I'm going to drown! I'm only fifteen. I haven't gotten my driver's license yet. I haven't surfed the famous Pipeline in Hawaii. I haven't fallen in love - unless my Sports Illustrated swimsuit poster counts.
I barely had any breath left as I desperately tried to reach the surface. Then it hit me - not the meaning of life, but my surfboard.
Time stood still. My underwater world was peaceful. I drifted helplessly like an astronaut who suddenly becomes detached from the mother ship.
Maybe it's 'cause I'm a raging hormonal teenager that I had this particular vision.
Out of nowhere she appeared - golden yellow and sun-fire orange hair sparkled like tiny stars and flowed in the glistening water. The most wonderful pink-lipped smile flashed before me. Her angelic skin glowed; her piercing ocean-blue eyes stared through me and touched my soul. She floated majestically before me, a silver locket in the shape of a heart dangling from her lovely neck. This had to be a dream, or a sure sign that I had already died and gone to heaven!
I had never seen this dream girl before. She definitely didn't go to Seaside High. Nothing plastic on this girl. No silicone or liposuction marks. Just that sparkling silver heart.
Where did this angel girl come from? Why was she swimming at six o'clock in the freezing morning? Why wasn't she drowning like I was? There was no sign of a snorkel or a tank anywhere. Why did she swim like a fish? And what was that strange bikini bottom? Aquamarine metallic spandex all the way to her funky nouveau riche flipper gear.
- she kissed me. This gorgeous glistening girl! Kissed me! Not with air. Not with water. But with life. With love!
It was the best kiss of my life - and, if it was to be my last, it wasn't such a bad way to go. She took me by her soft healing hand as I struggled for life and gracefully pulled me to the surface, where I gasped a grateful gulp of California's fabulous smog. I coughed and choked, but I felt the warmth of the shimmering sun and smiled back appreciatively as she treaded water, grinning and glowing like a swimming angel.
And then everything went black.
I awoke blinded by the sun, my surfboard lying next to me, my wet suit still damp, sand clinging to my hair, the tide gently rolling over my feet.
I slowly sat up, wondering what had happened. According to my waterproof Fossil, it was nine-thirty - I was totally late for school. I had a throbbing headache. Now it all made sense. I must have been dehydrated this morning and passed out on the beach. The rest had to be a dream.
I attempted to stand, not wanting to annoy Mr. Johnson by being any later to chemistry than usual. But my palm stung. I prayed I hadn't been pricked by - it was a sparkling silver heart!
I apprehensively caressed the mysterious silver heart and gazed out toward the rolling sea. Maybe I had wiped out and hit my head on my surfboard. Maybe I did almost drown. Maybe I had been saved. And maybe in the struggle I had pulled the necklace off a - mermaid?
Maybe I was safer surfing the Internet.
"Waterlilly, it's your turn to give your report," Mrs. Current, our social cultures teacher, said, peering through her crystal spectacles.
My eyes were focused out the cave-room window on a school of rainbow fish as my classmates delivered boring presentations on seagulls, sea lions, sea turtles, and sea horses. I couldn't help but daydream about my terrestrial encounter with the Earthee on my way to school this morning.
Pacific Reefs, population 7,000, was a beautiful - but me. The finball stadium was the town's main attraction, obnoxiously sitting in the center of town surrounded by the police station, town council, expensive shops, and restaurants. Modest cave dwellings in neat little rows filled the outlying valley, all painted a conservative opalescent color.
Pacific Reefs High School was a massive cave with winding tunnels leading to stuffy classrooms with rock doors that shut us from the outside world and crystal clear windows that teased me to wonder what lay in the world beyond.
"Waterlilly," Mrs. Current reprimanded. "How many times do I have to call your name? It's your turn!"
I floated hesitantly before my classmates, who were attentively sitting in a semicircle, their tails draped around their rock chairs. I was wearing a radical Tidal Wavewear metallic green top with matching tail-skin. Silver sprinkles glittered in my blonde hair, which fell loosely over my shoulders. Although it was standard for a mermaid to display her hair pulled up in a twist or back in a tail, I always let mine flow with the rhythms of nature.
As I glanced up from my slate notebook, I looked at a sea of perfectly pristine mergirls who stared back with contempt. I had always been an outcast at Pacific
School was a prison sentence and I had to serve three more years! I felt confined by structured time, constrained by dictated thought, restricted by an out-of-date school board, which insisted on teaching the absurd theory that Earthees were a lower life form. How could I accept this? My great-grandfather was rumored to have been an Earthee who fell in love with my mermaid great-grandma. With the help of magic, love, and a full moon, he had converted to a merman. My parents denied it ever happened.
"Complete nonsense!" my mom always said when I brought up the subject. The only reason I thought the story was true was that my mom kept an elegant silver heart in a Butterfly Venus shell in the bottom of her dresser. Great-grandpa found it in a sunken ship, or so my mother said.
"It's just an heirloom! You can have it when you are eighteen and not a day before," my mother always chided when I tried to open the shell.
Even though I didn't know great-grandpa, he was my hero. Living in the Pacific was confining enough to this teenage mermaid. Fashions were claustrophobic, laws were so three decades ago. And true love seemed as far away as the moon!