Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton (2 page)

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
3.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“Like what?” he says, but she’s already hung up.

He turns to Grom, who is holding a picture frame in his hands. His brother traces the outline of Nalia’s face with his finger. “How is this possible?” he says softly.

“It’s called a photograph,” Galen says. “Humans can capture any moment of time in this thing they call a—”

Grom shakes his head. “No. That’s not what I mean.”

“Oh. What do you mean?”

Grom holds up the picture. It’s an up-close black-and-white photo of Nalia’s face, probably taken by a professional photographer. “This is Nalia.” He runs a hand through his hair, a trait he and Galen inherited from their father. “How is it possible that she’s still alive and I’m just now learning of it?”

Galen lets out a breath. He doesn’t have an answer. Even if he did, it’s not his place to tell his brother. It’s Nalia’s place. Nalia’s responsibility.
And good luck getting it out of her
. “I’m sorry, Grom. But she wouldn’t tell us anything.”

3

THE MORE
I stare at it, the more the popcorn ceiling above me resembles an exquisite mosaic. Yellow rings from a leaky roof add pizazz to the imperfect white mounds; the reflection of a parked car outside the hotel room highlights the design in a brilliant, abstract pattern. I try to find a name for this provocative image and decide on “Cottage Cheese, Glorified.”

And that’s when it becomes obvious that I’m distracting myself from thinking about the U-turn my life just took. I wonder if Galen is back yet. I wonder what he’s thinking. I wonder if Rayna is okay, if she has a killer headache like I do, if chloroform affects a full-blooded Syrena the way it affects humans. I bet that now she really will try to shoot my mom with her harpoon, which reminds me again of the past twenty-four hours of craziness.

The scenes from the previous night replay in my head, a collection of snapshots my memory took between heartbeats:

Beat.

Galen reaching his hands in the dishwater. “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do, Nalia.”

Beat.

A flash of Galen grabbing Mom’s sudsy wrist.

Beat.

An image of Mom growling as Galen turns her around in his arms.

Beat.

A still life of Mom flinging her head back, making contact with Galen’s forehead.

Beat.

A shot of Galen slamming into the fridge, scattering a lifetime’s motley collection of magnets onto the floor.

Beat.

Beat, beat, beat.

The still shots become live action.

Mom attaches to him like static cling, the knife poised midair, ready to fillet him like a cod. I scream. Something big and important sounding shatters behind me. The sound of raining glass drowns me out.

And it’s that one second that Galen needs. Distracted, Mom turns her head, giving Galen a breadth of space to dodge the blade. Instead of his flesh, she stabs the blade into the fridge. The knife slips from her soapy hands and clinks to the floor.

Beat … Beat.

We all watch it spin, as if what happens next depends on which direction it stops. As if the blade will choose who will make the next move. It feels like an intermission from delirium, a chance for sanity to sneak in and take hold. Ha.

Toraf passes me in a blur, bits of what used to be our bay window sparkling in his hair like sequins. And just like that, sanity retreats like a spooked bird. Toraf tackles my mother and they sprawl onto the linoleum in a sickening melody of wet squeaking and soft grunting. Galen kicks the knife into the hallway then belly flops onto them. The tornadic bundle of legs and arms and feet and hands push farther into the kitchen until only the occasional flailing limb is visible from the living room, where I can’t believe I’m still standing.

A spectator in my own life, I watch the supernova of my two worlds colliding: Mom and Galen. Human and Syrena. Poseidon and Triton. But what can I do? Who should I help? Mom, who lied to me for eighteen years, then tried to shank my boyfriend? Galen, who forgot this little thing called “tact” when he accused my mom of being a runaway fish-princess? Toraf, who … what the heck is Toraf doing, anyway? And did he really just sack my mom like an opposing quarterback?

The urgency level for a quick decision elevates to right-freaking-now. I decide that screaming is still best for everyone—it’s nonviolent, distracting, and one of the things I’m very, very good at.

I open my mouth, but Rayna beats me to it—only, her scream is much more valuable than mine would have been, because she includes words with it. “Stop it right now, or I’ll kill you all!” She pushes past me with a decrepit, rusty harpoon from God-knows-what century, probably pillaged from one of her shipwreck excursions. She waves it at the three of them like a crazed fisherman in a
Jaws
movie. I hope they don’t notice she’s got it pointed backward and that if she fires it, she’ll skewer our couch and Grandma’s first attempt at quilting.

