A/N: Welcome to 2011! I thought I'd kick off the new year with a bit of lighthearted whimsy, as well as throwing out the disclaimer that I figure needs to be repeated periodically: Fantasy Island and the characters of Roarke, Tattoo and Julie are the creations of Aaron Spelling, Leonard Goldberg and Gene Levitt, and owned by Sony. All other characters are entirely of my own creation, except where I've posted AU adaptations of actual series episodes. Now with that out of the way…enjoy!


§ § § - January 4, 2007

A little past one o'clock on the first Thursday afternoon of the new year, Leslie went to the plane dock to meet what Roarke had called "a special guest". He'd had just enough of a twinkle in his eye when he said that that she was mildly suspicious, but that wasn't nearly enough to prepare her for the pretty dark-haired woman she saw coming down the landing ramp from the plane's hatch.

"Paloma Esperanza?" she exclaimed in astonishment, staring wide-eyed at the actress from her favorite television show, King's Castle. "Welcome back!"

Paloma returned her grin and shook hands. "Hello, Mrs. Enstad, thank you!"

"Just call me Leslie," she said immediately, ushering Paloma over to the waiting jeep. "What brings you back to the island?"

"I just need a vacation," Paloma admitted. "Since King's Castle began coming out and especially since my book, I've been doing tours of bookstores all over the US, and as often as not I wind up signing copies of everyone's DVD collections of the series as well as my book." They both laughed as they climbed into the jeep, waiting for the attendants to stash Paloma's luggage in the back. "It's been pretty rough living on the road for as long as I have, but when I got back home I realized that wasn't going to be enough for me. So I e-mailed Mr. Roarke and asked him if he could spare accommodations for about a month. He was very gracious and set aside a bungalow for my use till the end of the month or so, and told me to feel free to make use of all the amenities I wanted to. So I'm definitely planning to enjoy myself."

"Well, this is the place to do it," Leslie said, glancing into the rearview mirror and ascertaining that Paloma's luggage was there. She put the jeep in gear and headed onto the Ring Road. "I'm presuming you'd like to rest for a while before you get started doing all that enjoying."

Paloma laughed and nodded. "Definitely. I'll probably settle down and order something from room service, and check my e-mail, and then maybe get into my swimsuit and go sit on the beach. I imagine Howie and Damian'll be expecting me to drop by, but I'm not even going to tell them I'm here till at least tomorrow. That should help me fully recover from all that flying. Not just the flight from L.A. to Honolulu, but all the others I've been doing across country for so long now."

"They're not going anywhere," Leslie agreed, chuckling. "Well, just make yourself at home then, and if you have any questions or need anything, just dial 001 for the main house. Either Father or I will be there, and if we're not, just leave a message."

"Terrific—thanks, Leslie," Paloma said, resettling herself in her seat and smiling. "This is going to be so nice. My publisher all but threw a fit when I told him I needed some time off. He said I shouldn't do this now when I've still got such a momentum going, between book sales and the series DVDs, but I said either the momentum died or I did, and which looked to him like the lesser evil? So he finally caved in."

"I love it," Leslie exclaimed, laughing with her. "That's what I call telling it like it is. Okay, well, here we are." She stopped in front of one of the smaller, one-bedroom bungalows and handed Paloma a key before slipping out and lifting the suitcases from the back. Paloma immediately took one from her and pointed a finger at her when she opened her mouth.

"Don't even start. Just because you're my host, that doesn't mean you should be doing all the heavy lifting." She grinned and pretended to be unable to hoist the bag she was carrying. "I don't pack light."

"I surrender," Leslie said with a laugh. "Just follow me." She led Paloma to the door and pushed open the bungalow door, allowing the actress to precede her inside.

Paloma glanced around and smiled broadly. "It's perfect," she said, and then surveyed Leslie. "Y'know, last time I saw you, you were pregnant. How do you like being a mom?"

"I love it," Leslie said, delighted that Paloma had asked. "It's crazy and hectic sometimes, but you have to expect that with triplets. And now that they can feed themselves and they're all three progressing through toilet training, it's beginning to get a little easier."

