Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lea rough draft chapter 5

The station is a large room carved out of an outcropping at the edge of the town. A cave opening at each end allows the transport to enter and exit without having to turning around. Romo walks up behind Lea with her ticket in his hand and puts his arm around her shoulder. He gently guides her over to an empty seat.
She is still so confused and in disbelief. She probably would have just stood there staring at the blank wall. Focusing on her dad, she starts to remember long ago when she was five years old and she met him for the first time.
Romo had been dating Moana for a few months when she and Lea came into his furniture store. Not having much experience with precocious children Romo asked Lea which wardrobe she would like for her room. He expected her to want a pink one or one with flowers painted on the front. He was stunned by Lea's serious expression as she explained her fascination with a particular cabinet.
The tall wooden wardrobe was lightly stained with an intricately beautiful map carved into the front doors. The detailed map showed Communities around the globe and the trade routes that connect them. Full of confidence she told him about “all the stuff that I need to know because one day I'm going to be Queen” and it would be easier to learn if it is carved into her closet door. That moment cemented Romo's decision to ask Moana to marry him. He loved Moana and was now completely taken with her daughter.
The more time Romo spent with them, the more frustrated Lea was having to share her mom with this new guy. He worked hard to prove himself by caring for her mom and doing all the crazy and fun things dads do so much better than moms. The day they went to the beach for a vacation was the day Lea decided to keep him.
Romo, Moana and Lea swam to the shore of an island several kilometers from their community. They ate lunch on the white sands under the shade of a large bush polka dotted in orange tropical flowers. After eating, Lea wanted to climb a large tree growing on a small hill a short distance from the shore. Romo offered to climb with her and Lea reluctantly agreed even though she secretly hoped he wouldn't be a good tree climber and would leave her alone. As it turned out Romo was an excellent tree climber. Up the rough trunk they went rose, much higher than Lea could have gone by herself.
Moana called up to them to be careful. Lea knew it was her mom's signal that she should stop climbing, even though her mom would never say so out loud. Mom's never let kids do anything exciting or adventurous because they worry about them all the time. Romo heard her, but called down that they were fine and would come down in a little while. Lea waited for her mom to overrule him, but when she didn't Lea smiled and they continued up the tree hanging high above the blue and white foamy waves.
A few minutes later, they carefully balanced on the highest branches that would still support them. Romo pointed out all the animals living along the shore and in the shallows. He explained why the waves rose and broke they way they did. He showed her the curving path of a riptide rolling away from the sand out to deep water. Then he helped her descend branch by branch back into the waiting arms of her mom.
He has been her dad for almost seven years. Instead of choosing a new last name to start a new family like couples usually do, Romo accepted the royal Ariki name and forever became a part of their family. Now with her 5 year old brother and 4 year old sister they are a complete family.
A family she was leaving behind, to travel half way around the globe, to escape something she doesn't even understand.
“Lea, there is something important you need to know before you leave,” Romo's voice is calm and steady, but his uncomfortable squirm tells her there is still more he hasn't told her.
A small water spider makes his way down a silken line in the corner preparing to make his web and catch his dinner. Thoughts flash through Lea's mind as she wonders what in the world her dad could be this uncomfortable about. She smiles as she considers the last uncomfortable conversation she had with her parents.
“This isn't another 'where do babies come from' conversation is it?” Lea teases, desperate to make the conversation less stressful. He actually laughs a little in response to her joke. The tension breaks in his face, his tone of voice suddenly becomes bearable.
“As Queen of the Community your mom knows certain secrets, things we don't share with the rest of the population,” he pauses while she considers this information. “Even the adults in our Community don't know the truth. Only a few citizens who have special responsibilities have ever been told.”
Lea's forehead wrinkles as she considers what he's saying. He searches for more words but can't think of what to say next. From a small bag slung over his shoulder, he pulls out an old book. She can see the red cover of the children's stories her mom read to her when she was little. On the front is a drawing of a young girl swimming away from a Land People boat, it nearly hits her as she escapes below it.
All of the stories in it's illustrated pages are tales about imaginary people who live on land but attempt to travel around the world above the water. Some of these stories end with the poor land people dying, usually they drown. The really fanciful stories are about their lives on land. Strange buildings, animals, and plants that are clearly the stuff of bedtime stories and nothing more.
Occasionally, there have been people in the Community who claim to have seen Land People. These sightings are usually dismissed as crazy imaginations of a confused person. The human mind is amazing in it's ability to convince itself that something it has seen can't possibly be true. Usually people will decide on their own that they haven't really seen what they thought they saw. It's just logical that there must be a more rational explanation.
“Lea,” her dad is almost whispering as he glances at a family waiting at the other side of the station, “Land People actually exist.”
