Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton (10 page)

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
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Romul isn’t the only one startled when Grom surges to within an inch of his face. “I don’t know what an Archive might hope to gain from becoming involved with these antics,” Grom says quietly. “But I can assure you, I will protect what’s mine.”

Romul blinks, sways backward. “Yes, please do, Highness. Her Majesty Paca has been awaiting your safe return. It is only fair that you two enjoy some … private time with her before we convene the tribunal.”

With this, Jagen shoves Paca toward Grom. But she never touches him.

Because Nalia slams into her first.

11

IT’S BEEN
two days since Galen and company left, and Rayna’s voice has not come back. Which is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, she’s irritable and anxious and probably doesn’t have anything nice to say. On the other, I’m lonely, so even if we were bickering, I’d welcome the distraction.

Rachel has been mothering me and Rayna to death. Even though she’s got a broken toe, Mom set her up with one of those air-cast things so she hobbles around the house cooking and cleaning and probably sharpening her knives and polishing her Chinese throwing stars or something. I don’t know if she’s one of those people who stays insanely busy to keep from thinking about things, or if she just has adult-onset ADD, but whatever the case, she’s become overwhelming. Even Rayna thinks so.

“Why can’t I go to school with you?” Rayna whispers, but her normal voice comes through the rasp only sometimes, so it sounds like she’s undergoing puberty. “If Galen can do it then I can. I’m smarter than him.”

I haven’t even had the chance to put my backpack down and we’re having this argument again. We talked about this fifty-six times already. I know she’s anxious and needs a distraction and watching television will only hold in her bottled-up tantrum for so long. But taking her to school is
so
not a good idea. She already caused a scene with the repairmen who came to fix the shattered-by-Toraf bay window in my living room yesterday. Sure, she tried to whisper, but whispering, among many other things, isn’t her specialty, and
especially
not now that she sounds like she’s yodeling every sentence. But the glass installation guy did not appreciate her remark—which, in her defense, she
had
been trying to
privately
yodel to me—that his nose resembled a lobster claw. “A big one.”

I can only imagine what kind of damage she would cause at school. She doesn’t know how to play things cool like Galen. Her brain doesn’t have that “inappropriate” filter, either. After all, that’s why she was left behind in the first place. If she’s not fit for the Syrena world right now, I’m not risking exposing her to the human world.

Oh sure, she looks innocent enough right now, surfing the channels on the humongloid flat screen above the fireplace. But I remember not too long ago that there was a
different
flat screen hanging on the wall—and that it had to be replaced with the current one because she picked a fight with me that ended with a literal storm unfurling in the living room and damaging everything.

Rachel shuffles to Rayna and snatches the remote from her. Turning off the television, she says, “I think we should take a trip.”

“I have school,” I say. “My guidance counselor is already breathing down my neck about my attendance. Besides, I’m tired of traveling.” Understatement of the century.

“I don’t want to go anywhere in case Toraf—in case anyone comes back for me,” Rayna protests.

“Then why are you begging to go to school with me?”

She shrugs. “Rachel would come get me if they came back. But if we all leave, then there’ll be no one to come get me.”

Rachel crosses her arms. “Well, here’s the thing, my little queens. I’m going nuts sitting here waiting to see what happens and I think you are, too. Besides, tomorrow’s Friday and it just so happens that they’ve invented these things called airplanes that can take you anywhere in no time flat.”

Rayna perks up. “You mean we get to
fly
somewhere?”

“Where?” I whine. “I’m not exactly in the mood for Disney World and I doubt your foot could—”

“I think it’s high time I met Dr. Milligan,” Rachel says, raising her chin slightly. “I could use a day or two of room service and at the very least, Dr. Milligan could take a look at Rayna’s throat.”

“Really? We can fly there?” Rayna looks at me, her eyes full of all kinds of excited. “I’ve been in the water and been on land, but I’ve never
flown
before.”

I remember the effect flying had on Galen—projectile puking, anyone?—and I’m not really in the mood to be cleaning up Rayna’s brand of upchuck. Still, she has this desperate look about her that I can’t find it in my heart to ignore. “Fine.” I sigh. “You can have the window seat.”

Rayna claps like a seal as Rachel walks back to the kitchen. “I’ll book the flights for tomorrow after you get home from school. No layovers though. I’m not walking all over the airport with a bum leg.”

Rayna bites her lip. “What if someone comes back for us while we’re gone?”

