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The Siren

Kennedy tore through the door as if it were paper. Her legs, like springs pumping up and down on the sidewalk pavement- which was mostly overgrown with moss that had settled in the cracks- carried her until her lungs could no longer support the amount of air needed to run as fast as she was.

She skids to a stop and immediately hunches over and proceeds to expand her mouth and draw breath inwards. The byproduct was a sound that could be compared to the croaking a choking frog would make in its final seconds of life. While unattractive, and somewhat discordant with the sounds one would hear at 2 a.m. in Virginian suburbs, it was effective. She stayed in that awkward position, her fingernails digging into the denim of her jeans for support, glad that the speed she had taken to get to this point hadn't allowed her to discover how unpleasant the area in which she lived looked like at night. It was dark besides one desolate streetlight which often blinked as if it were a real eye. Luckily for her, the eye illuminated a bus stop directly across the street. Regaining her composure, she brisked to the stop, not caring to look both ways.

Mother Morgan wasn't here to reprimand her for not doing so. Soon, Kennedy would be free from that wayward woman and everything that bound her to that miserable abode. Yes, she could see it now! All she had to do was take that bus, and she would be home free! Mother Morgan wouldn't bother to go looking for her. After all, she didn't look for Janis when she had run off, and Janis had been her favorite! Kennedy was so excited that if someone were standing about two feet away, they would still be able to see her pearly, jack-o-lantern grin. She jammed her left hand into her back pocket, praying she remembered to take the twenty-dollar bill that her father had given her three months ago as pocket money. He had initially given her a sum of what she assumed was two hundred dollars, but she wasn't sure since hadn't even been able to count it before Mother Morgan had taken the money from her. She called it "collecting taxes," though it seemed like Kennedy was the only one who ever paid them, in that household at least. She had managed to stick the twenty in her pocket just before that horrendous woman came knocking on her door.

Kennedy took a moment to think about her thoughts. If she was leaving both her father and that witch that tried to pass as a stepmom behind, she could drop the ‘Mother’ title from Morgan’s name. Her father had forced her and Janis to refer to Morgan as that from the moment they had met- two weeks after the divorce was finalized. Initially, it was hard to tell that she was a witch, even as Kennedy and Janis silently listened to her father and her ‘new mother’ discuss the final touches of a wedding that was meant to occur next week during the dinner upon their first meeting. Initially, the sisters assumed that Morgan must have been the maid-of-honor and their father best man in someone else’s wedding. Initially, they thought that Morgan was only rude and harsh from the terrible stress of having to plan a wedding. But eventually, they faced the truth.

Their father had remarried the worst possible woman ever. She was not abusive, she was not loud, and honestly, not all that cunning. She was easy on the eyes, which made it easier to assume her innocence in every situation and even easier to overlook how harsh she was on her father’s pocketbook. Not that Kennedy knew this for certain, but from the whispered phone calls on ‘separate business phones’ and what Janis had told her, it seemed that their father had to resort to washing money to maintain Morgan’s expensive tastes. The whole concept of dirty and clean money confused Kennedy deeply, and she didn’t know what it had to do with her father’s lobbying job, so she tried not to think about it. That’s what she assumed Morgan did. She kept herself busy by enjoying her newfound wealth and tormenting Kennedy and Janis.

It didn't matter now. Kennedy. She would live in the beach house that her father had given to her real mother, Juliette. If only Kennedy herself had been given along with her after the divorce too, but her father decided to air out to the court that Juliette suffered from alcoholism, even though he knew he was the reason she drank so much. Kennedy could still recall countless o nights she sat on the stairs of the basement and watched her mother down glass after glass, bottle after bottle, while her father was taking Morgan out and buying her things. It was sad to watch, even though she knew Juliette could've stopped drinking anytime she wanted. As far as Kennedy knows, Juliette wouldn't even consume fermented apple juice now.

Kennedy imagined that Juliette would be happy to see her daughter. Juliette's eyes would light up as soon as she saw her at the door and hug her for what would seem like hours. They would both be chilly, but they wouldn't care. Once the sun came up, Juliette would make her star-shaped sugar cookies, just as she had done back when they were still together. She would ask how Janis was doing, and Kennedy would break down and tell her that Janis had run away, and nobody cared. Juliette would probably go crazy at that. They would start looking for her immediately and find that she had been staying with her boyfriend Devin, this whole time. Or maybe Janis would be at the beach house with mom. Then, they could do all the stuff Kennedy imagined with Janis! Either way, all Kennedy knew was that she couldn't wait to see her real mother again. She couldn't wait to accidentally refer to her as mom and have Juliette lightly pinch her cheeks and remind her that her name was Juliette and that calling her mom made her feel old.

The arrival of the bus may have quieted Kennedy's mind, but it didn't make her any less excited. She practically leaped on the bus. She paid the fare and took the closest window seat to the entrance. No one else was on the bus, and she felt as though the bus driver could hear Kennedy's heart leaping from her chest. She kept her eyes on the window, hoping to get a good look at the ocean as they passed over a bridge. Juliette always talked about how beautiful the ocean looked in the evening. 'It makes you want to just jump in and forget that you were ever suffering,' she would say.