She bursts out laughing at the lengths her dad will go to stop her from worrying. The idea of Land People is totally ridiculous. People can't live without water. The sun would burn their skin and damage their eyes. If they did exist wouldn't we know about them? The idea of it is just silly.
Strangely, her dad isn't laughing. He can't possibly be serious? Lea suddenly feels even more uncomfortable than her dad looks. She might almost prefer anything rather than the look of insistence in her dad's eyes.
“For real?” she manages to squeak out still not sure how she should respond.
“For real; very, very real” dad assures her, “Your cousin does not live in Catalina. She actually lives near by in a place called California in a large city named Seal Beach. You need to be prepared for what you are going to see and learn.” The words slip out of his mouth one at a time, slowly so Lea will listen carefully.
“Malina lives ON LAND,” he blurts out, unable to think of a better way to say it. His dark eyes stare into hers to make sure she knows he is serious. Lea wants to smile, to laugh, to show she understands the joke, but can't get past the look on her dad's face.
Her dad always loves jokes and getting her to believe strange stories before he lets on they are only a tease. Land People are real?...next he will be telling me there are beings who travel from other stars or magical people that live in the center of the earth.
“People can't live on land,” Lea wrinkles her brow in confusion, “how would they possibly survive without the water? Without the salt they would bloat up like puffer fish. You mean she visits the land, like we visit the beach or the islands.”
“No, she lives on land, all the time.” He sees a light of understanding in her eyes so he continues. “You can never share this with anyone. You can never tell anyone what you experience in the time you are there. The law of our community is that anyone who chooses to live with the Terrans, land people, cannot return to live with us. The chance for exposure to them or us is too great. Obviously we will make an exception when you return as long as you never share what you have learned.”
At those words Lea bursts out laughing, the stress of the moment is a little too much for her. The sound of her laughter draws the attention of the other people in the station and Romo looks at them hoping to see that they did not actually hear any of the conversation.
Romo glances again at the spider, oblivious to what is going on, still making his web between the wall and the closest bench. His voice is calm and patient as he tries to quiet her down and continue convincing her he is telling the truth.
Knowing he only has little time to explain, Romo hands her the book of bed time stories. Her mind shifts through the tales of strange people traveling in wooden transports floating above the water. Some of them are fanciful tales, others are full of dangerous Terrans, Land People, who attack Mermans without warning and demolish their Communities.
These stories usually involve a super hero who steps up to save the Mermans after a suspenseful and destructive battle. None of them are realistic and no one would dream of believing they are real. Lea jumps as the agent announces the transport has arrived and after the arriving passengers have disembarked she and the few others that are traveling will be able to take their seats.
“Lea, you must believe me. I don't have time to explain all the details. I need you to trust me, think about it. Most important, you must keep it a secret. You must never tell any of our people. Even more surprising though is that the Terrans don't know we exist either. You won't be able to tell any of them about us.”
She stops dead in her tracks. “How is that possible?” Two civilizations living together on one planet neither knowing the other lives there too.
Romo grabs her bag and walks to the line beginning to form to get on board. He stores her bag underneath in the luggage compartment and hugs Lea tightly.
“Be careful. We love you. Malina will take care of you, listen to her and behave,” Romo's last words bring tears to her eyes. She will miss her family even though they are annoying a lot of the time.
Lea steps inside the empty transport. Glancing at the reclining seats lining both walls, Lea realizes it is empty except for a teenage boy. He looks to be only a couple years older than Lea and he is slumped in the back seat as if he doesn't want anyone to notice him. His clothes are slightly worn and he looks tired as he raises his eyes briefly and then hides them again when he notices her noticing him.
Lea takes a seat toward the back so she can have some privacy to think over everything her dad told her. A mom and two kids come in next. The mom arms are piled high with bags and toys for the long journey. The two little boys are already climbing the seats and jumping from one to another pretending the floor is lava and they will be turned into stone if they touch it. The mom smiles at Lea, introduces herself as Ani and explains that they are moving to live with her sister in Hawaiki.
Ani convinces the boys to stay in one seat so the imaginary sharks don't eat them as two more passengers come aboard. Two young men are traveling to Molokai University in the east Pacific community. They sit a few seats in front of Ani and her little boys.
The last passenger aboard is the wise old woman, Lorelei. She greets the conductor Bane. As he throws his long hair over his shoulder Lea can better see the traditional spiral and wave tattoo around his eyes and cheeks. Lorelei asks about his wife and his kids. Next, she congratulates the young men on starting another year at school and asks about their parents and their courses of study. Lorelei stops to talk to Ani and pulls candy out of her large bag to bribe the boys into behaving for their mom.
Lorelei smiles at Lea, “I'm glad you were able to make it aboard. With such a rush I thought you might not make it in time.” Lorelei picks a seat one row ahead of Lea against the opposite wall leaving Lea to wonder how she could possibly know what is going on. Lorelei sits down, opens her bag and pulls out a ball of fuzzy thread to knit. Lea puzzles how much Lorelei knows, probably more than Lea knows herself seeing her parents didn't even tell her why she is leaving.

