Kali had been feeling dazed, but still she couldn’t help but be angry with her mother. Searching her feelings, it wasn’t quite anger. She felt betrayed. Lynette had lied to her about everything, and she was still acting as though nothing had changed. The only reason that Kali knew anything at all was because she had listened in. She should still be freaking out, in the dark, and Lynette had left her alone.
The ride home in the car passed in strained silence. The air was thick between them. Lynette barely noticed how quiet Kali was being, so preoccupied with her own uneasiness. When she did, she thought it was just because of the incident in the pool. By the time they got home, after the longest fifteen minutes of Kali’s life, Kali wasn’t even sure if she could speak at all anymore.
When they got into the house, Kali curled up in her usual chair in the living room and Lynette sat stiffly in the one opposite. Kali waited for a few moments for her mother to speak until she realised that she wouldn’t. She decided to force the conversation to start and muttered “Am I going crazy?”
Lynette looked at her sharply, her eyes demanding an explanation, and Kali continued slowly “The things that have happened today aren’t possible in the world that I know. The only explanation is that I’m losing my mind…right? I mean, I spoke to a killer whale, I could breathe underwater, and…that kid’s heart wasn’t beating when I pulled her out. I…it was like I brought her back to life somehow. Tell me how any of that is possible.”
“You said you did CPR.” Lynette offered weakly.
Kali clenched her teeth, literally biting down on her anger, and insisted “And you said I didn’t.”
Kali just looked at her, waiting, and when Lynette realised she wasn’t going to get to stall any longer she sighed. Her face relaxed but it looked as though something inside of her broke when she said, “I don’t know what to say.”
“Say something! Anything that will make my life make some kind of sense again. Because this isn’t even the first time!” Now that she had started, Kali’s voice wouldn’t stop shaking. But she was getting angrier with everything that her mother said, and the anger gave her strength even though tears were streaming from her eyes. She desperately wanted to hear the truth from her mother, just once, so she persevered. “There are so many things that I’ve just pushed aside and figured I’d imagined them. But I didn’t imagine this!”
“Kali…” She hesitated on the verge of revealing something she didn’t want to and then shook her head. “Sometimes life just throws something at you that you can’t explain. Some people would call them miracles.”
“Miracles? That’s your answer?” Kali took a moment to breathe, trying to calm down and stop shaking, and then growled “That thing that attacked us in August was no miracle.”
Lynette’s eyes drifted, as they always did, to the scar on Kali’s face. And then they dropped. She sighed wearily, tired of the conversation. If she guessed that Kali knew what she was holding back she didn’t show it. She was ashamed, but she couldn’t bring herself to talk about Camelot, so she muttered “We’ve been over this, Kali. What do you want me to tell you?”
“Tell me how any of this could make sense! Tell me that there is some kind of explanation for what happened today!” Kali brushed tears from her eyes angrily and yelled “Tell me!”
“I can’t.” Lynette said calmly, her voice almost cold, and Kali froze. Tears were still wet on her cheeks, but she couldn’t make herself move to wipe them away. A few seconds passed in silence, but it was an eternity to Kali. Eventually Lynette stood up slowly and murmured “I have to get ready for my date.”
“Can’t you cancel?” Kali asked quietly, hoping that her mother would turn around and make her feel like she mattered more than her boyfriend.
Once again, she was disappointed. “I can’t. It’s our anniversary.”
“Already?” Kali frowned; her mother hadn’t even mentioned that she was seeing anyone until last month. “Fine.” She muttered bitterly; why would she confide in her daughter anyway? Kali took a breath and then said as casually as she could manage “Oh, I forgot. A man came to see me in the reptile house when I was waiting for you. Did he find you?”
Lynette paled visibly, and her voice was quiet as she asked, “What man?”
Kali shrugged quite convincingly, stating “He never told me his name. He had weird eyes though; they were gold. He seemed to know who I was.”
“I don’t know of anyone with eyes like that.” Lynette insisted.
“So, he didn’t speak to you?” Kali pressed the matter subtly, acting confused. “He asked after you and went to the pool.”
“I must have missed him.” She muttered through gritted teeth and then insisted “I need to get ready now. I’ll see you when I get home and we can…talk.”
“Yeah.” Kali’s voice was empty then and she just stared at the floor, unable to look her mother in the eye.
When Lynette left the room, Kali didn’t move. She couldn’t remember how to. Her mind was too busy trying to process what had happened. Time seemed to be moving so slowly; she couldn’t believe that she had been at school only a few hours ago.
Her mother came downstairs after a little while in a pale blue dress that matched her eyes. Normally Kali would have complimented her, but she barely saw her. It wasn’t until long after Lynette had left, her ‘goodnight’ still echoing in Kali’s ears, that Kali managed to look up.
Kali sank back into her chair for a moment with her eyes closed, employing every single relaxation technique she had ever learnt until she could breathe again. None of it worked, so she put her earphones in and turned up her music so she couldn’t hear anything else. But every song that came on seemed to pull her with it. Eventually, the heavy beats were too much for her to ignore.
With a man singing about revolution over some heavy guitar riffs, Kali pushed herself up. The feeling that something was out of place still lingered, and she was restless. Now that she knew she wasn’t just paranoid, it only made things worse. She had to move. She needed to be doing something. Anything. She had to get out of her head or she would make herself crazy.
She grabbed a band hoodie on her way out and locked the door behind her. She couldn’t just sit there anymore. The sun had set but Kali didn’t have room for fear anymore. She hardly noticed the darkness around her or the chill in the air. The cross rhythms and steady bass of the music in her ears drove her on until her walk turned into a run. Picking up speed, she ran until she couldn’t spare the energy to think anymore.
