Chapter 1 (Aria)
In a time before many, there were two sisters, Aria and Beth, they were the bestest of friends. Inseparable. They were princesses and lived in a huge palace, but not the big prissy, really fussed about their hair kind you hear about in children’s books. For the best stories come with a twist. Of excitement? Maybe. Adventure? Close. But the plot that changes the story completely is the most important part. Aria had waist-length blonde hair, green eyes and a perfect smile. Beth was a couple of years younger than Aria. She was brown haired, hair that went down to her shoulders, had brown eyes and a cheeky, childish grin. She always wore a locket with her too, which was two purple shells trapped together. She could never open it though. It was a poor kingdom, and small, as you might imagine. The old-fashioned, filthy palace was filled with empty corridors where you could pace up and down just to pass the time, and old, dusty grandfather clocks in every wing in the towers (not that anyone looked at them). The least they could do was clean the place up, but apparently, the budget was too low for that sort of thing. You know, butlers and what have you. (Mostly, the girls think that their dad used all the money to buy overly expensive cars to impress the ladies he passed on the motorway).
Each day was just like the last, nothing ever seemed to change. Nothing exciting ever seemed to happen in the palace. The last thing that the girls remembered that was intriguing or fun was playing in the sea about 7 years ago. In any case, that would almost never happen again. Until that very next day…
Their father had requested a nanny, to care for the two insolent girls. Thousands volunteered, and, in the end, though she wasn’t in any way qualified or experienced, the king had had enough of the auditions and chose the closest auditioner to him. At that very moment Aria was typing up an essay for school when Beth came rushing into her room.
“Ar, guess what! Dad hired a nanny!” she squealed excitedly.
“And that’s good because?” Aria sighed, “That just stops us getting out even more than usual.” Then she went back to her work, head buried under her cushion.
“But she’s mute!” Beth retorted. Aria looked back up. She had that little twinkle in her eyes that no one had seen in so long, she could have even been a whole different person.
“I don’t believe it. Dad would never hire a mute nanny!” said her older sister.
“Well Dad did hire a nanny. I don’t care if you don’t believe me.” Beth replied.
Aria’s fourteen and Beth’s eight. They always used to play together, but then Aria grew older and all she seemed to care about now was good grades. “Ar, it is so boring in the palace. Can’t we just escape, maybe?” Beth asked in a small voice.
“Tell me, when does this nanny arrive?” Both faces lit up with great big beams of pleasure.
“Well, I think Dad said tomorrow.” Beth replied with a huge grin, “That gives us time to plan our great escape.”
“Come on, now you’re just naming book titles.” Despite her attitude, Aria’s expression went from a frown to a great smile, and then the excitement was triggered.
Soon enough, the girls were planning every little detail to how the escape plan would work; it wasn’t hard, after all, she’s mute! She couldn’t even tell dad if they snuck out, and, for plan B, her being an old lady and all, she’d easily fall asleep to music, if they even needed a plan A to pull this off.
“This is going to be so much fun!” Beth yelled in delight. “I’m so excited!”
“Me too.” Instantly, Aria had a wicked idea, "Maybe we could take a few snacks too.”
Beth gawped at her in surprise. Usually Aria is the goody-two-shoes of the family. “Of course we need to take snacks. How long are we going for?” Beth asked curiously.
“After doing some digging in dad’s stuff, I figured out he would be out for up to eighteen whole hours. That will give us enough time to get to the beach and back as well as a few hours in between.”
“Can we do it every day?” Beth wondered.
“Every day that dad’s out.” Aria beamed.
Yet, there was still one problem: Maudy. She was the castle housemaid, or used to be, but also very loyal to their dad. They’re now engaged, and after eight wives, weddings and divorces, the girls had finally had enough. The last mother that they had was their real mother. She wasn’t perfect, but at least she wasn’t a backstabbing cockroach like some of them have been. One had punished Beth for slouching in her dancing session, her four hour dancing session (and afterwards collapsed), and punished Ellie for getting a B in her Spanish test. That taught Beth to sit up straight (and to never work as hard as that when doing exercise) and taught Ellie to get good grades in tests or else you’ll get a racoon come and trash your room.
That was until their mother had died. Well, that was what was presumed. They didn’t divorce like all the rest. Anyway, Maudy was the last thing standing in their way. They had thought long and hard on this, and then decided to send her to a ‘grand hotel’ in Washington for the night (she couldn’t refuse!) Aria designed a leaflet, and, after a bit of persuasion, let Beth make the pop-outs and flaps. Together they coloured and crafted the perfect plan. Everything was perfect and ready for the very next day.
Early the next morning, they tiptoed quietly to Maudy’s headquarters. They slipped the leaflet silently under the door. Suddenly, Beth’s skirt caught on the door handle and made a terrible hustle trying to detach it. Once they had done it, their hearts in their throats, they waited for a few minutes to check that no one had woken up. When Aria had gestured that the coast was clear, Beth heaved a sigh of relief.
“Sorry.” she whispered to Aria nervously because sometimes Aria had a fierce temper, “I didn’t mean to.”
“I know. It wasn’t your fault.” she murmured, her hand on Beth’s shoulder, “Just be careful.” Their eyes met and a small smile was shared between them. Silently they rushed back into Aria’s room hoping nobody saw them. That was all they could do for now. Hope.
