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Elise swam up to the large rock and pulled herself up on top. She enjoyed lying across the rock and sunning herself in the afternoons. As she twisted her long, dark hair to wring the water out, her scales sparkled in the sunlight, creating a kaleidoscope of colors.
After wringing her hair dry, she swung it behind her, relaxing on her tummy and watching a boy on the far bank reading under a tree. Elise sighed. “I wonder what you’re reading. If only I could read their language, I’d—"
“You’d what?” Delpha lit on a branch hanging over the rock.
Elise almost slipped back into the water. “You frightened me.”
“You don’t want anything to do with those, those humans! They bring their nets and hooks and catch sea creatures, dining on them or mounting them on their walls.”
Elise rolled over to her side, propping herself up with her elbow. “Well, good thing for you that you are a seagull and not an ocean dweller.” She teased, smirking.
“Go ahead, make a joke, but you don’t leave these waters. You don’t see what I see…humans eating crabs and fish, catching them by the hundreds—no thousands in nets.” Delpha shook her wing at Elise. “You steer clear of them, you hear?”
Elise smiled and nodded. “Yes, your highness, seagull.” She rolled over to her tummy and propped herself up on her elbows, watching the human again. What is must be like to walk around and not swim. Not all humans can be bad, can they?
Thomas sat with his back up against a tree reading about mermaids and their mystical powers. His cousin Dane walked up and sat down beside him. “You still reading that unicorn book, squirt?”
Thomas slammed his book on his lap. “Not unicorns! Mermaids.”
“Whatever, ones just as real as the other, I suppose.” He stretched his legs and leaned against the tree.
“If I could find a mermaid, then all I’d need is for her to kiss Grandpa and he’d be cured.” He flipped through the pages of his book and ran his finger half-way down a page. “It also says here that mermaid’s tears are like the fountain of youth.”
“Grandpa’s old, he’s going to die. It happens to everyone...eventually.”
Thomas jumped up and stomped away. He strolled alone along the water’s edge looking for the best area to place his net. “The book says to place the nets near patches of seaweed,” he mumbled.
Thomas rolled up his pant legs and waded out into the water a few feet. He couldn't see far enough out, so he decided to come back tomorrow with his raft. Then he could place his nets further out.
Elise watched the boy walk along the water’s edge. “I wonder what he’s looking for.” She sighed.
“A big fish to catch and eat up, I’d suppose," said Delpha.
Elise sat up flipping her tail in the water. "No, I don't think so, Del. He looks as though he's searching for something…he's lost or sad." She slid off the rock and sank down under the water and swam over to the water's edge. Looking up, she saw Thomas walking away, with his book tucked under his arm.
Delpha flew overhead, squawking and skimming the water looking for Elise.
Elise swam to the middle of the water and jump up flipped her tail and laughing. "I hear you, Del. Don’t worry. I'm not going to let him see me."
"Do you know what humans do to merpeople? They'll catch you, stuff you, and mount you on a wall for show, but not before they cut you open and study you inside and out."
"Don't worry, Del. I'm heading home now, and I'll be careful…I promise."
Thomas returned to the water's edge early the next morning, carrying his make-shift raft. The rays of sun shone through the fog, creating beams of light that reached down and glistened on the water. Sitting on the bank, he rolled up his pant legs and waded out a few feet before putting his raft into the water. He sat on his knees, bent forward and used his hands to paddle out further where he thought he'd find seaweed.
He continued paddling out to the middle of the water and swished the water as he looked for the flow of seaweed. Several areas were thick with it, so he chose the area where it grew the thickest. He pulled the netting from his back pocket and untangled it before spreading it out and lowering it near the seaweed.
The make-shift raft teetered as he reached over to tie the netting to a low, crooked branch hanging out over the water. Thomas secured the net by tying each corner to other low-hanging branches, and then lay back on his raft to wait for his mermaid.
Lying there, staring up at the sky, Thomas smiled remembering how he and Grandpa used to go fishing and played Frisbee in the back yard. But, that was before he got sick, and now he can't even walk to the backyard without struggling to breathe. Thomas yawned, and watched the clouds separate into smaller cloudlets drifting across the sky. He drifted off to sleep, snoring.
