New Mermaid Story from Mermaiden Crystal
“There you are! We’ve been expecting you. How was your journey?” Jia pulled me into her arms as soon as Obsidian and I were within reach. Obsidian hung back, wrestling Pepper and holding back his huge orca Snowflake from pouncing on Jia in her excitement. Jia laughed as we watched my brother finally slump to the ground, panting from exertion. Snowflake, delighted at his surrender, collapsed on top of him while Pepper finally freed himself from Sid’s grasp and zipped up to me and perched himself on my shoulder in a little ball of down and fuzz. “You win, you all win,” Sid moaned as Snowflake re-situated herself. Jia and I shared a laugh.
We hovered outside her home, my mind only partially caught up in the conversation as I took in the magnificence of her kingdom for the first time. The architecture was strange, but beautiful. Each structure was a work of art, but one couldn’t mistake the efficiency either. The structures were sturdy while still appearing elegant and fragile. Just like ice, I thought, smiling as a thin webbing of crystals formed between my fingers at the very mention.
I dragged my mind back to the present conversation as we entered Jia’s home and she led us through the open hallways and into a sunken room in which sat six Mermaidens. I felt my cheeks lift instinctively in a big smile as one by one each girl came hurdling toward me. Arms and tails and heads collided as we all giggled and talked and squealed at the same time. Pepper immediately began performing for his captive audience.
“Alright, alright let her be.” My smile widened as Brynn forced her way through the crowd and pulled me quickly into a tight embrace. Then she shooed everyone back to their seats and we all made ourselves comfortable on the cushions that were scattered across the floor. I noticed Waverlee choose a seat close to Sid, who also took notice and puffed out his chest a little larger as a delighted smile spread across his face. His gaze caught mine before I could look away and he winked.
“So, Jia. You’ve got some explaining to do,” Brynn took control of the informal meeting. She arched her eyebrow as she continued. “What are Quarterly Ambassador Meetings and why didn’t we hear about them until just now?”
“And where’s Zoey?” Serena piped up.
“And who’s that?” Waverlee pointed at a mermaid in the corner who I had overlooked at first. As soon as I noticed her though, I couldn’t see how I’d missed her in the first place. I’ve never seen a tail that shade of red before, I thought.
“Woah, woah, slow down girls,” Jia laughed. “First of all, this is Scarlet, a friend of Destiny’s.” She beckoned toward the red Mermaiden in the corner, who barely lifted her eyes in acknowledgement. Jia continued, “As for the Quarterly Ambassador Meetings, that’s what Destiny and I decided to call them. We thought that, if it’s okay with all of you, we’re going to start meeting as a group four times a year so that we can discuss our ambassador duties and achievements! And also just so we can see each other more often,” she added with a wink.
Waverlee’s answer rose amid the excited squeals and surprised gasps. “Yes, yes, yes!” she squealed, throwing her arms around Serena, who sat beside her. The Mediterranean Princess looked a little uncomfortable but smiled anyway. I laughed as Brynn knocked me with her elbow and bellowed her approval, but as I studied the girls’ faces around me, my eyes settled on Jia.
While she wore an obviously genuine smile, her breathing seemed shaky and I realized that her hands, which were laced behind her back, were trembling a little. Destiny noticed too. She rose beside Jia and they shared a small nod. Destiny took over.
“Girls,” she started, with a mischievous smile, “you all are going to love the surprise we have for you. King Takumi, Jia’s father, has set up one gigantic room to be our sleeping quarters for the next couple of weeks. Sorry Obsidian, you’ll have your own room,” she threw a flirtatious wink at Sid, who gave a nonchalant shrug and grinned. “Aw well, if I must.”
“There’s going to be music and food and games—“
“Did I hear someone say games?”
The strong Australian accent echoed through the room and Zoey marched in, Cooper tucked beneath one arm and her fist on her hip. “Zoey!” the chorus met her just before we did and she was buried beneath a mound of Mermaidens. “That’s it, gather round, ya beasties,” she laughed as she wrapped us all in a huge hug. “Come on! There’s room for everyone.”
“Where have you been?” Serena asked, as we all stepped back to give her space.
Zoey kept one arm around Destiny’s shoulders and leaned into her a little. “Well, I was helping Jia’s Da out with something and our meeting ran a little long. So sorry to keep you Sheilas waiting! Now, shall we play a game? Maybe sharks and mermaids?” The girls all squealed and scattered in anticipation. I hung back a little, floating behind a nearby pillar to watch. I wasn’t too fond of games. I watched in amusement as Brynn and Sid immediately volunteered to be the sharks, while Scarlet stood awkwardly next to Waverlee, who seemed to have adopted the poor Mermaiden. Destiny stuck close to her though, and Serena shadowed them quietly.
I was smiling at the look on Scarlet’s face as Brynn charged toward her, arms wheeling to find her target when I heard Jia’s voice. She was talking to Zoey, both of whom hadn’t noticed that I was hidden nearby. “I hate keeping secrets from them all,” she said quietly. “It doesn’t feel right.”
“But it’s the way it has to be,” Zoey sounded exhausted. “And it’s not for too long.”
A pause came as the girls watched Obsidian, blindfolded with his back hunched and arms outstretched and Pepper standing on his shoulder, chewing on his ear. There was a great burst of laughter as Sid lunged and grabbed a giggling Waverlee and held her above his head in triumph.
“How was the session today?” Jia’s voice came again.
“Tiring. I get so angry that I can only do a little at a time. I feel weak.”
“You’re not. What you’re doing is amazing. And you’re getting stronger every time. It’s like a muscle. You have to keep tearing it to build it back up stronger than it was before.”
“Yeah, you’re right I guess. You usually are.” I heard the faint smile in Zoey’s voice.
Just then Brynn’s voice roared into the conversation. “Zoey! Jia! Get yerselves down here and play the game!”
“Aye, aye, yes sir!” Zoey and Jia swam past my hiding spot, close enough to make me jump and bite down on my knuckles to keep from making a sound. I tried to slow my spiking heart rate by pushing myself harder against the stained red column, gripping at the wood like it was an anchor. I calmed myself enough to peer out at the girls, all laughing and playing games. “What are you hiding?” I whispered softly as I watched Jia and Zoey. Just then I felt a searing pain slice across my bicep and I turned, screaming, to find myself face to face with an enormous swordfish.