Girl in the Mermaid Tail – Part 4
Wow! It has been a busy week with extra hours at the survival job while co-workers went on holiday. But I was not so busy that I could not peruse the internet for a great inspirational quote.
“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”
Vincent Van Gogh
Vince had it right. Paint, write, throw on a pair of roller-skates and get up on that Karaoke stage!
Now that you’ve been inspired let us get to the next installation of Girl in the Mermaid Tail. Once again, my disclaimer: this piece is still in edit so don’t slam me too hard 😉 Also, due to my inability to “unpublished” an older, crappy version, please, do NOT purchase the current version of this story from Amazon. I will advise you when a revised edition is available. Thank you.
Until Monday, Write On!
~K. L. Parry
Girl in the Mermaid Tail
by K. L. Parry
From far away Jade heard the alarms sound – beeping and buzzing, alerting those watching. Jade willed them to silence then returned to her dreams.
She woke to the voice of Sponge Bob shouting out from the living room TV – the Screamers were up and at their regular Saturday morning routine. Had it not been for the growl in her stomach, Jade would have stayed in bed.
In the kitchen, she found her cousin preparing breakfast for her twins while Katy Perry sang “Teenage Dream” through the countertop radio. The song had been one of Jade’s favorites; “had” being the operative word. Now, little gave her pleasure.
“Want some Lucky Charms?” Sandra asked.
“I’d rather eat a Styrofoam cup.”
“Sorry, all out of those – but I’ll put ‘em on the list if you like?” Unperturbed, Sandra picked up two bowls brimming with cereal and milk and carried them into the dining room.
Jade watched her cousin, perplexed as she sat the bowls on the table then slid them into place before the two girls. “Couldn’t you do that at the table?”
“Do what, Jade? What is it you want from me?”
“I just think it’d make more sense to fill the bowls at the dining table instead of carrying them full, all the way across the kitchen.”
“I didn’t spill any if that’s what you’re worried about.” Sandra took a seat and began flipping through a magazine while her girls eagerly went at their breakfast, separating out marshmallows from cereal – the marshmallows to eat first.
Jade shook her head, resigned to the fact that her 23-year-old cousin would never take her advice. It was not surprising. Most adults were the same – thinking they knew best – though she hardly considered Sandra an adult, and only by default for getting pregnant at 17 and becoming a mother the day after her 18th birthday. But, Sandra Tucker was the only acceptable option. Had she not agreed to move to Las Vegas, Jade would be living in Atlanta with June Wilkins; another one of the Georgia Tuckers, and that would have been completely unacceptable.
“They won’t let me in to see my dad, so I need you to go with me today.” Jade stated.
“Would it kill you to say, please?” Sandra looked up from her magazine. “Or, thank you for that matter. I mean, really. Of course I’ll take you, but just once, could you ask me nicely?”
“Thank you, Mommy,” one of the twins piped up, her face sticky with milk.
“My little sweet pea, you are welcome.” Sandra turned her attention back to Jade. “I know this situation isn’t easy for you. It’s not easy for me either. You’re a teenager and so far I’ve only experience with infants and toddlers; so lighten up a little.” Sandra took a sip of her Pepsi then turned back to her magazine.
It never occurred to Jade that her cousin might be having a hard time with their arrangement, but Sandra had not lost her mother.
Jade took her breakfast in the kitchen then she went back to her room. She thought to spend the morning perusing You Tube until it was time to leave for the hospital when she caught sight of the mermaid tail; on the floor in the corner where she had flung it during yesterday’s rant. It gave her an idea.
Intent on avoiding the Screamers who seemed to delight in inserting themselves into her every activity, Jade snuck from her room – swimsuit on, towel and tail in arm. Quietly she crossed the hall and into what was once her parent’s bedroom, now occupied by her cousin. From there, she accessed the private bathroom with a door that opened to the backyard.
Outside the air was warm, giving rise to a host of nostalgic images; her father by the salt water pool with test kit in hand; her mother teasing him from her lounge chair. Jade’s eyes began to tear up before she could push back the memories. She blinked them dry, then shimmied into her tail and plunged into the unheated pool. The chill set her teeth on edge but in less than a minute she was working the mono fin.
Unfortunately the waters were frigid and Jade knew she would soon have to abandon the pool for the warmth of a towel. She made one last turn from the steps when she noticed a bright pulsating light glinting off the waters at the furthest end. She had no doubt it was an optical illusion – the sun’s reflection off the water, but something about the angle of it did seem odd.
“Let’s go!” Sandra called from the back door.
Her curiosity forgotten, Jade quickly returned to the steps, peeled off her tail and flung it unceremoniously down to the concrete in her rush back to the house.
The fifteen minute drive in the company of the Screamers was made bearable only by the tightly fitted earphones Jade wore. She would not have survived the car ride without them. When they had arrived at the hospital, it was in a flurry of pink tulle tutus. The twins scattered in opposite directions, their screeches echoing through the expansive high ceilinged lobby.
From her seat behind the front desk, Mrs. Azarian smiled. “Good Morning. How may I help you?”
Sandra answered as she gathered up her girls, taking them each in hand. “We’re here to see Chris Lang.”
The receptionist searched the roster of patient names displayed on her computer. “Lang, Christopher. Yes, he is in room 612. Left from here, down the hall – you’ll find the elevators on your right.”
Jade lingered behind while Sandra moved on, affixing “visitor” badges to herself and the girls.
“Is there something else I can help you with?” the woman asked.
“You seriously don’t remember me.” Jade could hear her cousin calling to her from down the hall.
