Buzzzzzzzz! sounded Nerissa Sanderson's alarm clock precisely at six a.m. on the morning of her fifteenth birthday, yanking her rather abruptly out of her peaceful slumber. Sitting straight up in bed, the teenage girl wiped the sleep from her dull blue-gray eyes and thought back wistfully at the strange yet idyllic dream she was so rudely awakened from. I was underwater, she recalled. But I was swimming like a fish and I didn't even have to hold my breath.
She made a mental note to ask her best friend, Vanessa Hogland, what her puzzling dream meant. As the daughter of a couple of the most successful psychiatrists in southern California, Vanessa's favorite hobby was perusing her parents' psychology books and sometimes even their classified patient files, and she loved quoting her knowledge of psychobabble back at Nerissa, whether she wanted to hear it or not. She'd probably say my subconscious mind is urging me to overcome my fear of drowning.
After climbing lazily out of bed, Nerissa flipped on her stereo full blast and soon the entire Sanderson condominium was filled with the energetic dance-pop sounds of Lady Gaga. "Just dance, gonna be okay" Nerissa sang along off-key while she quickly put on her wire-framed glasses, brushed her teeth, combed her frizzy brown hair, and dressed in her best jeans and most comfortable T-shirt.
Gazing at her reflection in the bathroom mirror, she sullenly shook her head and frowned. I'm a year older today, yet I still look like the same sorry sight I was yesterday at age fourteen. Not that she seriously expected anything to change overnight, but she was practically a woman now, and it was therefore downright humiliating to have a bustline so pancake-flat that wearing a bra was optional at best, and reddish, blotchy acne that distorted her fine facial features like a carnival funhouse mirror.
"Rissie, honey, please turn the music down! You're waking up the whole neighborhood" her mother called from across the hallway. Nerissa reluctantly did as she was told, even though she was positive Melinda Sanderson was exaggerating at least a little bit. It was no secret than any style of music other than her collection of Relaxing Wave And Whale Sounds CDs wasn't quite Melinda's cup of tea. A professor of marine biology at the local University of California-Sunshine Valley campus, Melinda was hopelessly obsessed with anything and everything pertaining to the ocean and its inhabitants. The eating of seafood was taboo in the Sanderson household, and Melinda's beloved pet tropical fish were considered as members of the family. Over the years such idiosyncrasies had earned Nerissa's single mother quite a reputation as perhaps the most eccentric woman in Sunshine Valley, something she was well used to by now.
At the breakfast table, Nerissa couldn't help but notice her usually even-tempered Mom seemed tenser than usual, like she was holding back from saying something that was right on the tip of her tongue. While she served her daughter her traditional birthday breakfast of a freshly baked blueberry muffin with a single lit birthday candle in it, wished her "happy birthday", and instructed her to make a wish, Melinda's cloudy blue-gray eyes, so much like Nerissa's, kept studying her closely, as if she expected the 15-year-old to suddenly sprout a second head or something.
"Mom, is something wrong?" inquired Nerissa, her bushy eyebrows highly raised in suspicion.
"No" Melinda affirmed, her eyes all of a sudden firmly glued to the glossy black-and-white checked kitchen floor. "I'm, uh, fine. I just can't believe how fast you've grown up, Rissie. Why, it seems like yesterday you were just a tiny baby cradled in my arms". As an almost-adult, "Rissie", Nerissa's mother's cutesy pet name for her, which Vanessa also insisted on calling her, made the girl slightly cringe inwardly. Of course, her decidedly uncommon full name wasn't really much of an improvement on that diminutive nickname. Whenever Nerissa asked her Mom what inspired her to name her Nerissa Donnatella Sanderson, Melinda always explained that it was actually a pretty popular name at the time she was born, but, if that was true, how come there were plenty of Jessica's, Ashley's, Emily's, and Samantha's at Sunshine Valley High, but not one single other Nerissa?
