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Some Things Run Deep
A The Ones Who Call story
Start at the beginning of The Ones Who Call series
The late June sun glinted off the water, turning the lake from a dull green-brown sheet into a profusion of golden ripples. Mosquitoes and sand flies buzzed in the still air, lending their tuneless drone to the sound of water lapping against the shore. Jenny slapped at her arm as one of the insects landed on her arm and wished she'd remembered to bring some bug spray. After the spring flooding, the mosquitoes were out in force.
Kyle waved away another bug from his face and moved further into the shade. Jenny, who was wading in the shallows, craned around to raise an eyebrow at him. "The skeeters are worse in the shade, you know." She teased.
"Yeah, I know, but I've got a choice of being eaten alive or burning to a crisp in the sun, and I'm going to take my chances with the bugs. Them, I can kill." As if to emphasize the point, he smacked at his leg and was rewarded with a smear of bug across his knee. He made a face, and Jenny chuckled.
She slogged her way out of the water, wrinkling her nose as she stepped from the silk-fine sand of the lake to the coarser pebbled sand of the beach, and joined him under the tree. He leaned back against the trunk while she rubbed her feet on the grass, trying to scrub away the clinging sand.
"So, how's things with your Mom?" Jenny asked, brushing a stray hair out of her face.
Kyle shrugged. "Not great, but she's doing better now that custody thing is settled. We're just waiting to hear back from my Dad's lawyer about what days he wants me to come visit."
Jenny beamed at him, and her good mood only made him feel worse. "That's good, right? You'll get to go back to Saskatoon and see your friends on a regular basis."
Kyle idly tore at the grass, letting the sharp-smelling blades trickle through his fingers. "Yeah, I guess that's the upside of it. But he gets me for a month, Jen. That means I'll be gone for most of the summer."
"Oh." The disappointment was obvious in her voice. "But, we were going to go camp out on that island, and go to the pow wow together in August..."
He leaned closer and put an arm around her. She snuggled up close to his side, resting her head on his shoulder. "I know. It sucks." He sighed. "I mean, we've only been going out for a few weeks now..."
"Two weeks." Jenny said quickly. "And five days. Not that it matters, but, well... This is the first time I've ever really been into someone and it wasn't just a stupid crush."
Kyle chuckled and raised an eyebrow at her, wondering how on earth she'd remembered the exact day they'd gone from "awkwardly hanging out" to "officially dating." He certainly hadn't been aware of it until she'd called him her boyfriend. Hearing her speak those words gave him a strong thrill of pleasure that still hadn't quite faded even with repetition. She flushed, waving her hand dismissively as if to say that the exact date didn't really matter than much to her.
"A whole month." She repeated, then shook her head. "I guess it's not so bad. We can call each other and stuff..."
He nodded encouragingly. "Yeah. And maybe you can come visit? I'd love to take you to the big theatre they've got in town."
Jenny snorted. "Yeah, that's not gonna happen. My mom's got this thing about travel."
He frowned in confusion, but she shrugged off his question. "It's a long story." She said. "But, yeah. I probably won't be able to go to Saskatoon this summer."
Or ever... She thought darkly. He seemed to pick up on her mood and pulled her closer, giving her a light kiss on the cheek. She giggled, then shifted in his grasp so that she could reach his mouth with hers. The made out awkwardly for a few minutes, neither of them entirely sure how to coordinate the dance of noses and lips and tongue, but enjoying it despite the occasional click of tooth against tooth.
When they drew apart, Jenny found herself reluctant to break off the embrace. Who knew how many more times she'd be able to kiss him before he left? She nuzzled deeper into his side, resting her hand on his chest.
"When do you go?" She asked.
"No idea. That'll depend on the lawyers and Dad's schedule." His brow wrinkled in thought and Jenny glanced up at him, wondering what was troubling him. "I wonder if he's got any vacation time left? He likes fishing, and maybe I can convince him to come fishing down here instead of up north."
Jenny laughed. "Just don't tell him that the fish here are all super ugly! There's these ones on the bottom with these crazy bulgy eyes." She pulled a face, putting her fingers to the sides of her face and wiggling them to mimic the whiskers of a catfish while she puffed out her cheeks and pursed her lips. He laughed along with her, and she could feel the rumbles of his laughter through his chest as she lay back against him.
