I sighed as I fussed with my dress. It was a deep blue, the same shade as the sea. I wore it with a grey cardigan; heavens knew I'd need it with the cold. Despite the changes in weather, it was still sodding freezing at night. I pulled out the old sandals that I had pushed under my bed eons ago, when Dad had disappeared to Ingo, and I'd thought he'd died. I couldn't help but wondering if they still fit; after about two years, I had grown, even if it was, just a little.
I slipped them on and tightened the straps. They fit, almost perfectly. I wiggled my toes against the gold rimming and I smiled. I remembered that Dad had brought this for me when it was my 13th birthday. I'd been complaining weeks before about not having proper beachwear, after my pink flip-flops had broken and Conor refused to lend me his spare pair. Dad had presented them to me with great splendour and we'd spent the day with a picnic, down at the cove. Mum had been wary, but even she couldn't begrudge me the sea on my birthday.
I turned to look at my dull silver mirror, primping my hair backwards. It had taken a can of hairspray, but I had put it up in a delicate bun, for the evening. Not too practical for a daily basis, but it was a party. I hadn't put on any makeup, apart from some subtle mascara. That much I refused myself from doing. I adjusted my cardigan and nodded. I was ready. And it had only taken 15 minutes. And if I was ready, Conor most definitely should have been.
"Conor!" I hollered up the ladder to his room. "Hurry up! We still have to pick up Faro and Rainbow!"
"I'm coming!" he yelled back and he sounded near hoarse. I frowned; that wasn't normal. Unless...
He descended the ladder. It was the unless. "Conor!" I said, a tone of exasperation in my voice. He was wearing a green t-shirt and a surfing jacket from the Green Room, accompanied by neat black trousers. His hair was combed back and he had a wooden pendant hanging round his neck with string. But that wasn't the worst part. Oh no. He was also carrying a bunch of wild flowers in his hands, all tied up with a red ribbon. That wasn't too bad, if a bit cheesy. No, it was what was in the bouquet that was the trouble. It consisted of baby blue eyes, dog violets, cornflowers and the dreaded elderflowers, which, while it tasted great as a cordial and looked very beautiful, gave Conor an awful allergic reaction. "It's a beach party, not a romantic date!"
He gave me a distinctly unpleased look. "It may be for you, but I actually want her to know I care."
I had to stifle a smirk, wasn't it usually the older sibling giving the younger love advice? "She already knows you care, Conor. You don't need to prove it by making yourself ill. She likes you already. She might even love you, if you act normal. See, Faro knows I love him! I don't need to bring him allergic-reaction-inducing flowers for him to know that I care. And Rainbow's a lot more intuitive than Faro is, regarding matters of the heart. Look, give me the flowers. I'll get rid of them and you grab your allergy pills. God Conor, don't be pigheaded!"
He scowled but reluctantly handed me the bouquet and climbed back up his ladder, sneezing as he went. I rolled my eyes at him, he was odd. I dumped the flowers in mum's upstairs bin brusquely, but kept the ribbon and washed it quickly. As he met me by the stairs, I handed him the ribbon.
He looked confused. "What happens to I don't need to prove my love to her?"
I smirked. "You don't, dummyhead. That's a little love-token that matches her outfit. It's sweet and understated. Also, has the added bonus of not being something you're allergic to. It's rather hard to be allergic to sateen."
He rolled his eyes and walked down the stairs. I quickly followed. Mum and Roger were watching TV in the living room. We'd avoided each other when she'd come home and hadn't said a word to each other, apart from Mum curtly giving me permission to go to the beach party, as long as we were back before ten. Roger didn't seem to understand the coldness between us and attempted to patch it up with a delicious mug of hot cocoa but we'd ignored the healing gesture. I'd taken the cup not to be rude, but walked out with it up to my room.
Sadie padded up to me and enthusiastically nudged my dress. I laughed. "Good girl Sadie!" I said, bending down to pet her. She liked to be scratched behind the ears so I obliged her while Conor quickly sorted out homecoming times with Roger in the kitchen.
Roger tapped me on the back as I turned to leave. He chucked me my mobile phone. "Don't forget this!" he said with a grin. 'Who knows when you'll need it?" I laughed and tucked it into the cardigan pocket.
"Thanks Roger!" I said. I remembered what had happened last time and I was keeping my phone at hand, in case there was a reprise.
