Title: Rising Starfish Fandom: Wonderfalls Rating: PG Originally written: February 8, 2005 Summary: Jaye tries to help a young singer find her voice. Notes: I wrote this for a contest the week of the DVD release. I didn't win. * * * * * * * * * * The smiling plastic starfish started to sink down through the bottom ring, until another blast from below shoved it back up. It rose through the middle loop, but hit the edge of the smaller top ring. Several more blasts tried to push it through, but it just kept slamming into the rim. After a moment, the water calmed, and the starfish slowly sank past all the rings to the bottom of the tube. Jaye rolled her eyes and set the toy aside as the mouth-breather walked by. He glared at her but didn't say anything. She started to reach for it again once he was gone, then stopped as a pile of souvenirs rolled up onto the counter. Jaye's eyes scanned left and right, but no one was there. Finally, she leaned over the counter and looked down. A small, freckled face surrounded by wild red curls stared back up at her. "Can I help you?" Jaye asked. "I'd like to buy these," the girl said, her tone high and indignant. Jaye returned the tone. "Fine." She grabbed the first item and scanned the tag, then reached for another. As the pile started to shrink, she could see through the glass of the counter to the girl, who stood with her arms crossed and her lower lip jutting out. Jaye continued to watch her and rang up the purchases without paying attention. "Put me down! Put me down!" a voice shouted. Jaye looked at her hand and realized she'd started to ring up the toy she'd been playing with earlier. Inside, the tiny starfish was yelling, its smile replaced by panic. "That's not mine!" the girl yelled. Jaye set the toy back on the counter. "All right, I heard you the first time." She finished with the rest of the items and put them in a bag. "That'll be $48.53," she said, then added as condescendingly as she could, "Do you know how much that is, little girl?" "I," the child hissed through clenched teeth, "am ten. I'm just small for my age." She put a fifty-dollar bill on the counter. "And my change will be $1.47." Too surprised to say another word, Jaye completed the sale and watched the girl walk out of the store. She grabbed the toy and pressed the button on the base that sent another blast up through the water. As the starfish rose, it looked at her and blinked. "Find her voice." "What?" she gasped. "Find her voice," it repeated. "What's that supposed to mean?" The starfish just repeated its command. "Fine," Jaye said. She grabbed the toy and raced for the door. * * * * Jaye stood out on the quad by the fountain, searching the crowd for any sign of the girl. But it was no use; the kid was gone. "Find her voice," the starfish said. "But..." "Find her voice." Jaye saw a young black woman, probably in her late teens - though Jaye didn't feel comfortable with her agedar just at the moment - sitting on the edge of the fountain and watching the crowds. "Did you see her?" Jaye asked. "See who?" The teen's voice was soft, barely audible. "A girl, red hair, looks six but isn't?" "No, sorry." She went back to watching the crowds. "Find her voice." Realization dawned on Jaye. "Oh, find her voice." She sat down next to the younger woman. "Have you had any voice problems lately?" * * * * Jaye took another sip of her beer and looked back at the teen eating alone at a table on the other side of the Barrel. "And now I'm supposed to find her and help her find her voice, whatever that means." "Wow," Mahandra said. "You really can't tell a ten-year-old from a six-year-old?" Jaye ignored this. "She is soft-spoken. Maybe I need to get her to speak up." "Have you checked how old she is?" Mahandra asked. "For all you know, she could be like thirty." "I asked," Jaye said. "She's eighteen. What if she's a singer? Maybe I have to get her discovered." "What's that supposed to mean?" Mahandra demanded. "