I sighed heavily but silently. It wouldn't do to let my dad know I didn't really appreciate these weekly visits to Papa Judd's grave. I barely remembered him any more. He died when I was really small. But Dad still misses him terribly, so I always come along with him. He had never found anyone else in all those intervening years, and we still live far out on the sand, in same house where Dad and Papa started their lives together, and where I was born.
I am Dax, and I am a Djinn like my papa Judd. Dad says I look like him too. I also inherited my dad's witchy abilities, but I like to think of myself as a Djinn. I was the result of a happy accident, the way my dad tells it - a fertility spell cast by one of the old witches that worked way better than anyone could have predicted. And that is how I ended up with two dads. I am unique - that is what my dad always says.
I have my cousin Jaxon to thank for teaching me all of his Djinn tricks. He even showed me how to magically clean the dishes and gently drop them back into the cabinets - a trick my dad says that Papa Judd couldn't do, and Jaxon said his mom, Meaghan, couldn't do either.
I also have my cousin Jaxon to thank for sharing his music with me. He was always partial to his guitar, but he made me a violin after I showed him a picture in one of the old books at the library.
It's a lot harder to learn than the guitar, but I like a challenge.
I'm pretty sure he had an ulterior motive for all the music lessons, though, as I spent many hours providing background music for his romantic interludes with his beautiful wife, Taryn. Even into his old age, he never tired of romancing her. I hope that someday I'll find someone I love that much.
But for now, I enjoy my music, and my friends. I love a good party, and our rooftop makes a perfect place for dancing, which I love almost as much as my music.
I love all my friends, but Molly is pretty special, more special than most. We have a lot in common. Her mom, Lily, was the witch that cast the famous fertility spell, and Lily was old, like my Papa Judd, when Molly was born. And Molly is not only a witch, but also a wolf. That sends shivers of excitement up and down my spine, just thinking about it.
Red-headed Sonia, green-haired Rose, and let's not forget Nate - I love them all. Rose and Nate are way too wrapped up in each other to notice, though. Sometimes I daydream about what an awesome threesome we could have together, but I never suggest it. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't appreciate it.
"Dax, she's just playing you, you know that, don't you? You know I wouldn't steer you wrong."
I should have listened to him, but I didn't.
Instead, I followed her into my dad's bedroom...and later I slung my violin case over my shoulder, and took her hand, and walked her home. I had been working for weeks now on a new romantic song, and couldn't wait to see her reaction.
As we arrived at her door, I grinned and asked her to wait. I pulled out my violin from its case and began to play, just for her. I closed my eyes and began to feel the music. I could tell I was nailing it, the notes were right, and the emotions were coming through, just as Jaxon had taught me. I braved a peek at Molly to see her reaction. And she was.. laughing? Pointing and laughing. I was horrified. My bow slid off the strings in a screech that matched my feelings. I couldn't get away fast enough.
I couldn't believe what had just happened, so I did the only thing I could think of to take the pain away. I stumbled back to my rooftop, and played. And played. Gradually I calmed down, and realized that Dane was right. Molly wasn't right for me. We had a lot in common, it was true, but the one thing we didn't have in common - music - was the deal breaker. I kept playing, for myself and for the sea, spread out before me in all its danger and beauty. And like many times before, as I finished the last plaintive melody, I could almost hear a matching answer in the sound of the waves. It was at the very edge of my consciousness, but it was there. The song of the sea. Satisfied, I headed down to my bed.
I was done with romantic music. I needed a new genre. Jaxon, my beloved cousin and teacher had passed on not long after that embarrassing serenade, which further depressed my mood. I gave up my parties and my dancing, and ignored my friends, and spent my time at the library, scouring the old books for new music to drown my sorrows.
"Hey, Dax, man. I'm gettin' kinda worried about you, ya know. All you do is sit here with your nose buried in those dusty old books. You don't even play your fiddle anymore."
"Yeah, well, not that anybody wants to hear me play," I grumbled. "Besides, there's some good stuff in these books."
"Hey.. just because Molly didn't like it, doesn't mean nobody does. Which reminds me. Freya wants to talk to you. Something about a new shop she wants to open. But enough of that. What I really came to tell you is the steam jets in the library cellar broke through again, and you know what that means."
He winked at me, then took my hand and dragged me down to the cellar In spite of myself, I had to grin at him. No matter how often those steam vents were repaired, they always broke through again sooner or later. And when they did...well..
