Michael: Anger Management
By D. D. Randall
Prologue: Summer's End
There is a chill in the water today, something I've not noticed before. A cold current sweeps between the protective fingers of rock out further off shore, swirling in the small cove in which our home is located.
Despite my normal tolerance for cool water, I find myself too cold to remain under the waves. Looks like I'm heading back to the Hovel early.
I burst through the surface, twisting to face the narrow window to open ocean, still curious as to why the water has turned so cold in the middle of August.
As my gaze settles on the horizon I quickly find the reason why.
Heavy black clouds linger off shore, lifting dark fists further into the already dimmed sky. Slanting rain, even now, descends to batter the ocean's surface along much of the front's lower edges.
A throaty rumble erupts from the depths of the clouds, as if the storm has realized my awareness of it. Flashes of lightning begin slashing through the darkness, several finding their way free to lick at the ocean.
I blink and swallow.
Really time to get out of the water.
I make strong strokes towards the Hovel, racing to stay ahead of the storm. Gusts rake across my exposed back, and I must ignore the urge to shiver. Instead I kick harder – opening my fingers wide to get as much webbing to catch water as possible.
As I reach our floating house, I swiftly lift myself free of the ocean, climbing over the nearest piece of railing rather than finding the landing. My feet touch down with a wet slap on the decking, and I twist once more to face the incoming storm.
Already, it's almost on top of the Hovel. Despite it all, it nearly caught me out there. Amazing how swiftly wind can push things around when it tries.
I blink again, getting further chilled by the rising wind.
"Okay, okay!" I mutter at the front, turning away and making quick time to the back door. I grab the towel parked on the small table just outside, even as I key the door. The opening stands patiently ajar as I take enough time to stop dripping all over the place. Stepping into the house, I shut away the ever-angrier, summer thunderstorm bearing down on the property.
Despite it all, I flinch when a crack of thunder – sounding akin to a gunshot – opens up atop the house and a bright flash swiftly follows.
"Wow," I whisper, as if afraid it might hear me moving about in here, before heading up the hall and ducking into the bathroom.
Starting the shower, I step back out again, headed for my room. I take only long enough to gather a change of clothes and return.
I shower quickly, realizing that trying to do this in the middle of thunderstorm is probably not my best thought out action. Despite having solar with a backup battery, there's no guarantee that the storm won't affect the water supply. It would be my luck to get all soaped up, shampoo in my hair and have the water cut out.
Rinsing in the ocean would be counterproductive to what I wanted to do by taking a shower – like, getting the salt off my skin.
Luckily, my fears don't come to fruition.
Blessedly, the storm takes pity on me and lets me finish my shower. I can hear the pounding rain outside, the way the buoys are having a time of it compensating for the weather-whipped water that supports our house.
Guess I'm not going anywhere for a while.
I dry and dress, and just as I'm stepping back into the hall, the net-set rings.
Altering course, I head for the nearest receiver, watching the caller id. Most of the time it's not worth picking up, spam calls – scam calls – are still a thing, despite the heavy restrictions and fines.
If I don't recognize a number, I let the message center take it.
However, this time I eagerly snatch the phone off the holder and practically throw it over my head, fearing that the caller will hang up before I can connect the call.
"Mandy?" I practically yell into the mic.
"Michael!" she responds, sounding giddy to hear my voice.
Opening my mouth to speak, another shot of thunder splits the air.
"Whoa!" Mandy utters into the dying rumble.
"Nice, huh?" I laugh. "It's a beast. I saw it coming in."
"You were out swimming?" She sounds a bit frightened for me.
"Don't sound so worried. I'm here, aren't I?"
"Yeah, but if it's right over my house, that means the center of it must be over yours."
"It is…" Finally it strikes me, and I say, "Wait, your house?"
I realized at the same time that I had heard the echo of thunder from her end.
"You're home?" Elation rises in my chest.
"We got in last night, late. I couldn't call you then."
"That's great! Was it a good trip?"
"It was!" she enthuses. "We'll have to get together before school starts so we can catch up."
"Well, yeah I'd like that." I scratch the back of my head. "After the storm lets up maybe?"
