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2.

Chunks of ice floated idly in the cold sea. Asa couldn’t go swimming now and his mother forbade him from leaping on the frozen slabs of ice. Sitting in the sand that mingled with snow, he waited for his best friend. Cheryl was from the Pescada tribe that lived beneath the salty waters. The Pescada were proud fish people, who came in all colors and sizes depending on what kind of water they lived in. The tribe that lived in Cullis Bay came in a variety of blues and greens, and were generally slender and lithe. With the unique ability to breathe above and below water, it made them ideal sailors, which was favorable in the small port town. Some of the tribesmen had married people who lived in Asa’s town, so there was constant and fairly peaceful relationship between the two different peoples.

Asa picked up a few shells and drew with a stick on the wet sand. Cheryl said she’d be back the night before. He wanted to tell her all about the things that happened while she was gone, like Breydon’s failure, and the latest story Karen had read to him. He really liked talking to her more than anyone else outside of his family. Everyone always talked about Breydon and how amazing he was, but Cheryl talked about… well anything. Asa was getting tired of waiting, the day was very grey and cheerless and he took to throwing rocks out in the water.

Poking her head almost curiously from beneath a slap of ice, was Cheryl. The fish girl swam to shore and shook the ice and seaweed from the mass of dark blue tendrils that served as her hair. Her wide, expressive mouth curved in a smirk as she raised her eyebrows.

“I’ve told you time and again that when you throw rocks in the water you risk hitting someone important. Like me!” she told him.

“Well… sorry,” he replied. She brushed a piece of slush off her shoulder and linked her arm in his.

“So what’s been happening since I left, Ace?” Cheryl asked. Asa narrowed his eyes in thought. He had so much to say before she arrived and now that she was here, he was so happy he forgot.

“Not much,” he said.

“Oh, come on!” she shouted. “There’s got to be something! Like…well it was New Year’s a week ago, did anyone make it to Larkney Island?”

Asa grinned mischievously, “Nope. Not even oh so heroic Breydon.”

“No way!” Cheryl replied waving her arms. “Breydon’s a great swimmer! I mean, Kip and Bream told me he’s almost as good as they are!”

“Almost, Cheryl, almost. Your brothers are being too kind in admitting even that,” Asa said. Cheryl gazed at her friend with a knowing grin.

“Asa, this is no time for being jealous,” she said. Asa removed her arm from around hers.

“I am not jealous of Breydon,” the boy shouted. The fish girl shrugged.

“Eh, if you say so,” she mumbled, thumbing her nose.

“I am not!” he insisted.

“I already said that you’re right! Come on, what’s the big deal anyway? I can swim to Larkney Island and back blindfolded,” she told him.

“Yeah, of course you can, you’re a Pescada, you’re built to swim and take on rough currents. It’s a big feat for a human,” he said. She titled her head to the side in thought.

“I guess… it can be a little rough if you don’t know how to hit it,” she admitted. “So what else is going on?”

“School’s starting up in two weeks,” he said. Cheryl huffed and dropped her head in defeat.

“I can’t go to that place! It’s so… booooooring!” she cried. “Ace! I can’t go to school! I’m going to be a fisherwoman! What does a fisherwoman need to know about math, reading and history for? I’m not going to write to anyone while I’m away!”

“You wouldn’t write to me?” Asa said, a little hurt.

“I mean… oh, all right. I’ll stay in school long enough to learn how to write a letter so I can write to you and read a little bit but I don’t need to know all this history stuff! I mean who cares about stuffy old heroes and stuff!” Cheryl continued.

“But you like it when Karen tutors you in history,” her friend contested.

“Will you stop poking holes in my arguments? I only like it when Karen teaches me because Karen makes history fun! Your sister is a million times more fun than stuffy old Mrs. Wilder,” she insisted.

“Mrs. Wilder isn’t that old,” he reminded her. Cheryl narrowed her eyes at her friend.

“Enough catching up! Let’s do something fun! Like…we could go the lake and skate on the ice!” she cried. Asa liked the sound of that plan.

“Let me go to my house and get my skates and I’ll meet you there,” he said. Cheryl snorted.

“You humans and your skates. I’ll see you in a minute!” she said. Asa was glad to have Cheryl back. She was always full of surprises. He ran down the path away from the shore and toward town, where his mother’s bakery was. His brother was there, leaning on the counter as she filled a basket with bread.

“Now I need you to deliver this to Captain Wurthers. He’ll be expecting you, so don’t worry about a thing,” she told him. Breydon nodded.

