Chapter One:

Throughout her entire childhood and adolescence, Melinda Sanderson never truly knew the comfort and warmth that came from belonging to a family. Given up for adoption at birth by her unwed teenage biological mother whose name she didn't even know, Melinda grew up in the foster care system, constantly moving from one home to another. While some of her foster parents were loving, more than one of them neglected even some of the most fundamental needs of her and their other foster children and instead selfishly spent most of the thousands of dollars they received from the government per year on themselves.

For as long as she could remember, Melinda coped with the sorrow and hardships of her life by being quiet and withdrawn, and always keeping her head in the proverbial clouds, much preferring to pour over fairy tale books, keep her eyes glued to the screen of Disney animated features, take walks on the beach, and daydream about shimmering mermaids, handsome mermen, mischievous fairies, beautiful princesses, wicked witches, fire-breathing dragons, noble unicorns, and gallant princes on white horses to playing with other children her age. Her active imagination understandably often caused her ponder to herself about who her real parents were and where she came from. As a child she really wanted to believe that she was actually something more than just a poor orphan who nobody wanted.

Her kindest foster mother, a plump middle-aged lady named Madra Rios, once read her a story from a dog-eared, leather-bound anthology of old fairy tales accompanied by gorgeous illustrations that especially struck a chord with her at the impressionable age of four. It was entitled "The Mermaid's Child" and told of a merbaby who cried because he was feeling unloved by his mother, a beautiful but extremely vain and self-absorbed mermaid. A stork taught the mer-mother a lesson by magically transforming him into a small human boy and sending him to live with a little boy who desperately desired a brother. The former merboy completely forget about his home and family in the sea, and felt very happy and loved by his new adoptive mother on dry land. As the years went by, he grew into a handsome youth who loved nothing more than being in or by the water and the mermaid grew very sad regarding the mysterious disapperance of her child. She wandered the sea, calling for her lost baby. One day, when the stork was flying over the harbor, he spied the mermaid lying upon a rock, weeping bitterly. She appeared so forlorn that the bird couldn't help stopping to comfort her for a bit. She cried that she lost her little sea-child, and she has searched all over all four oceans for him. When the stork asked if the merbaby had been happy with her, she admitted that she had neglected him. The stork assured her that he is not far away, and the mermaid begged him to return her long-lost baby to her. He informed the repentent mermaid that her child was among the humans, and he was happy there. The mermaid wanted the stork to show her where the boy was so she could take him away, but he refused, stating that she had deserted him and now he has another mother who loved him so much more than she ever did and a brother who he adores. The mermaid sadly asked the stork if she shall never see her offspring again, and he responded that if he should become unhappy, or if the secret of his true origins is discovered, perhaps she will. Time passed, and the parents of the merman and his human brother died. The brother became jealous of the merman's good looks and popularity with everyone, getting angry when he heard his brother praised. One lovely summer day, the two brothers called together all the best swimmers in the village, and they all went down to the bay to swim. When the former merboy received shouts of applause for his wonderful diving, the brother began to wish he had no brother at all. The merman cried that while underwater he swore that he heard a strange sound like a cry, and felt something cling close to him, like soft arms. He asked his brother if he knew what that meant. His brother was much too angry at the former merbaby's success to answer kindly, sneering that there are slimy folk who are half-human and half-fish, and that he thought his brother was half-fish himself. Before the merboy had a chance to ask his brother what he had meant by the strange words he had just spoken, the other boys announced that they wanted to swim a race, and the winner shall be declared champion of the village. The merman won, and the boys laughed and jeered at his brother. The brother shouted that the former merbaby was really a half-human, half-sea monster changeling, and was helped in the race by the sea-people. Trembling with fear, the merman insisted he was not helped by any merfolk, but his brother persisted that a mermaid helped him win and that he is not his real brother, but the son of a mermaid. He asserted that it was not a fair race due to the mermaid's aid and demanded a rematch. Meanwhile, the stork was talking earnestly with a pretty mermaid who claimed that she saw and recognized her son. The stork said that the boy's heritage was no longer a secret, and that he who was once her unhappy sea-baby was now an unhappy mortal boy. The stork told her that when she kisses him, throws her arms around his neck, and speaks to him in the language of the sea, he will become a merbaby once more. As the second race drew to a close, the stork cheered the former merbaby on, calling him a better swimmer than his brother, but he said wearily that he did not wish to beat his brother, for that would only provoke him to hate him even more. The stork gently told him that there was one who loved him more than his adoptive brother ever did, his sea-mother, the beautiful mermaid. The former merboy was glad to hear that he need not go back to the home where he was hated. The stork reassured him that he will be very happy and loved under the sea. The boy then felt two soft arms come around his neck and two soft lips pressed upon his own. A strange, drowsy feeling came over him, and he felt himself growing younger and younger. He became once more a little sea-child with a scaly tail and lived happily ever after. Young Melinda could not help but wonder if, like the Mermaid's Child, her ultimate destiny laid beneath the waves of the ocean, or perhaps some other fantastic place such as a mythical fairy kingdom. Would her true mother, a stunning mermaid or fairy queen, come to claim her one day? She certainly hoped so.