"It'll also have to be after Mom or Dad comes home."
I can't even get a permit for a couple more months, and even then, I can't drive myself.
"Yeah same." Mandy says.
"Can I call you back when they do? We can get something aligned, then."
"This weekend might be best, Michael. We can go to Hoovers for lunch or something?"
"Yeah! That sounds good. Which day would be better for you?"
"Mmm, Saturday around noon?"
"Okay I'll work on it from this end. Let you know by Friday?"
Mom and Dad were amazingly amenable to the idea of me getting out of the house – much to my surprise.
Evidently Mandy's folks were not adverse to the idea either.
She was already waiting at Hoovers when Mom drops me off, bouncing up to the car and leaning down to say "hi" as we roll to a stop.
"Hi, Mrs. Scott!" Mandy practically shouts in excitement.
"Hi, Mandy! Did you have a good trip?" Mom says.
"Oh yeah," she nods. "Canada was gorgeous!"
"How's the family?"
"Great. I discovered I have five or six more cousins I didn't know about before."
The three of us laugh.
Looking at Mandy, I nod, a non-verbal she gets immediately, backing away from the door so I can open it and get out. As soon as I shut it, we both lean down into Mom's view.
"You two have fun."
"We will," we echo.
"Michael, be sure to text me when you're ready to come home."
"Or if I get a ride." I nod and smile. "I got it Mom."
"Be sure you do," she repeats, something of a stern look coming over her face.
Waiting long enough for Mom to pull away from the curb, we turn and head over to the table that Mandy's claimed. We don't immediately sit down.
"Maybe we should order first, huh?"
This decision is influenced by my growling stomach, which only reminds me I had the barest of snacks for breakfast this morning.
"Yeah, let's!" Mandy says brightly.
We head to the window.
Used to be that any time I came out in public – I mean after I decided it was okay to be me – I got a lot of stares and a lot of reluctance on the part of store workers and people in general to engage me in even simple conversations.
Seems the shock has worn off.
The young lady at the window doesn't give me more than a cursory glance. Oh, she's still wary of me, it's in her eyes, but there aren't the overt scowls or shrinking back there used to be.
After some deliberation, I decide to get the double cheese-burger combination with waffle fries and a chocolate shake. Probably overkill, but my stomach disagrees with my head.
Mandy orders just a cheeseburger and a strawberry malt, never being one to have a big appetite. She peers up at me brightly as she finishes her order.
"Wait… I've got this!" I say, practically pushing her out of the way of the window to swipe my band across their reader before she can.
"Hey!" Mandy laughs. "I could have covered us!"
"No argument," I say, smiling down at her. "But consider it my 'welcome home' gift."
She looks only momentarily pouty.
"Okay," she draws out, "if you put it that way."
She stands up on her toes to kiss my cheek and then settles back on her heels. "Thanks, Michael!"
I stand stunned for a moment.
She stood… tiptoes… to do that.
Glancing at her once more, I realize somehow I've gotten taller than her. Last year, I was the one looking up at her. I blink a few times as that fact sinks in.
Wow… okay I never thought that was going to happen truthfully. I had paid no attention to any kind of growth spurts over summer.
Guess I forgot we had to go clothes shopping last month.
Or maybe it was just that I thought Mandy would gain in height as well? I'm a bit shocked that it isn't the case.
"You okay?" she asks when I haven't given her a response yet.
I shake myself out, and meet her curious gaze. "Yeah. Sorry! I'm fine."
Mandy nods to one side, a silent cue to go sit down until our order is ready to pick up.
"So was Canada really fun, or were you just saying that?" I ask as I lower myself onto one of the benches.
"No it was fun. The weather was wonderful." She rolls her eyes and draws out the last word to emphasize her point. "It was so hard to come back to the heat, I can't tell you."
"This summer's been cooler, Mandy, really. Only a hundred and two!"
We laugh at my sarcasm.
"The only thing I could have done without?" she finally continues.
"Mosquitos the size of buses?" I interject.
I catch her with her mouth open, knowing I stole her thunder.
"You say that every year," I add.
She flushes scarlet and glances away.
"Fine. But I saw one nearly carry a moose away."
