Ally had stormed out of the room, leaving Maria frozen.
“Hmph, what’s with her?” Phoebe asked while polishing her clean fingernails on her Grecian dress.
“I’m not sure,” said Garai. “It might be because she’s mostly human.” Garai shrugged and collapsed onto the king sized bed. The bed was large (it was a bed fit for a king after all) and it was still comfortable despite how old it was.
“Mostly human? How sad, Humans are so compassionate it’s pitiful” said Phoebe. “Hey,” she gestured to Maria who was still frozen in the middle of the place’s bedroom.
Maria was still as a statue. Maria couldn’t believe that Ally had called her a ‘freak’. She wasn’t a freak, was she?
“Helloooo” Phoebe waved her long white stone arms in front of her.
Marai replayed the rewinded the conflict in her mind.
Victoria had to stay down on the bottom floor of the palace to distract the dukes and guards while the other ‘princesses’ went up to explore the palace. When they’d entered the bedroom, they saw a strange girl in the bedroom. Instantly, they knew there was something off about her. It was as if she had been pulled right out of Ancient Greece. Her insanely curly hair pulled up into a Greek style updo, her gown was white and one-shouldered. And in her hand, a scroll-the next clue.
“Wonderful...more competition,” Garai said sarcastically. Phoebe had smiled slyly.
“How did you get here so quickly?” Alima asked.
“Simple, unlike you all, I get straight to the point and work for me and only me.” When she spoke, she revealed a heavy accent. Her words simply glided out from her lips. Phoebe twirled the scroll in her hand. “I can’t wait to read this.”
“She meant how did you get here?” Maria said. “You’re not even dressed to blend in, your accent is way too noticeable, and I bet you don’t have a coin in your pocket.”
Phoebe winked. Her long feathery eyelashes silently fanned a gust of wind and her lips swiftly mouthed a word that no one had caught with the exception of Maria.
“WAKE UP!” Garai shouted in Maria’s face. Maria flinched and yelped a girlishly. “What is with you?” Garai said, back within a normal volume range. “It’s bad enough that Alima and Ally are gone. We need you to stay awake.”
“I was awake.” Maria mumbled and turned her attention to Phoebe. Her suspicions rose. Why hadn’t Phoebe just told them all herself that she was a siren? And was Maria the only one who caught the secret message that slipped through her lips?
“It sure didn’t look like it.” Garai said. “So,” Garai’s eyes followed the scroll that Phoebe held in her hands. “Now that we’ve came to a truce, let’s open that scroll up shall we?”
“Yes. But this truce is temporary.” Phoebe nodded.
“Agreed,” Garai said.
“No.” Maria said. She stood in defiance with her hands on her hips. “I want to annul the truce. You’re keeping something from us.”
“Aren’t we all?” Phoebe glanced down and smiled.
“Maria!” Garai scolded. “We need this truce. The faster we find the princess, the sooner we’ll get the prize. You’re being ridiculous.”
“I am not!” Maria argued back.
“Hey…” Phoebe said gently. “Look, if I’m the one that’s causing all this trouble then you may as well ask me anything. As of now, I’m an open book.”
“Anything?” Maria raised a brow.
“Okay,” Maria cleared her throat. “Are you a siren?”
“Yes. You are speaking to royalty.”
“Queen of the sirens?” Garai gave Phoebe a funny look. “But Alima is the queen siren.”
Phoebe pondered about this. “Alima...Alima…” Phoebe’s eyes widened and she said gravely, “Oh...Alima. I haven’t heard from her since the late eighteenth century. I can’t believe it.” Phoebe laughed weakly. “She’s alive. We all assumed that she killed herself.”
“Why would Alima kill herself? And how are you queen?”
“Before her disappearance, she gave me her crown. I was the replacement. After that...she never came back.” Phoebe sighed and tilted her head up to the colorful painted ceiling. “She had acted so strange for a while. From time to time, she’d head off our home-waters and travel far. Never had she told us what she did or why she’d disappear like so.”
