Ginny and I just fell in step like we’d been together for years. She was so easy to hang out with that I found myself wanting to spend every minute with her.
And she was really smart, so she’d help me with math, science, you name it.
And it didn’t matter what time of year it was, she always wanted to spend it outside doing something different. A lot of times, she had to nag me to get out there. Take today…it was Saturday and I wanted to sleep in but she said Nature Park was beautiful at dawn and we had to go, so…I found myself at the jungle gym, goofing off with her as the sun turned the sky a beautiful shade of pink.
“See? I told you this would be fun,” Ginny said with a smirk. “Aren’t you glad you’re not sleeping the day away?”
I arched an eyebrow. “I’d be more happy if you were over here next to me.”
She slid through the bars like a python. “Okay…I’m next to you.”
I laughed. “How can I kiss you like that?”
We both chuckled during the most awkward kiss we’d ever done. But it was fun.
I mused how last week, the temperatures were the coldest in Brindleton Bay history and Ginny STILL wanted to go outside and ice skate. Not lying, I battled her until I thought we both were going to throw things. I mean, I had my male pride. I didn’t have to do everything she said all the time, did I?
In the end, guess who won? But I’m glad she did.
We might have been the only crazy people outside, but it wasn’t that cold. Not when you’re cuddled together, moving around. I looked at her in amazement, wondering how I got so lucky that she’d like someone like me. I’m totally different than her and she had to push me to get out of my comfort zone. But it was good for me. I knew it was. I was changing.
And I liked who I was becoming.
This afternoon, I was set to meet her parents. (Finally!) Not gonna lie, I was freaking out. I mean, they were like archaeological gods to me. They had a life that movies were made of (and honestly, their stories sounded way more whacked than anyone could ever dream writing about.) Truth was stranger than fiction. Right?
They lived in this old, historic home that they’d refurbished over the years. It was nestled back into the woods, away from civilization.
After I was introduced to Ginny’s mom, she shooed us outside to make a fire–she wasn’t finished cooking dinner. My nerves were jumbled because I hadn’t met her father yet. He was coming home from running errands.
I hoped I could live up to his expectations. I mean, God. I was just some kid who didn’t know what he wanted to do in life with his daughter who had her whole life planned out. I worried he wouldn’t like me.
Ginny nuzzled my cheek, knowing full well I was nervous. “Stop it, okay? He’ll love you.” She kissed me, trying to make me feel better.
I sighed, shaking my head. “I don’t know…I’m worried about what I’ll say to him. I mean…geeze…both of your parents are professors…I’m barely passing math.”
She pulled me with her, walking toward the house. “Liam, this isn’t a contest. Just be yourself. You’re funny, nice, and respectful. You have the heart of a saint. And you treat me like a queen. How could my dad want more for me than that?”
At dinner, my nerves settled down. Her folks were honestly the most down to earth people I’d ever met.
And they didn’t ask me twenty questions like I thought they would. We just talked about school, my family, and how I was doing being away from them. They were really concerned about me.
I felt stupid, thinking how worried I was about meeting them. I mean, they raised someone like Ginny. Of course they’d be genuinely nice people.
After dinner, we went into the family room to chat. Their house was amazing. It was exactly how I thought it’d look, decorated with an eclectic assortment of things they’d acquired from their world travels.
“So, tell me, Mr. Malcolm, Ginny says you’ve seen a real live mermaid.” This story was something I’d really wanted to hear straight from his mouth. Ginny didn’t believe it but I was open.
“Oh…I see Ginny has been telling you of our tales, has she? Yes, I have seen a mermaid. In fact, it was Ginny who met her first.”
Ginny waved her arms. “Okay, so he likes to say that but I don’t remember it at all. I was like three years old and so he could say anything. Just putting that out there.”
Mr. Malcolm chuckled. “We have proof, though, don’t we, Ginny dear. That treasure you’re wearing around your neck was a gift from her.”
“Oh, Daddy…I’m not three years old anymore. I don’t believe in the toothfairy or Santa Claus. You gave it to me.”
I held up my hand, stopping her. “Hey, Ginny, I want to hear the whole story from your father. Then I’ll make up my mind whether to believe it or not.”
“Ho ho! I like this boy already. Okay, I’ll tell you the whole story top to bottom.”
And so the story Ginny’s dad related was honestly, unbelievable.
He said he was out walking on the beach with little three year old Ginny. I guess Ginny was a handful as a toddler, always having to go outside instead of staying inside their large tent while her mom was busy studying samples of bone or rock they’d found. (That wasn’t surprising!)
