I hummed gently and pulled myself upon the rock, letting the ends of my tail soak in the sea.
“Why don’t you ever sing out loud? It’s a mermaid tradition,” Cora asked.
I looked at her and smiled a bit, knowing she would never judge me. She was the one person in these waters who never once judged me for the way I looked or the way I sounded.
“You can answer your own question,” I replied with my raspy voice.
Cora grabbed onto a rock beside my own and planted her bottom on it. She looked at me and grabbed my face. “Forget them. If you want to sing, sing as long as your heart desires. Sing until the days of mermaids are over. Sing with the passion you hold in your voice. You, my friend, are not to worry about being judged by the cruelest beast of the sea. It is you who is Queen.”
I grabbed her hand with my slim, black, pointed fingers. “You always say the right thing at the right time.”
Cora wrapped her tan, rounded fingers around mine. “That is why we are friends.”
The breeze was soft and cool, bringing in a mist from the waters with it. The waves rocked back and forth and tried to cover my entire tail that was planted on this rock.
I looked up at the blue sky, watching the faded clouds float on by. The wind blew some of my black hair into my face and I brushed it away, tucking it behind my ear.
I had too much hair and it never played in my favor that it was frizzy and textured. Cora helped me brush some of it from my face, letting out a small sigh. “You must let me do your hair one of these days.” Her voice was so smooth and beautiful unlike my own.
“You would have to find something to do my hair with, as you know we don’t get hair accessories very often.” I smiled at the girl beside me.
Cora spent a lot of her time showering me in compliments and sweet securities for my self-esteem and it always worked.
I had spent most of my childhood being made fun of by the other mermaids because I didn’t look like them but when Cora came along, she threatened their lives if they dared hurt me again.
When I took my rightful heir to the throne as Queen of the Sea, most of the mermaids found it harder to judge me for who I was. For that, I was grateful. My royalty kept my feelings intact.
Cora slid off the rock, back into the blue waters that would shift to teal every now and then. She grabbed my hand and tugged at it, ushering me to follow her. “Let us go for a swim.”
I let her pull me back into the refreshing sea water that kept my skin cooled.
Cora waved me along, swimming backward. I started following her and stopped the moment she had.
We raced through the deep blue waters and towards our little underwater cove. I won, being the faster mermaid of the two of us. I wasn’t as beautiful but I was the fastest swimmer.
We swam through the tunnel, coming up into a little pool of water that was surrounded by rock encasing us inside. I flopped onto the ledge as did Cora. Some other mermaids were chatting and brushing each other’s hair while using their fingers.
Cora laid her head on the shimmery blue skin of my shoulder. “Who will be the unlucky man? Have you found him?”
“I have not.” I didn’t say anything else. While Cora was my best friend, I could not tell her that I didn’t agree with the way mermaids reproduced.
“Make sure he’s attractive. We want some beautiful babies.” Cora smiled. “We should go to the Mainland at some point. They have a lot of men there.”
I just gave her a small smile and stayed silent. It would not be good for my reputation if anyone knew that I didn’t agree with using men for babies. I knew I would not like it if the same was done to me. But it was being done to me.
I was expected to find a man to get me pregnant. I wanted more than this. I wanted more than a life of having a baby to keep my royal family alive. I wanted to be free and be myself.
Cora hummed a soft lullaby. It barely echoed throughout the cave but it was enough for everyone to be entranced by the song. Music was our escape and our therapy. Music was how mermaids thrived. I just happened to be the one mermaid who didn’t have a beautiful voice.
The mermaids all started to sing along with Cora, letting the melody flow within the rock. I placed my backside against the rock of the cave, letting the voices relax every muscle that was tense. I could never deny how golden their vocals were.
I let my eyes closed for a moment before the dreams whisked me away to another world.
“Raina, wake up. Raina,” the voice echoed throughout my head.
I opened my eyes and sat up straight, looked around the now empty cave. Cora pushed some of the hair that was stuck to my cheek behind my ear. “You were out for a long time. You must have been tired.” She sat next to me and moved the ends of her fins back and forth in small motions.
“We should go swim some more,” Cora said.
I nodded and we both slid into the water. We swam out of the cave and through the tunnel. We headed towards the island called Neverland.
Cora slowed and stopped when we were coming upon a beach. “Raina, we can’t. This is dangerous.” She eyed the large ship that sat atop the waters, a black flag with a skull and crossbones waving high in the wind.