"By the way Sapphy," he said, '"Even if your Mum's on edge, I thought I'd say it. You look stunning. Go knock your boy dead!"
I laughed, there were times when Roger really was endearing. He would never be able to replace Dad, but he sure as hell was a great step-father. "Thank you, Roger," I said, hoping it came across as sincerely as I felt it. He winked at me and I headed out the door.
The sun had long dipped behind the horizon. The season may not have been colder, but it was still keeping in line with the sun setting just after I'd come home from school. I shivered and Conor put his arm around my shoulder. "Conor," I said, as we walked up the road to the Downs, "Have you noticed something strange about the seasons?" I asked. I couldn't bring myself to ask Faro, but Conor could be very pig-headed once he had a theory in his head. Maybe he'd do it for me, which would be nice.
He looked at me oddly. "Now who's being weird Sapphy? Surprisingly, I have better things to worry about than the seasons. You know, like the upcoming A-Levels?"
I rolled my eyes and shoved him, affectionately. "Get off you twat, you're bound to get A*s in all of them, Con! Anyway, if you were so concerned about studying, you wouldn't be here at this party!"
He ruffled my hair for a brief millisecond before I pushed him roughly. "Geroff Saph! I was trying to be affectionate!"
"Not with the can of hairspray hairstyle, you don't!" I retorted, smoothing out what little he had managed to disturb.
"Anyway, as I was going to say, someone has to chaperone you! Gods knows Mum wouldn't have even considered letting you go alone!" he said, shoving his hands in his pockets.
There was another silence as we took the small path that took us deeper into the country. "Conor," I asked, looking up the constellation of Orion, "Why doesn't Mum trust me?"
He paused, looked pensive, before shrugging. "You're younger than me, I s'ppose." He said.
I frowned. "But it can't be that, Con! When you were the age I am currently, Mum allowed you the same freedom you have now! It just doesn't make sense!"
He shrugged. "I can't read Mum's mind like you can read Faro's, Saph. Maybe it's because you're too impulsive. Maybe, it's because she thinks you need to be protected because you're the youngest! Maybe she doesn't think you can be trusted because you're a girl! I dunno!"
My mouth dropped in outrage at his last comment. "Excuse me, but what does it change that I'm a girl, Conor!"
He smirked as we reached Granny Carne's path. "Maybe it's because you're more prone to mood swings and are therefore unreliable and unpredictable?"
I smirked, that was far too general. Much too easy to dispute that one. "That's stupid, Conor. I don't know a more reliable person than Granny Carne!"
He laughed. '"I'm pretty sure she had a century on you there, Saph!" we said as we got to her door.
"I'd say it's more like two centuries, Conor." said Granny Carne's amused voice as we reached to knock on the door. We both exchanged looks as she smiled from her vantage point, in the entrance of the door that had just opened. "And you're slightly late."
I shrugged. "Blame this shmuck. If he hadn't tried to ruffle my hair, we'd have been here much quicker." I said, flatly and Conor threw me a look.
Granny Carne looked amused and Faro hobbled to the door. He too looked like a surfer in his clothes; a blue turtleneck shirt, a black hoodie and some dark cargo trousers. I briefly wondered where he'd got them from, but they looked like some of Conor's old clothes, so I didn't pay them too much heed. I helped him forward and squeezed his hand briefly.
"We'll be back around ten, Granny Carne." said Conor, calmly before nudging me.
I started and grinned at her. 'Thanks for looking after Faro, Granny Carne."
She smiled. "It's been a pleasure. And a learning experience."
I was skeptical that Granny Carne had actually learned anything; she seemed to know everything there was to know about everything, but I hid this thought, smiled and waved goodbye. We made slow progress as we headed back to the bus stop that would take us to St. Pirans.
"What are buses like?" asked Faro as he hopped along, using the crutches to support him.
I grinned. "They're like cars but much larger. It's a box like shape. A man drives it and there's a conductor who collects ticket money. You have to pay a small amount to go places. It goes quite far and to some people, it can be slightly nauseating." Conor said before I could launch into my own explanation. He grinned at me and I stuck my tongue out at him.
Not to be outdone, I placed a hand on Faro's briefly, to show him the image of the bus. He frowned. "It looks strange, Sapphire. Not a very aerodynamic shape."