"Vanessa's supposed to pick me up at right about, oh, now" announced Nerissa, checking her Mickey Mouse watch. She and Vanessa have walked to school together every day for just about as long as either of them could remember, and, sure enough, the doorbell rang urgently before Nerissa had a chance to stand up from her seat at the kitchen table. Since her longtime friend didn't answer the door within seconds, Vanessa helped herself to the house key hidden under the welcome mat and let herself in, as she too often did.
"Happy Birthday, dear Rissie!" Vanessa called out in her inimitable boisterous manner. "So, how does it feel to be the big 1-5?"
"Pretty much the same as the small 1-4" responded Nerissa truthfully, slipping her heavy pleather book-bag on her shoulder.
"What's with that attitude? I have a hunch this is going to be a defining year in your life, Rissie. Everything's gonna change!"
"Yeah, right. What self-help manual did you get that from?" Nerissa questioned once the two girls were out the door.
"Total Life Transformation by Joseph Olson" admitted Vanessa. "You should read it".
"Maybe" Nerissa uttered non-committally. "But I think it'll take more than some feel-good book to 'totally transform' my life".
"Ah, Rissie, why are you always so down in the dumps? You have so much going for you".
"For one thing, a relationship with your mom so tight you could have your own weekly TV show. Remember last spring when she camped out in the pouring rain to get us those Lady Gaga concert tickets? Most teens would murder for a mother that thoughtful, even if she does act like she's from outer space at times".
Nerissa would normally defend her Mom when Vanessa said she was a "space case", yet that day in particular she felt it was a perfectly accurate label for Melinda's odd behavior.
The walk to school was a short one, not surprisingly, considering there was only roughly half a dozen blocks between the girls' condo community and the picturesque school grounds. Mr. Kidd, the principal of Sunshine Valley High, liked to brag that his all-brick, two-story school had the most aesthetically pleasing campus in all of Orange County, possibly even in the whole state of California, although the vast majority of SVH students couldn't care less about that.
Nerissa faced straight ahead as she marched through the glass double doors of her school's main entrance, hoping to avoid the catty teasing of Teagan Wakefield, the richest and most popular girl in the freshman class, and her clique of loyal admirers, cheerleaders, country club members, and fellow competitive swimmers. Sunshine Valley's girls' swim team was ranked third in the state, higher than any of the school's other sports programs, thus as a result, the swimmers were treated like royalty by their peers.
"Good morning, Nerina" Teagan greeted Nerissa in her trademark snarky tone. For years Teagan had driven the other girl insane by purposefully getting her unique name wrong. "Nice outfit" she commented, looking Nerissa's casual, simplistic choice of attire up and down. As usual, the swimming star was sophisticatedly overdressed in an expensive off-white raw-silk designer blouse with a faux autumn haze mink collar, form-fitting khaki slacks, and shiny gold ballet flats. Nerissa figured she could sooner afford an Italian sports car than a couture ensemble like Teagan's.
"At least Rissie's clothes don't make her look 40" retorted Vanessa. As striking as Teagan's clothing was, Nerissa had to agree they weren't particularly youthful in design.
"At least we don't wear a size 40!" Sandra Crawford, Teagan's faithful sidekick, shot back. Weighing in at over two hundred pounds at the modest height of 5'2", Vanessa was considerably overweight, but Nerissa loved how she never let her weight, or the fact that she happened to be African-American and some people were unfortunately prejudiced against her skin color, affect her unshakable self-confidence.
"I'm a 22/24, as a matter of fact" corrected Vanessa while walking away, her hands placed defiantly on her generous hips. "And I'm not ashamed! I'm fat and that's that". The innate loudness of Vanessa's booming voice prompted a few other students to stop and stare at her, but she didn't seem to mind one bit.
Vanessa and Nerissa had barely made it to the locker they shared when the first-period bell went off. It was just typically Nerissa's terrible luck that her first class of the day, Biology, was the furthest from her locker and hardly her favorite course, for science and mathematics tended to give her headaches, and Ms. Benson was fond of pop quizzes. Though running in the halls was against the rules, and she wasn't even a very fast sprinter, Nerissa nevertheless rushed through the crowded corridor and up the narrow steps leading to the second floor. She was almost halfway up the stairs when she tripped on someone else's untied shoelace and fell, face first, smack down on the steps.
