The ballroom was finally finished only hours before the guests were set to arrive. Seaweed webs decorated each corner, with painted black crabs scuttling over them. Carved pumpkins sat on every surface, even suspended from the ceiling to capture the spooky feel of the night. Orange, yellow, and purple glow stones were the only source of light, spread few and far between. Black catfish mewled eerily in the shadows, while glowing white jellyfish roamed the room like haunted spirits.
Waverlee stood in the center of it all, surveying the decor with barely contained excitement. Clapping her hands together, the lovely golden haired Mermaiden twirled and flew from the scene of the party. Within moments, she was hurdling into a very different room with a very different atmosphere.
“Has anyone seen my claws?” Brynn’s voice always dwarfed the others’ but tonight the Scottish mermaid had some competition. There were mermaids everywhere: yelling, laughing, singing, and shrieking. One corner was completely devoted to face painting and hair dressing. Serena, as the most artistic, dominated the station. She had hardly begun to get ready herself, still hard at work on Destiny’s intricate makeup. The Caribbean beauty was dressed in a tight blue blazer with a yellow undershirt and a skull pinned at her throat. Her costume as a “Day of the Dead” spirit was completed by Serena’s white skeletal face painting and a tall blue top hat. Beside her, Frank sat unhappily in an emptied pumpkin, carved with holes in the sides for his arms and one in the front for his extremely peeved expression to show through.
“Zoey had them last I think,” Jia tossed her answer over her shoulder while she fixed her fangs in the mirror. Her purple cape complemented the streaks of color Serena had combed through Jia’s slicked back hair and even the pupils of her eyes were transformed from their normal brown to a vivid magenta. As she turned toward Zoey, Akiko, dressed as a bat, came to rest on her shoulder, completing her menacing look of a vampire on the prowl.
Across the room, Zoey turned from where she’d been brushing Crystal’s long locks with the hairy claws on her fingers and sheepishly pulled Brynn’s werewolf gloves from her hands. “Oops,” she laughed, passing them back to their owner. Brynn chuckled as she took them, placed them on her hands, and turned towards the mirror to survey the finished product. Her fur claws, ears, scarf, and tail paired with piercing yellow eyes made for quite the terrifying werewolf! She nodded in approval and then turned to slip Fergus into his own costume: a very pretty purple mermaid tail with a yellow clamshell bikini and a blonde wig. “Don’t you make for a sweet bonnie lass?” Brynn teased when she’d finished, holding him up for everyone to see.
“Okay, I’m finished!” Serena exclaimed proudly. She tossed her brush aside and rushed to get dressed while everyone admired Destiny’s face paint.
Meanwhile, the first guests began to arrive and the palace guards, dressed as old fashioned butlers, started to show them into the ballroom. Crystal, still tying pieces of seaweed into her long platinum hair, peeked her head out the door to watch the waves of merfolk flow in.
Just as she began to draw back, however, her ice blue eyes caught sight of a familiar face. A handsome young merman with long blonde hair, unruly the last time she’d seen him but neater and shorter now, was just entering the ballroom. His dark brown eyes met Crystal’s for the tiniest moment, just long enough for her to be sure it was him. All too quickly, he was lost in the crowd. Heart beating rapidly, she shrank back against the wall, the tips of her tail trembling too much to allow her to move.
“Everything okay, Crys?” Waverlee was nearly finished with her costume now, although no one could fathom how she could put herself together so immaculately when she was flitting and bouncing around the way she did. Crystal’s terrified expression quickly melted and she found her voice after a moment. “Oh, um, yes everything is perfect,” she stammered, trying to restore her previous excitement in the face of her anxiety. Holding up the last piece of her costume, she asked, “Waverlee, will you help me with this sash?”
“Of course!” Waverlee pinned back one more bouncy curl with a pearl clip and then sprang to assist Crystal. She adjusted the white, torn tunic the Arctic princess wore and then tied the blue sash securely around her waist. “Perfect!” Waverlee cried as they peered at their reflections in the mirror ahead of them. They made a strange pair, a pale zombie with a gaunt complexion hovering next to a magician’s assistant with a curly ponytail and a deep purple dress.
“Well,” Crystal sighed. “I suppose I should probably track down Pepper and get him into his costume.” She held up a small piece of white cloth with two holes cut into it. “He’s a ghost,” Crystal clarified when she saw Waverlee’s questioning look.
