Emily listened to the rhythmic breathing of the two other girls in the room. They had fallen asleep easily enough, but Emily was still wide awake. She couldn't stop thinking about her cousin's abilities and the whole side of her life that had suddenly opened up. The image of the mermaid swimming towards her to rescue her kept playing over and over in her head.
I can't believe that was Sophie. This whole time I'd been discussing my mermaid with her and she'd known everything. And she never told me. Was she really that worried about people knowing about her? Then again, that marine biologist almost found out the truth. I hate to think what would have happened. Sophie could be locked up in a tank right now with scientists performing all kinds of crazy experiments on her. No wonder she didn't want anyone to know.
Emily sat up and looked at the sleeping figure of her cousin.
Don't worry, Sophie, I won't let anything happen to you Emily promised silently. She lied back down and quickly fell asleep.
The next day at the beginning of lunch, Emily was sitting in the school canteen thinking over the night before. She had already decided not to tell Sophie about her secret vow to protect her- part of her knew that Sophie would be capable of protecting herself and part of her worried that the girl might think her over-sentimental if she told her. Emily giggled to herself. She knew Sophie would never think that. That was one of the qualities Emily admired about her cousin; she had the tact and the ingrained sense of kindness Emily always felt she'd lacked. Sophie's always been honest, too thought Emily. That must've made this whole thing especially difficult for her. I don't think we've ever had secrets from each other.
At that moment, Sophie herself entered the canteen among a throng of students. Luke and Sapphire were following her and, caught among yet more students, Emily could see Sam and Michael. They noticed her and immediately made their way towards the table she'd managed to bag for them. One by one, they dumped their bags on the floor and fished out lunchboxes or wallets to buy food from the canteen. Michael and Luke quickly headed for the queue already forming.
Emily watched them all, amazed at how normally they were behaving, and by the fact that nobody seemed to have noticed anything different about them. Sophie noticed her staring at her.
"What?" she asked wryly.
"Your eyes..." Emily shook her head. "How come nobody's noticed?"
"We try not to make it too obvious," her cousin smiled. "As hard as it is, we just behave normally and try to blend in."
"But keeping such a massive secret... I'm not sure if I could go around every day pretending everything is normal around Rachel and Lauren."
"It is pretty difficult," chimed in Sapphire. "But we kind've get used to it. It's a lot to handle sometimes, being different the way we are, but we've got each other so we muddle through." She speared another bit of pasta on her fork and ate it delicately.
Emily shook her head in wonder just as the twins themselves pulled up chairs and joined them at the table. Sophie gave Emily a sly wink and asked the twins how their weekend had been.
"Fantastic!" enthused Rachel. "We spent most of it at the beach! I taught Lauren how to body-board and then we hired scuba gear and went diving. The sights you get under the sea are amazing!"
"I know!" said Sapphire equally as enthusiastically. "There's these incredible coral reefs a couple of miles out to sea from the bay."
"You've been diving round there?" exclaimed Lauren. "Our dad isn't too keen on letting us go too far out the moment. What's it like?"
While Sapphire described the reefs to the twins, Luke and Michael joined them back at the table.
"What are they talking about?" asked Luke as he tucked into his slice of pizza.
"The reef," said Sophie. "They went diving at the weekend."
"Oh right," said Luke thoughtfully. He lowered his voice. "Better be careful then, just in case they go diving there in the future. We might be diving, but not quite as they realise."
"It should be fine," said Sophie. "Their dad isn't letting them go too far out at the moment, so we're safe for now. But we'll just have to be cautious."
"Any more than you already are?" inquired Emily. Sophie shook her head and opened her mouth to reply when the twins' attention focused back on them.
"Any more what than you already are?" asked Rachel.
"Uh, nothing," said Sophie quickly. Emily shot her a frustrated look and Sophie understood why; she wanted to be able to talk about things as easily and discreetly as they did, and Rachel had almost overheard part of their conversation. Luckily, the girl shrugged it away and continued:
"Well, how about we go and sit outside? It's such a lovely, sunny day; it seems a waste to spend it sitting in here."
"Sure," agreed Sophie, glad to divert away from the subject of the sea. We might make it look easy, but Sapphire hit the nail on the head when she said a secret this big got hard to handle she thought. She picked up her lunch and bag and followed the others from the canteen. They found relatively quiet spot and settled down in a semi-circle. Sophie pulled the book she'd been reading recently, Witch Child by Celia Rees, out of her schoolbag, leaned backwards against the wall and began to read.
Well, that's the end of this story guys! I've been through the story chapter-by-chapter editing it, but if there's anything you feel I've missed out or anything needs working, feel free to let me know! And don't worry; this isn't the end of Sophie, Luke, Sapphire or the others!
Thanks to everybody who has read and reviewed my story, you've been great and I hope to see you again in the sequel!