I went over my new schedule one more time as I stepped into the big school building. They'd re-arranged my classes when I told them a medicine on my skin interacted with the water and caused the strange occurrences in the pool. Fortunately, they swallowed it - but what else could cause the sort of reaction that had happened? I assumed it was just another part of my father's punishment.
First, I had a new Mythology class instead of my later Military History. That should be the easiest class I'd ever taken, we'd just be reviewing all the stories I'd ever been told. I slipped into class as the last seats were filling up. The girl to my left, a goth with dyed black hair, glanced at me quickly. It struck me that I knew her, but I couldn't place how.
The teacher droned on about a myth I knew very well called the Death of Baldur. His monotone and the early hour made it difficult to concentrate, so I was relieved when he told us to pair up with someone else to do a a worksheet on the myth. Unfortunately, the version I'd heard was just different enough from the one in the textbook to throw me off.
It looked like everyone else in the class knew someone. I shuffled awkwardly in my seat and looked down at the paper. Tears welled up in my eyes. I'd been so alone since I'd had to leave. While this was the adventure of a lifetime for me, it was so hard to be a shadow sometimes. Nobody spoke to me, nobody looked at me twice here. It was hell after the close community I'd known all my life.
A small cough sounded to my left. "So, Baldur died."
I blinked quickly to clear my eyes of tears and flipped my red hair out of the way. The familiar goth girl looked back at me. It appeared that she didn't have a partner either. "Yeah, Baldur. What do you know about it?"
We quickly filled out the worksheet and were left with some time while the rest of the class finished. I had no idea what to say to fill the space, so I smiled awkwardly at her.
"You know, I have to ask... what really happened in the pool?"
I froze. Looking at her again, I suddenly knew how I knew her. She was the girl who'd jumped in the pool for me yesterday. I owed her a lot of thank-yous. But I couldn't tell her the real reason why I hadn't sunk in.
"Uhhh... It's complicated. Trust me, you wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"No, you'd have me committed."
"After what I saw? There can't be a predictable answer to that. And I know the bit about chemicals on your skin was bullshit. Nothing reacts with water like that. Nothing anybody'd put on their skin, anyways. And that doesn't even explain why you didn't sink."
I swallowed deeply and looked her in the eye. There was no getting away from this. I could tell she was the tenacious type, the kind who'd find a way to make me tell her, come hell or high water. And on the slim chance she'd actually believe me, I'd gain a friend that knew my situation.
"When do you have lunch?"
"Don't change the subject."
"I'm not. But I won't tell you here. When do you have lunch?"
"Twelve to one."
"Me too. Meet me at the bottom of the stairs into the courtyard."
She nodded, looking surprised I'd agreed to tell her. "I'm Annika. And you?"
I smiled with genuine warmth for the first time since my move here. "Paiva. See you at lunch!"
The next few classes blurred together. By the time lunch rolled around, I was exhausted. I scanned the crowd for her black hair for a few minutes.
I turned to see Annika leaning on the wall behind me.
"Hi. Let's get some food, I'm starved!"
Ten minutes later we sat down in the cafeteria with our trays, away from almost everyone else. I took a deep breath. Explaining would be the hardest part.
"So, you remember the Death of Baldur?"
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Just listen. You know the story. Baldur, the most loved of all the Norse gods, had an unpierceable skin, so the gods made a game out of shooting at him. But Loki, the trickster, hated the attention that Baldur gets from humans, so he got back at him by tricking the blind god Hod into shooting his own brother with an arrow made from the only thing that could wound him - mistletoe."
"I know the story, silly."
"Right, so you know that when Loki was being chased by the gods after killing Baldur, he hid in the stream as a salmon before they caught him and chained him up in a cave. Well, there's a part of that story that most people have forgotten."
Annika looked at me doubtfully, but I was too far gone to stop now.
"When Loki was living as a fish, he would swim downstream into the ocean, as salmon do now. And, well, Loki was very famous for sticking his dick into anyone and everyone he met. So every day when he met the sister goddesses of the waves, he impregnated all nine one by one. Their children are what people call Sirens, who tempt sailors out of their boats and drown them."
She looked a little overwhelmed. It was a lot for her to accept. I continued.
"The Sirens, the last children of Loki, are a bloodthirsty, violent race who rape the sailors they drown before they die. But their children by humans, the merpeople, are a gentler, more human race. We guide drowned people's souls to the palace of the sea god Aegir and his wife Ran."
"You're a mermaid." Annika was incredulous. I couldn't blame her. But I could see the cogs in her brain turning, and that gave me hope.
"Yes." She let loose with a rapid-fire barrage of questions.
"Then why are you here?"
"My father is a lord of our people. I have always been very interested in humans, in their culture. And the rulers of our society felt that that interest was both unpatriotic, if you can call it that, and unproductive in our society. So he sent me to live here until I 'got over' it."
"How did you get legs?"
"I just told you that all of Norse mythology is real, and you ask me why I have legs? I have legs and I bounce on water because of a powerful hex my father made to exile me."
Annika stared blankly at me for a minute. Suddenly, her phone buzzed, making us both jump. She pulled it out, a small smile growing on her face as she read the message. Under her breath, she muttered, "Sora." as she typed furiously in response.
When she put her phone down, she looked up at me, chewing on her lip. Having taken a deep breath, Annika delivered her verdict.
"You know that this is hard to believe." My stomach clenched. Things were about to take a turn for the worse. "But then, so was what I saw at the pool. I don't have any other logical reason for what happened there. And what you told me was too just fantastic to be a lie. So for now... I'm prepared to accept your explanation. I'm not sure whether I believe it or not. But right now I just don't have a better scenario."
I had nothing to say to this. I nodded my head in relief, sighing. She hadn't reported me to the authorities. I wasn't going to be locked away. Not yet, anyways.