I'm not gonna go that far (it's hard enough to just hit "Publish," as I've already said), but I did do a word count, and when I did, I was well over eleven thousand words. I mentioned that to Big, who is going like gangbusters on his project, who was just over ten thousand. I challenged him to work a little bit longer on his, to try to pass me by, and he got up to twelve. This is not a competition, but good for him.
As it stands, the halfway point of my story is somewhere around now, when Tanissa realizes that Brekkyn has used her power on her more than once, and has absolutely no qualms about doing it again and again. When I first discussed this story with Big back in February or so, I thought, "How hopeless must the story be to get it where I want it to get? Is it alright for the neighbor girl to simply be amoral and apathetic, or does she actually have to be evil?"
That's a question only I could answer, and I settled on a line that had to be drawn in the story. If she crosses that line, you can't call her spoiled or bratty or just sociopathic anymore. We'll see how that goes.
“Or do you like Coke?”
“Either is fine,” she said, remembering to add, “Thank you.”
Brekkyn insisted they eat their dinner on the couch, with the television on, while the woman washed the dishes. There was a reality show on about college freshmen documenting losing their virginity on spring break. Tanissa enjoyed the casserole, but not the entertainment.
“How come nobody ever sees mermaids anymore, like getting pictures of them?” Tanissa asked during a commercial.
“Like on satellites and stuff?”
“Right. Or underwater cameras. Or the ones that pick up heat.”
“Because they live places where the cameras don’t see. Like deep down.”
“Alright,” she said, though it didn’t make sense to Tanissa. “But there’s, like, cities down there, with thousands of mer-people living in th--”
“Not thousands. Hundreds.”
“Alright, probably thousands.”
“But if there’s that many--”
Brekkyn finally muted the television and turned her full attention on her friend. “I know what you’re saying, but it’s real simple. To a camera or a scuba diver or something, they just look like fish or a dolphin or something.”
“Why is that?”
“Or a mass of fish like in Finding Nemo. It’s how my people have survived for so long, by blending in and not being obvious. You understand now?”
“Okay. Yes,” she said, letting it drop.
“Anymore questions you just gotta have answered this minute?” Brekkyn asked, unpleasantly.
“I gotta go,” she said, making a conscious note of the time.
“No, we’re not done,” whined Brekkyn. “This show’s an hour.”
“It’s not really my thing.”
“Well, we never finished our Monopoly game, remember? I’ve still got the board set up in my ro--”
“Tomorrow. My dad’s coming home soon. I just left my pajamas on the floor and stuff.”
“I . . .” How could she explain it? She didn’t want Dad to walk in and think she was a pig. She didn’t want to make her father clean up after her, she just . . . she just wanted to see him, spend time with him. He was her dad. “I miss him,” she said finally. “I just get two weeks with him and I don’t want to--” Waste them. “--miss out on my time with him.”
Brekkyn scowled, studying her. She seemed about to say—sing?—something. “Okay, tomorrow then.”
“Tomorrow,” Tanissa said, and headed out, remembering to thank Mrs. Conlee for the meal, who reminded her to call her Muriel.
Then, she grabbed Tanissa’s arm with a thin hand and whispered, “Be careful, sweetie. With . . .” And her eyes rolled in the direction of her daughter.
On the couch, Brekkyn was watching the TV intently, where the super-religious teen from Notre Dame was getting to third base in front of the cameras. She didn’t glance back.
“Careful?” she asked, but she thought she knew damn well what the woman was talking about.
“Sometimes,” the poor, sad, scared woman muttered, “she can be cruel.”
Tanissa had no doubt of that.