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Under the Sea
Sitting on her front porch, Cecelia Meyers marveled at the beautiful sunset, watching as the sun disappeared under the ocean with bright vibrant shades of red, orange and pink. She sat outside for at least ten minutes after it had set, staring into the distance, her eyes out of focus. She was awoken from her trance by a sudden sting on her arm, and she sighed, slapping at the bloodsucking mosquito, and then standing up.
“Pretty sunset, huh?” Robert Meyers, Cecelia’s father asked. Wearing nothing but a bathing suit, and holding a beer in his hand, he loved living here, right on the beach, in Palm Springs, Florida.
“Yep,” Cecelia’s voice was cut short, and she tried to make a pass by her father without him commenting on her attitude.
He caught her, his strong, coarse hands gripping her shoulders tightly, giving her no chance of getting away. “What’s up, Cece?” He used her pet name for her, a name she had always hated, but never had the heart to tell her parents that.
She reluctantly took a seat on the porch swing, dragging her feet against the wooden floor, her father taking a seat beside her. “I hate Florida,” She grumbled, “It’s hot, there’s mosquito’s, and I hardly have any friends here.” She knew she sounded petty and immature, and she also knew the answer to this argument, one they had had for at least three years.
Robert slid his arm around her shoulders, “I know it’s hot, and I know there is mosquitoes, but don’t lie to me; you have lots of friends here.” He sighed, “It’s just a few more years, sweetie, and then you’ll be in college and you can live anywhere you want.”
“It just seems so far away and all.” Cecelia griped, wiping her sweaty forehead with the back of her palm.
“I know, I know, but time flies, you’ll see.”
Cecelia wished she could speed up time right now, and escape from her life of beaches and palm trees, taking refuge in the freezing urban atmosphere of Chicago, where she really wanted to be.
The next morning, Cecelia woke up early, like she usually did on the weekends, changed into her swimsuit, and headed down to the beach for her morning swim. She had been following this ritual for almost three years, with her parents having no clue of her whereabouts. She didn’t like to lie to them, but she knew if she told them about her outings, they would either say no, that it wasn’t safe to go swimming by herself, or they would want to come with her, which would defeat the purpose of her morning swim, which was to be alone so she could have time to think.
Laying out a blue striped beach towel in the sand, Cecelia striped off her cover-up and jogging down the beach into the water, grimacing like she usually did, when she realized how warm it was. Most Floridians raved about the water temperature, saying how warm and comfortable it was, but Cecelia hated it; she didn’t know how anyone could feel refreshed after swimming in bath water.
Wading out, she began swimming, until she was at least fifty feet away from the shore. They lived on a private beach, so it was mostly unpopulated and there weren’t any lifeguards. Cecelia finally stopped when the water with up to her chest, and then she lay back, floating on top of the water, shutting her eyes from the rising sun.
Suddenly, she felt a ripple of water beneath her, and her eyes flew open, half afraid to see what was beneath her. She glanced down through the crystal clear water, relived to see nothing was there. Then out of the corner of her eye, something sparkled, and she felt another ripple pass over her from below, disrupting the normally peaceful sand.
Off in the distance, a flask of blue caught my eye, and she whirled around, holding a hand above her eyes to block out the sun. Was I imagining this? Cecelia craned her neck, wading towards the shimmer of light.
As she stepped forward, she looked down, staring at the line that divided the clear, safe waters, from the black, ominous water, filled with seaweed. Above the water, she saw another flash of blue, the color of aquamarine, my birthstone, and then, taking a deep breath, she stepped into the darkness, feeling the gross squash of seaweed beneath her feet.
She had only traveled a few feet, all the while wondering how stupid she was for blindly following a mysterious blue light, when she suddenly gasped, feeling a cold, slimy hand wrap around her ankle. She would have screamed, if the hand hadn’t tugged, pulling her underwater into the eerie abyss.
Underwater, Cecelia thrashed and tugged, her eyes open, but unable to see anything in the murky water. The water rushed into her mouth, and she choked on it, wondering what mystical force was keeping her under the water, and wondering if she would die without ever knowing what killed her.
