Disclaimer: Anything you recognize, we [my sister and I] don't own. –Rae
Authors' Note: The timeline has been tweeked a little. Instead of being in the 90s, we fast-forwarded a decade. Why? I have no memory of the period that MMPR was on during the 90s, and because my high school years were only about 3 or 4 years ago. So there you have it! -Rae
The cold gray light of early morning seeped into the Angel Grove apartment through the slatted blinds over the balcony doors and the cold linoleum floor. From the single bedroom, the soothing sound of Navajo flutes started playing from an iHome station on one of the side tables. A tanned hand – nails clean and fingers long – slithered out from under the covers and groped for the sleep button. The flutes abruptly cut off, followed by an "Ooph!" Nascha Nakai ("Rae" to her friends and teachers) sat up in bed, hair a mess, and looked down at the adolescent Australian cattle dog wagging its tail like a kite.
"Hok'ee," she said to the dog and ruffled his ears, a yawn stretching her jaw. "It's Saturday. I wanted to sleep." She tiredly rubbed the back of her very tousled head and gave the pup an annoyed look. Oblivious, Hok'ee merely tipped his mottled grey-and-white head and panted expectantly. Rae sighed and kissed his nose. "Okay, Little Brother, okay. Let me put on something decent." She patted his rump, causing him to jump-ship to her roommate's bed. "Rhya, Hok'ee wants out. I'm taking him for a talk."
The half-Scottish, half-Navajo dark redheaded teen unburied her head from under the pillows and looked at Rae. Her normally bright green eyes were the dark grey of the loch she'd been raised next to before being sent to Angel Grove and her great-aunt. "Are ye going by the loch? Because I could go fer a dip and would dearly love a look-out since I cannae end up being locked in a lab."
Rae thought as she untangled herself from the bedclothes and stretched. "I don't see why not," the Navajo girl said. "It's only 8 though." She escaped the siren's call of her bed and opened her closet. The door squeaked along its track, and the mirror shuddered. "Would you prefer the lake or the ocean? I think the bus runs to the beach." A mischievous look twisted her face as she teased. "Or were you hoping to see Billy?"
Rhyannon "Rhya" Phillips slid out from under her blankets. "I havenae any idea what you mean. And I'd prefer the loch. The salt water dries out my 'skin', and I'll thank you to keep him and his friends away from my Cove if they show up. I dinnae think they'd understand." She dressed in black jeans and a black T-shirt and pulled on her black leather boots.
Rae shook her head, pulling on the top of her black bikini and tying the halter about her neck. "The truth behind the Loch Ness Monster," she said dramatically, "is a seventeen-year-old girl. I really can't express how much that amuses me. It's like the real identity of a Navajo witch being a coyote." She giggled. "I feel like I should send teasing pictures to the newspaper in Inverness just to send them into a tizzy." The pretty little Navajo tied her wrap skirt at her hip and slipped on her flip-flops.
Hok'ee barked and pranced anxiously by the door, running tiny circles around the mesh backpack that held their towels, goggles, sunscreen, and – more interesting to Hok'ee – a stash of tennis balls to play with. The dog whined at his humans; why couldn't they hurry up? He had to pee, and he really didn't want to use the fake grass thing in the corner by the balcony. It smelled funny, and the plastic grass felt weird to pee on anyway.
Rhya snorted. "Ye could try, but they willnae believe you. Not to mention a cousin works in the verreh office you'd send the photos to, and he would destroy them." She grabbed the mesh bag and snapped on Hok'ee's leash. "Hurry up. The mongrel has to go, and I fancy a swim."
Rae tied her hair up into a tail and smiled. "All done," she said innocently and grabbed another bag – this one thick canvas – from the foyer. "So off to the lake? Should I play with Hok'ee while you stretch your flippers?" Her sandals flop-flop-flopped as she headed down the front hall to the door of the apartment.
"Ha ha, funny. Ye can play with him if ye wish. Just do nae hit me with a ball this time. And remember to whistle when someone comes up. We were lucky I was in the shade and just stuck my head up last time." Rhya opened the door and kept pace with Hok'ee.
Slinging the canvas bag over her shoulder, Rae looked the door behind them while Hok'ee scrambled had, yelping frantically as the need to relieve himself grew. Damn humans! Why couldn't they hurry up? He ran to the door cordoning off the halls from the stairwell and whined pitifully, scratching at the institutional gray paint.
"Okay, Hok'ee," Rae said with a laugh. "Hold on. You're pulling your leash again." She knelt to check the connection, the metal plating flaking off. The whole thing was water-damaged due to the amount of swimming they did. The leather was dried and cracked, and once Rae got paid again, she needed to buy a nylon replacement.
Rhya opened the door and took off as Hok'ee darted down the outside stairs and out to the fire hydrant to empty his bladder.
Rae smiled, tugging the door securely shut behind her before running off in pursuit, slapping along with her sandals. At the base of the stairs, she slipped off the encumbering footwear and tore off down the street after her friend and dog. These lazy weekend days were what the young Navajo lived for: swimming, running along the beach, and in general screwing around before school and work took over on Monday.
Rhya impatiently bounced around on the balls of her feet as Hok'ee hiked his leg on a tree. "Hurry, ya mongrel. The water is callin' me, and I want to hit the loch before many people start invadin' it."
