The White Rose of Fiorazzurro
Chapter 15 (or, "The Water Readers")
It was raining extremely hard outside, which meant that it was a horrible day of business for the Surf Awesomeness Shop.
Jasmine leaned her head on her hands and watched the rain through the windows. If only she could change the clouds, like the energy benders of long ago, but she didn't have that kind of power. She could only deal with water as it exhibited itself on the Earth, none of this clouds and wind and rain business. "Hey, Will?"
Jasmine's older sister shuffled through the shop, running a hand through her short red hair. "Yeah, sis?"
"I think we should order out. Too rainy to go anywhere anyway."
"You always say that on rainy days. It's not in our budget to order out. If you want food, though, you can go get it. Why are you so aversive to being rained on?"
Jasmine had already told her sister several times that she knew she could dry off within fifteen seconds of coming inside, able to just tell the water to leave her body. It was the actual pelting of a rainstorm that she couldn't get over, but using an umbrella felt strange as well. "Can't I at least place an order on the phone?"
"That will still cost an extra five bits. Seriously, Jasmine, if you want the food, just go out and get it."
I hate you, Jasmine thought to herself as she grabbed the umbrella from where it was sitting by the desk. She walked straight past all of the surfboards and other surf gear, headed out to the boardwalk.
The northern shore of Fiorazzurro was prime real estate for surfing and activities in the water. The boardwalk stretched all the way from Lexanio to Hibiscus Park, the amusement park that had been built there in recent years. Several shops and stores sat along the boardwalk, high up enough to be sheltered from any flooding that may happen. On the north shore of Fiorazzurro, it faced Italy some several nautical kilometers away and was protected from huge waves.
Jasmine could tell that she was dressed differently from everybody else. Unlike most other inhabitants of the island, her dresses were a bit shorter and were made out of stretchy swimming fabric, ensuring she could take a dip at any time. The collar was not quite so high as the current fashion, enabling her to breathe but making her seem like a tramp when she was dry. Leggings had been invented for swimsuits like this so women could stay modest, but Jasmine wasn't in favor of them -- they felt too clingy for her and wouldn't let her legs move the way they needed to when she was catching a big wave.
She ran a hand through her own long red hair as she opened the umbrella. There was no need for people from the rest of Fiorazzurro to stare at her. She had found the place where she belonged, with her sister Will running the Surf Awesomeness Shop on the boardwalk, living day to day and hiding their secret from everybody who didn't know the magic words. She didn't know why the 'white rose' was the sign of being a magic user in Fiorazzurro -- if anything, it should have been along the blue flower the island was named after.
It was a five minute walk down the boardwalk to the noodle shop. Jasmine passed by several other shops, shops she knew were also populated by water readers like her and her sister. Not everybody was at the same level of efficiency, but those who lived on the North Shore had a distinct advantage: every Sunday night, when most of the island was at church services, the water readers would congregate in the local church basement and practice their art in secret. These practices were often led by Will, who was a master water reader and could see the messages in the waves quite clearly. if they were ever questioned about this -- and they had often been -- Will would explain there was a baptism being held. As long as somebody jumped into the water in time, there was no reason it couldn't pass as a traditional Christian ceremony. They just had to make sure somebody else new jumped in each time.
Jasmine and her water reader friends believed in God. The general consensus between them, however, was that they didn't understand why such an emphasis had been put on rules and regulations that had only served to expel them from society. They would speak on God's love for all people, and then they would practice reading the signs as the water spoke to them.
All nature would speak to you, if you listened close enough. Water readers had developed a close enough relationship with the sea where it would tell them secrets nobody else could listen. The sea was exclusive with who it shared information with; energy benders and other magic users could learn secrets from nature, but nobody could communicate with water the same way water readers had. Except for maybe faeries, and Jasmine hadn't heard of faeries in years.
She still remembered the way the police had cornered her and her sister the day Cendrillon had put out the verdict. She had passed as a non-magic user in the tests, being young enough. Will had needed to sign a waiver insisting she never use her magic again, and instead, she took a job as a preacher at the local church. Her services in the morning were often visited by government workers who caught up with her every week, listening to every word she spoke and checking for inconsistencies. It was a farce, but one that had worked so far. Their art was very much still alive, even underground as it was.
Unlike Will, who was fine with hiding, Jasmine didn't want to be quiet like this. She had worked hard to get her water reading skills up to par, and she was now as good as Will had been five years ago. The problem, of course, was that Will herself had gotten better, but Jasmine was proud of all of the progress she had made. Her parents would be so proud, if they knew what she and her sister were up to. They were still safe in Sydney, where magic was still legal -- for the time being. Every once in a while, she would get letters from her parents and her mother's parents, not speaking of magic (as letters coming into Will's house were most definitely checked before being delivered) but indicating that all was safe and well.
A stray wind picked up and pulled Jasmine's umbrella from her hands. She grabbed for it, jumping and pulling it back down to earth, but it was too late. She had already been soaked almost completely through. Sighing, she ran the rest o the way to the noodle shop. It was owned by Maria and Rosalita, two friends of hers who were also water readers, so she could dry off in their back room as long as there weren't police there.