Now Conor looked confused. "Wait, what? It hasn't arrived yet!"
"Thought sharing," I said and he looked satisfied, if a bit annoyed.
Then he rounded on Faro. "And how do you know what aerodynamic means when you don't know what a bus is?"
Faro merely grinned the infuriating grin that he always gave me, which told me he wasn't fazed. "I've said before, I only know what I hear. And people like to boast about how fast their boats can go because of being aerodynamic."
Conor merely blinked before shaking his head. I merely raised my hand to Faro who gave me a high-five with vigour. I could only see the back of Conor's head, but somehow, I knew that he was rolling his eyes.
It took 20 minutes for the bus to roll into St Pirans, but I received several compliments on my dress on our way there. It seems that the beach party was timed with the weekly games night in St. Pirans. This wasn't sports games, but board games, usually bingo or monopoly. Sometimes even Trivial Pursuit as Mrs Pascoe excitedly informs me. Why Conor and Faro suddenly decided to be best buds now, so I had to sit through the living gossipy torture of old women, I didn't know but I was pretty sure that Fate was laughing at me.
By the time the bus dropped us off in St Pirans, I was sure that the hearing in my left ear had been depleted. I told Conor such and he laughed at me and told me to stop being ridiculous. I sighed and moved on, throwing glares at his retreating back. Faro laughed and looped his arm into mine and my cares were instantly forgotten.
"Come on you lovebirds!" Conor called from ahead of us and I rolled my eyes as we steadily moved along at hopping speed.
"He acts as if he isn't this bad when he's with Rainbow." I muttered and Faro laughed darkly. "Now remember, Faro. You don't know Rainbow. You've never seen her before in your life. Please try and be convincing about that."
He shot me a dirty look. "I can do that much at least." He said, loftily and I leaned my head on his shoulder which slowed him down. "Sapphire!" he hissed, "Conor will—"
I kissed him to shut him up. He kissed back but broke away and started hobbling after Conor's retreating blue surfer jacket. I sighed, duty called. As always.
I scratched at the flowery amalgam of itchy fabrics that resides on the shoulder pad of my dress and scowled. I wished I were away in Ingo right about now. A week of swimming in the calm seas sounded brilliant. And if there was adventure along the way, what would I care? Better than languishing here. A party seemed so trivial now compared to the morning's strong feelings.
I tapped my fingers against my thighs. I supposed that I felt restless. And as we turned unto the curve to the beach, the sea certainly felt that way too. I blinked in surprise. It looked positively restless, with waves darting in and out at low tide so quickly, I could scarcely watch them break before they retreated again. I remembered a year ago, when Roger had been surprised by how in tune with the sea I'd been. I always knew when the tides changed but I'd never expected my mood would now mirror the sea.
I rubbed at my shoulder, before approaching the bonfire blazing away, much closer inland and the faint sound of pop music, blasting away from Mal's stereos.
As I drew closer, I saw Conor greeting all of his friends who were toasting marshmallows on the fire (at least, when they dared to get close to the blistering heat surges) or changing the tracks on Mal's stereo. Faro stood awkwardly at the side, and I finally joined him and squeezed his shoulder.
"You've seen the sea, haven't you Faro?" I asked, in a hushed whisper.
He nodded discreetly and frowned. "It doesn't bode well," he said, "The sea is angry. And I can't fathom why."
I shrugged and plastered a fake smile onto my face as Katie showed up with some kind of beverage in her hand. "Hello Saph!" she greeted cheerfully. "And who's this?" she purred, turning towards Faro and I felt my grip on Faro's shoulder tighten, just a little.
"This is Faro. My boyfriend. He's staying in Senara for a while, because of a car crash in Plymouth. His mum's in hospital." I said, tightly.
Katie looked suitably pitiful. "Dreadful stuff. She okay?"
I squeezed his shoulders and he calmly replied. "Yep. She's recovering. Her leg's fractured though, so it'll be a while before she's able to properly walk again. Shrapnel too."
I knew he was picking all of this stuff from my mind, but I was still impressed at the fluidity of his lying. I wondered whether he lied a lot in Ingo.
Not really Sapphire. he said into my mind.
I pulled a face. Then why are you so good at lying?