"It's only 8:15," Rae said, imitating Rhya's Scottish burr to perfection (it came with the territory of being her roommate for three years). "They willnae be invadin' until noon at least." She dropped the accents. "Besides, your cove isn't that public. Jump in from the rocks and you'll be fine."
Rhya shot her an annoyed look. "I like to make a full lap of the loch and dive to the deepest depths. People like to go out to the center. There shouldnae be many waves there, and you know how much I love ta cause them."
"Oh, I know. Then let's go. There won't be many people there this early. How long were you thinking? We have a math test tomorrow, and you know Sayers' Pre-Cal tests." Rae slipped her sandals back on before unclipping Hok'ee's leash. He wagged his tail happily as she stashed it into the canvas bag, never a fan of his tether. Angel Grove ran streetcars for tourists during late spring to early fall, shuttling them between their hotels and popular destinations (beaches, mall, Youth Center). Rae and Rhya had learned how to hop on the back of the car and ride until they were less than half a mile from the lake. Then they'd jump off and make their way to the emerald water off the shore and get a choice spot from the tourists to spread towels and umbrellas. It was this practice that kept Rae looking every bit of her Navajo heritage.
Rhya hopped onto the back of the passing streetcar along with Rae, careful to stay out of sight of the driver so they wouldn't have to pay the fifty cent fee for locals. Every penny counted when you were saving for college after all. "A couple of hours at the most. Just long enough to stretch my flippers. We can grab lunch afterward, my treat, and then see if Billy and his group are open to a study group."
"Sounds like a plan." Rae clung to the decorative gold rails that adorned the back of the car while Hok'ee barked and chased the vehicle down the road, his tail waving like a banner. Depending on the driver, local kids who caught rides of the back of the streetcars were often ignored. A few of the older driver would rant and rave, but the newer drivers had come to accept that the kids would hitch rides for a few blocks. As long as they didn't disturb the tourists.
Unfortunately, today's driver was Archie, who was the former kind of driver. Rae crouched low to avoid the notice of the grumpy driver.
Rhya peered around at Archie. He was the one person she wished she could scare on the lake, he was that grumpy. She grinned and waved at the little boy who caught her eye.
He waved back.
"This old man needs to retire," Rae groused as the stretcher rattled over car-made ruts along the in-set tracks. "Few more blocks of this. Just once, I'd like to ride inside and not on the baseboard."
"If ya would just let me lure him to the loch one early morning, I could shock him into leaving," Rhya offered.
"I said retire, not keel over from a heart attack."
"I'd do it on a misty morning."
Rhya huffed and crossed her arms. "Fine, I willnae do it. But it's not like we can complain about him. The city is not happy with us riding like we do. At least, the mayor isnae." She hopped off as the streetcar neared the road the led to her secret cove.
Rae stumbled a little as she stepped off the baseboard to follow her best friend. Hok'ee barked happily and – pausing to be leashed, to his distaste – scrambled after Rhya, scaring a flock of crows that roosted in the trees. Rae shook her head, amused, before quickening her steps to catch up.
"Did you get the Talent Showcase notice last week?" she asked, tucking her hands into the small of her back as she walked. "I'm not sure what I gotta sing or play for my violin."
"Aye, I got it. Whatever you decide to do, I'm sure you'll do wonderful."
"What are you planning? I think it's part of our final grade for performance classes." Rae removed her shoes as the gravel path through the woods gave way to shifting white sand. She stashed them in her canvas bag and stripped off her skirt without breaking stride. Needless to say, she had a lot of practice undressing while walking.
Rhya grinned at her, already down to her skivvies. "Well I tried to get out of it by writing a paper, but that idea wouldn't do. So I'm doing a shadow play of the legend of Loch Ness. Using all the proper terms."
"So do I get to film you on a misty morn at the lake?" Rae laughed and dropped her back into the warm, dry sand just beyond the range of high tide. "All right, toss me Hok'ee's Frisbee or tennis ball. I want a few laps too. I'm starting to slow down, and you know how I love out-swimming the whole swim team." She smirked faintly.
"Paper cut-outs, not me. Mum and Da would skin me alive in both forms if I was more than a grainy photo or 'driftwood' on film." She placed her folded clothes in their usual spot in a group of tall bushes, tossed Rae the tennis ball, and waded completely naked into the water. She dived under the water, and a few seconds later, a large reptilian head on a long neck broke the surface of the lake.
"Ya'd make some verreh nice handbags," Rae burred, completely unabashed by the fact that she was talking to the blinkin' Loch Ness Monster. She drew her arm back and threw the tennis ball into the lake. Hok'ee slammed on the brakes – spurting sand as he ran the beach – and plunged into the water to retrieve it.
The supposedly-extinct dinosaur shot her a glare, snorted, and dived beneath the water. After all, it was breakfast time, and there were some lovely fish hanging out near the bottom.
About an hour later, a sweating Rae caught movement down the beach and sucked her teeth. Damn, someone was coming down toward Rhya's cove. Looking for the now-drenched pooch, she found him swimming laps around a moving "log" that was really her friend. She placed two fingers into her mouth and whistled sharply. 'C'mon, Rhya,' she thought. 'Don't be so far under that you can't hear.'
Hok'ee barked and paddled back to shore toward his lady's whistle just as the trio came within earshot.
"Hey, Rae," said Tommy Oliver, waving to her. "What brings you out here so early?"