First off, thank you to those who reviewed the last chapter (SocratesJackson, ObsessedwReading, and CKGirl). I really appreciate your thoughts. And I agree with you CKGirl: it is kind of OC of Lewis not to think about calling the others before leaving for Australia. However, the way I see it he's so worried and therefore not thinking straight. Hopefully, this chapter shows him a little better.
Also, I could have split this last into two, but I figured since I've made everyone wait so long between chapters I owed you guys a nice, long ending. I hope you enjoy it and a huge thank you to anyone and everyone who showed interest in this story. You guys are the best!
Juliette knew she shouldn't have trusted that smart-mouthed, egotistical, good-for-nothing scientist. Mermaid expert her ass.
Lewis was leaving. Heading back to Australia.
He claimed his friends were in trouble. She didn't believe him. The mermaids he hung around couldn't be in any more trouble than she, Ella, Leah, and everyone else were if they still had their powers. As long as they still had tails whatever situation they'd gotten themselves into could wait. It'd be one thing if Lewis was going home to find the connection between this Mako Island and the loss of their powers, but ever since he'd left that voicemail about the crystals for his girlfriend, Cleo, he hadn't mentioned the Institute or the magical force or their lack of tails. Not once.
In fact, he barely talked at all. After he'd informed them all that he was going back to Australia, he'd gone to his room to pack all his belongings. His suitcase now sat on the dock, where he paced, phone clutched in one hand, as he waited for Jack to take him back to the mainland.
He was leaving. And that was all the proof she needed to know he didn't care about getting their powers back. He didn't care about them. All this time and they were just a curious problem he'd been asked to solve. He probably thought his time on the island was so much fun. Once he got back to Australia and learned everything was fine with his other friends, she was sure he'd tell them all about what a good time he had at the institute, how he learned so much. He couldn't help them, but that didn't matter because it had been a great experience.
It was up to her now.
"What are you doing?"
Pile of clothes in hand, she turned to face Ella. Putting on a smile, she shrugged. "Just rearranging my drawers," she said. "The way I have them now I can never remember where my shorts are."
Ella eyed her suspiciously for a second before smiling back. "Mason and I are going sailing," she said. "Want to join us?"
She pursed her lips. "Umm, not today. I want to get this sorted out before dinner. Next time?"
Ella nodded. "Sure. I'll see you later."
Juliette watched her best friend disappear out the door and down the path. She hated lying to her. But she knew Ella would never agree with her plan. She'd certainly never let her go alone. If she knew what she was getting into—what to expect in Australia and from the other mermaids—she'd ask Ella to come with her. But she didn't, and she didn't want her best friend getting hurt.
But, if things went her way, there was only one person who was going to get hurt. And that was Lewis. She smiled as she dug a bag out from under her bed and put her stuff in it.
If Lewis wasn't going to get them their powers back then she would. Even if it meant traveling halfway around the world. She'd bought a one way ticket to the land down under and didn't plan on returning to the Institute until her powers were returned. Hell, if she succeeded, she'd swim back to Florida.
This time, when he crossed the Pacific, the plane ride actually felt like the longest one ever. He knew he should take the time to get some sleep, but his brain wouldn't let him. Thoughts of Cleo, Mako, blue crystals, the water tentacle, Rikki and Bella, full moons, the girls at AMBI, and much more never left his mind.
When the stewardess reminded the passengers to power down all cell phones and other electronic devices, Lewis felt actual pain in his chest. Cleo still hadn't called him back. He'd tried Rikki and Bella on the way to the airport, but neither of them had answered. Honestly, considering it was nearly four in the morning back home, he didn't blame them. But Cleo…Cleo would have answered, no matter what time it was.
This knowledge, coupled with all the other problems resting on his shoulders, kept him from getting even a minute of sleep the entire trip. He put headphones in and listened to music, watched the available movies, and ate the provided meals, but he felt like he was doing these things in a daze. If someone were to ask him what songs he listened to or what movies he watched, he wouldn't have been able to name one.
The only scenes he could remember were the ones that played over and over in his head. Like the one where the water tentacle took Cleo, dragging her out into the open ocean while she cried for his help. Or the one where Cleo, Rikki, and Bella lost their powers like the girls at AMBI and they all blamed him for it. Or the worst one of them all: the one where he didn't make it time, scrambling down the land entrance to the moonpool only to find Cleo's lifeless body floating on the water's surface.
They were his worst nightmares—and any one of them could come true.
The stewardess walked down the aisle collecting trash. Leaning over his armrest, Lewis asked, "Excuse me? Could you tell me how much longer until we land?"
She smiled politely at him as she stowed his fellow passenger's used cup and napkin in the garbage bag. "We'll arrive in about an hour, sir."