They settled back against the tree as conversation turned from his leaving to other, happier, topics, but Kyle could feel that things had changed between them. Their lazy cuddling in the afternoon sun felt less intimate and more desperate, as if they were bracing themselves for what was to come.
He didn't like it, but like most things in his life, there was nothing he could do about it but endure.
The clock seemed to be ticking slower and slower, just to taunt her...
Jenny eyed it suspiciously as she half-heartedly pushed the broom around. On weekends and over the summer, her mother expected her to help out at the family's gas station for a few hours every day. Before, she hadn't minded the task. It was pretty easy work, really—keep the floor clean, check the snacks to make sure none of them had expired, occasionally work the till—and it meant she always had extra pocket money. However, now that Kyle was leaving at the end of the month, the few hours a day she had to spend away from him felt like torture.
The much-dented bell above the door rattled as her mother came back inside, smelling of fuel. "Did you remember to sweep the bathroom too, my girl?" She asked.
Jenny sighed. "Yes. And behind the till, and under the garbage cans..."
Noreen caught the edge in her daughter's tone and frowned. "What's wrong, Jenny?"
"Nothing." Jenny snapped, and then realized what she'd done. She bent to scoop the dust into the pan mostly so she could avoid her mother's gaze. "Nothing, Mom. I'm just anxious to get out of here, I guess." She said, her tone more even this time.
Noreen didn't seem to buy it. She leaned forward on the counter to peer down at her daughter, one eyebrow raised. "You want to talk about it?" She said, and Jenny winced at her overly sympathetic tone.
"No, Mom. I'm fine. It's just really nice out now, and I want to go down to the lake." She stood, turning her back to her mother and making a big show out of dumping the dust pan into the garbage.
A long, thoughtful silence followed. Finally, Noreen cleared her throat. "You've been 'down at the lake' a lot lately."
The knowing smirk on her mother's face told Jenny all she needed to know, and she cursed silently. How had she found out about Kyle? She was willing to bet that one of her snooping cousins had been spying on them from the lake, and once she found out who it was she was going to wring their sneaky little neck, family or not.
"I, err." She said, stalling for time.
"Jenny." Noreen said, looking her in the eye. "You've been seeing that boy, haven't you? The one whose uncle runs the boat house?"
Jenny felt her cheeks growing hot. She stared resolutely at the crack in the linoleum, nudging at it with her sandal. "Maybe. Yeah. Why do you care?"
Noreen's sigh had an exasperated edge to it. "Because you're my daughter, honey. And because I want you to know what you're getting into."
Jenny shot her mother an angry glare. "What. Because he's white?"
"Maybe that too. That comes with its own baggage." Noreen said, running her hand through her hair and down the side of her face. "But that's not what I meant. Look. Come over here and sit down a minute."
She patted the spare chair behind the counter and Jenny reluctantly put down her broom and slouched across the room to join her mother. Noreen took one of her hands and squeezed it comfortingly, which was never a good sign as far as Jenny was concerned. She gritted her teeth, wishing she'd ducked out of work early.
"Love isn't easy for our kind, my girl." Noreen said, and narrowed her eyes at Jenny's answering snort of derision. "Don't give me that. It isn't. I should know, 'cause things were just as bad when I was your age."
Jenny stared flatly back at her mother. Noreen ignored the look and continued speaking.
"Half the men on this reserve are close relatives, which makes it awkward even for regular girls. But add into that all of the secrets and oddness that come with our kind, and it gets even more complicated. I know you might not understand this yet, and I don't expect you to—."
Jenny's scoff interrupted her again and Noreen frowned. "Let me finish!" She said sternly, even though she realized how patronizing her last words had been. She sighed again, thankful that at least she hadn't needed to have this talk with Jenny's older brother, who seemed to understand instinctively that he needed to keep his love life separate from his life as one of the Ones Who Call.
"As I was saying, there will be a time when you want to share your whole self with someone. And don't give me that look! I'm not talking about sex, I'm talking about secrets. Relationships need honesty to work, but our kind can't be completely honest with someone who's not like us. Native or white, it doesn't matter. If he's not Memegwaysiwuk, there's so many things you won't be able to tell him about."