They’d discovered this unpopulated island on Sulani and had been staying there, working, basically camping out for months. Mr. Malcolm said Ginny had run off while he was inspecting a tide pool, so he frantically searched up and down the beach.
He worried that she might have wandered into the surf. But then off in the distance, he spied a mermaid on a rock with Ginny, smiling and talking to her. He couldn’t believe his eyes but there it was! He said she looked different from what legend said about them. Her tail sparkled, almost glowing a shade of pink on a backdrop of blue scales and her hair wasn’t red but a beautiful golden color.
Then the mermaid gave Ginny an object that glowed. Suddenly, the sky grew darker and he felt an energy pass through him.
Frightened that something bad might happen to his little daughter, he dashed as fast as he could to save her from the unknown.
In the swirling water, Mr. Malcolm caught Ginny who had nothing but smiles on her face, even under water. She wasn’t gasping for air. She wasn’t flailing. She merely floated with that weird grin.
When he got her to shore, he found the necklace laying on the sand. Turning around he saw the mermaid wink then splash back in the water, never to be heard from again.
Mr. Malcolm said it was a true miracle and he credited the mermaid for saving Ginny’s life. He knew what he saw had been real but both Mrs. Malcolm and Ginny thought he’d hit his head on a rock and remembered it all wrong.
I laughed. “Okay, Mr. Malcolm. I believe you. If you say there are mermaids on Sulani, who am I to judge?”
“That, my boy, is a good answer. One that will get you places with me.” He winked. “Now how about some ice cream? I have a hankering for triple caramel fudge.”
I got up to my feet when he did. “Oh, that’s sounds great.”
After ice cream, Ginny wanted to show me her mom’s art easel on the balcony. I shivered in the cold, cuddling up to my girlfriend. “You really think you met a mermaid, Ginny?”
She shrugged. “Sometimes I wonder if it really DID happen, because when I wish for something, it does come true. Maybe this necklace is a good luck charm?”
On my way home, the night’s events kept strolling over in my mind. I loved her parents. They were so cool. And I loved their life. Right then I knew what I wanted to do. I was going to see the world just like they did. Experience ridiculous things that no other person had ever experienced. Explore unknown areas of the world. Discover rare treasures!
And whether I’d do that with Ginny or not was to be figured out later. Much later. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake with her as I’d done with Mala. I was going to take things one day at a time.
But knowing what I had a passion for totally made my night spectacular. Who knew I’d be feeling so balling right now only two months after Mala had dumped me?
I couldn’t wait to tell my grandfathers about the mermaid story. And there they were, hugging each other. Man, those two just couldn’t get enough. And after all these years!
But as I got closer, I noticed…they were sobbing!
A cold knife sliced right into my heart.
“Wh-what’s wrong?” My voice echoed.
Granddad raised his head slowly and said, “Liam, I think you’d better sit down.”
I didn’t know how it happened, but over the last few weeks, Ginny and I’d become pretty close. She was such a cool person. She wasn’t the type to sit indoors, mess around on social media, and watch WooTube like most of my friends. She liked to explore the world! And she would always ask me to do the most amazing things I would have never thought to do.
Today, she was being a little mysterious, not letting me know where the heck we were off to or what we were even going to do. I just had to trust her. Last week, she’d showed me a tiny hot springs in the middle of the woods that I’m sure no one in Brindleton Bay even knew about. So, I wondered what she would help me discover today.
We hopped on some bikes and I followed her like I always did.
The sun was setting and I thought it was strange we were going to some ruins. I’d seen this place before, too. Old Brindleton Bay when it was just a pirate cove over three hundred years ago. I knew the place would get dark. I hoped the moon was full tonight.
“Wee!” she cried as we coasted downhill.
“I think we should stop here.” She slowed her bike and I hit my brakes.
The ruins had this peaceful, romantic quality to it. Over the past weeks, even though I’d become such great friends with Ginny…I did have growing feelings for her. Ginny was smart, pretty, fun, interesting…so many great qualities, I should have already gone for it, but…I knew she’d want a relationship, and I really didn’t.
Ginny flailed her hands as she was relaying one of her many stories about her archeologist parents’ quests. “And so I was like, ‘are you kidding me? Mermaids don’t exist’…” She was so over the top. I chuckled.
I thought it was cute how someone could be so passionate about everything.
Looking at my life, honestly, I hadn’t been passionate about really anything. Well, except Henry Puffer, but that was kids stuff. I didn’t have time. I was watching over my siblings. And now that I had time on my hands, I was really seeing the world through someone’s eyes who loved life and everything in it.
