With a discrete, light touch on Aya’s elbow, I steered her across the hallway and towards Owen and the other two mermaids.
Stepping in to stand in their midst, I gave the surprised girls a curt nod of acknowledgement, having to then fight the sudden and embarrassing urge to hide Aya behind me as they fixed her, and her overall appearance, with a questioning and curious gaze.
I didn’t need a sideways glance to know that the purple haired mermaid, now turned human, was starting to feel uncomfortable with all the attention. The air around her had become strained and tense, feelings of restlessness growing within her.
A second later, Denver had caught up with us, exchanging a few cheerful greetings with the girls, albeit devoting all of his thoughts to the red head.
He and Owen gave a brief summary of what had happened till then to the girls, after which the later, smirking at his chestnut haired friend, broke into a smirk and began to say something, but I interrupted him. I knew what he was going to say, and it could wait.
“We need to get Aya out of here,” I spoke in a low tone, letting a small dose of urgency seep in for good measure. At the question in everyone’s mind, I continued, “The humans here are starting to question about her appearance, specially her…”
I trailed off there, not finding the exact word I was looking for and deciding instead to point down at Aya’s feet, which barely poked out of loose hem of her baggy pants and were, at the moment, very much bare.
“Wow, how did I not see that…?” Denver voiced with an equal amount of surprise and amusement, reflecting everyone’s thoughts.
Honestly, I hadn’t noticed either. Some female student who had passed by me, on the other hand, had noticed it, her thoughts bringing my attention to the problem.
At Denver’s words, Aya wiggled her toes and scrunched up her nose at them, not surprised about her lack of footwear, I felt, but immediately understanding– after sparing a glance to the different array of shoes everyone else was sporting– why it wasn’t a good thing.
“We need to find a safe place to,” I paused as a student passed by too close to us for my comfort, “…discuss our current situation.” I finished in a whisper. “Is there any place like that?”
My gaze fell on Denver, who surprised me by breaking out into huge grin.
“I know just the place!”
After following Denver through empty hallways and paths where there was less chances of finding a teacher or any students, we found ourselves at the school swimming pool.
Well, to be more precise, we weren't exactly in it but, rather, behind it, separated from the pool area and the stands by the tall fence that surrounded them, a cluster of tall trees growing behind us.
Aya was the first to sit down at one of the old looking stone benches lined up beneath the trees, followed closely by Cindy, who plopped herself down right next to her, throwing her head back and closing her eyes in bliss as she enjoyed the salty breeze playing with her fiery mane.
Smiling gently at the girl's behaviour, Aya relaxed a bit more and rubbed her feet on the soft and moist grass, her smile growing as she did.
The rest of us stood on our feet, Marina moving to lean against a tree behind her friend, Owen facing the girls as he leaned against the fence, Denver right next to him, slipping his fingers through the gaps in the fence as he alternated between watching the pool's calm waters and sneaking longing glances at Cindy.
I stood beside Aya, my palm feeling the roughness of one of the trees' pale trunk.
It was a shame that plants were not sentient beings; if they were, I imagined they would have very calming and slow thoughts, just what I needed after the stress I had to endure earlier when walking down the bustling hallways.
The millions of thoughts, feelings, emotions, images and memories coming from each student had been almost too much for me to bear. Although the embarrassing thoughts going through Denver's mind whenever he looked at Cindy weren't much more tolerable, if I had to be honest.
"So, Aya, what were you doing in the Home Ec. classroom?"