The bower was a gift from my father, Vati, to Nai when I was born. It has emerald and chartreuse ivy that’s entangled in the branches of four weeping willow trees, with silvery leaves that hang down as nature’s curtains. The bower always smells amazing, thanks to the orchids, roses, and lilies that bloom year-round.
I tucked a few supple willow branches behind a wooden hook to allow more sunlight in the bower, and sit in the ivy and orchid swing. As my laptop turns on, the soft hum fills the quiet air, and the enchanted flowers peer around my shoulders to see the humming machine that I’ve brought with me.
After the laptop has fully turned on and is done loading, I clicked on the internet and type in the address for my favorite store, Lizard Thicket. The website’s just finished loading when I hear Vati calling me from the back porch.
“Welcome home, Vati,” I called out from my perch in the bower. “How was your trip?”
“Long,” he said as he appeared in front of me. “There’s too much going on with OPEC and the oil, and the president’s asking us to do too much.” He runs his hands through his already wild black and silver hair as he leans against my willow tree. “I see you’ve finally left your room, Serea,” he finally adds.
I smile and nod. “I finished blending my wings, so I can start school when Brett does.”
“And this is what you wanted to do?” he asks, one eyebrow raised.
“I’m tired of starting school late. I’m tired of all the lies and rumors that go around when I come back. Everyone always wants to ask where I am, and they always make up their own things.”
“How close do they ever get to the truth?” he asks with a smile
I glare at him and frown. “Vati, you know no one would ever guess that. Last year was the worst! They all said that I had gotten pregnant over the summer and stayed out to have my baby.”
He chuckles. “They do realize that it takes more than four months to have a baby, right?”
“Vati, that’s not the point,” I groan. “I want to start high school as normal as possible. In fact, I even tried out for their color guard with the marching band. And I made it.”
Vati sits on the bench next to me. “And there’s no chance of anything happening to you that could reveal what you are, right?” he asks.
I roll my eyes. “Really? I tell you I made a performing team at my new school, and that’s what you’re most concerned about?”
He smiles and puts an arm around my shoulders as he kisses the top of my head. “I just don’t want my favorite daughter to get herself into any kind of trouble.”
I smile and push him away. “Vati, I’m your only daughter.”
“I know,” he says, standing again. “Have you seen your brother anywhere? I need to have a talk with him now that you’re starting school at the same time he does.”
“He’s not home,” I reply, looking at dresses online. “I think he’s out with some friends.”
“Brett’s fourteen. What could he and his friends possibly be doing?” Vati asks the air.
I sigh. “Just because you’re a sylph doesn’t mean the air always talks back to you. It never works for me.”
“That’s because I told it not to. It thinks you’re pretty, and displays too much interest in you,” he replies.
I roll my eyes again and start looking at jeans. “He should be home soon, Vati. And then you can have the father-son talk he’s been dreading ever since he found out I was working on that potion.”
Vati’s laughter rings in the air before it’s cut off by the back door closing again. He’s a pretty cool dad, just overprotective sometimes, even if he does have good reason for it. Almost two years ago, in seventh grade, I was almost kidnapped by a magical bounty hunter. He’d seen me at the Renaissance Faire and guessed at what I was when he decided that my wings looked a little too real. Vati’s been on high alert since then, even though the almost kidnapper was now in jail, and we were now on the other side of the country. I missed Ventura, California. Living on the beach was so much better than living in Douglasville, Georgia. It’s a small town in the middle of nowhere, about half an hour away from the capital, Atlanta. The mermaid in me really misses the ocean. A saltwater pool just doesn’t quite cut it.