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Red Coral -part one-
Ever since I was little we lived on the waters edge. When I was sad I would swim. When I was angry I would swim. When I was bullied, when people called me fish-girl, or tuna-breath, I would swim. People thought I was crazy when I would leave school at lunch and run down to the beach on bad days. Everyone thought I was strange, even my parents, everyone except for Coralline. She didn’t swim as much as I did, but she loved the ocean equally. She was named after a seaweed called coralline red, but I just called her Coral. We used to sit on the beach and cover our legs with sand, fantasizing we were mermaids. But that was years ago, she’s gone now.
It was tragic irony really. Coral was going on a sailing trip. She was only fourteen, but age didn’t seem to play a role in her fate. She got on her boat and I ran down the pier as she set off, only stopping at the edge and even considering jumping in after that to watch her go. I watched her boat drift into the gentle waves and disappear over the horizon. She promised to bring back pictures, but she broke her promise. After that I never swam. The place that had once seems so colorful, so full of life and wonders and untouched mysteries, had betrayed me. I thought the ocean was the greatest thing in the world, until it took away the greatest thing in mine.
“She’s thinking about her again,” My mom said to my father.
“I know she misses her but it’s been years, she needs to let go.”
“Only three years, but still I understand your point. She’s become so pale, I’m starting to worry,” They continued to talk, muffled only by my door, but I tuned them out. Raindrops fell hard on my window, splattering it. We used to dance in the rain, saying the sea was falling from the sky. If we had to be inside, we would keep our noses pressed against the window and watch raindrops slide down their surface, putting bets on the race to see who reached the bottom first. ‘Lets race.’ I said under my breath, looking at a little raindrop. ‘My tear against the sea’s.’
The surface of the ocean was grey and the horizon molded with the clouded sky. On the thin line that separated them, I sometimes thought I saw a sailboat, but it never was, and somewhere deep inside that it never would be. My door swung open with a creak. “Salinity?”
“Ya?” She came and sat on my bed, but I didn’t turn to face her; I didn’t want her to see the tear streaks on my face.
“Your father and I were thinking and- well, it’s already decided- we think it’s for the better if- we’re moving,” Her voice was small and high pitched like she knew she wasn’t going to receive understanding and acceptance. My pupils dilated and before I even processed it I had whirled around to face her. She cringed like she was going to be slapped.
“No!” she got up, and headed for the door, and waited at the frame, letting out a sigh. “Mom- we can’t jus-“
“Well we are!” The sudden tone of firmness shocked me a little.
“You wont even let me testify, won’t even let me-“
“We are leaving in three weeks, were moving to Washington. It is calm and beautiful and-“
“Not here!” She stared at me with a look in her eyes, and I knew it was no longer open to discussion. She closed the door and walked out.
I stared back at the water, and unlike the sailboat, I thought I really did see something move, but the waves were becoming rough, and the rain was pelting the window. It could have been anything, or nothing at all.
Their little house on the edge of the beach had been through little. The water never became too strong, the wind never too rough, but that night something happened that was unnaturally strong. Not like a hurricane, nothing terribly destructive, but still enough to have to reinforce windows. The only good thing that ever came after a storm though, was what it had brought in.
As soon as I woke up, long before my parents did, I went out to the oversized cove-like beach we had all to ourselves. After finding a large stick, I poked and prodded at patches of seaweed and underneath driftwood. Other than a few crabs and starfish, as well as some damaged shells, there wasn’t much. I was starting to head back when I noticed something farther up the beach than I normally went, move slightly. It looked like a large clump of red algae. About to think I imagined it, I started to turn, but then it moved again, as though it was breathing, this time certainly. Cautiously I moved closer. As I reached a point a few yard away, now able to get a clear view, my heart stopped. The red algae wasn’t algae at all, it was hair, and it was attached to a pale skinny body. Without thinking I ran at it. Only one person I knew had hair that brilliantly red that lived up to her brilliant name.
I reached her, and kneeled down. It was her, it was truly her. Her eyes were closed but I knew they were emerald green, like seaweed beneath her eyelids. Her skin was soft and milky in a beautiful way, though coated in grains of sand. Without breathing I said, “Coralline?” My voice was not my own, but a shaky, high-pitched squeak. Her mouth twitched.
“I thought you promised you would call me Coral,” My hand flew to my mouth. Her voice was weak and wispy, but nevertheless one of a living person.
“You-“ I could barely talk, “You promised to bring me back pictures.”
“Let’s just say they got a little wet,” There was that voice again, humorous, but in pain. Tears rolled down my cheeks. “I need water, I can’t breathe.” With nothing but a nod I turned to the house. “Salt water” I stopped, confused. “It has to be salt.”
“S-salt?” I repeated, but questioned it only for a minute. Thoughtlessly I carried her to the waters edge, and set her in the wet sand. A wave greeted her, and as it touched her skin, she inhaled deeply, as if it was giving her life. It lapsed at my legs as well, as I kneeled beside her, and I realized it had been years since I last even touched the water. As if the situation weren’t already strange enough, the place where the water had hit seemed warm, in both feel and color. Astonished by the transformation, I hadn’t even realized that Coral had gotten up.
“You’re pale.” Her voice was immensely stronger.
“Ya, I guess I don’t get out much,” I said.
“Can you believe it?” she said lying back down in the lapping water.
“No, I think I’m dreaming.”
“After a year I thought you would figure out it isn’t,”
“A year? I think were thinking about different things,”
She looked at me shocked. “Salt, you HAVE been in the water since you turned sixteen, right?” I gestured no. “Salt! Oh, gosh, okay. Do you remember when we were little, and we pretended mermaids existed?” I nodded yes, a little lost. “They’re real, Salt. WE’RE real,”
“We? What are you saying?” I said, catching on. She got to her feet, and I did the same.
“I have to show you something? Do you trust me?” She held out a hand. Feeling crazy and confused, I took it.