It works. The bare feet and tennis shoes stop scuffling—out of fear or shock, I’m not sure—and Toraf’s head appears at the top of the counter. “Princess,” he says, breathless. “I told you to stay outside.”

“Emma, run!” Mom yells.

Toraf disappears again, followed by a symphony of scraping and knocking and thumping and cussing.

Rayna rolls her eyes at me, grumbling to herself as she stomps into the kitchen. She adjusts the harpoon to a more deadly position, scraping the popcorn ceiling and sending rust and Sheetrock and tetanus flaking onto the floor like dirty snow. Aiming it at the mound of struggling limbs, she says, “One of you is about to die, and right now I don’t really care who it is.”

Thank God for Rayna. People like Rayna get things done. People like me watch people like Rayna get things done. Then people like me round the corner of the counter as if they helped, as if they didn’t stand there and let everyone they love beat the shizzle out of one another.

I peer down at the three of them all tangled up. Crossing my arms, I try to mimic Rayna’s impressive rage, but I’m pretty sure my face is only capable of what-the-crap-was-that.

Mom looks up at me, nostrils flaring like moth wings. “Emma, I told you to run,” she grinds out before elbowing Toraf in the mouth so hard I think he might swallow a tooth. Then she kicks Galen in the ribs.

He groans, but catches her foot before she can re-up. Toraf spits blood on the linoleum beside him and grabs Mom’s arms. She writhes and wriggles, bristling like a trapped badger and cussing like a sailor on crack.

Mom has never been girlie.

Finally she stops, her arms and legs slumping to the floor in defeat. Tears puddle in her eyes. “Let her go,” she sobs. “She’s got nothing to do with this. She doesn’t even know about us. Take me and leave her out of this. I’ll do anything.”

Which reinforces, right here and now, that my mom is Nalia. Nalia is my mom. Also, holy crap.

“Emma, you can’t ignore me forever. Look at me.”

This startles me. I pull my gaze from the decrepit ceiling and settle it on my fruitcake mother. “I’m not ignoring you,” I tell her, which is the truth. I’m aware of every infinitesimal move she makes. Since I woke up, she’s crossed and uncrossed her legs six times while sitting at the mini-table by the door. She’s tightened her ponytail eight times. And she’s peeked out the window twelve times. I figure it’s my duty as a captive to keep tabs on my kidnapper.

Mom crosses her legs again, and leans forward on her forearms, resting her chin on one hand. She looks tired when she says, “We need to talk about all this.”

At first, I snort. Then the absurdity of the statement—the
understatement
—really takes hold, and I start to laugh. In fact, I laugh so hard that the headboard taps the wall with each out-of-breath giggle. She lets me go on for a long time, clutching my own stomach, filling and emptying my lungs until I reach a natural pause in my amusement. I wipe away the tears of unjoy before they stain the hideous, stiff bedspread.

Mom starts to shake her leg, which is her sitting-down version of foot tapping. “Are you finished?”

I sit up, rippling the bedspread around me like a flash-frozen lake. The room spins, which is on my top-ten list of unpleasant scenarios. “With what, exactly?”

“I need you to be serious right now.”

“Probably you shouldn’t have drugged me, then.”

She rolls her eyes and waves in dismissal. “It was chloroform. You’ll be fine.”

“And Rayna?”

She knows what I’m asking, and she nods. “She should be waking up right about now.” Mom sits back in her chair. “That girl has the personality of a mako shark.”

“Says the nut job who chloroformed her own daughter.”

She sighs. “One day you’ll understand why I did that. Today is obviously not that day.”

“No, no, no,” I say, palming the air with the universal “don’t even” sign. “You don’t get to play the responsible parent card. Let’s not forget the little matter of the last eighteen-freaking-years,
Nalia.
” There. I said it. This conversation is finally going to happen. I can tell by the expression on her face, by the way her mouth puckers in guilt.

Nalia, the Poseidon princess, folds her hands in her lap with irritating calm. “And it would appear that you’ve been keeping a few secrets yourself. I’m ready to show and tell, if you are.”

I lean back on my elbows. “My secrets are your secrets, remember?”

“No.” She shakes her head. “I’m not talking about what you are. I’m talking about who you’ve been with. And what they’ve been telling you.”

“Galen told you everything before he left to get Grom. You know as much as I do.”

