Chapter 6.29

Liam

Last night was a fiasco. I took pity on Charlene. The girl was so stressed about my class that she drunk herself into a stupor. And she cried out all her fears on me at the bar.

So, I took care of her the best I could.

I decided to ease up a bit. If she didn’t show, I wasn’t going to report it. And sure enough.

There was her friend Susan at her usual spot and Charlene’s chair was empty.

My class usually suffered with drop outs. It was down to eight.

I did hope Charlene wasn’t thinking about quitting though. She was too gifted for that. All she needed was a little maturity. I thought she’d make a great archaelogist one day.

“I hope you’re doing well on your reports. I’m going to give you class time to work on it today. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.”

One student raised her hand. “Um…Dr. Day, could we like have an extension? My computer is fried and I don’t think it’ll be fixed until next week.” Billie Jo Martin was the daughter of the famous Sand Martin–who discovered the Mastaba Ruins. She was always asking for more time–on tests, quizzes, you name it. And although I admired her father, she didn’t have what it took. The sooner she left the better. She cared more about the choice of lipstick for the day than what I was trying to teach my students.

Scratching my head, I retorted, “I believe you can use the library computers. They’re open 24 hours a day, Miss Martin.”

Reynold Reins raised his eyebrows. “Do you have a book on the subject matter? Would make my life a little easier.”

I crossed my arms. “Archaeology is a science of discovery. The information is online at our library database. All you need to do is follow the clues I’ve given you in your syllabus. I’m not going to hold your hand, Mr. Reins. Do the work or get out of my class. Understand?”

He winced. “Yes, sir.”

Anger flooded me. Kids today! They didn’t want to work for anything. They’d been coddled and spoiled their whole lives. I shook my head at them and said, “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I’m here to answer good, solid questions and instead, the two questions I’ve gotten were for extra time or me feeding you with the answers. If you don’t want to work hard, I would suggest you transfer to a normal university. One that will let you skate by and pass while padding their graduate lists. That’s not going to happen here. We are a high caliber establishment.

“Now, if there aren’t any further questions, I’ll be at my desk. Feel free to ask me something intelligent, otherwise, I’ll expect those ten page papers handed in on Friday.”

My students hated me. I could feel it. And I had to admit, I didn’t like them either. If only one would show the fortitude and spunk that Ginny had, it would make me love this part of my job.

But I just didn’t get the youth of today. They’d grown up on video games and WooTube. If only they wanted to explore the world like a true archaeologist. I’d bet half of these kids wanted to become one just because of a movie they saw.

Charlie

Shit. Shit. And double shit!

Dr. Day was going to brandish his jungle machete and murder me as I entered the classroom. But he saw me last night. I was a mess. Maybe he’ll take pity on me? That was about as likely as his poor girlfriend showing up after all these years.

When I opened the door, my heart pounded hard in my chest.

Damn. I was so late, everyone had already left. I was probably going to be put on academic probation. How could I be so careless?

There was only one thing I could do. Find the executioner in professor clothing and get down on my hands and knees. Ice might be running in his veins, but he couldn’t be totally evil, could he?

I checked his office first, but he wasn’t there. The college was so huge, Dr. Day could be anywhere. I was sunk.

Thank God I saw a friendly face. My Ancient Metals professor, Dr. Woods asked, “May I help you, Charlie? You seem lost.”

“Would you happen to know where Dr. Day is? I need to talk to him.”

“I think he’s down in the basement analyzing a new piece we got in today. But I don’t think…”

I rushed away, no time to lose!

I’d never been down in the basement. Lower level students like me really weren’t allowed down there, but this was an emergency!

The whole place felt creepy like it emanated a weird aura.

There were scads of secret passageways, skeleton sentries, golden statues.

But, Oh. My. GOD!

The Death Totecallum of the Sun Llama. THAT was a baaaad omen. I wondered why they were keeping it here.

I shook my head. Of course, it wasn’t real. Probably here for an upper level class.

But as I crept deeper into the labyrinth, the artifacts just grew more breathtaking. There were golden chaos relics, ceremonial plates and bowls, more jewel encrusted skeleton soldiers! It was a feast for archaeologist eyes!

But there was no sign of Dr. Day. As I descended even more stairs, the air took on a weighty, musky smell. Shivers crawled all over my body. I wasn’t supposed to be down here. I knew it, and yet, my feet just kept on going.

My God! I thought to myself. How far did this passage go? I winced. I was totally screwed. And freaking lost. I couldn’t have gotten back if I tried.

Where the hell was I?

And then God shone down on me like a lighthouse in a storm! Well, maybe not God, but a god–my stupid jerk professor who was totally going to murder me. I heard his voice reverberating off the Selvadoradan stones. “Time to get this over with,” I whispered.

Tiptoeing into a room that held a ton of analytical tables, I gazed around. Obviously this was a lab room.

“So what period would you put this in, Todd? Classic or Golden Age?” Dr. Day asked his friend. Were all the professors here just hot as holy hell? God! I didn’t know the guy beside him–hadn’t taken one of his classes, but I could only hope one day!

I cleared my throat, almost hoping he didn’t turn around. “Dr. Day? May I speak with you?”

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Chapter 6.28

Charlie

Omg. Worst. Day. Ever!

How the holy heck did I end up at the only dive in Oasis Springs? It was such a small town. Totally am jetting out once I get my pHD.

“Why do I hate my life?” I said, sitting next to my BFF’s in the world. I was crazy lucky they were here. Myla Owens on my right and Susan Sabatini on my left. Myla went to Oasis Springs University where we all met. She was working on her vet degree.