“Oh!” The other mermaid laughed in approval. “Bubbles is already dressed…he should be around here somewhere.” As though he could sense that he was needed, the dolphin swooped up beside Waverlee in an adorable magician’s costume complete with a cape, tall hat, and monocle. “Oh there you are, silly boy! Come on, the party’s starting!” Waverlee threw a wink at Crystal and then slipped out the door with Bubbles in tow. Crystal’s smile vanished with them, leaving room for her worry to return.
Serena appeared at Crystal’s shoulder with Picasso under one arm, trying to wrestle cat ears onto the enthusiastic little fish. His tail was fanning the water so quickly it seemed as if he would shoot forward like a torpedo if Serena let him go. Turning, Crystal let out a little laugh at her friend’s predicament as she offered to hold Picasso. Serena smiled gratefully at her and finished securing his costume while Crystal held the excitable fish fast.
“Well then, I guess it’s time to go join the party ourselves don’t you think?” Serena straightened her purple witch hat and tucked Picasso back under her arm. “Ready?” she asked Crystal, excitement lacing her voice. Crystal shot one last look at herself in the looking glass and then turned toward the door. “Ready.”
The ballroom was filled to bursting. There were ghosts and ghouls, mummies and monsters. The water was murky, creating a very mysterious feel. Zoey, dressed as a circus performer in her red tailcoat and bowtie, held her top hat in one hand, waving it around to beckon merfolk to watch her act, while in the other she held a striped hoop through which Cooper leaped repeatedly. Delighted to have so much attention, he shook the golden mane tied around his head and ‘roared’ like a lion as he weaved through the hoop and back again. The small crowd around the two performers laughed and applauded at the silly circus act.
In another part of the party, Brynn sidled up next to a slender merman with light brown hair and a brilliant blue tail. She poked him in the ribs sharply and smiled adorably up at him as he jumped in surprise. “Hey! Watch it,” Finn’s mock serious face was given away by the little dimple that appeared in his cheek whenever he tried to keep from smiling. His nose was painted black at the tip and he had yellowed seagrass sticking out of his plaid shirt at odd angles everywhere. Brynn fixed him with a much better impression of solemnity and leaned close to ask, “Or what, scarecrow?”
“Or I’ll do this.” His hand had reached up and plucked the wolf ears off of her head before she could even register what he’d said. In an instant, he was halfway across the room, laughing with his prize held just where she could see it. Brynn’s eyes narrowed in resolve and she shook her head before giving chase. “The wee scoundrel will just never learn that I’m stronger than him and faster too,” she said exasperatedly as she passed Jia, who shrugged her shoulders with a knowing smile.
Jia floated upright next to Destiny just in front of the stage, both mermaids swaying along to the music provided by a small group of musicians. The hired singer hadn’t shown up yet and, as the music was Jia’s responsibility, her nerves were on edge. “Do you think I told her the right time?” Jia asked, her words fast and messy, slurred a little by her vampire fangs.
“I’m positive you did, I was there remember?” Destiny put her arm around Jia’s shoulder and squeezed her tightly. “I’m sure everything will be fine. She’s probably just running a little late.”
Jia bit her lip and was silent for another long moment. Suddenly an idea came to her. “Wait, Destiny, you’re a singer!”
Destiny’s eyebrows rose warily as she nodded. “Yes, I sing. Nothing like a professional though…” she ventured, hoping that the other mermaid wouldn’t ask her the question she knew was coming. Jia nodded her head in understanding, but began to drag Destiny towards the stage.
“I know, I know, but I wouldn’t need you to sing for long, just until the singer gets here! You’ll be like… the opening act.”
Destiny shook her head quickly, straining against Jia’s surprisingly strong grip. “But I’m really not a professional and you hired a real singer for this party!”
Jia stopped at the edge of the stage and pulled Destiny to face her. “Please Destiny, I know you have a beautiful voice. I really need this favor! I promise, I’ll get some dancing going on in here and then no one will even be watching you.”
Destiny stared at Jia’s pleading violet eyes for a moment and then glanced at the stage. I guess it couldn’t hurt…
“Oh fine, I’ll do it.” Destiny sighed in resignation, allowing Jia to wrap her arms around her in delight.
