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Ultramarine

Ultramarine

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As the waters of the Hudson River whisper forgotten tales, Gina's quest for identity propels her into a world of danger, mystery, and a love that transcends time.

"I can’t go on like this much longer. I’ll go insane. I will have to find the courage to ask for help. Because I know what I have to do, and I can’t do it alone."

Gina needs fresh water to wash away the salt-flush amnesia that stole her memories, but the Faysea has produced only nightmares, leaving her with the mere shadow of the man from her past. 

An unexpected reunion with Seth, the man whose life she once saved, presents a bitter ultimatum. Desperate to unlock the memories from that pivotal night, Gina is torn between her own needs and the potential harm to the triplets who came to her rescue.

With no alternative in sight, Gina, alongside two of the Jackson Three, embarks on a journey to the bustling streets of New York City. The waters of the Hudson River hold the key to unlocking a cascade of memories—some light and joyous, others dark and disconcerting. Yet, amidst the revelations, a pressing question emerges: has her fiancé patiently awaited her return for three long years, or has he forged a new path without her?

A.L. Knorr weaves a dual narrative, unraveling Gina's enigmatic past while she strives to reclaim her present and, perhaps, construct a future. Building upon the mermaid mythology introduced in Born of Water, Mermaid’s Return, and The Siren’s Curse, the story hurtles towards an unforeseen climax, promising a final twist that will leave readers breathless.

Read Chapter One

“Where is Eadie?” Warren asks as he scrubs burned bits of meat and layers of soot from the barbecue grill. “She’s supposed to bring charcoal.”

“She’s got delayed but she’s on her way now, Dad,” says Larimar as she backs out of the kitchen carrying a covered bowl of salad. “She sent me a text.”

I’m wrestling with a string of fairy lights that have become inexplicably tangled while in storage. This is the final section left to hang. The Jackson’s back yard is a festive cocoon of colorful paper flags and twinkly white lights strewn across every shrub and festooning every tree. A vase of gerbera daisies sits in the middle of the picnic table. Overhead, silvery plastic letters spells out: Happy Graduation!

Larimar sets the food on the table as Lazuli emerges from the house carrying a full-size drinks cooler loaded to the brim with ice and drinks. She sets it down on the grass beside the table like it weighs no more than an empty paper bag.

“You’d better not let Seth see you do something like that, Laz.” Larimar sounds like a mother hen. “It’s not believable that a girl your size could carry that by herself.”

Lazuli makes a show of looking around. “I don’t see him, do you? But thanks for pointing that out, Captain Obvious.”

A car pulls up in the back alley. The garage trundles its way up then clanks its way down. Eadie enters the back yard through the garage’s side door, carrying a bag of charcoal under one arm. As she delivers the coal to her dad, her serious expression lands on me.

“Gina, can I talk to you for a minute?” 

“One second, Eadie,” I say, holding up the tangle. “I’m wrestling with this—”

“We don’t need any more lights. What you’ve done looks fantastic. I need to talk to you before Seth arrives. It’s important.”

I set down the tangle as Eadie grabs me by the hand and pulls me toward the house. Lazuli follows.

“You weren’t invited, Laz,” calls Larimar from the picnic table, where she is setting out place mats and utensils.

“She can come,” replies Eadie. “And so can you, Lare. In fact, I insist. Siren conference. Stat.”

Larimar drops the wooden salad tongs and scampers after us. Warren sighs as he rips the top off the bag of coal.

The second we all reach the kitchen island, Eadie speaks in a rush. “There’s some guy in town with a photograph of you. He met with a cop at Henrietta’s and I caught a little of their conversation when I served them. He had your picture, Gina. An old black and white, but it was you. I have zero doubt.”

I feel the blood drain from my face.

Lazuli asks: “What did he look like?”

Eadie fishes her phone out of her pocket. “I managed to get a photograph as he was leaving, but it’s not great.”

She wakes up the screen and opens the photo before turning it to face me.

I study the image, hoping for bells of recognition to peal through my mind. Eadie had taken the photo through Henrietta’s front window, just before the man disappeared behind the wall. He wears a baseball cap and carries a briefcase under one arm. He was looking down, his long narrow neck bent, which creates a double chin that mars his profile.

