Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Underwater Breathing (Part 2 of 3)

I searched out the source until I spotted a flash of bright green. The closer I got to her, the louder the song became, but the pounding of my heart threatened to drown it out. She had her back to me, as she arranged books in her locker.

Summer? I said, using the voice she’d shown me in my head.

All the books in her hands crashed to the floor.

She bent to collect them and I crouched to help her. “Summer?” I said again, thinking maybe she couldn’t hear me now that she wasn’t underwater.

“I’m sorry, my name is Lorelei.” She snatched her Biology book from my hands and pushed past me down the hall.

I didn’t see her again until lunch. Her green hair and pale skin was a beacon in the cafeteria painted in the school colors, blue and gold. The melody played softer now, sadder than before, but still definitely there in the creases of my mind.

I paid for my lunch and slid into the bench seat beside her at her empty table. “Sum—Lorelei? Hey. I’m Ryan.” How do you tell a girl you think she’s the mermaid who saved your life, and not sound crazy? How do you tell her you hear her song inside your head?

“Hi.” She smiled at me and even though I knew it was fake it was the most beautiful smile I’d ever seen. She picked at the fish sticks on her tray like she couldn’t figure out what they were, or maybe she was disgusted by them.

“The fish sticks are pretty bad. Try this.” She stared at the hoagie I put on her tray. “There’s no meat in it. Strictly veg.”

She smiled again and this time it was real. “Thanks.” She studied my face until her smile fell forming a tiny frown on her pale lips. The song changed too. The melody shifted into something more real, like words that were just out of reach. “Listen, Ryan, it isn’t safe for—”

“Sup, loser?” Cody Detwiller dropped into the seat on Lorelei’s other side and four of his friends sat opposite us, all with heaping trays of fish sticks and tater tots. “This homo isn’t bothering you, is he, Pretty Girl?”

“I’m fine, thanks,” she said. “Ryan, thank you for the sandwich.” Lorelei gathered her bag and took off leaving me and my sandwich behind.

“You sure know how to impress a girl, Gallagher,” Cody said, snorting and shoving fish sticks down his gullet.

She’s not just a girl, I thought, hoping she could hear me.

Her song played in my mind all afternoon making it easy to know where she was. But every time I saw her--at her locker, at the water fountain, going into the girl’s bathroom--she was surrounded by guys. Usually Cody and company.

I had to get her alone. I had to get her to talk to me, to remember. To admit that she was the girl I saw in the lake. But when the last bell rang and I rushed out into the hallway, the only sound I heard over the rising voices as more people filed out of classrooms, were squeaking sneakers and slamming lockers. She was gone.

Lorelei didn’t come to school at all the next day. Neither did Cody Detwiller.

Somehow I just knew he’d gotten to her. Cody was like that. He could talk to girls, any girl. He was just one of those guys. I’d really thought Lorelei wasn’t one of those girls.

I got up late for school the day after and ran into my mom in the kitchen. She wanted to talk, but I needed to go. I had to find Lorelei. I had to try to talk to her again. It didn’t matter if she was with Cody, because it was my life that she’d saved. Because I could hear her song. But Mom told me school was cancelled because something bad had happened.

Cody Detwiller drowned in Willow Lake.

Come back Friday for Natalie's conclusion!

photo via della stock

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