Paloma gave an exaggerated shudder. "Ugh, toilet training. I can only try to imagine what that must be like. I hope you're not having too much trouble."

Leslie grinned. "Tobias has the biggest problem with it, I think. He loves to play outside, and he can't stand having to stop long enough to come in and use the bathroom, so he's the furthest behind. Karina, on the other hand, is already using training pants. She's our studious one, our little perfectionist, I think. When she sets out to do something, she wants to really succeed at it. And since her brother and sister are both louder and more extroverted than she is, I think she figures that's her way of standing out."

"Smart girl, finding her niche and fitting right in," Paloma said, grinning in approval. "And how's Prince Christian?"

"Busy," Leslie said. "Not quite so much—he works only three or four days a week now and tries to spend more time with the kids. But he's almost always in his office on the weekends when I'm working. Which reminds me…I noticed that laptop you're carrying. If it needs any service at all, Christian and his employees'll do it for you."

"Who knows, I may have reason to go in," Paloma said. "Well, then, I guess that's all for now. Thanks so much, Leslie."

"Don't forget to call if you need anything," Leslie said, and on that note she left Paloma alone and headed back for the main house, where she and Roarke were watching the triplets today. Ingrid had unexpectedly requested the day off, which might not have been so unusual had Christian not recalled that the day before, Jonathan had asked for the very same day off. They had talked about it a little that morning, in low voices, before Ingrid had come in from her room and they'd all gotten ready to leave.

"How're you guys doing?" Leslie asked her children as she stepped into the office from the inner foyer. Karina looked up from a toddler's picture book and beamed at her mother; but Leslie could see immediately that Susanna and Tobias weren't quite so well off. Tobias had imprisoned one of Susanna's dolls and was energetically running over and over it with his largest toy truck, and Susanna was spitting mad. Roarke was standing behind his granddaughter, trying to keep her from attacking her brother, who seemed gleefully oblivious to what was going on.

"Mommy, wook!" Susanna wailed, pointing at Tobias now.

"It just happened," Roarke said with an amused glance at his daughter.

"I guess so," Leslie agreed with a wry grin, and promptly went to Tobias and removed the truck from her son's hands. When Tobias let out a howl of protest, she leveled a stern look at him. "First you give back Susanna's doll, and then you can have the truck back."

Tobias crossed his chubby arms over his chest and stuck out his lower lip in a stubborn pout, and Leslie shrugged lightly and straightened up with the truck. "No truck unless you give Susanna her doll." He only glared at his sister, and Leslie turned to Roarke. "Well, while he's thinking it over, how were they up till I walked in?"

"Just fine," Roarke said, just as Susanna took the opportunity and snatched her doll away from her brother, who instantly screamed. Roarke winced and shook his head. "You have quite a sense of timing."

"Lucky me," Leslie agreed. Meantime Susanna stuck out her tongue at Tobias and ran out to the flagstone terrace with her rescued doll, while Tobias jumped to his feet and began to stretch for the truck Leslie still held. "Sorry about that, Father. I wish there'd been another alternative, but with school back in session and Ingrid asking for the day off…"

"Indeed," her father said and chuckled. "No real harm done; you know I enjoy having my grandchildren around, whether they're behaving or not. Has our special guest arrived safely and been settled in?"

Leslie grinned. "Yes, she's here, and very pleased with her bungalow. For that matter, I've never yet seen a guest who hasn't fallen in love with the accommodations—except maybe the late Russell St. Anthony."

"I try to maintain a good track record," Roarke said lightly. "Very well, then, if you like, you might make the usual rounds for the afternoon. Perhaps, if you were so inclined, you could even take someone along with you."

"Aw, but they seem so happy here," Leslie pretended to sulk, and snickered at the look he awarded her. "Okay, I can take Tobias off your hands. The girls always seem to play well alone, so if we get Mr. Trouble out of the picture, you'll probably have some peace and quiet. And Tobias still loves riding in the car, so that might keep him happy."

"Want my twuck," Tobias demanded.

"How about a car ride instead?" Leslie suggested.

"Want my twuck," Tobias insisted.

