Posts Tagged ‘sea’

The Little Things We Give

Posted: September 17, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
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blue coral

They swam farther down into the city. Erica looked more closely at where she could see light. It mostly depended on whether there were merpeople in the area. They shed their own light. Some of the coral growth or plant life reacted to them, too, shedding soft glow like flower-shaped glow sticks. Erica smiled as she imagined a mellow underwater rave party. With her own golden eyes, she wondered if she was seeing something chemical, electromagnetic, or even body heat.

Aaron and Yurri led her through a growth of towers of elkhorn coral. It almost made Erica weep to look at them—they had to be twelve feet high! Tropical fish that she couldn’t identify swam around them, and plants with translucent tubular leaves grew out of crevices in the rock beneath. What did they look like with her normal eyes? Lumps of gray? Would she even see them at all? They shifted in color from green to blue to purple as the swam past them, back to blue, to green.

“Why did you go to the surface?” Erica asked Aaron.

“I ask myself that every day,” Yurri said. Erica looked at him. He grinned. She remembered her New England relatives, where snark was an expression of love.

Aaron didn’t even notice. “I wanted to know what it felt like to breathe air. I wanted to see snow and climb a mountain.”

“We have snow under the sea,” Yurri said.

“We have ice. Snow’s more fun,” Aaron said.

“We have mountains.”

“But you can’t climb them. We swim down to them, not up.”

“That’s why you wanted to go hiking in the Blue Ridge mountains when we took that weekend away.”

Aaron smiled. “Yeah. Thank you.” She had wanted to go scuba diving. He’d had his heart so set on the mountains that she couldn’t turn him down. He’d made it up to her with scuba a month later.

Other merpeople started coming toward them. Erica stopped counting after she saw ten. They were all shapes and sizes, old and young, some part fish, others part sea turtle, squidly things, and one even looked to be crustacean. Erica would have goggled at them if she hadn’t been curious out of her mind and excited to meet Aaron’s family. She only wished some of her own relatives and friends could be here too—which felt strangely normal to think, which made it feel out of place in this underwater dream world.

Photo credit: “IMG_8085.JPG” by eyeliam at Flickr
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You Must Have Questions

Posted: September 9, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
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underwater city

Picking up on our underwater love story again. In the last post, Erica met Aaron’s uncle Yurri and just got finished telling him that she was thinking of moving to the sea.

“Well then… you’re welcome to come visit our family. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like for you learning to live among us, but we can start there.”

Erica didn’t so much let Yurri and Aaron lead the way as she swam alongside them, under them, and over them, looking at everything there was to see and asking questions every chance she had. Yurri was pleasantly patient now that he knew she wasn’t talking away his nephew, and Aaron seemed happy to finally share his world with her.

“What’s that building?”

“The coral tower? It’s a library.”

“Do you have books?”

“Not like you, of course. We take pearls and imprint words upon the layers of calcium. The process happens at a microscopic level. I don’t understand it, actually. A librarian could, well, try to explain it to you.”

“How do you read?”

“We illuminate the pearls in a special lamp.”

Aaron added, “We use storytelling more. It takes up less space. It keeps our memories sharp, too.”

“What are those people doing up there?”

“That’s underwater volleyball,” Aaron said.

“With a blowfish? Doesn’t it mind?”

“It’s not a live blowfish.”

“Oh. Sorry, I’ve watched too much Disney. Does it hurt to hit him?”

“A little, but it makes the game more interesting.”

That was one way to look at it. Erica shook her head. Her raven locks snapped to one side, then the other, as if blown by wind. “How does my hair know to stay out of my eyes?”

“Think of it as a thousands of tiny fins. You’ve got subtle control over them now.”

“I’m going to miss that when I’m back on land.” She tried playing with it. Her hair floated left, then right. Weird.

“What’s everyone doing around that cave?”

“It’s where our local doctor lives.”

“Does he do surgeries, too? Or do you have hospitals?”

Yurri said, “She does surgeries as well.” He held up his right arm, which she saw was crisscrossed with scarring. “She helped put my arm back together after I was surprised by a shark.”

The sea felt a whole lot darker. “Does that happen much?” Yurri and Aaron looked at each other. “Much?” Erica prodded.

“More than we would like,” Yurri said.

