I woke to the sound of knocking on my door, the light of the mid-afternoon sun streaming through my porthole. My nap must have lasted a while.
"Marina?" Darren's muffled voice asked. I buried my head in my good arm.
"Go away," I mumbled inaudibly into my pillow, knowing he couldn't hear.
"Marina?" he asked again, his voice lowering. I glowered at my tangled hair as I sat up in my bed, combing it away from in front of my eyes with my fingers. Why did he have to sound so forlorn and repentent? It was completely unfair.
"Marina..." He started again, his voice breaking off in a sigh. "Look, I really am sorry, will you please open the door?"
Why should I? It's not like you'll answer my questions, even if I cry and let you in, my thoughts answered grumpily, but I stood and walked across the room to the door and pushed the bar back to the unlocked position with an audible thunk, before moving over to the vanity and gazing at my tear-stained face.
The door creaked slightly as he opened it, and he came into the room, closing the door behind him. I tried not to feel suspicious as it fit snugly into its frame. I refused to look at his reflection in the mirror, choosing instead to pick up the ivory backed brush on the wooden surface and run it through my hair as an excuse to bring my hair in front of my face. I heard him step forward and then stop behind me.
He said nothing, and I calmly brushed my hair, ignoring his eyes, which I could see in the mirror out of the corner of my eyes. I finally set the brush down and turned slowly to face him. His blue eyes met mine, anguished and torn as he took another step towards me, stopping when he was close enough to easily reach out and touch me.
"If I could tell you, I would," he spoke softly, but I turned away, tears coming to my eyes. I fought them.
"Then what's stopping you?" I asked, slightly startled at the venom in my tone. I hadn't meant to sound that angry.
"I am bound by the ways of the sea," he informed me, again.
I spun back to face him. "And what are the ways of the sea? It gives me the mysteries of the mermaids and of pearls that make me breathe underwater, but you're human, and yet you can't tell me anything. As far as Amii told me, I'm her sister. What does that mean? Doesn't that give me the right to know the ways of the sea?"
He opened his mouth, but no words came out, and he closed it again, taking a deep breath. "I never said I was human," he said softly. My eyes widened.
"Not... human?" I managed.
Pain filled his eyes. "Not human," he echoed softly, his words not giving me the teasing tone I so wanted to hear.
I took a step away from him, my back pressing against the edge of the vanity cabinet. "Then... then what are you?" His hand caught mine and he pulled me to his chest.
"No, don't take it like that," he said, his voice leaning towards anger. His arms slid around my waist, pinning me against him, but then he took a breath and relaxed his grip, leaving the tiniest bit of space between our bodies. He took my jaw in one hand and lifted my chin so I looked up into his eyes. He looked so sad, so vulnerable and pained. I didn't pull away. "Please, Marina, I'm not a... monster, I..." his voice trailed off, though his mouth formed words.
"Why do you do that?" I asked, reaching up with a hand to touch his lips with my fingers. "Why can't you say it?" He pressed his lips against my fingers.
"The ocean won't let me," he answered.
"So it's not that you won't? You just can't?"
He growled softly, playfully, under his breath. "That's what I told you," he informed me, his gaze locked on mine.
I dropped my eyes to his neckline, catching sight of a chain around his neck with my abashed gaze. I slid my fingers from his lips to the chain, and felt his breath catch in his throat as I lifted it, to reveal a metal sphere, like a cage, enclosing a single sapphire, perfectly round and about the same size as my pearl.
"What is it?" I asked, cradling it in my hand as I looked up at him. He opened his mouth, trying, and then closed it again, shaking his head. I looked back to the gem. "It's the exact shade of your eyes," I murmured before slipping it back beneath his loose-fitting sailor's shirt.
"Do you forgive me now?" he asked, eyes imploring.
"Maybe," I answered. His brow furrowed, and he gave me a look that reminded me of a hurt puppy, so I continued hurriedly. "Only if you tell me whether you really are an orphan Captain Argon found wandering the streets."
"How do you define 'street'?" he asked, a sparkle in his eyes, and then sobered. "I am an orphan, and Captain Argon did find me, that much I can tell you."
"Fine..." I cocked my head to the side and placed my hands on either side of his face, looking into his eyes, the exact shade of a perfectly calm sea reflecting a cloudless sky, and thought of Amii, and the echo of her and Darren's words in my memories. "If I guessed what you were, would you tell me if I was right?"
"I would try," he informed me, leaning his forehead against mine and drawing me closer to him. His smell, like the ocean wind, washed over my senses, momentarily disoriented me, and he pressed his lips against mine, stealing my breath. His lips lingered, his hand sliding up my back and entangling itself in my hair. This kiss was different, more passionate, loving, sweet and gentle than our others, and then he slowly moved his face away from mine. "You are way too beautiful for your own good," he informed me, his gaze warm and loving.
"You're the only one who would say so."
His eyes darkened. "No," he informed me. "You're beautiful, and never think anything otherwise." I looked at him, taking in his sincere manner, and simply nodded. If he said so...
He smiled and brushed his lips against mine, and then he was gone, the door closing behind him with a soft thunk. I stood there, momentarily stunned, and then moved to the port-hole, opening it. A gust of wind tickled my ear, bringing back a ghost of the voice that had sung me to sleep. It was funny, it seemed to have the same tune as the lullaby Darren had sung to me.
Is that a coincidence, I wondered, gazing out over the waves, so innocently blue-green.