Undercurrent – A Merfolk Myth
~ Extras ~
Extra Scene: Breakfast
This chapter is set between chapters 2 and 3. Scott is suspecting someone's been watching him, while the rest of the family is trying to adjust to his presence and the changes in their lives. But of course, being a family is much more than daily routines.
Breakfast was the most important meal of the day, and for merfolk—especially teenage merfolk—that couldn’t be truer.
A year ago, Matt had perfected the art of getting ready to go to school while not missing his first meal of the day in a perfect choreography with the Squid. His little brother knew exactly where to be—and where not to be—in the rush hour before their driver picked them up. If Julian was driving, then it meant the chaos was multiplied by ten, but thankfully for everyone involved that didn’t happen often.
Correction, it didn’t use to happen often.
Ever since they had returned to their routine after Chris had been able to shift back into legs, Julian had made a point of spending more time with them, and that meant that their routine had gone down the drain. Add to that Scott’s unsunny disposition every morning—which was just getting worse as months went by—and it was a wonder how the penthouse survived each day.
“What the hell? Who drank my juice?!”
Slurping, Scott stared at him while he finished Matt’s juice, not an ounce of guilt in his face. “It didn’t have your name on it,” he said, shrugging.
“Oh, you want to see where I’m going to write my name next?”
“Kids,” Julian said, coming down the stairs, his phone in one hand and the newspaper in the other. “There’s more juice in the fridge.”
“No, there isn’t,” both Scott and Matt answered at the same time.
“Then drink something else. Alex, no devices on the table.”
“You're talking on the phone!” Alex’s indignant protest went unheard as Julian passed him by, lightly tapping the newspaper on Alex’s head. “How am I supposed to stay awake if I can’t be doing anything?” the Squid murmured while he put his phone away. If he had something in common with Scott, it was that neither appreciated being up at 7:00 a.m.
“Here, take mine,” Chris said as he came out of the kitchen.
“It’s not one of those things Andrew makes you drink, right?” Matt asked, looking at the innocent orange juice as if it was going to poison him.
“Not a chance. I only drink those at his place.”
Matt moved to take his seat but tripped over Scott’s backpack. The orange juice splashed over the table and Julian barely saved his newspaper.
“I’m gonna kill that kid,” Matt said as he stood up. He was promptly caught by Christopher.
“Scott, don’t leave your stuff in the way. It’s dangerous,” Chris told his youngest brother with a sweet smile while trying to hold Matt at bay.
“Scott,” Julian said, hanging up. “Clean this up, please.”
“But I didn’t—”
Both Alex and Chris shook their heads slightly so, enough to stop a bad situation from becoming something worse. Julian was lax about many things, but requests at the table were a big no-no.
Sighing in defeat, Scott went to fetch something to clean up the mess. Unlike most rich families, maids and butlers were not part of everyday life at the Brook’s household. A cleaning crew came three times a week, and their personal chef came to prepare lunch and meals. Breakfast—and any mess in between—was the boys’ chore.
Matt didn’t mind. He’d grown up cleaning much worse messes, and he did find a certain amount of peace while detailing up his room.
If you weren’t blind to begin with… Scott sent his way while starting to clean the juice, efficiently and speedily. Sometimes Matt forgot that Scott had had his share of foster homes and cleaning duties as well. Most days, it was easy to get along with the brat. Well, most days and non-breakfasts, anyway.
I’ll give you blind any day of the week, Matt sent back, earning a disapproving look from Julian.
Scott had the annoying skill to be able to send his thoughts strictly to one mind, while the rest of the Brooks siblings could only do wide telepathic speech. Which in turn led to these awkward moments when everyone heard Matthew but not Scott.
“Be ready in ten,” Julian warned, finishing his coffee and standing up to gather his things for the office.
“I can’t believe you keep falling for it,” Scott said, coming back from the kitchen with an apple in hand.
“Guys,” Chris said tiredly.
“I’m not saying it just to bait you,” Scott said, sitting down opposite Matt. “I’m genuinely baffled at how little you guys use your skills.”
If you were doing it all the time, it would be much easier to teach you stuff.
Alex groaned. It was one thing that the kid could do stuff even Chris had difficulty mastering. It was downright annoying that he would brag about it. Constantly. At every turn.
Including at breakfast.
“If you’re so advanced, show us something really impressive,” Matt challenged, while Alex glanced at his watch. Being late was the other big no-no in Julian’s life.
Scott bit his apple lazily, thinking. And then, he was gone.
Matt saw him, sitting right there, but Scott’s mind was gone. Where his brothers’ colors shone in his mind, Scott’s light was completely absent.