The midnight moonlight seemed to be bouncing off the water, hovering closely enough for one to be able to see that there was, in fact, a body of water there, but not close enough to see the full depths of the ocean. Time seemed to slow as Kennedy looked at the water. She could see the relaxed pace of the waves and almost feel the comfortable warmth that ocean water has on summer nights.

Maybe she would stop to get a closer look before reuniting with her mother. Maybe she would find her mother on the shoreline in front of her house, staring, but never daring to enter. Juliette would never let Kennedy nor Janis swim in ocean water. 'Beautiful things are usually the most dangerous', she would say, while she stared off into the horizon.

Kennedy never actually knew what exactly she meant by that, but Janis theorized that it had something to do with their father. Father was a good man- before he was an adulterer. Before Morgan, he would always come back with mountains of gifts for the only women that ever mattered to him, as he would say. Juliette would roll her eyes at the presents but cherished them dearly. All she ever wanted was for father to come home. Their love for each other was obvious. It showed itself in the way Juliette would look at Kennedy and Janis. It brightened every bleak area whenever they were together. Family friends and strangers would always gush about how lucky they were, to have found their other half.

The bus stops, and the push of the brake pushes the deep thoughts from her mind. The man looks back as he opens the doors to let her off. Feeling slightly nervous under his gaze, she ignores the impulse to jump off the bus and calmly walks to the front to leave. The man utters a quiet be safe, before closing the doors and turning the bus around. It was the last stop of the route, the closest to the private boardwalk and dock that led to the beach house. She beamed in the dark of night and made her way toward the gate. It required coded access, the year her parents married: 1999. The property had belonged to a grandfather he had never met, but whose kind eyes she was always told she shared by her mother. It was his wedding gift to his son and daughter-in-law, his blessing unto the family that would spring from the sand.

Although it seemed that the tide had come in too far and too rough, separating the roots from the stems, Kennedy had hope. And this hope propelled her to run at a pace- not one as breath-consuming as the first (she didn’t want to be gasping for air and alarm her mother)- but a steady pace, nonetheless. She looked at the sky as she ran. It was the dead of night, but the sky looked more obsidian than the usual pitch black and the occasional satellite that she was used to. It was familiar obsidian; she would gaze at its stars on the same summer nights her mother and Janis would gaze at the horizon.

She turned her focus to the water. It had fallen into a lull, but the moon was full and there was enough wind to push it against the sand. Weird, she thought. The beach house was coming into view, faster and faster until she was on the back porch. The lights were on, but it was locked. She ran around to the front of the door, the side and moonlight illuminating her path. She was so close to where she belonged! As she approached the front door, Kennedy even wondered if her mother would open the door this late. She wondered if her mom would be happy to see her. Well- she knew that her mother would be, even though she had never called or written, or asked of them from what Kennedy knew of. Fear rose to the levels of hope. She clenched her eyes and fist and rang the doorbell, putting both emotions into the button twice. Then three times. Then five. No dice. Fear was gaining tide.

Once again, she entered 1999 into the keypad. It’s not breaking and entering if it's your mother’s home, right? She had a right to be there. She took a step forward and instinctively flicked the light on, illuminating the staircase, foyer and, part of the dining room. It was dead quiet. Lull. But it had her mother’s aroma, it felt like her voice had rung through the air. It was almost as though she could feel where her mother was, pulling her through the foyer. She took off her shoes and socks, stored them on the shoe rack, and walked into the kitchen. Kennedy knew her mother lives here, at the very least. In the fridge, there was cheesecake, a dessert Janis and Juliette had enjoyed extensively. Two slices were missing.

Kennedy stood there for a moment, listening to the hum of the fridge. For some reason, she felt like she could hear singing, separate from the humming, distant from it. She closed the fridge and journeyed through the house, letting her ears guide her to the tune. It was a familiar voice, but not song. The melody glazed her brain with a deep sense of longing. The desire to be reunited with her mother grew as the voices di, until she could no longer distinguish the difference between emotions and sound. Her longing grew louder until she realized it was two voices, meshing almost entirely. Her search led her to the back porch, one that had a gaze on the water.

The water was still lulled, but this time, it was full of two bodies, one taller than the other. The bodies were facing toward her, but Kennedy couldn’t make out their faces. She didn’t need to see their faces to know who they were. They were the people she was looking for! They were the ones singing. Against her mind and her heart, her body maintains the same pace. She doesn’t even bother to lift her jeans as she joins her mother and sister in the dark, cold water. Small waves tickled her ankles, but this did not deter her. Her eyes remain focused. As she gets closer, the bodies turn around and join hands, still singing. Kennedy continues to walk at the same pace, even as her heart takes a quicker one, even as her mind wonders why in the world her mother and sister are singing in the ocean in the middle of the night. The water reaches her knees. She continues. And continues. And continues.

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