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.”