With a small shudder the transport starts its undulating motion. Small bubbles rush past the mirrored windows as the station slips behind them. Lea turns to watch her dad leaning against the wall and waving good bye until she can no longer see him, then she sits back in her seat and listens to her music on the recording sphere. Lea pushes away the guilt that she should read the children's stories by flooding her mind with songs instead and sits back to relax.

Tides of Trust

Eeek, Tides of Trust, I previously posted rough drafts here, is now available for sale!
I am really excited and can't wait to hear everyone's opinions.

Two quotes keep coming to me:

"I wrote the story because I really wanted to read it."
"I write because having 'characters' in my head sounds less scary than 'voices'"

I hope you all enjoy these chapters as much as I have enjoyed writing them!

Lea rough draft chapter 4

On Lea's left is her school, the round entry is open for anyone to swim in. Glass doors covering the inside entry are still lit as students and teachers trickle out at the end of the school week. Round windows identify each classroom and office, they are dark like the school has closed it's eyes to sleep until hordes of children wake it up again two days from now.
Lea twists her course and heads around the polo stadium. She thinks about her match tomorrow and feels minnows flutter through her midsection in nervousness. The large natural dome has benches lining both sides reaching from near the roof down into the pool and below the water line to the floor. They are separated from the action by a huge glass cylinder three quarters filled with water so that fans can watch the game whether the players are breaching the surface or diving to score.
Farther past the stadium lies the oldest part of town. This part of the mountain reaches up toward the surface, its one long finger nearly touching the air. Small, well cared for homes built one above another are connected by traveling tunnels. Ancient Tebans used them to travel up to the surface back when the waters were not as deep as they are now.
In a few moments her home comes into view. Her neighborhood lies between the older homes and the newer developments. Lea waves to a neighbor glancing out of his kitchen window. Two boys jump in and out of the entry to their home. Without fins on they can't get far on a single breath of air.
Her house sits in the middle of the row and Lea stops to pick a small round fruit from the yard before swimming in the doorway. A large round entry welcomes her. She is very wet but still has plenty of breath left. The entry is warm compared to the cool water. The heated seat feels good as Lea pulls off her fin, hangs up her bag, and turns on the blower to dry her dripping hair and soaked blouse.
“Mom, where are you?” Lea calls through the doorway.
She starts to worry when her mom doesn't respond. Horrors start to flip through her mind like a quickly moving stack of pictures. Are her parents alright? Maybe something was wrong with her little brother or sister? For a moment she hopes that there isn't anything going on, that her mom called her for a nonsense reason only moms think is important.
Once her long brown hair and shirt are mostly dry, Lea turns off the blower. Still sitting on the bench Lea, is about to stand when her dad swims up. Romo Ariki has been Lea's dad since she was 5 years old. Lea smiles at him as he turns on the blower.
“Where's mom?” he shouts over the noise of rushing air. He removes his fin and hangs it on the hook above hers.
“Not sure yet,” Lea replies, walking into the main room, “Mom didn't respond when I called.”
Romo eagerly calls to Moana wanting to make sure that she is alright. Her voice finally replies from the other room and comes around the corner nearly walking into Lea now standing in the passway to the kitchen.
Moana is holding a large striped travel case in one hand and a smaller orange duffel in another. She sets down the luggage on the solid carved table near the water entrance and walks over to the sofa. Moana looks at Lea, but suddenly turns away as a tear quietly rolls down her cheek.
Moana practically falls onto the sofa and motions for Lea to sit as well. Romo stands looking at the ceiling sky light not sure how to start, worry clear on his face. Unable to relax, Lea's right leg bounces as she waits for her parents to speak.
“Lea, there is an emergency,” her mom begins, but stops when she sees the flash of panic in her daughter's face. Moana assures Lea that no one is hurt and Saun and Tianna are alright.
“We've learned of a threat from someone who wants to force a union between our community and theirs.” Moana takes a deep breath not sure how to continue.
“We've made a plan to keep you safe. We need you to go visit your cousin, Malina, for a few weeks. I can't explain it all right now, there isn't time.” With a wave of her hand as though it's really not a big deal, Moana adds, “Don't worry, think of it just as a vacation and a way to escape your Math test. You'll be back as soon as I can take care of it.”
Thoughts swirl through Lea's mind as she wonders what type of emergency could have occurred to make it necessary for her to go away. Who could possibly want to hurt me, I'm just a girl. I'm not mean and I haven't done anything to hurt anyone to make them want to hurt me back. She considers pressuring her mom to tell her the whole story, but the pain on her mom's face is enough to prevent further questions.