“Less than the number of animal attacks you get on land,” Aaron said.

At least she was getting both the glass-half-full and the glass-half-empty readings on it.

Photo credit: “Lost Underwater City” by Henry Söderlund at Flickr
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In-Laws under the Sea

Posted: September 5, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
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cuttlefishI’m changing Aunt Yurri to Uncle Yurri. The tentacle mer-person was female, but I think their society’s patriarchial.

I do want this story to be good, so it’s going to go through lots of edits before it’s finished.

Erica said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr…. ” She realized she didn’t know if Aaron’s last name was legit.

Uncle Yurri said, “We only use first names among our people. We’re all the same family.”

Erica looked at Aaron. “How do you tell people with the same name apart?”

“Inflection in the name. It’s subtle. You learn to hear it.”

“Okay, but how do you prevent—” Erica shut up. As curious as she felt, asking Aaron and his uncle about inbreeding among their species had to be the worst possible subject matter to start with.

Yurri looked at his nephew with fire in his eyes. Aaron gulped, but said calmly, “That’s subtle, too. It’s in the scale patterns.” He brushed his fingers along the sides of his face, where she noticed it more clearly beneath his skin. “Families have similar patterns. Different patterns look more attractive to us.”

She thought of his dark skin, and her fair tones. “Is that why you were attracted to me?”

“Part of it, yeah.”

Erica tried to imagine the evolutionary mechanisms that made it possible. She noticed her tail flicking involuntarily with excitement. She wondered how many other mannerisms she’d picked up already that she didn’t even notice.

“I’m glad you find our biology fascinating. I want to know your intentions with my nephew.”

“Actually… sir… I asked him to marry me.”

Yurri floated back a few feet. He changed color from white to blue, slowly back to white. It looked like a chameleon mechanism to blend into the water when he was alarmed. Erica bit her lip to keep from grinning like a mad scientist. Yurri looked at Aaron. “Is this true?”

“It is.”

“You didn’t say ‘yes,’ did you?”

“Uncle Yurri!”

Erica folded her arms and gave uncle Yurri a look that would have made a great white shark cringe. Yurri’s tentacles twitched. He changed color again. He covered his mouth, then shook his head. He held out his hands. “I apologize, Erica. Such a thing hasn’t happened for hundreds of years. And I’m afraid of losing him to the land people.”

Erica said, “You don’t have to worry about that. He misses you, too.”

Aaron shrugged. He smiled at his uncle. “What can I say?”

Yurri smiled warmly at that. Then he looked from him, to Erica, back and back again. “So then what does your being here mean?”

“I want to see if I want to live here.”

Photo credit: “Pharaoh Cuttlefish” by Schristia at Flickr
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Meeting Aaron’s Family

Posted: August 30, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
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squid warriorErica and Aaron swam down under marine plants whose limbs floated above them. The leaves spread larger than Erica’s arm. Marine flora wasn’t Erica’s specialty, but she knew enough to know that she’d never seen this species before. She doubted anyone had. They swam down into folds of luminescent coral. Little fish swam here and there. Little merpeople did, too, like fishy versions of Tinkerbell. Erica felt like she had crossed over from the sea into fairy tale land.

“Where are we going? Other than down into the underwater city?”

“That’s all. I’m taking you to meet my foster parents.”

“They have those where you come from?”

“People are people. Why not?”

A merfairy buzzed Erica’s head. It looked like a little girl. The creature pointed and smiled at her, then swam away. Erica rolled her eyes. “Oh, I guess you’re right. It’s all so similar to life on the surface.”

The fairies weren’t the first ones. They swam down between twisting walls of coral that hid merpeople and undersea creatures with thoughtful eyes. All of them stopped and looked at her. Some pointed. Some darted away. She waved at a few. Not many waved back.

“People seem shy down here.”

“’Don’t talk to strangers.’ You’re a celebrity, but I think people are going to wait to get to know you.”

The coral changed from yellow to green to blue as they went deeper. It looked like they were passing from the “business district” to where people lived. Erica saw more open spaces, groups of smaller merpeople schooling and playing together, and parents leading them here and there. Luminescent plants sprouts from the coral dotted the way down to form paths. It didn’t look like it would enough – say, compared to a torch light – but Erica found that her eyes adjusted as she went down anyway.

