Okey dokey...heres the next chapter
The sun had just crested over the horizon, the orange and reds bathing the entwined forms of Zoe and Josiah snuggled high up on the beach. Zoe woke with a smile as he dozed beside her, his face relaxed, hair flipped over to one side. Zoe traced his face with her eyes; the bridge of his nose, the way it snubbed at the end, his full pink lips that she felt sure he had stolen off a lipstick model down to his round chin which had a scant halo of blonde stubble. She could feel his arms wrapped tightly around her and the other resting comfortably on her thigh.
Zoe glanced down and realized that they both had legs again. It seemed that exposed to the air, as soon as her fins dried they changed back to legs. This seemed like a practical idea, she didn’t want to spend all her time underwater. Her hair had enough split ends as it was. She had also learnt last night when she went looking for her clothes not to bother. If mer-folk dives into the water fully clothed, it dematerialises, so as Josiah said with a faint grin its best to get out of them first if you want to keep them.
Zoe had spent the whole night lying in the arms of a merman but she realized that from the second her plane crashed into the ocean, her life was never going to be the same. Technically she had started a new life, thanks to Josiah. A new beginning, leaving the old one behind. So somehow spending the night with a merman didn’t’t seem so weird after all. Her former life seemed so far away, like a distant dream washed out by the crashing waves. Her parents, her job, her transfer to America as an exchange student, her bedroom. It all seemed so distant. Already she found it hard to recall the exact locations of things, they were fuzzy around the edges making her unsure. In good time she would forget all together.
When she looked up, his eyes had sleepily opened. Zoe lifted a hand, brushing the tufts of hair from his eyes. “You should think about a hair cut,” she grinned. Actually she liked his hair like that.
“Most hairdressers don’t make house calls where I live,” he mumbled sleepily, his lips pulled in a faint grin.
Zoe felt herself slip deeper into those eyes that seemed to suck her in like quicksand, paralysing her. Zoe had never been one to flippantly giver herself up to any guy. In actual fact she had never given herself up to a guy. Sure some had been interested but Zoe hated the notion of one night stands, which seemed to be all that they were interested in. And partially due to her upbringing, plus her large personal space bubble, Zoe had kept all guys she knew well at bay. Sure she fantasised about James Halford but only because she knew they were just that, fantasies. He would never look at her.
And yet, lying here feeling Josiah’s breath brush across her skin, his long fingers stroking their way down her thighs leaving trails of fire in their wake, his toes brushing the soles of her feet, it didn’t feel wrong. It felt right. Like she had unknowingly knocked back all those guys for this one moment. Like it was-
“Destiny?” Josiah supplied.
Zoe blushed. She forget he could hear her thoughts. “Can you not do that?”
“Listen to your thoughts?” Josiah smirked. “Sorry. They’re so interesting, plus it explains the burning smell around here.”
Zoe gasped, feigning outrage as she tried to hit him. Josiah rolled away and scooted up the beach surprisingly quick for someone who spent most of their time with a tail. For some reason she expected him to be slow, like seals when taken out of the water. Zoe sat up and grinned at him.
“I’m going to find breakfast,” he grinned.
“Ok,” Zoe nodded.
They stared into one another’s eyes for a second before he turned and padded down the beach, leaving Zoe watching his bare bottom wander out of sight. Zoe flopped onto her back with a ecstatic grin. She had never been so deliriously happy in all her life.
After laying in the shade of the palm tree for a few minutes, listening to the whoosh-hiss of the waves crash on the beach, Zoe got bored. Deciding to go in search of Josiah she got up and began to follow the only set of footprints along the beach. They turned abruptly in land where she lost them. The interior was cool and shady, the breeze stirring through the palm fronds that clashed together like distant maracas. Her feet swished through the earthy smelling leaf litter as she suddenly spotted Josiah.
She suddenly spied him, high up in a mango tree which she thought could get painful if he slipped he could knock some bark off and not necessarily off the tree. She couldn’t’t help but smile at the comical and surprisingly nimble way he scrambled about.