“Hey Mom…can you possibly give me another delivery to do? I tried to get some errands out of the blacksmith and Marco, but they don’t have any work for me today,” he requested. Asa interrupted the conversation.

“Mom, do you know where my skates are?” he asked. His mother sighed.

“Asa, I told you not to interrupt other people’s conversations. They’re in the box by the door, next to your sister’s. And don’t skate on the ice if there are no adults present, I don’t care what Cheryl says,” she said. Asa was astounded; how did Mom know that he was with Cheryl? He dismissed it and walked quickly out of town and to their house which wasn’t all that far from the busy streets. As he entered, Asa saw his father sitting at his desk, charting the course for his next big sea monster hunt.

“Hey, Dad, just passing through, see you later!” Asa said in one breath. His father turned to face him, smiled and then returned to his work. The boy grabbed his skates and walked toward the lake, hoping Cheryl hadn’t been waiting too long. The frozen lake was a buzz with excitement. Several of the town’s families were already there, including the aloof DeOtonos, who were fabulously rich. Cheryl was waiting by a tree and she grinned as he approached her.

“Well, what are you waiting for? Strap on your skates and let’s get going!” she cried. Asa sat down on the snow and started to pull his skates on over his shoes. As he pulled the first strap tight he heard excited giggling. Barreling straight for them was Vlademir Travers the librarian. Asa rolled out of the way before he could be crushed beneath the man’s weight. His wife, Cordelia skated to his side still laughing.

“Come on, Dear, you told me you were an excellent skater!” she said, putting her mittened hands on her hips.

“I am,” Vlademir said. “I just can’t stop is all.”

“I’m sorry my clumsy husband almost squashed you, Asa. I’ll try to watch him more closely,” Cordelia said.

“It’s all right,” Asa said.

“I’m really sorry,” Vlademir said as he stood up. “Next time you come to the library, I’ll let you spend as much time as you like looking at the world maps, even after closing time, all right?”

“Sounds fair,” Cheryl said and Asa agreed. The two of them waved and headed back out onto the ice.

“Come on, come on! Hurry up, Ace!” Cheryl cried.

“I almost got squished, give me a minute,” Asa replied. He finished getting the rest of the straps on in record time. Just as he finished putting on his skates, the mayor’s daughter, Alana came up to them.

“Hello, Asa. Do you know if your brother is done making deliveries?” she asked. Asa shrugged.

“Sorry, Alana, I have no idea,” he said. Cheryl smiled, waved to Alana and grabbed Asa’s hand and dragged him onto the ice.

“Come on, I’ll race you to the other side!” she said.

“Cheryl, that was rude. I didn’t properly end the conversation!” Asa told her. Cheryl rolled her eyes.

“What were you going to tell her? ‘Oh, sorry my brother’s standing you up because you’re annoying?’” she said. “Let’s go.”

She took off without a warning and Asa was left struggling to catch up. By the time he made it, after bumping into several people, Cheryl was lying out in the snow.

“Now this is what winter is all about!” she declared. “The snow, the ice, the winning at winter games…”

“What about mittens, coats and hats?” Asa asked. Cheryl sat up and eyed him.

“Why do I need those?” she asked.

“Oh, I forget, you don’t get cold like humans do. But you know, Mom and Karie go on and on about knitting new scarves and having the latest style coat. So that’s a big part of winter to them,” Asa explained. Cheryl shook the snow out of her tendrils.

“Eh, I guess they look nice. But your mom’s doughnuts are a real treat!” she said. Asa laughed and helped his friend up off the ground.

“All right, let’s have a real race this time!” Cheryl shouted. “Ready… set…”

“Asa!” a voice called. Cheryl slapped her forehead as Alana came skating their way.

“What does she want?” Cheryl mumbled. Alana came wringing her gloved fingers.

“Are you sure you don’t know when your brother will be done with his deliveries?” she asked. Asa smiled half heartedly.

“I really don’t know,” he replied. She sighed and hung her head.

“Oh…I understand…” Alana said. She glided away slowly and sadly. Once she was out of ear shot, Cheryl snorted stuck out her tongue.

“Cheryl, that’s mean…” Asa said. The girl rolled her eyes.

“I don’t like the way she treats your brother. Something about her bothers me,” she told Asa. The boy smirked.

“Are you jealous of her because she’s pretty?” he said and raised his eyebrows. Cheryl glared at him and thumbed her nose.

“I’m pretty myself so I don’t see why I have to be jealous of her,” she said. “She’s just weird.”

“Look who’s talking.”

“Shut up and race me,” she said getting ready to push off. Asa crouched on one knee, ready to go.

