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The Mermaid's Mirrorby L. K. Madigan
A patchwork of paper waves surrounded Lena. The walls of her room were covered with every shade of blue, green, and gray water imaginable-some images were photos she had taken herself, and others were pages torn from magazines: surfers riding through translucent green barrels . . . surfers surrounded by miles of limpid blue tropical sea . . . surfers about to be flattened by dark gray walls of water.
As Lena lay sleeping, the oceans of the world sparkling all around her, her cell phone rang. It was the Kai ringtone. Eyes closed, Lena rolled over and reached out from under the covers, fumbling on her nightstand for her phone.
"Hi," she croaked.
"Her name's Selena, and she dances on the saaaand," sang Kai, mangling the words to some old '80s song. His voice sounded overly loud to her half-asleep ears. "Leen? Did I wake you?"
"But it's seven o'clock. You never sleep this late. Are you okay?"
Lena squinted at her clock-7:04-and blinked in surprise. She was usually up by six, or six thirty at the latest. "I'm fine." She yawned, then added, "And I don't dance on the sand."
"You know what's weird? I don't think I've ever woken you up before. That means . . . oh, wow. That means you're just lying there in bed."
"That's what it means," she agreed, closing her eyes. She felt like she could go right back to sleep.
"Leen! I just realized that I don't know what your pajamas look like. I'm a terrible boyfriend. I'll be right over to check."
She snickered. "Great. Just knock and my dad will let you in."
"Oh, yeah. Your parents," he joked. "They're always messing me up." He lowered his voice. "But what are you wearing?"
Lena stifled a laugh. When he used that sexy voice, it always made her feel like cracking up, instead of flirting back. "My wetsuit, of course. Doesn't everyone wear rubber pajamas?"
Kai groaned. "Oh, nooo. My eyes . . . my mental eyes! You've scarred them. But since you've already got your wetsuit on-"
"I'm heading out to Back Yard. No school today, remember? Want to come?"
At the mention of the local surfing spot, an image of moonlight on water floated into Lena's mind. Her eyes snapped open.
She sat up, looking around her room. Her hoodie hung in the closet, and her sandals sat in the shoe rack, same as always. Was it all a dream? She slid her feet out from under the covers and examined them.
There were grains of sand between her toes.
"Leen? You there?"
Lena lay back down slowly. She didn't remember getting out of bed, or going downstairs, or unlocking the back door. All she remembered was the shock of finding herself on the beach. "Yeah," she said. "You're going to Back Yard. Right now?"
"The early bird catches the wave, Leen-you know that."
I should tell Mom and Dad, she thought.
Almost before the idea could take shape, she backed away from it. No, they would just worry . . . maybe even make her go to the doctor. Lena frowned. It was a completely random episode, probably a one-time thing.
"Lena, helloooo? Are you falling back asleep?"
"No, sorry," she said. "I'll meet you there. Is Pem coming?"
"Okay. I'll be there in twenty minutes." After she hung up, Lena realized she hadn't told Kai about her sleepwalking. I'll tell him later, she thought.
But she knew she would not.
¤ ¤ ¤
Lena stood in the wet sand, foamy wavelets lapping at her feet. The surf at Back Yard was breaking long today. Lena could see that the surfers in the water were spending a lot of time waiting around for decent waves.
"Hey," said Pem, joining her at the water's edge. "Where's your wetsuit? You're not going to swim?" Even wearing a full-body neoprene suit, lips coated with sunblock, and long black hair secured in a braid, Pem looked like a model.
"Not today," said Lena. "But you know cold water has never stopped me from a good game of GOTCHA!" Before she had even finished speaking, Pem had anticipated Lena's move, and they bent down simultaneously, flinging water up at each other. Lena took off down the beach, splashing through the ankle-high surf, Pem right behind her. Lena stopped and faked to the right, throwing Pem off long enough to spatter more seawater up at her.
"Don't you think"-Pem laughed-"we're getting a little old for this?"
