And now, on this beautiful Christmas Eve, I am elated to present a special piece written exclusively for Christmas by my fellow giveaway elf co-worker (Santa would be proud of us. I expect candy in our stockings come Christmas morning), Susan Fodor. For the record, I adore her. <3 And I have absolutely no doubt y'all will love this very special Silver Tides Christmas piece as much as I did (I read it, like, three times--loved it that much).
***The following contains possible spoilers for those who have not read Silver Tides***
A Silver Tides Christmas
Cordulla had us lined up like the Von Trapp children inspecting our outfits with a grim expression. Beside me, Miranda was wearing a red dress straight out of White Christmas, minus the white fur. She had the fitted bodice and the full red skirt that stopped just below her knees. Her outfit was completed with ruby red heels that glistened in the studio light. Her black hair flowed down her back, and her amethyst eyes were more pronounced from the makeup artist’s ministration.
My blonde hair had been set in curls to cascade down my back, and my makeup was understated but beautiful. Even though our colourings differed, the makeup and hair had levelled us in attractiveness---well mostly.
My dress was exactly the same design as Miranda’s but in the deep emerald colour reserved for Christmas elves. My shoes were adorable emerald coloured Mary-Janes with elastic strap so they slipped on and off easily. They were half a size too small, Cordulla’s usual passive aggressive gift, but I was optimistic the material would give enough so I could wear them again. Cordulla shook her head at me with her usual disdain and moved on to inspect Daniel.
Charlie and Daniel were wearing blinding white suits. It didn’t flatter Daniel’s sensible golden-blonde haircut and crystal blue eyes or Charlie’s dark eccentric locks, cream skin and caramel eyes. For once they were dressed worse than the girls. Charlie was wearing a green shirt and Daniel a red one. There was no mistaking that Cordulla was again trying to pair Daniel to Miranda. I bite my lip ignoring the slight.
Cordulla had chosen all our outfits for the first annual Christmas address from the royal family. A small stage had been set up with four Santa chairs and opulent gold decorations in the background. It looked like the backdrop for a pirate’s treasure trove rather than a Christmas interview, but that was Cordulla and it was still her kingdom.
“I’ve organized all the questions,” Cordulla said, glaring at each of us in turn. “There is nothing too hard for you to answer. Be honest. Be winning and try not to embarrass me.”
An impish grin spread over Charlie’s lips. I worked to keep the nervous giggles at bay, my stomach felt like a shaken soda can.
“Mother,” Daniel said valiantly, “we won’t let you down.”
“I know you won’t,’ she said to Daniel maternally, “and Miranda is always perfect.”
“It will be fine,” I assured her, but she dismissed my words with a flick of her wrist.
“I’m going to our stage,” she said, all business. “The selkie king and queen will do their message. Then the cameras will switch to your interview and well wishes. Finally Harold and I will wish the people our best. Do. Not. Mess. This. Up.” She popped the p in ‘up’ as her eyes fell on me. I shifted uncomfortably.
She spun on her gaudy gold heels and marched out of the makeshift studio.
“That was intense,” Miranda exhaled.
“I feel like my sphincter is frozen shut,” Charlie added with a goofy grin.
“Charming,” I replied, suppressing a giggle.
“That’s medical humour,” Charlie defended, playfully. “A sphincter is a circular band of muscle that surrounds an opening or passage in the body and narrows or closes the opening by contracting.”
“You totally memorised that out of a veterinary studies book,” Miranda said, deadpan.
“It’s a turn-on isn’t it?” Charlie teased.
“Ok,” Daniel said, trying to get us to focus. “This is what Mother doesn’t want us to do. Let’s get set up for this interview.”
“First,” Charlie said to Daniel suggestively. “I need you to take off your shirt.” He raised his eyebrow provocatively.
“Excuse me?” Daniel asked, the stress of the interview dulling his sense of humour.
“Mya’s wearing green, seems only right that you and your Other be wearing the same colours.”
Daniel surveyed our outfits for the first time. “Any excuse to get me topless,” Daniel smirked.
“It’s not my fault you’re so hot,” Charlie replied with a goofy grin.
Miranda and I took their jackets as they swapped shirts. I averted my eyes while Miranda openly appreciated the boy’s muscular chests.
“The shirt’s a bit tight,” Daniel teased, as he put his jacket back on.
“We can’t all be built like Thor,” Charlie responded, unfazed.
The lights flicked on without warning. The whole room was bathed in blinding light.
“Take your seats. Take your seats,” called a shrill voice with a strange accent. It almost sounded like outback Aussie which would be weird in an underwater city.
“It’s too early,” Daniel argued.
