“You know I’m on your side, don’t you?” Kona broke first.
“I didn’t know there were sides.”
“Sure you did. That’s why you’re so mad.”
“I’m mad because I don’t know what the rules are. Every time I think I have something figured out, you come along and change it.”
“That’s why I told you it was complicated. But you didn’t want to hear me.”
“That’s bull and you know it. It’s not that I won’t listen, it’s that I’m sick of half truths and evasions. At dinner last night, even your parents dodged every question I asked. Everybody seems to know more about my life than I do. Can’t you see how frustrating that is?”
“We’re just trying to protect you, Tempest.”
“I’m not some child who needs to be protected from the truth.”
“You’re seventeen. And that’s all your mother was trying to do by keeping you in the dark, you know. Protect you.”
“Yeah. Her way’s worked out real well for me, so far.” I glanced pointedly at the scrapes and cuts that covered me, ignoring his wince of sympathy. “Why do you keep bringing her up, anyway? You act like you know her.”
He paused for long seconds, then finally said, “I do know her.”
Shock reverberated through me, kept me motionless when part of me wanted nothing more than to throw myself at him and plead for details. Was she okay? What was she like? Why had she left me alone for so long? Only the fact that it would make me look completely pathetic kept me where I was. That and the fact that even though she knew Kona’s family, she’d made no effort to contact me since I’d gotten here.
“You know, most of the time life down here isn’t like this.” Again he motioned for me to sit and this time I did, sensing that I had finally gotten through to him and he was ready to talk.
“Like what?” There was an urgency inside of me, a need to know that had every cell in my body vibrating with excitement—and trepidation.
“Dangerous. Crazy. Usually we all manage to coexist without letting all this crap get in the way.” He reached for the juice, poured two glasses, and handed me one.
“So what’s different now?” I grabbed a muffin, tore off a chunk, and popped it in my mouth. Despite ignoring Kona’s earlier offer of food, I was starving—and had been since I’d shown up here the day before. “What has Tiamat on the warpath after all those years of peace?”
“You. She’s convinced you’re the one she’s been waiting for. The one who can give her everything she wants.”
It took the words a second to register and when they did, my appetite deserted me, the muffin turning to sawdust in my mouth. I forced myself to keep chewing when what I really wanted to do was spit out the whole mouthful.
It took me a few tries, but I finally managed to get the food past the lump in my throat. “You’re saying I’m causing all of this?”
“Not you. Her perception of you—well, that and your seventeenth birthday.”
“But that’s insane. All I want is to be left alone to paint. I want to surf and study in Paris and take care of my little brothers. I want to be human.”
“Yeah, well, we don’t always get what we want. Isn’t that what you told me a few days ago?”
I ignored him. “If I’m responsible for getting Tiamat all pissed off, why did you draw her attention to me? Why did you even come ashore? I mean, I’m assuming you weren’t on that beach in Del Mar by accident.”
Kona reached for a pomegranate, broke it open with his bare hands, and handed me half. “You’re the unknown factor. The one person who has the ability to tip the scales after a millennium of peace. I wanted to get a look at you.”
“You wanted a look—” I thought of the way he kissed me, of how the whole world faded when Kona pulled me into his arms. Of how his eyes followed me whenever he was near me. Had that all just been a game? A chance for him to see what I was made of?
Then I thought of Mark, of the way he’d looked at me that last night, as if he couldn’t believe that I was interested in Kona. Suddenly I couldn’t believe it either.
“I don’t think I like where your brain is going.” Kona leaned forward and grabbed my hand.
I jerked it away. “Are you in my head again?”
“I wish. But you’re not projecting, so I’m stuck guessing what you’re thinking. Whatever it is, though, I can tell it’s not good.”
What did he mean by projecting? I filed away the question—and my hurt over the fact that I had just been a curiosity to Kona—to be dealt with later. I had more important things to worry about right now than how Kona managed to read my mind. Or how he felt about me.
“You know, this whole conversation is ridiculous. One mermaid can’t make that much of a difference. I saw the tapestry—there are hundreds of my kind.”
“More like hundreds of thousands. There are mermaids in every ocean on earth.”
“But doesn’t that just prove my point? How can I shift the balance when I don’t even know what life down here is like? I don’t have a clue about all these secrets you all seem to be keeping.”
Kona didn’t answer, just kept prying seeds from within the pomegranate’s shell, almost as if he was waiting for me to make a connection.
I’m not sure how long I sat there waiting for the light to dawn. When it did, it came along with a feeling of dread so oppressive I could barely speak. “You’re talking about that prophecy again?” My voice was little more than a whisper.
“But you don’t really believe in those things, do you?”
“It’s hard not to, when I’ve seen so many come true.”
My fingers were curled into fists, my nails digging sharply into my palms though the pain barely registered. “What does it say?”
For the longest time, he didn’t answer and when he did, his words were so low I had to strain to hear them.
“Bathed in shades of violet, she comes in the dark.
Power unrecognized, half human, half mar.
Born in lightning, anointed in tears,
Magic abounds, while its painful heat sears.
The battle draws ever closer and one side will fall.
Good and evil collide, once and for all,
The victor uncertain, as fate evens the scales.
A winter storm’s coming, a dark night’s tale—
A Tempest rising, without fail.”
When he finished, he just looked at me, waiting for my reaction. Since I had about a billion different ones, ranging from disbelief to amusement—my mother had repeated that rhyme to me so often when I was a child that I could have recited it with him—I said the first stupid thing that came to mind. “That’s it? That’s your big prophecy? It’s a child’s poem.”
He laughed. “A certain kind of child, maybe.”
“Give me a break. That rhyme’s been around forever.”
“Maybe. But why do you think your mom told it to you so often?”
“Because it’s got my name in it.” I rolled my eyes. “I always asked for it because it made me feel like I was famous to hear my name in a nursery rhyme.”