Noreen's gaze softened as she saw the truth of that sink in. Jenny's shoulders slumped forward, and she gave her daughter's hand another reassuring squeeze.
"I'm not saying you can't go out with this guy, as long as you're careful. But I do want you to know what you're getting yourself into. Dating is hard enough without adding ancient curses and deadly secrets into the mix."
Jenny glanced up at her and gave her the dirty look that that particular joke deserved. Noreen smirked in reply and tousled her daughter's hair. Jenny waved her away and smoothed her hair back down with a thoughtful frown.
"I get it. God, this sucks sometimes... But I promise I'll be careful." Jenny looked up earnestly at her mother, and Noreen could see that her words hadn't had as much effect as she'd hoped they would. She silently prayed that Jenny would be smart enough to handle things on her own.
"So, can I go now?" Jenny asked, already half out of her chair.
Noreen sighed and nodded. "Yeah, go on. I'm sure you'd prefer an afternoon at the beach with your boyfriend way more than being stuck at work with your 'lame' old mom."
Jenny snorted again, flushing, and Noreen had to bite her tongue to avoid laughing as the girl as she scrambled out of the store and down the road as though her pants were on fire. She'd been exactly the same way when she'd been that age, and look where it had gotten her.
Kyle looked up to see a couple of guys on bikes riding towards him. He jammed his hands into his pockets and stopped walking, not really wanting to talk to them but knowing that if he kept walking they'd just follow him. He recognized both of them from homeroom, but he hadn't gotten to know either of them particularly well.
"Uh, hey. What's up?" He said, trying to remember their names.
The guy in the lead skidded to a stop in front of Kyle, kicking up a plume of dust on the gravel road. "Not much. There's fuck-all to do out here."
Kyle grinned. "You're telling me. You gotta go all the way to the Fort just to watch a movie, and that theatre plays stuff from like, three months ago."
The guy (Brian, if Kyle remembered correctly) rolled his eyes at how lame the valley was while his two friends pulled to a stop beside him. "Well, if you want something to do this weekend, we're gonna have a thing at my place. My folks are away and I totally know where to find the key to their liquor cabinet."
Kyle shrugged. "Sounds fun," he lied. "But I'm busy."
The freckled boy behind Brian snorted and leered at Kyle. "I bet you are. I hear you got yourself some nice brown pussy."
Brian and the other guy laughed at that, but Kyle was too shocked to say anything in response.
"Yeah, how's that going, man?" Brian asked, grinning wickedly at Kyle. "I hear the Indian girls are super easy."
Kyle glowered at him, refusing to rise to the bait. He'd already seen that some of the guys out in the country were pretty unabashed in their racism, but it never failed to catch him off guard.
"None of your damned business, Brian." He said, putting an edge in his voice.
Brian held up his hands. "Hey, easy man, I'm just joshin' ya." He glanced over his shoulder, and then lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. "But, uh, seriously man. Do what you need to with her, but be careful about it. I hear they're full of diseases and shit."
The other boys snickered like hyenas. Kyle felt his fists clenching as he took a step towards them. He felt oddly detached, as though his body was moving of its own accord and the rage he felt belonged to someone else.
"Shut up. All of you." He said. "I've had enough of your shit, you racist assholes. Get out of my face, and if hear you talking shit about my girlfriend again, I'll find you."
He didn't say what he would do to them once he found them, but the unspoken promise of violence lay there between them. He saw a flicker of real fear in Brian's eyes for a half second before the guy's jackass smile returned.
"Jesus Christ, buddy. Take it easy." He said, glancing at his buddies, who all looked equally taken aback.
The freckled guy chuckled nervously. "Yeah, man. We were just joking."
He continued to glower at them, and Brian shook his head.
"C'mon." He said, pushing his bike forward with one foot and starting to pedal. "Fucker doesn't have a sense of humour."
Kyle watched the three boys pedaling away from him, and suddenly the anger he'd been holding back became immediate and overwhelming. He shook, both with fury and with the shock of how close he'd come to taking on all three of them at once. A sick feeling, hot and cold and roiling, rose like bile in his throat.