“Everything is going faster than we predicted,” the voice assured, clapping his hands. “I’m Ivan. I’ll be interviewing you today. Now get in your seats.”
We moved to the chairs, still dazed by the sudden onslaught of the interview. My heart was bouncing from my stomach to my throat, up-and-down like a yo-yo. I squinted at the dark figure in the director’s chair unable to make out who it was from the blinding light. Something didn’t feel right, but I wrote it off as nerves.
“Lights. Camera. Action,” Ivan announced, like a ringmaster. “I’m Ivan Sparks and I’m interviewing the royal rat pack. I’m not going to waste time with introductions, you all know who they are, let’s get right into it.”
Waves of nausea washed over my body, as I realized Cordulla was setting us up for failure with the world’s most annoying interviewer. I took a calming breath. Miranda glanced at me with a raised eyebrow, as if to say, “Who is this guy?”
“Daniel,” Ivan said, leaning forward, his identity still obscured. “You’re sitting between two saucy minxes, how will you ever choose?”
Daniel’s jaw clenched with displeasure, but the cameras were rolling and we had to be on our best behaviour. “I think everyone is aware who my Other is, and that is who I will be pledging my devotion to and no-one else.”
“That’s vague,” Ivan teased. “Charlie, you’ve been living with Mya, do you want to share any of her secrets.”
Charlie’s eyes lit with mischief, I gave him pleading eyes to behave. “‘Living together’ is a loaded term,” Charlie said, subdued. “I’ve been guarding her while the kingdom has been transitioning into a new Atlantis, and Ivan, a gentlemen never discloses a lady’s secrets.”
I gave Charlie a grateful smile.
“Boring,” Ivan drawled. “Miranda, are these guys as squeaky clean as they’re trying to convince us? I read Silver Tides, I know you’ll be honest with me.”
“Well for starters, I should sue Ms Fodor for defamation, my character was totally maligned in that book. You’ll see in Submerge and Drift that I’m not at all what everyone thinks I am.”
“So there are two sequels in the works?” Ivan asked, excited.
“Opps, I’ve said too much.” Miranda smiled without remorse.
“We’re not supposed to talk about that,” Daniel said, jumping in to change the subject. “In answer to your question, we’re so squeaky clean detergent won’t stick to us.” He flashed a charming smile, making my heart beat faster. He was an exceptional guy.
“Point taken,” Ivan said backing off. “Mya, you've almost died so many times this year, your story could be called ‘The Girl Who Would Not Die.' How do you think you'll fair in the New Year?”
I blushed all the way up to my hairline. That was definitely a Cordulla question.
"Harsh," Miranda whispered under her breath, giving me an encouraging look.
"It's been a challenging year," I agreed. “My life has been threatened, but I've survived. I’ve gotten through princess training and the kingdom is improving daily because of all our efforts.”
“Yes, but you’ve got to admit you’re a pretty wimpy heroine,” Ivan baited.
I exhaled, letting my nerves settle in my toes so they couldn’t affect my thinking. “There are some people that view kindness, optimism and compassion as weakness. Those people would say that showing respect to people who disrespect you is pathetic. I don’t believe that. I believe that true strength is displayed by being kind in the face of petty meanness. I believe that remaining true to myself in the face of the shifting views of the world around me is heroic. If people don’t like it, that’s ok. I still respect them and treat them with common courtesy. I want courtesy to become common again.”
“I agree.” Daniel smiled, squeezing my hand. “A true lady exercises her influence by quiet example, not force.”
“Oh please.” Miranda rolled her eyes. “Quiet example? Have we stepped into Pride and Prejudice…”
“Have you ever read Pride and Prejudice?” Ivan interjected.
“I saw the movie,” Miranda snapped. “All these archaic views of women being quiet are ridiculous. Mya may not run around kicking people’s butts, but she’s done a lot for Atlantis. She’s done a lot for me. She’s my hero.”
My eyes misted. “You’re amazing,” I told her.
“This is horrendous,” Ivan complained, “false reunions and not the usual cat fights and tantrums that are common palace occurrences.”
“There are no catfights or tantrums,” Daniel disagreed, firmly.
“Except when Daniel borrows my clothes without asking, and then returns them unwashed,” Charlie whined playfully. Daniel looked at him as though he’d cracked.
“It’s true,” Miranda joined in. “Daniel borrows my dresses all the time, and they come back all stained.”
Daniel looked between the two of them bewildered.
“You are a bit of a fashion hog.” I said, shrugging.
Everyone burst out laughing.
“This is what the kingdom wants to see,” Ivan said excited.
“Well, for the record,” Daniel said, “Charlie is always borrowing my clothes.”
