“This is, like, the only time where I regret not having a brother!” I mumble to myself as I stand in the master bedroom, awkwardly waiting for Dad to find two pairs of swimmers for the boys to wear. I’m just about bright red from head to toe when he hands me two pairs of board shorts, ruffles my hair, and walks back out to the sport game on the T.V. I tried to ask him about Mum, but he just brushed it off, his body going stiff at the mention of her.
I sigh and go back to my room where Melayna has taken up temporary residence. She’s looking through my drawers, picking up her favourite bikini of mine admiringly. While I’d never admit it to her, I totally bought that one for her. I know she’d never be confident or happy enough to buy one for herself, and when I saw it I knew it would be perfect for her. Wearing something so unflattering on me once was enough for her to work out she absolutely loved it and wanted to borrow it.
Lost in my train of thoughts and memories, I don’t notice that she’s turned her attention to me until it’s too late. I’m still blushing from the experience with Dad, and once she takes in the whole picture – me probably almost as red as my hair, holding out two pairs of board shorts as if they’re snapping piranhas – she’s in hysterics almost immediately.
“Hey, stop it!” I yell, throwing a pair of swimmers at her and laughing as she catches them, walking towards my window. “Hey, what are you doing? Those are Dad’s!” I laugh as I walk towards her, but the smile immediately drops as she chucks them out the window.
“Lay!” I hit her with the other pair in shock. She grabs the other pair from my hand swiftly, chucking them out the window too.
“Oh, my god.” I say as I rush to the window, peeking out to try and see where they landed. I breathe a sigh of relief as I see Malachi holding them up and laughing. And then it clicks why he’s laughing, and I’m back in the window and hitting lay again within moments. Her laughter echoes through my room, filling it with warmth, as she cowers on the bed jokingly.
“C’mon, let’s get dressed and sun blocked.” Melayna says easily, walking over to the dresser and grabbing her bikini up once more, tossing my favourite bikini over her shoulder towards me. Within minutes we’re both dressed in our bikini’s and admiring ourselves in the mirror.
Her forest green high-wasted bikini bottoms and matching halter-neck top look stunning on her, covering enough skin that she doesn’t feel exposed while still showing off her incredible figure. It’s the confidence radiating through her gaze, however, that makes her the most beautiful in this moment. This is the girl I love – the one that no one sees. In the moments where she forgets to care about who’s watching she is the most gorgeous – the most free and open and incredible person I’ve ever met.
Wiping at the sentimentality building up in my eye, I turn my gaze to myself. The lavender and mint bikini set has brought on endless teasing about me being the little mermaid, but as I admire my lean figure in the mirror I can’t help but be happy with myself, especially with my red hair cascading across my back in perfect waves. Of course my hair has to look good just when I’m about to get it wet.
“Lay,” I say it softly, almost not wanting to give up my moment of visual appreciation and ask the question that I feel I have to.
“Sel, please don’t…” Her face gets red the way it does when she’s trying to hold back tears and I pull her to me, burying her face in my shoulder. It’s at this moment that I notice the glass in her shoulder, peeking out the tiniest bit from her halter neck top, and wonder at how I didn’t notice it before.
“Baby, please just talk about it. Cry if you want to, but I know this can’t be easy. I know you can’t be taking this well – I know you too well. Don’t shut me out right now, not when you need me.” My words are full of hurt and pain as I even entertain the idea that she would push me away right now. It wouldn’t surprise me, but I don’t want her to – not now, not ever.
“If you already know what’s going on then why do I need to say anything? Why can’t I just say nothing and pretend it’s not happening.” My shoulder muffles her words, but I know this girl better than I know anyone else. I know that right this moment images of her mother leaving with Axel are playing on her head in repeat. And if she doesn’t talk about it now, I don’t know when she will.
“I might not know the right thing to say, Lay. I can’t promise that I’ll always have the answers or that I won’t mess up and make things worse. But I can promise you that it’ll feel better to talk about it, and that no matter what I’ll still be here. Always.”