Finally, she managed to squirm free, and she swam frantically towards the shore, as if a Great White Shark were chasing her. For all she knew it might have been a shark chasing her. She focused on the shore, her mind moving a mile a minute, so fast, that she forgot all the swimming lessons she had taken when they moved her, instead, she furiously thrashed her way to the shoreline, to the safety of the soft white sand on the beach.
Not until she was a good twenty feet from the shore did she finally relax, only enough to catch her breath, and cough up all the water she had swallowed. Her stomach wrenched as she coughed, and she could feel the salt sting against her raw throat.
Wading through the water, there was no way Cecelia could have imagined what would happen next.
“Hello!” A high-pitched, melodic voice cried behind her.
Cecelia whipped around, her hand going to her mouth as she gasped, seeing the figure swimming in front her. It was a mermaid. Cecelia knew this like she knew a dog was a dog, or a cat was a cat. Startled, she stared at the mermaid in awe, barely able to speak out a greeting of, “Hi.” Her eyes were instantly glued on her tail, a gorgeous kelp green that shimmered when it caught the sunlight. The creature was like most of the mermaid Cecelia had seen on television, or in movies; she had the upper body of a human, and the lower body of a fish. The mermaid in front of had to be no older than ten, and she wore a tight tube top, the color of a fading sunset, that clung to her body so tightly it looked like it was part of her skin. The brilliant shade of blue that Cecelia had been following earlier was her hair, and it was cropped in spikes, atop her head.
Cecelia took a step backward, her hand reaching out, pointing at the girl, “Yyyyooouu’ree, yyyou’re, you’re a mmmeermaid.” She stammered, her hand shaking out in front of her.
“Sorry about before,” She giggled, the sound echoing like wind chimes in the breeze, a sound so beautiful, it made you want to forget everything, “I didn’t mean to hurt you or anything,” She rattled on, oblivious to Cecelia’s discomfort, “but I was just curious. We’re not supposed to bother humans, did you know that? I don’t see why not, I mean, you seem harmless.”
“I, I, I don’t know what to say,” Cecelia bit her lip, “I’ve never met a mermaid before.”
“Well, it’s a first experience for both of us then,” The creature answered, laughing again, throwing her head back, and letting the sunlight seem into her skin, which Cecelia noticed was a pale shade of green and contained gills.
“My name’s Raynee, by the way,” The little girl said, staring at Cecelia with her curious eyes. As Cecelia stared into them, trying to determine their color; it seemed like her eyes were the color of the rainbow, all the color swirling and mixing together in perfect harmony. Raynee blinked, and then Cecelia was brought back to reality. “I said, what’s yours?” Raynee repeated, ogling at Cecelia as if she were on display at a museum.
“Cecelia,” She breathed, automatically wanting to stick her hand out, to shake hands with her new acquaintance, but then stopping, her hand floating back down to her side.
Suddenly, Cecelia heard a shout from the shoreline, “Cece!” Her mother called, “What are you doing out in the water?”
Cecelia froze, wondering if her mother saw Raynee. Looking down she saw Raynee staring at her, her eyes wide with amazement, “You have parents too?” She asked, shocked, her jaw dropped open.
Cecelia nodded, “I have to go now,” She said, inching her way back to shore.
Raynee looked as if she understood, “Parents,” She groaned, “Oh well. I’ll come back tomorrow.”
And then she saw off, as quickly as she came, leaving Cecelia standing in the middle of the ocean, wondering if she had just imagined the conversation she had just had with a mermaid.
The next morning, Cecelia snuck out again, wading back out into the ocean, where she had met Raynee yesterday. She wondered if Raynee would be true to her word, or if she was just teasing Cecelia.
Impatient, Cecelia did handstands and flips in the water as she waited, the water reflecting the sunrise over the horizon.
Finally, she heard a splash, and surfaced to see a bright faced Raynee swimming in front of her, along with another, unfamiliar face.
Cecelia rubbed her eyes, blinking at Raynee.