The next day after school I met Freya in town, where she was busy setting up her shop. She had some sort of machine that Jayne had made for her, and she wanted to share her herbs and coffee beans with the town. She was also selling her mom's famous cake, and her own famous cookies, with 'a little something special added', as she described it.
"So, how's your vine man doing?" I asked with a grin.
"He's just fine, thank you. And his name is Silvanus."
"When do I get to meet him?" I teased.
She gave me her 'look'.
"You know perfectly well that he's shy."
That's what she always said, and most people in town still thought she was making the whole thing up. I wasn't quite so sure though. There was something about my aunt that made me think this story was different that all the others.
Anyway, it turned out that Freya wanted me to play for her grand opening, and I was happy to oblige. I tried out a few of the new pieces I'd discovered in the library. There had been a book of 'Sea Shanties' hidden back in a corner, and one in particular had caught my attention.
When the place began to fill up, I put my violin away and went to say hello to Sonia. I hadn't seen her in a long time. She had her sister Rose's and Nate's baby boy with her. He was growing fast.
She looked as wide awake as I felt, after filling up on Freya's coffee and cookies.
"Hey Dax, you wanna stop by my house in a few? I have to drop the baby off, but then how about we go for a walk?"
I had always liked Sonia, so I readily agreed. I dropped my violin off at home first. I wasn't going to take that kind of risk again.
We walked for a long time, then stripped down and played in the surf for a while. At first I thought she was coming on to me, and I was debating how to respond. I loved her like I love all my friends, but I knew now that I needed someone who loved my music as much as they loved me, and I wasn't sure of Sonia in that regard.
"Um, Dax. Can I ask you something?"
"Sure, ask away."
"Mmm. Okay. Dane is your best friend, right?"
"Yep. Best friend ever." I conveniently left out the part about Dane and me and the steam vents.
"Does he ever talk about me? I mean.. do you think he likes me?"
"Uh.. wow. I'm not sure. I mean.. I could ask him, if you want."
"Could you? That we be so great! Thanks Dax. I love you."
"I love you too, Sonia."
It was a sweet kiss, a sort of hello and goodbye kiss all wrapped into one. It was a bittersweet moment, one in which I had made a far-reaching realization. For while I loved them all dearly - Sonia, Dane, Rose and Nate, even Robbie and Atsana - I couldn't choose just one, and that meant I couldn't choose any of them. It wasn't fair to them, and it wasn't fair to me.
The next day was a school holiday, and also my birthday, so I got the party started early. All my friends were there, and even some of the younger kids showed up. I guess my parties are getting something of a reputation. Aunt Freya gifted me with one of her specially enhanced cakes, which was sure to get the party going.
I saw Sonia eyeing me out to the corner of my eye as I blew out my candles. I knew she wanted to ask me again about Dane, but I hadn't had a chance to talk to him yet.
"Hey. I got a question for you. What do you think about Sonia?"
I was surprised to see his face fall at the question. He shrugged.
"She's great. Cute and funny and sexy. I'm sure you'll be happy together."
Suddenly it dawned on my why he looked in such a funk. I laughed, and his face fell even more.
"Not for me, for you, you doofus. She likes you. She told me last night."
"But.. why? I've never even gotten up the courage to talk to her."
"She thinks you're cute and funny and sexy, I guess. Maybe 'cause you are."
I winked at him.
"You should go talk to her. I dare ya."
He still looked unsure, so I poke him in the chest.
"What about us, though? You and me?"
I shook my head and grinned. Was that what he was worried about?
"There'll always be us. Best friends forever, yeah? Maybe no more steam vent stuff if you hit it off with Sonia, but if you don't, then who knows?"
I didn't watch, but I knew they were going to hit it off, and I was happy if they were happy.
That night, after everyone had gone, I played again for the full moon and the sea. I went through my entire repertoire, even the romantic ones, and ended with the sea shanties I'd been working on most recently. As always, I listened for the waves to echo their song back to me.
Yes, there it was, stronger than ever before. It almost seemed as if I could hear words in the echoing song. I paused a moment, listening, but the sweet strains died out as almost as soon as I lifted the bow from the strings.
I began again, softly, listening to the sea with all my concentration. Yes, there it was, far out in the waves, a teasing voice singing jauntily along with my melody.
You can search the world for pretty girls
Til your eyes grow weak and dim,
But don't go fishing for a mermaid, son
If you don't know how to swim