This is a story I wrote for my first college roommate, Kristen. It’s also a gift for our dear friend, Miss Kaitlyn. I hope they both enjoy this.
Once upon a time, in a world surrounded by water, there lived a little girl: Emaree. She was small and kind, with bright eye and raven curl. She and her mother had moved to the seaweed beaches and shared a home with her mother’s dearest friend, Rose. In the summer months, when the sun sat high behind wispy clouds, Emaree’s mother spent days at a time working in the nearby city. Emaree missed her mother when she went away, but she relished the opportunity to bond with her beloved Aunt Rose. Rose told her stories of the water, and of the animals that picked their way across the pale sand. Some stories were full of magic and adventure while others were of love and loss. Emaree loved to explore the wild and tangled shore, creating stories of her own, and crawled or climbed when her fingers couldn’t reach.
One day, as she wriggled between two salt and moss rocks, Emaree stumbled upon something quite interesting. Small and square, obviously old, an ornate metal chest stared up at her. She dug it out from the cold sand and held it up to her nose, her eyes crossing as she examined its intricate pattern. The gilded lid was stuck fast no matter how hard she pulled at the shining clasp. She turned her ear towards the chest; she thought she could hear… A wide grin blossomed across her face… Faintly came the tinkling of chimes, soft and straining against the heavy ocean air. Delightedly, she tucked her find into her cardigan pocket.
Emaree took off towards home, eager to show off her newest treasure. My legs have never moved so fast, she thought, as the pebbled beach streaked along. As she crested the top of the highest dune she skidded to a halt. Standing not far down the shore was her dear Auntie Rose.
“Oh, what rotten luck,” Emaree muttered. She told me I’m not supposed to go past the white driftwood. And so she slid down into the shadow of the bleached log, hoping her aunt would go away.
“Emaree, Emaree! Where are you hiding? It’s time to come in for supper!” Rose looked the horizon up and down, a hand perched on her brow. When an answer did not come, Rose’s hands cupped around her mouth and she shouted Emaree’s name louder. Emaree screwed her eyes up tight and willed her legs to stay put. The seconds ticked by. Emaree couldn’t stand letting her Aunt worry so much, so with a sigh she scrambled over the log and shuffled down the sand.
“Auntie Rose, here I am. I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner; I was down by the wading pools.” Emaree looked down at her toes as she spoke, fiddling with her dress’s pleats. Rose, however, was relieved. She tilted Emaree’s chin up and looked into the little girl’s eyes.
“I’ll let this one go, Little One, but next time, stay closer to home.” Rose snaked a tan hand through Emaree’s wind-whipped hair, and picked out bits of moss and leaf.
A breeze rippled from the waves and howled around the caves littering the shoreline. Auntie Rose shivered and put her arm around her niece’s shoulder.
“I think it’s time to go home, my dear. It’s getting cold and you are in desperate need of a comb!” Emaree looked down and laughed at her shadow’s crazy mane.
“Now tell me, what were you doing so far from home?”
Emaree’s eyes grew wide as she remembered the box bundled inside her sweater.
“Oh, Auntie Rose, it was the greatest day! I was exploring and I found something amazing!” Emaree and her aunt slowed down. Emaree fished the box out of her pocket and held it up to the sunset light. The tiny chest sang its song louder this time; Auntie Rose had no trouble hearing it. For some reason, the song sounded familiar to Rose.
Suddenly, Rose was surrounded by the warm heady smells of spice, sandalwood, and myrrh. And then, Auntie Rose remembered the truth the box held inside. She stopped dead in the sand, the tide rising up around her bare feet.
The memories came flooding back. As a tiny girl, when her brown hair was a mass of golden curls, she and Emaree’s mother were caught in a storm and headed for the closest shelter. They had huddled together with their hands clasped tight, waiting in the dark for the storm to break. While the wind howled around their hiding place, the two young friends decided to explore their newfound cave. They crawled along the pebbly floor, excitement flooding them. They found a pearly white seashell and pieces of smooth sea glass; but by far the best discovery was half-buried along the back wall.
From under a pile of cold wet sand they uncovered something that would forever change them. The two best friends clutched the box between them, pried open the lid, and gasped at what stared back at them. From its bed of silky blue, a pearl the size of a quarter cent gleamed. As they gazed at it, a strange haze appeared and the pearl glowed green. The girls jumped and dropped the box as a deep voice echoed off the glistening cave walls.
“Small maidens who seek adventure together, I see you’ve found our greatest treasure. We hid this pearl long ago to keep it away from our oldest foe. The power of my people, the people of the sea, was trapped inside by ancestors of me. I’ve searched for centuries for this relic from the past, but time had wound its shrouds tight and fast. Where legend said its beacon shone there was nothing but dirt and dust of bone. But now my people can celebrate, for the Pearl of Thessalonike, the mother of our kind, can be returned through our coral gate. And for you, my small precious friends, a present from the ocean king- to you two lasses our power lends!” As soon as the last wavering note faded, the cavern exploded with greens and blue, and the air sparked and crackled.
Rose stood in the sunset filtered waves and smiled at the dreamlike memory. She had forgotten as she had aged the gift that she had been given. But now as the water tickled her skin she remembered the words as if it were yesterday. The ocean king, with his lavender strands and crown of coral, had granted the girls the Song of the Mermaid. He had taken their lungs and their need for air and gave them strength, speed, and water’s power. The depths of the briny sea became their summer playground.
Those hot days swam turquoise, green, and gold; the friends twined as sisters and became daughters of the ocean. From morning’s first buttercup ray until the moon swung low in the inky midnight sky, the girls explored the watery kingdom. When the summer grew to a close, Emaree’s mother moved back home to flat plains and shallow lakes. By the time the girls were reunited, many years had passed. The girls had grown into women with families of their own, and the memory of that golden summer was nothing more than a dream.
As Rose remembered that summer long past, her skin tingled and rippled. She brought a hand to her heart and turned to stare at the confused Emaree.
“My dear child, I have such memories to tell you! This is something important, something, well, half-way new. But let’s go inside. This story isn’t for the birds and turtles.” And so Auntie Rose hurried Emaree along to their whitewashed cottage.
An hour or so later, when the moon was reflected in its ocean mirror, Emaree and Rose had reached the end of the story. Emaree now knew why she loved the feel of sand and why nothing calmed her like water. In her, there flowed the magic of a scaled king and it ran cerulean blue. As the realization of her past sank in, her fingers and ears began to tingle. She held her hands in front of her face and marveled. She could feel the magic coursing through her now. She leapt up and enveloped her aunt in a fierce hug. As their embrace broke apart, a deep voice rang off the walls, “Emaree, it’s time for you to visit the kingdom of watery sky!”
Two identical grins split the silence after the echoes stopped; the girls ran down the beach and into the still-warm brine. With one gulping breath just to ease the nerves, they dived down to the murky bottom. Emaree delighted in her new found life and danced through the water nimbler than a nymph. The two girls swam with dolphins, sharks, and manta rays, followed schools of silver dollars and scuttled with the crabs along the bottom of the bay.
Emaree dived with the sinking moon and basked in the morning sun until her drooping pillow-dreaming eyes told her it was time for bed.
Aunt Rose and Emaree trudged up the sand towards their heather beds. Hours later, Emaree awoke with a soft scream and raced to the beach to see if it had all been just a dream. As her feet sank into the warm sand, she saw Aunt Rose swimming below the surface. Rose’s brown curls were fanned around her head and her hand extended up in greeting and invitation. Emaree screamed with mirth; it was true! Her world would forever be painted with the colors of the ocean and she couldn’t wait for her mother to return again. This would be a summer that none of them would ever forget.