Raynee, if just noticing her friend was beside her, said, “Oh, this is my sister, Arianna,” She poked her sister in the side, “She didn’t want to come; she said I was being foolish for meeting you, but,” Raynee pursed her lips trying to hide a smile, “In the end she was just as curious as I was.”
Arianna looked like an older version of Raynee, except with long, wavy blue hair, the color of midnight, and long blue inked tattoos, shaped like seahorses that ran down her arms. As Cecelia squinted at them, she swore one of them moved.
“I’m Cecelia,” Cecelia said, waving at Arianna. Arianna just looked at her, her eyes narrowing as if she thought Cecelia was a suspect.
“My name’s Arianna,” She finally said. Her voice was as musical as Raynee’s, except deeper, and a little hoarser.
“Gosh, Arianna,” Cecelia chagrined, “She’s not threatening, I told you!” If Raynee have feet, Cecelia thought she would have stomped them.
“Your hair,” Arianna reached out, her hand hovering just above Cecelia’s head, “I’ve never seen anything like it; it’s the color of gold.”
Cecelia stepped back, uncomfortable with the proximity between Arianna’s hand and her head. She squinted back at Arianna, wondering if blond hair was unusual for mermaids.
“I told you she was fascinating,” Raynee cooed, coming up beside Cecelia, and staring down into the water, at her feet. “Aren’t those so clumsy?” She asked, “We’ve heard tons of stories of humans, especially their feet.”
Cecelia smiled, shaking her head, “You two haven’t seen many humans, have you?”
“Actually,” Arianna answered, her eyes still glued on Cecelia’s hair, “You’re our first. You see, our father usually forbids us to come in contact with humans.”
Cecelia gulped, hoping they wouldn’t get into trouble for seeing her.
They continued to talk, until the sun was halfway up the sky, and Cecelia knew she would have to get back home, before her parents noticed she was gone. She had already gotten in trouble enough yesterday. Cecelia bade the two mermaid’s goodbye, making plans to meet them again tomorrow.
As she slipped out of the water, she couldn’t get the images of the beautiful creatures out of her head, and the rest of the day, she was in a trance, her mind replaying their conversation.
Over the next week or so, Cecelia met with the mermaid every day, learning new things about them, like where they live, and what they eat, and in turn teaching them about humanity. Both the mermaids and Cecelia had equal fascination, and it was hard to tell who was more eager for their meetings. Finally one day, when Cecelia waded through the water, a brilliant grin plastered on her face, it was unrequited, and she had the foreboding sense that something was wrong.
“Is everything okay?” She asked desperately. They were her friends now, and she cared about them as if they were normal, teenage girls.
“Well,” Arianna, said, her voice unnaturally dull, “My father’s says we’re moving out tomorrow, heading to a new grove.” She floated on the surface of the water, twisting her luscious hair in her fingers.
“But,” Raynee interjected, “I have a plan.”
“A ludicrous plan,” Arianna lamented. She closed her eyes, her long lashes dusting against her skin. Even with layers of mascara, Cecelia would never manage to make her lashes that long.
“I want to talk to my father, and ask him for The Potion.”
“The potion?” Cecelia inquired. It sounded like something from a fairy tale, like the apple Snow White bit into, or the glass slipper Cinderella slipped her delicate foot into.
“My father has a potion that can turn you into a mermaid, so you could come with us.” Raynee sounded so hopeful, Cecelia couldn’t help but smile at her, even though she had a million thoughts running through her head.
“Its not going to work, Raynee,” Arianna chided, “Father doesn’t even know she exists yet.”
“Well,” Raynee chuckled manically, but with her high-pitched voice, she sounded like a purring kitten, “We’ll just see about that.”
That night, Cecelia couldn’t sleep, the possibility of her turning into her a mermaid, kept her wide awake, staring up at the ceiling, wondering if this was her destiny, her ticket out of Florida.
The next morning when she went to meet with Raynee and Arianna, she was shocked to see Raynee carrying what looked like a red glass vial in her hand.
Raynee couldn’t hide the mirthful grin from her face as she swam towards Cecelia, cosseting the bottle against her chest like it was the most precious thing in the world. To her, it probably was.