“Really, Eadie?” Lazuli grunts with dissatisfaction as she looks over my shoulder. “You couldn’t do any better than this?”

“You try taking a photograph in the middle of a work shift in a way that isn’t obvious and creepy,” Eadie replies, annoyed. “I’m no detective, but I overheard him tell the cop that he’s in town looking into the fingerprints on the stolen Malibu fiasco. That’s what he called it: a ‘fiasco’.”

Lazuli frowns. “In town from where?”

Eadie shrugs. “I’d say he had a New York accent, but I couldn’t hear him that well over the noise in the cafe.”

“Does he look familiar, Gina?” Larimar asks, looking from the photo to me and back again.

“Even if she has met him”—adds Lazuli with an eye roll, more honest than sensitive, as always—“she won’t remember it. Siren amnesia, remember? Seems contagious lately.”

“I think he’s a fortune hunter,” says Eadie.

I squint at her. “Why would you think that?”

“Because I overheard him say something about a”—she makes air quotes—“large sum of money.”

“Maybe he’s a probate researcher,” suggests Larimar.

We look at her, expressions blank.

“They’re also called heir hunters,” she explains. “Maybe you’re from a rich family and stand to inherit this ‘large sum of money’. Maybe we should try to find him. Talk to him. You wouldn’t have to do it, we could do it for you.”

“Yeah… or maybe there’s a reward out for her capture,” injects Lazuli, “and tipping him off that we know he’s looking for her will bring a bunch of armed Feds straight to our door.”

Larimar shakes her head slowly at Lazuli. “Such an imagination.”

“What?” Lazuli shrugs unapologetically. “She can’t remember any of her former lives. She might have committed some crime she can’t recall. Her fingerprints were found on a stolen boat. Maybe it’s not the best idea to approach this guy? Just saying. A little paranoia wouldn’t go amiss here.”

My head is spinning, and the image of the man who had my photograph brings nothing back to me. No hint of familiarity, nothing but a hollow feeling. “I’ve never seen him before, but Laz is right. I could have met him and just don’t know it.”

“It could also be whoever gave you that ring,” says Larimar. “Maybe he offered the cop some money to help him find you.”

“With a photo from the forties?” Eadie shakes her head. “Not likely.”

“And surely if it was her fiancé, seeing his photograph, even a poor one taken from the back, would trigger something,” says Lazuli.

“Does he bring up any emotions, Gina?” Eadie asks. “Anything at all?”

I put a hand over the ring that hangs from a chain around my neck, one that Eadie loaned me, since it keeps slipping off my finger. I study the profile again, the slant of the shoulders, the close-cropped hair, the shape of the head under the ball cap he’s wearing. The glasses, the reedy neck… but all I feel is dread. There is something else wrong about him too, but it takes me a minute to define it.

“He’s too skinny.” I look up in triumph. “Whoever gave me the ring was big, thick chested. This guy is a spindle. He’s just… wrong.”

“Look at you.” Eadie throws an arm around my shoulders. “Did you just remember something?”

I smile. “I guess I did.”

“Great, through the process of elimination, we now know that your fiancé was thick and barrel chested,” says Lazuli sardonically. “That really narrows things down.”

“Could this guy be the one from your nightmares?” Larimar asks, drumming her fingernails against the island’s countertop. I’ve noticed she does this when she’s thinking, but it’s usually against the side of a coffee cup.

“I don’t see any clear faces in my nightmares,” I remind her. “I just know there’s someone behind me, watching me. I can feel them, and they don’t feel nice.”

Lazuli lays one palm flat overtop of Larimar’s noisy fingers. “This guy, if he’s a detective of some kind—”

“He didn’t look like a detective.” But Eadie looks doubtful and I can read the expression on her face; what exactly is a detective meant to look like?

“He has access to fingerprint records, right?” Lazuli makes an ‘isn’t it obvious?’ gesture. “He met with a cop and he’s here because of Gina’s fingerprints on the Malibu. All the evidence so far points to law enforcement.”

“Did you recognize the cop?” I ask Eadie.

She shakes her head.

“We should err on the side of caution.” Lazuli leans forward. “Avoid him until we know more.”

“There could be another explanation we haven’t thought of,” Larimar says.

“Either way, the answers are in New York City and we need to get them before he does. So, road trip?” Lazuli gives me a dazzling smile.