“And Daniel doesn’t wear my clothes,” Miranda added. “Although he’s welcome to.”
Daniel smiled at Miranda. “Thanks.” My stomach flip-flopped. They were having a moment.
“Charlie,” Ivan moved on. “What are you getting Mya for Christmas?”
“None of your business,” Charlie replied with a goofy grin and dimpled cheeks. “Although I did get a lovely diamond tiara for Daniel.”
“You shouldn’t have,” Daniel said with mock giddiness, putting his hand over his heart.
“Anything for my brother from another mother,” Charlie responded, gallantly.
“I got them both leather jackets,” I said, “because they need to man up.”
“Plus, nothing compliments a tiara like a Harley Davidson jacket,” Miranda added.
“Can I let you in on a secret,” Daniel said, leaning toward Ivan. “The biggest problem we have in the palace is that the women are always upstaging us.”
“So true!” Charlie exclaimed, dramatically.
Looking around at my friends smiling and joking filled me with warmth. Cordulla was going to kill us, but Christmas was bringing us together.
“It’s not hard to do.” I teased. “You boys are so understated.”
Miranda giggled. “They really are wall flowers, can’t you tell?”
“You all seem very close,” Ivan asked suggestively, “how close?”
I bristled at the question. Charlie gave me a weak smile, and guilt tied a knot in my stomach.
“We’re close enough to cover for each other,” Miranda responded, death glaring the directors chair.
“We are close enough to be there for each other,” I added.
“We are friends,” Daniel said, reproachfully.
“And we’re family,” Charlie finished.
“So be careful how you talk about my family,” Daniel warned.
“What’s going on here?” boomed a harried voice. “The selkie interview is about to finish, where is all the camera crew?”
The four of us exchanged confused looks. Ivan began to laugh heartily, the familiar roguish laughter of our Cornish friend.
“Blaine?” Miranda asked, rising to her feet.
“Christmas fools!” Blaine announced, dropping the weird voice and accent and moving in front of the light.
“That’s not a thing, dude,” Daniel replied, shaking his head.
Charlie chuckled. “You totally got us.”
“Get this,” Miranda howled, taking off her ruby shoe and throwing it at him. It bounced off his body. “That was totally uncool,” Miranda raged.
“There’s no need to overact,” Blaine laughed, remorseless.
Inciting another shoe to glance off his foot. “Come on, you all loved it. You were so boring and in the end, it was actually heart warming,” Blaine teased. “Tear.” He ran his finger down his cheek.
“Mya, shoe,” Miranda demanded, holding out her hand.
“Come on.” Blaine laughed. “What kind of a person throws a shoe?”
“You’re not going to Austen Powers your way out of this,” Miranda shouted.
A bald fat merman was wiping sweat from his brow as he ran into the fray. “There’s no time for this,” he puffed, handing Miranda her shoes, “please princess, put on your shoes. I don’t want to be executed.”
Miranda begrudgingly put them back on, while Blaine continued to laugh and taunt us.
“Young man you must leave,” the bald man insisted, pushing Blaine from the room.
“Are you ok?” I asked, Miranda.
“He’s just annoying,” she said upset. “He’s pranked me three times now and I’m feeling a bit behind.”
“We’ll do the interview again, and this time it won’t be so weird,” I encouraged.
“I know,” Miranda agreed, “but it felt like I belonged for a moment there.”
I nodded understanding what she meant. “You do belong.” I smiled.
“There’s no time for this,” the man pleaded, “please sit.”
The second interview was boring; with questions about how much we appreciated Cordulla and the celebratory balls she’d organized. We all wished that Blaine’s interview had aired instead, but it wasn’t even taped. Our group loitered in the greeting hall wanting to preserve some of the Christmas joy from our first interview. I should find Mum to go home, but it was fun to have nothing to do for a change.
“I just wanted to steal a moment before you go back to Geelong and the middle of summer and not being able to sleep,” Daniel said, tucking a stray curl behind my ear.
“Absolutely,” I agreed, excited for any time with Daniel.
He took my hand and led me through the white crystal halls of the palace. My emerald shoes tapped on the resplendent white tiles. I wasn’t surprised by the fact that we were heading to the Octopus’s Garden, but I was surprised by the cold air that stung my arms as we stepped into a snow-covered garden.
Daniel took of his white jacket and slipped it over my bare arms, as I stared slack-jawed at the winter wonderland. “How do you like your first Christmas Eve in Atlantis?” Daniel asked.
“It’s snowing,” I said in disbelief. “We’re in Australia, at Christmas and it’s snowing?” The smile on my face was so wide it was hurting my cheeks, but I didn’t care.
