Chapter 13: Family (Part 2)
We hadn’t had a real family outing in a while, and I couldn’t wait to find out what Papa Onyx’s surprise was!
Getting to stay out late at night made it just that much more mysterious, because I usually spent time with him and Nana Penny during the day on weekends.
Dad had left right after supper to let Onyx get ready for tonight. He seemed different. When he gave me a hug before leaving, I knew he had something heavy on his mind. I wasn’t sure if it had to do with the surprise, but I could tell he was trying to be happy. Not that that was new, because Dad had been sad every day since Mom died, though he tried his best to hide it from me. He just seemed sadder than usual, and I didn’t like that he was so upset this week either.
“Hurry up now and finish all your chores so that they’re done before we want to head down to the dunes, okay?” Grandma ordered right after we finished washing the dishes.
I went up to clean up my room and put laundry away while I tried to think of what Dad and Onyx’s surprise was.
As I got my bathing suit out, I wondered when my inner dolphin would make herself known.
My human body was already changing, and my thirteenth birthday was just around the corner, though I hadn’t started my period yet - not that I was rushing that part! But I did think I was starting to feel my inner dolphin sometimes. I would have thoughts that weren’t really my own and feelings like I was being called to the water at the weirdest times.
I was really nervous about the First Shift because Grandma said it could be a bit difficult and painful depending on how in tune my dolphin was with me. I guess, like periods, everybody was different.
But Grandma had been helping me to practice communing with my inner dolphin every day. Usually before bedtime, we’d sit on my bed and meditate, calling to our dolphins inwardly, telling them about our day or our thoughts and feelings about something important. Even though I didn’t hear mine in my mind yet, I knew she was somewhere in there, and hoped that she could hear me!
There weren’t many shifter families in Navarro Beach, and there were only two other kids, neither one my age. My school friends were regular humans, so I wasn’t able to tell them about my future dolphin, and sometimes that bothered me. I would have liked to have had a shifter friend my own age who I could talk to about being a girl and the First Shift, and about soul mates, which were a little different than regular human romantic relationships generally. Though I guess regular humans could have soul mates, too, just not in the same way as shifters where the animal side has a lot of control and the feelings are more instinctual. Things were just so different and complicated for us compared to regular humans and regular dolphins!
Finally, it was time to head down to the beach and Grandma and I made our way to the dunes in the dark. I wore my bathing suit and a pullover so I wouldn’t get chilled after swimming.
We waited on the beach, staying very quiet and listening to the waves. Then I heard the familiar clicks of Papa Onyx not far out in the water. I knew his call anywhere!
I loved my father’s dolphin. He was my second father. After Mom died, sometimes it was easier to talk to him than it was to my own Dad about her. Even though they were both sad about losing their soul mates, Dad took it a little harder than Papa Onyx. Or at least he handled it differently. Maybe it was because of the human way Dad understood what had happened, who knows... But the closer I came to my animal transition, the more connected I felt to Papa Onyx since my own dolphin would be his daughter, just like I was Torin’s human daughter.
Grandma and I waded out chest deep to meet Papa, and even though it was dark, I could see him pretty well. The long blackish stripe that went from his head to his dorsal fin made him easy to recognize. I gave him a giant hug, then pet his head as he chattered away excitedly.
“Hello, Papa! What in the world are we doing out here in the dark?!”
Finally, he moved back and called out towards the open water. Grandma and I looked across the water’s black surface, trying to see. Unfortunately, dolphin speech was not a language our human sides were able to master, even if we could completely understand our own inner dolphins inside our minds - or at least that’s what I’d heard, as I hadn’t exactly experienced that yet.
Suddenly, another animal was coming, and I grabbed Grandma’s hand, a bit nervous because whatever it was, was coming fast. A second dolphin popped up next to Papa. Both of them whistled and clicked, talking to each other before the new dolphin moved towards Grandma and me.
As Grandma reached out to touch the newcomer, I backed away a little, giving them some room. Grandma laughed her happy-surprised laugh, like she does when she gets something extra special for Christmas that she wasn’t expecting.