The idea of going to New York City has been brewing in my mind for a while, but I’m not keen to go on my own—strike that, I’m not capable of going on my own. I don’t have a driver’s license, so one of the triplets would have to drive the Jackson’s car and we’d be going on their dime—since I don’t have a penny to my name, not even enough to buy a bus ticket. The Jackson family has already given me so much, it’s difficult to even consider asking for more.

“I can’t just go to New York City,” protests Eadie. “It’s summer. I’m scheduled to work at Henrietta’s full time. I can’t let them down.”

“Plus, you wouldn’t want to miss your regular make out sessions,” adds Lazuli in all seriousness. When Larimar hits her across the shoulder she looks mock-hurt. “What? They’ve barely come up for air since prom. I’m just stating that it would interrupt her regular patterns to take off on a road trip.”

“You don’t have to go, Eadie,” Larimar tells her sister, then looks at me. “Laz and I will take you, Gina. We work for Dad so it’s not like we have to make a special request or anything. He’ll understand that we need to help you figure out your life, get your memories back.”

“That’s amazing. Thank you!” My heart feels like it’s going to spill over with affection and gratitude. The kindness this family has shown me has been humbling. Even if it turns out I have a home in New York, I’d sell it and move here just to make sure I have the Jacksons in my life. I can’t picture a future without them in it.

“If I’m from New York City,” I say, “then I must have spent a significant amount of time in the Hudson and East rivers. The Faysea isn’t doing anything to clear up my memories, but swimming in those waters should. Right?” 

I hold my breath, hoping they agree with this rationale.

“Exactly,” says Lazuli, and I can see that the idea of a road trip has her almost beside herself with excitement. “Great point.”

“Dad has contacts in New York,” says Larimar. “He should be able to arrange a cheap place for us to stay, maybe the complex near the harbor that he’s used. He’s friends with the manager.”

“But… we have siren voices,” says Lazuli with a pout. “We don’t need to stay in some dingy harbor portable that smells like rotting fish and unwashed socks. We can glamour ourselves a suite at the Four Seasons.”

I’m not above this—after all it’s what I would do if I was on my own—but Eadie and Larimar give Lazuli looks of exasperation, so I keep my mouth shut.

“You can’t do that, Laz,” says Eadie. “Dad would have a fit.”

Lazuli sighs, disappointed. “It was worth a shot.”

A knock on the front door ends the conversation.

“Seth!” Eadie brightens, then skips to answer it, disappearing from view.

Lazuli makes a kissy-face as sounds of Eadie and Seth performing their customary greeting drift from the front hall.

A young man’s voice says: “I brought the taco salad, but it might have gotten a little soggy on the way over. I swear, I hit every red light in Brightrock when I get on the road.”

Something about his voice gives me pause. The photograph of the stranger rang no bells, but that voice in the hall…

“That’s alright, I’m sure it’ll be delicious,” says Eadie. “You remember we have a family friend staying with us?”

Eadie appears through the dining room arch, coming toward the kitchen. He follows her, then she moves out of the way so her boyfriend and I can see each other. Looking up into the handsome square face and big dark eyes of the man-child who has been Eadie’s obsession since Junior year, I give him a friendly smile.

“Seth, meet—”

“Gina,” whispers Seth, and his eyes grow huge.

My heart flips at the recognition in his expression. Frantically, I search my empty memory bank, trying to recall him and how we could possibly know each other. The triplets watch us like three owls, heads turning, their eyes big.

“You know her?” Eadie gasps.

Seth doesn’t shake my outstretched hand, rather he takes it like he wants to ensure I’m made of flesh and bone. His gaze combs my face then my frame, from the top of my auburn head to the cheap plastic flip-flops on my feet, then back up again.

“Gina,” he says again, louder this time. “It’s really you! You’ve lost weight, but it’s you. I’d know you anywhere.” His shock begins to transform into a smile, but then it falters when he sees that I’m struggling. “You… don’t remember me?”

Lazuli injects, calm as a winter night. “She’s got amnesia, Seth.”

His eyes get even bigger. They make the circuit around the triplet’s faces and back to mine. “Amnesia? For real?”

“How do you know me, Seth?” I manage, feeling winded.

“The more pressing question,” says Seth, never taking his eyes from mine, “is how did the Jackson girls come to know you. You’re dead… you’re supposed to be dead.”

