Beyond the Ocean's Depths

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Chapter 73: Letting the Dolphin out of the Tank

TOBIE

Last night with Anne had been relaxing but weird at the same time. She helped me into the bath, then brought supper upstairs to my room where we ate together. We chatted about how both Chuy and Vickie were doing and what she did while she stayed with Rhonda and Rainie. It sounded like despite everything, she had a fairly decent time of it. Yet, I knew she was holding back. Something was on her mind, and she wanted to get it off her chest, but without confronting her directly, I just couldn’t coax it from her.

As I lay in bed, I worried about the psychological effects this ordeal would leave on her. Hell, none of us would come away from this unscathed in some way. But that would be something to dwell on tomorrow and over the next several days and weeks as we all tried to return to normal. I was tired and my soft bed was so comfortable. Yet, as I drifted off to sleep, there was one thing I missed from my overnight stay in the cave—Torin. As relaxed and cozy as I felt in my own bed, not having his arms around me left a very empty place in my heart.

~~~

The doorbell rang as I dried my face with the hand towel at the bathroom sink the next morning.

“I’ve got it!” Anne hollered, already having been dressed, but still in her room. I could hear her heavily bound down the stairs as I wondered who would be wanting to see us at an early eight thirty in the morning. “Rainie!” Anne squealed with delight, answering my question.

I heard Rhonda, then Torin’s deeper voice, and it dawned on me that I still looked like a sleepy mess! “Crap!” I cursed under my breath, scrounging through the drawer to find my hairbrush. Thank God I was dressed already, even if in only a pair of sweats and a sloppy t-shirt.

“Mom, your boyfriend is here,” Anne popped her head in the door, a cheesy grin on her face. I rolled my eyes at her as if I were the teenager and she the adult, then couldn’t help but smirk. My ‘boyfriend’ has a good ring to it.

Rhonda’s voice came from downstairs, “Torin, honey, why don’t you go see about helping her down.”

My eyes grew wide, and I couldn’t help continuing my exaggerated excitement. “He’s coming!” I whispered loudly to Anne, who giggled in return. “How do I look?”

She gave me a once over, then nodded in approval. “You look great!” Helping me hobble out of the bathroom and to the hall, we met Torin who was sporting his own cheesy grin.

“We brought breakfast,” he proclaimed, before giving me a light little peck on the lips.

I let him help me down the steps, and we all sat around the kitchen table, easily falling into an energetic conversation as we helped ourselves to the various breakfast bakery delights, coffee, and teas. As the laughter and talk dissipated, Rainie looked at her dad, then cocked her head. “Now?”

Torin downed the rest of his coffee, then cleared his throat. “Yeah.” He turned his attention to the rest of us, primarily Anne and I, and gave me a knowing look. Oh goodness, I thought, he was going to bring up the dolphin shifter thing. Would Anne be ready for such news?

Meanwhile, Rainie gave Anne her own meaningful expression, and to my surprise was the one to speak up. “Sooo, Anne, you know what Tobie knows. And Tobie, you know what Anne knows.”

Both Anne and I blinked back at her silently, and I wondered if we were really on the same subject. When neither of us seemed to act like we understood what she was talking about, she shook her head and huffed. “Duh! You both already know that we’re dolphin shifters! But since you were both sworn to secrecy, you guys couldn’t tell each other that you knew.” Then she thought for a moment, “You guys didn’t tell each other, did you?” She looked hopeful and worried at the same time.

As Rainie’s words sunk in, Anne gasped and grabbed my arm, “You already knew, Mom?”

Realization finally oozed into my own brain after Torin nodded in answer to my silent questioning, and I laughed. “Yes, Torin told me already. Is that what you’ve been so close-lipped about ever since we got home?”

“Oh, I wanted to tell you so bad. I think I would have died if we didn’t get it out soon!” She was so dramatic.

“Rainie actually had her first transition with Anne and Kyle, well, and Delilah at the rehab after Jimson locked them in the dolphin enclosure,” Rhonda interrupted the girls’ teetering giggles with the news.

“First transition?” I asked, confused, at which we embarked upon a lengthy discussion about life as dolphin shifters.


}<<(((}> * <{)))>>{

ANNE

This had to be the best day ever. Since leaving Grandpa and Grandma behind in Ohio, this was the first real family-ish day I’d had in… well, since I could remember. The other times out with Rainie and Torin didn’t count because Mom and him were fighting their attraction. But now that they were dating, it was different. It was nice—real nice.

I didn’t have many memories of my dad, but what with the way Torin treated me and Rainie, I could easily picture him filling that role. And Rhonda already was like a second grandma to me. As we all sat around our kitchen table, I couldn’t help but think that we were the perfect image of a family, and I wished I could bottle up the feelings I’d had inside to keep forever. Not that Mom wasn’t family enough, all these years—she’d been the best—but it would be kind of nice to have a dad and a sister, too.