Out of the blue, Nerissa felt a strong hand guiding her back to her feet. She sheepishly glanced into her savior's eyes, and was shocked to see it was none other than Adam Fonda, heir to the fortune of Sunshine Valley's top employer, The Fonda Seafood Company, and the very boy she had had an intense crush on since middle school. "Th—th-thank you" she stuttered, blushing a brilliant shade of crimson. Great! Nerissa lamented silently to herself. First time I speak more than one word to Adam's face, and I sound like Porky Pig!
"No problem. Be more careful from now on, 'k?" advised Adam with a subtle smile brightening his already handsome countenance.
"I, uh, will" Nerissa promised lamely.
"Good. See ya round" were Adam's last words to Nerissa before heading off hastily to his own first-period class.
Ms. Benson assigned one of her infamous pop quizzes that morning. When the class collectively groaned and slid down in their seats, the middle-aged teacher held up her palm to silence them. "Now, class, I'll have none of that whining from you. You never know, one day you kids just might be grateful you were lucky enough to receive such a good, thorough education, especially in a subject as important as biology, the study of life".
"That'll be the day!" Nerissa heard a boy behind her named Bruce snicker.
"I trust that each and every one of you will try your best on this quiz" continued Ms. Benson as she passed out the tests. "Especially you, Sanderson". Nerissa winced. Due to wearing glasses, teachers quite often assigned her seats at the front of the classroom, which in turn caused her to get called on often. "Your mother's a respected marine biologist, so I'm sure she won't be pleased if you flunk out of this course". In truth, Melinda was never one to be extremely picky regarding grades, and though Nerissa's marks in biology were certainly far from ideal, it was unlikely she would fail the class altogether for she hadn't gotten anything less than a D+ in her academic career.
Vanessa would tell her it was all in her head, but from time to time Nerissa suspected that some other people, specifically school authority figures, detected a sort of weird aura around her, something that made them unnaturally repulsed by her, and she couldn't begin to comprehend why that was. After all, she was merely an average, ordinary high school student, wasn't she?
Because it was her birthday, Mrs. Cabot, the head cafeteria lady, gave Nerissa a free Dixie cup at lunch, as was customary at Sunshine Valley High. As she sat her tray down at her and Vanessa's usual picnic-style table in the back corner of the lunchroom, it dawned on Nerissa that the lunch lady was the only person to remember her birthday so far at school that day. "I'm really pathetic, aren't I?" she griped to her dearest friend.
Vanessa rolled her big brown eyes in response. "What were we talking about this morning?"
"I know, I know, I just need to believe in myself and everything will change, right?" half-heartedly recited Nerissa, whose cellular phone asudden started to ring. "Hello?"
"Rissie, honey, it's Mom. I want to remind you to please head straight home after school today. I have something to tell you, something…big".
This might explain why she was she was acting so funny at breakfast, Nerissa mused. "All right, Mom".
"What was that about?" Vanessa, nosy as ever, wanted to know once her friend had hung up.
"Apparently, I'll find that out this afternoon at home, and, when I do, I promise I'll get back to you".
"Oh my goodness, Rissie!" blurted out Vanessa. "You wouldn't in a zillion years believe who's looking right at you at this moment". She lowered her voice down to a conspiratorial whisper. "Adam Fonda! You really should go over there and strike up a conversation with him".
Nerissa shook her head. "No, I don't think so. I already made a total fool of myself in front of him once today, and some how I doubt the second time would be the charm".
"Come on, Rissie" urged Vanessa. "We both know you've been admiring the guy from afar since you got braces. If you ask me, it's high time you did something about it".
"Like he'd even go for a girl like me. I mean, he's rich, gorgeous, smart, and popular, and I'm, well, none of those things".
"Joseph Olson says you never know anything in life until you give it a go".
"Thanks, but I think I'll give it a pass".
Nerissa was on such pins and needles for the rest of the school day, in connection with her mother's mysterious forthcoming announcement, that she could scarcely pay attention to her studies, no matter how hard she tried to. Needless to say, her teachers noticed her lack of concentration and reprimanded her on it multiple times. By the end of last period, she had an overwhelming stack of homework. Her only saving grace was that it was a Friday, hence she had the entire weekend to complete the assignments.