"Liar." I grin, exposing my serrated teeth.
"But really, overall it was a good time. But you know how it goes, being in one place, away from home for a month can get rather daunting after a while."
I sigh. "Actually, I wouldn't know."
"Oh," her blush gets deeper. "Right. Sorry."
"It's okay," I add, meaning it. "My summer was good. You know me, I make my own vacations. I've got the whole ocean to play in."
"I wish we had time to go to the beach one more time before school starts – y'know… together?"
We both blush at that.
The last time we were at the beach was just after school let out. Remembering how things went that day was both exciting and just a bit embarrassing, even now.
We fall silent and I find myself staring at the counter wishing for the distraction of our order.
I startle when a crawling sensation runs down the outside of my ear. My gaze is quickly back on Mandy. She had pulled her hand back at my motion, but then she reaches back in and strokes her fingers down my ear once again.
"When did this start?"
I blush furiously, reaching for my ear and pretty much covering it as she pulls her hand back to her side of the table.
"Guess at the same time I got taller?" I answer. "I actually didn't noticed they were starting to get pointed until last week."
Her eyes widen a bit. She tries to ease my discomfort over it with, "It compliments your face?"
"Heh," I respond. "So long as they don't end up in the family tradition."
I can handle them being a bit more pointed than round, but I really don't want them longer than my skull with the elfish taper that my mom and dad sport.
Mandy nods, seeming unsure how to respond. "I do think they look good like that," she repeats, sounding sincere. "But are you growing your hair out to hide them or what?"
"No!" I smile. "I've just been too lazy to go get a haircut."
"Don't," she says immediately. "You look good like that."
"You're just saying that."
"Michael, when have I ever lied to you?"
That makes me pause, and thinking hard, I can't come up with a time when she has. "Okay, fair point. Thanks."
She graces me with one of those radiant smiles of hers and reaches across the table. Lacing her fingers through mine, she stretches the webbing a bit – still an odd sensation even when my hands have been webbed for just over a year. As my gaze settles onto it, I blush even more furiously.
I have to force myself not to pull my hand away, even when I'm aware that we're in public, I'm a gemue, and there might be backlash for me holding hands with a human.
Luckily no one seems to notice this.
"Order ninety-eight!" a worker shouts out the pickup window.
Startled, I pull out the receipt, glance at it, and realize the number matches the one on the slip.
I leap up, realizing our hands are still laced together. This time I smile at her, warmly, sincerely, before I release my grip on her fingers and go to get our food.
When I return, we eat in silence for a bit.
"You looking forward to school this year?" Mandy says in a break between bites.
Swallowing the mouthful of fries, I say, "Well I'm not dreading it like last year – that's not to say I'm excited to be returning."
"But no Sith routines this year, right?"
I tilt my head and give her an annoyed look. "The point is moot, Mandy. That was when they didn't know what I was or what changes had happened. It would be a bit silly for me to think it would even work this year."
"You sound like you considered it," she teases.
"Only just now."
I sigh, shake my head, and go back to my meal.
Fast food is called fast food not only because it is fixed quickly, but also in that it doesn't take all that long to eat it.
We spend another hour beyond the fifteen minutes needed to eat our food sharing stories of our summers, chatting, and just enjoying each other's company.
At summer's end and such a pleasant way to end it!
If only the school year goes as well, I'll be alright.
A/N: Okay so here we go... I'm using SEEDS of the original Michael story to completely rewrite this second Michael novel. (The first novel focused on the equal rights, bullying, and Michael's "coming out" as a gemue) Anger Management is going to focus on how Michael's shark DNA comes to affect his moods and his reactions to things.. I've got a lot planned for this story, but not a lot written. So this is going to be an "As I can Get it Done" kind of situation!
I'm posting it here for my readers to see in advance of the novel's release (whenever that may be), as well as to get feedback on the flow of the story and any issues that arise with grammar, spelling etc. So please don't think you're going to hurt my feelings if you point out a mistake! That's what this is here for! Thanks for any feedback you're willing to give! :)
*EDIT:* Well reading back through this I caught some really silly errors in my writing, so I'm uploading the revised version of the chapter.