“Just guzzle, Charlie. That’s what I’m doing.” Susan methodically downed her beer.

I shook my head. “A ten fricken page paper due in one week? Dr. Day has got to be kidding. And on the The Temple of Queen Twosweat. I mean that thing was only discovered last year. There’s not even a simipedia on it. He’s going to be the death of me. Thank God my other classes have normal professors. I’m counting the days until this semester is over.” I wanted to scream.

“Yeah. I guess we’re just going to be living in the library.” Susan hiccupped. It was going to be a looooong night.

“Do you realize, Myla, that he made one of the girls cry yesterday? She didn’t have the summer reading done so he said she was on notice. If she screwed up one more thing, she would be barred from the expedition. I swear the guy has ice in his veins, not blood.”

“You want me to put cockroaches in his bed for you? His brother is my boyfriend after all. Wouldn’t be a problem for my sweet honeybees!”

“Oh please don’t do anything to upset him!” Susan said. “Dr. Deathday might up the pages on the paper. We want him rested and happy! Who knows what he might do when he’s tired?”

Myla shrugged. “Okay, darling. It was just a thought. He’s honestly a really nice guy in person. Maybe you should become friends with him?”

I laughed. “Are you kidding? No one gets close to the infamous Professor Day. Not after what happened to his poor long lost girlfriend. He’s like a scary legend on campus.”

“All I’m saying is you two should come out with me and Zack sometime. Hang out at the house. You’re both my friends so it wouldn’t be weird. Then maybe he’ll chat. A little brown nosing couldn’t hurt.”

She had a good point. I thought about chatting with Dr. Day and weird heebeejeebees skittered up my back. “Sorry, Myla. That would be just plain awkward. Sort of like us hanging with a gargoyle made of stone. On my first day, he made me come into his office so he could chew me out but he only stared at me until I almost got down on my knees and begged him to say something. Anything! Just to relieve the tension. No thanks.”

I took a pull on my beer. “I think I’ll do what Susan is suggesting. I’ll just get drunk and worry about my troubles tomorrow!”

On my fourth beer, I was feeling pretty good. I didn’t even think about Dr. Day once! “Stay with us, sweetie,” I begged Myla. “You don’t need to go out with Zack. Chicks before dicks, I always say!”

“Sorry, sweetums, but he’s been patiently waiting over there with Professor He-who-must-not-be-named. Give me kisses, though. Love you, two!”

Liam

It was nice to be out, relaxing for a change. When my brother suggested going to the Oasis Lounge, I almost didn’t. I had a lot of work to catch up on but he was right. Grading papers could wait. When was the last time I’d even grabbed a beer with friends?

I was glad Todd Monteira agreed to go with us, too. He was a chemistry professor at the University of Archaeology and almost as married to his work as I was. We’d become so close over the years. A brilliant scientist, I always got his opinion whenever I needed something dated. His mind was like a computer that could instantly remember things that I couldn’t, too. He’d broken up with his girlfriend, Melina, years ago right after high school. She actually ended up moving to Del Sol Valley and launched a singing career. But unlike me, Todd usually had a date on his arm. Thankfully, not tonight.

Zack wiggled his fingers. “So like I was saying, it’s going to be our first month anniversary. I want to do something romantic but not too over the top. Any suggestions?”

My brother and his girlfriend, Myla, were going light speed in the relationship department. It kind of made me nervous. He’d never had a serious girlfriend before. Always told me getting tied down wasn’t his thing. But with Myla, that all changed.

I liked seeing my brother happy and in love, though. It looked good on him.

Someone cleared their throat behind us.

“Oh shit. Guess it’s time to go.” Zack looked like he got caught with his pants down.

“If you’re going to talk about me behind my back, you should at least make it juicy, babe.”

He flirted back. “You know I don’t kiss and tell. Not my style.”

Scraping his chair back, he waved and said, “Later, dudes. And Liam? Try to have a good time. Why don’t you get drunk and laid and make your brother happy?”

I shook my head at his joke. After I finished my beer, I was definitely heading home. I had class early in the morning.

I watched as the two of them flashed goo goo eyes at each other. I really hoped they made it. Myla was a sweetheart and funny. I’d love to call her my sister one day.

“Want another beer, Liam?” Todd asked. “I’m buying.”

I chuckled. “Well, when you put it that way, how can I refuse?” Guess those papers could wait. One more round shouldn’t hurt.

Charlie

“So like screw him, you know, Susan? Why does everyone kiss his ass all the time? Even the other professors worship him. Like he shits gold or something. I mean, yeah, we’re learning a ton, but geeze. He’s a walking, breathing nightmare. If only I could tell him off just once without getting crucified by him, I’d do it. He made me so mad yesterday with what he pulled on Sarah.”

Damn. How many beers had I chugged? It was like once Myla left, all my brain could think about was Dr. Deathday. Ugh!

“Oh, please don’t tell him off, Charlie. I couldn’t take being in that class without you. You’re like my anchor in a swirling vortex!”

Liam

Waiting on our second beer, I heard a bunch of whooping and hollering behind me. Someone was having a party.

“Uh…Liam? Isn’t that one of your students?”

“One of my students? Here?” I hated hanging out at places where my students went. Thought this dive bar was safe. The clubs were down the street, after all.

I turned around to see two of my students, actually. Susan Sabatini and the one making a total ass out of herself was Charlene Darby. The girl was brilliant. Got a full ride to the university. But she was a bit lazy. Probably because things came easily to her. I figured she was spoiled as a child.