“I am so excited, today is the day that we get to explore the world! Well, maybe just the beach but it’s better than nothing. What beach are we going to and how are we going to get there-” Beth whispered, positively trembling with excitement and enthusiasm.
Aria twitched, “Slow down, now. First we need to take care of the nanny.”
“I know but it is just the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us in like, a million years.”
“You haven’t lived for a million years.” Aria laughed.
“Well it feels like we have, from all the boredom we have been through.”
“Yep. We have left over boredom for days.”
It had just gone nine ‘o’ clock and the nanny would be arriving any second if her car hadn’t broken down.
“Now that it is nine ‘o’ clock how are we getting to the beach, and which beach?” Beth asked for the second time that day, squeezing Aria’s wrist.
“The nanny’s not even arrived yet, Maudy’s still packing and dad’s only just got into the car. What do you expect? We can’t leave now.” Aria blurted without thinking.
“I know we aren’t leaving now so I bet you don’t know what beach we are going to and how we are going to get there.” Beth said smartly.
“Actually, I do know. I did a Class 4 test on vehicles, if you must know, and know enough about motor-cycles that I could get us to the beach.” Aria replied.
“You, riding a motor-cycle!” Beth burst out laughing.
“Yes, actually. I actually train at night when you’re in bed! How’s that smarty pants!” That shut Beth up. “And also, we’re going to Brodeshire Beach.”
“But you are not old enough to be able to drive. Most importantly though, I got you to say which beach we are going to and how we are getting there.”
“As I said. Brodeshire Beach on a motor-cycle. Easy as that. I thought you wanted a day where we, as people make our own rules up for the day.” Aria said. “We are also royalty, so we get let off.”
Later on, Aria heard a car pulling up on the drive. She peered out of the window. A yellow taxi with black and white stripes pulled in, an old lady it’s only passenger. “Beth! Come look! She’s here!”
“Oh, at long last!” In unison, they sprinted downstairs to welcome her. They led her inside, sat her down, and then slammed the door closed after telling her they’d be doing their homework for a few hours so not to disturb them. Of course, that wasn’t the plan.
Aria had readied the motor-bike earlier that morning, after their dad had left and Maudy had taken her flight , just to be sure. She had hidden it by the church, after realising that the king would see it in the backyard on the way out. They made sure to keep it a secret. After all, who would they tell?
“COME ON!” Aria screamed at the bike, yanking at its front wheel, trying to pull it out of a puddle. It wouldn’t budge. Beth was with her too, thrusting it forward with all of her might. Soon, it started to loosen. “It’s hopeless.”
“Come on. Just one more try.” Beth called up from her knees. Nothing. “And again.” This time it did move. The girls flailed in the air, slipping backwards and crashing to the ground. “Oww.” whimpered Beth as she sat up. Aria groaned, vigorously. Muddy water had sprayed them soaking wet. For an instant, Aria felt her legs stiffen, unable to move. As much as she struggled and fought it, it wouldn’t let go of her. As if your legs were caught in a spider web, sticking together with nothing to do. The numbness left, and she could finally relax. She glanced at Beth. By the look in her eyes, it was known that she had felt it too.
Beth fastened her helmet, trying not to think about what had just happened. Perhaps it was just pins and needles from the aching of the muscles when they’d tried to pull out the bike. Or maybe, it was something else. Beth loved these kinds of things: mysteries, quests, curses and stuff like that is all very well to read, but this time, it was real. It had to be. She knew that Aria was sharing the same thoughts when she said,
“Did you feel that? The stiffness?” Beth nodded bluntly. “Let’s just try not to think about it, okay?”
Aria turned up the gears so they could go a bit faster down the hill. There was a little beach tucked away just below the hill, where the sea meets the land, and the sand is warm against your feet. The perfect place. Nearly there, thought Aria, doing a wheelie, Beth clinging to her shoulders. “Come on, let’s hit the beach!” she shouted into the distance, “We’re actually going somewhere, for reals.”
“For reals.” Beth repeated.
Walking along the sand felt like heaven.
So warm, so welcoming. The salty air swept slowly across the seabed in the lightest breeze, and not a soul was to be seen. Their secret place. They enjoyed the solitude of the quiet beach more than ever. Hidden, comforting and a hint of, well, what is that? The girls had never felt anything of the sort. Was it...happiness? Joy? The willingness to be away from the palace as long as possible? No. Because they’ve felt those feelings before. What was it? It starts with f, they’re sure of it. F-r-i-e-n-d-s-h- Friendship? Almost. F-r-e- Freedom! That’s what it was!
The day went smoothly onwards, as the waves lapped and churned in the midsummer wind.
“Want to go for a swim?” Aria called. Beth was burying herself in sand at the time.
“Sure!” She jumped out, sand cascading to the ground like a bomb had struck the beach. She clasped Aria’s hand. “On three. One. Two. THREE!”
They leapt into the sea, creating such a big splash that exploded even larger than the sand just a few seconds ago, that kept rippling in the sea in circles around them. Nothing at first. Just smiles and laughter. But then, everything stopped. The girls stopped smiling. Their legs snapped together, straining and tensing, trying to break free. Suddenly, their legs disappeared completely, and were replaced by something thought impossible… Surely enough, they were mermaids.