Will rushed over to Bella's house as soon as Sophie left. He made a phone call to Zane, who promised to call Rikki and get both of them to Bella's as soon as he could.
"I just don't know what to do." Will said frantically as he paced back an forth through Bella's bedroom. "She knows, Bella. We thought we tricked her but we didn't. We couldn't have."
Will leaned on Bella's desk, deep in thought.
"So, we don't go." Bella said as calmly as she could. "We don't meet with her tomorrow morning. We hide, or something."
"Hide?" Will looked up. "Where do we hide?"
"I don't know." Bella shrugged in exasperation. "But we definitely can't just walk right into her apartment. She'll trap us and that'll be that."
Will nodded in agreement.
The pair heard the front door open and close, followed by a pair of feet running their way up the steps. Rikki and Zane burst into Bella's room, matching expressions of anxiety on their faces.
"What did Sophie say? Tell us everything." Zane demanded as he sat down in Bella's desk chair.
Will sighed before repeating the discussion he'd had with Sophie. Rikki and Zane listened raptly.
"And she expects us, Bella and me, to be at her place at 9am tomorrow. What the hell are we supposed to do?"
"Cancel." Rikki and Zane answered together.
"I know that." Will worried. "But then what?"
No one had an answer for him.
Sophie stood from where she had been sitting beside Bella's house. She had waited outside of Will's boathouse, sure that he would come running out the second she left. She hadn't been disappointed. Will had led her straight to Bella's house, practically running the whole way there.
Sophie had made herself comfortable about half a block up the street. She only had to wait about fifteen minutes before she saw Zane and Rikki dashe up the front porch and into the house.
Sophie smirked, satisfied with herself, as she stood. She smoothly turned on her heel and made her way off into the night. This was turning out to be a very interesting evening.
Back in Bella's bedroom, the four kids were in the same places they'd been for the last thirty minutes. No one had a good plan of action for dealing with Sophie. Or any plan at all, good or not.
"Does she know about Rikki?" Zane asked concernedly.
"I don't think so." Will shook his head. "But she did ask about why you were so worried about Bella. It was like she knew something was up. I don't really think she knows about Rikki though."
"Ok good." Zane breathed.
"Good?" Rikki raised her eyebrows. "But what do we do about Bella?"
The silence in the room was deafening. Everyone wracked their brain, but no one could come up with anything even close to resembling a plan.
"Don't leave this house." Will told Bella for the third time.
"I can't just stay in here forever." Bella argued back for a third time.
"But if you leave Sophie may ambush you." Zane stated.
"We've been through this already." Rikki said frustratedly.
"I know, I just don't know where to go from here." Will rubbed at his temples.
"Me either." Zane muttered.
"What if we tell her?" Bella asked quietly. She had been thinking things over, and she didn't see any way of getting out of this. Not now.
"What?" Will didn't believe what he'd just heard.
Bella stood and walked to the middle of the room slowly. "What if we just tell her everything?"
"We aren't telling her about Rikki." Zane said firmly.
"No, I didn't mean we tell her about Rikki." Bella said wearily. "I mean, why don't we just tell her about me? If we work with her maybe she'll be less...um... harsh about things."
"I doubt it." Will said bitterly. "I really don't think that's a great idea, Bella. Sophie won't go easy on you just because you work with her. She just won't have to try so hard. She'll see it as an easy way to get what she wants."
"I just don't see how we have any other choice." Bella sat down on the bed. "She knows, Will."
"Ok." Zane thought aloud. "I have an idea. I don't know that it will work, but do we have any other plans?"
"What is it?" Rikki asked warily.
"I offer her the cafe." Zane said thoughtfully.
"No way." Rikki said firmly.
"Yeah, we can't let you do that." Bella agreed.
"No, listen." Zane spoke to the group. "I love the cafe, but Sophie would probably love a chance to run it. She'd make loads of cash and she wouldn't have to work too hard."
"Yeah, but she wouldn't have to work too hard after she tells the world about Bella either." Will disagreed.
"Still, it's an idea." Zane rebutted.
"Cool it, guys." Bella said from her place on the bed. "Zane, you're not giving up the cafe."
Zane crossed his arms and sank down into the chair. "I'm just saying, she might be willing to make a trade."
"And we really appreciate it." Rikki squeezed Zane's hand. "But we need to come up with a better idea than that. She can make way more money off a mermaid discovery than she can at the cafe, and she knows it."
"I guess." Zane said under his breath. He was upset with himself for not coming up with a solution right away. There had to be a way out of this, he just needed to figure out what it was.
"It's getting late." Will said softly. He pulled out his phone and began to dial Sophie's number slowly.
"Who are you calling?" Bella asked curiously.
"Sophie." Will held the phone to his ear. "I'm cancelling our meeting for tomorrow."
"Wait." Bella reached out quickly and took the phone from Will, clicking it shut. "Don't cancel."
"Why not? I thought we'd agreed that we needed to cancel immediately?" Will asked cluelessly.
"Ok." Bella said thoughtfully. "What if I go over there first, and then you join us a bit later?"
"That's the dumbest idea I've heard yet." Zane said blankly. "Have you gone nuts?
"I don't have any clue what I'll say to her," Bella started, "But it's me that she knows about, not Rikki. I need to handle this myself. Maybe she'll feel bad for me and give up?"
Everyone thought that that was pretty unlikely, and the expressions on their faces said as much.
"I just don't want to risk her finding out about Rikki, or even Cleo, however far away she is." Bella said. "If I can talk to her at least I can try to find out what she knows. If I'm honest with her she'll think I'm confiding in her."