I covered my face, hoping she wouldn’t notice me. Charlene hated my guts and made that very clear almost every day she came to my class. Sure I was a hardass. That was my job. To push the kids and make it tough because if they wanted to succeed at archaeology, they needed to be able to work long hours even in the hot sun. It wasn’t day camp and it wasn’t like the movies. Sometimes we faced unknowns that could threaten our safety. If their heart wasn’t in this, then I wanted them out.

I figured the girl wouldn’t last through my class. Looked like she was well on her way to a hangover, too. Probably wouldn’t show up tomorrow. Which would give me cause to put her on academic probation. That might wake her up if she thought her scholarship was in jeopardy.

*****

Charlie

The sun peeked through my window, waking me.

I was having the most wonderful dream.

Dr. Day turned into the sexiest guy ever and was holding me, telling me I’d be okay.

That jolted me out of bed. “What the…?” My head felt like I’d done headstands all night, throbbing like a heart attack and my mouth was full on cotton. Hello, hellish hangover. God, why did I have to chug all that beer?

I slogged through the mess on my floor to the mirror.

My hair was back to its natural state and my makeup was dripping over my face like I’d been crying.

And then the blur of the night hit me like a slap.

For some gawdawful reason, I’d switched to wine. Wine always made me melancholy. And I thought about having to endure Professor Day’s class. I hated it. Hated him. And I threw myself the biggest pity party, thinking all my hopes and dreams were going to be crushed by him.

Susan had already left but I stayed. Ugh. Why did I stay?

And in my drunken state, I heard Dr. Day talking to me, but I couldn’t move or even register what he was saying.

All I remember was he took the drink out of my hand and said I needed to go home–that class was early and he didn’t want me to be late.

But my legs were so wobbly and I think I was crying? Blubbering about all the hateful things that had been on my heart this whole time.

Oh. My. GOD! Did he take me home? Did he see my mess?

And more importantly, I knew this. He was going to KILL ME!

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Chapter 6.27

Charlie

To say I’d been looking forward to this class was like a TOTAL understatement. Archaeology was my passion! No. Archaeology was my LIFE! I’d never forget the day when my mother took me to see the movie Simsiana Sones and the Sanctuary of Death. OMG! Right then, I knew I wanted to travel the world. Seek out new discoveries! Study ancient civilizations!

And when I got a full graduate scholarship to THE University of Archaeology, my destiny was set in literal stone.

Dr. Day’s Archaeology Masters 1 class was renown as the ultimate weed out course, but EVERYONE had to take his class at this school and pass or get kicked out. Sigh…I had nervous jitters just listening to his welcome speech. I mean, he didn’t LOOK like the student assassin everyone said he was.

“Oh my word, Charlie,” my friend, Susan Sabatini whispered next to me. “Dr. Day just said we have to go on a jungle expedition this semester. I thought that was next YEAR! I don’t think I’m ready. What if he hates my research project? I’m doomed!”

I rolled my eyes. “Look, Susan, haven’t you heard there are three things you need to do to keep Dr. Day happy? One, do your homework. Two, come to class. And three, never EVER mention his long lost girlfriend, Ginny Malcolm.”

“Long lost girlfriend? I’d never heard about her. What happened?”

“Are you serious? Everyone who goes here KNOWS about it. His girlfriend was some archaeology genius. She was the one who found the golden llama sarcophagus in Al Simhara and she was still an undergrad! Her parents were archaeologists, too. But then one day she went off with them on some quest and THREW herself into a volcano. It’s all so romantic and sad.”

“Oh my GOD! That’s awful! Why would she do something like that?”

“Well, I heard that when she was a little girl, a mermaid saved her life, but her days were numbered. The mermaid told her she could only live until she found true love.

“Once she got serious with Dr. Day, that was it. She started feeling sick and so rather than slowly die in a hospital bed, she threw herself in the volcano, never to be heard from again.”

“That’s so unbelievable! Mermaids? Curses?” Susan shook her head.

“Hey, I’ve heard of some crazy stuff going on with these jungle expeditions. There are actual spirits living in the ancient temples, so I don’t doubt it. But still…about Dr. Day– I hear that he often locks himself in his office and literally cries over Ginny’s picture EVERY DAY!”

Just then someone cleared their throat behind me. I looked up and to my ungodly HORROR, my stomach plunged ten stories. Professor Day was glaring down at me. I almost screamed!

“Could I see you in my office after class, please?” he asked in a tone my mother used when I was totally fricken in the hot seat.

Shaking, I squeaked, “Um…okay?”

Oh geeze. I felt like I was in the principal’s office back in high school (and let me tell you, I did my time there on many occasions–could I help it that I’d run my mouth more than once–yeah, like it seemed I’d never learn) only this was WORSE! This guy had my future in the palm of his beautifully manicured hand. (The man looked so meticulous like I bet his bed was always made and nothing was out of place anywhere in his life–well, except for that horror story about his girlfriend. OMG!!!!!) And ohhhh…there was a picture of him and Ginny still on the wall.

HOW SAD!

I wanted to pat his hand and tell him it would be okay right then, but gah!

I was in trouble so I held my tongue.

He just stared at me, glaring, making me squirm. Was I supposed to say something?

I decided he did want me to talk so I obliged. “Okay…so like…I’m sorry, Dr. Day. I should have been paying attention in class. I guess I was just so excited about being here and…” I trailed off, blinking.

The look he gave made me feel like a child. I mean…I was apologizing! What was I supposed to do? Give him my left arm or something?