I grabbed her hand and pulled her a little closer and nodded, telling her it was going to be okay. I was the queen, and I would make sure we wouldn’t get caught.
We hid behind a rock and kept our gazes on the men that searched the beach. One of the men wore all black attire. Something reflected the sunlight and caught my attention. I noticed the hook attached to the man’s hand, untouched as if it were brand new.
“Find the boy! I do not want to see any of you come back empty. There will be consequences,” the man with a hook for a hand told his crew. His accent was pleasant but I couldn’t quite make out what it was.
The crew set off into the forest, leaving the captain alone on the beach. This made it much safer for Cora and me to not be caught.
Cora gave me a look, warning me to get out while I still could. Pirates were not fond of mermaids. They had a thing for kidnapping us and using us for their own purposes, whatever those may have been.
The captain walked along the shore, glancing in our direction every now and then. He had not seen us, yet.
I tried to search for any other details I could to understand what was going on here. Which boy did they want? Why?
My eyes were not working despite their larger size. They could not focus in on any significant details.
The man continued to search the beach. He glanced at the trees as if he was expecting his men to bring him the boy this quickly.
“What is he doing?” Cora asked.
I shook my head, dismissing her question. I knew that our best and safest bet was to keep quiet. I put my hand up to tell Cora to stay while I swam to another rock, closer to the beach.
I knew what ran through Cora’s mind. I knew her too well and she was probably wondering if I was inspecting this man as a potential sperm donor. I knew otherwise.
I watched the man look out at the sea and watch for anything unusual. He looked in my direction and his eyes lingered a little too long. I focused on his eyes before realizing he was looking at me. He had spotted me.
I ducked under the water and rushed back to Cora. I grabbed her arm and pulled her under the water, dragging her behind me as I raced away. We ended up at Mermaid Lagoon, the one safe place of Neverland.
Cora grabbed my shoulders and pulled my attention to her. “What happened?”
“He saw me.” Those were the only words I could manage. My heartbeat was racing a million miles a minute. The mermaids would’ve been completely doomed had I been caught and killed. They needed a queen. I was nothing pretty to look at but they knew they needed me ultimately.
Cora shook her head and gave me a look. “Raina, I told you that you need to be careful! Those pirates are bad and they do not take kindly to the creatures like us. We are not seen as creatures with feelings in their eyes.”
“We don’t see men as people with feelings either.” It slipped out. I was normally a pro at keeping my thoughts to myself but it rolled right off my tongue.
Cora eyed me and decided not to comment on what I’d said. “We can never go back there. It’s too risky.”
I nodded in agreement and found my usual rock, pulling myself onto it and sitting there. I flapped my fin against the water and looked at Cora. She seemed to be lost in her thoughts and I wondered if she was mad at me. Was she mad because I exposed how I truly saw our method of procreation?
Cora finally left her thoughts and swam over where I was. She pulled herself up on her own rock and looked out upon the waters. Neither of us said a word. I didn’t know what to say and I didn’t want to talk about my thought process being different from theirs.
The waves rolled onto the beach and slid back into the water. They repeated this constantly. It was a soothing movement to focus on. It kept my mind at peace during all the chaos that threatened to rise up.
The only sound that could be heard for miles was the sound of the waves washing up on the beach. Cora looked over at me and finally broke the silence. “I’m going to go back to the caves. I’ll see you when you decide to come back.” She got back into the water and swam under, disappearing into the sea.
I got off my rock and inched closer to the beach. The depth of the waters gradually got shallower and I planted my bottom in the sand underneath the small waves. I looked at the horizon and let the peace of this scenery calm the heart that continued to race a million miles a minute.
The sun had already set long ago but that didn’t make this moment any less happy. It made the smile grow on my face. The sea was my home and it kept me very sane. It made all of the bad things go away. This was why I was Queen. The sea gave me life and a reason to keep living.
I laid back in the shallow waters, looking up at the stars. They shined with a hope that we all needed down here. Nature was so beautiful and I often wondered if we could have that, too. Could our lives be just as beautiful and hopeful?
I’d always wondered if there could be more to life than procreation. I got closer and closer to the days of having children and I was not looking forward to them. I needed a change.
“Usually there aren’t any mermaids when I come down here. I don’t come here often, but I sure know I never see mermaids at Mermaid Lagoon,” someone with an accent joked behind me.
I sat up and looked at the male, ready to swim away. Pirates were dangerous and lost boys hated us. I feared this was worse. I was looking at the King of Neverland and I’d never heard good things about him.