Vanessa had debate team meetings every Friday, which meant Nerissa had to trek home by her lonesome. "I suppose I should begin that work today, or I'll never get it all done on time" she sighed aloud prior to arriving home to find Melinda sitting with her legs crossed on the two-seater beige living room sofa.
"I believe probably the sooner I get this sea-monkey off my chest, the better" Nerissa's Mom stated tentatively. "Please, take a seat. I can pretty much guarantee what I'm about to tell you will be easier to swallow sitting down". Nerissa sat down to her mother's right on the couch.
"OK, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. It's about your father".
"What about him?". Mr. Peter Sanderson had been in the US Navy, and he died before Nerissa was born. Curiously, Melinda never talked about him and struggled to answer when her daughter asked the most basic questions relating to what he was like. Nerissa didn't even know what he looked like, for Melinda claimed to have destroy every single photograph she had of him, as it pained her too much to look at him.
"Frankly, Rissie, I have been lying to you all these years, and I hate that I've had to do that. The thing is, my husband isn't really dead, and, furthermore, he isn't even human".
This bizarre revelation left Nerissa absolutely speechless. Not even human? Than just what was he, some sort of alien? Was Vanessa in fact correct in observing that Melinda was from outer space? Or had her unconventional mother finally lost her, some might say threadlike, grasp on reality?
"He's a merman" clarified Melinda.
"A what? You mean, a merman, as in a male mermaid? Mom, that can't be, that's crazy. Everybody knows there's no such thing!"
"I know it sounds impossible, but, trust me, sweetie, I haven't lost my marbles. Think about it, doesn't it explain a lot? And it's not like I can't show you any proof. Your long-lost father is in the house right now, in my bedroom, but we both agreed that me initially breaking the news to you alone would lessen the shock".
"But if he's a-?"
"Of course, he's on human legs at the moment. You think you're ready to meet him now?"
"I don't think I have much choice in the matter, do I?". In all honesty, the idea of a strange man, human or otherwise, unexpectedly waltzing into her life out of nowhere made Nerissa feel deeply uncomfortable, and she could not, for the life of her, imagine anything "lessening the shock" of her discovering the quiet, normal life she'd always known was rapidly falling apart and a far-fetched modern-day fairy tale was taking its place, whether she wished it to or not. If her father really was a merman, what did that make her? Her, Nerissa Sanderson, a mermaid? Who ever heard anything so ridiculous, a mermaid who couldn't swim, and wore braces and glasses?
Once the presumed Mr. Sanderson emerged from Melinda's bedroom door, Nerissa found herself gawking at how ethereally good-looking he was, in spite of herself. Her supposed father was a tall, muscular man whose long, wavy, titian hair resembled spun gold and whose bright blue-green eyes were the exact tint of the Pacific Ocean itself on an exceptionally clear California morning. Even two-legged as he currently was, he definitely looked the part of a mystical creature, such as an enchanting merman. "My, it's been too long since I've seen you last, my dear daughter" he addressed Nerissa and swiftly threw his robust arms around the girl.
"Wait, you guys still have some explaining to do" Nerissa reminded her parents, pulling away from the merman's hug.
"Well, it's quite a long, complicated story," concurred Nerissa's newfound father figure "and you probably should hear it right from the beginning. You see, pearl, your mother and I first met when I was a young Prince of Pacifica—"
"Prince?" Nerissa echoed. "So not only am I a mermaid, I'm a mermaid princess?". As difficult as it was for Nerissa to picture herself with a fishtail, the thought of her with a tiara perched on her head seemed, in point of fact, even more incomprehensible to her.