“Oh, Emma,” she says, her tone saturated with pity. “They’re lying. Grom is dead.”

This is unexpected. “Why would you think that?”

“Because I killed him.”

I feel my eyes get wide. “Um. What?”

“It was an accident, and it was a long time ago. But I’m sure your new friends don’t believe that. Galen and Toraf didn’t leave to get Grom, Emma. I’m positive they were bringing a Syrena party back to arrest me. Why else would they leave Rayna behind to guard me?”

“Because you were acting like a psycho?”

“If only it were that.”

It takes a few minutes to process this and Mom gives me some space from the conversation to do it. Over and over, I repeat to myself that Mom thinks Grom is dead. Like, really and truly believes that he is. Which forces me to reconsider a few things.

I’ve never actually seen Grom. All I know about him is what Galen told me. Thing is, Galen has lied to me before. My gut somersaults with the realization that he could still be lying. But why would he? To make sure I didn’t help Mom escape?

Could Galen and Toraf be so terrible that they would trick me again, in order to have my mother arrested?

On the other hand, I can’t forget the fact that my own mother lied to me, too. For eighteen-freaking-years. Then she drugged me, kidnapped me, and planted me in some dumpy motel that smells like 1977. Still, it’s the middle of the week, which means I’m missing school and she’s missing work. She wouldn’t just haul us out of our lives if she didn’t think the situation was serious.

More than that, her confession seems to ripen her to old age, to drag down her mouth and eyes and make her whole body sag in the chair. She truly believes Grom is dead.

When she doesn’t say anything else, I shrug at her. “Could you please just tell me everything? This whole one-tidbit-at-a-time thing is killing me.” Seriously.

“Right. Sorry.” She tightens her ponytail for the ninth time. “Okay. Since you know about Grom, I’m assuming you know we were supposed to be mated.”

“Yes. And I know about your argument and the mine explosion.”

My mother’s bottom lip quivers. Mom is not a crier. It’s hard to believe that something that happened so long ago still affects her like this. And I kind of resent it, on behalf of my dad. After all, she’s mourning another man. Well, mer-man. She doesn’t get like this when she talks about my dad, and he’s only been dead for a little more than two years now. To her, Grom has been dead for decades.

“Let me guess. They told you Grom lived through the explosion, right?” She’s almost shaking with anger. “Well, I’m telling you that he didn’t. When I woke up, he was gone. I couldn’t sense him anymore.”

“That’s exactly what Galen said about you. That you were nowhere to be found.”

She mulls over this for a minute, then says, “Emma, when a Syrena dies, you can’t sense them anymore. Grom and I could sense each other half the world apart, sweetie. We were just … connected in that way.”

This hurts me. Galen had said Grom and Nalia seemed meant for each other from the very beginning. I thought it was ridiculously romantic. But that was before I knew Nalia and my mother were the same person.
Did she not care about my dad at all?

“So you didn’t even look for him? You just assumed the worst and headed toward land?” Somehow, it makes me feel a little better to say it like that.

“Emma, I didn’t sense him—”

“Did you ever stop to think the explosion might have messed up your sensing abilities?” I blurt. “Because Galen said Grom’s were screwy for a little while after the explosion. But even the Trackers stopped sensing you.”

She blinks at me. Opens her mouth, then closes it. Then her face gets all red, and I can see the proverbial dead bolt slide into place. So much for show-and-tell. “Grom is dead, Emma. Galen used you to get to me.”

I fling my legs over the side of the bed. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, Emma, that Galen developed this whole little romance with you to earn your trust, to turn you against me. Galen is a Triton Royal, sweetie. There’s no way he would attach himself to…”

“A Half-Breed,” I say, anger and hurt roiling in my stomach. By Syrena standards, Half-Breeds are abominations. I think of all the kisses, the touches, the tingles that passed between me and Galen. The absolute fire I feel when he simply brushes against me by accident. Could he really be capable of acting that way toward someone he truly loathed? He did lie to me before. Could this be another lie? Did he just change his story to keep me hanging on?

BOOK: Of Poseidon 02: Of Triton
3.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Black Duke's Prize by Suzanne Enoch
Slate (Rebel Wayfarers MC) by MariaLisa deMora
Ken Russell's Dracula by Ken Russell
Dust by Turner, Joan Frances
The Scarlet King by Charles Kaluza
Boo Who by Rene Gutteridge