“Toraf has a cell phone here and knows how to use it, sweetie,” Rachel calls over her shoulder. “No sweat.”

* * *

Rayna does not get sick on planes. Also, Rayna does not stop talking on planes. By the time we land at Okaloosa Regional Airport, I’m wondering if I’ve spoken as many words in my entire life as she did on the plane. With no layovers, it was the longest forty-five minutes of my whole freaking existence.

I can tell Rachel’s nerves are also fringed. She orders an SUV limo—Rachel never does anything small—to pick us up and insists that Rayna try the complimentary champagne. I’m fairly certain it’s the first alcoholic beverage Rayna’s ever had, and by the time we reach the hotel on the beach, I’m all the way certain.

As Rayna snores in the seat across from me, Rachel checks us into the hotel and has our bags taken to our room. “Do you want to head over to the Gulfarium now?” she asks. “Or, uh, rest up a bit and wait for Rayna to wake up?”

This is an important decision. Personally, I’m not tired at all and would love to see a liquored-up Rayna negotiate the stairs at the Gulfarium. But I’d feel a certain guilt if she hit her hard head on a wooden rail or something and then we’d have to pay the Gulfarium for the damages her thick skull would surely cause. Plus, I’d have to suffer a reproving look from Dr. Milligan, which might actually hurt my feelings because he reminds me a bit of my dad.

So, I decide to do the right thing. “Let’s rest for a while and let her snap out of it. I’ll call Dr. Milligan and let him know we’ve checked in.”

Two hours later, Sleeping Beast wakes up and we head to see Dr. Milligan. Rayna is particularly grouchy when hungover—can you even get hungover from drinking champagne?—so she’s not terribly inclined to be nice to the security guard who lets us in. She mutters something under her breath—thank God she doesn’t have a real voice—and pushes past him like the spoiled Royalty she is.

I’m just about aggravated beyond redemption—until we see Dr. Milligan in a new exhibit of stingrays. He coos and murmurs as if they’re a litter of puppies in the tank begging to play with him. When he notices our arrival he smiles, and it feels like a coconut slushy on a sweltering day and it almost makes up for the crap I’ve been put through these past few days.

Dr. Milligan looks past me and smiles twice as wide. “You must be the famous Rachel, who Galen speaks so highly of.”

Rachel laughs. No, the woman
giggles
and she all but waltzes with an air cast up to Dr. Milligan and extends her hand to him. “Famous? Or infamous?”

That’s when Rayna and I exchange eye rolls. If this isn’t insta-attraction, I don’t know what is. And why, why, why I think of it this way I’m not sure, but since Dr. Milligan sort of reminds me of my dad, then this insta-googly-eye thing reminds me of Grom and my mother and how they were drawn to each other like magnets. So in a way, it’s like my dad—only it’s not really my dad, of course—has found someone else to keep him company. And I don’t know how I feel about it.

Which is pretty stupid, since this is Dr. Milligan and Rachel and it’s not my business to feel anything about it at all. Also, I should probably grow up soon or I’m going to go freaking crazy.

“Oh, no,” Dr. Milligan continues, oblivious to my internal tantrum. “Definitely famous. He adores you, you know.”

This is when Rayna pinches me. “What’s your problem?” she hisses. Rayna is more observant than I thought. I do not like that Rayna is more observant than I thought.

But I don’t have to answer because Dr. Milligan and Rachel snap out of it and try to tend to me just like Galen and Mom did.
This has got to stop
.

“Oh, my dear Emma, are you all right? You do look a bit peaked,” Dr. Milligan sings.

I wave him off. “I’m fine. Just happy to be here again. Do you still have Lucky?” Lucky is the beached dolphin the Gulfarium rescued this summer. I like to think I’d bonded with him the last time I was here.

“Of course. We wouldn’t release him without allowing you a proper good-bye.”

We make our way to the dolphin tank and for some reason I’m nervous about seeing Lucky again. I hope he remembers me. At the same time I realize it would crush me if he didn’t, I also realize that I’m getting more emotional by the second. It’s like everything in life has become a symbol somehow and I’m reading too much into it.

Grow up, grow up, grow up
.

I do grow up, right before I reach my hand into the tank. Lucky remembers me, nuzzling me with his cute little nose. “Did you miss me?” I ask him. And I swear that dolphin nods.

“I missed you, too,” I tell him. “Have you learned any new tricks while I was away?”

