Excerpt: Dragon Home

There was a mermaid in the pool. Aqua growled to himself and stomped past the indoor pool towards the kitchen. There wasn’t anything he could do about the mermaid, mostly because he had been living in the pool for months now and didn’t appear to be the least bit interested in leaving.

Okay, so the mermaid wasn’t actually a mermaid. They lived in saltwater oceans and wouldn’t be the least bit interested in a dragon or the confines of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The creature in the pool was a nix named Nixie, with bright green hair and a fish tail that split into legs when he was on dry land. He was also mated with Aqua’s brother Rios.

Rios was another problem that made Aqua stomp his feet even harder. It just wasn’t fair.

Uncle Willy was sitting at the kitchen table reading the newspaper and eating a bowl of cereal when Aqua stomped into the room. He glanced up at Aqua briefly, then returned to his paper without seeming to have noticed Aqua’s mood. Uncle Willy was a very powerful man. He was the territory leader of all of Canada, a responsibility he took far too seriously in Aqua’s opinion. He had the look of a man that had been fat, but had recently lost a lot of weight. His skin was still a little too fleshy, although every day there was some improvement. He was immortal, which meant he would eventually heal even the stretch marks and excess skin that being fat for so long had caused. His eyes were hard black in color and his hair was also black.

Rios was washing his own bowl out at the sink. He had grown two inches over the winter, which meant he and Aqua could no longer share clothing and they were also no longer mistaken for twins. Rios looked years older than Aqua now, his face filling out and muscles tightening the fabric of his shirts. Aqua, on the other hand, looked like he was twelve, despite being nearly sixteen years old, and hadn’t grown even a centimeter all winter.

Aqua stopped in the middle of the kitchen, and Rios turned and smiled at him, but when Rios spoke, it was to Uncle Willy. “The Auxiliaries are training on sailboats today and have invited Nixie and me to come play. We’ll need a ride to Lake St. Clair in ten minutes.”

Uncle Willy nodded. “Do you know how long you’ll be there?”

“At least until lunch, although if they feed us, we may stay until dinner instead.” Rios shrugged and grinned and Aqua had to clench his teeth. That was the grin he remembered, one that Rios used to only use when they were up to some sort of mischief together. It wasn’t right that Rios was so excited about the coastguard and some silly boats. He hadn’t been so excited before he found Nixie, which meant that Nixie was the problem. Yet the way Rios looked at Nixie, the way they held hands and smiled at each other, meant that if Aqua did something to separate them, Rios might hate him forever. He really didn’t want Rios to keep abandoning him like this. Yet getting rid of the problem might only make it all even worse.

Aqua hated feeling so left behind.

“Don’t forget you have that essay due,” Uncle Willy added pointedly.

Rios grinned again. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he replied slyly. “See you tonight!”

He hurried off without saying goodbye to Aqua, no doubt going to find his precious Nixie and then get Uncle Willy to transport them magically to the training facility. Which meant Aqua would be spending the day alone again, except for the endless lines of tutors Uncle Willy had hired to get him up to speed on his schoolwork.

“It’s not fair,” Aqua grumbled, only realizing he had said that aloud when Uncle Willy dipped one corner of his newspaper to look at Aqua. “Well, it’s not. He’s off having fun with his friends and I’m stuck here with the tutors.”

Uncle Willy put down his paper so he could look at Aqua properly. “Aqua, if you want friends, you need to go out and find them. They’re not going to come to you.”

“But when Rios was here we had each other. Why did he have to leave?” Aqua was whining, but he couldn’t help it. The feeling of being abandoned tightened his chest until he couldn’t breathe and made his stomach hurt so that he didn’t feel like eating.

“Maybe it’s your time to leave as well. Pack some clothes, food, and money and see where the wind takes you. Go find friends of your own and maybe you won’t feel quite so alone any longer.”

Maybe Uncle Willy was right. He should just go. On their last adventure together, Rios had found Nixie and his love of boats. Maybe now it was Aqua’s turn to have an adventure and find a nix of his own. He spun around and hurried out of the kitchen, heading upstairs to his bedroom to pack a bag.

It only took a few moments to stuff some shirts, pants, and underwear into a backpack. Aqua hurried back downstairs. Uncle Willy met him at the foot of the stairs. In one hand he held out a wad of cash. Aqua could see both American and Canadian money in the stack.

“For emergencies,” Uncle Willy instructed as he passed over the money. “Don’t lose it or spend it on something silly.” He held out a small brown paper bag for Aqua to also take. “This is some lunch. Eat it on your way.” He reached behind him for a paper towel wrapped bagel to give to Aqua too. “And eat your breakfast.”

“Thanks, Uncle Willy,” Aqua said as he took the bagel. He stuffed the money deep into his bag and tucked his lunch carefully on top.

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