Returning, Episode I
It’s time to leave the ocean. Mira Belshaw has been at sea for… well, she doesn’t know how many years. It’s hard to keep track of time when you live in the ocean. But after enough time, the salt water triggers the desire to procreate, and her time is up.
For weeks, she’s been swimming north. Finding a mate is the most important thing to her right now, and to do that, she has to return to the place where she was last human, the coastal city of Saltford.
Equipped with everything she needs to lure her perfect mate and produce a strong siren child, all she needs is the opportunity to mingle with humans. But when she meets Nathan MacAuley, the ‘one’, things start to go sideways…
I strode after him, covering the ground faster than he did. When he was still only a few feet away I said, “Nathan?” My voice had changed as I said his name. My strings had already come out. My siren tone has a multi-layered, musical quality, like harmonizing violins. It’s exquisitely beautiful, sounds like it’s coming from everywhere, and is completely irresistible to human men. It might be irresistible to any human, I didn’t know. It was one of the topics Mom and I never had the opportunity to get into.
He turned toward me, his face had a soft, dreamlike quality. The power of my own voice almost frightened me. I’d never used it on anyone before.
“Mira?” he said, slowly. “Where is your jacket? It’s freezing out here.”
I opened my mouth to tell him that he was mine and I was his. It was all there, on the tip of my tongue. The violins sat waiting in my throat, my chest throbbing with their power. All I had to say is, “We love each other, and we belong together.” That was it. Less than ten words and he’d be mine for good. So why wasn’t I saying it?
There was a reason. I could feel it. I just couldn’t remember what it was. A half-remembered dream from another life wavered at the edge of my memory. Don’t use your voice on him, Mira. Don’t do it.
The silence stretched out. I stood there, torn, my mouth open. Wanting him so badly, but frantically searching my memory for the reason I shouldn’t use my voice on him. Why? Why? Why?
Finally, I tucked away my siren voice. I swallowed hard, my mouth full of ashes. I held out his hat and said, “You left this behind.”
He looked down at the cap. “Oh, thank you.” He took it. “Have a good night.” He turned his back and resumed walking towards his truck.
I watched him in complete puzzlement. Why had I let the opportunity slip through my fingers? Just before he reached the truck, he looked over his shoulder at me. His face was just outside the circle of light and the shadows hid his expression, but I thought he smiled.
I smiled back, wrapping my arms around myself. I watched as he drove away, then turned on my heel and went back to the Sea Dog. I needed another swim in freshwater to see if I could unearth the reason why I had just let my love walk away.
Returning, Episode II.
Returning, Episode II
Chapter One (sneak peek)
The lunch rush was over and the Sea Dog was empty of customers except for one young couple. A pram was parked next to their table, the parents peering into it with dreamy expressions. They held hands over the table, the man stroking the back of the woman’s hand with his thumb. Lunch had been manic, and yet these two paid the world around them no mind, trapped as they were in their love bubble.
“Why don’t you just go over there and ask if you can see her?” Crystal had just emerged from the kitchen with a tray of recently filled salt and pepper shakers. “You’ve been watching them for an hour, Mir. You should have served them instead of me.”
“They wouldn’t mind?” I dried my hands with a bar towel and threw it over my shoulder. I had little to no experience with babies, all I knew is that they did something intense to my heart and I couldn’t stop dreaming about the day I’d have one of my own.
“Course not. They’re nice. People always think their babies are the cutest and most lovable.” She set the tray down and gave me a nudge. “They’ll love that you’re just as gobsmacked over her as they are.”
It didn’t come naturally to me to approach strangers, but the curiosity to see what was inside that pram was overpowering. They didn’t look up until I was almost on top of them. “Hello,” I said. I realized my fingers were strangling each other and dropped my hands.
“Hi!” The mother looked up. “Sorry, we’ll pay and get out of your way.” She stood and began pulling on her jacket.
“No, that’s fine,” I said. “I’m not rushing you. I was just wondering if I might have a peek?” I gestured to the pram. My heart pounded and I felt awkward. I hoped Crystal was right.