It turns out Lucky has adapted a bit better since our last meeting. Last time he was sad and homesick, it seemed. This time he seems … he seems at home. Before I can allow myself to search for the symbolism in that, Lucky presents me with a soccer ball.

“Emma, do you want to come with us when Dr. Milligan examines Rayna?” Rachel asks. I don’t miss her meaning.

I pet Lucky. “I’ll be back, Lucky. Then we’ll play.”

As I pass Rachel to go back down the steps, she pulls me aside. “Is that for real? That dolphin understands what you’re saying? Seriously?”

Dr. Milligan chuckles. “Oh, this is going to be fun.”

Rayna tugs on his arm. “But me first,” she rasps.

“Of course, my dear. Of course. Rachel, won’t you join us in the examination room?”

* * *

“Goodness, child.” Dr. Milligan unclicks the pen light. “Your tonsils are so swollen.”

“Is that good?” Rayna asks.

“I’m afraid not. Your vocal cords could be damaged. Has this sort of thing ever happened before?”

Rayna genuinely thinks for a moment. “I’m not sure what you mean by vocal cords, but I lost my voice once when I yelled at Toraf. But it wasn’t this bad and it didn’t last this long,” she croaks. “Can you fix me?”

Dr. Milligan cocks his head. “I’m not sure. Have you been screaming at Toraf recently? You know you’re quite hard on him at times.”

“Did Galen tell you that? It’s just his opinion, you know.”

“Galen has mentioned it a time or two.” He taps her chin, coaxing her to open her mouth again. Good thing Rachel told her to pop some mints before we came. “Hmmmm,” he says. “There seems to be a tear at the top of your mouth. No, not a tear really. It’s too …
neat
to be a tear. It’s more like a hole. A perfect hole has opened up in your mouth. I’m quite certain it wasn’t there before.” He clicks off the pen light, thoughtful. “Do you know what it reminds me of?”

Rayna shakes her head, eyes wide.

“It reminds me of the hole whales use to make sound. Tell me something, Rayna dear. Does it hurt?”

“What do you mean?”

“Does it hurt to try to talk, for instance? Does it hurt when you don’t try to talk? Do you remember what you were doing when you lost your voice?”

Rayna crosses her arms. “No, it doesn’t hurt. I just can’t talk, I can only whisper. I mean, I think I’m talking normal, but only a whisper comes out instead. And, yes, I
do
remember what I was doing when I lost it. Oh yes I do. I
had
been screaming, just not at Toraf. But screaming doesn’t hurt. It usually makes me feel better, actually. Except—” Then she all but accuses me with her eyes.

Oh, lovely
. But I guess if anyone should be explaining it, it should be me. “My mom … My mom used chloroform on her. To knock her out.” I could have put it delicately and fancied it up for Dr. Milligan’s sake, but secretly I wanted to see the horror on his face. Not.

“I … I see. And how … how did she ‘use’ the chloroform on her?” There are a million other questions on his face, too, but Dr. Milligan is a patient, sequential-order type of person.

“Same way she used it on me, I guess,” I tell him. “She put a rag over our faces until we fell asleep.” I pause, wait for the shock to subside on his face. “Do you think the chloroform burned a hole in her mouth maybe?”

“Hmm. No, I don’t think so. The tissues around it aren’t damaged. It appears to be a natural development.”

“Does Galen have a hole like this?” Rayna says.

Dr. Milligan purses his lips. “I’ve recently examined Galen, and he does not have a hole there. Why do you ask? Did he lose his voice as well?”

Rayna does not like this answer. “I wish. But I was thinking that maybe he would have one, too, since we’re twins and all.”

Dr. Milligan chuckles. “This is one thing you don’t share, dear. You get to be the special twin.”

“Special means different,” she says.

Welcome to the Freak Club, I want to tell her. But because it looks like she’s genuinely distressed, not to mention hungover still, I give her a break. There will be plenty of time later to use this against her in an argument. After all, she’s lightning quick to call me a dirty Half-Breed.

“Will my voice come back?” Rayna says.

“I think so,” Dr. Milligan says. “In fact, I can’t really see why this hole would be affecting your ability to vocalize as it is. Just to be safe though, I think you should refrain from talking as much as possible. Just until the swelling goes down. I can give you some anitbiotics for that, too, in case you have an underlying infection I’m not seeing.”

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
7.35Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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