“I’ve got it!” She cried, “I have the potion, and now you can come with us!”
“You convinced your father?” I asked in disbelief, remembering from the anecdotes they told me, how strict and rigid he seemed.
“Well,” Raynee bit her lip, her cheeks flushed with excitement, “I didn’t convince him, per se…”
“She stole it.” Arianna jumped in, shaking her head complacently, although she was smiling as well, enthusiastic about our possible future together.
Raynee swam over to Cecelia’s side, placing the blood-red bottle in Cecelia’s hands, “Now we won’t have to leave you,” She whispered, her big naïve eyes staring up at Cecelia, like a puppy stares at its owner.
Cecelia grasped the vial in her hand, turning in over in her palm, feeling its smoothness. Inside, red liquid swished from side to side, shimmering when it caught the sunlight.
“What happens when I drink it?” Cecelia asked, curious.
“You turn into a mermaid of course,” Raynee cried, laughing at the question, as if Cecelia had asked her what two plus two equaled.
“We don’t really know how the process works,” Arianna admitted, rolling her eyes at Raynee, “But you do turn into a mermaid.”
Cecelia gulped, holding the potion in her hand that could possibly change her life. She thought about all the restless years she had wasted in Florida, of her friendship with Raynee and Arianna, and the knowledge of a totally new world, one that awaited her in the depths of the ocean. This potion would open up a whole new world for her, a world filled with mermaids and magic. She wanted this more than anything; more than the car she was going to ask her parents for her sixteenth birthday, and even more than the boy she liked at school.
The more Cecelia thought about this, the more she realized the gravity of the choice at hand. If she chose to drink this potion, hence becoming a mermaid, she would leave everything she had known it this world- her parents, brother, friends, house- behind, intrusting her care with her two new mermaid friends, friends she had only known for a few short weeks.
“So, are you going to drink it, or what?” Raynee asked, waking Cecelia from her temporary trance.
Staring down at the bottle at her hand, Cecelia finally decided. “No,” She shook her head, reluctantly handing the beautifully crafted bottle back to Raynee, “I can’t. I’m really sorry you have to go through all that trouble, Raynee,” She apologized, “But I can’t leave my family.”
Raynee’s smile instantly fell, replaced with disbelief, her small mouth popping open with shock.
A single tear rolled down Cecelia’s cheeks, leaving a streak of wetness behind, “I’m so sorry.”
Arianna swam over to Cecelia’s side, wrapping an arm around her. Her skin felt oily and slippery against Cecelia’s bare back, but she didn’t cringe or shrink away, feeling completely comfortable with Arianna.
“I think you made the right choice,” Arianna admitted, wrapping Cecelia into a tight hug, “We’ll miss you, but we’ll be back. I don’t know when, but we’ll be back.”
“I really wanted you to come with us,” Raynee whimpered, her rainbow eyes watering, as she looked at me, as if trying to guilt be into drinking the potion.
“We’ll be back,” Arianna repeated, gazing condescendingly at Raynee, and shaking her head, “We can’t force Cecelia into a life she doesn’t want.”
As soon as she spoke the words, I instantly felt rueful. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be a mermaid; it was just that she couldn’t bear to leave my family behind.
“It’s not that…” I began, and then hesitated, not sure how to explain it without hurting their feelings.
“I know, I know,” Arianna chided, smiling sadly, “And I promise, we will be back.”
I grinned back at them, feeling suddenly morose; I knew our time was limited.
Arianna swam back over to Raynee, wrapping an arm around her, “We have to go now, Cecelia,” She said, her lip jutting out like she was pouting, “But, we’ll see you soon.”
I knew I couldn’t keep them any longer, so after wrapping them both in a hug, I waved goodbye, watching as they swam out towards the horizon, taking a possibility of my future with them.
I stood, waist deep in the water, staring after them for at least a half an hour, until my mom called from our porch, asking who I had been talking to.
I turned to face her, smiling sadly, “No one,” I answered, wading back towards the shore, “I was talking to no one.”