Monday, May 11, 2009

More for Monday - Allison, Part II

“Allison” is currently up to around 4500 words, and I still have several important events in the story to get to. Rather than make you wait a week between each part, I thought I would post fiction twice a week until the story is concluded.

If you are new to this story, it will work best if you read
“Allison Part I” before proceeding with this installment.

Those familiar with the Pod stories will already know that, culturally, the Pod has a rather different mindset concerning certain things than we do. Throughout the series, the Pod shares a communal sleeping arrangement. To them, “sleeping together” means nothing more than occupying a common space for the night, and has never included a sexual connotation. Please keep this point in mind while reading this installment.

Part II
By Rick Higginson

The force of the water pressed the goggles tighter against Allison’s face, but the discomfort was hardly worth noticing. She held tight to Marta’s wrists, though it was the reciprocal grip that kept her securely moving with the mermaid. Several dolphins swam alongside them, and their frequent, close passes indicated they were as interested in her as she was in them.

Marta surfaced for air often, lingering far longer than she suspected any member of the Pod would normally do so. Did Mom have a talk with you while I was on deck? She wondered. It was something her mother would do, despite the number of times she’d tried to explain to her mother that it would be hard for things to get much worse than the cancer she already had. Could drowning be any worse than chemo? At least it wouldn’t last nearly as long.

“We’re about to take a longer stretch underwater, through the tunnel into the Family Room,” Marta said. “Are you going to be okay?”

She nodded. “Compared to some of the medical tests that I have to hold completely still and not even breathe for, this is easy,” Allison said.

“All right, then; deep breath and hold it.”

She sucked in as much air as she could, grinning with her cheeks puffed out.

Marta smiled, and then dove for the geometric shadow below them. The dolphins sped ahead, leaving trails of small bubbles for the human swimmers to pass through. When filtered light replaced the shade of the passageway, they turned upwards and came to a stop when their heads broke through the surface.

Allison removed the goggles, finding it more difficult to see things out of the water with them on. She and Marta were in the center of a circle of faces, and the mermaid beside her gently turned her until they were looking at one she recognized.

There was just a hint of a smile as Eva rose slightly in the water. “Well, Marta; now that she’s here, what are we going to do with her?”

“Play Marco Polo?” Allison ventured.

The circle broke into laughter as Eva approached her. “Well, you’re obviously not intimidated by us. Welcome to the Pod, Allison.”


The first day had gone well enough, Marta reflected. If she overlooked the fact that the girl had no hair left, or that she tired out quickly, it would have been easy to believe there was nothing wrong with Allison. She’d made a valiant effort at playing Marco Polo with them after the initial introductions, and had not Charles volunteered to carry her on his back for the bulk of the game, it would have ended almost as soon as it started.

The Movie Night had seemed to mortify Erin, though, when some of the humor degraded into a rather bawdy exchange between Gretchen and Brenda. Allison, though, had nearly laughed herself sick, much to her mother’s horror. Remember this when your daughter is fifteen, Marta reminded herself. Will I still look at this the same way when my children are old enough to potentially be influenced by it?

Their young guest joined with the other younger members of the Pod to listen to Angela Williams reading a story, clearly enjoying the teacher’s talent at bringing the tale to life. Like the Pod members, she was stretched out on her belly as though she also had a tail behind her instead of legs. Charles was next to her, and stole an affectionate glance in the girl’s direction. She smiled back at him, and he ventured a hand towards hers.

Erin saw the exchange, and started to stand up.

Marta moved closer, and gestured for the woman to stay seated. “It’s okay,” she said.

“She’s only fifteen,” Erin said.

“And Charles is sixteen, which is why it’s okay. Charles knows that no one under eighteen is allowed to be alone with anyone of the opposite sex, and he will not dare defy both Eva and me on that.”

“I don’t want my daughter to get hurt.”

“I don’t want Charles to get hurt either, but neither can I deny him the ability to live and take chances. The only way we can hope to protect someone from getting hurt is to try and keep them from ever experiencing all that life has to offer.” Do you wonder what it’s like to be human, Allison? Will you ask him what it is like to dance? “Let her enjoy being found attractive by someone her own age. I suspect with everything she’s gone through, she hasn’t had much chance to see what that’s like.”