"No car ride?" his mother coaxed with a grin. Tobias nodded but continued to reach for the truck. "Car ride, or the truck. Not both."

"You'll have more fun riding with your mother, mi dulce," Roarke informed his grandson, who looked at him in surprise, then blinked once or twice, shrugged in a way that was strongly reminiscent of Christian, and peered up at Leslie.

"Okay, I go wif Mommy," he said, suddenly docile and agreeable.

Leslie stared at Roarke, shaking her head slowly. "I really don't know how you do that, Father, but I wish you'd mix up a potion for that and let me take it home so I can use it when I need it," she said. On Roarke's laugh, she took her son's hand, left the truck under the tea table where it was out of the way, waved goodbye to Susanna and kissed the top of Karina's head, and headed out.

§ § § - January 6, 2007

Having introduced a family from New Zealand whose collective fantasy was to discover a new species of plant or animal, Roarke released a short chuckle when their next guests disembarked from the seaplane. "Mr. Arthur Lincoln, his wife Veronica, and their daughter Sylvia, age ten," he said, "from Lexington, Massachusetts. Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln are both scientists and employed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology."

"They look very serious," Leslie observed. "Not exactly the sort of folks who usually come here. Who's got the fantasy?"

"Sylvia does," Roarke said, making her turn to him with surprise. He smiled and assured her, "Yes, Sylvia. She is an only child and has spent much more of her time around her parents' friends and associates than with children her own age; partly this is because Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln have enrolled her in a very advanced private school where none of the young lady's classmates live very close by. And they are often too busy to transport Sylvia to the homes of friends for playdates. So Sylvia, according to the letter I received from her, has created a world all her own."

"She has a problem?" Leslie asked.

Roarke smiled. "No, not in the way you are thinking. In Sylvia's eyes, it's her parents who have the problem. As scientists, they are very pragmatic people, and Sylvia says that they believe only in what is tangible. They are focused on the real world, and want very much for Sylvia to concentrate on preparing for her own future—to the extent, I am afraid, that Sylvia has very little time to call her own. In other words, she doesn't have much of a chance to simply be a child."

"Now that's just not right," Leslie said indignantly. "No matter how smart the triplets may be, Christian and I agreed long ago that they should always have the right to playtime, so we're not going to push them into a bunch of extracurricular activities unless they really want to do them."

Roarke grinned. "Very commendable," he said, "but as you're surely aware, not all parents share this attitude. Sylvia seems to be the typical overscheduled child of today; she's involved in piano and violin lessons, ballet lessons, softball practices in the warm seasons, soccer during the fall, and foreign-language courses in Spanish, German and Japanese."

"Wow," Leslie said, blinking.

"Indeed. At any rate, Sylvia's fantasy is not necessarily to free herself from all this structure. She tells me she enjoys most of these activities. No, her fantasy is not for herself, but for her parents. She wants to make them understand that imagination should play as great a role in life as tangibility. She wishes for them to acquire…a sense of the absurd." And on that amused, vaguely mysterious note, he accepted a glass of white wine from the native girl bearing a tray and raised it in toast. "My dear guests, I am Mr. Roarke, your host. Welcome to Fantasy Island!"

Leslie took in their guests' reactions: the New Zealanders cheerfully raised their drinks and beamed at him; the senior Lincolns just looked startled. Sylvia slid a peek at them and rolled her eyes, then shrugged apologetically in Roarke's direction and sucked eagerly on the straw in her glass of mixed pineapple juice and ginger ale. Roarke smiled back and winked at her, as if they had a secret just between them.

‡ ‡ ‡

The Lincolns had the first appointment with Roarke, and their stern expressions when they walked in with their daughter gave Leslie fair warning. It was shortly borne out. "I hope you realize, Mr. Roarke," said Veronica Lincoln in a scolding tone, "that Sylvia is missing two days of school because of this trip. My daughter's education is extremely important, and I don't like the fact that she's essentially skipping school because of a trip to some frivolous tropical paradise."