Suddenly Melayna’s body is shaking against mine, sobs wracking through her violently as she clutches at me. My arms come around her, pulling her to me as close as I can, like I’m trying to pull her inside of me.
“I just don’t know where she is,” Melayna whispers,, her tears slowing down as she hiccups like she’s choking on air, her body ramrod straight as she starts to pull out of my grip. She brings her hand up to her face, rubbing at her eyes as if she can wipe it al away. “I could forgive her if she’d come back here. I’d avoid her for a bit, but at least I’d know she wanted to be where I was – to know that I was okay. As it is…it feels like a lifetime’s worth of loyalty all gone in a matter of seconds.”
My heart breaks for her and I want to pull her close to me again, but I can tell from the hard look on her face that she’s done talking and done being comforted. Instead I nod, heading to my bathroom to get her a cup of water and the sunblock. I smile at her grateful expression as she drinks the water.
“C’mon, let’s get me sun blocked!” Melayna’s voice is infinitely lighter, a smile on her face as she turns to face the mirror with her back to me. I smile and dollop it on her back, grinning as she squeals from the cold and leaves the demons of the moment somewhere on the floor in front of us.
As she starts rub sunblock all over my back it occurs to me that she could have asked Malachi to sunblock her – I know she would have enjoyed the experience much more if he’d done it – before it hits me. My heart swells with the realisation that she probably did this for me, she did it so that I wouldn’t have to feel left out because Faegan can’t touch me and therefore can’t put sunblock on me. I want to grab her and squeeze her tight once more, but figure she’s probably had her daily fill of sisterly affection.
“C’mon, honey. Let’s get you down to that smokin’ boy of yours!” I grin as I say it, pulling her arm and her burning red face down to the pool area.
As the girls are finishing getting ready, I motion over to Faegan – drawing him closer so we can talk quietly.
“Fae, we need to talk.” I say in a hushed whisper even though we’re out of sight and hearing range of anyone.
“About what?” He says absentmindedly, his eyes fastened on the second floor window where we know the girls are.
“Fae!” I whisper-yell, snapping my fingers in front of his face to get his attention. I grab his hand and pull him out of view of the window. Once I’ve got his full attention I start on my barely rehearsed speech.
“What are you doing, Fae? You know you can’t touch her.” I look at his confused expression, and some of the calm I’ve been trying to portray fades into rage. “I see how you act around her - inching a little closer, laughing, flirting…”
He also touched her hand, Melayna adds in my mind, and the rage is so immediate I cant’ even take the time to wonder how she’s listening in so acutely.
“YOU WHAT?!” I explode without care, Faegan wincing as I do. “HOW COULD YOU TOUCH HER?” I start pacing, but stop and go very still when I hear his softly spoken statement.
“Well, you did.” He looks down at his feet and I’m not even sure he meant to say it. I turn around, anger flaring deep within me.
“What I did was totally different!”
“How?” His tone matches mine, our voices rising in reckless abandon.
“It just was!” I turn around and begin to walk towards the pool where the girls have finally settled.
“Oh, and Fae?” I look at him over my shoulder. “Don’t do it.”
I don’t wait for his reply before heading straight to the poolside. I grab Melayna around the waist, not caring if she’s finished with Selena, and pull her to the edge of the pool with me.
“You ready to swim?” I breathe hot in her ear, loving how I can feel her heart jump against my palm. The connection sparks up loud and bright, but no thoughts filter into my mind. I frown and focus on her mind, trying to get a read from her, when I realise that not only have I rendered her speechless, but I’ve also rendered her thoughtless.
I chuckle at that before I catch up to the fact that there’s nothing separating our bare skin, and then my own heart clenches and my head stops working along with hers. Additionally my eyes can’t help but trail up and down her body, taking in the expanses of smooth skin between the green bikini. Her body is looking stunning, right from the tips of her bright red toes to the top of her brown curly hair and all the curves and lines in the middle.