Maria and Garai exchanged glances. Alima had been visiting Mathew’s town in Virginia.
“What do you seek?” This time, it was Garai who had asked.
“Glory,” Phoebe said at the top of her head. “I’m trying to keep a hold of my remaining colony. I rule only fifty-six sirens. Most of them left or died of starvation.”
“That-that doesn’t make sense.” Garai said. “What does glory have to do with-”
“Glory is not going to win back the respect of your colony.” Maria shook her head. “What you should do is make sure that your people are well fed.”
Phoebe moaned in frustration. Maria and Garai gasped sharply as they watched Phoebe’s nails shootout from their cuticles. Her nails were at least four inches long and were surprisingly neatly groomed. But that did not make them any more attractive than they were.
“Do you think I would’ve thought of that by now? It’s NOT that simple.”
Phoebe’s teeth had began to change. Extra teeth shot up and they criss-crossed in all sorts of directions. Phoebe took notice of these changes and breathed deeply. Her nails and teeth retracted. Phoebe smiled sweetly as if nothing had happened and continued speaking.
“Forgive me. As I was saying, it’s not that simple. Humans have advanced to the point that we sirens can’t even hunt on shore anymore without the risk of the being shot or waging a war.”
“Why can’t you hunt in water?”
“Because, most fishermen don’t even reach our territory. Our numbers are plummeting. At this rate, sirens will die out for sure.” Phoebe looked to Maria and Garai for sympathy but was disappointed to find out that Garai and Maria didn’t care at all.
“Interesting,” Garai said.
“That’s too bad.” Maria shrugged. “Oh well, we’ve all got our own problems. Good luck with yours.”
“ARE YOU SERIOUS?” Phoebe’s voice boomed. “YOU DON’T CARE, AT ALL?”
Garai got up close to Phoebe, too close for her comfort. Phoebe had no choice but make direct eye-contact with her. Garai’s eyes were intense. They narrowed at her with an invisible pressure. “Listen your majesty, I don’t know what fantasy land you’re in right now but let’s get this straight. We are not friends. This applies to you, and our other allies. The second we find that lost royal brat we are complete strangers. So don’t expect us to care about your petty problems. Is that clear?”
Phoebe scoffed. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
Anger flushed over Garai and she gripped Phoebe’s shoulders. Phoebe’s eyes flashed a bright pink. Within a minute, they were back to normal again. Phoebe shook her head at Garai and said, “So you do have feelings after all.”
“What did you do?” Garai whispered.
“I can see things from the past. I would advise you from touching me again if you want your privacy.” Phoebe said.
“No, no,” Phoebe waved her finger. “You can’t touch me.” Phoebe took notice of Garai’s heavy breaths and blood thirsty face. She laughed. “This is the most fun I’ve had in centuries.” Garai was silent. Every part of her wanted to rip Phoebe to shreds. But she couldn’t do it. It was part of the deal with the Queen of the Atlantic. If she harmed any of the mermaids, it was game over.
“I pity you. You’re trapped in ignorance. Humans aren’t meant to live more than a century. To us, they’re like fruit flies; they drop dead after a day. Do you really think an elixir would insure you and a mere human a happily ever after?”
Garai screamed. “THAT’S IT! I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!” Garai stormed out of the room.
“Where are you going?” Maria asked.
“I’m leaving,” Garai’s voice was distant in the hallway. “If I have to work with her, I’d rather die!”
“She doesn’t mean that,” Phoebe rolled her eyes.
Maria didn’t bother to chase after her. Maria paused her breathing so that she could hear Garai’s angry footsteps fade. When she was sure Garai was gone, Maria turned to Phoebe and said, “I will work with you. But you are really something, you know? Out of all the fish in the sea, you are the dumbest. You’re a horrible leader and have the maturity of a fish egg. If you keep this up, you will surely fail. And I don’t just mean this mission, but I mean at everything else too.” Maria sat down on the Napoleon’s bed and hid her face into her hands. Phoebe sat down next to her.