"Yes, you are Crown Princess of Pacifica, and Keeper of the Kingdom's Enchanted Royal Aquamarine, but I'm kind of getting ahead of myself. Anyway, I was a young Sea Nymph Consort Prince, and your mother was…"
"I know you humans call us undersea magical creatures mermaids and mermen, but in our world those terms are actually considering somewhat derogatory. We prefer referring to ourselves as Sea Nymphs and their Consorts. So, your mother was a lovely young human marine biology student who literally got in over her head while conducting some kind of experiment at the beach, and I pulled her out. It was, as they say, love at first sight, and since your mother was an orphan with no known relatives, it was easy for her to leave her life on dry land behind and join me beneath the waves in Pacifica".
"That's so romantic" remarked Nerissa. "But, then, why did I grow up in the human world, away from you?"
"I was getting to that. Shortly after my beloved sister, your Aunt Thalassa, transformed your mother into a Sea Nymph, we were married, and you were born, the Cursed Black Pearls, possibly the strongest source of dark magic in the known universe, were released on accident by an overly curious pair of little twin Sea Nymphs named Mirabella and Della who had disobeyed their elders by entering the Forbidden Cavern, where the Pearls had been safely stored away for countless centuries. The evil energy contained in the Cursed Black Pearls is enough to turn any Sea Nymph, other than a Crown Princess mature enough to properly wield her Enchanted Royal Aquamarine, into a deadly Sea Siren, a being so heartless and cruel some call her 'the vampire of the sea'. A Siren, who derives her great power from the first Black Pearl she touched, causes a leg-walker fatal illness with a simple smile or song, and is out to recruit other Sea Nymphs to join her side against her will. Within mere minutes of their unleashing, the dreaded Cursed Black Pearls changed our generally peaceful realm of Pacifica into a place of chaos and destruction. Thalassa, Sea-God bless her heart, valiantly strived to channel the magic of what was then her Enchanted Royal Aquamarine and what it is now yours, to recreate the bubble-shaped force field around the Cavern that those naughty five-year-old twins had some how managed to penetrate, but alas her attempts were ultimately in vain. The best my new Queen Melinda and I could do was issue a binding Royal Proclamation banishing all Sea Sirens from re-entering not only Pacifica, but from ever again setting fluke in all twenty of the enchanted Sea Nymph Kingdoms in the oceans of the world. However, the remaining several sea-dozen were still left unguarded, meaning there were more Sirens to be created. You, my precious pearl and heir to the throne of Pacifica, were but an infant, so it was no longer safe for your mother and you to remain in the sea. With a heavy heart, I returned you two to the world of air-breathers. It wasn't a perfect plan, I admit, but my intention was, with you gone, to reluctantly allow new Sea Sirens to be born, because, you see, they take their bonded Cursed Black Pearls when they leave the Sea Nymph world that banished them and migrate to either the Unenchanted Zones or, most commonly, this harsh, dry world in which you were raised. There are many Sea Sirens in human form living among regular land-dwellers as we speak, spreading pain and disease everywhere they go. It is now your mission, Rissie, as Keeper of the Enchanted Royal Aquamarine Pendant of Pacifica to help restore peace and harmony in our world by keeping on the lookout for Sirens in disguise and utilizing your mighty Aquamarine to turn them back".
"Whoa!" Nerissa exclaimed, and popped up from the sofa not unlike a Pop-Tart in a toaster. "Now I'm not only a princess and a mermaid, or half-mermaid or whatever, but I'm also like a heroine in a magical girl manga with a mission to save some other world I don't even remember ever being a part of?"
"You will become a part of it once again" Melinda assured. "There's so much for you to discover down in Pacifica. Think of it as an adventure, an exciting opportunity! Here, this necklace and ring…". She indicated two beautiful and unusual pieces of jewelry Nerissa had been too overcome with emotion to notice her mother was wearing. "Is your Enchanted Royal Aquamarine Pendant and your Enchanted Personal Aquamarine Ring, which, like all Sea Nymphs, you were born with. A Sea Nymph's Enchanted Personal Aquamarine gives her the ability to transform herself and others from mermaid to human form and vice versa, as well as to defend herself from harm by projecting magical bubble barriers around you. Some Sea Nymphs have even been able to unlock other rare powers from within their Aquamarines, like the ability to turn into other sea creatures. As a Princess, your Enchanted Royal Aquamarine has all the same functions as your Personal Aquamarine, only it works faster, in addition to what Poseidon, your dad, told you about transforming Sea Sirens back".