So, I went on, “and like…I’m sorry I said anthing about Ginny. It was insensitive of me. I won’t ever mention your tragic story again or gossip or do any of those things that might make you mad….um…s-sir, but…

“I guess it just means I’m really interested in you as a person that I would care so much about your history. I mean, that’s what we archaeologists, do. We dig into people’s history.” I chuckled at my own joke. “Ha ha…get it? History? People? Ha ha…”

All that did was make him purse his lips.

Ugh. I was dying. My face grew hot and I wanted to crawl out of there under one of his Selvadoradan bowls. “Oh, God, I guess that was lame.”

Finally, he spoke, “Listen, I just want to make myself clear here since we’re going to be spending at least an hour and a half, three times a week together as well as you’ll be going on the jungle expedition which I’m sure you didn’t hear about because you were spinning fictional tales about me. The project will be half your grade. And if I think you’re not taking my class seriously, I will bar you from even going on that expedition. Do I make myself clear?”

Okay. I was dead. Totally dead. I could have been one of the mummies they kept in the basement at this college. “Yeah…I…um…I get it. Sorry. Yeah…” I was dying and cringing and quivering all at once. I wondered how sad my mother was going to be to hear her daughter bit the dust in her professor’s office on the first day at her dream college.

When he didn’t say anything more, I excused myself and basically slithered to the door.

Once I was safely out of his office, I hit my head. How could I be so STUPID? He hated me! Already! The one professor that could make or break all of my dreams!

Well, from now on, I was going to impress him with my talent and knowledge. I mean, not many people could get a full ride to this school. It was hard enough just to qualify. Maybe he’ll forget all about this rough start. I could only hope and pray. UGH!

Liam

It never ceased to amaze me how the tall tale grew over Ginny’s disappearance. I had to chuckle. How the kids ever got wind that Ginny had met a mermaid when she was young was truly beyond me. Probably one of the other professors told one student and then that somehow worked its way into the rest until it blew out of proportion.

Looking at Ginny’s picture, I asked, “Was I too hard on her, honey?”

The kids weren’t wrong about one thing–I did lock myself up in here–not everyday, but a lot, and I’d think about her. Maybe I didn’t cry. Those days were over. I’d cried enough in my life to last forever. Losing my baby sister, Brandy, was the hardest thing I’d ever faced.

But I could go on with Ginny by my side. And then the emptiness could never be filled once she disappeared. It was like a weight would forever be on top of me, suffocating.

How I missed her. No one could come close to the special person who was Ginny Malcolm. And since I’d never find anyone who loved life as much or more than her, why even bother finding someone else? I’d given that up long ago. And I was reasonably happy with my life. I threw myself into my work. At least, I knew Ginny would approve of my success.

I’d never forget the day we both decided to come to this college right after we graduated.

It was my idea and when I said it, she beamed up at me and told me how proud she was of me. We both had 4.0’s in our college classes. Studying was easy when she was by my side.

And when I asked her to marry me right there on the swing set, she told me she’d follow me anywhere in the world.

It was the best moment of my life.

“Oh, God, Ginny,” I whispered. “I wish you were here.”

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Chapter 6.26

Liam 26, Zack 21, Lexie/Cory/James 54, August/Beau/Briar 71 (RIP Siobhan and Seth! 😥 )

Zack

“So…it’s yours. Your dad set it all up. All you have to do is sign the papers.” Some suave guy with only a jacket on and no shirt under it met us at the weirdest house in Oasis Springs.

But it fit Liam to a tee.

I sighed.

“Hey, Zack,” Liam said, “don’t be pressured. We can keep looking. I can understand if you don’t want to take a gift from Dad.”

I looked at my brother.

Was he serious?

My mind flew back to the day that changed all our lives. When reality struck me. I was just a stupid kid, not really understanding anything except my baby sister was gone.

I’ll never forget my mother screaming, just wailing at her gravesight. And Liam…her death crushed him like it was his kid who’d died.

It was like I was a person on the sidelines of a bad movie, watching all the drama. I was so helpless. I felt like shit. I loved Brandy. I missed her so badly that it sometimes made my stomach sick. But what made it worse was Mom and Dad always fighting, hollering at each other for the stupidest crap.

I could tell they hated each other.

And as a kid, I worried they were going to split.

Didn’t take long. Mom told me to pack up my stuff, said we’re moving out. I had no say in it. A part of me was relieved because I needed my brother. I was so lonely in that huge mansion with no one to hang out with on top of that hill. It was like a golden prison to a kid.

But a part of me was screaming inside. I didn’t want my parents to divorce. I knew I’d miss my dad. Miss my family being together. I cracked apart in so many ways, I didn’t think I’d ever be happy again.

Thank God for Liam, though. After that, he was always there for me. Whenever I wanted to talk about things, anything, he’d listen.

And he gave me the love I didn’t get from either of my parents.

Over time, I thought of him as my father, not my real dad. Hell, we’d see him only a few times a year. But Liam made sure to spend time with me.

Teaching me how to fish, play basketball, talk to me about girls.

Next thing that happened, Mom got married to Cory. And then got pregnant right away with twins–Kadence and Kaylin.

She whisked us out of the home we grew up in to another house. One for her new family.

Liam and I shared a room. I didn’t care about it. Never felt like my house. I didn’t even have a say in the decorations. I just lived there.

A warm body in the house.

Dad’s movie was a ginormous hit. Everyone knew it would be. He wanted Liam and me to come to his premiere but Liam refused and I couldn’t go without him.

When we went to see a different movie, I saw Dad’s face on billboards. It was so weird.

Liam just stared at the Robotron poster with a sad look on his face.