Instead, the thought of seeing her cousin excites Lea and eases her stress a little. Malina left Teban almost 5 years ago. It will be so exciting to see a new place and visit with new people. Lea has never been anywhere farther than Australia on vacation last year. Suddenly, Lea realizes her mom mentioned not being at school for the test in three days.
“When do I leave?” Lea asks as questions come running through her brain almost faster than her mouth can form the sounds. She wants some explanation for her parents weird decision.
“The transport leaves in an hour,” Romo answers. Lea's mouth drops in shock. “Your mom has packed most of your things already. You need to say good-bye to the kids and we should leave right away.”
The words come out carefully, as Romo tries not to upset their daughter, but completely unsure how to explain the direness of the situation.
An hour, the words hang in the air like a boulder ready to fall. Without thinking Lea jumps up and marches into her room to see what her mom has packed. She still can't believe what is happening.
She glances first at the mural painted on the walls and smiles, thinking that she still needs to finish the murals covering her walls and ceiling. She is not really a very talented painter. She has great ideas and lots of dedication but her fingers just can't reproduce the beautiful pictures she creates in her head. She is getting better, but any addition takes several attempts before it resembles an object or animal a person would recognize.
She painted her room a lovely shade of light blue to look like the clear sky scrubbed clean after a storm. She added fluffy white clouds that looked slightly like lumpy sea foam and barely anything like actual clouds. She tried to fix them, but they are now three dimensional lumps because of all the layers of paint she has applied to fix the errors. Everyone assures her they look great, but she has her doubts.
Under the lumpy clouds is a V formation of winged slug like creatures that were supposed to be birds flying. It makes Lea laugh though to think of flying slugs, so she left them untouched to joyfully soar across her indoor sky. When the room is dark the night sky is visible, arranged in small pinpoints of fluorescent paint recreating the constellations of the southern hemisphere. A few larger circles are supposed to be planets and one slanted comet streaks across toward the clothes cupboard.
A rainbow fills one corner of the room, falling from the bright yellow sun painted on the ceiling into a puddle of color at the floor. Lea loves spending humid, but sunny days on the beach in hopes of seeing a rainbow for real.
Squid crawls out from under the bed. Anger flicks in Lea's heart for a moment when she considers having to leave him. Squid is a small furry rare mammal that was saved from the ocean after a storm. He was trying to swim, but is not a water animal. He has webbed feet but can't hold his breath at all. He has short light yellow hair and brown eyes. His floppy ears perk up when he hears her come home each day and his long fluffy tail waves back and forth whenever he is excited.
When he arrived no one in the community had ever seen an animal like him and the zoo wanted to take him, study him, and “take care of him properly.” They probably would have taken him if Lea's mom hadn't used her influence as Queen to make a request. The animal keepers took him to their facility to observe and study him for a few days, but then he was returned to Lea to keep as a pet. Moana asked the keepers to come to their home and teach Lea how to properly care for him.
Squid stretches his legs as he gets up from his afternoon nap. He is so excited to see her, he licks her hand and his tail waves back and forth hitting against her leg over and over. Mom will have to take Squid for a run each morning, Lea thinks and that makes her smile. Her mom will actually have to exercise like she's been saying she should for years now.
Lea's clothes cupboard is nearly empty and it looks like her mom has grabbed everything she'll need. Lea reaches into a small nook under the head of her bed that her mom doesn't know about where she keeps her diary and a few special keepsakes. She grabs all of the items and stuffs her pockets full.
Worried by her abrupt departure, her parents followed Lea into her room. Her mom explains that she has only packed the clothes that will be appropriate for the weather and fashion in Catalina. Her dad grabs her hand and directs her to sit on the bed next to her mom.
“Lea, there is more we need to tell you about Catalina. Malina doesn't actually live in the Catalina Community.” Taking a deep breath he continues, “Malina lives.....”
Romo is interrupted as Lea is attacked by a small boy chased by his little sister. Saun, her brother, runs into Lea so hard, she actually slips off the bed and crashes onto the floor. The two children pile on top her in a tangle of banged heads, knocking the wind out of her slightly. Once she can breath again, Lea starts to laugh at Tianna who is still yelling at her brother. Saun waves a stolen doll in the air to keep it away. Tianna jumps on him again clawing and scratching to get it back. Poor Tianna, thinks Lea, she doesn't realize how lucky she is to have a big brother to torment her. Lea laughs again at the determined scowl on her sister's face and the mischievous grin on her brother's.

