Thursday, February 19, 2009

Friday Fiction for February 20th, 2009

Friday Fiction this week is hosted by Yvonne, on her blog, My Back Door. Don’t miss the other fiction submissions being posted this week.

This week, I’m happy to post an absolutely brand-spankin’-new Pod short story, finished just this evening. This scene is hinted at in the second Pod story, Marta’s Pod, and I had the urge to flesh out the situation a bit more. This story takes place almost directly between Cardan’s Pod and Marta’s Pod, about two years after the closing scenes of the first story, and two years before the second story.

Having watched “Fireproof” a week ago, I sometimes wonder what our relationships would be like if we had to work harder for them, much as Jacob labored so many years for the woman he loved. That which is achieved easily is easily taken for granted, and that is the one feeling we should never have for those we love.

The Chase
By Rick Higginson

Richard watched the teasing play between Daniel and Suzanne from the far end of the pool. Now that they were eighteen, the Pod rules allowed the young couple to take their relationship beyond the platonic. The occasional glance was sent towards him and Rebecca, since they were also now eighteen.

His glance, however, turned elsewhere. Elizabeth had long, inky black hair that flowed straight back until it tickled to either side of the vertebrae ridge at the base of her tail. Her human skin was a lovely shade of brown, highlighting the mix of Hispanic and Native American heritage that Dr. Marcel’s records said she had.

She made a low leap, heading for the ocean outside, and Richard dove to follow. Random shafts of sunlight flashed from the surface through the shallow depths, illuminating the mermaid just ahead. Jumping for a breath, she trailed a glittering path of small bubbles, tracing her turn towards the old chamber.

He leapt for his own breath, leaving the water for a brief moment to feel the warm, summer air on his skin. Splashing back at a steeper angle than she had, he used the momentum of the jump to boost his speed towards the short underwater tunnel, where Elizabeth had just vanished out of sight.

Cassiopeia, Andromeda, and Aphrodite sped up beside him, eager to see if some game was about to begin. They were quickly passed by Perseus and Orion, two juvenile males who chased ahead after Elizabeth. The young dolphins would likely leave soon, once they discovered that no game was imminent, but he expected the three older females to stay and keep watch.

Reaching the chamber side of the tunnel, he found Perseus and Orion worrying a large crab in the rocks. The crustacean waved its claws, trying to keep the playful dolphins at bay until it could back into a deep enough crack in the rocks. Whether its defensive posture would protect it from becoming a dolphin toy remained to be determined, and Richard refused the potentially amusing distraction.

He surfaced in front of Elizabeth, hoping the arms folded tight across her chest were not a bad sign.

“Are you following me?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Did Eva send you to tell me something?”

“No.”

“Then, if you don’t mind, I wanted to just spend a little time alone, away from the noise in the Family Room.”

“I just wanted to talk to you alone, away from the noise.”

She sighed. “What is it, Richard?”

“I’ve been wanting to ask you something for a long time, and it just seems like the right time to do so.”

“Ask me what?”

He felt his heart pounding, along with a weird feeling in his stomach. “Would you ever consider – I mean, is it possible that you could ever love me?”

“Of course, I love you. You’re a member of the Pod.”

“I mean, love me like Suzanne loves Daniel.”

“Shouldn’t you ask Rebecca that?”

“I’ve never felt this way about Rebecca, and she’s never felt this way about me. Maybe Dr. Marcel had something else planned, but she’s always treated me more like a sibling than a suitor, and to be honest, she’s more like a sister to me as well.”

“I’m four years older than you.”

“I don’t care. For as long as I can remember, it’s been you that I’ve been attracted to. I’ve always done everything I could to try and impress you.”

She laughed. “Is that why you always tried to do better than me in our lessons and in the foraging?”

“I thought, maybe, if you saw that I was smart and capable, despite being younger, you might feel about me the way I feel about you.”

“And all this time, I thought you were just trying to prove you were better than me.”

“I was trying to prove I was worthy of you.”

She drew close to his face and lowered her voice. “You really want a chance to prove you’re worthy of me? I’ll tell you what; the day you can catch me in a fair chase in open water, I’ll consider a relationship with you.”

“I just have to catch you?”

“Yep; no tricks, though. It doesn’t count if you sneak up behind me, grab me, and say you caught me. You have to show you can swim faster than I can, and in the ocean, not in a confined area like this or the Family Room.” She poked a gentle finger in the center of his chest. “I haven’t really thought much about ever having a man, and I’m fine with my life staying that way, but if I am going to entertain the idea of spending my life with someone, he’s going to have to be able to keep up with me. Think you’re up to that?”

He grinned confidently. “I’m ready anytime.”

She drifted onto her back, opening some distance between them. “You think so? Fine; the chase begins as soon as we’re outside the tunnel.” She dove backwards, out of sight.

It took a moment for her words to register, before he made a low leap to dive after her. She was turning towards the opening, apparently having made a sweeping curve around the perimeter. He stroked hard with his tail, speeding straight towards the tunnel and closing the distance between them.

Elizabeth was only a few yards ahead when they emerged into the sunlit ocean. She gave a quick, backward glance at him and smiled. With her arms tight against her side, she darted deep along the rocky bottom.

Fish scattered as she sped past, and he increased his effort to catch her. The distance between them remained constant, even as she kicked towards the surface. He followed her arc through the leap, exhaling just before leaving the water and sucking in a deep breath before splashing through the foam in her wake.

What hope he had vanished as he watched her tail undulate faster, opening the gap between them with little apparent effort. With every bit of strength he had left, he tried to keep up, only to have her disappear in the deepening blue ahead of him.

He returned to the Family Room, surfacing to find her waiting just inside the gate. While he was winded, she seemed as though the swim had been no effort at all. “Were you just playing with me?” he asked.

Her smile was satisfied, but not mocking. “I am not going to make this easy for you; if you want a chance with me, you’re going to have to work for it. I don’t think you’d respect me if I just let you catch me, and I-” She teased a finger through his wet hair. “- won’t respect you if you give up trying.” Just touching the tip of her nose to his, she added. “You can try again next week.”

“Next week,” he agreed. Someday, he thought as she swam over to talk to her sister, the chase is going to surprise you.

He headed for one of the refrigerators for a cold drink. Someday, he promised himself.

10 comments:

Dee Yoder said...

Very cool! I hope he doesn't give up and I'm looking forward to reading their love story someday.

Joanne Sher said...

Oh, I love it, Hoomi! Love the interaction between the two. Wonderfully told, as always.

Yvonne said...

Interesting setting and characters! I can't wait to see what happens.

Vonnie

S.C.(S.Harricharan) said...

Ooh, I love this. I do hope he catches her. I can't wait to see what a chase that will be. ^_^ Great stuff, Hoomi! ^_^

LauraLee Shaw said...

Oh, I love a good romance. I have a feeling it will be quite a time catching this fish! She's a slick one! Love it.

The Surrendered Scribe said...

Great fleshing out, these are two very interesting characters with a great potential!

Shelley Ledfors said...

Ooh... Great characters and story here. I love it!

BethL said...

Captivating characters, romance, a chase scene... all in this excellent story.. I'm ready for the sequel!

Dee Yoder said...

Hey, Rick, glad you stopped by to read the review of Cardan's Pod on my blog. Did you already write the sequel? I'm waiting for it!

Catrina Bradley said...

I remembered when I read today's story that I was interrupted last week and didn't finish this one. I love the scenes of the mermaids swimming through their home and through the ocean, and learning about the pod rules and their lifestyle is fascinating! I very much enjoyed this.