the First


Sweet Ava has such love in her eyes, she seems to know me and appreciate me already as a sister. If only she knew what I did to her brother… But Luke told me not to tell anyone, so I won't. Not until I can figure out what to do. Ava has curled half of my hair with a contraption I can only describe as a curling iron, and she has begun on the second half. She hums softly, a sweet sounding lullaby.

I cough, "Did, um, did Kai say anything about me?"

Ava's eyes meet mine in the mirror, a bright spark within, "Duh! He thinks you're so gorgeous, and sweet, and funny, and he told me you're a great kisser."

She flashes me a cheeky grin, and I blush. Maybe it's good to pretend he hasn't died. I laugh this time, for real.

"Anything else I should know?"

"Well, he-" she cuts herself off, "I'm not supposed to tell you!"

"Tell me what?"

"Nothing! Nothing." she smiles softly and goes back to curling my hair.

Hmm. What was she going to say about Kai? At this point, there's nothing it couldn't be. She finishes my hair.

"Pretty, right?"

"Most definitely. Thanks, Ava."

She beams at me, "You're welcome!"

The young mermaid stares at the floor for a few seconds, before mustering up the courage to look back into my eyes, "You don't have to be down at the ball for another ten minutes, maybe we could talk for a while before I have to put your beads on?"

I admire her boldness, and smile at her, "Why not?"

Ava giggles and darts back out of the bathroom. I pause before following, taking in my appearance gazing back at me from the shiny bathroom mirror. I look very different, elaborate hair, pretty makeup, glimmering pearled bikini top, and a tail. This whole thing feels like a dream. I'm just having a hard time figuring out if it's a bad dream or a good one. I sigh and exit the bathroom, greeted by the sight of Ava sitting on one of the couches, her tail tucked neatly beneath her. I sit down next to her.

"So… what is it you wanted to talk about?" I ask.

"I was thinking maybe…" she trails off, seeming to again gather her courage, "you and Kai?"

Her answer is so unexpected I let out a stunned laugh, "You mean like," I poke her stomach, "girl talk?"

Ava laughs, "Yeah, I guess so."

She leans forward, cloak and dagger, "What is he like?"

I tilt my head, "What do you mean?"

"What is Kai like? Is he sweet, funny, romantic?" she sighs happily, dreamily gazing off into the distance.

I feel a pang in my heart, but I push it aside. I'm going to remember the good things, not the bad. Not his death.

"Um, well…" I'm realizing this is the first time I've been able to gossip with another member of the female community for quite a few weeks now.

I glance over at her, she looks like a puppy begging for a treat. I've decided I like Ava.

I sigh, "Where do I start? He's got these beautiful blue eyes, just like yours, they're deep and soft and warm."

"You really think my eyes look like his?" she interjects.

I nod my head, "Of course! They're such a pretty blue."

She smiles at me and nods to let me continue.

"And, his smile! It makes me melt a little inside I think. He has these cute dimples that only show up when he's super happy."

She claps her hands, giddy with excitement, "That is so sweet! Is he a good kisser?"

I awkwardly shift my weight on the couch before answering sheepishly, "Yeah. I would say so."

She grins, "I've always wondered what it's like to kiss someone."

"Your first kiss is something you won't ever forget! Promise."

"Oh, I know! I've already imagined it. He'll be tall and handsome, with blonde hair and green eyes. And he'll sweep me off my feet when the moment is right, and then we'll be mated!"

"Wait, wait. The first person you kiss is your mate?"

"Uh huh! As soon as you kiss someone you're technically mated to them, the queen just has to perform the ceremony to make it official."

I feel this odd sensation in my stomach, not quite happy, but not quite sad, "So you don't kiss anyone until you know it's them?"

"Exactly. It's such a magical moment! You know right then. This is the person I want to spend my whole life with!"

I blink, "So Kai and I were," my last word comes out as a whisper, "mates?"

She nods, "Duh! I thought you knew."

I shake my head, "No. No, I didn't know that."

"Oh. Well, if you had known would you have still kissed him?"

"Yes." the answer comes out of my mouth before I even have time to think.

There is a pause in the conversation, me mulling over my answer, and Ava thinking of her next question.

"What's it like? To have legs?"

"Well, I don't really know how to describe it other than walking. I've always had legs, it's the tail that's new to me."

"I'm so jealous! Sometimes I wish I could walk around up at the surface, and meet a full blooded human! I watch the village sometimes, when the pirates aren't docked. They're so interesting. And their gadgets are so modern!"

I laugh, "You should see the Mainland, their gadgets will knock your scales off."

Ava smiles, then blinks, "We should probably get your pearls on."

I sigh, "Yes, I suppose we should."

We walk out of the parlor and into the bathroom.

"Sit in the chair and stick your tail out, if you please."

I comply, and she gazes at my tail for a moment, "Your tail is so pretty! It even glows a little."

I giggle, "So I've been told."

"Okay. So, the more strands of pearls a mermaid has on her tail, the higher status she is. The Queen wears a total of twenty different strands, and you get to wear nineteen, because you're one rank below her."

"Oh." I notice her tail doesn't have any.

"And, they have to be draped a certain way. You wrap once around your hips, and then wind them around your tail until you can wrap them around your fin."

Ava smiles, playfully pulling on my fin. She then begins to wrap, her quick fingers weaving the pearls in and around each other. My tail becomes heavier and heavier, until it's quite hard to keep off of the ground.

"All done! What do you think?"

"It's beautiful, but aren't they a bit heavy?"

"Beauty and status comes at a price darling, your jewelry will be a bit heavy." she says, a snobby tone in her voice.

I laugh and smack her arm lightly, "Oh, hush."

I slowly rise from the stool, finding my mobility and speed are both greatly hindered by the pearl strands.