He hated the movie and refused to see it. I hated watching Liam die a little each day being without Brandy. He never could forgive himself for not moving to Del Sol Valley. If he had, he believed Brandy would still be with us. But that wasn’t true. On that horrible day, Brandy was supposed to be napping. Liam wouldn’t have known. She slipped out of the house to the backyard, we believe looking for her toy stuffed animal–her favorite. It had blown into the pool somehow and we think she wanted to retrieve it, but…

God, I hated thinking about it.

I tried to tell Liam he couldn’t have saved her but he thinks he would have heard the back door. There was no talking him out of it.

After everything that happened, it didn’t help that Mom blossomed as a mother and doted on her new kids and husband.

It was like Liam and I were accidents. And with Brandy gone, she wanted to forget and make a fresh start.

She loved us, but there was a huge difference in her happiness when she was with them. As they say, actions speak louder than words. But I couldn’t blame her or Cory and I certainly couldn’t blame my little brother and sister. Cory was her soulmate. It was so apparent. But for me and Liam, it just sucked.

At least Liam had Ginny during that hard transition. They were inseparable and I was happy for him.

But it was liked his life was cursed or something.

Two years into college, Liam and Ginny were undergrad archaeology students, going to Brindleton Bay University so he could stay with me while I was in high school. He’d told me they’d planned on getting married right after they graduated college and both decided to go to the renown University of Archaeology in Oasis Springs for their graduate work.

They fed off each other, always studying, going on digs with her parents. I was honestly so stoked for him.

And then, Dad was up for an award. It was at the same time Ginny decided to go on an exploration with her parents in Sulani. Liam wanted to come but in the end, he did what he always did–family first.

Then tragedy struck. Ginny and her parents went on a hike near a volcano but were never heard from again.

People surmised they must have gotten lost in the thick jungle–or maybe went on a dive and got caught in the current. Liam always believed she’d come back to him. But after six years passed, he finally said his good byes to her officially.

It crushed me to watch him in pain. But I was going to be there for him just like he was always there for me.

After that day at the volcano, I’d never seen him smile. Not really.

Losing Ginny consumed whatever was left in him after Brandy had died. He was an empty shell of his former self from then on.

It tore me apart to watch him. I wanted to take his pain away. He didn’t deserve this.

He’d do anything for anyone. And he loved his family. Why did this have to happen?

Swallowing down a lump in my throat, I shook my head.

In the end, Dad became one of the hottest blockbuster stars in our nation.

He had so much money, he bought us this house. I knew he did it for Liam. It was an archaeologist’s dream. Liam wanted us to live in a house together until I found someone to share my life with one day.

I was a senior in college, going to Oasis Springs University down the road from the place he got his pHD and worked now– The University of Archaeology.

How could I say no?

I clasped my hands together and said, “Let’s do this.”

The rare grin on his face made me so glad about my decision.

He clapped me on the back and squeezed, saying, “Thanks, man. I owe you.”

I chuckled. “No, Liam. You don’t owe me a thing.”

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Chapter 6.25

Warning: VERY emotional chapter!

Trigger warning: Child death (it is not shown but implied. You’ve been warned!)

For full effect, get headphones, play music, scroll slowly, keeping with the words.

(I know it’s slow…sorry!)

We know full well there’s just time


So is it wrong to toss this line?


If your heart was full of love


Could you give it up?

‘Cause what about, what about angels?


They will come, they will go, make us special

Don’t give me up


Don’t give
Me up

How unfair, it’s just our love


Found something real that’s out of touch


But if you’d searched the whole wide world


Would you dare to let it go?

‘Cause what about, what about angels?


They will come, they will go, make us special

Don’t give me up


Don’t give


Me up

‘Cause what about, what about angels?


They will come, they will go, make us special

It’s not, about not about angels, angels

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Chapter 6.24

Liam

Ginny and I just fell in step like we’d been together for years. She was so easy to hang out with that I found myself wanting to spend every minute with her.

And she was really smart, so she’d help me with math, science, you name it.

And it didn’t matter what time of year it was, she always wanted to spend it outside doing something different. A lot of times, she had to nag me to get out there. Take today…it was Saturday and I wanted to sleep in but she said Nature Park was beautiful at dawn and we had to go, so…I found myself at the jungle gym, goofing off with her as the sun turned the sky a beautiful shade of pink.

“See? I told you this would be fun,” Ginny said with a smirk. “Aren’t you glad you’re not sleeping the day away?”

I arched an eyebrow. “I’d be more happy if you were over here next to me.”

She slid through the bars like a python. “Okay…I’m next to you.”

I laughed. “How can I kiss you like that?”

“Try it!”

We both chuckled during the most awkward kiss we’d ever done. But it was fun.

I mused how last week, the temperatures were the coldest in Brindleton Bay history and Ginny STILL wanted to go outside and ice skate. Not lying, I battled her until I thought we both were going to throw things. I mean, I had my male pride. I didn’t have to do everything she said all the time, did I?

In the end, guess who won? But I’m glad she did.

We might have been the only crazy people outside, but it wasn’t that cold. Not when you’re cuddled together, moving around. I looked at her in amazement, wondering how I got so lucky that she’d like someone like me. I’m totally different than her and she had to push me to get out of my comfort zone. But it was good for me. I knew it was. I was changing.

And I liked who I was becoming.

This afternoon, I was set to meet her parents. (Finally!) Not gonna lie, I was freaking out. I mean, they were like archaeological gods to me. They had a life that movies were made of (and honestly, their stories sounded way more whacked than anyone could ever dream writing about.) Truth was stranger than fiction. Right?

