” I answered. “Go back to the cave?”
“I doubt we’re allowed to do that.” Levi pointed out.
I let my fingers dance on top of the water. “When are we supposed to sleep then? And where?”
Levi stopped floating and turned to look at me and Cassandra. “I was thinking about that.” She said, pulling her eyebrows together. “Do either of you even feel the tiniest bit sleepy?”
I stopped floating too, realizing that I actually don’t. “Do you think we don’t need to sleep anymore?” I asked astonished.
Cassandra bit her lip and shrugged. “I guess that wouldn’t be the weirdest thing I’ve heard all day.” She smiled and I had to join her.
“Right,” I agreed. “All the magical crap we’ve seen and we’re surprised about not needing to sleep anymore.”
We managed to avoid having to see Alana again for four whole days.
Funny thing about time is, sometimes it feels like it’s flying by you, leaving you in its tracks, and then other times it seems to sit at a standstill. Not sleeping definitely didn’t help matters. If I were able to truly die, I would have already done it out of boredom. Levi and Cassandra are nice girls, but we still haven’t really broken down any walls to where I’d call them friends. We’re all each other has right now, but it makes things tricky. We haven’t talked about our lives from before we came here yet. I don’t know if I don’t bring it up because I don’t want to talk about it, since that would probably only make me miss my life more, or if I don’t mention it because I’m afraid that they will think less of me for trading my soul so I can go home to my boyfriend.
Making the days even more torturous is that we haven’t seen a single other person with the exception of Theon when he comes around the same time every day, coming to clean off the beach.
I usually just watch him from afar, not trying to be creepy, but just because he’s the only other normal person I get to see anymore and it feels good to see someone living their life instead of being a slave to it like me and the girls.
Tonight the sky was moonless.
Cassandra was out at the far end of our triangle, floating on her back, her hair out around her, while Levi was lounging on the beach of the little island, only her little glowing amulet lighting up the darkness around her.
I swam over to the cove, finding a piece of drift wood to draw little pictures in the wet sand. I’ve always been a terrible artist, so my people were all stick figures and the little house I drew looked more like a box with some gigantic windows. When I was finished I stared at my little creation for a minute. Two stick figures with big sappy smiles on their faces next to the house. Asher and I had talked about moving to New York after graduation and getting a little place together, but now that won’t be happening. Two years is a long time, and who’s to say that he won’t have moved on by then. For all I know, if I ever do get out of this hell, I might just come home to find him in a new relationship.
The thought made my heart ache and I used my foot to erase the smiles off of the stick figures faces, leaving them blank. I was wallowing in my depression when a light cut through the darkness around me.
I turned around and saw the light of a flashlight darting back and forth, until finally Tally emerged from between the palms.
“What are you doing here?” I asked her as she trekked across the beach and dropped her bag behind me.
“I’m camping with you.” She said cheerfully.
“What?” I asked her, raising my eyebrows.
Shed dropped down to her knees and started unpacking her little bag. First she pulled out a purple sleeping bag, then a stuffed toy mermaid with pink hair, followed by a gallon sized bag of Reese’s Pieces. “Want some?” She asked me, grabbing out a handful for herself.
I shook my head at her. “Tally, where is your brother?”
She cut her eyes at me and sighed. “Working.” She huffed. “He took me to Mrs. Perdine’s house and he knows I don’t like her.” She explained. “She smells funny and she only ever watches old people game shows on TV.”
“So you ran away again?” I asked.
She nodded her head that was still seeming to sport the exact same braid I’d done for her days ago. “She fell asleep, so I left.”
I reached my hand over to her, placing it on her little knee. “Tally, you can’t keep running away.” I told her gently. “It’s not safe to wander around all alone and I’m sure Theon is going to be worried sick about you. You don’t want him to be sad, do you?”
She had been avoiding my gaze, but she finally looked up at me. “No.” She whispered. “Can you take me home?”
I sighed, chewing on my thumb nail. “I wish I could, Tally.” I tried to explain. “I can’t leave the beach though. Do you have a phone or anything?”
She looked over to her bag, narrowing her eyes at it. “Yeah, it’s only for emergencies though.”
I smiled at her. “Well, let me call your brother, ok?”
She pouted, but she dug out the little rectangular black phone, opening the contacts to the only stored number. “It’s ringing.” She told me as she passed it over.
It only rang for a second before he answered. “Tally, I’m working, what’s wrong?”
I bit my thumb nail harder. “Hi, Theon, this is Serena.”
“You have got to be kidding me.” He half yelled into the phone. “Tally is with you?”
“Yeah, she just showed up.”
I heard him banging things around on the other end and stringing together a line of curses. “I’m going to lose my damn job.” He huffed. “She can’t keep doing this!” I could hear the frustration in his voice.
“You don’t have to come get her right away.” I told him. “I’ll watch her.” I said smiling when I saw the way her face brightened at the mention of it.
“No way in hell am I letting you watch my sister!” He yelled. “I’ll be right there.”
“Fine!” I snapped. “I was just trying to help you since you’re worried about your job, but whatever.”