As if reading my mind, Ava says, "They're kind of supposed to slow you down, it makes you think about moving regally."

"I guess that makes sense."

I turn around and look in the mirror, and the person I see is almost entirely different from the Relia I knew a few weeks ago. I feel kind of pretty.

"You look beautiful!" Ava squeals.

Just then, a soft tap on the door draws our attention.

"Come in!" Ava calls as we travel towards the door.

My pair of guards enter the room, and are briefly speechless by my new appearance.

"You look," the younger guard clears his throat, "lovely, Princess."

"Thank you."

"We're here to escort you to the ballroom." the older adds.

Ava wraps me in a hug, "Good luck! I'll be watching from the kitchen. You'll be fine. Just remember, head up, smile, and swim slowly."

"Got it. Thanks for everything, Ava."

She smiles as the guards lead me out of the room, closing the door behind us.

Soon, a crown will be on my head, and I'll be a princess. Why am I not happy? I'm lead to small holding room behind the ballroom's stage. It is hung with rich velvet tapestries and matching couches, with a mahogany table. Through the thick curtains I can faintly hear the string quartet playing a soft song, and the dulled mumble of voices. We sit in silence until a thudding noise sounds through the ballroom, silencing the guests. The deep voice of who I can only assume to be the royal herald fills the room with gusto, leaving no corner untouched by his booming voice.

"May I present Her Majesty, Selene Cyrena Rydia Damaris, Queen of Pelagia."

The room is filled with excited applause before a hush spreads over the merpeople. I can hear my mother's steady voice, "Welcome all, we extend our warmest welcomes to our honored guests."

The room is again filled with polite applause.

"On this day, you will witness an incredibly noteworthy event, the coronation of my daughter and heiress to the Pelagian throne."

The merpeople clap enthusiastically, I can feel the tension slowly rising.

"Join me in welcoming my beautiful daughter, Aurelie Isana Callista Damaris."

What? Aurelie? I am gently pushed through the curtain to the sounds of applause. Everything Ava told me swims through my mind as I make my way to my mother at the center of the stage.

Head up, smile, swim slowly.

Head up, smile, swim slowly.

Mom wraps an arm around my waist and gives me a quick squeeze. The herald booms his staff on the shimmering ballroom floor once again, and the ballroom falls silent. The audience turns their attention to the herald, but I can still feel the curious glances being thrown my way. Why the heck is my name suddenly Aurelie Isana Something Something?

"Please welcome the highest member of the Royal Pelagian Court, Sir Karsten Orion Alexander."

I make a mental note that my mother and I both have one more name than him. Maybe it's the same way the pearls work, the more you have the higher status you are. The crowd applauds as a man that looks to be in his thirties swims onto the stage, even though he's probably a lot older. Kai was ninety seven. No. Stop thinking about Kai. Sir Karsten Orion Alexander has light blonde hair and deep violet eyes, giving him an ethereal quality. He is cloaked in white robes embroidered with the golden sun. He carries a velvet pillow, and on it sits a glittering tiara so beautiful it takes my breath away. My mother backs away from me, leaving me alone in the center of the stage. He moves to stand next to me, and addresses the audience.

"Citizens of Pelagia…"

I can feel a stare burning into me, one that won't go away. I force myself to stick a serene smile on my face, and I gaze around the room to try and find the source of my discomfort. My eyes lock with those familiar blue orbs, his face lights up in a soft smile to reveal the dimples I thought I would never see again. My heart leaps to my throat and I quickly turn away, trying to refocus on Karsten's speech. My heart is beating so fast. I think I might throw up. Do I look again?

But then Karsten is gesturing for me to dip my head, and I do so. He places the light tiara on my head. It is made of silver and gold strands so thinly woven I almost can't feel it. He holds out an arm for me to bow, and I comply, as slowly as Ava instructed.

The herald pounds his staff, "May I present Aurelie Isana Callista Damaris, Princess of Pelagia."

The ballroom erupts into applause and I give a shaky smile. Unsure of what to do with myself, I stand there until the quartet strikes up a soft waltz. Everyone finally takes their eyes off of me in search of a dance partner. I scan the crowd fervently, but I am unable to find him. Maybe I was just imagining things. A hand lacing its fingers through mine makes me jump.

"Are you okay?" Mom asks.

"I-I… Yes. Yes, I'm fine. So… Aurelie?"

She smiles softly, "Your real name. It means golden one."

"And you never called me that before because?"

"I wanted to wait until you were crowned. It seemed right."

In her defense, that makes sense. But all of a sudden Relia is no longer my name? As if reading my mind, my mother places her hand on my arm.

"You'll always be Relia. Aurelie is just your formal name. Don't worry about it, it's simply a formality."

Golden one does seem fitting though, considering that golden touch that worked on Peter and didn't work on Kai. Is that a sign of something?

"Why don't you go dance?"

I summon a small smile, "Mom, you of all people know that I was born with two left feet, or, fins, I guess."

She laughs and pats my shoulder, "It's alright, I'm sure there are plenty of mermen more than willing to teach you."

I resist the urge to elbow her, I don't think that would go over well, but she chuckles and walks into the crowd to find a dance partner.

My head is swimming. I slowly back out of the ballroom and back into the now empty holding room, flopping onto a couch and putting my head in my hands. I squeeze my eyes shut tight and curl into a ball, willing my sad thoughts to go away. But is he really here? A cold palm on my shoulder draws my attention, I glance up to find him. He hasn't changed, the eyes, the hair, and the smile are all the same. The massive, bloody gash in his stomach is gone, replaced by toned, tan skin.


He cups my face with that unusually chilled hand, lightly running his thumb along my cheekbone.

It's him.

He's here.

He's not dead.

"Come with me." he whispers softly.

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