They lived in this old, historic home that they’d refurbished over the years. It was nestled back into the woods, away from civilization.

After I was introduced to Ginny’s mom, she shooed us outside to make a fire–she wasn’t finished cooking dinner. My nerves were jumbled because I hadn’t met her father yet. He was coming home from running errands.

I hoped I could live up to his expectations. I mean, God. I was just some kid who didn’t know what he wanted to do in life with his daughter who had her whole life planned out. I worried he wouldn’t like me.

Ginny nuzzled my cheek, knowing full well I was nervous. “Stop it, okay? He’ll love you.” She kissed me, trying to make me feel better.

I sighed, shaking my head. “I don’t know…I’m worried about what I’ll say to him. I mean…geeze…both of your parents are professors…I’m barely passing math.”

She pulled me with her, walking toward the house. “Liam, this isn’t a contest. Just be yourself. You’re funny, nice, and respectful. You have the heart of a saint. And you treat me like a queen. How could my dad want more for me than that?”

At dinner, my nerves settled down. Her folks were honestly the most down to earth people I’d ever met.

And they didn’t ask me twenty questions like I thought they would. We just talked about school, my family, and how I was doing being away from them. They were really concerned about me.

I felt stupid, thinking how worried I was about meeting them. I mean, they raised someone like Ginny. Of course they’d be genuinely nice people.

After dinner, we went into the family room to chat. Their house was amazing. It was exactly how I thought it’d look, decorated with an eclectic assortment of things they’d acquired from their world travels.

“So, tell me, Mr. Malcolm, Ginny says you’ve seen a real live mermaid.” This story was something I’d really wanted to hear straight from his mouth. Ginny didn’t believe it but I was open.

“Oh…I see Ginny has been telling you of our tales, has she? Yes, I have seen a mermaid. In fact, it was Ginny who met her first.”

Ginny waved her arms. “Okay, so he likes to say that but I don’t remember it at all. I was like three years old and so he could say anything. Just putting that out there.”

Mr. Malcolm chuckled. “We have proof, though, don’t we, Ginny dear. That treasure you’re wearing around your neck was a gift from her.”

“Oh, Daddy…I’m not three years old anymore. I don’t believe in the toothfairy or Santa Claus. You gave it to me.”

I held up my hand, stopping her. “Hey, Ginny, I want to hear the whole story from your father. Then I’ll make up my mind whether to believe it or not.”

“Ho ho! I like this boy already. Okay, I’ll tell you the whole story top to bottom.”

And so the story Ginny’s dad related was honestly, unbelievable.

He said he was out walking on the beach with little three year old Ginny. I guess Ginny was a handful as a toddler, always having to go outside instead of staying inside their large tent while her mom was busy studying samples of bone or rock they’d found. (That wasn’t surprising!)

They’d discovered this unpopulated island on Sulani and had been staying there, working, basically camping out for months. Mr. Malcolm said Ginny had run off while he was inspecting a tide pool, so he frantically searched up and down the beach.

He worried that she might have wandered into the surf. But then off in the distance, he spied a mermaid on a rock with Ginny, smiling and talking to her. He couldn’t believe his eyes but there it was! He said she looked different from what legend said about them. Her tail sparkled, almost glowing a shade of pink on a backdrop of blue scales and her hair wasn’t red but a beautiful golden color.

Then the mermaid gave Ginny an object that glowed. Suddenly, the sky grew darker and he felt an energy pass through him.

Frightened that something bad might happen to his little daughter, he dashed as fast as he could to save her from the unknown.

In the swirling water, Mr. Malcolm caught Ginny who had nothing but smiles on her face, even under water. She wasn’t gasping for air. She wasn’t flailing. She merely floated with that weird grin.

When he got her to shore, he found the necklace laying on the sand. Turning around he saw the mermaid wink then splash back in the water, never to be heard from again.

Mr. Malcolm said it was a true miracle and he credited the mermaid for saving Ginny’s life. He knew what he saw had been real but both Mrs. Malcolm and Ginny thought he’d hit his head on a rock and remembered it all wrong.

I laughed. “Okay, Mr. Malcolm. I believe you. If you say there are mermaids on Sulani, who am I to judge?”

“That, my boy, is a good answer. One that will get you places with me.” He winked. “Now how about some ice cream? I have a hankering for triple caramel fudge.”

I got up to my feet when he did. “Oh, that’s sounds great.”

After ice cream, Ginny wanted to show me her mom’s art easel on the balcony. I shivered in the cold, cuddling up to my girlfriend. “You really think you met a mermaid, Ginny?”

She shrugged. “Sometimes I wonder if it really DID happen, because when I wish for something, it does come true. Maybe this necklace is a good luck charm?”

On my way home, the night’s events kept strolling over in my mind. I loved her parents. They were so cool. And I loved their life. Right then I knew what I wanted to do. I was going to see the world just like they did. Experience ridiculous things that no other person had ever experienced. Explore unknown areas of the world. Discover rare treasures!

And whether I’d do that with Ginny or not was to be figured out later. Much later. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake with her as I’d done with Mala. I was going to take things one day at a time.

But knowing what I had a passion for totally made my night spectacular. Who knew I’d be feeling so balling right now only two months after Mala had dumped me?

I couldn’t wait to tell my grandfathers about the mermaid story. And there they were, hugging each other. Man, those two just couldn’t get enough. And after all these years!

But as I got closer, I noticed…they were sobbing!

A cold knife sliced right into my heart.

I froze.

“Wh-what’s wrong?” My voice echoed.