Untangling her children and helping Lea to her feet, Moana turns to her husband and tells him it is time for them to leave. She whispers to him that he will have to explain after he and Lea check in at the station. Romo picks up her bag and Lea grabs a special stuffed animal, a small dolphin she received as a baby from her grandparents on her first Spring Equinox. For eleven years, Moby has been her comfort whenever life was hard. 

Lea rough draft chapter 3

Lea's hair flows behind her as she glides through the clear water above her community. She looks through the deep waters of the South Pacific. Some distance from any mainland, a beautiful island surfaces. Along the coast, the small town of Teba lies surrounded by a colorful little reef filled with all sorts of animals and plants growing there.
Amazing schools of fish in all shapes and colors are chased by bigger fish, sharks, and large squids. Sea weeds grow from the bottom of the ocean all the way to the surface of the water and others grow from the from the roofs of the sea caves down to the depths along the bottom. Shell fish and crabs skitter over rocks and through grasses chasing after small fish and tiny microscopic creatures.
The life of this small community revolves around the hours of the tides each day. Fisherman wake up early every morning and leave the warmth of their homes to haul in food to sell at the market. Men and women grow fruits, vegetables, and seeds for the market too. Each morning before work, parents come to browse the food, clothes, or home goods for sale and children come to search for new toys or exciting treats.
Teba is in many ways just like other small towns around the world. Store owners sweep the walkway and prepare to open for the day, folding clothing for display or dusting furniture for sale. Piles of juicy fruits and colorful vegetables fill tables and woven hanging baskets in the grocery store. The mouth watering flavor of fresh baked breads and biscuits are arranged in the shop window to attract more customers. Artisans of all kinds work hard to prepare their products to sell.
Children play with small toys made from shells and sea glass that surround the community or pieces of drift wood brought in by the tides. Today, one small boy bounces a pooro ball along the dark stone walkway passing the front of his mother's health care office. Old men sit in the dining room of a restaurant and play table games. They debate world problems and gossip. Old ladies sit and sew or weave and debate the towns problems and gossip about the old men. Older children attend school and complain about their home work. Moms and dads take care of their families, cook dinner, wash laundry, and make the kids clean their rooms.
In a quiet corner of Teba lives the small family Ariki. They are very much like many other families in many other communities. They live in a medium size home in a moderate part of the town. From the outside, their house looks just like all their neighbors houses lined up in a row. Sea grasses cut short lead up to the front entrance and a colorful vegetable patch grows in a circle outside the kitchen window. Flowered curtains can be seen from outside the window and the pathway leading to their home lined with stones is well cared for and neat.
This family eats breakfast together most mornings and takes turns fixing dinner in the evenings. Surrounding their table every night they tell stories of the exciting parts of their day and any news from their neighbors and friends.
Every morning the father goes to his workshop and furniture store. He builds tables and chairs, wardrobes and cupboards in any style or fashion a person can think of. He loves to paint them in bright colors and add decorations of shells or stones he collects around the community. Because most of the houses look the same from the outside, Tebans love to show off their personalities on the inside and Romo happily creates anything a person could want.
The younger two Ariki children, Saun and his little sister Tianna, stay at home with a neighbor while their mom spends the morning at her office. Children in Teba do not attend school until the year they will turn 12. Their parents and family teach them to read and write and basic math. Every child can study whatever parts of science they think are interesting. Because they are home or shopping, they get to know to all different types of people. They can watch a baker making cookies or a builder carving out a new home. They learn from everyone in the community and can choose what they want to be when they grow up. When they start school they will study the skills for their chosen apprenticeship.
The oldest Ariki daughter, Lealeiani, studies about all sorts of places around the world. She learns all about the people who live there, what food they eat, clothes they wear, and what type of King or President they have. She learns about mountains and oceans, engineering and economics. She is most interested in plants and animals and has learned to sing a little of the language of the whales and dolphins that live around Teba.
But most important to Lea's parents is that she study history. In the Ariki family, history is not just stories of too long ago and people nobody remembers. The history of their community is also the history of their family because Moana Ariki, Lea's mom, is the Queen of Teba.
In Teba there are no grand palaces filled with jewels and servants. There are not kilometers of land or knights and armies to support. The Queen of Teba lives just like the other families she serves. She meets dignitaries in her sitting room. She invites Kings and Queens of other communities to eat at home with her family. Just last night she even allowed the president of a neighboring foreign community to help her cook in her kitchen.
President Giomo Manu spent the evening sharing recipes and hilarious stories about his nephew who he hopes will one day be President too. Moana could have the type of life Kings and Queens usually have but like her father before her, she chose to live simply and serve her people.

One day Lealiki will be Queen. The oldest royal child grows up knowing that on their 34th birthday they will take over the job managing the city. It is a great responsibility to be in charge of a community. She will handle the day in and day out running of the city and the one great secret of Teba. It is something that all the Kings and Queens have known since the creation of Teba but few other people have discovered. It is a secret often disastrous to those who learn it because it is so incredible. 