"Oh?" was all Roarke said, taking in the sight of the woman. She was slight, almost skinny, with a severely cropped cap of dark hair and sharp brown eyes. She sat properly in her chair, spine straight and correct against its back and arms resting on the chair arms, one leg crossed over the other. Her face could have been called elfin, if it hadn't been for her expression: remonstration mixed with a dollop of annoyance.

"Yes, and it was difficult for us to get away too," Arthur Lincoln said, pushing his rimless half-glasses back up a large aquiline nose behind which the rest of his face nearly disappeared. His light-brown eyes were close-set, and even with the glasses on, he squinted. His hair was beating a hasty retreat toward the back of his head, and stood out in tiny tufts the same color as his eyes. Like his wife, he was thin nearly to the point of emaciation, and his Adam's apple bobbed every time he swallowed, which was unnervingly frequently. Leslie found herself watching it in spite of her best intentions. Lincoln went on, "It's really a bad time of year anyway, but for some reason, our bosses insisted we go." He looked at Veronica as if she had the antidote to this hugely perplexing concept.

"Yes, they did," Veronica murmured, sounding just as bewildered as Arthur did. "I can't understand why, when we're doing some of the most important research of our careers right this moment."

"What kind of research do you do?" Roarke inquired.

"Cancer research," Veronica replied promptly. "So you see how important this is."

"Both of you?" Roarke asked, glancing at Arthur.

"For me, it's AIDS research," Arthur said, placing a slight emphasis on the word AIDS as if this should have told Roarke how foolish the idea of a vacation really was. "Veronica and I are working frantically to find cures for two of mankind's worst scourges, so this is extremely significant labor. And to be taken away from it for a vacation in a place that calls itself 'Fantasy Island'…I wonder if anyone's done any background checking on you, Mr. Roarke? I mean, you can't be too careful in this day and age…and with a name like that for this little resort of yours, well, I'm sure you can see how odd it looks."

"Odd?" Roarke repeated, eyebrows popping up. "Why should it be so odd that I run a place like this?"

"Well, it might make sense if this were…oh, a children's amusement park," Veronica remarked dismissively. "But I saw far more adults here than children, and in light of that, I must tell you, Mr. Roarke, the nature of your business sounds quite fishy to me. What sort of people do you cater to, anyway, in a place called 'Fantasy Island'?" Leslie could all but hear the quotation marks snapping loudly and sternly into place as she spoke.

Roarke regarded them with great interest for a moment, then smiled indulgently, as if dealing with a pair of amusing pests. "Were you aware," he inquired, "that the idea for this vacation of yours was your daughter's?"

"Well, of course we were," Veronica said, drawing back as though affronted. "It was Sylvia's big Christmas gift this year. We wouldn't have gone ahead with it at all, no matter how much she begged us, if it hadn't been for our bosses. As Arthur said, the timing was bad, but I suppose that couldn't be helped. Why do you ask?"

"Because you seem to be laboring under a misconception," Roarke said, still smiling. "I operate this island—which I own, and of which I am sole and outright sovereign—as a vacation resort, but also as a very special business. To put it bluntly…I make dreams come to life." He settled back and waited, as if in challenge.

Arthur and Veronica looked at each other; then Arthur's eyes lit up and he brightened considerably, turning to Roarke with an expression of heartfelt approval. "Oh, I see!" he exclaimed, with enthusiasm that seemed all out of place in such a serious man. "Like the Make-a-Wish Foundation! That's wonderful, Mr. Roarke, and I commend you heartily for it."

"As do I," said Veronica, sounding just a little grudging under her own approval.

Roarke's smile widened a little; Leslie could see that this time his amusement was real. "Not exactly…although you certainly have the right idea. In my case, however, I do not restrict my, uh, wish-granting to children, or the terminally ill. Anyone, of any age, in any state of health, is welcome to request a fantasy from me, and if I approve of it, I will do my very best to grant it. And this is my livelihood, rather than a charitable organization."

"Oh." Veronica's utterance sounded startled and disappointed all at once. "Hm. How strange. So what sorts of…fantasies do you grant?"

"All sorts," Roarke said. "Think of your most secret lifelong dream, no matter how impossible, no matter how whimsical. If it's within my power, I will make it happen."

