"Well, first off, my name is Fern."
I cast a look over my shoulder, making sure the rocks were tall and wide enough to conceal us both, protecting us from any prying eyes on the shore.
"Like the land plant and color," I finished with an attempt at a smile, catching her gaze as she stared up at me from the water.
I wasn't much of a fan of resting on rocks out in the sun (that seemed to be a mermaid thing) although the warmth it provided was appreciated. Nonetheless, it was a way to make the mermaid feel comfortable; she was in her element, I wasn't - simple as that.
"I was born in the sea, right here in these waters. Living with my father and the rest of my pod, I learned about the land and land creatures when I was very small, but was only allowed to venture out into the human world when I turned fifteen, about a year ago." I stopped to take a breath and make sure she was still listening.
"What about your mother?"
"She died when I was little. I don't remember her very well..."
"Oh..." Surprise, sympathy and sadness weighted down on her heart, but, for some reason, no pity.
Only the truth would leave my mouth, I had decided, for I truly wanted this mermaid to trust me. She was the first mermaid close to or my age that I had talked to, so easily, like this. It was daunting and wonderful all at the same time.
"On land, I live with a guardian, my father's cousin. He, my guardian, is a merman born on land, who chose to stay a human permanently," I resumed. She seemed to perk up at the last part, and I couldn't blame her, but she made no interruptions. "He's this really annoying and child-like guy with too many pets and a house painted all white." A chuckle left me as I thought about the guy. "And he has a girlfriend, human, who doesn't know about our world."
"Girlfriend?" she questioned, furrowing her eyebrows.
Her face lit up with understanding, and she lowered her head once more so it rested on her arms over the rock, purple eyes and thoughts urging me to continue.
"I go to school on land, a place where we learn about many things that humans do." I paused, musing. "I spend most of my time there, on land I mean, but I return to the sea at least twice a week and... yeah, that's the short version of my life," I ended.
The mermaid nodded, and then, her bright eyes traveled to my hair, lingering there.
I blanched and cursed in my mind. Embarrassed all of a sudden, I felt blood rushing to my cheeks.
You see, from a mermaid/merman's perspective, there were two things wrong with my hair. Firstly, the color. To merfolk, the darker someone's hair was, the more attractive he or she was considered. So imagine what one might think of my silver - almost white - hair, which, by the way, was as common on sea as it was on land.
Secondly, the braids. There were only four, very specific reasons for merfolk to braid their hair: One, they were being courted or were courting (young couples would braid each others hair as a sign of mutual attraction); two, they were moments away from being bounded, or «married» (though, on that occasion the whole hair would be braided); three, they were engaged/promised to someone; and four, they had borne or had children (one braid for each child they had).
I was worried it wouldn't take much to figure out which one of those options fit my situation.
Please, let her not ask. Please, just let it be.
"So..." I scratched my cheek in awkwardness, not meeting her eyes. "What about you? What's your..." The words died in my mouth when, suddenly, the mermaid turned away from me, her hardened eyes set on the water beneath us.
Through her, I realized what it was: voices.
Confused and on guard, I slithered off the rock and dipped into the water.
The mermaid hesitated before following me down to the deeper part of the cove. With my hand, I signaled at her to swim closer to me and keep quiet as I hid beneath a large rock wall that rested on the sea bed. From there, I risked a glance.
The minute I saw them, that group of merfolk sitting together, a gasp sounded from behind me and an image of those same merfolk, plus us two, sitting in the midst of them, flashed through my eyes. I turned to look at her, wide purple eyes meeting my own.
Despite all the information that flooded my brain, confusion dominated. Then, to my utmost despair, the mermaid I had just met swam by me, heading towards those merfolk.
Torn, I pulled at fistfuls of silver hair, mumbling a few incoherent curses before shutting my eyes and bursting forwards to join the mermaid, slowing down to swim alongside her and into whatever awaited us.