Lea rough draft chapter 2

Lea sits in a warm classroom waiting for the glass ball hanging in the front of the room to turn five more minutes so she can escape school and not think about this class for two whole days.
The round clock signals four minutes to go. Normally, animal studies is Lea's favorite subject but this week she had a substitute teacher and class is incredibly boring. Lea and the rest of the class are desperately waiting for the next minutes to pass. One student propped against his book bag has even fallen asleep, a small trail of drool slips down his cheek. A short haired boy to her left is running his fish spine pen against the edge of his desk. It scrapes up, down, up and down again. The girl in front of her twists her dark hair around her index finger around and around until it is nearly twisted in a knot. Watching her Lea is almost hypnotized.
Reviewing the list of homework in her green memo book, Lea considers she has a History project to complete and a Math test when school starts again on First day. Each student studies at their own level and creates displays or takes test to show what they have learned.
Yuli and Meike, her two best friends, will want to get together to help each other with school work. Yuli needs help with the artsy parts of her History project. While she may be a brilliant scientist, Yuli is the least creative person Lea knows. Her mind works in hypothesis and conclusions, not in colors, shapes, and symbolic representations.
Meike will be more than willing to offer his plentiful artistic talents if, in exchange, Yuli will explain his math lesson one more time. Lea is neither an artist as great as Meike nor a genius like Yuli, but she works hard and she's smart enough to keep her grades up.
Lea also has a Polo practice Sixth day morning. She reminds herself to take home her equipment to be ready for the early practice. Lea loves Polo and she has a talent for swimming fast and changing directions quickly. Her strong fingers more than make up for her small hands and she is able to pass the Polo pooro easily. She needs to practice throwing a curve this weekend so that it will sneak past the goal keeper and into the net.
Lea stuffs her books and sheets in her favorite woven ocean grass book bag, but leaves the seal open so she can quickly add items from her storage cubicle in the hallway. Slipping the bag on her shoulder, she winces in pain. Her thin light brown hair usually flows into her face at the most inconvenient moments and a sharp pain in her scalp tells her a few strands are caught under the shoulder strap. She rips the trapped strands out from beneath the strap, once again wishing her hair could be thick and curly.
The clear tone signals the end of school and the crowds rush out of classrooms into the long, round school hallways. Lea hops off the stool, and pushes it under her desk as she leaves the classroom and edges her way through the throng.
Opening the small door of her cubicle she pulls out the books she needs, as well as the safety helmet and gloves she will need for Polo practice. Yuli, composed as usual, comes walking toward Lea. Her hair is pulled tightly at the back of her head. Her straight skirt and dark blue blouse wouldn't dare wrinkle even after six hours at school. Yuli looks through the hall for Lea and Meike so they can finally start a relaxing weekend.
Meike rounds the corner and staggers down the hall, his arms laden with overflowing art supplies. All of his treasures weigh a ton and he is walking with his legs spread wide as though he's braced to lift a small island. His funny walk is an attempt to hold onto it all and prevent the mountain of supplies from crashing to the floor.
Seeing his stagger, Lea holds back a smile, rushing over to him pulling varied size boxes of paint and over sized canvasses off the pile. With some lucky juggling he is able to balance everything and walk normally again.
Yuli, however, just laughs and shakes her head the way only a best friend is allowed when you are doing something remarkably ridiculous.
