Cass hiked up the road north out of town, to the place where she first swam with Selena. She sat on the rocks until she spotted movement in the water: two fins moving her direction.

She slid out of her clothes until she wore only her swim suit; she wasn't quite Serran enough to go bare or to wear seaweed or whatever it was they wrapped around themselves.

Selena held tight to one of the orca's fins, letting him surf her through the waves. Beside her, the other orca rushed forward to barrel roll in circles around her. Amak.

"I hoped you would come," Selena said.

"Are you okay?"

She nodded. With one hand, she wrung water from the mass of hair on her neck, then twisted it up into a knot. "The Matriarch is gone. Banished. I'm clan leader."

Cass thought of the Matriarch's claim, that they needed Jason's blood for the clan's survival.

Her thoughts must have shown because Selena touched her hand. "Taking the Blood—that's not how it's always been. With her gone, maybe we can try old ways again."

"Will you—will the Serra—die out?"

"I don't think so. I believe what you said: If our mother found humans worth love, maybe they aren't all so terrible. It will take time to convince others, but not everyone believed humans should be butchered like fish for their wrongs." She floated sideways with her head cocked. "Will you come with me? You could speak for humans."

As before, the question twisted through her, longing mixed with regret. "I can't."

The words hung between them. Part of her ached to go with Selena; but there was too much she'd have to leave behind. Like Jason, who was probably already waiting for her at the mercantile, where they were meeting to bike back to his place. "I'll still be here when you come back, though," she said. She smiled, remembering. "I told Jen I wanted to stay. It turns out that Jen wants to stay, too, but she thought I didn't want to."

Selena snorted. "Humans are confusing."

They swam a moment in silence, letting water, sun, and orcas connect them. This was what it was like to have a sister, Cass thought.

It was wetter than she'd expected.

"The clan moves on soon," Selena said suddenly. "But we'll be back."

"And Amak?" Cass kept her voice steady but a lump filled her throat. She knew this day would come, but that didn't make it easier.

"He should come with us. Orcas are happiest with their pods."

Cass submerged to hide the tears overflowing her eyes. Orcas were incredibly social animals. Amak couldn't stay behind while his pod left. She felt his worry and confusion like gray fog inside her. He couldn't seem to imagine that she wouldn't remain with him.

He pushed feeling at her: Here/now/love.

"Here, now, love," she whispered back at him. She swam side by side with him, just where the water turned from bright to twilight. The ocean felt infinite. It made everything else blurry and unreal, including the time she might spend apart from Amak. It made her believe they would be together again.

Amak whistled. She smiled and rubbed his side.

When she surfaced again, Selena pressed something hard into her hand. "I have to go," she said softly, "but I leave you as one Serran leaves another: May the waves lift you high, may sunlight warm your face, and may the salmon give you chase."

Cass stayed there, treading water, for a long time after Selena and her orca companion disappeared. Amak drifted loglike in the waves beside her, comforting. It was hard to leave him, but easier because she knew, body and soul, she would see him again.

When she finally turned back to shore, she felt the hard lump Selena had pressed into her palm. She opened her hand. Sunlight glinted violet off an oblong of sea glass.

Jen's necklace. Selena had brought it back.

The End



I hope you enjoyed this story as much as I loved sharing it with you. Hearing back what you all think of Cass, Jason, Selena, and the rest--it's brought this story alive in a way I never dreamed possible. Please let me know what you think! What you like, what you don't like, what you want to know more about...whatever! Do you want a sequel?

And if you enjoyed, I'd appreciate it very much if you shared with your friends and (of course) vote :)