He closed his eyes and drew in a deep, shuddering breath, holding himself in place despite the overwhelming urge to charge after the boys and drag them from their bikes. He hadn't been to karate in over a year, but his sensei's warnings never to be the first to throw a punch still rang fresh in his ears.
Slowly (god, so slowly!), he managed to push down the anger that had been boiling so close to the surface lately. He opened his eyes, and luckily none of the boys were in sight. Running a hand through his hair, he turned and went the opposite way down the road, taking a different route to Jenny's house.
"Stupid ignorant bastards..." He muttered to himself, and wondered if this sort of thing was common in the valley.
The sight of the beach at the end of the path was a very welcome sight. They had taken the long, winding path that wound around the edge of the lake because they'd thought it would be more romantic, but it turned out to be buggy and full of exposed tree routes, nettles and low hanging branches. Kyle had long since begun to wish they'd simply taken the road instead.
Now that the lake was in sight, Jenny seemed to perk up. She grabbed Kyle's hand and flashed him a smile. "C'mon! The lake water's going to feel so good after all of this!"
He smiled in return and picked up his pace, following her out onto the beach proper. The sandy expanse was nearly blinding after so long in the shade of the trees, even with his sunglasses. Squinting against the glare, he could see that the beach was packed. It wasn't particularly surprising, as school was now officially finished for the season. He recognized many people from his class, but thankfully did not see Brian or his friends anywhere. They padded down the beach, still holding hands, and looked around for a nice place to lay their blankets.
"Hey, Jenny!" A voice called out. "Who's your new man?"
Kyle could feel Jenny's grip tighten, and he followed her gaze over to a group of girls he didn't recognize. He assumed that they went to Jenny's school. She forced a smile, and then playfully stuck her tongue out at the girl.
"None of your bees-wax." She chided, and the other girl laughed.
"Jeez, be that way! I'm sure your cousin Bea will tell me all the juicy details."
Jenny shook her head and pulled Kyle forward again, grinning sheepishly. "Yeah, I bet she will."
Before they had gone two steps, the girl called out again. This time, there was a darkly mocking tone to her voice. "So, couldn't find a nice Indian boy, Jenny? I bet I could hook you up!"
Kyle glanced down to see Jenny's features go tight. He squeezed her hand, and she glanced up and gave him a sour smile. Then, she tossed her head and turned around to face the girl, one hand still clasped in his. Slowly and deliberately, she raised her other hand and flipped the girl off.
"Sit on this, Larissa." She said. Her tone was still light and playful, but he heard the edge of anger underneath it. "Some of us don't like sleeping with our cousins."
Then, before the girl could say another word, Jenny turned sharply and guided Kyle away from the ugly situation.
Kyle raised an eyebrow once they were out of sight of the girl. "Friend of yours?"
Jenny snorted. "Yeah, right. But she's from the rez. We all kinda know each other. Actually, we know too much about each other, if you ask me."
She stopped suddenly, and he frowned down at her, wondering what was wrong. Boldly, she stood up on her tiptoes and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"Sorry you had to see that." She said. "People can sure be real ignorant sometimes."
He laughed ruefully. "Don't I know it."
It was her turn to look questioningly at him, but he shook his head. "It's not important. Let's just forget about them and enjoy our day together."
He didn't mention that it would be their last day together for some time. Both of them were painfully aware of that fact. She smiled and gave him another peck on the cheek, then led him to an empty patch of sand far away from anyone else. They spread their towels on the sand and spent some time lolling in the sun, too tired to strip down to their bathing suits despite how nice the cool water would feel.
Finally, Kyle groaned and rolled over, digging around in his backpack for the bottle of sunscreen. Jenny pushed herself upright and took the bottle from him.
"Here, let me do it." She said, and helped him to tug off his sweat-soaked shirt.
She felt a warm and unexpected thrill of desire flood through her as she spread the lotion over his toned back, and was glad he couldn't see how red her cheeks were. She quickly finished up the task and smoothed a little lotion on herself as well, though she wasn't as prone to burning as he was, and then wriggled out of her shirt and shorts.
