I told him I didn't plan on doing that, and why.
He said, "If somebody found a typo you wouldn't want to know about it?" I told him it was my job to find typos, not theirs, my job to make improvements, not theirs, because the story is mine.
But afterward, I thought about it, and realized I probably came across as a bit of a bag of douche there. So I'll say it now: if you find a typo, please let me know in the comments, and I'll be happy to change it to a not-typo. Thanks.
And thanks for reading.
And the mer-girl began to sing. With only one ear, there was something dissonant about the tune, something off-key and tinny, like Miley Cyrus without Autotune. Before, she’d always thought it was a pleasant enough song, even knowing it was working its magic on a driver or clerk. Faintly, Tanissa got a sensation—a suggestion—that she should do whatever Brekkyn Mannion said, maybe even bow down and kiss her feet. But it was just a feeling, just a weak inclination, and easy to dismiss.
The other girl’s expression changed from one of confident spite to confused anger. “What did you . . .” she started to say, then reached over and pulled the earbud from Tanissa’s ear. Gangsta Rap began blaring from beside her, and Brekkyn connected the dots, because she called Tanissa just about the worst name possible, and began to sing again.
This time Tanissa got the suggestion that she wallow around on the ground like a landed fish, gasping for air, desperate for relief. It was disturbing, but she had been clever enough to take a wad of toilet paper, jam it into her right ear, and then put the earbud in . . . and the siren song was no more than a suggestion. She steeled herself, fighting any desire to obey, and stared daggers at the spoiled little bully.
Brekkyn reacted much like she had when the old man had disobeyed her. She was stunned, and then her eyes got wet and her face got red. “How . . . ?” she began, then stifled any crying. “Doesn’t matter. I’m gonna go downstairs and make your dad think I’m his daughter. He’ll love only me . . . and hate you. Then you’ll understand how I feel.”
“No,” Tanissa couldn’t help but say. “Why? Why would you do that?”
“This could’ve worked out,” Brekkyn said. “We could’ve been sisters. But now, your own dad’s gonna kick you out, maybe spit in your face.”
Tanissa had no doubt the girl would do it, whether it would work or not. She didn’t want to find out. “Don’t you dare,” she hissed, and grabbed the younger girl’s arm. “You leave my dad alone.”
Brekkyn did start to cry then, and tried to push past to get to the stairwell. Tanissa blocked her path. “No.”
“Let me go!” she squealed, and her voice echoed from the building next door.
“No.” Tanissa was trying to control her breathing, control her fury. She focused on the words. “You leave us alone. You have to promise, and I have to believe you. We’ll stay up here until you do.”
Brekkyn’s red eyes blazed with something beyond anger, and she did, for a split second, look like some inhuman creature from the sea. She took a deep breath, and Tanissa was afraid, afraid of what was about to happen. She still held her iPod, meaning to stick the headphones in again, but got a different idea.
As Brekkyn began to sing, she pushed a button on the machine, causing the 2Pac to go silent.
The mer-girl sang her song again, tears and snot running down her face, and this time, it had an evil tinge to it, as though she’d been trying to make it pretty all the times before.
Tanissa Gunn, through her left ear only, felt a wave crash over her, a sense of despair, of worthlessness, of realization that she was alone and would never be loved. Tears came to her eyes as well, but whatever it was supposed to accomplish--other than depress her--it failed.
“I hate you,” seethed the girl, when she realized it hadn’t worked.
Tanissa shook her head, wiping away the one tear that had escaped. “Huge loss.” She took a step out of the way. “You leave me and my daddy alone.”
Brekkyn seemed poised to say something else, but she saw the opening, and went to the door, sniffling and mumbling. She was gone.
Tanissa pushed Stop on the iPod, then hurried after her, just in case the girl was headed for her father’s apartment instead of her own. But when she got to her dad’s place, he was alone, cooking pasta on the stove, smiling when she came inside.
“Is Brekkyn here?” she asked.
“No. I thought you were with her. That’s what her mama said. Turns out her first name is Muriel.”
Tanissa locked the door behind her and walked to his side. “You . . . you talked to her mother?”
“I did. I . . .” He snorted, a self-depricating sound. “Think I made a bit of an idiot of myself.”
“What did you say?”
“I . . . well, it’s complicated. I guess she didn’t feel the same connection when we met as I did. No worries, though. I’ll keep workin’ on her, see if I still got some of the old Gunn charm.”
In a way, that made her admire her father, even if he was under a love spell. “What did she say?”
“She told me I was crazy, that we didn’t know each other, that I was better off without her. Some sad stuff you wouldn’t understand.”
“You should listen to her, Dad.”
He sighed. “Maybe. I was so sure she was into me, so sure we were gonna . . . you know, live happily ever after.”
She hugged the man tightly. “You will, Daddy, just not with her. You’ll find somebody better.” And she hoped that he did, even though she had been secretly longing for her parents to get back together, and bring the world back to the way it had been when she was little.
He released her embrace. “Tanissa,” Dad began, and by his tone, she knew a lecture was coming. He was still a prisoner of the siren song, though maybe not as strongly as before.
“Dad, if I tell you to do something, will you do it for me? Even if it sounds weird?”
“Well, I don’t know. Depends on what it is.”
“What if I promised you it was really important?”
“I could try, baby.”
“If Brekkyn comes over, don’t let her in. I locked the door, and we can’t--”
“No, no, Tannie, I don’t want to hear any of that talk. She’s welcome here, same as you. I love both my girls.”
“She’s not your girl. You just think she is.”
“You two been fighting? If you’ve been mean to her . . .” He gestured toward the linguini he was boiling on the stove. “I’m gonna have to eat all this myself.”
“That’s okay, Daddy, if you promise to do something for me.”
“I won’t lock her out. If she comes over, I’m gonna make you two sit down and work out whatever you--”
“If I give you some toilet paper to put in your ears, will you do it?”
He looked at her as though she’d just started talking backwards. “Say what?”
“I . . . I’ll show you,” she said, and headed quickly for the bathroom. She grabbed an entire roll of bath tissue, and got it wet in the sink. When she came back in, he was opening a bottle of Barilla marinara sauce and shook his head at her. “I’m supposed to put that stuff in my mouth?”
“Your ears, Daddy,” she said, tearing off a couple of squares. “Like this.” She rolled each wet piece into a little jelly bean-sized ball, and stuffed one in her left ear, and held the other to her father.