I didn’t like that about myself. Even thinking back to what my plans were with Mala seemed so…worthless. Yeah, raising kids was a noble thing, especially since my parents were so bad at it, but…what was I passionate about? My mom loved to do her animation. Dad had his acting and music. Even my kid brother was passionate about airplanes. He knew every kind since the earliest invention. And little Brandy loved animals. She said she wanted to be a vet when she grew up. Cute little five year olds were funny. But it wouldn’t surprise me if she actually accomplished it.
When we settled down, Ginny produced a surprise picnic basket she’d hidden earlier. I laughed, shaking my head. “What’s this?”
She shrugged. “I thought it might be nice to have dinner before we explore.”
“You really think of everything, don’t you?” I asked, feeling a little awkward. This felt like a date now. Not some friends hanging out.
“Someone has to since you’re obviously not going to do it.”
That kind of cut into me. She was right. I wouldn’t think up all these fun things to do. “Yeah…well, I’m not as creative as you are.”
“Oh God…did I just say that…don’t mind me, Liam….” She winced and turned away. “Shit,” she whispered.
I flung myself on the ground, sighing. “No…it’s okay. You’re right. I…just am not like that. I wish I was though.”
She shook her head. “You shouldn’t wish to be anything other than yourself, Liam. That was awful of me. I’m sorry.”
I pulled myself up on my elbow. “Yeah, but it’s true. I didn’t grow up the way you did. It was just me and my siblings for the most part.
“I had to figure out how to cook by the time I was nine. And I’ve been watching my brother and sister and taking care of things around the house since almost always. But…I love to get out and explore the world like you do, Ginny. It’s fun.”
She brightened, lightening the mood. “Well, good. Then I think you’re going to love what we’re going to see next.”
I tried to needle her into telling me what it was but she kept shaking her head, laughing. “It’s a surprise, silly!”
After we ate sandwiches, I had to go take a leak. Once I got back, I noticed she held an apple. I’d already eaten mine, but I wanted to tease her.
I reached out to take it and she stopped me. “Hey that’s mine! You already had yours.”
“But I’m a growing boy. I just want a bite.” I tried to swipe it again, not really trying though, just wanting to see her eyes light up and get angry. She was pretty predictable.
She raised a finger. “Okay…I’ll give you one bite. But that’s all.”
She lifted the apple to my mouth and I had to suppress a laugh. She was so stinking cute. I wanted to kiss her right there, but I resisted. I wasn’t going down that road with her.
After our picnic dinner, she pulled out a lamp from her bicycle basket and lit it. Wow. She really did think of everything. She led me in the middle of a dark forest. The autumn leaves rustled and swirled around in the cool air. “Where are we?” I asked.
She looked at me coyly. “Just be patient. I’ll show you. Come on!”
We walked for about thirty minutes until I saw some sign of civilization. There were streetlights around at least. “Are we there yet?” I said.
“We are,” she answered. “Take a look in front of us.”
“Whoa,” I gasped.
The most interesting building I’d ever seen glimmered in the darkness.
“What is this place?” I asked.
The building looked like a glowing honeycomb orb. I could hear buzzing coming from inside.
Ginny explained, “My parents donated this to the town. It’s a bee sanctuary park. They’d discovered rare midnight bees while on an excavation dig in Al Simhara. The bees produce a rare honey that have glowing properties. I thought you’d want to see it.”
I actually had heard of the park. It was pretty out of the way, so I’d never gone to it. “That’s so cool,” I said, raising my hand. “Let’s go inside then.”
I was blown away as we entered. The room had this natural, homey quality that put me at ease. “I can’t believe your parents built this.”
“It was a long time ago. Like when I was five, I think?” Ginny said. “My parents are hippies at heart.” She chuckled nervously.
The tension between us made my skin buzz. My hand had brushed up against hers as my heart thudded hard in my chest.
There was something magical that was happening between us like God was saying I shouldn’t resist. I should just go for it like I’d wanted to. Like me and Ginny were meant to be. Like we fit each other. Like it was our destiny.
Quickly, without thinking about it any further, I grasped her hand. It was warm…almost as warm as my face that was probably blushing. I was so glad it was dark in there.
She squeezed my hand back, smiling up at me.
I didn’t regret going forward with her like this. I wanted her to be my girl. And it wasn’t because I was rebounding.
There was something bigger going on. Something I knew would change me for the rest of my life.
I had to hand it to Ginny. She really helped me keep my mind off Mala. With the archaeology club, we had all this work to do on the weekends so I couldn’t mope around the house, wishing I was with her and wondering what she was doing with that scumfuck instead.
We’d cleaned up Deadgrass Isle last weekend so this Saturday, it was time for us to explore. Ginny was determined to find some old piece of junk that the museum could display.