Later on, I managed to get Mom downstairs again after letting her rest for most of the day. Reclining on the couch, we flipped through the channels on the TV with popcorn in our laps and cold sodas nearby. Finally, Mom looked over at me. “You’re really okay with Rainie and her family being dolphin shifters?”

Her tone was sincere, and even though I’d done expressed my excitement about the whole thing a million times while they were all here talking with us about it, I knew she wanted to know my deepest feelings. I guess I sort of expected her to want to talk more seriously about it all. She was always good about getting to the root of things with me.

“Yeah. I mean it was very scary at first. Like I said, she didn’t really get to explain anything until she was already ready to change and all. But, I guess once I realized that she wasn’t dying and was going to be okay, then I thought it was pretty cool.”

Mom softly smiled back at me. I sensed she had a lot on her mind, so I returned the question. “And you, are you okay with it?”

She laughed lightly, “Yeah. What’s not to be okay with? A new species of ocean life people. That’s right up my alley.” She was trying to be funny, yet I knew it was the truth.

Then it hit me and I blurted, “What luck! I mean that after all these years of being a marine biologist and vet, that you’d end up being soul mated with a dolphin shifter.”

Mom gave me an odd expression, cocking an eyebrow, “What?”

“Well, yeah, it’s just really neat how it all worked out with you and Torin being soul mates. With him being a dolphin shifter and you being a marine biologist.” As Mom sat up a little bit on the couch, her face growing a little more confused and serious, I realized my mistake. “Crap! I wasn’t supposed to say anything! Sorry, I didn’t mean to say ‘crap,’” I corrected myself, while feeling like a complete and utter idiot. Why did my mom have to be so easy to talk to?

“What are you talking about, Anne? Torin and I’ve just started dating. We’re not far enough along in the relationship to consider each other soul mates, if that’s even a thing.” Then, she must have remembered the rest of my words. “What do you mean you weren’t supposed to say anything? Is this something you and Rainie cooked up behind our backs?”

I swallowed nervously. I could easily lie and say that me and Rainie were just being silly, mushy girls and try to back myself out of this hole I’d gotten myself into. But, on the other hand, Rhonda had said that Torin would have to talk to Mom about the whole soul mate thing. Once he told her, then Mom would know that I lied about it. I was already counting my lucky stars that I wasn’t grounded for eternity for lying about the stupid diamonds I’d hid.

I weighed my options. Get in trouble for lying later on or tell Mom the truth and then swear her to secrecy and tell her to act surprised when Torin tells her. Once she knew the truth of the matter, it might make things easier—on me anyways—so I wouldn’t have anything else to hide from her. It might also speed things along in their little relationship, and then they could get married and I would have a real, complete family, finally.

That settled it. I set my popcorn aside and faced Mom squarely. “So, you know how werewolves are supposed to have soul mates? Well, Rhonda and Rainie explained that everyone does, even us pure humans. But we can’t feel the connection as good as shifter people can. Anyways, so Rainie’s mom was Torin’s soul mate, but when both she and her dolphin died, both Onyx and Torin were given new soul mates by fate or whatever. Gina is Onyx’s new soul mate and you are Torin’s. See, that’s why he fought liking you at first. He didn’t want to replace his wife, but there you were. Now that he’s accepted you as his soul mate, and you’ve accepted him, you both can live happily ever after.”

For some reason, I thought Mom would take the whole thing a lot better than she was. Instead of smiling or laughing, she creased her brows and frowned, looking quite concerned. “You’re joking right? That’s going a bit too far.”

I was speechless. Maybe I should have lied and let Torin tell her after all. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

“Anne, listen to me. You are much too young and inexperienced in adult things to even understand the whole dating relationship thing. And I don’t feel good enough right now to get into it with you. But seriously, you can’t just talk about someone’s dead wife like that. Have some sensitivity. Now, I want you to drop this nonsense right now. Torin and I are dating, not engaged to be married. We’re not some fairytale story. Things might work out, but they might not. Don’t go getting your hopes up that we’ll all be some big happy family just yet. Do you understand?”

I nodded with wide eyes, then nervously mumbled, “Sorry, Mom. I didn’t mean it like that.”

To my surprise, she pulled me in, hugging me tight. I didn’t necessarily hug her back, at least at first, unsure of why she was hugging me in the first place.

“Anne, I know it hasn’t been easy not having a dad, and probably being an only child as well. I understand how enticing Rainie’s family would be. But, don’t rush things. Let it happen and we’ll see. I can’t make any promises though, okay?” She smoothed my hair and I couldn’t hold back any longer. She’d known what was in my heart all along.

“Oh, Mom…”

We held onto each other for a moment, then she set me upright and smiled tenderly. “Now, let’s pick out something good to watch and enjoy our evening, okay?”

I smiled back at her, hoping that I had done the right thing and that it would still all work out.

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