She looked at her hand. “Do I have green scales underneath now, too?”

“No. You haven’t changed enough for that.”

Erica saw something coming toward them that looked like a cuttlefish at first. She couldn’t see the top of it because it was coming head-on, but she could see the bundle of glowing tentacles behind it. It grew larger. Erica started to slow down. Aaron did, too. Aaron sighed. Erica almost laughed when she saw this mer-person’s resemblance to Aaron. The expression on its face, though, told her to be polite.

“I thought we were meeting at the house,” Aaron said.

“I wanted to see her first,” the woman said cooly. She turned toward Erica.

Quickly, Aaron said, “Erica, this is my aunt Yurri. Yurri, it’s my pleasure to introduce Erica.”

Erica held out her hand. Yurri took it, then let go. Erica tried not to stare at the scale patterning on Yurri’s face and body. Where most of the merpeople she’d seen were a mix of human and fish, Yurri was a mix of human and squid.

Photo credit: unknown. Used without permission.

Beyond the Vortex

Posted: August 26, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
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vortex

Erica settled upright. She spread out her arms to stabilize herself. She flicked her tail to hold steady.

“How did this happen?” she asked. She couldn’t believe how natural it felt.

“Underneath us is a vortex that we use to travel between our world and yours. Because your mind was open, I was able to nudge the currents to change your form into something natural for our world.”

“Something natural? What else is there?”

“You should see what can happen deep inside the earth. Or high up in the sky?”

“Angels’ wings?”

“Why not?”

Well, she was floating here with a tail, after all. Erica swam in circles around him. Seeing her so happy, Aaron looked like he’d swallowed a bird. Erica said, “I’m trying to imagine my muscle structure. My bones. Hell, my organs!” She felt her throat, trying to imagine what her voice box was doing for her to sound the same.

Erica became distracted enough thinking about it that her tail drifted upward instead of keeping her stable. Her body flattened out. Facing down, she saw the reef. She saw it in a way that she never had before.

Toward land, it looked like she remembered, pale beauty and drifting fronds of sea plants surrounded by flitting fish feeding and hiding from predators. She saw the vortex as a softly foaming hole in the water, flickering and transparent, about wide enough to drive a car through, and constantly changing shape. She and Aaron floated in its wake.

A thought from physics and probability mathematics jumped into her mind: waves of chance. Maybe here, multiple realities coexisted. She’d have to talk to her physics friends about that one.

On the other side of the vortex, the reef dropped away into the ocean, it spread out below her like a coral combination of New York City and Hong Kong. Past the vortex, Inches became feet. Nooks became crevasses. Sea plumes reached out like jungle redwoods with long fragile fingers of branches. City blocks of cup coral and blade coral shared space with pillar coral that glowed the lemon yellow. Light was everywhere, or at least what looked like light—

“What color are my eyes?” she asked Aaron.

“Do you promise not to freak out?”

“I have a tail, and I’m not freaking out. What color are my eyes, numbnuts?”

“Bright gold. Like the sun.”

“Oh my God!”

“They look really cool with your black hair.”

Which floated all around her, a cape of night threads around her face.

I’m trying to slow down instead of rushing through the action and dialogue like I normally do. I hope you like it!

Image credit: “Starbirth Vortex” by Martin at Flickr
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Getting Her Swim Legs

Posted: August 23, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
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moonlight over ocean“That was out of line. I’m sorry,” Erica said.

“Thanks.”

Erica didn’t want to get into a conversation about what happened to his family, or the finer points of how he’d kept his true nature below everyone’s radar. The ‘orphan’ gambit and having friends to lay out the paper trail would have covered a lot. Erica wondered how much she was risking with him.

She’d known him for a year. The cruelest thing he ever did was kill spiders for her. Erica pushed Aaron with her elbow. “So are you going to marry me or what?”

“I’d love to. I’ve wanted to for months. Do you want to move into the ocean with me or not?”

“What do you mean? An underwater habitat?”

Aaron shook his head. “I want to go home. I miss my family. I have nieces and nephews who are growing up.” He blinked his eyes slowly. The third time, his irises were golden, like some fish eyes she’d seen. “Would you become like me? Stay with me?”

Erica’s mind spun into a watery churn of possibilities. She wouldn’t just study marine biology. She would be marine biology. Erica looked at his scales again. For entire life, she’d felt like she didn’t belong on land. The only time she’d ever known peace was in the water.

