“You insult yourself all the time.” He slid his hands up my forearms to my elbows and positioned himself on his knees before me. “Don’t you understand how extraordinary you are?”
“You’re the one who can turn into a fish.” My voice was scratchy, and I could hardly hear it over the sound of my own heartbeat. “That’s pretty extraordinary, if you ask me.”
“Only half fish,” he corrected me with a smirk. “But look at you. On top of being one of the most uniquely beautiful humans I’ve ever laid eyes on, you’re smart. And ingenious. And considerate.” I tried to look away. The moment was getting a little too intense for me. But he followed me, moving his face so I was forced to hold his eye contact. “You survived an accident that crushed part of your spine. And now you push yourself around despite the fact that part of your body no longer works. You’re amazing.”
He closed his mouth, but his voice sounded inside of my mind.
It was the strangest of feelings, having his words reverberate inside my skull as though we stood inside of a deep cave. It reminded me of when my family went to ride bikes on the Hiawatha Trail in Montana the summer before my accident. We’d ridden through a pitch-black tunnel two miles long. The only way of knowing where my parents were was by the way their voice echoed behind me. That’s what his telepathy sounded like.
We don’t survive accidents like yours. We can recover rapidly from injuries if we’re under the water, but if we’re immobile on land, we start to shift and eventually die.
I shook my head. “I don’t understand. What do you mean?”
We take on human form, but if we can’t get to the water fast enough, we suffocate. That’s why you’re so incredible. You were irrevocably injured, and yet you still get up every day, move around, and attend school. It’s inspiring.
“Why did you come to the surface?” I held my breath as I felt him tracing lines up and down the outsides of my upper arm with his thumbs. “Why did you come to my school that day?”
His Adam’s apple bobbed as he gulped. There are certain expectations I am required to meet.
I frowned at him. “What sort of expectations?”