He shrugged and pulled me towards one of the wooden legs laid out near the fire, where he stretched out his shredded legs and visibly sagged. Jack smiled at me from across the fire and waved me over. I shook my head and beckoned him over. He rolled his eyes, but dragged himself up and perched himself on the end of our log.
"How do, Saph?" he asked pleasantly.
"Good thanks Jack!" I said. Jack was genuinely friendly and obviously had no romantic interest in Faro, if his girlfriend Lucy had anything to say about it.
"And how're you, mate?" he asked to Faro. Faro threw me an exasperated look before amiably replying, "Faro Carne. I'm from Plymouth. Staying up in Senara with Granny Carne until Mum's out of hospital."
Jack frowned. He lived in Senara, he was familiar with Granny Carne. "Granny Carne?" he said, "I didn't know you were related."
I was tempted to reply with 'there's a lot you don't know', but Faro beat me to it. "Oh, my grandpa and Senara didn't get on very well. Moved out to Plymouth as soon as he was old enough. We've been there ever since."
Jack shrugged and relaxed back. There was a silence, and it wasn't a comfortable one. "Are you going to grab a drink, Saph?" he asked, awkwardly.
I shook my head. "No, I'm good Jack. You go grab one."
He looked hesitant, so I said, "Is that Lucy coming over there?" His head swivelled and located a dark figure coming down the other end of the beach. He threw me a grateful look and jogged out after her.
Faro looked distressed. I squeezed his hand. What's up?
I don't fit in. I'm sure if I hadn't been there, the two of you would have been in a large discussion.
I laughed. Jack's a family friend, but he's more Conor's friend than mine. Anyway, I'm not a very talkative person. I don't have many friends. I daydream too much, I reckon.
He smiled, flashing his perfect white teeth and I leaned onto his shoulder and gazed into the fire. It's beautiful, isn't it? I asked him.
I wish I could say yes, but I'm far too busy feeling scared it'll bite me to appreciate it. thought Faro, with a scowl. I'm pretty sure fire is always associated with bad things. No one ever chats about fire favourably on boats.
I felt a grin come to my face regardless. "It's not all bad," I spoke out loud. Jessie Nanjivey was toasting a batch of marshmallows with a few pokers.
"Hey Jessie!" I said, moving over to her side, "Don't think I could nick a couple of skewers for Faro and I?"
She smirked. "You can borrow a couple of skewers. You can't nick them, Sapphire! My mam will kill me if I lose some!"
I grinned and filched a couple from the bag and stole an unopened bag of marshmallows too. Jessie shook her fist at me but there was laughter in her eyes and I saluted at her before sitting down next to Faro again.
He looked confused. "What are these?"
I smiled. "These are marshmallows. They're a sugary substance and are great normally." I handed him one and he cautiously chewed it.
He nodded. "It's okay, I suppose." He said, "Nothing special."
I shrugged, different tastes and all. "But, when toasted on a fire...well, the taste is greatly improved!"
Faro looked sceptical and I demonstrated, by crouching close towards the fire, keeping my cardigan and large flower shoulder as far away from it as possible. I quickly turned half of it golden brown while the other half blistered black. I brought it back and Faro looked slightly disgusted.
"That doesn't look vaguely edible, Sapphire." He said, flatly, but I laughed and pointed him to eat the golden brown edges. He rolled his eyes but slowly chewed it. I think he must have been surprised, because his eyes nearly shot up to his hair. He looked vaguely nauseated and handed the marshmallow back, looking slightly green.
I sighed, it seemed that he didn't have the flavour for it. Never mind. Just then, I heard giggles roll through the crowd and I turned round. Conor had presented the newly arrived Rainbow with the red ribbon and she now loosely tied a strand of her hair back with it. I smiled. It was endearing, but probably looked strange to the teens of the crowd, who were used to much more flippant relationships.
"Hello Rainbow," I called. I smiled; her red dress looked stunning in the firelight. It seemed to glow and she seemed radiant.
"Sapphire!" she squealed, twirling me around and staring at my dress. "It looks so pretty! I don't think I can imagine your Mum wearing this at all!"
I sighed. The secret was out. This lovely sea-blue dress was my Mum's. She'd never worn it and it fitted me snugly. I'd decided to wear this, instead of spending more of our precious money on another dress, like Rainbow had. "Neither can I, Rainbow, neither can I."