“Whoa,” Alex said.
All merfolk could blind themselves to telepathy, but it would take Matt minutes and a lot of concentration to do so, and he would never be able to keep it up in front of someone else. Proximity would most definitely ruin any attempt. Scott’s emerald light came back again, along with Scott’s smug face.
“I’m telling you,” the little brat said, “you’re weak. If you don’t practice, if you don’t even care about it, you’ll never get good at it.”
* * *
Julian stopped the car outside Saavan Academy. Alex and Matt went out, but before Scott could also leave, Julian placed his hand on his shoulder.
“May I talk with you for a minute?”
Scott stopped gathering his backpack and looked at Julian.
“I know you don’t approve that I withhold information about us to your brothers.”
Scott looked him straight in the eye, neither surprised nor guilty. Such young eyes that said so many things.
“But I have my reasons to keep this from them. Telepathy is a doubled-edge sword. I prefer that once they have use of it, once they decide to go to the City where telepathy is the norm, then it would be the time to let them know how to manage it at its full capacity.”
“You don’t owe me any explanations,” Scott said, getting ready to leave.
“I do if you’re suddenly disappearing on me to show off.”
Now the kid looked surprised.
“It’s my duty, and my honor, to guard all of you. But I don’t want you to feel so superior to your brothers, and I really don’t appreciate the scare you gave me when you suddenly went off my radar, especially in times like these.”
“So, you want me to dumb myself down?”
“Scott, you’re a smart kid. What you can do is impressive, even for the City’s standards it would be quite advanced. I’m just saying don’t start teaching them things they’re not ready for, okay?”
“You people are so weird,” Scott murmured as he opened the door and practically fled from the car.
Scott? Julian pressed, easily following the current of Scott’s mind, emerald and silvery in a dark sea of silent minds.
Okay, sure. I’ll keep my mouth shut.
* * *
“Question four: Name three socioeconomic consequences of the discovery of America.”
Scott read the question for the fifth time, his eyes almost closing on their own. He knew this. Alex had explained to him in great deal what to expect of the history test, and they had spent the last week covering the material.
Would I get away with claiming PTSD?
Probably, Matt answered in his mind, startling Scott. But then you’ll get Julian on your case. Or, worse, you’ll get Chris. And good luck with surviving that onslaught of care and attention.
Or, Alex interrupted, I could guide you through this so you won’t have to claim anything.
What the hell? Get out of my head!
You’re the one who keeps telling us how behind we are and how much you wish we would live like real merfolk and not human wannabes, right Alex?
Um…I’m just here to help out. Scott, you know this. I know you do.
Scott put his head against the desk for a moment, too sleep deprived to think clearly between the decision of failing the test or accepting Alex’s help.
Well that should be a no-brainer, Matt commented. For a moment, Scott was swept into his brother’s mind, seeing the bottom of the swimming pool and a million air bubbles around him. Matt pushed him out in a second.
“Sorry,” Scott murmured, feeling more alert now than he had the entire weekend. With Matt in the water, their connection was clearer.
Just—pass the damn test and give Julian one less reason to worry, Matt said, effectively shutting him out.
He also felt Alex’s presence receding, though he remained close enough in case Scott needed his help. It was weird to be around other merfolk, and weirder still that they were essentially letting him cheat.
“Question four: Name three—”
Something pricked his mind. Scott stopped reading and tried to follow the trail, just to have Alex asking him if he needed a refresher.
“Mr. Brooks? Any problems?” his teacher asked. With so many people in and out of his head, no wonder he was feeling watched.
He took his pen, concentrated, and wrote 1. The Spaniards gained the means to—
This time, the pricking was more insistent. It was like someone was knocking on the door thee floors below: faint, but definitely there.
In his mind, he saw himself in the middle of the ocean. Around him, Alex’s green and yellow scales shone with the light of the surface, along with Matt’s reds and oranges further away. But below them, in the dark depths of the sea, a shark seemed to be getting ready to attack.
Scott? This time, the voice in his head was Julian’s. Scott’s eyes went round and he froze in place, the ocean disappearing, leaving his history test clear and central in his field vision.
I—I—I’m taking a test, he answered, feeling caught but not knowing on what.
It’s just a test, okay? Take a deep breath, and take it easy.
He hadn’t seen Julian coming, and he certainly wasn’t sure if he was gone. Reading the question one last time, he got busy answering, having no problem recalling Alex’s words now that his total attention was on it.
He took it back: he’d rather Julian treated them like humans instead of being so attuned to their every anxiety attack.
Be sure to be on the lookout for more exclusive material in the upcoming weeks!