She’s the first to recover and she smiles at me, grabbing my hand and pulling me even closer to the pool. She stops for a moment and stares over my shoulder before grinning and letting go of my hand. Part of our connection goes with it and I snap to attention. I’m reaching for her hand again when I notice her gaze on something behind me.
I watch in fascination as she runs away from the pool and towards Selena. They stand together doing some sort of clapping rhythm thing, chanting with lots of grunts and “ho” “hey” type words. They turn around and clap each other on the back before sprinting to opposite sides of the pool.
“READY?” Selena yells, a huge grin on her face.
“OKAY!” Melayna screams back, also grinning like a fool. They seem to count to three in their minds and then run and jump at the pool. I wince, picturing a crash landing, but they flip in the air – Melayna above Selena – before diving seamlessly into the pool opposite each other. I just stare in amazement at their choreographed routine, trying to imagine how long it must’ve taken to perfect that.
They break the surface of the water, giggling and hi-fiving each other. Selena gives Melayna an intense look and they nod at each other, effectively piquing my curiosity. I’m about to delve into Melayna’s mind and work out what that was about when the thought that I could just get into the pool with her now and explore her mind later passes through my thoughts. I throw my other thoughts to the wind and slide into the pool, taking note of the cool water with a shiver.
I approach and Melayna grins at me, moving a little out of my reach. I frown at her and go after her again, but she moves out of my way once more with a giggle. I follow again with the same result. By now, Selena is in full-blown laughter and I’m more frustrated than ever.
“Catch me if you can!” Melayna screams, before taking off and leaving me in her wake. I notice Faegan sitting at the edge of the pool grumbling, and when I look to Selena for cues as to what to do I find her with Melayna. I smile at the thoughts of the impeding game and swim after them both, chasing them around the pool.
I have one of them on either side of me, whichever one I’m not chasing throwing obstacles in my path, and I finally decide to play dirty. Hey, a guy can only stand so much rejection in one day.
“I give up, I give up!” I say, placing my hands in the air. Selena stops moving and laughs, smiling and approaching me. I’m just about to jump out with my ‘gotcha’ when Melayna interrupts.
“Don’t do it – it’s a trap! She screams and Selena jumps back, the laugher gone from her lips but still in her eyes.
“You cheeky little bugger!” Selena says, approaching me and slapping me across the back. Suddenly she steps back, horror in her eyes and her hand over her mouth. The tirade from Melayna stops and everything is silent. I look at Faegan in confusion, but he has a smirk on his face as he sits their smugly.
Soon enough, though, he’s not even a whisper in my mind as Melayna’s thoughts trickle into my mind in a jumble. I give up trying to decipher them and instead swim towards her in the water.
“Lay, babe, slow down.” I say, running out of breath as I struggle to catch up to her. She walks out of the water, wrapping a towel around her, and I follow with my own towel left on the ground. I barely notice that Selena and Faegan have gone inside and we’re alone.
“Why should I?” Her voice isn’t harsh like it was before, but I can hear concern and confusion in it loud and clear. Even worse than that, I can hear how lost she is, and I flinch a little. Even so, she stops and turns to face me, sighing. I see tears brimming in her eyes and my heart aches because I’m pretty sure I was the cause of those tears and I’ve never wanted to hurt her. Well, not since I’ve known her.
“Please, tell me what’s wrong.”
I approach her quietly, touching her hands but ignoring the flaring connection and instead waiting for her words. I know from experience that putting thoughts into words is better – it’s not the rawest form of the thought, but the explanation of it – the softened version. And when it comes to bad news, sometimes the softened version is often desired.
“You touched her.” Her voice is soft, and as she says it a single tears leaks from her eye, her arms wrapping around herself in an effort at comfort.
“I – what – no…” I stutter helplessly.
“I just don’t know anything, Mal. This is all so new and I feel like I have to try and control this. I don’t want you to connect with someone else – as selfish as that may be – but even more than that, I don’t want my sister hurt if she forms a connection with you that is even half as intense as this is if it’s not going to be emotional too, I just…” She sighs and slumps a little, her shoulders rolling forward and her head hanging down.