Veronica was staring at him as if a couple of leprechauns had appeared and started dancing on Roarke's shoulders. "I don't understand."

"For example?" Arthur prodded.

Roarke smiled again and gestured to his daughter. "Leslie?"

She smiled too, though privately she was sure anything she said would meet with pure confusion on Arthur's part and stern dismissal from Veronica. "We've allowed people to take part in their favorite fairy tales, or to be rich or famous or royal for a weekend, or to go back in time, or just to find lost relatives or friends."

"Uh…huh," said Arthur very slowly. Leslie swallowed back an involuntary snicker at seeing how vividly her premonitions had been proven. Arthur's face was a mask of sheer befuddlement, and Veronica was shaking her head in rejection.

"No, no, no," she said. "Now, I suppose I could see people wanting to be something they aren't for a day or two. I can see how you'd do that—setting up a sort of play on a stage, with a cast of characters working with a script, so that people actually believe they're royalty or celebrities, or acting out a role in a…fairy tale." She said the last two words as though they'd been poisoned and she didn't want to touch them. "But going back in time—of course that's simply impossible. You really shouldn't be advertising that you can do that, you know—that's fraud, pure and simple."

"I'm sure it's no more real than people playing roles in stories or pretending they're kings for a weekend," Arthur said soothingly, letting one hand hover over her shoulder without actually touching it, in a gesture Leslie supposed was meant to be placating. "I expect he and his assistant here go to a great deal of trouble to make the place look like some other day and age, and coach their stable of actors to remain in character at all times."

"Well, maybe," Veronica allowed reluctantly. "But I still find it unbelievable."

"It's needlessly frivolous," Arthur agreed, glancing at Roarke. "But, well, we promised Sylvia, after all, and our bosses did tell us we should come here. So we're here, and we'll stay the full weekend."

"But," Veronica broke in sharply, "you're not to infect our daughter with ridiculous ideas about things that don't exist. I want that made very clear, Mr. Roarke."

"Believe me," Roarke said with sham solemnity, "it could not be clearer."

The Lincolns swallowed it completely. "Good," said Veronica and stood up alongside Arthur. "Now that that's settled…suppose we get back to our cottage and take an hour's rest. We'll have lunch at exactly noon, Mr. Roarke, if you'd be so kind as to send your room service over at the proper hour."

"I'll certainly do that," Roarke agreed.

Veronica nodded. "Thank you. Come along, Sylvia."

Sylvia cleared her throat and stood her ground. "Not yet, Mother. I need to talk to Mr. Roarke and Mrs. Enstad for a minute."

Her mother stared at her in disbelief. "What could you possibly have to discuss with them, for heaven's sake? You'll throw us completely off schedule."

"It's my Christmas present. You said so yourself," Sylvia pointed out, sounding perfectly reasonable. "So please, Mother, indulge me."

Veronica released a very put-upon sigh. "Oh, all right. No more than fifteen minutes, young lady, and I want you back at the cottage resting. Is that clear?"

"As a bell, Mother," Sylvia said.

"No impertinence," Veronica warned. "We'll see you soon." She and Arthur departed, pulling the door shut behind them. The moment they were gone, Sylvia climbed into her father's vacated chair and leaned earnestly forward.

"That," she said with emphasis, "was profoundly embarrassing. I hope you'll accept my apologies, Mr. Roarke. Sometimes my parents are just insufferable."

Leslie blinked at the girl's vocabulary, impressed. She could see that Roarke was, too. "No need to apologize, Miss Lincoln," he assured the girl.

"Well, I just felt it was appropriate. Anyway, you can see how imperative it is that my fantasy be granted. They have absolutely no idea what you do here. They had to ground it in some kind of depressing reality in order to make it palatable to their ever-so-logical minds, you see? There's not a molecule in their bodies that allows for anything whimsical and enjoyable. Life is work, and work is life, to them. Or in my case, life is education, and education is life. Which is all very well and fine, and I'm not putting forth any arguments. But people have to dream, Mr. Roarke, don't you think so?"

