For my sister.
Nikki Sanders loved going to the beach. Of all the peaceful things in life, the chaotic rhythm of the ocean waves filled her with the most serenity. It wasn't until she found the glass bottle and woke up to an unfortunate visitor that she truly understood just how dangerous the ocean really could be.
The beach is warm under my bare feet as I walk. I look out at the shimmering water and listen to the ocean waves crashing onto the shore, completely engulfed. I should have been studying, but my soul had begged me for a break.
I take a step further into the water, the cold washing over my warm skin. Suddenly my foot gets caught and I fall unto the damp sand. I spit the grit out of my mouth and sit up, then brush it off of my cutoff shorts and hands. I shake my hair out, and think about cutting it. It was a nice color; brown, like my mother's, but it would be much easier to take care of if it was shorter.
I look down at my feet to see what I’d tripped on. It was a green bottle, half buried in the sand. I pull it out and something clanks inside. I look over the top, the lip is broken, I'd have to pry the cork to get it out. My phone begins to ring, breaking the tranquility. I jump a little, and fumble for it in my back pocket.
"Hello?" I say into the speaker.
"Hey, Nikki, Mom and I are leaving. We’ll be back by ten. Make sure you finish your homework."
"I love you, kid."
"I love you too, Dad."
I hang up and turn my back on the ocean. It was a short walk up the beach, but I still had to avoid the little kids throwing sand at each other and I listen as angry mom's yell at their daughters while their husbands feed the seagulls. I wonder if living on the beach could be a viable career choice.
I walk up the back steps and into the kitchen. I pour myself a glass of water and read the note hanging on the fridge with a robot magnet.
Frozen pizza for dinner. Caleb will be home from work soon to help. Love you.
I simultaneously laugh and groan. Just because Caleb was older, didn't mean that he was more mature. I pull the pizza from the freezer and start the oven. Something crashes in the basement, suddenly Celeb runs out past the kitchen threshold, a pillow shield in one hand and the remote in the other. James and Peter follow with their wooden swords and Mom's scarves tied around their foreheads. I sigh and set the glass bottle on the counter. Guess he was home already.
"Did he get to the ship?" James asks. He and Peter tip-toe past me to the garage.
"Aye!" Peter whispers.
He opens the door and looks around. Unable to find him, he shuts the door and runs back to the living room.
"You can’t hide forever, you dreaded pirate!" He picks up the stuffed penguin in the corner. "We have your first mate! Hand over the remote, or he gets it!"
They wait for a moment, listening.
Peter sighs. "I'm sorry, Mr. Flipper."
He jabs his sword into Mr. Flipper's stomach.
"You gave us no choice!"
I pick up a wood block on toss it downstairs.
"Did you hear that?" says James. "He's downstairs."
They tiptoe toward the stairs and hurry below.
"You moved it too far," I say, walking over to the couch.
Caleb had wedged himself between the side of the couch and the bookcase.
He smiles. "Hey sis, when did you get home?"
I hold my hand out for the remote. "Just now."
"Hide it in the fridge," he whispers. "Or the toaster, they'd never look there."
"Attack!" Peter suddenly yells. He rushes from the top of the stairs toward us. "She’s got the golden treasure!"
I catch his sword with my free hand and pull him into a bear hug, trapping him tightly as he tries to squirm free.
"Terror Twin!" he screams. "Terror Twin! I’ve been captured by the kraken!"
James appears at the top of the stairs and Caleb jumps out from his hiding spot. With one arm he catches him, and wrestles him onto the couch.
"No fair!" he cries. "You guys are older then us!"
I hand Peter the remote and he lets out a pirate-ish, "Aargh! The treasure!"
Quickly, he and James escape to the basement.
"Thanks a lot," Caleb groans. "Nothing but the Neverland gang for the rest of the night."
"Jake and the Neverland Pirates," I correct. "put the pizza in the oven. I’ve got homework."
I didn't wait to hear his answer. I grabbed the bottle off the banister and hurried to my bedroom while the twins shouted the theme song at the top of their lungs. Once the door was shut I set the bottle on my desk and found my pocket knife. I had tried to pick the cork out with my fingernails on my way home, but with no luck and no desire to cut myself on the broken lip, I decided I could wait.
I open the corkscrew, dig it in, and pry. With a pop the cork finally comes out. I carefully turn the bottle upside down over my hand. A small pale rock on a dark chain falls unto my palm, followed by the edge of a damp piece of brownish paper. I pick out the tweezers and carefully pull it out.
It comes out rolled up and bound with a piece of twine. I pull the tie off and unfold the paper. In tiny loops and large swirls, a note was written in the kind of cursive my grandma used.
I know you must have many questions, but we will have time for that later. As you probably already know, my people are at war with the Makara of the Divided Colonies and we are in dire need of your help. We will come for you when you activate the stone. Please hurry. ~Queen Ali'ikai of Ke'ana.
I was impressed. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to pull off a prank that might never have been seen. It was pretty cool though, and the necklace was a nice touch.
"Nikki!" Peter screams.
Something crashes to the floor and he starts crying. I drop the note and run out of the room. Even if I wanted to get my homework done, babysitting made it almost impossible. Unless that homework was first-aid. I got a lot of practice with that.