“Hey,” she called out.
Josiah looked around and nearly over balanced. For half a second Zoe thought she would have to catch him but he caught himself on a branch. “Don’t do that!” he gasped.
“What startle you?” Zoe grinned.
“No. Well yes. You made me look down,” Josiah carefully braced himself against a branch as he began to make his way to the ground.
“Your not afraid of heights?” Zoe stared up at him incredulously. A merman who had a fear of heights, now there’s something you don’t hear everyday.
“Ever since I was really little. I love climbing trees but it scares the hell out of me,” he grinned sheepishly over his shoulder. “I guess I do it for kicks more than anything. Or breakfast.”
Within a few seconds he was back on the ground with two mangos which he handed to Zoe. After examining it for a few seconds, Zoe sank her teeth into the bitter skin and began to pull the flesh off. The insides were soft and juicy. Josiah made short work of his mango, throwing the pip over one shoulder and wiping the juice from his chin.
Zoe was about to bite into the flesh again when she realized he was looking at her, his eyes wide and a steady smile creasing across his lips. With a flash of cheekiness he dipped his head and pressed his warm lips against hers, Zoe tossing aside her half eaten mango and throwing her arms around his neck. Zoe kissed him, feeling his hands slip down her back leaving trails of fire in its wake. Her heart throbbed, seemingly in her throat making it difficult to breath.
Laughter suddenly rang out through the trees as Zoe pulled away staring about in horror. Up until now they had been alone on the island but as she spotted two figures pushing their way through the undergrowth towards them she realized that this was no longer the case.
The two females stood at roughly the same height with the same pale skin and jet black hair that shone like a crow’s wing as it swept past their waists. Both had lean figures, though the one that looked older had more curves but still paired with a slim body. They didn’t looked anything like Josiah but then Zoe noted their eyes glowed the same grey-blue and they both had the same snubbed nose as Josiah.
It only took Zoe a matter of seconds to make the leap that they must be his sisters even though they didn’t look all that similar they were laughing in the way that siblings do when they catch the other up to no good. Moments after that she made the next leap that therefore they must also be mermaids. This fact seemed to be backed up by the fact that their hair hung dripping wet and tousled and also Zoe had heard no boats so the only way they could had arrived was from the ocean. Oh and the fact they were completely butt naked, bar the hedges which gave scant coverage.
“I cant believe you just kissed him and didn’t upchuck,” the younger one laughed.
Zoe stared blankly from the two girls. “Uhh do you know these two?” she asked him.
He nodded sheepishly. “They’re my sisters.”
“Son! There you are! We swam the seven seas trying to find you,” a shorter, older woman rushed in. She had tufty, dark blonde almost brown hair that fell to the middle of her back and plenty of beads as well. And yes, she was naked too. Zoe had never remembered seeing quite this many nude people in one spot.
“Hey, he’s over here we found him!” yelled a male barrelling through the hedges. He had dark hair, dark eyes and stood taller and broader than Josiah. He didn’t appear to be related by blood to Josiah but she could tell by the way he roughed Josiah up that he was somehow related.
“He is! Holy smokes!” the last to barrel in was clearly the patriarch of the bunch. He entered from the opposite direction to everyone else as Zoe turned and eyed him. He had grey hair that slicked back over his head, sagging skin and grey eyes that eyed Zoe with suspicion. He stalked up to her, looked her in the eye and then at Josiah who looked sheepish. The others had fallen quiet. “Who is that?” he directed at Josiah.
“That’s Zoe,” he chuckled nervously.
“I didn’t ask you what her name was,” he said sharply. Zoe backed away a step, this dude did not seem happy.
Josiah winced and came over. “I….well she was dead and in that crash so I bit her.”
There was an outbreak of contempt as the younger sister rolled her eyes, the older called him an idiot, the other male groaned and his mother she supposed he was merely gave him a look. The older male who she guessed was his father rounded on Josiah and folded his arms.