She laughed and as I flopped onto the log, she followed suit. I saw Conor and his mates had disappeared towards the drinks table. "And you must be Faro, right?" she asked Faro and he smiled.
"Someone who knows who I am! This is new!" he said, flashing his white teeth at her.
"Oh, Sapphire told me all about you!" said Rainbow, flicking her short hair behind her ear.
Faro threw me a questioning look and I shook my head imperceptibly. He seemed slightly disappointed but turned around, back to Rainbow. I suppose he tired of secrecy too. "What kind of things?" he asked slyly, as if he were making fun of me, instead of scoping out the situation.
She smiled, oblivious of it all (or was she?), "Oh, she told me how pretty you were, and I can see that! She said you were one of the nicest people she'd met and that she really loved you." Now her tone grew serious, and I wondered more than ever whether she was as oblivious to the tension as she acted. "She also said that you came from a dangerous place. At least, Conor did. So, it can't be Plymouth. You come from somewhere else. Don't worry, I won't ask where. I know to mind my own business. Though, I have to ask, is the danger there over?"
Faro paused. "The main danger is done. Rebuilding will take many years. And re-establishing trust; that will take even longer. I...I don't think I will be able to forgive easily."
Rainbow looked comforting. "Forgiveness comes with time. If they are truly sorry and they are trying to repent, you'll see it and you'll want to forgive them." I smiled, I think Rainbow was truly good with people and advice.
Just then a loud uproar came from everybody. I stood up and I felt my entire mouth frown in displeasure. Brilliant. Just what this party needed, the kids who thought they were all that. I frowned as Josie Sancreed and her brother Michael sauntered onto the beach along with all of their gang. They had been fine when they were younger; a bit bratty sure, but everyone knew each other and were generally polite. Now, things were worse. With the arrival of Michael's last year and the St Pirans kids, things escalated. There were now two clear sides to the school and while the teachers hated it, they couldn't do anything about it. I scowled, they were now outrightly mean and I was sure that they were directly responsible for Rainbow being teased.
"How cute!" cried Esther Liveny, her hands flung into the pockets of her designer shorts. "A little ickle baby beach party!"
Josie laughed. "So lame, all of you. So tame. I bet you wouldn't know the meaning of fun if it hit you in the face!"
Katie looked annoyed from where she was changing the records. "Go to hell Josie! You had your party on Friday, leave us be!"
Michael laughed. "We won't be here long, don't feel threatened, ickle child! We just wanted to extend an offer of some real fun! We're going waterboarding. Anyone who isn't a loser can feel free to join us! There'll be alcohol, music that's actually been made in the last 20 years and something that's actually interesting!"
Jack scowled and threw a marshmallow at him. "Go away. You're absolutely daft! The sea will eat you up alive! There aren't any surfers out here at all, and that's saying something! There's always surfers in winter! Go home and do something productive!"
Nearly everyone cheered along with him but Rainbow and Faro were quiet, if a tad confused about schoolyard politics. Faro tugged at my sleeve. "Sapphire, we have to stop them. Like the Jack boy said, the sea will eat them up alive. Ingo is not happy today."
I shook my head. 'They can't be reasoned with, Faro. They think they're invincible and they don't care what you or I would say. Maybe an injury would instill some caution in them!"
He looked unhappy but acquiesced when I squeezed his hand. Rainbow had moved away, presumably to go and dissuade Conor from doing anything foolish, like punch Michael. I sighed. This party wasn't going nearly as well as Katie would have hoped. It had been a little fun, but people were dispersing now. The wind was getting stronger and of course, there was the overlying threat of being targeted by Josie's gang. They had moved away a little distance, closer towards the sea, but I could still see Josie's taunting face and it made a hot angry feeling rise in my stomach.
I looked round and saw that Jack and Lucy were going to leave. "Faro," I said, "I'm just going to go say goodbye to Jack. Why don't you talk to Mal?" I said, pointing out the dark-haired boy. He nodded and made his way over there, agonisingly with his crutches.
I walked over to Jack and to Lucy. "Hey guys!" I said, "I hope you had a good time. Are you heading home now?"
Lucy smiled, tucking a brown curl behind her ear. "Oh yes, it's getting late. Who knows what my dad will say for staying out this late. It was good to see you, Saph! Have a good Christmas!"
"You too!" I said and Jack waved pleasantly as they made their way out.
