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.