“You didn’t,” he said flatly. Josiah managed a grin and nodded with a humorous shrug.
“I don’t get it? He saved my life,” Zoe broke in.
“The only way for Mer-folk to attain immortality is to bite a human,” the older sister muttered darkly.
Zoe looked around at Josiah who grinned sheepishly. “He probably only did it because you was an easy target,” his other sister snorted.
“That’s not true!” Josiah broke in angrily.
“Oh right like you love her or something,” the older sister retorted.
“I do!” Josiah bit at the same precise moment Zoe said “He does.”
“Stay out of this land dweller,” his father said not even looking at her. “She is a person. She may have a tail and she may breath underwater but she is not one of us. You will take her to the fifth reef, the people are there looking at the crash. They will take her back to her people.”
Zoe blinked in horror and Josiah gasped. “No father. She is one of us now she has the mark of the-”
“Son. I am aware of that. I don’t want to banish you because your young and your stupid, most of the time. She can survive out of water but you cant. But that doesn’t mean I wont banish you to the land if you push me there,” he said, his eyes dark and his voice deadly calm.
“You cant make me take her-,” Josiah raged, his blue eyes flashing.
Zoe grabbed his arm. “No. He’s right.”
The whole group seemed to stare at her in surprise as Josiah looked down at her. Zoe nodded. “I will return to the land and I promise not to say anything about what I have seen.”
His father looked surprised and somewhat smug. “A wise land dweller. There’s a change,” he mused. He then turned to his seemingly errant son. “You will take her back immediately.”
Josiah nodded in defeat and took Zoe’s hand. Zoe cast a glance over her shoulder at his family stood on the beach watching them leave before looking back at the ocean. The sun had risen into the clear blue sky as Josiah dived in. Zoe followed him and swam hurriedly after him as he led her to the gap in the reef. They swam in silence past his hideout and beyond that reef. Instead of veering to the right where the crash site stood they followed the currents off to the left where one would naturally float to.
After swimming for ages they came to the reef. It soared out of the ocean bed, the waves foaming and crashing above them. The water was clear and blue, schools of silvery fish darting and wheeling through the water. Josiah stopped swimming and looked back at her.
“Why? Why did you let them send you back? We could have done so much together,” his voice echoed in her head, the sadness profound in his eyes.
Zoe shrugged, staring down at his hand. “Maybe they are right. We are two different species and I am from the land.”
“Yes but you could learn. I could teach you so much about the sea,” he said. “Or I could follow you to land and you-”
“Your Dad said you wouldn’t survive,” Zoe pointed out.
“Ok I should explain that. We can live out of water, we just have to soak our skin for at least an hour a day otherwise we do dry up and die. We have to keep really hydrated but we can and do live out of water,” Josiah explained.
“So I could have a mermaid as a neighbour?” Zoe blinked.
Josiah managed a vague chuckle but he still looked sad. “You wouldn’t know any different unless you saw their dorsal marking because merfolks keep their dorsal patterns even without the tail.”
“Will I have to remain hydrated and soak my fins?” she asked.
Josiah shrugged. “Not as much as a true mermaid. You could probably go a few days without having to soak and you would be fine.”
Zoe nodded softly, watching a clownfish behind Josiah dive in and out his purple anemone home. She wanted to stay and learn. But more than anything she wanted to be with him, to wake up on a deserted island in the arms of a merman. She didn’t want to leave but she realized that his family was right. They were two different species. She sighed. His father had a point though and she didn’t want to make trouble for him.
“Once you get up on that rock, your fins will dry and people have been coming through here. They will see you and take you-,” he paused, trying to spit out the last word. “Home.”
“Yeah,” Zoe nodded dully.
Zoe looked at him sadly and then threw her arms around him. He tightly wrapped his arms around her waist as she curled her tail around his. She could feel his heart hammering in his chest as the current rocked them gently. She didn’t want to leave. She wanted to stay in his arms like this forever. Slowly he pulled away and stared down at her, unwinding one arm from around his neck. Gently he ran a thumb over her birth mark, the fishes tail on the inside of her wrist.