I walked over to Katie at the speakers, where she packed up, along with a dark-haired boy, whom I was convinced was called John, but I couldn't be certain. "Hey Katie," I greeted as I perched down to help her pack the records. 'How's it going?"
She sighed, and plopped herself in the sand, her shoulder length, light brown hair curling over her shoulders. "Not as well as I hoped, if I'm honest. It was going okay, but y'know, the weather isn't great and...well, it's getting late."
I knew what she wasn't saying and I nodded. "It'll be okay, Katie. There's always the summer."
She smiled, weakly. "You'll be heading off soon then?"
"Yeah, Mum wants us back before 11, so I ought to be leaving soon and I'll get back 10. A bit early, but, god knows that Conor will dither about laundry."
She laughed and smoothed her hair back. "Okay then Saph, in case I don't see you later, Bye bye! Merry Christmas!"
I waved back and looked around to locate Conor. I found him perched on a tidepool rock, swinging his trainers over the shallow pool. I could see a red crab scuttling around there, underneath the thin veneer of algae. "What are you doing Conor?" I asked him. He seemed to be intently focusing on the rockpool. "Where's Rainbow? Why aren't the two of you canoodling?" I grimaced at my choice of words; now Conor had me talking like an 18th century lady.
"She's gone." He said dully. "We had a fight and she went."
I felt my eyebrows raise. "You had a fight?"
He scowled at me. "Yes Sapphire! For your information, I'm not perfect. I can and do get things wrong. Oh god Sapphy! What do I do? I didn't mean to upset her!"
I patted his back, relationship problems were easily fixed with a hug, a sorry and a gift. Then I sniffed and frowned. "Conor," I asked, "Have you been drinking?"
He looked annoyed again. "Yeah. Mal offered me a drink. Or two. Or three. Said it would drown away Rainbow and her tantrums. But she doesn't throw tantrums, now I think about it. And I don't want to forget her!"
I sighed. Brilliant. A drunken Conor. Granted, he wasn't full out drunk, just a little tipsy, but how I would explain this to Roger and Mum, I didn't know. "What is Mum going to say? And on that note, how will you deal with the hangover?"
He threw me an annoyed look. "Mum's still working, even if it is half-term. I'll wake up late and she won't notice. And she won't know, unless you say something."
"Or if she comes anywhere near you!" I protested. "If I could smell it in this wind and with the smell of the sea, then Mum and Roger in a cottage are most definitely going to be able to smell it!" I snapped.
He sighed desolately and put his head in his hands. "I screwed up, didn't I?" he said to me, his voice slightly muffled. I softened a little. I suppose that Conor was allowed the occasional mistake.
"We'll deal with that when we get there," I said. "For now, I suppose we'd better get Faro and go home. We'll deal with everything tomorrow. A good night's sleep would infuse some sense into you."
He laughed sarcastically. "Haha, Sapphy." I smirked and patted him on the back, before turning to scan the stragglers left behind. Among them, I couldn't see Faro. I swirled frantically, I couldn't have lost him so quickly! I spotted Mal sitting by the fire. I grabbed Conor and dragged him towards Mal.
"Mal! Where's Faro gone?" I asked fiercely.
He looked slightly dazed. "The strange dude with the crutches?" he asked and I nodded. "He was talking about the sea and Josie's gang and how they needed to be warned about the angry sea, and I was all for it man! Peace to everyone and all! Though, how he got the sea was angry, I dunno. Whatever he's smoking, I want some!" he said. I scowled; he was far more drunk than Conor. I didn't even want to know how he'd gotten his hands on alcohol, but I wasn't sure it would be legal. I don't know how Conor managed to misjudge Mal. He and his dad had seemed pretty decent, but who know?
I slapped him. "You idiot!" I hissed. He looked pretty shocked. "I hope you are nicer when you aren't drunk because you sure are a jerk when you're drunk! You sent Faro, a boy with crutches who knows nothing about school politics against the biggest bullies there are?"
He looked unaware of it all and I shook my head in disgust. Conor looked more serious now. "What do we do now, Sapphy?" he asked, and though it was probably the wrong time, it felt good to be the one that lead the mission for once.
"Obvious, isn't it?" I said, as I started jogging towards the retreating mass of bodies that were Josie's crew. "We get him back. And stop him from touching water if we can."