“We're headed to Mari's for pizza right?” Yuli asks once she is able to stop giggling. Meike nods and nearly upsets his delicately balanced stack. Yuli laughs harder and Lea smiles again at her quirky friend.
The trio starts walking toward Mari's along a pathway lined with entryways to numerous stores. Sunlight is magnified through sky lights scattered along their ceilings providing daylight to the travelers and vendors.
Fish jerky and assorted snacks fill one store, rare carved wooden tables fill another. The next entry is crowded with sinew string musical instruments and curling and flat horns of all sizes fill shelves and corners. Preserved vegetables floating in salted brine line the shelves of the next bubble; flaunting their orange, purple, and red color like the tropical fish that float through coral beds.
Turning right, just past the Hawaiian clothing store, the friends speed up, their hunger spurring them on. The delicious aroma of baked seaweed crust fills the air and broiled clam makes Lea's mouth water and she practically flies toward the eatery.
“I'll get the pizza,” Lea announces, dropping her bag at a table. “Is clam and pineapple OK with you two?” she questions over her shoulder as she walks away.
Yuli and Meike stare at each other trying to decide if Lea paying for the pizza is worth eating the strange combination. Both opt to give in to her unique tastes and take advantage of Lea's generosity.
Yuli glances around the dining room at who else has arrived at the brightly colored, popular hangout, while Meike focuses on the placement of his overflowing supplies in small piles on the chair next to him. He is desperately hoping they will not shortly end up spilled beneath his feet.
A small tone comes from Lea's bag and Yuli fishes the communicator out of a pcoket. She answers the tone, “Hello.” Lea's mom responds to Yuli's greeting, not at all surprised it is a friend answering instead of her daughter.
“May I speak to Lea?” Moana Ariki asks, trying not to sound anxious.
“Lea, your mom is calling you,” Yuli shouts across the room, then returning to the communicator lets Moana know that Lea is ordering pizza and will be there in a moment.
Moana suddenly announces, “Romo is calling, Yuli, I need to go. Please tell Lea it is very important she come home immediately. I need her right away. It's critical you tell her.”
A little worried by Moana's tone, Yuli assures her she will share the message and ask Lea to leave right away. When Lea returns to the florescent green table, Yuli explains the weird call.
Can't I even do something fun with my friends without my mom getting in the way, Lea wonders. Why do parents have to be so bossy? Out loud she says, “Parents are so demanding. She's probably upset about some small thing I forgot to do. You know those dumb chores that are only important to moms.” Resentful, Lea still climbs off the stool and grabs her bag.
“Or she needs you to babysit the little monsters while she goes somewhere,” Meike offers. “But she did sound stressed, not her usual self,” he adds having overheard the conversation between Yuli and Moana. “You should probably head home.”
Reluctantly, Lea slips her bag over her shoulder and walks toward the exit. Meike watches her leave and then turns to Yuli, his eye brow arched, to ask what she thinks. Yuli answers, “I can't imagine what could be going on at Lea's house, but I think that if we hurry we can change the pizza order.” Meike smiles and rushes to the counter.
Sitting on the bench at the exit Lea pulls her green swim fin from her pocket. The long woven fabric tube looks slightly like fish scales. It covers her legs completely and holds them together like a dolphin tail.
At the bottom are fins extending from her feet and once she has it on she is able to swim almost as fast as a fish. She slips it over her feet and legs, then seals up the sticky closure to make it water proof. Lea double checks that her bag is secure and then slides into the water. She takes a deep breath and moving quickly out the exit dolphin kicks her way into the ocean.