She leaned toward him. “Show me.”

* * *

Aaron and Erica hid their clothes between rocks on the jetty and swam off shore. They followed the moonlight toward the horizon. Erica had been the third-best swimmer on her college swim team. She knew how to dive and had even messed around with synchronized swimming. Tonight she felt more at home in the water than she ever had.

They reached about a quarter-mile off shore. Not that far, really. The sea floor was only about fifty feet deep here. They had to go another mile or so before the shelf dropped and they were truly in the ocean. Aaron pulled up, treading water. Erica pulled up alongside him. She asked, “Why are we stopping here?”

“This is good enough. Are you ready?”

“Yes.”

Erica’s feet came together as she tread water. They stayed there. Was she getting tired? Erica kicked to get them moving again and breached halfway out of the water. She flopped down on her back. She gasped as she saw her tail slap the water. She kicked her legs again and the tail sent her under. She swore and took in a gulp of water, but instead of choking, she breathed.

Erica kicked again. She looked up. In two kicks she’d gone at least ten feet under. Twenty. Erica smiled. She dolphin-kicked from her hips through her legs and out her toes. Her tail snapped like a whip. Erica couldn’t believe how fast she moved. She tucked, turned on a dime, and tried to find Aaron.

He was trying to catch up to her.

Photo credit: “Moonlight Reflections” by Abri le Roux at Flickr
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Homo Sapiens Aquadomicilius

Posted: August 23, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
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Erica’s scientific mind observed what her emotional side couldn’t believe was sitting right in front of her. Green cycloid scales, similar in pattern and density to common tuna fish. She brushed her fingers on them, giddy with joy at touching a new species, before it connected in her head that she was brushing the shin of the man she’d been about to propose spending the rest of her life with.

Erica’s eyebrows clenched to a V. She squeezed Aaron’s leg like she was doing deep tissue massage.

“Ow! Hey, that’s my leg!”

There wasn’t a seam. It wasn’t a trick. The scales just stopped and his skin began. She could feel muscles underneath the scales just like she could on a normal fish.

“What is this? What are you?” Erica asked.

“Homo sapiens aquadomicilius.”

“Smart human water dweller. Very funny.”

“I wanted to live on land to see what it was like. I never thought I’d fall in love with somebody, or that you would fall for me.”

“You’ve been lying to me all this time?”

“Not at all. You didn’t ask if I was human.”

“You said you were from Florida.”

“I was born about three miles off the coast, yes.”

“You have a degree in oceanography.”

“It’s honorary. I taught the director everything he knows about dolphin communication. He even named one of the dolphins at the institute ‘Aaron’ after I left. ”

“You have a job. An apartment. A car.”

“I’m off the grid. You know that.”

He worked as a part-time bartender, part-time scuba dive tour guide. Most of the time he was paid in cash.

“Are there more of you?”

He smiled. “A lot more.”

“I don’t believe you,” Erica said, even as she stared at the scales on his leg.

“What did Roald Dahl say? ’Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’”

Erica folded her arms. She thought she had him cornered on this one. “Did your parents really die in a car accident?”

He sighed. “Fine. You’ve got me there. They were actually strangled in a fishing trawler’s net. Are you happy now?”

Erica turned cold. She wanted to know the truth, but she hadn’t wanted to hurt him. Erica could see that she’d hit him below the belt. She shuffled over and sat down next to him. She wrapped her arms around her knees. The original reason why they’d started this conversation seemed like someone else’s wild lark.

Yes, But…

Posted: August 21, 2014 by writingsprint in Fantasy
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mermanBouncing reggae faded behind them as Erica and Aaron walked hand in hand down the beach. Erica’s heart pounded. She’d had two mojitos to brace herself. Between the roaring surf and the blood rushing in her ears, Erica felt like she couldn’t even hear. Too loud, she said, “All right, my love. I didn’t just want to take a walk for the view.” She dialed it back. “I wanted to ask you something.”

“Aw, and I was hoping you wanted to have your way with me,” Aaron said. He sounded like an asshole, but then he smiled at her and tugged on her fingers. The moon framed his shoulder-length hair in silver light. Erica remembered why she loved him. “Just kidding. I wanted to talk to you about something, too.”