I then heard a splash in the distance. Conor and I exchanged grim looks and started running. I could feel sand slipping through my sandals onto my toes, but any discomfort was worth it, as long as Faro was still on land when we got to him.
Luck wasn't with us. As we drew nearby, Faro was nowhere to be seen. I grabbed Josie's hoodie from the front. "Where the hell is he?" I screamed at her and she looked terribly shocked. Esther looked ready to interfere but just then Josie smirked.
"I don't know who you're talking about. Put me down or my father will hear of this." She said.
I snarled. "You know exactly who I'm talking about, you bitch! What did you do to Faro?"
She merely looked cool. "He was being lame, talking about how the sea was angry, of all things! So we thought we'd re-unite him with his precious sea. Michael chucked him in."
I dropped her and I knew my face must have gone pale. I heard a sharp crunch and knew that Conor had punched Michael in the face. In any other occasion, I might have reprimanded him for unnecessary violence. But I hadn't time to worry about that.
I stripped off my cardigan along with my bag containing my mobile phone. "He can't swim, you fool!" I said to Josie, shoving the cardigan in her face. "Didn't you stop to think about WHY he was in crutches! By the way, if any of this is ruined or broken, you'll pay for it." I said, as I pulled off my sandals and also folded those into her hand. I quickly pulled off my tights and waded into the water as quickly as I could, before diving.
I was buffeted between the waters. I had to sharply dodge, to avoid an incoming rock and I could barely focus my mind on finding Faro, for so much as staying alive. I felt my hair explode out of the hairspray induced bun, which only clouded my vision. I knew I wouldn't' be able to see him amongst all of this madness.
Ingo, help me please! I am your daughter! Find your future Guardian! Find Faro! I spoke in true Mer, hoping that Ingo would respond. I didn't feel anything until my deublek started to burn. It shone an eerie blue, illuminating the waters. I couldn't see Faro but I felt a weak spark in my Ingo radar.
Faro! I called, Can you hear me, kerenza?
I didn't hear an audible response, but felt a stronger spark in my head. I swam towards where I could feel it and the deublek lighted my way. I saw a similar glow further out to sea and I pushed myself like I had on the Crossing, further towards Faro. I saw him immediately. His face was blue, like Conor's had previously been when he first entered Ingo. He was just hanging onto life by a thread. I pressed my lips to his, hoping that some oxygen remained in my body, enough to keep him alive.
I then mustered my strength and circled my arms around his chest. I kicked upwards, hoping to surface soon. To my horror, we were instead buffeted towards a nearby rock. I scowled and dodged out of the way, muttering curses under my breath. I kissed Faro again, breathing what I hoped was oxygen into his lungs, and maybe it was my imagination, but his chest seemed to rise and fall. I tired to surface again, only to be pulled by a nearby current. I battled with Ingo and the pull; the last thing we needed was a current or a riptide, taking me further towards the sea.
I felt my anger build. ENOUGH! I roared in true Mer. Be still! Do you not want your Guardian to live? How can we save him, if he cannot reach the air? Be calm! He will return to you, and drowning him will not bring him back! All he will do then is go to Limina!
To my surprise, the sea seemed to actually calm. It wasn't happy water, but, when I mustered the last of my strength, I managed to push up to the air. I kissed Faro again, pushing air into his lungs once more, treading water, to balance him up. My arms burned with the strain, but he was more important than I. I dully noticed the deubleks had stopped burning. We were about a mile or so from the shore. Conor and the rest of Josie's gang were mere specks in the distance. I scowled and started swimming. My hair flopped over my shoulders and face, wet and finally flat with the weight of the water. My dress was ruined. The flowery thing had been ripped off my shoulder by the current's power and my dress's frilly layers looked stained and soaked. My Mum would be furious.
On top of all that, the weather diced to pour it down. I sighed and carried on pulling Faro. I knew it was late now. I could feel the sleep pulling at my eyes and arms, and the air seemed colder than ever. I wanted nothing more than to slip into Ingo and sleep on a calm current leading out to the Pacific. But I knew it wasn't possible. I imagined my dear whale, with her funny jokes and how she carried on through being attacked by a squid. I could carry on pulling now!
