CHAPTER 12HEAR HER SONG (COMPLETED)
Of course, they couldn't rush out and save Joy's people that instance. It was the middle of the day and they still didn't have a plan. Niylah managed to convince Joy that they needed to come up with something. Preferably after dinner.
Niylah purchased several pounds of fish, along with their other groceries, and headed home. She had worried about the rain and made sure to add an umbrella to their grocery list. Niylah popped it open, much to Joy's surprise, and held it over the mermaid. Joy watched the dark shadow warily, but Niylah reassured her that it wasn't going to hurt her. The last thing they needed was to test how her body reacted to rainwater in the middle of the town.
When they arrived home, they were surprised to see Tom in his usual spot in front of the tv. It would make sense that he pulled in the boat once the rain picked up. He probably didn't want a repeat of someone falling overboard.
“Hey Niy!” Tom said without looking up.
Joy stiffened at the sound of the voice and Niylah wondered if she remembered him from the boat.
“It's okay,” she reassured her quietly. “He's my dad. He won't hurt you.”
Curious why Niylah hadn't responded, Tom climbed out of his spot on the couch, leaving an impression in the cushions. “Oh,” he said as he spotted Joy next to his daughter.
“Hi, Dad.” Niylah shifted awkwardly with the weight of the groceries in her arms. She led Joy into the kitchen to set them down. Tom followed.
“This is my friend,” Niylah started. “She's new in town.”
“I gathered that,” he said, a hint of intrigue lacing his tone. “I haven't seen you around before. When did you come in?”
Niylah rushed to answer for her. “She's just staying with her aunt for a few weeks. I met her down at the beach.”
“It's nice to meet you...” Tom trailed off as he held out a hand.
“Joy. Her name is Joy. Fisher. Joy Fisher,” Niylah told him all too quickly.
Tom's brows furrowed, but he greeted her regardless. “Nice to meet you Joy Fisher. I'm Tom Harmon, Niylah's dad.”
Joy looked down at the outstretched hand. She turned to Niylah for an answer and Niylah nodded back towards her dad's hand.
Confused by the gesture, the mermaid moved over to the bags and pulled out one of the fish, slapping it into Tom's open palm. “Tom,” she said.
Utterly bewildered by the sudden action, Tom laughed. “I guess we're having fish for dinner.”
After the bizarre exchange, Niylah had hurried Joy into her bedroom and closed the door. Tom had said he'd cook after Niylah bought all the groceries so she was grateful for the privacy for the time being.
Joy settled on Niylah's bed and Niylah sat against her headboard, crossing her legs to sit comfortably.
“What do we know?” She asked to no one in particular. “We know that my dad is being pressured by someone to catch fish. Why? I'm not sure.”
Niylah didn't know how much Joy understood, but she listened intently.
“I'm not sure how much of the water this guy controls. For all we know, he could have his hooks in plenty of boats.”
She chewed on her thumb as she tried to think of what to do.
“More boats?” Joy asked. “We break all boats.”
“We can't break the boats!”
Niylah's face contorted into a look of concentration. Her brows furrowed and her bottom lip was pulled in between her teeth. “Broken boats can be fixed. We need to completely destroy them.”
They had agreed to go out in the middle of the night. Tom would be asleep for a few hours. He usually set out before dawn and got the Ne Hwas ready to sail out around sunrise. This gave them ample opportunity to sabotage as many boats as possible.
Now that they had a plan, they just had to wait to execute it.
Before sitting down for dinner, Niylah had coached Joy on how to behave. If she were confused about anything, she was supposed to look at her and Niylah would be able to help. She was wary about letting the siren eat at the dinner table.
“So, Joy,” Tom cut in as he handed the bowl of rice towards her. “Where are you from?” Joy was unsure about what she was supposed to do. Niylah caught her gaze and showed her by scooping a pile of corn on her own plate. Understanding, the mermaid scooped out a heaping helping of rice and slammed it on her plate.
Niylah stifled her laughter with her hand. She took the bowl from Joy and helped herself.
“I am from ocean,” Joy said as she turned her attention to Tom.
“She means overseas,” Niylah cut in.
“Ah,” Tom seemed to buy it. He nodded his head and handed the plate of cooked salmon to Joy. She grabbed a piece and slapped it next to her mountain of rice. Niylah hoped she wouldn't be this aggressive with the corn.
“Who is your aunt? I probably know her.” Tom wasn't lying. Siren's Bay was such a small town that everyone knew everyone and she didn't think they'd be able to hold this secret for long. Fortunately, Joy proved to be a great distraction.
The mermaid stuck out her tongue, her nose wrinkling in disgust. A piece of chewed-up salmon lay in the middle of her plate.
Tom seemed taken aback by her reaction. “Is it really that bad?”