“I remember everything. Do you?” The woman leveled her gaze. “You should join your family.” She dismissed Jade with a nod turning back to some unseen task.
Jade wanted to tell the woman they were not her family. Sandra and the twins would never be her family and what was left of her family lay in the bed on the sixteenth floor. Instead Jade turned from the desk and called back to her cousin.
Sandra put the car into reverse then began maneuvering it out from the hospital’s parking structure. “I know you don’t want to hear this, but you need to be prepared – you know, in case things get worse.”
Sandra was right. Jade did not want to hear it. Even before the doctor had told her, Jade knew something was wrong. She saw the abnormal readings on the monitors and the nurse’s long looks.
Sandra went on. “I do know what it’s like to lose someone. I was devastated when I got word that Ryan had been killed.”
“Oh my God, Sandra! You didn’t even know the guy. You were with him for two weeks before he went back to Iraq.”
“That’s not true! We were together the whole month and you can learn a lot about a person in a month.” Sandra looked into the rearview mirror, at the reflection of her sleeping girls. “He would have been a great father.”
The conversation left Jade stunned. For Sandra to compare that brief relationship to the one Jade had with her father was beyond ludicrous. Jade rolled her eyes and pressed the earphones into place allowing the music to drown out any other comments her cousin might want to make.
Arriving home, Jade helped Sandra move the sleeping girls from the car to their beds where they could finish out their nap. Sandra retreated to take one herself while Jade took advantage of the vacant living room. She sprawled out across the couch, flicked on the DVR and was scrolling through the menu when she heard noises from the backyard. She thought it the pool man, though his normal day for service was Thursdays.
Jade pried herself up off the couch to investigate.
Outside, all was quiet. In fact, everything seemed to be exactly as she had left it that morning except for one thing: the mermaid tail floating in the pool.
How did you get there?
She retrieved the skimmer, dragging the 8-foot pole end behind her, and took up position near the edge of the pool. She dipped the net end into the water and had maneuvered it under the floating mono-fin when a spray hit her full face. Startled, she cried out dropping the skimmer – the pole clattered against the concrete. Laughter erupted from nearby as she swiped the water from her eyes. When she could see again it was to find an intruder in her pool – he hung arms folded from the edge.
“You should ‘a seen the look on your face! Oh, yes, priceless,” he chuckled.
“What are you doing here?”
“I think it obvious,” he replied.
Jade was not only shocked by the young man’s boldness – she was furious with his cocky attitude and his attempt to humiliate her.
“Get out of my pool – now!”
“You want me out, but I want you in.” He scooped up the floating tail and playfully tossed it to her. Then raised his own and brought it down with a splash.
Jade had been so angry she missed that detail about her pool crasher, and could not help but admire it – his tail looked like the real thing. Her fascination was short-lived as John Helm’s comments from the previous day came to mind. The tail-sporting trespasser had to be part of a setup by Toe Jam Productions, and Jade had no intention of allowing herself to be in their freak film. She looked for the camera. The fact that she could not find it, only meant it was well hidden.
“Listen, I don’t know who you are or why you’re doing this, but you’ve got five seconds to get out of my pool before I call the cops.”
“Now that is not very neighborly of you.” The young man frowned, flicked his tale and sent up another salty spray.
Though Jade had dodged the drenching, she had had enough. She stormed off.
Back inside, Jade went straight for the phone, grateful that her mother had insisted on maintaining a land-line. She picked up the receiver then hesitated to dial.
What am I going to say? Help, I’m being harassed by a merman? They’ll think it’s a prank. Or they’ll think I’m crazy and send out metal health to put me in a straightjacket. Do they even use those things anymore?
Deciding a 911 call might not be in her best interest, Jade opted for choice number two, Sandra. She would let her cousin deal with their uninvited guest.
When she burst into Sandra’s room Jade found her ear to her cell phone in heated conversation. Though it was obvious her intrusion was not welcomed, Jade refused to leave, insisting that her cousin hear her out. Thankfully, once Sandra had learned of the stranger on the property her attitude changed. She rallied to the defense, taking up the nine iron kept by the bed for just such an occasion, though, by the time they had returned to the pool the intruder had gone. Jade could only conclude her threat of calling the police had scared him off and was somewhat relieved her cousin would not have to put the golf club to use.
“Look at me.” Sandra stood in front of her, hand held up, finger extended. “Now follow my finger with your eyes and don’t move your head.”
Jade knew what her cousin was doing. She had seen police shows that used the technique on suspected drunk drivers.
“I haven’t been drinking if that’s what you’re thinking. And, I don’t do drugs.”
Sandra narrowed her eyes. “Well, what am I supposed to think? There is no way anyone could have gotten out of this pool without leaving some evidence. I see wet on the concrete next to the skimmer, but that’s all. Where are the footprints?”
“Well, I didn’t just make it up. I had a conversation with the guy! If you don’t believe me just ask the neighbors. I’m sure we were loud enough for them to hear!”
“If you were that loud why didn’t I hear you?” Sandra questioned.
“You were on the phone!”
“Yes, and in the middle of a very important conversation. Jade, I’m worried about you. I’ll make an appointment with Dr. Fetter. He said I should call if your behavior got strange.”
“I can’t believe you’re going there. There’s nothing wrong with me!” The accusations, insinuations and the events of the day were all taking their toll. Jade was utterly frustrated. “Just forget it – forget the whole thing.”
“Well now, how can I do that, Jade? I’m in charge of you now and it would be very irresponsible of me to ignore something like this.”