“We’re going to the cove.”
“Wait, Alex!” I shouted at her retreating back, leaving the surfing board bobbing in the waves behind me to run towards the stubborn blonde.
Glancing back at me, she grinned and picked up her speed, using her strong legs to increase the gap between us.
Knowing I couldn’t catch her in the state of fatigue I was, having spent the last hour trying and failing miserably to get the hang of that pointless activity humans call surfing, my desperation grew.
I followed her up to the cove, ignoring the stinging pain that shot up one of my legs when I slipped on one of the moss-covered rocks, calling her name in between gasps and yelling anything I could think of to make her halt.
They were all there, I knew it. If Alex found them, if she so much as got a glimpse of them and what they were, then it would all be over. Who knows what danger we could all get into, and it would be my fault entirely.
How many people would I be letting down? What would Aya think?
When I finally stepped into the cove, Alex was already in the water. My heart clenched in trepidation when her mop of unruly blonde locks disappeared under the dark blue, right at the spot where the other merfolk probably were, waiting for me to make an appearance.
The almost animalistic growl that slipped through my clenched teeth would’ve have surprised me if it weren’t for the feelings of fear and frustration clouding my thoughts. I stood there, fingers pressing against my eyelids and teeth sinking into the inside of my cheek, feeling the wet and hard pebbles under my feet, the salty breeze whipping locks of hair in front of my face.
I’m not sure of the reasoning behind it, or if there was any at all, but I chose to wait. I waited to feel the emotions or feelings of shock and panic that would flood my mind when Alex set her sights on the five merfolk gathered on the seabed.
What came, however, was only a strange sense of disappointment. Figuring it belonged to Alex, I let my hands drop to my sides and looked up just in time to see her long figure coming out of the water.
“The water here is horrible!” she sighed with a dejected face, twisting her hair to dry it up. “I would’ve been better off and seen more in antarctic waters.” She stopped and flopped down on one of the bigger rocks resting on the shore. “I’m really disappointed in you, Fern. There was nothing in there!”
A sigh of relief almost left my mouth, but I managed to hold it in, content in just letting the tension roll of my body. She was telling the truth, she really didn’t see anything. The other merfolk must’ve have taken cover somewhere.
“What was that secrecy all about, I wonder...” Alex had turned her head to me, holding my gaze as she tapped one long finger against her chin. “Could it be that this was just some elaborate plan of yours to get back at me for pushing you into the water?” she questioned with a devious smile.
Breathing in, I let a matching smile form on my lips as I slowly approached her, an idea forming in my mind. “Perhaps...” I answered jokingly.
Enjoying my tone, Alex widened her grin and let out chuckle. “I like that. Guess you’re not so proper after all.”
It was a bad idea, a terrible mistake, something I promised myself, and more importantly, to Kai, that I would never do under normal circumstances, something reserved only for emergencies. But, at that moment, I thought that the situation called for it.
There was the risk of Alex, a human, finding out about us. A risk I couldn’t take.
Alex’s sea green eyes looked up at mine, her curiosity and nervousness clear even if she didn’t show it, when I stopped just inches from her.
“What are you doing, Fern?” she asked, still smiling even as I leaned forward, invading her personal space. When my forehead touched hers, I had to suppress a wince at the stream of thoughts and emotions that flowed into my head, mingling with my own.
“I’m sorry, Alex, but this is for your own good,” I whispered, closing my eyes.
And there it was: right at the edges of that horrible and seemingly endless abyss that I was starting to realize was a defense mechanism of sorts, were the strings of thoughts I was looking for; I snatched them and pulled them out of the dark and into the light of her consciousness as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Before I could process how that happened, I was sitting on the sand, Alex on her feet above me.
“I’m sorry, Fern,” she said while checking her watch, worry lines creasing her forehead. “I have to go. I have to take Kara somewhere and then go to a club meeting.” I watched her wide eyed as she dropped her arm, frowning slightly in uncharacteristic confusion. “I was planning on not going today but ... somehow, I feel like I shouldn’t skip it.”
She shock her head, as if trying to physically get rid of her uncertainty, eyes focusing once more on me. “I’ll be going then. We’ll see each other tomorrow at school, okay? Don’t think you’re getting rid of me and Kara so easily. I still think you’re hiding something from me and I’m going to find out what it is. Auf Wiedersehen!”
With one last grin in my direction, she turned around and ran down the cove, soon disappearing behind the wall of rocks.
It was only when I heard Alex yelling for Kara, telling her that they had to go, and the little girl’s wails of protest dying down to silence, that I risked moving, letting out a breath that I didn’t know I had been holding.
You’re not going to remember this incident tomorrow, Alex.
I felt ill, like I was going to throw up for what would be the second time that day, something I desperately wanted to avoid.
With trembling, unsteady movements, I got up on my feet and faced the cove’s calm waters.
My head was spinning, heart hammering in my chest, hands clammy, throat dry and vision blurry, and yet I moved on, pushing forward until I was waist deep in the water.
“You’re a disgrace to the Fischer family!”
“No, please, dad, don’t hurt him!”
“Get out of my way, Alexandra. You’re both disgraces. Do you know how embarrassing it is, to have a daughter who acts like a boy! And a weakling son who dresses up as a girl!”
“Dad, he was just playing with Kara and me-”
“No, brother! Brother!”
I wasn’t aware of it, when I transformed. Water passed through my gills like a breath of fresh air, clearing my mind even if just a fraction of it, but I was still seeing flashes of memories even as I became more and more aware of the others presence the deeper I swam.
“Fern, you shouldn’t use this on anyone but me, alright? Meddling with another person’s memories and subconscious is dangerous. You never know how someone’s mind is going to affect yours. You understand?”
“It’s about time! You have some explaining to do.”
“Fern ... are you okay?”