"Elise, would you pick some fresh seaweed to eat for breakfast?" Her mother asked.
"Sure, be back in a few minutes." She swam off fluttering her tail softly as she glided through the water. She loved to look for starfish as she swam. As she came upon a lush growth of seaweed, she noticed something shiny dangling in the water. A bait! She thought.
Elise jumped back, her heart raced. But, the shiny thing was attached to white string, not fishing line. She swam a bit closer to get a better look. "It's a weight for a net." She mumbled. Elise swam up to the surface and quickly took a look around. She noticed the human lying a raft. His eyes were closed. He was making an awful noise.
Elise dunked under the water and hit the edge of the raft with her tailfin. It flipped, rolling Thomas off into the net.
"Help!" Thomas screamed. Panicking, he pulled at the net, but he legs and arms were tangled. Elise grabbed it and swam quickly across the water to her sunning rock and helped Thomas untangle his arms.
Coughing and gasping, he pulled himself onto the rock and began untangling his feet. "What are you trying to do, kill me?" He looked up and into Elise's emerald-green eyes. "You're real... a real mermaid."
Elise pulled herself up onto the rock beside Thomas. "I'm warning you...stay away and don't try to catch us for trophies. We merpeople are too clever for you humans."
"I wasn't going to hurt you. I just need a favor, that's all."
"Sure you do. There is nothing I can do for you, so go back to your raft and forget you saw me." Elise slid off the rock and plunged into the water.
"Wait!" Thomas's eyes glistened with tears. "It's my grandpa, he's real sick, and I need you to kiss him, that's all."
Elise stopped. She realized he was the troubled boy she saw strolling along the bank. "I'm sorry. I can't trust you."
She started to swim away, but Thomas yelled out, sobbing. "He's gonna die...please. I don't want to hurt you. Please come back." Thomas pressed his face into his hands and sat alone on the rock crying.
Elise stopped, and swished her tail to turn around. She popped up beside the rock. "Wait here, I'll be back. I have to take the seaweed to my mother."
Thomas continued to sob.
Elise rubbed his back. "Just wait here."
Elise swam home and gave her mom the seaweed. "I'll be back, Mother."
"Wait, you haven't had breakfast."
Elise grabbed a seaweed cake. "I'll eat it on the way." She kissed her mother's cheek.
As she swam back to the rock, she hesitated. What if that boy did want to hurt her? Was she walking into a trap? But, he looked so sad, and she was curious about humans.
As she swam closer, she heard Thomas yelling and Delpha squawking.
Thomas swatted at the seagull. "Ouch, go away."
Delpha continued squawking and pecking at Thomas.
Elise popped up out of the water, chuckling. "Delpha, it's okay. He's not going to hurt me."
"And just how do you that?" Delpha stopped pecking and flew up to her usual perching branch.
Thomas sat rubbing a red welt on his cheek. "You can understand what that bird is saying?"
"Yes, can't you?" Elise asked.
"No, it just flew over here and attacked me, making that awful squawking sound."
"Delpha is just a bit over protective, I suppose." Elise pulled herself up onto the rock beside Thomas and wrung out her hair. "I feel bad for you, human..."
"Thomas, my name is Thomas."
"Thomas, I don't know how I can help you. I mean, I can't leave the water, and I don't have any special powers."
"Maybe you just don't know you do. I read in my book that mermaids have special powers, and all it takes is one kiss to cure someone...one little kiss on the cheek."
"What are plans? Bring your Grandpa here?"
"No, he can't get out of bed. My book says you can leave the water for a while without getting hurt. I got it all planned out. I'll use a wheel barrow to get you to the house, we can cover your legs in wet cloth, and you kiss grandpa. I'll bring you right back. I promise."
"I wouldn't trust him, Elise. He looks sneaky, and the whole thing sounds suspicious." Delpha squawked.
Elise looked at Thomas sitting there with tears glistening in his eyes and red welts on his face and arms, and she couldn't say no. "I'll trust him."