But there were. Two police officers were sitting in the front area, slurping noodles, when Jasmine walked in. She tried not to curse and instead walked up to the counter. “I’d like to order two bowls of noodles to go, please,” she said.
“Well, don’t this look loverly.”
Jasmine jumped; turning around, she saw a man sitting in the booth with black skin and a cowboy hat on his head. He was relaxing, tipping his hat upward to see her. “Who’d we have here?”
She blushed. “If you’re interested, I’m not. I don’t go for men.”
“Who said I was going for ya?” He sat the hat upon his head. “My heart belongs to one person an’ one person only. Ain’t that right, Blue?”
“Affirmative, Sheriff,” another voice said, and Jasmine saw that there was a white girl with blonde hair sitting next to the strange man. Phew. If there was one thing she hated more than having to hide her water reading skills, it was having to keep from hitting all of her suitors. Men thought it was cool to hit on her all the time, and they had trouble listening to her insistence that, no, they wouldn’t get anywhere.
Thankfully, this man seemed to be already taken. So why was he bothering her?
“Miss, your noodles are ready.” Jasmine turned back to the counter, paid for her noodles, and took the cartons by the hand. Now she just had to get home before they cooled off.
She took her umbrella in her other hand and was about to exit when one of the police officers cornered her. “Miss, why won’t you answer the nice man? He was so thoughtful to speak to you.”
“Hey, I know you.” The other police officer got up. “You’re one of those people who stay late at church Sunday nights. They say there are seances going on there, devil worship.”
“There’s no such thing as devil worship,” Jasmine said. “There is only the worship of our God and King.”
“My thoughts exactly.” Jasmine turned to see the cowboy man had come up next to her. “So why don’t y’all just leave this girl alone?”
Neither police officer looked pleased. They turned toward the cowboy. “And who do you suppose you are?”
The cowboy grinned. He had been waiting to do this for a long time. “Somebody who deals justice. Let’s ride, Blue!”
Jasmine knew what had happened next — an explosion of poof chalk, a faerie trick that was used years ago when faeries had still been around. She covered her eyes, unused to the dusty substance. When she opened her eyes again, she was flying through the air outside the noodle shop. The boardwalk of North Fiorazzurro and the sea lay under her feet, and the woman who had been sitting by the cowboy was holding on to her.
“It’s okay if we land in the water, right?” she heard a voice say, and turned to see the cowboy flying through the air as she was.
She widened her eyes just as gravity took over and they landed into the sea with a huge splash. Jasmine let go of her umbrella, holding onto the noodles with one hand and putting her other hand out in front of her. Immediately, the water responded to her touch, softening the blow for the other two people who had been flying…falling…poof chalk?
“You are all so dead!” she screamed as she surfaced for air. She whipped around to the boardwalk and, thankfully, the police were nowhere to be seen. “I — I’m gonna need a new noodle order!”
“Oh, we can take care of that,” the cowboy said as he raised his head above the water. “That was some really impressive stuff with your water abilities! How did you get like that?”
Jasmine glared. “Who do you take me for? I’m not —“
“Relax. The white roses even bloom in the sea at this time of year.” Okay. Good. He was safe. “I just need for you to find my friend. She has a tendency to sink.”
Uh-oh — sink? Jasmine dove under the water and opened her eyes. Exposure to water had given her crystal clear vision unlike anything regular human eyes could replicate. The water swirled around her, and she made the movements with her hands to indicate what the water should do. The surface of the water flashed, giving her a mental image of the girl to find, and Jasmine confirmed for them to find her. The water molecules shifted, and soon, the blonde girl was flying through the water and up and out.
Jasmine signed for the water to bring them both to shore, under the boardwalk so they wouldn’t be spotted. Within seconds, all three of them were on the sand, her noodle box surprisingly still intact. She strengthened her legs and took off for under the boardwalk, the cowboy and his friend following.
They all sat under the boardwalk. “Ya gotta help,” the cowboy said, out of breath and waterlogged. “She can’t — she’s got too much water in her.”
Jasmine reached out her hand, anticipating that she would only be drying the blonde woman off. To her surprise, she felt all of the water in the woman’s body respond to her, flushing out in a matter of seconds onto the sandy ground below them. All that remained was the strong pull of magic, a core that was so ingrained in energy that Jasmine had never seen anything like it.
“What is this?” Jasmine turned to the cowboy. “She’s…she’s entirely magical!”
“That she is. Name’s Sheriff Collodi, and this is my noble android, Blue. I’ve been looking for ya, Jasmine Mare. Rumors have gone around ‘bout you and ya sister doin’ some water readin’ at church services.”
She almost denied it until she remembered he had used the magic words, and that he had an android powered by magical energy with him. “What about it?”
“Well, we’ve got a group of magic users gettin’ together to go against the Queen, an’ we need all the help we kin get. You an’ ya friends. Everybody you know who’s inta magic. The whole lot. Are ya in?”
Jasmine nodded immediately. “Oh, yeah, I’m in. I can’t say for my sister, but I know other water readers who will be able to help. You said we’re gonna go against the Queen?”
She opened up one of her noodle containers and drained the water from them before tasting one. They were still good. “If it gets those policemen off my case, then I’m all ears.”