He cursed a few more times and then sighed, pausing for a long minute. “Fine.” He finally relented. “My shift ends in two hours, then I’ll be right there.”
“Ok.” I said even though he’d already hung up the phone.
I turned to look back on Tally and she was grinning from ear to ear, her tongue sticking out slightly of the gap where her missing tooth was. “He said I can stay?”
I nodded my head to her. “Just until he gets off of work, but you’ve got to make me a promise.”
She nodded quickly. “Ok.”
“You have to promise you won’t run away from home like that again, deal?”
“Deal.” She giggled.
Levi and Cassandra walked up on the beach and Tally fearlessly introduced herself.
The four of us played tick-tac-toe in the sand for a while, then I noticed the dimming of my amulet. “Do you want to go for a swim with me?” I asked Tally and for the first time she seemed shy.
“I don’t like the water.” She admitted under her breath, peering out to the dark water.
I brushed her stray hairs out of her face. “I have to go out there for a while, or I might get sick again, so are you sure you don’t want to go with me?”
It took her a couple of minutes to decide, but finally she tentatively took my hand and let me lead her out to the water. A wave came, smacking her in the chest and she let out a little squeal, squeezing tighter on my hand so I lifted her up, holding her while I walked out deeper so that we were up to our necks.
Tally wrapped her arms around my neck, giggling just a little as I spun her around. I talked her into letting me dip her hair a little so that I could fix it again for her, then when my amulet was glowing brightly I took her back up on the beach and braided her hair back in place. We let her tell us about her favorite things to do and all about how ready she was to be going back to school in just a few more weeks, then she started to yawn.
She leaned over on the sand, laying her head in my lap and fell asleep in record timing. Even when I could sleep, I’d never get to sleep so fast. It was always a battle to shut my mind off enough to be able to fall asleep, but Tally gave in like it was nothing.
“She’s so cute.” Cassandra smiled, looking over at us.
Levi grinned. “So is her brother.” She winked.
“Oh, shut up.” I laughed quietly. “That guy is a major jerk.”
“He may be a jerk, but that doesn’t make him less hot.” Cassandra giggled, standing up with Levi.
“We’re going to get out of here before he comes.” Levi said as they walked away. “Good luck.”
“I’ll need it.” I muttered.
For the next twenty minutes I just listened to the waves and watched Tally sleeping in my lap, brushing her hair back, until Theon finally showed up.
“Hey.” He called as he walked through the trees and I glanced over my shoulder at him as he came over. He was wearing black pants and a white button down shirt with a couple of stains around the waist, and he was carrying his black shoes in his hand.
“Hi.” I whispered back.
Theon walked over, stopping to stand beside me, looking down at his sleeping sister, then he dropped his shoes down on the sand, sitting down beside me and pulling his knees up to wrap his long arms around them. “She’s never asleep this early.” He commented, glancing over.
“Really?” I asked, actually surprised. “She seemed pretty sleepy.”
“Yeah.” He nodded. “Bedtime with her is usually hell.”
I brushed her hair back again and she murmured something in her sleep. “Well, we played for a while, and then after she went swimming she was ready to go to sleep.”
Theon’s eyes widened, his brows shooting up. “She went in the water?” He asked.
I was afraid I’d done something wrong, so I dropped my eyes. “Well, yeah, only for a second though, I just wanted to wash out her hair.” I tried to explain but he was shaking his head and rubbing his chin, the scruff that was starting to grow there making a scratching sound.
“I can’t believe she went in the water with you.” He said under his breath. “I can hardly get her to take a bath because she’s terrified of water.”
“Why?” I asked without thinking.
He looked out over the ocean. “Our parents…they died in the water, so she’s been afraid ever since.”
I turned my head back to him, and he turned slowly to look at me too. “I’m sorry.” I whispered, an obvious tension growing in the space between us as our eyes remained locked on each other. Even though I’m the one with the actual powers to entrance someone, I keep seeming to find myself being the one entranced by him.
As if my body was acting on its own will, I leaned his way slightly, and his lips parted just a little as he leaned in too, before he suddenly stood up. “Thanks for watching her I guess.” He muttered gruffly, clearing his throat a little. “I need to get her home.” He told me as he gathered up her things and threw the bag over his shoulder.
I stood too, carefully picking her up and passing her off to him, our hands brushing each other’s slightly. “Will you tell her I said I had fun with her?”
He looked at me hard, then dropped his eyes. “Sure.” He mumbled, cradling her. “Bye.” He said as he turned away.
“Yeah, bye.” I whispered, watching him go with her, noticing when he was a good little ways away that he leaned down to kiss her on the forehead, and she reached her arms around his neck.
He left me behind feeling more confused than I had in a while.
I’m totally in love with Asher, 100%, no doubt about it in love with him, and I’ve never so much as noticed another guy in the year and half that we’d been together, yet….there was just something about Theon.
I convinced myself that it was just my mind playing tricks on me because of all of the stress I’ve been under and that my heart’s just lonely from missing Asher so terribly much.
I’m sure that’s all it is.