"Oh, man, the water's going to feel good..." She moaned, and pulled him to his feet. He took an appreciative look at her bathing suit, and she felt her cheeks grow hotter. She ducked her head, and then tapped him on the arm.
"You're it." She grinned and darted towards the water. He laughed and charged after her, throwing up huge sprays of water as he ran through the shallows. She seemed not to be hindered by the water and deftly slipped under the waves when he tried to tag her back. He spun, trying to spot her, but was caught by surprise when she popped up behind him and leapt onto his back, knocking him over. They splashed down into the water, and as he tried to right himself, he thought he saw something strange through the curtain of bubbles.
A face stared back at him through the water. It was not a human face.
He would have been hard pressed to describe what he'd seen, for it was only a very brief glimpse, and had been distorted by the swirling water. All he knew was that the thing he'd thought he'd seen was worse than anything he'd seen in B-grade horror movies.
Caught off-guard, he gasped, drawing in a lungful of water. He chocked and thrashed, unable to find the bottom that had been underfoot only a moment before.
Something caught him, and though he tried to fight it off, it held him fast. His head broke the surface, and he gasped and choked in a desperate mouthful of air, gagging as he spit up the water he'd inhaled.
When his vision cleared, he looked up to see Jenny's worried face hovering inches from his own.
"Are you okay?" She said, still holding onto his shoulders.
He shook his head and stood up, wondering how he'd managed to lose his footing when the water was barely to his chest. Jenny continued to stare worriedly at him, and when he seemed a little stronger, she drew him out of the lake.
"Come on." She said, glancing nervously behind them. "I... I don't think today's a good day for swimming."
He frowned at her, but was quite content to leave the water. They sat together on the blankets, letting the sun bake the fear out of them, but Kyle noticed that Jenny seemed oddly distracted.
Her mind was also on what she'd seen in the water, and unlike Kyle, she couldn't write the apparition off as a product of her overactive imagination.
As they'd plunged down into the water, Jenny had heard a sharp whistling shriek tear through the lake. She'd clapped her hands over her ears, careful to keep herself entirely human looking despite the urgings of her body.
Then, unexpectedly, something darted towards her from the darknesss, and it was not one of her people. It had a long narrow face with huge needle-sharp teeth jutting from a pronounced snout and long catfish tentacles waving from either side of its slitted nostrils. Though no larger than the cat it somewhat resembled, it exuded such an undeniable air of menace that Jenny was held rapt. It flicked a finned paw and Kyle and tumbled in the water like a leaf caught in a torrent.
She reached out to him, but the creature darted in front of her, baring its teeth in a hideous grimace.
"Thisss one isss no good. Bringss danger. Leave him to ussss."
The voice was as painful as its cry had been, and she winced and shrank away from it. Kyle made a burbling noise as he breathed in water, but when she reached for him, the creature darted in closer, nipping at her fingers. She gasped, snatching her hand back, and watched as the shadow of two more of the creatures appeared out of the gloom to circle around them. They had the easy, merciless grace of sharks.
"No." She said, and felt the change flicker over her as she did so. She kicked off the bottom and interspersed herself between Kyle and the menacing creatures. "No, he's mine. Leave him alone."
The creature that had spoken hissed at her, darting in for another bite, but she held her ground.
"No!" She cried, waving one hand at the creature. To her surprise, it stopped mid-bite, held immobile by some force she didn't understand. The others had stopped as well, and bobbed gently under the water like grotesque bath toys.
"Go. Away!" She said, putting the same force behind her words. The lead fish shrieked again, thrashing its head, but turned and cruised back into the gloom.
As it left, more of the harsh words floated through the water to her ears.
"Little fairy child. You will rrrregrrret thissss..."
Shivering in the hot sun as she recalled those words, she cuddled in closer against Kyle's side. His leaving no longer seemed like some sort of cruel separation, but a reprieve. If there were things in the valley that wished him harm, it was safer for him to be as far away from the lake as possible until she could find out why.
He took her embrace as more unwillingness to let him go, and smiled down at her.
"Hey, it's okay. I'll be back before you know it."
"I know." She replied, snuggling closer, but his words did little to reassure her.
Story by Alina Pete, Copyright 2011
Image by Tara Willett, Copyright 2011