"Princess" Nerissa realized that nobody had mentioned her father's real name before then. So he was called King Poseidon, like the Greek mythological god of the sea. That figures.
"I understand this transition must be hard for you, Rissie. Perhaps we should have held off telling you the truth till after your birthday, but your father insisted we could not hesitate, not even for just one day, for the fate of his world might be at stake, and his, I mean, our, subjects are simply dying to be reunited with their future ruler who, like your father, haven't seen you in almost fifteen years". Melinda took off the special jewelry and handed them to their rightful owner. "Go on" she encouraged. "Take these and try out your new pretty mermaid tail in the bathtub. In time, you'll feel comfortable in your new skin".
"I don't think I ever will, Mom" insisted Nerissa, shaking her head. "I never asked to be a mermaid, oh I mean, Sea Nip".
"That's Sea Nymph" Poseidon corrected. "And there's no real need to 'try out' your true form, dear Rissie, because I have made arrangements for the three of us to spend the weekend in Pacifica!"
Nerissa eyed the Sea King in dismay. "I can't go to your Sea Kingdom this weekend!" she declared. "I have mountains of homework to do for school. Besides, I don't want to go. I've never liked the water and I don't think I ever will".
"Don't like the water?!" gasped King Poseidon. "But Rissie, the sea is your home, your true home!"
"No, Poseidon, this…". Nerissa gestured around the Sanderson living room. "Is my true home, not some fishy place!" the half-Sea Nymph proclaimed, her blood pressure speedily rising, before racing into the only bathroom in the Sandersons' rambler.
Crown Princess Nerissa closed the bathroom door behind her. As much as she desired to distance herself from the new, otherworldly life that had been suddenly forced upon her, she couldn't deny her overpowering curiosity to explore her alternative self. She ardently stripped off her clothes, stepped in the bathtub and filled the water all the way up to the nape of her neck. Grasping both Enchanted Aquamarines in the palm of her left hand, she squeezed the unearthly gemstones roughly, and hoped the friction would be enough to trigger her metamorphosis.
Sure enough, a sparkly mystic energy immediately enveloped Nerissa from head to toe. For a number of seconds, her body tingled slightly as she was wholly transformed. She could feel her hair briskly growing from a sensible shoulder-length bob to far past her waist, her upper torso shifting into a much more feminine and curvier shape reminiscent of a Barbie doll, and, eventually, her legs and lower torso molding together into the fishlike tail of a mermaid.
Once her transfiguration was finished, Nerissa grabbed the hand-mirror her mother kept on the side of the tub to get a better look of her brand-new physique. She could not resist gasping out loud when she observed the dramatic change in her previously humdrum physical appearance. Her Sea Nymph form's long hair fell in cascading auburn waves and was topped by a dignified princess tiara constructed of pearls and shells. Nerissa's wide, long-lashed eyes were a bold turquoise hue which complimented her creamy complexion, and there wasn't a single blemish, mole, or even visible vein to be found on her new, flawless skin. A pale pink, pearl-trimmed brassiere top covered her approximately C-cup chest. She truly looked like her royal father's daughter.
Her tail turned out to be far more beautiful than she could've ever imagined it. Humans tend to describe merfolk as being literally half-person, half-fish, but Princess Nerissa's mertail was more elegant than any fish's fins she'd ever seen. It began right below her belly button, and was blanketed in delicate aqua, lavender, and pastel pink scales that shimmered in the fluorescent bathroom light. Instead of a single, broad tailfin like so many aquatic animals possessed, Nerissa's Sea Nymph appendage ended in a pair of semi-translucent flukes which seemed almost too silky and billowing to be adequately aquadynamic. Only their vaguely ribbed texture suggested that there were some kind of bone or vein inside.