"Oh, believe me, Miss Lincoln, I do indeed. Why, if it weren't for that very need, I would hardly be in business, now would I?"

"No, you certainly wouldn't. This is exactly what my parents need. I think they've been stuck in the same rut all their lives. I know they look irredeemable, but if anybody can alter that rigid mindset of theirs, it's you, Mr. Roarke. I have total faith in you and your abilities."

"Why, thank you, Miss Lincoln," said Roarke, grinning in friendly fashion.

"You're welcome. So…" Sylvia watched him expectantly. "How are you going to convince my parents that life isn't all toil and drudgery?"

Roarke sat up and rested his arms on the desk, leaning forward and clasping his hands in front of him. "Before I answer, Miss Lincoln, I have a few questions of my own to ask you. I realize some may seem silly, but please bear with me. First of all, your parents' adherence to reality—does it encompass merely the things they believe should pass with childhood, or does it extend to everything?"

"Everything such as what?" Sylvia asked blankly.

"Not just fairy tales and so forth, but…things like, oh, say, love," Leslie suggested.

Sylvia frowned thoughtfully; then her cheeks got a little pinker and she peered at Leslie bashfully. "Well, I really don't want to disillusion you, Mrs. Enstad, and I should issue a disclaimer that this isn't my opinion at all. But see, my parents read a magazine that came out when you and Prince Christian got married, and…they didn't believe it was love that made you stick together. They said it was all just a stunt so that Fantasy Island and Lilla Jordsö could get a lot of unnecessary publicity, gratis."

Leslie blinked at her, mildly shocked. "Well," she said, otherwise speechless.

Hastily Sylvia blurted, "I said it wasn't what I thought. I think you and Prince Christian really do love each other. I mean, I saw it in the way you looked at each other in the pictures. I think that when people fall in love, it can be any two people. They can be exactly alike or total opposites and still be completely besotted with each other and make a perfect success out of their relationship. But my parents…" She looked at Roarke and said as if admitting to a felony, "I don't even know if they like each other. I mean, I don't think they believe in love at all. I think they got married because they're both lofty scientists with very noble goals, and thought that gave them enough in common that they should get married and spawn a little carbon copy of themselves, whom they could train to be just like them." Sylvia took in their wide-eyed stares, then smirked. "Except I'm not."

Roarke chuckled, and Leslie burst out laughing. "Good for you," she said cheerfully. "So what do you think might convince your mother and father that life isn't confined only to what you can see and touch?"

Sylvia considered it. "Well, I'm not really sure," she said slowly, her index finger resting against her chin. "I guess maybe we could start with things that aren't supposed to exist. Stuff like ghosts and mermaids and centaurs." She lit up. "You've got mermaids here, haven't you, Mr. Roarke? If they saw a mermaid, it'd be a perfect start."

"Mermaids we have in abundance," Roarke assured her, smiling. "Although that may not convince them outright. In my experience, it takes several examples to change people's perceptions about ideas that have been entrenched for many years."

"That's true," Sylvia conceded. "Well, at least you can start with the mermaid. I wouldn't bother with ghosts—those are too easy to fake. If the mermaid doesn't convince them, then if you could come up with something like a unicorn or a centaur…"

"A centaur might be a better idea," Leslie offered. "As you said, Sylvia, like ghosts, unicorns would be too easy to fake."

"Yeah, you're right," Sylvia agreed, nodding. "A centaur it is." She glanced back and forth between her hosts, and a grin broke out on the face she had inherited from her mother. "This is fun! And in between, if you have trouble talking a centaur into doing us a favor, you might see if you can conjure up some fairies or gnomes or elves."

"I believe we can arrange that," Roarke said. "I will let you know when each entity is ready, and from there, you will have to do the rest."

"That's no problem," Sylvia said confidently. Then she blinked, as if her brain had skipped ahead, and her grin fell off with an almost audible thump. "But suppose even a centaur doesn't convince them? Then what do we do?"

Roarke smiled. "Leave that up to me—and to chance," he said. "Sometimes the most mundane, everyday things are the deal-breakers, as the phrase has it. It may well be a concept that you never considered that finally brings about understanding that not everything is tangible."

