“Jo, Jo, how could you?” The air purifier muffled Meg’s voice.
“What did you say?” called Jo. She sat in the dining room, gazing out the glass windows at the fish swimming past. Living in the settlement of Pacific America never ceased to amaze her. Their glass house was close enough to the surface water to receive sunlight, but far enough down to enjoy the myriad of colors found off the Hawaiian Coast. The loudness of the air purifier reverberated through their house. They were not wealthy like their next-door neighbors, the Lawrences, with their quiet purifier and big glass mansion.
“Jo. You and that Lawrence boy need to mind your own business.” Meg came into the dining room, a bright red flush on her cheeks.
Their glass house was close enough to the surface water to receive sunlight, but far enough down to enjoy the myriad of colors found off the Hawaiian Coast.
“Meg, what’s this all about?” asked Mrs. March turning down the air purifier. Beads of humidity formed on the inside of the glass. One hour on and then one hour off kept the house a breathable and water-free environment. They could live with the noise in this miracle place.
When the Second Civil War broke out, the move to settle families in the ocean took top priority. The new shield technology protected underwater homes from nuclear attack from the sky and the sea. Land shields failed to compare because they lacked the buffering effects of the water.
“It’s Jo and Laurie. They did it,” said Meg glaring at Jo. “I’ve never been more embarrassed.” She hid her face in her hands and collapsed into one of the chairs.
Jo knew then it was about John Brooke, Laurie Lawrence’s handsome tutor. The water-proof note Meg thrust onto the table confirmed Jo’s suspicions.
I can’t restrain my passion. I must declare my ardent love. Keep it a secret from your mother. I don’t live until I see you again, my dearest Meg.
“I didn’t do anything!” Jo stood so Meg and Mrs. March believed her words. “It’s Laurie,” she said. “I kept a secret from him and he did this to tease me.” She clenched her fist. Mr. Brooke had no right to her beloved sister. Laurie knew better.
“Did you answer the note?” asked Mrs. March placing her hand on Meg’s shoulder.
“Yes,” said Meg, nodding. “I said I was too young and I didn’t want to keep secrets and maybe when I was older.” Her eyes filled with tears as she placed Mr. Brooke’s answer on the table. “He said he’d never sent such a note and… and…” Meg threw herself into her mother’s arms.
“That boy.” Jo paced up and down in time to the fish swimming outside the glass. Then the two notes grabbed her attention. The waterproof paper had the same thickness and sheen. Brandishing both notes, Jo declared. “I don’t think Mr. Brooke ever saw either of these. I’ll bet you anything, that Laurie wrote both.” Any nonsense between Mr. Brooke and Meg could be avoided.
“Go talk to Laurie,” said Mrs. March to Jo.
Lingering a moment longer, Jo listened as Mrs. March told Meg, “John Brooke wants permission to court you. His intentions are honorable and we will give our blessing if it’s what you want.”
“I—I’m so young,” protested Meg.
Jo glimpsed Meg’s rosy cheeks as she stepped into the entryway air duct to put on her underwater suit for the swim to Laurie’s.
“I don’t want to do anything now,” said Meg hesitantly.
With satisfaction, Jo attached the breathing mask. She closed the door between the entryway and the dining room and pushed the button that opened the doorway to the Ocean. Water streamed in and Jo paddled out and pushed the closed button on the door. Water began pumping out of the air duct.
She swished her arms through the water, relishing the smoothness giving way before her.
The water refreshed her. She swished her arms through the water, relishing the smoothness giving way before her. Laurie hadn’t done any real damage with his prank. Meg was still theirs.
Later, when the girls got ready for bed, Jo realized her misconception.
“Goodnight, Meg,” said Jo crawling into bed as Meg sat on her bed brushing her hair.
“Goodnight, Jo,” Meg responded. The dark water pulsed against the glass. Jo closed her eyes, but a few minutes later she opened them to recount how Laurie took the confrontation with the notes. Instead Jo watched, as stepping out of bed, Meg twirled a strand of hair and smiled. Using her finger, she wrote Mrs. Meg Brooke on the window. The letters lingered for a second before evaporating leaving only the ocean behind.
Laurie Lawrence would pay for his prank.
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Meet the Author
Leilani Mueller writes, reads, directs, and is mommy to Felicity and wife to Nathan. A member of the Waco Writers, you’ll find Leilani story writing and laughing with friends as they write in community. On other days, she will be at the zoo with Felicity, directing Shakespeare to high school students, or enjoying an evening with her person.
Follow her on Instagram @leiraewrites.