Granddad raised his head slowly and said, “Liam, I think you’d better sit down.”

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Chapter 6.23

Liam

I didn’t know how it happened, but over the last few weeks, Ginny and I’d become pretty close. She was such a cool person. She wasn’t the type to sit indoors, mess around on social media, and watch WooTube like most of my friends. She liked to explore the world! And she would always ask me to do the most amazing things I would have never thought to do.

Today, she was being a little mysterious, not letting me know where the heck we were off to or what we were even going to do. I just had to trust her. Last week, she’d showed me a tiny hot springs in the middle of the woods that I’m sure no one in Brindleton Bay even knew about. So, I wondered what she would help me discover today.

We hopped on some bikes and I followed her like I always did.

The sun was setting and I thought it was strange we were going to some ruins. I’d seen this place before, too. Old Brindleton Bay when it was just a pirate cove over three hundred years ago. I knew the place would get dark. I hoped the moon was full tonight.

“Wee!” she cried as we coasted downhill.

“I think we should stop here.” She slowed her bike and I hit my brakes.

The ruins had this peaceful, romantic quality to it. Over the past weeks, even though I’d become such great friends with Ginny…I did have growing feelings for her. Ginny was smart, pretty, fun, interesting…so many great qualities, I should have already gone for it, but…I knew she’d want a relationship, and I really didn’t.

Not now.

Ginny flailed her hands as she was relaying one of her many stories about her archeologist parents’ quests. “And so I was like, ‘are you kidding me? Mermaids don’t exist’…” She was so over the top. I chuckled.

I thought it was cute how someone could be so passionate about everything.

Looking at my life, honestly, I hadn’t been passionate about really anything. Well, except Henry Puffer, but that was kids stuff. I didn’t have time. I was watching over my siblings. And now that I had time on my hands, I was really seeing the world through someone’s eyes who loved life and everything in it.

I didn’t like that about myself. Even thinking back to what my plans were with Mala seemed so…worthless. Yeah, raising kids was a noble thing, especially since my parents were so bad at it, but…what was I passionate about? My mom loved to do her animation. Dad had his acting and music. Even my kid brother was passionate about airplanes. He knew every kind since the earliest invention. And little Brandy loved animals. She said she wanted to be a vet when she grew up. Cute little five year olds were funny. But it wouldn’t surprise me if she actually accomplished it.

When we settled down, Ginny produced a surprise picnic basket she’d hidden earlier. I laughed, shaking my head. “What’s this?”

She shrugged. “I thought it might be nice to have dinner before we explore.”

“You really think of everything, don’t you?” I asked, feeling a little awkward. This felt like a date now. Not some friends hanging out.

“Someone has to since you’re obviously not going to do it.”

That kind of cut into me. She was right. I wouldn’t think up all these fun things to do. “Yeah…well, I’m not as creative as you are.”

“Oh God…did I just say that…don’t mind me, Liam….” She winced and turned away. “Shit,” she whispered.

I flung myself on the ground, sighing. “No…it’s okay. You’re right. I…just am not like that. I wish I was though.”

She shook her head. “You shouldn’t wish to be anything other than yourself, Liam. That was awful of me. I’m sorry.”

I pulled myself up on my elbow. “Yeah, but it’s true. I didn’t grow up the way you did. It was just me and my siblings for the most part.

“I had to figure out how to cook by the time I was nine. And I’ve been watching my brother and sister and taking care of things around the house since almost always. But…I love to get out and explore the world like you do, Ginny. It’s fun.”

She brightened, lightening the mood. “Well, good. Then I think you’re going to love what we’re going to see next.”

I tried to needle her into telling me what it was but she kept shaking her head, laughing. “It’s a surprise, silly!”

After we ate sandwiches, I had to go take a leak. Once I got back, I noticed she held an apple. I’d already eaten mine, but I wanted to tease her.

I reached out to take it and she stopped me. “Hey that’s mine! You already had yours.”

“But I’m a growing boy. I just want a bite.” I tried to swipe it again, not really trying though, just wanting to see her eyes light up and get angry. She was pretty predictable.

She raised a finger. “Okay…I’ll give you one bite. But that’s all.”

She lifted the apple to my mouth and I had to suppress a laugh. She was so stinking cute. I wanted to kiss her right there, but I resisted. I wasn’t going down that road with her.

After our picnic dinner, she pulled out a lamp from her bicycle basket and lit it. Wow. She really did think of everything. She led me in the middle of a dark forest. The autumn leaves rustled and swirled around in the cool air. “Where are we?” I asked.

She looked at me coyly. “Just be patient. I’ll show you. Come on!”

We walked for about thirty minutes until I saw some sign of civilization. There were streetlights around at least. “Are we there yet?” I said.

“We are,” she answered. “Take a look in front of us.”

“Whoa,” I gasped.

The most interesting building I’d ever seen glimmered in the darkness.

“What is this place?” I asked.

The building looked like a glowing honeycomb orb. I could hear buzzing coming from inside.

Ginny explained, “My parents donated this to the town. It’s a bee sanctuary park. They’d discovered rare midnight bees while on an excavation dig in Al Simhara. The bees produce a rare honey that have glowing properties. I thought you’d want to see it.”

I actually had heard of the park. It was pretty out of the way, so I’d never gone to it. “That’s so cool,” I said, raising my hand. “Let’s go inside then.”

I was blown away as we entered. The room had this natural, homey quality that put me at ease. “I can’t believe your parents built this.”

“It was a long time ago. Like when I was five, I think?” Ginny said. “My parents are hippies at heart.” She chuckled nervously.