“I don’t know how to make sure no one gets hurt, I don’t know how to make sure this is okay.”
“Oh, babe, no.” I pull her into my body, wrapping my arms around her towelled body and resting my chin atop her head. “You don’t understand – we don’t have a conitouche, we have a conitoume.”
Confusion flickers across her face as she pulls back to look at me. “A couni-what-a?”
I laugh at her pronunciation and soon enough she’s laughing with me. It feels good to laugh with her and I pull her back to me, loving the feel of the conitoume sparking between us.
“So will you explain to me what a…” she pauses and then gives up, “what we have is?”
I smile and pull her to the bench by the pool side, setting beside her and rubbing my hand up and down her towelled shoulders
“Sure. Later. Right now I’m kind of hungry – do you guys have any fruit?”
She smiles at me, a humongous smile, and I grin back. She shakes her head in the negative but grabs my hand anyway, pulling me to standing. This girl could take me anywhere and I wouldn’t care as long as she comes with me.
I smile at Malachi over the mango in my hand, laughing at his facial expressions as the mango pieces slip through his fingers. He didn’t want to eat it off the skin like I do, so instead cut the pieces out. I think he might finally be seeing the merit in eating it the way I do.
“So,” I say through a mouthful, trying not to slurp the mango off the skin, “what were you talking about before?” I grab a napkin from the holder, glad that Dad’s in his study working and Selena and Faegan are entertaining themselves quietly. A brief flicker of concern flickers in my brain when I think about leaving them alone together, but remembering the expression on Selena’s face when she touched Malachi, I think she’ll be okay.
“Well, these are just different words that we use. You know how I was telling you before that a connection is made between a less powerful being and a more powerful being?”
At my nod he continues.
“Well, the less powerful being is called a servato and the more powerful being is called a fulima.”
I frown and turn towards him. “So, am I the fulima, and you the servato?” I fumble on the unfamiliar words, able to spit out full-ee-mah and sir-vun-toe. He smiles back at me, his eyes twinkling with emotion I wasn’t expecting of such a question.
“No, because we are Soulima.” I stare at him in confusion and he chuckles, grabbing my chair and pulling me a little closer to him.
“What?” I feel kind of stupid for not understanding him, before shaking my head. How on earth should I know what any of these words mean when I didn’t even know I was magical yesterday? Or last month, depending on whom you ask.
“Soulima’s are soul mates; and instead of the conitouche that forms between a fulima and a servato, a conitoume is formed instead.”
I just blink at him in surprise, waiting for it to sink in. Wait – did he just say I was his soul mate?
“So how do you realise the difference?”
I see him grin and it barely takes any effort to realise that he’s happy I’m not freaking out. I guess it just seems natural to me – I guess I really was born into it.
“Well, it’s easy if you know. Basically you have to look inside of yourself and find the thread that connects you to the other person. The general thread of a conitouche is silver and quite weak. It’s like embroidery thread and can often fade into the background. The conitoume, however, is stronger. And golden. It’s like a lit up golden rope that tugs you along. It’s almost like you can’t ignore it when it’s in your field of vision.”
That thought fascinates me so I close my eyes and hear him chuckle. I’m focused on him and the bond so intently that it barely takes me a second to hear his thoughts of amusement and a little hint of doubt. I’m not even offended, because I can’t sense any bad intent, but rather just the acknowledgement of how hard it is. I push the inner workings of his mind aside and instead focus on myself, trying to feel it out rather than try to conjure a mental image.
I can feel the magic working inside my mind, turning everything into its magical form of music. I ignore my surroundings and look inside of myself. I focus on my feelings for him and the way he makes me feel, lighting up my eyes so I can see everything clearer and better. Suddenly the thread appears, pulling my attention like he said it would. I grab hold of it with my hands, running my fingers tentatively around the edge in wonder.