“Ready… set…” Cheryl began. “Go!”

The two friends glided across the icy water, avoiding people as they went. This time, Asa made it to the other side before Cheryl did. Cheryl on the other hand had tripped over a fallen Vlademir and went skidding across the ice, until she stopped by Asa.

There was laughter in the distance, and the two turned to see who it was. Breydon was coming over the snowy hill in his dark red jacket.

“You all right, Cher?” he asked as he came closer. She frowned.

“Don’t call me that and yes I’m okay,” she said. Breydon held out his hand to help her up. She smirked and pulled him out on the ice causing him to fall.

“That was a dirty trick, Cher,” he said, in between fits of laughter. Asa helped both of them up as all three kept laughing. Alana skated up to them her face red with anger.

“So, you’d rather play with children then enjoy this glorious winter day with me?” Alana snapped. Breydon was dumbfounded for a moment and he looked up at the grey sky.

“Well, it’s not really glorious,” he said. “But—”

“‘But’ nothing, Mr. Forster! I see how much you care about me!” she shouted. With that, she glided away in tears. Breydon sighed and slumped his shoulders.

“You’d think I actually was her boyfriend the way she talks to me,” he said.

“Well, you agree to go out on these dates with her,” Cheryl said.

“I thought Thadius would be here. You know he’s my friend,” Breydon said.

“It’s a big risk to date your best friend’s sister.”

“I’m not dating her.”

“Yeah, sure you’re not. That’s why you go out on all these dates with her,” Cheryl said. He paused and clenched his teeth.

“You talk way too much for an eight year old,” Breydon said finally.

“Hey, I call them as I see them,” she said. Asa turned away from the fairly heated discussion to see where Alana had gone. His bit his lip in concern.

“Hey guys, Alana shouldn’t be skating over there. That’s all thin ice…” he said. Cheryl and Breydon turned and instantly both their mouths hung open. Most people didn’t notice where Alana was skating because the DeOtonos’ sled had just pulled up and it was lovely and a sight to be seen but the three skated after her calling her name.

“Alana!” Breydon cried. “Alana, stop!”

“You don’t care about me, so I’ll just drown myself!” she cried.

“Come on, he’s a gross boy, what do you care about him for!” Cheryl cried.

“You’re too young to understand!” Alana called. “He means so—”

The ice cracked beneath her and she fell in.

“Ace, Cher, stay here, I’ll save her,” Breydon said.

“Don’t be stupid, I’ll save her,” Cheryl told him. Breydon was about to protest but then it dawned on him.

“That’s a great idea. Pull her out of the water, I’ll bring her to the doctor’s,” he said. Cheryl took off toward where Alana had fallen.

“I’ve got a better idea,” Breydon thought out loud. He ran for the DeOtonos as they got in their sled. Asa tilted his head to the side in confusion. What was Breydon thinking? He saw his brother grab the reigns to keep them from leaving and pointed in Asa’s direction. Sir DeOtono nodded and Breydon slipped and slid over to where Asa waited. Cheryl emerged from the hole dragging Alana with her. Asa breathed in relief. The two fell beneath the ice again as it cracked beneath the weight of the two of them on the surface.

“Ace, stay here, I’ll clear a path for them,” Breydon said.

Asa knew he could help, “I can—”

“Just, stay here, I’ll take care of it,” Breydon snapped.

Breydon ran for where Cheryl was floundering and he stomped on the ice in front of her. He had to move quickly or he’d be in the cold water himself. Once they got to a part of the ice was solid enough to support the weight of the three of them; Cheryl pulled Alana out and Breydon took her in his arms and took off for the DeOtono’s sled. Once Alana was safely inside, he fell to the snow and breathed heavily. Those who had seen only part of the rescue clapped in admiration.

“Nice work, Breydon,” one of the townsmen said.

Breydon scratched his head, “I only did some of the work, Cheryl’s the real hero.”

The girl shook some of the slush and ice that clung to her and smiled.

“Thanks, Brey, that means a lot,” she said as the townspeople cheered.

“Don’t call me that,” he told her.

“Don’t call me Cher,” she replied.

“Fair enough,” he agreed. “I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my fill of excitement. I came here wanting to skate but…how about we go home, I have to dry my coat.”

Asa opened his mouth to say no, he wanted to stay but Cheryl spoke up first.

“Yes, let’s go to your house. I want to have some hot chocolate anyway,” she said. Asa sighed in defeat and accompanied them up the snowy path back home. So Breydon got to be a big hero all over again, and this time he only did half the work. Asa couldn’t wait until it was his time to save the day, he just couldn’t wait.
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