I sat in the cold, hard seat, staring at my surroundings. It seemed like I was in some type of strange room where everyone focused on a big, black board up the front of the room. There were square-ish things with hard seats arranged in rows behind the black board, and students occupying them.
"Now, class, listen up!" a woman up the front said. She was holding a piece of white rock shaped like a long, thin cylinder.
The noise dimmed slightly, but still stayed there. It seemed the woman talking up the front was satisfied, however, because she continued speaking.
"We are going to be doing our first project of the year. Isn't everyone excited?"
There were groans from all around. I looked at the groaners, confused. Why were they making such strange noises?
"We'll be split up into groups of six to do this project," she said, beaming.
There were looks exchanged throughout the room. I found Fern looking at me, and he nodded. What was that meant to mean? I mentally shrugged, and nodded back.
"Yes, you'll get to pick the groups yourselves," the woman said. "Now, be sensible and pick people whom you know won't distract you from your task. You may now assemble."
There was a horrible scraping sound as chairs were pushed back and the students started getting up. I followed their example, and got up myself. The other merfolk were together in a large huddle in the corner of the room, and I made my way over to them.
"Hi Aya," Cindy said, smiling kindly at me. "Getting ready to do some serious work?"
"I ... suppose so," I said, not really knowing how to reply.
"Great!" Cindy said. "Move out a little for Aya."
The huddle expanded, and I found there was a small slot for me to stand in between Cindy and Fern.
"Now that you've got your groups," the woman said from up the front, making everyone's head turn in her direction, "I want to tell you the subject of our project." She turned to the black board and raised her cylindrical rock. Her hand flew across it and produced white symbols. Most of the class groaned in unison, though I could swear that the other merfolk were the only ones who didn't. The woman smiled, and turned back to face the class.
"The subject of our project are mythological creatures."
My eyes widened in surprise, and I felt a smile come to my lips. I turned to see the other merfolk smiling, too.
"That means mermaids, doesn't it?" Denver asked. The woman nodded, and turned to the board. She listed down some things in white.
"Mermaids, unicorns, centaurs, elves, these are all mythological creatures," the woman said. "Now, discuss what you are going to do!"
Everyone turned inwards to face their group, and so did I. "So, what are we going to do?"
"Present the information in a pretty format, probably," Cindy said, thinking.
"Well, we're experts at our topic, anyway!" Denver said, grinning. "Aren't we, guys? I mean, we are actually the real thing!"
Marina looked around to see if anyone had heard. "Luckily no-one heard you, Denver, otherwise we'd be in big trouble. What if they figured it out? What then?"
"Okay, sorry!" Denver said, putting his hands up in a type of surrendering position.
"You should be," Marina said, glaring daggers at him. Owen rolled his eyes, but said nothing.
"Peace and quiet at last," Denver said, making everyone else laugh a little.
Marina picked up her little black shiny rectangle and showed me something displayed on its screen.
"Can you see it?" Marina asked, smiling.
"Yes," I said, but inside, I was screaming; I don't think I can read very well yet!
"Come on, then, let's go!" Marina said, getting up off the bed and striding to the door. I hurried to keep up, wondering where we were going but not game enough to ask, and show that I didn't actually know how to read.
"Where are you going, girls?" Marina's mother said from the kitchen. I hoped Marina's mother didn't look to me for an answer, and the gods must have been smiling kindly upon me that day, for she didn't. Instead, she looked at Marina. "You're my daughter, and I expect you to answer me, not your guest."
"Just to the Cove to discuss our project," Marina called from the door. Wait, from the door? I realised I was still facing Marina's mother, and quickly hurried to keep up with Marina.
"You go so quickly!" I panted.
"I must when you've got your best friend waiting for you at a cove," Marina answered, a twinkle in her eye. This Marina was so different from the one who had argued with Denver during school. I only hoped she'd stay like this.
"Hey guys!" Marina called, waving at the figures clustered in the distance. She started jogging to get to them faster, and I had to jog too. How active can a person get?
The indistinct shapes materialised into people that I knew. Upon seeing Denver, Marina stopped jogging and the smile fell off her face. I sighed. Why did her happiness have to end so quickly?
Then I saw Fern, standing at the edge of the group with his hair blowing around his face, and all other thoughts fell out of my mind as quickly as Marina's smile fell off her face. He looked so ... so serene, so beautiful, so ... I don't know what he looked like, really, but it made something stir deep inside me. It made me forget that I was meant to be angry at him. He looked up and saw me looking at him. He smiled slightly at me, a little tweaking of his mouth that made his face shine. I swallowed and felt my face grow hot. I tried to wrench my gaze off his face, and only barely succeeded.
When we reached the rest of the group, they sat down on the sand, making a circle. There were only two spots left, though: one in between Cindy and Owen, and one in between Denver and Fern. I knew that Marina would want to sit next to her best friend, so I moved over to the spot beside Fern. I felt something pulling me there that made me blush when I sat down, so close to him, but I convinced myself it was because I knew him the best and that was why I wanted to sit next to him.
"So," Cindy said, when everyone had gotten comfortable, "how's the project? Anyone got any ideas?"
There was silence for a while, then Denver pointed to the sea. "Is that a dolphin?"
Everyone's head turned, and it was true; there was indeed a little shape jumping up and down, in and out of the waves in the distance. Before anyone could say anything, Denver had jumped up, and was running towards the sea.
"What are you doing?" Owen asked, rising. "Don't tell me you're..."
Denver turned back and smiled at him, then did a backflip into the water. Owen sighed, covering his face with his hands, though I could tell he was fighting the urge to grin. When he had taken his hands off his eyes, though, there were only two people remaining with him. Three shapes danced in the sparkling water before him.
With a loud laugh, he himself ran into the water, transforming into a sleek shape that could cut through the water with ease.
I turned to look at Fern. "They have all gone into the water," I whispered. Fern stared into my eyes for a while, making me look down. He was going to say that we shouldn't join them and should continue on the project, wasn't he? I felt something under my chin, raising it up. My skin burned at his touch, and I looked at him under my eyelashes. Don't suggest that we stay and work on our project, please don't, I thought. I watched him, anticipating his next move. Then his face broke into a smile.
"Then what are we waiting for?"
If they had looked behind them, they would have seen a silhouette of a girl, whose face flickered with recognition when Fern stepped into the light.