“Thank you, Destiny! I owe you.” Jia rushed to tell the band what to play as Destiny swam up to the spotlight. There are so many merfolk! she thought, panic rising in her throat. Behind her, a new song began. It was an old merfolk tale put to music, the haunting melody making it perfect for background music at a Halloween party. Jia hovered near the edge of the stage, motioning Destiny over.
“Is this okay? I can make them play something with a good beat next,” Jia reassured her. Destiny smiled and nodded. “This is perfect, Jia. I’m really sorry that the singer didn’t come but I’m hoping I can do a good job for you.”
Jia laughed, “Are you kidding? I was going to ask you in the beginning to sing but I figured you’d want to be out there dancing. Sorry again,” she winced. Destiny smiled and patted her friend’s hand, then returned to the spotlight as the last notes of her introduction began.
As Destiny’s smooth voice filled the room, Crystal entered it with Serena. Her eyes were flitting from one face to the next, trying in vain to spot him. Serena quickly excused herself when she spotted Leon talking with Waverlee and Obsidian. As Crystal watched the two couples together, something about them reminded her of her own parents.
Sure, her father could be tough sometimes, but she had always loved the way that at the end of a long day, he would gather his queen into his arms after dinner when Crystal and her siblings had excused themselves. They would dance together, swaying slowly as they told one another the details of their day. She made him laugh and he sang to her softly. It had always been one of Crystal’s favorite things to do, sitting invisibly just outside the door to watch them together.
Just as she was beginning to lose hope of ever finding him, a voice behind her sighed. “You know, the moment I got home, I pieced it all together.”
Crystal turned to see Jax, repentant in his posture but the look in his eyes was anything but. She felt her lips turn up in a smile just as her cheeks began to burn. He floated a little closer to be heard over the music. “I thought to myself,” he continued, “why would such a classy Arctic mermaid bother spending an evening associating with me, a scallywag from the West, hardly worth her attention? And then of course, there was the very proper demeanor and posture, the obvious elegance, and the authoritative airs. Who else could you be but the one and only Mermaiden Crystal of the Arctic?”
His teasing smile encouraged her to reply with a little more sass than was normal for Crystal. “Authoritative airs, hm?” one of her long pale eyebrows rose. “Well I’m sure if I was demanding, you most certainly needed the reprimand. I seem to remember your behavior was rather scallywaggish.”
“But somehow it was you who kissed me, wasn’t it?” Crystal’s eyes went wide at the casual mention of her impulsive kiss, embarrassment nearly lighting her cheeks on fire. Jax laughed again at the sight of her panic and took her hand gently, guiding her onto the dance floor. “Relax Princess, I haven’t told a soul. I like to tease but I’m harmless… mostly,” he winked.
Crystal sighed gratefully. “I wanted to apologize for that. I have no idea what I was thinking, that wasn’t like me to be so forward. I guess I just figured I’d never see you again. I’d like to forget that it happened at all.”
“I wouldn’t.” Jax’s response threw her off. She stared at him for a long moment. But just as she opened her mouth to speak, a little white bullet shot down from nowhere and barreled into Crystal’s arms, which had instinctively opened to meet Pepper. The penguin had somehow tangled himself irreparably in his ghostly costume and, despite his many attempts, had only achieved freedom for one of his flippers and his beak.
“Well,” Crystal smiled fondly at her favorite little friend as she worked to release him, “this costume lasted much longer than last year’s at least. An octopus,” she added for Jax’s sake. He laughed and took the bundle of Pepper to hold him still while Crystal finished untying the knots around his feet.
Suddenly, two hands clasped Crystal by the shoulders and Brynn’s voice came from behind her. “Is he still there? Where is he?”
Jax’s eyebrows furrowed but his smile grew. He ducked his head a little and whispered back at Brynn. “Where is who?”
Brynn’s voice was exasperated. “Finn! The crook stole my ears!”
“Really? Your ears? What an odd choice. If I was him, I would have gone for the eyes. Those are actually worth a fortune, especially green ones.”
Brynn’s head poked out from behind Crystal’s back and glared at Jax, who was surprisingly good at keeping a straight face. The Scottish Mermaiden narrowed her gaze and then turned to whisper in Crystal’s ear. “Who’s this bonnie lad and why’s he sassing me?”
Crystal shook her head and shrugged innocently. “I have no clue. I think you should probably teach him a lesson though. No one sasses you and gets away with it.”
