They really want to know, Aya, I tell myself over and over again, it'll be for the good of you. They want to help. It will help.
"Aya, please tell us why you were there, we need to know to help you," Fern says.
I fix my eyes onto a spot far away in the distance, and take a deep breath. "Well..." I feel myself coloring. "The thing is, I, um, wasn't trying to fall asleep on purpose. I was just waiting for you guys to come, but I felt exhausted, so..." It all spilled out in one big, messy heap.
I watch the others untangling my mess of words. Fern is the first one to understand what I was getting at.
"So you didn't know where you were?" he prodded.
"I did," I say quickly, not wanting them to think I was so stupid as to not know what a school was.
"Do you have anywhere to stay?" Cindy asked, her kind eyes making me feel more at ease. I glanced at Marina; I didn't want to make her jealous by speaking to Cindy. That's how friendship is, isn't it? At least, I think so, not having had many friends before.
"Not really, " I say, ashamed that I, a mermaid, was not capable enough to so much as find somewhere to stay for the night.
"And so you decided to fall asleep in the Home Economics room?" Marina said, her voice sharp and biting. I cringe. I see a slow smile start spreading across Denver's face before Owen slaps him. I smile a tight smile at Denver, and he starts blushing, before looking conveniently away at a spot just above Cindy's head.
"Sorry," I whisper apologetically.
"Marina!" I hear Cindy hiss, but I take no notice of it. It's like they are all fighting their own little battles with each other; Denver always seeing the funny side of things and Owen making him sensible again; Marina being slightly cold and Cindy making her come back round to her normal self.
All except for Fern, but he had said before, when we were in the cove, that he had made a promise to someone. A very mysterious promise that he would tell no one about. Maybe he was ready to reveal it now.
I look curiously at Fern, who pretends not to notice, but an odd look starts to spread over his face. I look away, not wanting to make him feel uncomfortable.
"So, what are we going to do about it?" Owen says. "She obviously needs somewhere to stay, that's for sure."
I smile gratefully at Owen, always the practical one.
"Well, I'll help out..." I hear a voice say. In fact, it's the most unexpected voice.