Tom wasn't the best cook, but he definitely knew how to cook fish. Long ago, just like Joy, it was their peoples' source of food. That was long before settlers came in and disrupted their homes.
“Taste like fish, but not,” Joy said with dismay.
“She's used to it being raw,” Niylah explained. “They eat a lot of sushi over there.”
“If that's an issue, we still have some salmon I can cut up,” Tom offered.
“It's okay! We'll just eat this. Right, Joy?”
Joy glanced between Tom and Niylah before nodding. She busied herself by pushing the cooked salmon to the far edge of her plate and then dug into her rice. That tasted much better than the fish.
The girls were relieved from any more questions by a knock on the door. Tom excused himself and went to answer. He opened the door and Niylah leaned back in her chair to see that it was Oliver Harris. They spoke in hushed whispers, but she could still hear what they were saying.
“We have to go out now,” Harris said. “Malden sent one of his goons over. He threatened one of my boys, Tom!”
“I can't leave now, Niylah's home and she has a friend.”
Niylah noticed how jittery Harris was acting. He was genuinely frightened. He looked over Tom's shoulder to see Niylah and Joy at the table. His eyes lingered on Joy for a moment.
“I gotta go, Tom. I can't do this. I gotta do something!”
“Oli!” Tom didn't have a chance to stop him. Harris was already hurrying away from the house.
The interaction had consequently ended dinner. Niylah and Joy took a bowl of ice cream into her bedroom. They sat close together, nestled into the pillows. Was there a way to save Joy and Oliver?
“I've been curious about something,” Niylah started.
“What is curious?”
“Why do you kill the fishermen?”
Joy frowned. “I told you. They steal our food.”
Shaking her head, Niylah continued, “I understand, but you can speak English. You can understand me. Why haven't you tried communicating with them?”
Joy's teal eyes appeared to darken. “They kill us.”
A chill ran down Niylah's spine. “What?”
Despite her surprise, Niylah understood exactly how dangerous man could be. Before the time of colonizers, her people lived among each other. Yes, there were fighting and skirmishes, but they all prospered. They traded, held ceremonies, and shared meals with each other. Many were welcome to come ashore.
And then came the colonizers. From the introduction of guns to the forced attendance of residential schools, her people had been wiped out for generations. It made sense that an entirely different species would face similar threats.
“Your mother,” Joy interrupted Niylah's thoughts. “She tried.”
A lump caught in Niylah's throat. “M-My mother? You spoke with her? She's alive?”
constricted when Joy shook her head. “Not alive. I speak with elders of our family. They hear of one of my kind protecting baby by leaving it with humans. They hear Iryna left baby on land.”
“Iryna?” Niylah echoed.
“That is your mother. That is what she is called above water. Our family is run by females. Iryna was our leader. She tries to talk to fishermen but they hurt her. She never return to ocean.”
Joy's eyes were sad as she spoke.
“My mother...was killed?”
“I did not know. I learn it when I go back to sea and ask. She died when I was a youngling. I do not remember her. Irene is leader now. My sister.”
Niylah's eyes stung and she blinked to keep her tears at bay. Was it wrong to weep over a woman she had never met? It was the woman who gave birth to her. The woman who did this to protect her. The woman, her mother, that she would never meet.
Niylah looked down at the bowl in her lap. She stirred around the melting ice cream, making no attempt to eat it. Any appetite she had left was washed away with the dread that she'd never get to meet her real mom.
Following her actions, Joy played with the ice cream. Intrigue got the best of her as she shoveled a large spoonful into . Within seconds, the mermaid let out a shrill, ear-piercing shriek that could've been enough to destroy eardrums.
Completely forgetting her grief, Niylah slapped her hands over her ears.
Joy grasped her head, pulling her dark locks as her eyes scrunched tight. Her screech stopped and she opened her eyes.
Once Joy had stopped, Niylah uncovered her ears. “What was that?”
“Pain,” she said, tossing the bowl of ice cream off the bed just as Tom burst into the room.
“You girls okay?” He asked, wide-eyed.
“Yeah,” Niylah said. She looked around the room and held up the cord for her dusty old radio. “Plugged it in wrong and got the wrong frequency. Sorry!”
Tom visibly relaxed. “I should've gotten rid of that thing before you came. Do kids even use those anymore?” His eyes fixed on the frozen dessert staining the carpet. “I'll get you a towel.”
“Hey Dad!” Niylah called before he could leave the room. “Is it okay if Joy stays the night?”
He looked at Joy. “Is it okay with your aunt?”
Joychecked with Niylah who nodded in approval. “Yes,” she said.
“Then it's fine with me.”
As soon as Tom left the room, Niylah raised a brow at Joy. “Next time, I'll warn the mermaid about brain freeze.”