“Okay.” Erica turned to face him. This was it. She gestured toward where the surf broke on a jetty that framed the lagoon. “Look familiar?”

He stood close to her and caressed her cheek. “Of course. It’s where we met.”

Erica took a deep breath. “I couldn’t think of anyplace better. There’s something I’ve been thinking about. Ever since we met, actually. You know I’m not the patient type. So I’m asking you.” Erica felt cold and on fire at the same time. She got down on one knee.

“Wh… what are you doing?”

“Aaron Waters, love of my life, and most amazing man I’ve ever met, will you marry me?”

“Oh my God. Erica.” He covered his mouth. “Erica.”

Erica shivered. Her name wasn’t “yes.”

Aaron got down on his knees in front of her and held her hands. He looked straight into her eyes. Erica’s heart leaped. She was rehearsing kissing him in her mind when he said, “We need to talk.”

Erica’s hands went limp. “About what?” Her mind went someplace black. “If you’ve been secretly married all this time I will drown you here and now.”

Aaron laughed. “No! Of course not. This involves what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“I did not think this would be this complicated,” Erica said. Her scientific mind kicked in automatically to deal with the problem, while her emotional side wanted to know what the hell was going on. Or go back to the bar and order a double mojito.

“Look.”

Aaron sat down. He rubbed his hands over his shin. Down toward his foot. Up. Down. When he brushed it back again, Erica could see tiny scales the size of sand grains and the color of emeralds coating his skin. The scales glittered in the moonlight and shone in the flashes of it off the crashing waves.

No. Not coating his skin. It was his skin.

I wonder what the title’s going to be?

Photo credit: “Mermaid” community on Facebook. Original source unknown, used without permission.

Sometimes Your Answer Is Inside Your Problem

Posted: November 12, 2013 by writingsprint in Adrift
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

sea stormA cloudy morning gave way to an afternoon rain storm. John tied himself to the raft with bungee cords and his belt. Waves tossed the raft in every direction, but by some miracle it never tipped over. He couldn’t imagine how. Again and again he would get thrown forward, backward, and the raft would tip upward until he was face to face with a spinning horizon. Then the raft would drop, the wave would crash on top of him, and he would see sky again.

Sheets of lightning ripped overhead. Thunder hammers pounded his eardrums. John screamed back at it. He thought his ears bled. The world split into black and white flashes, world positive and photo negative. He wanted to go home. He cried for his mother and for God.

“Do you remember?” his mother asked him.

John saw her in the sky, behind the lightning. She was holding his favorite bedtime story books. A wall of water slapped him. John gagged.

“What did I tell you?” she asked patiently.

“It isn’t real,” he shouted. The lightning tried to drown him out. He still heard the words.

She nodded. “That’s right. Count to ten. It’ll go away.”

He asked her the same thing he’d asked then: “What if it doesn’t go away?”

“Count to ten again. Only stronger.”

John started counting. Lightning blinded him. Thunder cracked the world. He got angry and counted louder.

“Good job, honey. Keep counting.”

He reached ten.

Mother Nature refused to be outdone. The raft went up on the biggest wave yet. John thought he could see his house from here. When the wave came down, the raft went flying, and so did John. The pathetic knot he tied with his belt didn’t hold. Neither did the one he tied with his tie. The bungees did, but the clips were bending.

He was too weak. Three days with almost no food and water.

“Don’t panic, honey. What did I tell you?” she asked.

He couldn’t remember. The raft was flipped over. How would he get it back up in this mess?

He started counting.

“That’s good. Think. When nothing’s working…”

Thunder struck him again. John shook his fist at the sky and got a mouthful of water for his trouble.

“Getting angry doesn’t help,” she said firmly. “Look at me!”

He looked up. He had one hand on the handhold of capsized raft, two bungees tied around his arm that were dragging him under the waves, and clothes that were dragging him under. Behind the flashes of lightning, in between the clouds, he saw her patient face. She’d always been good that way.

He said, “Sometimes your answer is inside your problem.”

“Give it a try.”

John dove under the water. He couldn’t see. Everything was muffled. He groped around, swimming in ink, and came up inside the raft. He could only see slivers of light when the raft hopped off the water. At least now he was next to where he had tied off, and the bungees weren’t dragging him under.