When her mind was finally silent, and the music changed to something calmer, Kali dropped. On her hands and knees, she shook under the crushing weight of reality crashing back into her. Sweat covered her and the chill of the air almost stung now that she was still.
Muttering a curse under her breath, Kali rocked back onto her knees and took out her earphones. Her limbs were trembling and her breathing was heavy, but her mind was blissfully empty. For the first time, she took in her surroundings with a frown. The park? It was mostly empty now, but it wasn’t a good place to be. All the lads that fancied themselves as thugs frequented it, and that was trouble that she didn’t need.
After a moment, Kali noticed that she wasn’t as alone as she had initially thought. A little way off, leaning back on one of the benches, was a man. She couldn’t get a clear look at him, mostly because her vision was blurring from the exertion of her run, but he didn’t look like a wannabe ‘gangsta’.
“Rough night?” He called over to her in a slightly gravelly voice.
Kali started, embarrassed; he must have noticed her looking at him. But it also struck her that he could definitely take her in a fight. His tight t-shirt just highlighted the fact that he was made of muscle. That much, at least, she could see from where she knelt on the grass. Not wanting to be rude, she replied “Something like that.” But she slowly got to her feet without taking her eyes off him.
Before she started backing up, the man said “Easy, sunflower. I’m not gonna hurt you.”
Kali felt some of the tension leave her body, and she relaxed slightly. She had always been able to tell when someone was lying to her. He didn’t mean her any harm. Her legs were still shaking a little, and her head was swimming. Even if this man wasn’t a threat, it was still immensely stupid to be there. She scowled inwardly; what had gotten into her? Now that she wasn’t worried that the man on the bench would pounce on her, she muttered an awkward goodbye and turned to leave.
Seeming surprised, he called “You’re leaving? Just like that?”
“I know that must be strange for you, but not every girl is slain by your muscles.” She grinned, though her eyes roamed over his frame again curiously. He really was toned to perfection. It was just a shame that guys like that seemed to love themselves more than anyone else.
“That’s true. Most of them fall for my good looks and charm. They just stay for my body.”
His confident, slightly arrogant, tone sent a thrill through her, but she forced a laugh. Definitely loved himself too much for her taste. She would be willing to bet that he oiled his biceps daily. Luckily for her, he was way out of her league. “I wouldn’t want to intrude on your alone time.”
“Please, intrude away.” He indicated at the space on the bench next to him and Kali hesitated for a moment.
She was almost relieved when a pungent smell reached her from across the park. She managed to hold back urge to gag, but her expression soured. She could smell the drugs clinging to the idiots walking their way from a mile off. With another glance at the stranger, Kali suggested “Maybe you should think about moving along as well.”
He looked over towards the kids and raised an eyebrow at her. “Don’t insult me, little one.”
“Little?” Kali felt a blush creep onto her cheeks and just blinked at him. She had always been tall for her age, and her frame was anything but petite. She couldn’t remember anyone ever calling her little. But, she thought, looking at him…now that her eyes had accustomed to the dim light and she wasn’t so tired…he was well over six feet tall, and his muscular build was impressive. She probably was little next to him.
Her eyes moved back to him despite her best intentions. Brown hair in an undercut style, and a strong jaw. Good looks, indeed. And that wolfish grin, which had only widened at her awkward response. Damn, why did he have to be so attractive? No wonder guys like him were so egotistical; he had literally no flaws.
Before Kali could get too distracted by the unfair balance of beauty in the world, she was dragged back out of her head by shouts. She closed her eyes and groaned another curse, but it was too late. Taking a deep breath, Kali turned towards the whooping idiots making their way over.
“Hey, sweet thing. Here for a good time?” One of them called out, swaggering over to her.
Grumbling inwardly, Kali turned to him and raised an eyebrow, retorting “If I were, why would I waste my time with you?”
“Aww, don’t be like that, babe.” The nearest guy reached out his hand to touch her and she snapped. Without thinking, she grabbed his wrist and twisted it painfully until he cried out. Holding him in place, Kali said “I have had a really bad day. How about you leave?”
It sounded reasonable enough to her, but the boy swore at her and flailed until she let him go. She was more worried about breaking his arm, but he clearly didn’t appreciate her consideration. Still swearing, the bratty kid swung his fist at her, but she was already moving. It had been a long time since she had been in a fight, but apparently her body still knew what to do. It didn’t take any kind of conscious thought for her to block his wide swing and move into his space. Her swift, sharp kick sent all the colour out of his body and he hit the floor with a wheeze.
She glanced at the others, expecting trouble, and saw that they were all unconscious near the bench. The man she had spoken to before had sat back down and was just watching her. Kali took a long minute to process how quickly he had dealt with them. A hint of concern touched her, and she asked, “They all alive down there?”
He raised an eyebrow at her, but shrugged, “They’ll wake up in a couple of hours with a hell of a headache, and a cracked rib or two.”
Keeping her eyes on him, she moved closer to check on the guys on the floor. They may have been punks but there were five of them. He hadn’t even broken a sweat. “Guess those muscles aren’t just for show, huh, big guy?”
“They have their uses.” He winked, unashamed, and Kali blushed again.
She took a deep breath and held out her hand, saying, “I’m Kali.”
“Ares.” He clasped her hand and she froze. Ares. The god of war.
Hello there! If you made it this far, consider hitting that Like button, or drop a comment to let me know what you thought.