Editor's Note: Are you loving "Blue?" Make sure to leave a comment for Marie so she knows how mch you love Julie (our favorite) and Tic-Toc! If you missed any of the earlier pages, make sure to click the links below:
Original artwork made exclusively for her novel by Linda McClu
re! Visit her site to view more - www.amethystcraft.com.
Julie really did intend to go home, let herself in, and see her Mom with all the indignation teenagers reserve for when they have done something wrong and are pretending they didn’t. This usually starts with an affronted, “Whaaat?” as if there really was nothing they should explain. Julie had intended, if not really visualizing it, that she would start that way and probably go into the usual next phrase of that interaction, “Why are you staring at me? What did I do?”
Of course, this would prompt her Mom to say, “You haven’t been home for two days, Julie. What do you mean--what?”
At which time, Julie could flip the script and say, “Really? You’d never know it since you haven’t been looking for me.”
This is how she thought it would go. Unfortunately, when she got to her trailer, her Mom wasn’t home, and it was at this point that she realized she had lost her trailer key. Oh my God, her Mom was going to kill her, she thought. Then she thought, well, if she was running away from home, what did she care what her Mom thought? Of course, this was ridiculous because even she remembered how she felt at Gina’s house-- waiting for her Mom to show up, which she never did --that did not happen.
Maybe she didn’t remember to bring the key, she thought hopefully, because why would she bring the key if she really didn’t intend to come back? Yeah, no, she immediately thought. If there was one thing latchkey kids know it was this—you don’t leave home without the key and you don’t lose the key. She’d known this irrevocably since she was seven.
Sigh. She’d lost the key.
Tic-Toc and her father sat at their kitchen rock ledge staring at the Official Clam who had just delivered the message that Tic-Toc was supposed to go to The Deep to begin a series of trainings with Deep Squared 2 herself.
Of course, it made sense, ZigZag thought, that eventually DS 2 would ask to see them in person—eventually.
And he realized in thinking this, that he had assumed DS 2 would ask to see him, if anyone…that she would ask for him to be transported to the icy regions of the Mariana Trench that bordered the edge of their Quadrant. He could not believe, and he could feel anger once again swelling his chest and changing the color of his tail. Once again, for this had been happening repeatedly since he got the news that Tic-Toc was to be the one to go to Green.
But this was the absolute limit—really? He stared flaming eyes at the Official Clam, “She expects, my daughter who is twelve to travel to The Deep—alone?”
The Official Clam twisted his neck and with it adjusted his pearl collar. He sniffed officiously, “Sir ZigZag, is it?”
ZigZag said nothing, not trusting himself to correct the Official Clam, and tell him it was actually, Council Member ZigZag of the Sparkle Lineage. “Sir” would do just fine.
Tic-Toc interrupted his thoughts, “Dad! By myself?!”
“We’ll straighten this out, kiddo. This has got to be a mistake—”
“A mistake?!” the Official Clam interrupted him. “Sir, are you serious? Do you think that I make mistakes? Or are you assuming in your infinite Quadrant 5 wisdom, that Deep Squared 2 herself makes—mistakes?” His neck was stretched so tight and his eyes were popped so huge that ZigZag thought the clam just might pop out of his shell permanently. He almost hoped he would.
“I might be suggesting that,” he said, going to the front door and grabbing his trident and standing by the entrance with it. “Could you please go back to The Deep and make sure this is a correct instruction?” He tried for his best military manner. The Official Clam stared one last time, and then without a word snapped shut his shell.
Barnacle Security surrounded the clam and escorted himself out. On their way, both Tic-Toc and her father could clearly hear one of the security detail talking about them.
“Sure,” the lead barnacle murmured but loud enough for ZigZag to hear, “DS 2 made a mistake. Right. Well, looks like we won’t be getting off early tonight, folks….” He trailed off.
“We’re going to – if you can believe it, have to deliver this Official Clam message again—because someone in Quadrant 5 didn’t believe it was official enough.”
“Well…we haven’t had to prove ‘official’ in a while,” said another.
“Yeah, that should be interesting,” grumbled another.
They did not look at either Tic-Toc or her father as they proceeded out with the Official Clam in tow, but just—disappeared—once they had exited the cavern opening.
“Great,” murmured ZigZag. “We have managed to piss off the security detail of the Official Clam to DS 2 herself within five minutes of their arrival in our cavern.”
“Who cares, Dad?” Tic-Toc, ever the upstart, was surprised at how scared she was that her Dad was, she could sense it, scared, too. “What do we care what old DS 2 has to say? I mean, she is soo far away...in The Deep! Can she really make us do something if we don’t want to do it?”
ZigZag stare at his daughter, the flames quieting in his eyes. “What do they teach you these days in shoal, anyway, honey?” he shook his head so vigorously several small fish who had been resting there floated free. “Yes, most definitely DS 2 can ‘make us’ do something she wants us to do.”
“That means I must go to The Deep—by myself?” she didn’t mean to, but her voice most certainly squeaked on the last two words. She went to grab the trident necklace her mother had given her. The one that always made her feel she could do anything. Be anything she wanted. The one her father had told her had magic powers.
“Don’t worry then, Dad,” she started to say. “If I have to do…” then she faltered. Where was her mother’s trident necklace? That was now hers? In fact, was her only real relic from her mother?
She patted her neck, her hair. Where was it?
“If you have to—what?” ZigZag said, distracted. He was pacing by the cavern door, with his thinking face on, jabbing the ocean floor with his trident.
She had meant to say, with Mom’s necklace, I can do anything. Instead she said, “If I have to do it—I’ll do it,” and finished shakier than she had hoped.
“I…uhh…” she looked around, what could she say? “Do you mind if I go to the S.S. Columbia and think Dad? I really just need to think for a few minutes.”
He stopped pacing. “Tic-Toc, we may be summoned, hmm…. how do I say this? We may be summoned, a bit more officially, than we were just been summoned—within a short amount of time.” But, he realized staring at her, that she really did look scared and maybe even miserable. And she looked, well, young. “Don’t go far. Don’t go anywhere except the ship. And be back here within the hour.
“Are you meeting Clue?”
Tic-Toc had no intention of meeting anyone, except that old barnacle that lived on the S.S. Columbia. She had a feeling that these barnacles did talk to each other, as Clue suspected. And those that traveled throughout the ocean’s different depths might have knowledge that no one else did.
“Sure. I’m going to jellyfish him now and see if he can meet me.”