“Good thought. But I think I have enough on my plate now, with Finn and all. But you teach him a lesson for me now and I’ll be back later to get my word in with him, aye?” Crystal nodded obediently. Brynn patted her shoulder and then fixed Jax with a glare. “And you, mind what she says. She may look like naught but a wee bonnie lass, but she’s got an icy bite.”
With a self-satisfied smirk, Brynn turned and strutted off, swimming only a few paces away before a thin merman with light brown curls and a mischievous smile dove right behind her and swiped the furry tail from where it was tied round her hips. “Finnegan!” she roared, leaping into the chase. His gleeful laugh sounded like that of a much younger boy as he spun through the crowd, disappearing with his stolen treasure.
The two Scottish troublemakers weaved in and out of the crowd of guests, Brynn barking insults and Finn tossing back encouragement. They zipped past Waverlee, who was having fun of her own teasing Serena.
“Well done, Serena! Leon is perfect for you. You better watch out or someone might steal him from you,” she added with a flirty wink. The two girls laughed as they watched Obsidian and Leon moving toward the buffet to get their dates something to eat.
“I’m not too worried. His mother likes me and so do his brothers so I’m as good as part of the family.” Serena glanced sideways at Waverlee before continuing. “Obsidian seems pretty smitten with you. And, oh, isn’t that a coincidence that his twin sister happens to be one of your best friends? I guess I’m not the only one trying to score points with the in-laws, hm?”
Waverlee gasped and bumped Serena with her shoulder, giggling. “Hey! I would never connive like that! I’m not as devious as you,” she smirked, both of them laughing by now.
“What’s so funny?” Leon asked as he and Obsidian returned, hands full of tasty Halloween treats.
Waverlee and Serena shared a smiling glance before Waverlee quickly answered. “Oh, nothing. Just girl stuff. So, boys how are you liking the party?”
“It’s fantastic! And who’s the singer? Her voice is amazing!” Leon bobbed his head along with the music as all four of them turned to take a look at the stage.
“Woah! Is that Destiny?” Serena asked, shocked.
Waverlee squealed with excitement. “I think it is! Come on, let’s go!” She grabbed Sid’s hand and hauled him toward the stage, Serena and Leon right behind them.
Destiny smiled as she saw the group of her friends making their way toward her. Despite her original doubts, she’d had a lot of fun singing tonight! She had watched Brynn and her merman friend wreak havoc on each other and many of the guests. She had seen Crystal and her nameless new splash dance and laugh together. She had laughed as Zoey and Cooper put on a show for a group of guests. Even Jia seemed to have relaxed about the musician not showing and was enjoying herself.
As she finished her song, Waverlee and Serena met her at the edge of the stage. “Why didn’t you tell us you were singing tonight?!” Waverlee shrieked.
“I didn’t know! Jia’s singer didn’t show up so I agreed to do it.”
“And you’ve been much better than any professional I could have hired.” Jia joined the conversation. “Thank you again, Destiny”
“Don’t mention it,” Destiny smiled. “Besides, you were right! This has been so much more fun than I ever would have imagined!”
“Hey! Don’t stop now, get on with the music, mate!” Zoey sprang to sit on the edge of the stage next to where Destiny knelt, Brynn appearing beside her, looking ruffled but smug. Zoey glanced at her and then did a double take. “What’s the smirk for?” she asked warily with a hint of excitement.
Brynn chuckled. “Let’s just say scarecrows are surprisingly easy to scare.”
Just then, Crystal appeared with Jax in tow. “What are you all meeting up here for?” she asked curiously, trying to hide the fact that hers and Jax’s hands were linked together. Brynn glared while Waverlee beamed. Destiny smiled quietly to herself and then announced, “Because, I have a special song coming up!” Rising up tall she addressed the whole crowd. “All in favor of the ‘Mermaid Splash‘ next?”
The musicians took the happy roar of the guests as a yes and the music started up again. “Come on everybody! Let’s dance!” Waverlee grabbed Obsidian’s hands and twirled under one of his arms. Laughing and singing along, the rest of the group joined in. They all danced long into the night, zombies, werewolves, and vampires alike. And even when the music had faded and many of the guests had gone, a small group of monsters and miscreants remained, filling the hall with their happy laughter.