"So you just want to walk into Sophie's apartment and tell her straight out that you're a mermaid?" Will began pacing again. "No way."
"She knows, Will." Bella said quietly. "You said so yourself. She didn't believe us when we tried to prove her wrong. She saw me change. We just have to accept the fact that she knows what I am. Our best chance of making the most of this is to work with her."
"I'm not ok with that." Will shook his head.
"Well," Bella stood and walked over to him. "I'm not trying to be insensitive, but I feel like this is my decision."
"Not if you're going to do something stupid!" Will shouted.
Bella looked at Will solemnly. She spoke in a voice so quiet it made Will shiver a bit. "This is my life. If I want to just tell Sophie about me and get things out in the open I should be able to."
Will looked at Bella out of the corner of his eye as he sank down to sit on the floor. Slowly, he pulled his phone out of his pocket and dialed Sophie's number.
"Hey Soph." Will said resentfully. "'I just wanted to let you know that I'll be late to meet you tomorrow morning, but..." He sighed. "Bella will be there on time. 9am. Great."
He clicked the phone shut and dropped it on the floor in front of him. He looked up at Bella. "Happy?" He asked.
"Of course I'm not." Bella worried. "But this seems like the best thing to do. To keep everyone else from being found out."
"I still don't like it." Will said irritably.
"It's late." Zane checked his watch. "What time are you going to Sophie's?" He asked Bella.
"I guess right at 9." Bella said blankly.
"Let's meet up beforehand." Rikki suggested. "Just for one last pep talk before you go over there."
"That would be great." Bella smiled. "Thank you."
Neither Zane nor Will looked up from the floor as the two girls hugged. They were far from alright with Bella's idea.
"Ok." Rikki said calmly. "I can't think anymore tonight. I'm headed to bed."
"I'll walk you." Zane stood.
Rikki took Bella's hand in hers. "This is going to be fine." She said with false confidence. "Don't do anything rash. I'll be here tomorrow at...7? Is that too early."
"I doubt I'll be getting much sleep." Bella admitted. "7 is just fine."
"Ok then." Rikki gave Bella a reassuring smile before heading for the door. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Zane followed Rikki wordlessly. He locked eyes with Will on the way out. There was no way they were going to allow Bella to walk right into Sophie's arms, and they both knew it. Zane broke the eye lock as he followed Rikki downstairs and out the front door.
As the door shut behind Rikki and Zane, Will walked over to Bella and pulled her tightly into his arms. "We're going to figure this out." He said for what felt like the thousandth time.
Bella nodded, unconvinced, but determined to take things into her own hands.
Zane and Rikki walked towards Rikki's home, hand in hand. They didn't have much to say to one another, and each of them were deep into their own thoughts as they walked.
"Bella's smart." Rikki reassured herself. "She knows what she's doing."
Zane was walking briskly, heatedly. He couldn't stand the fact that the situation was out of his control. He wasn't used to being powerless and he wasn't thrilled about it.
"Hey." Rikki caught his attention. "Stop it."
"Stop what?" Zane said angrily.
"Stop blaming yourself." Rikki said firmly. "Between you and Will it's a major guilt-fest around here nowadays."
"I should be able to take care of this." Zane stated. "I'm going to figure it out."
"Listen to me." Rikki stopped walking and took both of Zane's hands in hers. "This was going to happen eventually."
"What?" Zane frowned. "What do you mean?"
Rikki spoke carefully. "I mean, this was wonderful while it lasted, but it was bound to come out sooner or later. At some point one of us will be discovered. At least if Bella works with Sophie she might get more of a say in how things go."
Zane pulled away from Rikki and kept walking. "She's being stupid." He spat out as he walked.
"Don't say that." Rikki ran to keep up with him. "She's trying to do what she thinks is right."
"Yeah?" Zane turned to Rikki forcefully. "And what about when people start putting the pieces together, hm? It's only a matter of time before people realize that you never go into the water either, or that and Bella disappear together all the time. What then?"
Rikki thought hard. "Then we'll figure things out when the time comes." She said quietly.
"Yeah, you will." Came a cold, familiar voice.
Rikki and Zane whipped around to face the voice. Sophie stood calmly, her hands crossed loosely over her chest.
Zane stepped in front of Rikki protectively. "What do you want, Sophie?" He asked warily.
"Ah, Zane." Sophie tilted her head to the side slightly. "I never thought you would let me down on something like this. Of course, I didn't realize how deeply Rikki was involved until just recently."
"What are you talking about?" Zane said boldly.
"Nothing much." Sophie said casually as she took one step closer to the pair. "But let's see just how involved you actually are."
Before Zane or Rikki could move, Sophie unfolded her arms. Clasped tightly in one hand was a bottle of water.
"Rikki, run!" Zane tried to shove her out of the way, but they didn't move fast enough.
Sophie whipped the open bottle towards Zane and Rikki, sending a stream of water onto the pair.
"Get out of here, now!" Zane desperately tried to help Rikki dash away, but they were in an open area of the beach. Rikki couldn't make it to the water in time.
Sophie watched in triumphant amazement as Rikki's legs became one long fin. Rikki collapsed into Zane's arms. Zane all but fell onto the sand as he caught Rikki.
Both of them looked up at Sophie in fear as she walked casually to them
Rikki lay in Zane's arms. Zane held her tightly. There was no hiding her from Sophie's eyes.
"Well, Zane." Sophie said coolly, raising one eyebrow. "It looks like you've been holding out on me."