“You’re right,” Phoebe said with a heavy sigh. “Everything you just said, you were right.”
“Hey,” Maria looked up from her hands and said, “cut this cheesy scum and let’s get to the clue.”
“Sure.” Phoebe opened the scroll. “It’s a note from the princess.”
My Dear Saviors,
It is far too dangerous for any of you to continue your search for me. I insure you all that I am safe in hiding. The scientists will give up hunting me eventually. I am so grateful that my beloved older sister cared so much that she sent the best of the best mermaids on this mission. But I beg of you all, I am safe. Please go home and wait for my return.
Sincerely, Princess Naia
“It’s awfully rushed.” Phoebe scrutinized the note. She brought the scroll to her nose and sniffed. “She was in the Caribbeans when she wrote this.”
“Are you sure?” Maria took the scroll from Phoebe and licked it. She smacked her lips and nodded. “I can recognize the taste of my homewaters anyday.”
Phoebe took the scroll back. “Maybe I can try to tap into the past.” Her eyes flickered pink. Phoebe flinched and dropped the scroll. The scroll collided onto the floor and it rolled across the room.
“There’s a blocking spell on this scroll.” Phoebe said and rubbed her temples. “That hurt.”
“Why would there be a blocking spell?”
“She wouldn’t want us to find her.” Phoebe said. “My dear Triton, we have a loose royal brat on our hands.”
“Freddy,” Alima said. She had chased Freddy for hours. Luckily for her, she had a lot more stamina so it was Freddy who had to yield to fatigue first. They were standing in the middle of a busy street. Cars zoomed by. Freddy was out of breath and his shirt was soaked with sweat.
“What. Do. You...want?” Freddy huffed and puffed. His sweat soaked hair covered his eyes.
“Give me a chance to explain.” Alima said. She looked around and saw how dangerous it was. “And let’s get off the road.”
“Not yet.” Freddy said. “Explain first.”
“Are you out of your mind?” Alima shouted. “We can get hit!”
“Freddy!” Alima took a few steps closer, but in return, Freddy took the same amount of steps back. “About what you heard, it’s all true. We are still proud of our accomplishments. But you have to understand that we’re mermaids. Just as you humans are proud of earning an award or being the best at something, mermaids take pride in certain things as well.”
“So what? Do you mermaids slaughter men, curse villages, and sink ships for fun?”
“Yes, we do. That’s just who we are.” Alima tried to discern Freddy’s grim expression for any signs of softening but she found no change. “I thought you knew about this. It should’ve been obvious after all the death threats I gave you in the beginning.”
“I thought you were different.” Freddy said. A car beeped and swerved to avoid crashing into him. “I thought you changed.”
“I have changed, Freddy. I really have. But you can’t expect us all to change. And there is always going to be that savage lurking inside of me.” Alima’s voice quivered and she sighed. “If you can’t handle that, I suggest you go home. Home is where you belong.” Alima looked up to the sky and smiled painfully. “You’re lucky you know. At least you belong somewhere. I don’t belong anywhere. I’ve been banished in water, I have to hide myself on land. I don’t even know who I am anymore.”
A car beeped and tires screeched. “Look out!” Freddy ran and sprung. He pushed Alima out of the car’s way and they both tumbled onto a sidewalk. They lied there on the hot sidewalk. Their hearts beated wildly.
“You didn’t have to do that.” Alima said.
“Well too late, I already did.” Freddy had his face scrapped by the sidewalk. His face was raw.
“I wouldn’t have died.”
Alima rolled her body over so she could face Freddy’s face. “You’re bleeding.”
“Are you going to eat me?” Freddy asked.
Alima laughed. “Yeah right, you wouldn’t even make a good appetizer.” She grunted and pushed herself off the sidewalk and helped Freddy up. “Let’s go find Ally.”
“Yeah, let’s do that.”
Freddy and Alima walked off on their search. Alima stopped and whispered to him, “Thank you.”