Author : A. Katherine Black

Sweetie sat rigid with revulsion. Wet lumpy kale dotted with soft pine nuts lay rejected on her plate. She stared at the thickly curtained window, denied the right to watch the normal world go by. Relentless ticking of the grandfather clock echoed through the dining room and clashed against the slurping sounds of her parents devouring their dinner.

Sophie didn’t even seem to notice anything unusual. And why would she? Her toddler world spanned the length of this stupid ranch house and went as deep as the swing set out back. But someday she’d understand. Poor thing.

Sweetie pointedly avoided looking toward the head of the elegantly set table, where Dad’s lips curled outward and stretched as his jaw unhinged. Webbed fingers shoved a flopping, stark-eyed fish down his gullet with a slurp.

“Sweetie, hon,” Mom said in her wet bubbling voice, “you okay?” Her cold webbed hand moved to touch Sweetie’s pink forehead. “You feel hot and clammy.”

Sweetie rolled her eyes away. “Of course I do, Mom. That’s what people feel like all the time.” She shoved her chair back with a start and stomped away.

Dad’s gurgle followed her down the hall. “We’re people, too, Sweetie.”

She slammed the door.

She waited for hours, until the house was silent, until Sophie curled into a ball under her covers with about ten stuffed animals, until her parents rolled around doing gross stuff she tried hard not to think about while they swam around the mossy indoor pool at the back of the house. Why hadn’t they just disappeared on a fishing trip like everyone else did? Sticking it out for the kids’ sake, really. She’d rather be in a foster home.

Sweetie pushed up her window, climbed over her desk and slipped outside. She reached in for her flashlight, but somehow she was able to see better tonight than usual, so she left it on the desk. She ran across several backyards, fast and light on her feet. Daren was just where he always was, waiting under a tree.

They didn’t talk much, which was just fine with Sweetie. What the hell was she supposed to say, anyway? Uh, my dad’s a mackerel and my mom’s a trout?

So they made out. He was one of the best kissers she’d found so far. His lips were soft and forceful at once. And tonight they were… salty. Had he eaten nuts for dinner? Popcorn? Something.

She pulled him to the ground, giggling. His mouth was so moist. She kissed him hard, tugging on his bottom lip, sucking it in, relishing the fullness, the flavor.

“Ow!” Daren pushed her away. She could see him as clearly as if it was high noon. His bottom lip hung, stretched and swollen. His words were clumsy, his voice high. “Whah dah heah?”

But she didn’t want it to stop. Just a little more. This was good.


Sweetie’s parents felt the tremor in the water and swam quickly from their cave to the pool’s surface, popping their heads above water where Sweetie’s feet dangled at the edge. Tears poured down her cheeks, already washing away the blood.

Mom’s hand went to Sweetie’s knee, cool and reassuring. “It’s alright Sweetie,” she gurgled softly. “Mom and Dad are here.”


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