“Oh, of course!” she smiled knowingly at her husband and drew back the blanket.
My anxiety vaporized when I saw her. “Ohhhh,” I breathed. My heart pooled into a warm liquid of want. The infant was tiny and sleeping and perfect. Only her face was visible, her head capped in a white knit hat. “How old?”
“Twenty-seven days,” said the father. “This is our first time out of the house with her. We’re incredibly lucky, she’s an angel.” He pulled on his jacket and zipped it up. “We know it’s cold out, but we just had to get out.”
The mother pulled on her hat. “You want a baby one day?”
“As soon as possible,” I said seriously, and they both laughed.
“It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” she said. “But you’re young. Live a little first. That’s what I’d suggest. Once you’re a parent, you’re a parent for life. And do it with the right guy.” She gave her husband a mushy smile. She covered the sleeping infant and her partner pulled out his wallet and fished for cash to pay for their lunch.
I felt like I had lived plenty, although a lot of it had been underwater. At twenty, I had only spent a single year more on land than I had at sea. I had all the exposure to salt that was needed to trigger my land-cycle, and land-cycle meant a baby.
“Satisfied?” Crystal raised an eyebrow as I returned to the bar with the couple’s dirty dishes.
“Cute,” I said.
“Yeah. Cute and messy and smelly and loud.”
“You don’t want kids?”
“Ugh, no thanks.” She followed me into the kitchen where Phil was cleaning the stove. “They’re like little drunk people. They poop their pants, throw up on themselves, can’t walk, break stuff.”
“Who pooped their pants?” Phil looked up, startled.
“Babies. Babies poop their pants. Multiple times a day. And yet, Mira here wants one so bad she can barely see straight.”
I chuckled as I tucked the dirty dishes into the dishwasher.
“That’s nice,” said Phil. “You and Nathan would have cute kids. What’s stopping you?”
“Tradition,” Crystal and I said at the same time.
We smiled at one another. She had dated Nathan before I had, she knew he was as old school as they come. She was with Nathan when she figured out that she was more attracted to women than to men.
“Ah,” said Phil, colouring.
“Nathan is so old-fashioned he should wear eighteenth-century garb and drive a carriage to work, instead of a Tundra.”
“So. Get married,” Phil suggested. “Why wait if its what you both want?”
My sentiments exactly. I felt like I’d been waiting for Nathan since the day I’d met him. I’d been warned by my mother that human love needed time to grow. The stages of a true and authentic love had been studied by psychologists and there were important steps to take if you wanted a really strong foundation. I had taken a book out of the library on the subject, just to make sure Nathan and I weren’t going to miss any steps. For me, it was a kind of torture. For my future child, if female, it should make her powerful beyond imagination. It was the kind of gift my mother wasn’t able to give me because she’d had to use her siren voice on my father. I didn’t know what had happened, she’d never told me, but I wasn’t about to screw up my child’s chances at having the best a siren could have. So… we were taking it slow. Very slow. Agonizingly slow.
“I’m not so hung up about the marriage part…” I began.
“But Nathan is,” said Crystal, sliding her butt up onto the stainless steel countertop. Phil gave her a look and she slid down again.
“What has it been, 4 months?” Phil asked, drying off the gleaming stove.
“Five,” I said. Five months of going on dates, kissing, cuddling, talking, falling in love. I was so ready to move on to the next step that I could barely focus anymore, but I didn’t say anything to Nathan. I let him dictate our speed. After all, he was the human, not me.
“Well, you guys will know when is the right time,” said Phil, patting my upper arm.
For me, the right time was the day I first heard Nathan’s voice. But for him? Who knew.
I’m A.L. Knorr, YA and NA Urban Fantasy (with romantic elements) Author. Why young adult? It’s always been my favourite genre – I still like to read YA myself.
A.L. stands for Abby-Lynn, but I thought it was a bit long to slap on a book cover, so I shortened it to A.L. Unfortunately, it sort of makes it sound like I’m a dude…more here