Silence fills the kitchen for several long moments.

“How did you survive the wreck?” Seth moves closer, squeezing my hand. “You weren’t on any of the rescue vessels. I looked for you, I was frantic. They sent a team of divers to search the Cobalt Girl right after it went down, but they couldn’t find you either. All they found was a pair of shoes, the pair you were wearing when we met in the ship’s library. The diver gave them to me; I still have them. Don’t you…?” His brows crash together as he studies my face. “You really don’t remember, do you?”

I shake my head, searching Seth’s features like they are the secret to unlocking the rest of the treasure of my memories. Someone who knew me before the salt-flush set in.

“Your voice is familiar,” I tell him, “but that’s it.”

“There’s holes in my memories too,” he says, sympathetically. “But I know why they’re there. I helped a little kid, then I was sucked under and blacked out. When I came to, I was being pulled from the water by a man from the rescue vessel with a head injury.” He puts a hand to the back of his head. “I still have the scars. See?”

He bends so we can see, and yes, there’s a crescent moon shaped scar just behind the crown of his head, buried in his curls.

“You say we met in the ship’s library?” I prompt.

He nods. “That’s where we were when the ship struck the reef. I panicked, but you… you were so calm. You were amazing. You calmed me down, too. But it was so chaotic and foggy we lost one another on the way to the muster station. I paused because I bashed my leg on something, and you just disappeared into the fog, but I thought for sure you’d made it to the station.” Seth stops talking abruptly. He does another sweep of the triplets, returning to me again. “This doesn’t make sense. What are you doing here? How did you get here?”

“Seth,” says Eadie, wringing her hands and looking increasingly distressed. “We… helped her… we…”

Eadie’s siren strings creep into her voice and fear shoots through me like a lance. “Wait! Eadie, don’t!”

“Don’t what?” Seth says. “What’s going on here?”

“Can you give us a minute?” I put a hand on his forearm. “We just need a private moment. Can you give us that?”

Seth looks hurt and confused, but nods. “Yeah. Of course.”

“We won’t make you wait long.”

Eadie, Larimar and Lazuli follow in silence—somber, worried—as I head to the spare bedroom. I turn to them after shutting the door tight.

“He doesn’t know,” says Eadie in a rush. “He never saw your tail. He can’t remember. You must have glamoured him. I’ll just tell him—”

“We cannot tamper with his memories, Eadie,” I say. I look at Larimar and Lazuli so they know I mean it includes them. “No one uses siren magic on him. Got it?”

The impact of my words shows on their faces. They exchange looks of suppressed panic, and it’s remarkable how alike they are. 

“What do we tell him then?” Larimar whispers, tugging her sleeves over her hands, so only her fingers poke out, though the house is warm.

Lazuli grips her elbows with her palms. “We have no reasonable explanation for how you can be here.”

Eadie opens her mouth but Lazuli goes on: “You can’t have just washed up on shore. This isn’t some halfwit we’re talking about here. It’s Seth. He’ll know we’re lying.”

Eadie snaps her mouth closed and her shoulders drop.

“Even if it was plausible that you washed up on shore, we have no explanation for why we haven’t taken you to the authorities after all this time,” says Larimar.

Eadie is visibly trembling. “He can’t know, though. I’m not ready for that.”

“I don’t think you have a choice, Eadie,” Lazuli says simply.

I squeeze Eadie’s shoulder. “She’s right. I’m sorry.”

There is fear in her eyes as she whispers, “But what if he hates me?”

“He won’t hate you, Eadie,” Larimar says, though she sounds unconvincing.

At the same time, Lazuli says, “That’s a risk you’ll have to take.”

Eadie’s fingers twist and twist. “Why, though?”

“Seth has information that I need. I don’t remember anything about that night, but he does. If we tamper with his memories, the truth—my truth—will be lost forever.”

I watch it sink in. Eadie nods.

“I need Seth’s memory to be as intact as possible, which means if I glamoured him—which sounds pretty likely—then I need to remove that glamour.”

Larimar bites her lip. “He’s not just going to learn what his girlfriend is, but what all of us are, and Jana, too. We’re in this together.”

From downstairs we hear Warren yell, “Girls? I thought we were supposed to be having a barbecue?”

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