Me, I stood in the water a bit confused. Apparently, Grandma knew something I didn’t.
“Rainie, come.” Grandma beckoned me closer again as I knew to be careful around strange dolphins, especially wild ones that might sense my inner dolphin, because they could be unpredictable.
“Rainie, this is Onyx’s mate!”
Grandma laughed again as she petted the female, giving her a kiss on the nose and exclaiming how wonderful this all was.
At first, I was a bit surprised and didn’t really understand what she was talking about, then realization hit!
“He got married?!” I questioned wide eyed, gasping excitedly. I might be a tough girl on the outside, but I was a total softy when it came to romance.
Grandma nodded, and I could tell she was trying not to cry - happy tears of course!
I couldn’t contain my happiness at that point and jumped up and down in the water clapping my hands and squealing with delight! Papa, who’d been watching his new wife and Grandma interact, squeaked back at me happily, then said something to his female dolphin. She left Grandma’s side for the moment, joining him a few feet away.
Before I could ask the hundreds of questions that were suddenly coming to mind, Papa Onyx dove underwater. He knew he had to let Dad transition back to human form so that everything could be explained properly to his human family.
Dad’s head popped up as he smiled and laughed in the dim light, wiping the water from his face, and turning to the female dolphin next to him.
“Hey lady, I’m Torin.” Dad said gently as he put his hands on the female dolphin’s head, bonding with her. I thought it was strange that he acted as though he’d never met her while in human form before, and my mind raced with even more questions now:
Who was her human? What were both of their names? Did she have any kids? Did that mean I was getting a human stepmom!? Why hadn’t Dad mentioned meeting someone?!
Suddenly, I was a little more nervous than excited. If Dad got remarried, I had always thought I would be able to get to know my future stepmom before they got married and all. I know regular humans usually date for a while; you know, get to know each other before getting married. But sometimes shifter soul mates just knew they were soul mates and got married right after they met. I never thought Dad would do something like that without telling me and Grandma though. He always told us important things!
I didn’t know how to feel all of a sudden.
Dad could see the hesitant look on my face and his smile softened, “It’s okay, Rainie. Come, meet Gina, Onyx’s mate.”
I stepped closer, reaching my hand out so that she could come the rest of the way to touch me. I thought she was beautiful, and she seemed very friendly. Hopefully, her human was pretty and friendly, too.
“It’s nice to meet you, Gina,” I said softly and honestly. I wanted to like her and hoped she liked me, too.
Talking to both Grandma and I, Dad went on, “He met her a month ago, but they officially tied the knot last night.” He chuckled nervously, rubbing the back of his neck. I knew that meant there was more to the story that he wasn’t sure how to tell.
“And her human?” Grandma came to my rescue, saying for the both of us, exactly what I had wanted to ask.
“Well, she actually doesn’t have one. She’s one hundred percent dolphin,” Dad explained. “I didn’t even know about her until after I came back last night, and I realized that he’d mated.”
“Interesting!” Grandma said aloud, as I said it in my head.
“What does that mean?” I finally asked my first question, kinda hoping that it was open enough so that Dad would just explain everything that I was in doubt about.
“Well, it means that he found his second soul mate, and that she will continue to live with her pod out there. And he’ll go visit her whenever he comes out.”
I scratched my face, still a bit confused, “So, you didn’t get married to a human, just Papa Onyx and Gina got married?”
Dad’s eyes opened wider, as he realized that I had been concerned that he’d gotten married without telling me or Grandma, “Oh no, sweetheart! There’s no one else out there for me. There’s no human side to Gina, so the soul mate connection is purely through Onyx and Gina.”
I silently breathed a sigh of relief. Not that I didn’t want my dad to get married again - in fact, I wanted him to at some point. I would love to have a mom again! But I definitely wanted to be involved with that whole process!
I just nodded my head and my happy, excited smile returned as I hugged Gina tightly.
“Welcome to the family, Gina! I love you already!”