The thread is intricate, not only a rope but a series of twists and turns that light up with golden light which seems to flow from the inside of the rope. Peering closer, I notice little patterns on the rope, but as soon as I try and focus on what they are they move around, dancing before my very eyes. I let out a laugh and touch the rope again. Suddenly an idea occurs to me, and I pull my lips back in a smile.
Placing both hands steadily on each side of the rope, I tug hard, opening my eyes in surprise when I hear the sound of a chair scraping along the tile floor of the kitchen. Malachi looks at me with stunned eyes, his mouth hanging open as I grin down at my hands, which now appear to be holding nothing.
“Woah,” he says simply, looking at me with wide eyes. I smile at him, closing my eyes and seeing the thread once again. I let my hands fall from it and instead envision it growing longer. The rope sags in the middle, almost touching the floor. I open my eyes, trying to see if our positions have changed at all. When there’s no apparent change, except Malachi’s confused and disapproving gaze, I close my eyes once more as I ignore his grumbling.
I see the long rope again, imagining it going taut and stretching from one end of the kitchen to the other. I open my eyes in shock when I hear a crash, and my heart races when I see Malachi pushed against the bench top, the pan that was sitting there now pressing uncomfortably into his back. I take a step towards him and he falls further back, his face a grimace as his feet are lifted off the floor and he travels further up the bench top.
I start to take another step when I remember the taut rope. Cussing quietly, I take a step back until I’m pressed up against the wall. Malachi’s now got his feet on the floor, but the bench top appears to be cutting into his lower back. I close my eyes and envision the rope growing smaller again until it is barely an inch long. I grunt when Malachi’s body crashes into mine, and my arms go around him to hold him steady.
“Well, hello there.” I grin and say with a deep voice, attempting to sound sexy. He chokes out a laugh, but it’s more like a croak of his voice because he’s been tossed around my kitchen like a rag doll. My hands travel down his back, finding the spots where his back was just hurt. I grimace and he pulls me the tiny inch closer that the rope will allow us to go.
“Not that I’m complaining, but will I ever be able to be farther from you than this?” His voice is slightly louder than it was, but still weak. I bite my lip, honestly not sure what I can and can’t do. In an effort to discover it, though, I close my eyes again. I ignore his groans and smile against his collarbone, ignoring the rope and instead focus on the skin beneath my hands.
I picture the skin melding together, the blue and purple bruises that I know will be forming totally disappearing and being replaced with new, tough skin. I picture the blood seeping back into his veins, the indents formed by the bench and the pan popping out into their normal shape. I smile in surprise when I feel the skin melding beneath my fingers, and only when his breathing evens out again do I open my eyes.
“So, what do we do now?” I whisper, not exactly sure why but not wanting to break my lucky streak.
“Drop the magic.” He whispers back, and it takes me a moment to process the simple request. I imagine the light behind my eyes receding and being replaced by the normal darkness. I watch with regretful relief as the thread disappears from view and I’m able to place my hand on my stomach where it used to be. I open my eyes and Malachi is still as close to me as before.
“Did it not work?” I say, concerned. As much as I like having him this close, I really don’t want to be stuck like this forever. It might make some things awkward. Like, really awkward.
“No, it worked.” He sighs and pulls my arms back around him before placing his around me. “I just want to stay like this for a little longer.” I smile and look up at him, holding my breath when I realise that we are barely an inch away from each other. Just a little bit closer and my lips would press against his, we would be as close as I crave. My gaze heats up as I move my gaze away from his eyes and towards his mouth.
His whole body stiffens within my grasp, but before I realise it he’s released the tension and shrugged his body down a little. He’s now less than an inch away. Perhaps only a centimetre. I gulp and he smiles. I stand up a little. Half a centimetre. I smile at him, waiting to see who’ll make the final move.
The sound of keys in the lock grab my attention and I turn my head towards the entryway, my shoulders slumping down again. Malachi pulls away slightly, only to tuck me into a backwards hug. My attention is pulled away from the embrace by the sound of the lock turning. I stiffen and Malachi rests his head on my shoulder, both of us waiting for the door to open.