The tension between us made my skin buzz. My hand had brushed up against hers as my heart thudded hard in my chest.

There was something magical that was happening between us like God was saying I shouldn’t resist. I should just go for it like I’d wanted to. Like me and Ginny were meant to be. Like we fit each other. Like it was our destiny.

Quickly, without thinking about it any further, I grasped her hand. It was warm…almost as warm as my face that was probably blushing. I was so glad it was dark in there.

She squeezed my hand back, smiling up at me.

I didn’t regret going forward with her like this. I wanted her to be my girl. And it wasn’t because I was rebounding.

There was something bigger going on. Something I knew would change me for the rest of my life.

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Chapter 6.22



Liam

I had to hand it to Ginny. She really helped me keep my mind off Mala. With the archaeology club, we had all this work to do on the weekends so I couldn’t mope around the house, wishing I was with her and wondering what she was doing with that scumfuck instead.

We’d cleaned up Deadgrass Isle last weekend so this Saturday, it was time for us to explore. Ginny was determined to find some old piece of junk that the museum could display.

When I arrived, to my surprise, one of my friends, Hudson Parris was there, too. “Hey, man. What are you doing here?” I asked.

“Saw a sign up for the archaeology club and thought I’d check it out.”

“Really?” I said, not believing my luck. I thought none of my friends would ever join a nerdy club like this one. I didn’t even mention it to him. “Alright, dude.” We slapped hands.

“Let’s find some seriously valuable old junk that we can pawn and make a lot of cash!” I joked.

“You know it!”

Hudson raised his eyebrow. “So…why are you here? You’re interested in archaeology?”

“No, dude, not really. But, I don’t know…Ginny Malcolm invited me and they do a bunch of cool stuff for the community.” I shrugged. I really never thought about it before. Just needed to take my mind off things, but I didn’t want to go into that with Hudson. The less I talked about Mala the better.

“Hey, guys,” Ginny said, raising her finger. “Want to go up the lighthouse? It’s open.”

“Want to check it out?” I asked Hudson. “I’ve never been.”

“Sure. Let’s do it.”

I followed Ginny, Todd Monteira, and Dusty up the stairs to the balcony. The view was breathtaking. We could see the whole island from up here as well as most of the town. Brindleton Bay was such a cool place to live. I never wanted to leave. I was thankful my folks let me stay. So much better than the smog filled place of Del Sol Valley.

“Hey, check out those trails,” Todd said. “We should explore some of them. I’ve been here a thousand times but never noticed them.”

“That’s a great idea, Todd,” Ginny agreed.

I noticed the sun getting higher in the sky. It was almost lunchtime and I needed to get back for the football game. The San Myshuno Llamas were taking on the Bridgeport Bears. It was an old rivalry and I never missed a game. “Hey, I wonder if we could climb up to the top of this thing.”

But there were no stairs leading up to the light itself.

After we descended the tower, we found the hiking trails Todd was talking about.

And Ginny was constantly digging but finding nothing.

The further we walked, the more dead grass we found. Probably why they called it “Dead Grass Isle”. Not a very inventive name.

“Hey, guys, look at this path,” Ginny said. “It goes down to a weird place. I see headstones.”

She was right. We discovered an old cemetary right there on the isle full of old guys from the pirate days.

It kind of gave me the creeps but Ginny thought we’d found a treasure. It wasn’t even on the map in Deadgrass Discoveries, the museum here.

After Ginny talked the museum director’s ear off about the cemetary, I told everyone I had to go since the football game was about to start. Hudson had to babysit his little sister so he said good bye. Ginny told me she loved the San Myshuno Llamas and so I invited everyone over. Todd brought his girlfriend, Melina, too.

My grandfathers were thrilled. After I introduced everyone, Granddad asked, “Are you kids hungry? We can do a barbeque if you want.”

God, grandparents did live for this stuff. But I loved it. Having them here, wanting to make me and my friends happy was one of the best feelings.

“No, Granddad,” I said. “You don’t have to go to all that trouble. We’ll just make popcorn and get some drinks.”

“How about we whip up nachos then and bring them upstairs for you. Won’t be any trouble. Honest.”

Ginny said from behind me, “That sounds wonderful, Mr. Day. If you don’t mind.”

“Happy to do it. Now you kids run along and us old guys will take care of everything.”

Once we got upstairs, I’d totally forgotten about all my dad’s awards. I mean, they were there like they’d always been and I rarely even thought about who my dad used to be back in the day. Of course, now he was set to be a huge movie star, but that hadn’t really hit yet. And…I don’t know…he’s my dad. So, I’m not used to people freaking out over him.

But Melina squealed. “Oh. My. GOD! Your father is James Sanderson from the Heart FREAKING THROBS? I’ve downloaded all their albums. I’m a sucker for throwback boy bands.” She sighed dreamily.

Ginny patted her head. “It’s going to be okay. Breathe, girl, breathe.”

Melina went on, “And James is the hottest one of them all. Wow. To be in his house with all these Simmy awards. I think I could die right now and be happy.”

Todd didn’t look too thrilled with his girlfriend’s ravings about my father. Couldn’t blame him.

“Yeah, well, the entertainment room is in here.” I tried to push them along. I didn’t want Todd to get upset.

Todd had to literally tear Melina away from the trophies. It was like she was drooling over them.

We made some popcorn and Melina seemed to settle down a little (although it didn’t help that Heartthrob memorabilia was everywhere.

Turned out, the San Myshuno Llamas obliterated the Bridgeport Bears. All four of us had a freaking good time. And what was even better? I didn’t think of Mala even once.

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