Kieran exclaims, “They have never attacked before. All the other times, they have always kept their distance until she chose. Why has everything changed?”
“All the other times, we never told her. She did not know why she had to choose, she did not know about the curse or any of the details.”
My breathing gets slower and I can hear the thumping of Jayden’s heart under my ear. Uncomfortably I shift in his arms.
He lifts his hand from my hair, where he still has it, pressing my head tightly against his chest as if this will protect me. He smiles slowly, reassuringly, as he looks at me with concern. His lips are mere centimetres away from mine. He asks, “Okay?”
I smile self-consciously. “Yeah.”
He puts me down onto my feet gently, holding me supportively around my waist to steady my feet when Candice steps closer to us. “What’s going on? Heather, you just started going mental.”
Jayden looks down at me and for a split second, I imagine he is looking at me as if he does love me—not used to love me.
He turns away from me and smiling humorously down at Candice, he wipes his palm across her eyes as he leans in to kiss her softly on her forehead.
When he lifts his head, Candice says, “I am bored, can we move on to the next tank already. I cannot wait to see the seahorses.”
I look up at the dark swirling gathering of shadows above my head, and a feeling of fearful trepidation fills me.
They do not attack me again, but they continue following me, and swirling about me. Deep inside I wish they would just leave me alone. I should not still be punished for a mistake I made three hundred years ago.
Although I want to go home and I do not want to walk around in these dark caverns with the blue hues from the tanks surrounding me, I have to follow them through the rest of the aquarium. Kieran walks next to me, holding my hand tightly in his. Every now and again, he looks at me sympathetically when the clouds over my head seem to bear down on me.
When we get to the sea horse display, Candice says, “I can share a fishy fact about seahorses.”
I ignore her, but I notice the way Jayden looks at her. As he looks at her, a smile is playing on his lips. I feel a sharp pain in my chest, not from any physical attack, more like an emotional assault, and I wonder if he is starting to like her. How can he though? Does he like girls who present themselves on a silver platter, girls who do not wait for love, to make love?
Candice giggles. “Seahorses mate for life.” She continues seriously, “Sadly though, these pretty little things.” She leans closer to the glass. “Are endangered, because the Chinese kill them off for some kind of medicine trade.”
When she straightens up again, away from the tank, Jayden leans down to her and pressing his cheek to hers, he says something in her ear, which makes her smile up at him.
I pull Kieran by the hand and we walk through the narrow passage toward the next tank.
When we get to the largest and last display, Kieran and I sit down on the small amphitheatre steps. He leans his elbows onto his thighs, with my hand still in his. I tilt my head onto his shoulder miserably, and I say softly, “I wish we could go home, I feel tired.”
“Of course you do. You had an immense shock and now that the adrenaline has worked itself out of your body, you will feel sleepy.”
I notice Jayden and Candice standing by the enormous glass plate and I bet he does like her, because as they stand there illuminated by the glow of the ocean, his hand tenderly draws the figure eight on her back.
When eventually we walk out of the aquarium, into the open, I feel the air fill my lungs deeply. The blue heavens above me are clear and the gloom is only able to huddle around my side-lines, in a large encroaching circle. I feel incalculably free as I feel the moist air from the ocean behind me settle on my skin, and I hear the cacophony of people laughing and talking, when inside it was only the four of us. I consider this strange because people are standing in queues to get in.
We push past the throng of people and then we all get into the car. Kieran sits close beside me, and every now and again Jayden glances back at me in the rear-view mirror.
I pull my legs up onto the seat, and I lie down on my side, putting my head on Kieran’s lap. Gently he wipes my hair back from my face and I decide to close my eyes for just a moment.