“It’s been a hard year,” he said, wrapping his arms around my waist and kissing my nose. “We probably have a few more hard years ahead of us, but I wanted to give you something amazing for Christmas.”
“You already gave me something amazing,” I replied, feeling sappy. “You gave me yourself, and that’s enough.”
He smiled. “I’m pretty great,” he joked, “but I still think you deserve more. So I’m giving you tonight, with all of us.”
He turned me around, and there was my Mum, King Leo, Dad, Charlie, Miranda and Daniel’s parents George and Sophia.
“How did you do this?” I asked gob-smacked. “I mean Dad, Sophia and George are human and Atlantis has tropical conditions under the sea? How?”
Daniel smiled. “You’re not going to be content with ‘Christmas miracle’ are you?” he asked.
“Not at all,” I responded, genuinely intrigued.
“I asked the Finfolk if they could work on the thermostat. For two hours, we can have snow without freezing up the weather controls. As for the humans, Finfolk submarines are superior to anything they have on land.”
“Thank you so much,” I squealed kissing Daniel.
I ran to Mum and hugged her. “Merry Christmas,” she said squeezing me.
“All this trouble for nothing,” Dad complained with his thick Russian accent. “We have snow in Russia always, better in Australia.”
“Welcome to Atlantis Dad.” I laughed, hugging him. He patted my back awkwardly; showing any emotion other than grumpiness was not his forte.
“This is amazing…” I began, when something solid and cold hit me in the back, knocking off Daniel’s jacket.
“That’s for not mentioning me in the interview,” Blaine teased with his hot Cornish accent. “I expect the others to forget about how important I am, but you, you cut me deep.”
Miranda threw the next snowball at Blaine before I even had a chance to form a complete ball. The snow was crumbly and easy enough to form into a ball but I wanted to keep it loose so when it hit it would explode on its target.
We scattered, every person fending for their own survival. Daniel wasn’t kind either, it was game on as he ducked and weaved hitting everyone mercilessly. He even hit Sophia in the face, before hiding from his father’s wrath.
The movies don’t show how hard snowballs hit or the challenge of running while being pelted with snow. I ducked behind a rock shelf for cover and fell over Daniel.
“I won’t hit you if you don’t hit me,” I said super fast.
“Fine,” he agreed.
I huddled beside him. My fingers were red from the cold. None of us were dressed for snow, but at the sea depths we swam the cold couldn’t hurt us: but I still felt the chill to my core.
“Are you having fun?” he asked, hopefully.
“It’s the best,” I replied, honestly.
He pulled me into his lap. “I’m sorry about how I’ve been this year,” he said hugging me. “It’s been so intense leading Atlantis, and I’ve had some really unsavory moments.”
“I’ve had some less than appealing moments too,” I replied.
“Not as bad as me,” he said.
“You have been a cotton-headed-ninny-muggins,” I joked.
“You are the worst insult giver,” he joked.
“I try.” I laughed, unworried. I looked outside, as the people I loved pelted each other with ice, and felt happy. Everyone was laughing and smiling, it was what Christmas should be.
“I really want to build a snow-man,” I said, “but everyone is having so much fun out there.”
“We will all have fun as long as we’re together,” Daniel responded, sentimentally.
“I like Christmas-Daniel, this is a good version of you,” I said stealing a kiss.
Taking Daniel’s hand we stood together. Two snowballs hit in rapid succession.
“I’m making a snow-man,” I called out, holding my hands up in surrender.
The others quickly joined us, as we rolled the snow into huge balls. Dad and George gave directions, and the rest of us worked in building a snow-family, complete with pets.
The lights buzzed and Daniel approached me. “It’s heating back up now,” he said, regretfully.
“This was perfect.” I smiled; warm inside despite my freezing extremities.
“I have two more gifts for you,” Daniel said. “I made you a snow cake.”
“Ahhh,” I cooed, before Daniel shoved it into my face. “Thanks.” I laughed, clearing the snow from around my nose and eyes.
Charlie slipped a snow cake into my hand behind my back. “I made one for you too,” I told Daniel surprising him with snow in the face.
“Well played.” He threw his head back and laughed. It had been so long since I’d seen him happy. I drank in his mirth letting it fill me with hope for a happier New Year.
“So what’s my other gift?” I asked.
“Greedy,” he teased, taping my nose with his finger. “I’ll give it to you tomorrow.”
The temperature was rising quickly. Water droplets were sliding down every member of the snow family.
“I’m going to go,” I told Daniel.
“Don’t you want to stay and watch it all disappear?” he asked, surprised.