When I arrived, to my surprise, one of my friends, Hudson Parris was there, too. “Hey, man. What are you doing here?” I asked.
“Saw a sign up for the archaeology club and thought I’d check it out.”
“Really?” I said, not believing my luck. I thought none of my friends would ever join a nerdy club like this one. I didn’t even mention it to him. “Alright, dude.” We slapped hands.
“Let’s find some seriously valuable old junk that we can pawn and make a lot of cash!” I joked.
“You know it!”
Hudson raised his eyebrow. “So…why are you here? You’re interested in archaeology?”
“No, dude, not really. But, I don’t know…Ginny Malcolm invited me and they do a bunch of cool stuff for the community.” I shrugged. I really never thought about it before. Just needed to take my mind off things, but I didn’t want to go into that with Hudson. The less I talked about Mala the better.
“Hey, guys,” Ginny said, raising her finger. “Want to go up the lighthouse? It’s open.”
“Want to check it out?” I asked Hudson. “I’ve never been.”
“Sure. Let’s do it.”
I followed Ginny, Todd Monteira, and Dusty up the stairs to the balcony. The view was breathtaking. We could see the whole island from up here as well as most of the town. Brindleton Bay was such a cool place to live. I never wanted to leave. I was thankful my folks let me stay. So much better than the smog filled place of Del Sol Valley.
“Hey, check out those trails,” Todd said. “We should explore some of them. I’ve been here a thousand times but never noticed them.”
“That’s a great idea, Todd,” Ginny agreed.
I noticed the sun getting higher in the sky. It was almost lunchtime and I needed to get back for the football game. The San Myshuno Llamas were taking on the Bridgeport Bears. It was an old rivalry and I never missed a game. “Hey, I wonder if we could climb up to the top of this thing.”
But there were no stairs leading up to the light itself.
After we descended the tower, we found the hiking trails Todd was talking about.
And Ginny was constantly digging but finding nothing.
The further we walked, the more dead grass we found. Probably why they called it “Dead Grass Isle”. Not a very inventive name.
“Hey, guys, look at this path,” Ginny said. “It goes down to a weird place. I see headstones.”
She was right. We discovered an old cemetary right there on the isle full of old guys from the pirate days.
It kind of gave me the creeps but Ginny thought we’d found a treasure. It wasn’t even on the map in Deadgrass Discoveries, the museum here.
After Ginny talked the museum director’s ear off about the cemetary, I told everyone I had to go since the football game was about to start. Hudson had to babysit his little sister so he said good bye. Ginny told me she loved the San Myshuno Llamas and so I invited everyone over. Todd brought his girlfriend, Melina, too.
My grandfathers were thrilled. After I introduced everyone, Granddad asked, “Are you kids hungry? We can do a barbeque if you want.”
God, grandparents did live for this stuff. But I loved it. Having them here, wanting to make me and my friends happy was one of the best feelings.
“No, Granddad,” I said. “You don’t have to go to all that trouble. We’ll just make popcorn and get some drinks.”
“How about we whip up nachos then and bring them upstairs for you. Won’t be any trouble. Honest.”
Ginny said from behind me, “That sounds wonderful, Mr. Day. If you don’t mind.”
“Happy to do it. Now you kids run along and us old guys will take care of everything.”
Once we got upstairs, I’d totally forgotten about all my dad’s awards. I mean, they were there like they’d always been and I rarely even thought about who my dad used to be back in the day. Of course, now he was set to be a huge movie star, but that hadn’t really hit yet. And…I don’t know…he’s my dad. So, I’m not used to people freaking out over him.
But Melina squealed. “Oh. My. GOD! Your father is James Sanderson from the Heart FREAKING THROBS? I’ve downloaded all their albums. I’m a sucker for throwback boy bands.” She sighed dreamily.
Ginny patted her head. “It’s going to be okay. Breathe, girl, breathe.”
Melina went on, “And James is the hottest one of them all. Wow. To be in his house with all these Simmy awards. I think I could die right now and be happy.”
Todd didn’t look too thrilled with his girlfriend’s ravings about my father. Couldn’t blame him.
“Yeah, well, the entertainment room is in here.” I tried to push them along. I didn’t want Todd to get upset.
Todd had to literally tear Melina away from the trophies. It was like she was drooling over them.
We made some popcorn and Melina seemed to settle down a little (although it didn’t help that Heartthrob memorabilia was everywhere.
Turned out, the San Myshuno Llamas obliterated the Bridgeport Bears. All four of us had a freaking good time. And what was even better? I didn’t think of Mala even once.