Experimentally, Nerissa flicked her tail upwards, splashing drops of water all over the tile bathroom floor. The sensation of having no legs was astoundingly not an unpleasant one for Nerissa. In fact, her body had never felt more whole, strong, and solid, and naturally she enjoyed being so inhumanly stunning. Still, some aspects of her identity as a magical being unsettled her. How did she use the restroom like this? Her tail was clearly lacking in both an anus and a urethra. Perhaps supernatural creatures don't function naturally. How could she breathe underwater? Her fingers gingerly searched her neck for gills, and she was relieved to discern infinitesimal gill slits on the back of her neck, which were mostly obscured by her luxurious head of hair. She slouched down in the tub to test out her Sea Nymph respiratory system, and found the tiny gills to be in perfect working order.
"Rissie, honey, may I come in?" Queen Melinda requested from outside the door.
"I guess so". While still understandably in a state of shock, Nerissa's feelings of resentment and anger towards her parents for keeping such an enormous secret from her were beginning to cool down.
Melinda smiled at seeing Nerissa in her true mermaid form for the first time since she was a baby. "Oh Rissie, you make a very pretty young Sea Nymph Princess. I'm sorry if we ruined your fifteenth birthday for you, but, listen, your father has a huge birthday/welcome back gala ball planned in your honor in Pacifica. Please, sweetie, come to our kingdom with us tonight. I know you'll like it down there if you just give it a fair chance. I can't begin to describe the feeling of absolute freedom of soaring under the sea without a care".
"But, Mom, haven't your forgotten something? I can't swim very well and you know it" objected Nerissa.
"As a human, yes, but when you're a Sea Nymph, you'll be swimming gracefully underwater in no time flat" Melinda reassured. "Believe me, I went from almost drowning to a maximum speed of eighty miles per hour".
"Eighty miles an hour?" repeated a skeptical Princess Nerissa. "Even Teagan Wakefield couldn't beat that with a head start".
"And I'm something of a slowpoke by Sea Nymph standards! And, unlike me, you're directly descended from a long line of powerful Sea Nymph royalty. You have a large extended Pacifican family who loves and misses you very much".
Nerissa threw her hands up in surrender. "Alright, you've convinced me, Mom. Take me down to the sea".
Melinda affectionately patted her half-mermaid daughter on the tail. "That's my girl, or should I say mergirl".
The town of Sunshine Valley was only a quick five-minute drive away from the beach. After Melinda parked her silver Toyota Highlander, the Royal Family of Pacifica traversed to the edge of the most secluded corner of the beach, and Princess Nerissa instinctively knew to rub her Enchanted Royal Aquamarine pendant, which she wore around her neck, to transmogrify her parents and herself into merpeople. In a flash, the three of them dove into the deep, salty ocean.
Just as Queen Melinda, who was presently a classy Sea Nymph with a sea-gold crown, light blue shell top, and a blue-and-green tail, had said, swimming with her new mermaid tail came effortlessly to Nerissa. Taking her turquoise-tailed father's lead, Nerissa detected that mer-swimming motions were noticeably different from human swimming techniques as Sea Nymphs and Consorts held their arms primarily to their sides and let their flukes propel them forward in feathery, dolphin-like movements.
Nerissa studied the watery environment that surrounded her, and completed how it varied emphatically from what she had always perceived life under the sea to be like. It was much brighter and warmer than she expected; everywhere she looked there were colorful sea plants and grinning schools of fishes. "Welcome back, Your Highness!" hollered a dolphin in fluent English as it darted past her.
"I never knew marine animals could talk" murmured Pacifica's Crown Princess. How odd it felt to be able to talk underwater!
"Not to humans they don't! The truth is, sweet daughter, in all of the world's Enchanted Zones, which are what we call those locales populated by magical creatures, both wet and dry, sheer magic has provided us with many advantages over mere mortals. Here, we live lives of comfort, where us and our animal neighbors never have to suffer through the disgusting, merciless, and inconvenient indignities of natural life, such as the so-called 'food chain', one's body needing to expel some of the excess nutrients from food, and different species being unable to communicate with one another. Of course, humans are immune to the Enchantment, so they behold the illusion of a realm where the horrible natural laws are abided by, as in the Unenchanted Zones, when they attempt to make contact with our world".
"That's amazing!" Nerissa