I shook my head, nostalgic. “I want to keep it like this in my memory, I want it to be perfect and never see it fall apart.”
Daniel hugged me close. “Your wish is my command.”
Dad and the Essos were hilarious in the submarine ride to shore. They kept recounting the events of the night, clinging to life as the tiny sub carried us to Queenscliffe Pier. Returning to the warm summer night and dry land comforted them. We bid each other farewell, knowing we’d see each other soon enough, since we were having Christmas lunch together.
Charlie rode in the back with me. I saw Mum and Dad hold hands in the front. It was a weird relationship, but it worked. I hoped Daniel and I would always be as happy as we had been, but the past months since Miranda’s arrival had been tumultuous at best.
Mum and Dad went straight to bed allowing the balmy summer night to thaw their bodies. Charlie jumped in the shower, while I sat on the back step enjoying the heat radiating from the ground. Summer was so hot; sometimes it felt like the heat from the sun and the heat from the earth’s core were combining to pressure cook us. Even with the moon high in the sky, the night was too hot for sleep.
Charlie popped his head out the back door. “Shower’s free.”
“I’m just taking a moment to warm up,” I said, languid.
He stepped out onto the veranda and sat down beside me, his familiar scent filling my nostrils. “It was a great night.” He gave me a lopsided grin.
“The best,” I agreed.
“I wanted to give you something,” Charlie said, bashful.
His nervousness intrigued me. “Can I eat it?” I asked.
“No you can’t eat it,” he gave me his goofy smile, “or if you do, you need to have lots of fiber to make it pass through.”
“You always take it one step too far,” I laughed. Noticing the long box in his pocket, I pointed and asked, “Is that a box or are you just happy to see me?”
“Really? And I take it too far?” He pulled the unwrapped gift from his pocket. “I wanted to give you this before the Christmas-crazy hits tomorrow.”
“You didn’t have to get me anything,” I said, flustered.
“I didn’t,” he said. “I mean. I did. I bought it for you ages ago. I was going to give it to you for your 13th birthday, but well, whatever, I didn’t.”
“I really do wish that I remembered knowing you,” I sighed, accepting the box.
“I don’t,” Charlie responded, playfully. “I’m much better looking now.”
“And so humble,” I teased.
It was too dark to read the brand on the box. I opened it, inside was a Pandora style charm bracelet.
"You bought me a Pandora bracelet?" I exclaimed, "but they're so expensive.” Even though we'd come into money, my thriftiness had not decreased.
"It's an Amore and Baci bracelet," Charlie corrected. “All the other girls wanted Pandora bracelets, but you wanted one that was actually made in Europe, because of the sweat shops in Asia and all that.”
"I wanted one of these so bad in year 7," I said picking up the bracelet. In the moonlight the shapes we discernible but not the detail.
"I know," Charlie responded, lifting it out of my palm and wrapping it around my right wrist. "That's why I bought it for you. I knew your Mum never would. You know the whole, 'one bracelet will feed a child in Africa for 90 days---that's three months.'"
I giggled at his impersonation, remembering the conversation well.
"Anyway," he said, his warm fingers working the catch and attaching it to me. "There are three charms. An Eiffel Tower, because you always wanted to travel the world. There's a book, to document all your adventures and there's a star, to guide you home. I was tempted to fill the bracelet with everything that mattered to you, but leaving it unfinished gives you the opportunity to add things that you think are significant."
I ran fingers over the charms, clunking them against each other. "That's really thoughtful," I said, swallowing the lump in my throat and blinking back the tears. "How old were you when you bought it?"
"Fifteen," he responded, coyly. "I was an earlier bloomer."
I laughed and pushed him playfully. "Thanks, I love it."
"You're welcome," he replied. "Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas," I responded.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
I hope you join Mya, Daniel, Charlie and Miranda in their misadventures in Submerge. Sadly my release date has been pushed back to early February, due to unforeseen challenges. Thanks for all the love and support you've shown.
Silver Tides (Silver Tides Series)
Blurb for Silver Tides:
Mya Belan was invisible. A social misfit tolerated at the popular table only because of her best friend Jaimie… but ignored by everyone at school.
On the night of the big beach party before senior year everything changes. Mya rescues a drowning stranger from the sea and as the amnesiac boy “John” struggles with the after affects of his accident, Mya finds herself drawn to him - first as she nurses him and then as they form an unexpected friendship.
As Mya’s social star rises, so do the mysteries surrounding John. The more time Mya spends with him the more their attraction grows. But John is harbouring secrets that threaten to tear them apart. His flawless features and enchanting charisma hide an unbelievable truth.
Could John’s secrets put Mya and her family in danger?
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