"Wake up, Faro," I whispered, a small sigh. Finally, the shore the seemed closer. Conor was an individual figure rather than a blob. I shouted to him, using the last of my energy. I kept my feet treading water, losing the energy to keep pushing forwards. Faro sagged in my hands and I kissed him again, pushing oxygen into his lungs (or carbon dioxide, a voice suspiciously like my Science teacher, whispered).
I blinked tears away and started pushing towards the beach again. I would get him to the shore. I would. Maybe if I said it enough times, I would believe it. I swam ever closer, until I could feel sand near my feet. I stood up and started wading, pulling Faro with me. Conor came to support me and together, we pulled Faro towards some dry rocks. I rubbed my shoulders; he was safe. He was safe. But then something Granny Carne had said before rung clear in my mind.
I swore and rolled up one of his trouser legs, as quickly as I could. I swore again as I saw his wounds were now open and bleeding profusely. I wondered how long they had been bleeding for. I heard gasps and hisses from all of Josie's crowd. They all looked pale and I knew that when it came down to it, none of them would have the heart to do this on purpose. They were bullies, not criminals.
"If I reported you," I said, my voice shaking, "You could get charged with cases of attempted murder. That's twenty-five years in prison." At this, Josie burst into tears and Esther looked close to it. Michael looked shaken.
"But we didn't know he couldn't swim!" said Michael.
"Doesn't matter," said Conor, as he ripped his shirt and started wrapping them around Faro's wounds, "You still threw a boy with crutches into the roughest sea conditions I've seen when there isn't a storm. That still counts, no matter how much you twist it."
Now Esther burst into tears and I heard Liam Doherty breathing heavily. "But we aren't going to report you," I said, "If Faro lives, we won't report you. Now help us with him."
They all nodded. Liam started ripping strips out of his shirt and Michael rooted through his bag to look for anything that might be useful. I turned to Josie. "Josie," I said, 'I need my phone."
Esther shook her head. "I'll do it. I have unlimited credit. What do you need?" she said, flicking out her blackberry from her coat pocket.
I nodded, this was acceptable. "Call Granny Carne." I then stopped. I had never seen a landline in her house. She didn't even have electronic lights, why would she have a landline? " Or call someone close to her house. Tell her to get her bandages ready, tell her that Faro is hurt."
Esther nodded and got to work on her phone. Josie whimpered and I shook my head in disgust. If she was going to inflict pain upon others, she could have the courtesy of facing the consequences with some dignity. I put my jacket around me and slipped my sandals back on. I knew that by tomorrow, I would have an awful cold.
"Conor," I said, placing my hand around Faro's. "He's breathing again, but we need to carry him to Granny Carne's house."
Conor scowled at me. "That's hardly going to be easy, Sapphy. We're in St. Pirans!"
I threw my hands up at him. "Well, we can hardly take him to a hospital!" Conor's eyes widened, and though the others looked confused, I knew perfectly well that he understood.
"What do we do? By the time we get to Granny Carne's house, he'll dry out!" said Conor.
Suddenly inspiration dawned. "Conor, Rainbow lives five minutes away. Get Michael and Liam and carry him to her house. Make your excuses and apologies; we need somewhere warm inside with bandages for both Granny Carne and Faro. Esther, change of plans. Tell whoever's going to contact Granny Crane to catch the bus to St Pirans and come to Rainbow's house. She'll know where it is."
Everyone nodded and got to their respective jobs. I sneezed and frowned. Great, the cold had struck early. Josie still seemed frozen in her whimpering position. I rolled my eyes and slapped her. It felt good and pulled her out of her shock. "Wake up, Josie," I said. I could have been spiteful, but I didn't have the energy. "I told, you, we aren't going to report you if Faro lives. Go make yourself useful."
I blinked the sleep out of my eyes and followed the trail of boys carrying Faro up and away from the beachside. My legs burned, but I kept walking. There were only five minutes till I could collapse in a comfy chair. Five minutes until a warm fire and the smell of home. Five minutes until Rainbow's happiness. Five minutes till everything was okay. With those thoughts, I picked up my pace and walked away from the beach, not looking back once.
AN: Wow, majorly long chapter. I'm so tired from writing this. I think I want to go to sleep at Rainbow's house! Please review! I love all and any responses! I don't know when the next chapter is going to be released, because I'm going to update a Lightning Can be Warm chapter soon. Don't forget to visit the Ingo forum and the Away-In-Ingo DeviantArt page!