“I will always remember you by this,” he said softly.
Zoe leaned up and kissed him passionately. After a few moments she pulled away and despite himself he was smiling. “Forget the birthmark, I will remember you by that night on the beach.”
His silly, goosy laugh rang in her head as he grinned slyly. “Ok. Remember me by that then.”
Underwater, sound carries a long way so they both heard the boat long before it would appear on the horizon. “Theres my boat,” Zoe sighed.
“I’ll give you a push,” he said.
They both popped out of the water just as the boat appeared on the horizon. It was a search boat Zoe noted as Josiah pushed her onto the single rock that jutted out of the water. She could feel the sun hit her maroon fin as the pins and needles spread through her fin. Within a couple of minutes she had her legs back as Josiah stared at her from the water. Zoe rubbed the last vestiges of scales from her calves just as she heard a splash. She didn’t know if it was the wind but she heard a voice say ‘I love you’ just as she spotted his peacock green tail vanish through the water.
Zoe looked up, the boat drawing ever closer. Pulling herself up she waved her arms frantically as the boat slowed. As they drew closer she could see the disbelief on their faces, maybe because they thought there was no survivors or because she was naked. On a rock. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean. She didn’t know.
She was hurriedly pulled on board, wrapped in towels and given a corn beef sandwich, the only food they had on board. One of the men on board who had a first aid course checked her over and then an hour later checked her over again. They were all in awe as she told them that she had survived only because she was inside the dunny. But instead of telling them she was rescued by a merman because she couldn’t’t get the door undone she simply told them the door had ripped off with the impact and she swam out, clinging to a piece of wreckage until she came to this rock. They couldn’t’t believe at how well she was. No dehydration, no injuries and not even starved.
Very soon her miraculous story reached land. The only survivor of the doomed flight who had survived inside the dunny. It was a bit nerve racking flying back to Australia but her parents were at the airport waiting for her, tears streaming down their faces. They embraced her wildly. They thought she was dead.
The news crews went wild. So far it seemed that it wasn’t terrorism, which always seemed to be the first conclusion that the media drew when crashes occurred, but a mechanical failure. Either way heads were gonna roll and Zoe would prove to be vital in solving the crash. But that would be later. For now they wanted Zoe to rest, recover, talk to the shrink her parents had hired and return to her life. Zoe fell asleep on the drive from the airport to their home in Ipswich and had to be carried inside by her Dad. When she looked on the porch there were balloons, cards, teddies and flowers, some still reading with sympathy but most reading ‘Welcome Home’.
Two of her friends had left messages, mostly saying how lucky she had been with as many expletives as possible. Most of the messages came from work, her old school and relatives. Her mum ordered pizza as Zoe numbly read through the cards and letters. They ate pizza with the telly off, Zoe didn’t’t want to see herself of the news. It would just be weird. After two bits of pizza, some ice-cream and fizzy drinks Zoe bid her parents goodnight and wandered into her room.
She stood for along time just staring at her room. Her black and red bed spread, her throw cushions, her teddies, her white antique stained furniture feeling like she had stumbled into someone else’s life. Had this been her? Had she hung those Evanesece posters? Were those her leather goth boots?
Zoe suddenly realized that for so long she had been living under the shadow of someone who people wanted her to be. And yet a brush with death had changed her mind. No longer would she be Zoe the goth. She would be Zoe Lawinsky. Herself. No one else. Those people she called friends didn’t care about her so why should she care about them?
Flicking the light off, she crawled into her bed and had nearly closed her eyes when she spotted a mermaid snow globe that had been given to her one Christmas. With a sudden rush it all came back. Picking it up, she shook the snow inside and felt tears sting the back of her eyes. Josiah. Was he thinking of her? She didn’t know. All she knew was that she missed him. Terribly.