The trip home will only take her ten or fifteen minutes through the water. She speeds toward home still wondering what could possibly be this important. 

Lea rough draft chapter 1

He lays in the large canopy bed waiting, barely breathing, expecting to hear his uncle any moment, but hoping he does not. A small fabric bag of food and valuables hides under his pillow. He holds the bag's handle more tightly, his survival will depend on it's contents.
Heavy footfalls approach his door down a dark hallway. A long pause in the steps sends panic into the boy's heart. He worries the door will slowly creak open. Instead, he hears his uncle walk away toward his own room.
He exhales. He just realizes that he had been holding his breath until that moment. He lies there listening to the darkness; he must be sure. A small mouse squeaks in the dark and shuffles against the wall of his room. He buries himself deeper under the blanket as if the thin piece can protect him from impending doom.
Much later he pulls back the cover and his bare feet silently touch the stone floor. He slides off the edge of the bed and pulls his treasure from beneath his pillow. Every moment is measured to make no sound. One step, two steps, slowly across the room, slower he turns the handle on the door.
He hears the door handle click, it pulls open soundlessly. He holds his breath to shimmy through the opening, not chancing to open it any further than absolutely necessary. He pulls it closed behind him only releasing the knob once it is completely shut.
The lanterns lighting the hall affect his eyes and he can no longer see beyond the glare. In between each set of lights he pauses to listen again. No one is moving, he hears nothing. When the passage ends in the large dining room he waits for his eyes to adjust again.
Past the over sized solid wood table, through the door way to the throne room. He avoided the grand entrance double wooden doors. Designed to create a spectacular approach to the King's position, the heavy barriers cause mind numbing noise as they swing open and slam together closed.
Finally he reaches a small servants walkway. The cool air blows against his cheek as he faces the city outside the castle. A few feet away stands freedom, but also the heaviest burden he can imagine. It would be very easy to return to his bed and ignore what is happening. He can eat to his hearts content and have every luxury he desires, but only if he stays, only if he survives.

It is better to walk away. He must find her and protect her, and if possible himself. The cold water shocks him, but he swims out into the ocean anyway. A large fishing boat sleepily anchored off the shore has no idea a young merman swims below them. 

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