“Don’t do that,” a stern voice had Charlotte jerking her hand backwards, away from the tepid water.
Her stepmother’s pinched face was frowning at her from the other end of the small dock. Her father had married her only a few months ago, and already Charlotte wanted her gone. It would probably never happen, though. Her father was enamoured. Always Mia this, Mia that.
When Charlotte had first heard her father’s girlfriend’s name, she had imagined someone young and inspiring. Someone who would want to spend time with her, giggling over romantic movies and Abercrombie models.
She had certainly not thought Mia would be like this. Strict, distant, and so… serious. Charlotte scowled and glanced back at the water, marveling at the contrasting colours.
The ocean, normally such a clear, brilliant blue, held swirls of gritty red that stretched like pointed, grasping fingers. She couldn’t help but reach back out to meet it.
She gasped as her wrist was caught and she was yanked backwards, falling painfully onto her backside. The worn planks offered no cushioning.
“I’m not a child,” she snapped, wrenching her wrist away.
Mia’s face was dark like a storm. “Even children have enough sense to listen.”
Charlotte pushed herself to her feet, unsteady as the waves rocked the dock. “I don’t have to listen to you,” she sneered. “You’re not my mother.”
Lips pursed, Mia straightened. “I will never be your Mother,” she replied stiffly.
Though Charlotte told herself that the words were what she wanted to hear, she could not help the pain that shuttered her face.
“She is someone I can never replace,” Mia continued. “But I am here now, whether you like it or not. I am here, and I expect you to be, as well.”
Charlotte stared, brows furrowed, feeling no guilt as she read the lines and the marks and the depths of Mia’s face. Then her eyes stuttered to the side, to the red creeping ever nearer.
“There is a reason it is the colour of life drained.” As Mia spoke, a fish floated past, belly up.
Charlotte could not look away.
“Lunch is ready. Your father is waiting.” Her footsteps drew away, and like a child, Charlotte followed.