The weariness appeared in the woman’s eyes again. “It’s strange; when she was younger, I thought she had so many years ahead to experience what life has to offer – boyfriends, proms, love, marriage; but then the doctors said that awful word and I saw all those years disappearing.”

“You don’t know that all those years are gone; Allison is still very much alive.”

“Yes, and I thank God that she is, but after so many ups and downs on this emotional rollercoaster, it gets more difficult to let go of the lows and embrace the highs. You don’t know how many times I’ve prayed that God would let me take her cancer and give her my health.”

“Does it help?”

“What? The praying?” She nodded. “Sometimes I think God created praying specifically with mothers in mind. You agreeing to invite her out here was an answer to prayer; ever since you called it’s almost as though she’s forgotten how sick she really is.”


The night was winding down, and the Pod members crawled to the various rooms where they would spend the night. Erin regarded the hopeful look in her daughter’s eyes, and wrestled with the question.

“Please, Mom? Can I sleep down here in the Family Room with the Pod?” Allison asked.

With Charles, the unspoken implication filled her with dread.

He would not dare defy both Eva and me on that, Marta’s assurance replayed in her mind. Consequences, however, hadn’t been that much of a hindrance to countless young couples in the past.

Including me, and I somehow survived my own folly, she thought. Would you possibly making a mistake be better or worse than implying I don’t trust you? “Who all is going to be in the room with you?”

“Leanna, Ophelia, Patricia, Brenda, Mark, Andrew, and Charles. It’ll be okay, Mom. If I do have an episode, Leanna can get Dr. Jenkins down here, and call you.”

It’s not an episode I’m worried about; then again, that’s a lot of chaperones to inhibit improper behavior, too. She forced a smile and nodded. “You just make sure you keep your phone by you, and call me immediately if you need anything.”

“Thanks, Mom,” her daughter said, and then gave her a quick hug and kiss on the cheek. “See you in the morning.”

She stood still, watching her daughter disappear into the sleeping room with the others. Lord, this entire trip is a gift from You; please keep my daughter safe and close to You.

Joshua Cardan stepped up beside her. “You can sleep down here tonight as well, if you’d like,” he said.

She thought for a moment, and then smiled. “I think it will be better for Allison if I just go back to my room, instead.”


Allison was exhausted, but for once, she didn’t mind. She stretched out on the padded floor, and smiled at Charles in the dim light. They held each other’s eyes for a few moments, before he tentatively scooted closer to her.

“Was today everything you thought it would be?” he asked.

“It was more wonderful than I ever imagined,” she said. “There’s just two more things that would make this day perfect.”

“What’s that?”

She felt a nervous flutter in her stomach as she answered. “First, for you to kiss me good-night; and second, to be held close and kept warm all night long.”

He closed the distance between their faces. “I think I can accommodate that,” he said, and brought his lips gently to hers.

The first kiss was brief, and she put her hand behind his head to pull him in for another, longer kiss. “Good night, Charles,” she said.

“Good night, Allison,” he said. “Do you want to roll over so I can scoot up behind you and keep you warm?”

“That would be very nice, but would you mind too terribly if I said I wanted Leanna to keep me warm tonight, since she helped Marta keep Mr. Cardan warm when he was first brought here?”

The look he gave her was genuine. “I wouldn’t mind at all, but if Leanna can’t stay in that position all night, I’ll be happy to take over.” He touched her nose with his finger, and lowered his voice to a whisper. “If you’re going to ask Leanna, though, you’d better do so quickly. She looks like she’s almost asleep already.”

She crawled over and made her request, receiving a smile and an upraised arm in response. Snagging a pillow for her head, she wiggled back into the warm embrace, and soon drifted into a restful sleep.
To be continued - Look for Allison, Part III on Friday, May 15


Joanne Sher said...

I LOVE Allison, Rick. I can feel her hope and joy. Great characterization for mom too - and I like her relationship with Marta.

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

Ooh...a budding romance. I enjoyed the story and the character development. You drew me right in to the story.