He grabbed hold of one side of the raft and hopped into it. He tried to pull it under. Like before, the raft fought back and popped back up. It landed flat. John’s mother clapped her hands with the sound of softer thunder.

“Good, Johnny! Good!”

“Thanks, mom,” he mumbled.

Lightning flashed. The thunder rolled again. Softer, again. He had a long way to go, but the storm was leaving.

John held on. He drank rain water while he could. The food was gone. All the supplies. Tomorrow would be a hard day.

Tomorrow.

"Sea Serpent" by Mictones at DeviantArt

“Sea Serpent” by Mictones at DeviantArt

Take what was rightfully hers.

Everyone applauded as the soloists left the floor. There were a lot of hugs, some tears, laughter, and pats on the back. Jeana thought of her sparring partners in the training hall at home. Not the hugging type… well, that wasn’t true. They were different kinds of hugs. Less frilly. You didn’t giggle when you wore powered armor.

Well, there was that one weirdo from Dashan…

“Principals, to positions.”

Jeana and Andri jumped up and moved briskly to their places. Andri wore her favorite color, sky blue. Jeana wore her signature black.

They faced a panel of six judges from the school, chaired by Miss Graha. With Miss Graha alone Jeana wouldn’t have stood a chance. With all the teachers in school, Jeana knew she had it sewn up. They would be dancing the same routine, side by side, far enough apart that they wouldn’t get in each other’s way. The judges would decide who deserved the lead.

It always came down to this. Jeana and Adri. Adri and Jeana.

It felt different today. Adri felt like a storm cloud over to Jeana’s left. All churn, no focus. Jeana bit her lip. “Pull it together, bitch,” she whispered.

Adri’s eyes snapped over to her. “What?” she hissed.

Jeana’s eyes flicked over to her. Her eyes narrowed just so. Slowly, she said, “You heard me. You’re dust.”

Adri looked away and fixed her gaze on the the judges. She grit her teeth. Jeana felt her storm focus into a jet of rage.

The music started. Both dancers bowed, and the audition began.

The dance started slowly, symbolizing an underwater princess rising up from the depths of the sea. Then the pace quickened. There were dark, dangerous things in the water. The dancers circled, gazing around the room. They looked with wonder, then with fear. Their steps moved faster. An ancient sea serpent came at them. Spins. Leaps. The dancers fought. Every stab skewered. Their kicks slashed. Their teeth bared and snapped. Jeana felt like she could smell blood in the water, everywhere around them. The madness of battle engulfed them.

The music rose to crescendo. In final, titanic struggle, the dancers overcame the beast. The music slowed gradually into a lilting melody. The princess reached for the surface. She broke through. The dance came to an end.

No one made a sound. Then one person clapped, and the entire studio suddenly roared. It was deafening! People cheered, whistled and screamed. Some of them were crying again. Others were hugging. The judges applauded too. People were crying, “Bravo!” Jeana grinned from ear to ear.

She and Adri looked at each other. Awkwardly, they both hugged, and waved at the crowd. The applause kept going. Some of the judges looked at each other. They nodded to each other. As one, they gave the dancers a standing ovation. The audience screamed louder.

The dancers bowed. The crowd kept cheering. Twice. Now it was getting funny. Jeana and Adri waved at the crowd, and the applause finally faded. The dancers stood side by side and held hands the way they always did to await the judges’ decision.

“Hate this part,” Adri whispered.

As usual, they dragged it out. Without expression, the judges voted and passed their decisions to Miss Graha. She counted the votes, and confirmed them with the judges on either side of her, who confirmed the results. Miss Graha turned to the dancers. Everyone hushed again.

“Thank you, ladies. I speak for everyone on this panel when I say that we weren’t watching dancers today. We watched warrior queens. Both of you were utterly magnificent. Our regret is that only one of you can reign supreme, and the other will be her handmaiden in the recital. Adri, congratulations.”

Adri’s hands covered her mouth. She lowered her head as tears flowed. Jeana wrapped her arms around her. Bitter wine, sweet wine.

Adri hugged her back lightly. When Jeana didn’t let go at first, Adri hesitated, then hugged her like they were still friends. When they let go, she gave Jeana a look.

“You did great, Adri,” Jeana said.

Adri hugged Jeana again, hard. “Thank you,” she said.