Lena paused to catch her breath, clothes and hair drenched. "Way too old!" Then she spun and scooped.
Pem yelled, dodging the spray.
"Okay, okay," said Lena, laughing, hands on her knees.
"I'm only showing you mercy because you're already wet," said Pem, "while I'm nice and dry in my wetsuit."
They headed back to the blanket spread out on the sand. Pem's surfboard, an eight-foot board with blue hibiscus flowers painted on top, was lying next to it.
"See you in a few," she said, grabbing her board. "Want to go for coffee after?"
"I can't," said Lena. "I'm going to the city with my dad."
"Oh. So you just came to watch Kai?"
"Well, yeah." Lena hesitated. "Both of you." She knew that Pem was sensitive about the fact that Lena and Kai were together now.
The three of them had been best friends since sixth grade, but a couple of months ago, on a warm July evening, Kai had called and invited Lena to the movies. When she got there, Pem was nowhere around. Even when they were walking out of the theater and Kai took her hand, she just thought, Huh? Kai doesn't usually hold hands. As they made their way down Main Street, he pulled her into the skinny alley between the art gallery and the bookstore, where creeping vines of honeysuckle covered the fence. Then he turned to her with smoldering eyes, and Lena had finally understood. When he leaned close and kissed her, she was ready.
Pem snapped her leash around her ankle. "Here comes Kai. I'll talk to you later, okay?"
Lena nodded and watched her friend paddle out.
Kai dropped to the blanket next to her. "Hi," he murmured, pulling her close. "Oh, Leen, you're soaked!" He opened his duffel and pulled out a huge towel, wrapping it around her shoulders. "You must be freezing."
She let him fuss over her, though she didn't feel cold.
"Hi, Lena," said someone behind her.
Lena turned to see Kai's sister, Ani. "Hi," she said. "I didn't know you were home from school."
"Yeah, I don't have classes on Friday, so I can drive home for the weekend." She knelt down and rubbed wax onto her board, using circular motions.
Kai studied the waves. "Long lulls," he said.
"Yeah, not perfect," said Ani. "But better than a day not surfing." She grinned and headed out.
Kai waxed his board, gave Lena a kiss, then followed.
Lena watched her friends in the water, smiling at the way Kai tried to conquer every wave, while Pem was more cautious. Ani had a breathtaking grace in the water that made the other surfers look like beginners. I should've brought my camera, thought Lena.
Ani was the first one out of the water. She set her board down on the sand and stood watching Kai and Pem, who were sitting astride their boards, waiting for good waves. She looked down at Lena. "Don't you get tired of just watching?"
The words slapped Lena like icy spray.
Ani sat down on the blanket next to her. "Sorry. That came out wrong." She combed her fingers through her short blond hair. "But it looks like you want to be out there."
Lena bowed her head. She always felt a little nervous around Ani, who was tall and athletic and a crazy-smart physics genius. She'd had her pick of colleges, but had chosen Stanford so she could stay near the ocean. "I do want to be out there. It's just that my dad-"
"Oh, right," said Ani. "He had some surfing accident, right?"
"He almost drowned," said Lena.
"But . . . wasn't it a really long time ago?"
Lena nodded. "Before I was born."
"And that was it? He never surfed again?"
"No. I've never even seen him go in the water."
"Wow." Ani stared out at the sea. "That's some serious fear."
They sat in silence for a moment, watching the surfers.
"I do want to surf!" Lena burst out.
"Yeah?" Ani looked at her.
"Of course. But I was hoping to do it with his blessing, you know?"
Ani nodded. "That's cool. Respect, and all. But what if he's never going to say yes?"
Kai and Pem emerged from the waves, dripping and laughing.
"When you're ready to learn," said Ani, standing up, "with or without his blessing . . . let me know. I taught Kai and Jamie. They can tell you I'm a pretty good teacher."
Lena didn't answer. She stood up to receive Kai's kiss, his lips cold from the water.
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