For Maggie, whose love of mermaids helped inspire this book.
We never expect our lives to change, and when it does we do our best to adapt, and move on. But no matter how hard we try, a part of us will never be the same. I can't expect anyone to believe my story, no sane person would, but I can tell it, and you can decide.
Chapter 1 ~ The Beginning
The beach was warm on my bare feet. I looked out at the shimmering water and listened to the ocean waves lapping onto the shore, completely engulfed. I should have been studying, but my soul had begged me for a break. Who could study on a day like today?
I probably should have been paying more attention to where I was going, because my foot caught on something and I fell face first into the sand. I spat sand out of my mouth and rolled over, dusting the grit from my cutoff shorts and hands. I shook out my hair, and thought for a moment about cutting it. It was a nice color; brown, like my mother’s, but it would be easier to take care of if it were shorter.
I looked down at my feet to see what I’d tripped on. It was a green glass bottle, half buried in the sand. I pulled it out. It was old, and had markings on it of symbols swirling around a mermaid with crazy hair. I held it up to the sun. It clanked, like there was something inside it, but I’d have to pry the cork to get it out, and it was broken off at the lip. My phone rang, breaking the tranquility and I jumped a little, then fumbled for it in my back pocket.
"Hey, Nikki, Mom and I are leaving. We’ll be back by 10. . Make sure you finish your homework."
"Love you, kid."
"Love you too, Dad."
I hung up and turned my back on the ocean. It was only a short walk back up the beach, and I passed little kids throwing sand at each other, angry mom's yelling at their teenage daughters and their husbands feeding the seagulls. I wondered if living on the beach could be a viable career choice.
I walked up the back steps and into the kitchen and poured myself a glass of water. There was a note on the fridge. “Frozen pizza for dinner. Caleb will be home soon to help.” Caleb was my older brother. Older, but definitely not wiser. I pull the pizza from the freezer and turn on the oven, then head upstairs to change my sandy clothes while it heats up.
Peter and James, my little brothers, rush past me in the hall, swords in their hands, followed by Caleb with a pillow shield in one hand and the remote control in the other. Guess he was home already.
"You can’t hide forever!" he shouted as they scrambled down the stairs, then he stopped and leaned against the wall with a grin. "Hey sis. When did you get home?"
I hold out my hand for the remote. "Just now."
"Attack!" Peter yelled from the bottom of the stairs and rushed towards me. "She’s got the treasure!"
I catch his sword with my free hand and pull him into a bear hug while he squirmed to get free.
"Help" he screamed. "I’ve been captured by the kraken!"
James rushed up and Caleb caught him. "No fair!" he yelped. "You guys are too big!"
I hand Peter the remote and he lets out a pirate-ish, "Aargh! The treasure!" as he and James escape to the family room. "Thanks a lot," groaned Caleb. "Nothing but Jake and the pirates for the rest of the night."
"Jake and the Neverland Pirates," I corrected him. "Put the pizza in the oven. I’ve got homework." I didn’t wait to hear his answer.
Once my bedroom door was shut I took the bottle out of my bag and set it on my desk. I tried to take the cork out with my fingernails, but it was stuck pretty good. I pulled my pocket knife out of my jeans and opened the corkscrew. I dug it in and pried some more. With a pop the cork finally came out.
I carefully turned the bottle upside down over my bed. A small silver locket on a dark chain slid out followed by the edge of a damp piece of brownish paper. I got some tweezers and carefully pulled it the rest of the way out of the bottle. I held my breath, praying it wouldn’t tear.
It came out in one piece, rolled up and bound with a piece of seaweed. That seemed like a strange thing to put around a piece of paper in a bottle with a cork. I mean, wasn’t the point of the bottle to keep stuff like seaweed out?
I pulled off the seaweed around the paper and carefully unfolded it. Unlike the words on the bottle the words on the paper where written in English.
"I know you must have many questions but I do not have time. My people are at war with the Makara Divided Colonies and we are in dire need of your help. I have placed my locket inside this bottle along with this note, so that it may guide you to my safeguard. Please hurry. -Queen Ali'ikai of the Sirens of the Ka Wai Kingdom."
I laughed. Someone had gone to a lot of trouble to pull a prank that might never have been seen. It was pretty cool, though. Maybe I’d find another bottle and do the same thing so somebody else could find it. "Nikki!" I heard Peter yell.
Even if I wanted to get my homework done, babysitting made it almost impossible. Unless that homework was first-aid. I got lots of practice with that.