"I guess you're right," Sylvia said. "But first we get to try the creatures, don't we? Can we start right away? If you can provide the mermaid, I think I can get my parents to come down to a beach so they can see her."

"That's easy," Leslie said. "Stay here a second." She got up and went to the foot of the stairs, calling up, "Haruko? Can you come down a minute?"

"Sure," Haruko Miyamoto's voice called back, and a few seconds later the pretty sixteen-year-old was trotting down the steps. "What's up, Miss Leslie?"

"We need to ask you a favor," Leslie said, crossing the room with Haruko behind her. "First of all, this is Sylvia Lincoln, one of our fantasizing guests this weekend. Sylvia, this is Haruko Miyamoto. She's the daughter of one of my friends, and watches our triplets each weekend. She's close friends with a mermaid."

Sylvia's eyes widened and she jumped out of her chair to shake hands with the surprised Haruko. "Honestly? You personally know a mermaid? How did you manage that?"

"Well…" Haruko hesitated, then looked at Roarke. "I don't mind explaining, Mr. Roarke, but I'm just curious as to why. Is it allowed for me to know?"

Roarke smiled. "In this case, yes. Sylvia is here with her parents this weekend, and she feels that they need to be reminded that there is a place in life for the whimsical, the absurd, and the supposedly mythical."

"Oh, I see," Haruko said and grinned. "I hope you succeed, Sylvia. Well, last spring, I was down at the beach with the triplets after a huge storm, and I heard a voice calling for help. When I went down to see who it was, there was someone buried under a ton of seaweed, and I started clearing it off her. Turned out she was a mermaid. I dragged her back to the water so she could swim back out to sea, and she was so grateful for my saving her life that we became friends. We even spent a weekend in each other's worlds, so I got to be a mermaid myself for a couple of days."

"That's stupendous!" Sylvia breathed, astounded. "Are you still friends?"

"Still friends," Haruko confirmed. "I see her at least a couple of times a month."

Sylvia took a deep breath. "I hope you and your mermaid friend won't mind doing me a big favor. My parents…they're scientists, see. Most scientists have some sense of the fantastic, you know—they're not all stuck on real-world things all the time. But not my mother and father. If it isn't supposed to exist, or if they can't see or touch it, they don't believe in it. So I'm asking for Mr. Roarke's and Mrs. Enstad's help to get them to understand that not everything in life is a physical entity. And I was hoping to start by giving Mother and Father the chance to see a mermaid."

"Aha, I get it," Haruko said. "I'm sure Akima won't mind. In fact, she'll probably be outraged that there are people who think mermaids are just stories. I'll have to call her, though. That means I'll have to go down to the beach where we usually meet. Is that okay with you, Miss Leslie? Can someone watch the triplets till I get back?"

"Oh, either Father or I will be here," Leslie promised, "and if something comes up, I'll let Mariki know that she needs to keep an eye on them for a little while. Why don't you go on ahead and talk to Akima, and let us know what happens when you get back."

"I'll be back as soon as I can," Haruko promised and rushed out the French shutters. Sylvia watched her go, eyes still the size of silver dollars.

"It's really going to happen, isn't it?" she exclaimed. "I'll get to see her mermaid friend too, won't I? I mean…secretly I've always wanted to see one, but I never told anybody."

"Then it appears you'll have a second fantasy fulfilled this weekend," Roarke said indulgently. "However, I'm sorry to point out that you have far exceeded the fifteen minutes your mother allotted you, so perhaps it would be best if you returned to your bungalow for now. When the time comes to make the trip to the beach, Leslie will come to pick you up and take you and your parents there."

"Fifteen minutes," Sylvia snorted. "The first thing I'm going to teach my parents is that schedules aren't allowed on vacations. Thanks so much, Mr. Roarke, I'm really grateful! See you later, Mrs. Enstad!" She scurried out of the house, leaving the study quiet.

Leslie grinned after her. "I don't envy that poor kid at all. When you have to be taught not to package every single second into some neat little niche, then you've got one whale of a problem."

"Indeed," Roarke said, gazing after Sylvia. "Indeed."