"Thank you," he said. The stewardess moved on. He was about to lean back in his chair when a sharp movement several rows in front of him caught his eye. Someone had been watching him. But who? Why? He swore, if Leah had followed him again…
"That girl up there must think you're cute."
Lewis jumped so hard his knees hit the tray on the seat in front of him.
"Juliette," he growled as he hastily rubbed at his new bruises. "What are you doing here?"
She shot him a sidelong glance as she slid into the empty seat across the aisle. "What do you think I'm doing here?"
He didn't answer. He was in no mood to humor her.
She rolled her eyes and sighed. "You seemed to forget the reason we brought you to the Institute." Lowering her voice, she leaned over. "Since we don't have our powers back, you're not off the hook. I decided to tag along to make sure you remembered that."
He studied her. She was definitely trying to intimidate him, but he wasn't about to let her know it was working. Of course he hadn't forgotten about the other mermaids. Aside from Cleo, they were at the front of his mind. But having Juliette "tag along" wasn't exactly going to help matters.
"Does your grandmother know you're here?" he asked.
She turned back to face the front of the plane, but didn't say anything.
"I didn't think so. What about Ella? Or Leah?" Still no answer. He narrowed his eyes at her. "Does anyone know you're here?"
The nervous glance in his direction was all it took to confirm his suspicions. Juliette had followed him—going so far as to board a plane currently taking her to the other side of the world—of her own accord. That was it. She was completely insane. Or maybe just really desperate.
He closed his eyes and sighed. "Look, Juliette," he whispered, "I can't pretend to know what you're going through. I've never had any powers myself, but I've seen what they've done for my friends. I've seen how they've made my girlfriend a stronger person and how they've brought us all closer together. I may not know what it's like to swim with a tail but I get that it's more than that. My life would be completely different if I hadn't seen Cleo in that pool, and, despite how sick with worry I feel right now, I wouldn't change what happened. Those powers—that magic," he amended, "changed my life for the better. I don't want to live without it either. So, in a way, I do know how you feel."
She stared up at him and swallowed hard.
He leaned in closer. "And I promise you, Juliette—no matter what it takes—I will get you your tail back."
Biting her lip, she nodded once before resting her head back against her seat. He faced forward once more too, repeating his words in his head. He meant every one.
They sat the remaining forty-five minutes in silence.
When the plane landed, he let Juliette be the rude and obnoxious person he knew she was. He followed closely behind her, muttering apologies to the other passengers, as she pushed and jabbed her way down the aisle until they were the first people off the plane. Once in the terminal, he turned on his phone. He had one missed call and a voicemail. Cleo.
His fingers couldn't move fast enough. He clicked the play button and put the phone to his ear.
"Hi, Lewis. I..umm…got your message. And before I say anything else, I want you to know I love you. The moonpool showed us a comet. It's headed straight for Earth, but Rikki, Bella, and I, we can stop it. It's what the water tentacle's been trying to tell us all along. I'd say not to worry about me, but I know you will. I'll be okay though. I promise I'll make it to graduation tomorrow. I'll call you when it's all over, okay? Love you, bye."
No no no no no. She couldn't—she wouldn't—he had to find her. Now. He had less than an hour before the night's full moon.
Before he could even attempt to call her, his phone went off. He didn't bother to look at the screen, immediately accepting the call.
"Nope. It's Leah."
"Leah?" Juliette repeated, grabbing his arm and trying to listen in. "What's she calling for?"
He tried to shake her off, but Juliette wouldn't budge.
"Uh-huh." On the other end of the phone, Leah sounded awfully bubbly. Even more so than usual. "I just called to thank you, Lewis."
"Thank me?" He felt like a broken record. "For what?"
"For whatever you did that got us our powers back."
His heart dropped to the pit at her words.
"You—you have your powers back?" he asked.
"Yup," Leah said happily. "So, whatever you did, it worked. We'd still be tail-less without you. Thanks."
Lewis wasn't sure if he was breathing, or if he even had a heart left in his chest to beat. Stunned, he said the only thing that came to mind. "You're welcome."
"Seriously, we owe you so much. If you ever need a favor, just call, okay?"
He pulled the phone away from his ear, feeling as if he was moving in slow motion. Or underwater. Juliette, however, was not so sluggish.
"Lewis, talk to me." She snapped her fingers in front of his face. He had no idea how long she'd been trying to get his attention. "What did Leah say?"
"Their powers are back." But how? He hadn't done anything. He hadn't even talked to Cleo or the others. Which meant something had happened.
"Our powers are back?" Juliette asked, excitement brewing behind her hope.
"I guess," he said, not really paying her much attention.
Something had happened to trigger the release of the stolen magic, allowing it to flow back along its current to the Crystal Lagoon and its original owners. But what? The comet hadn't arrived yet. Whatever had happened, he had a bad feeling about it. He hoped Cleo was okay.
"Come on," Juliette said as she dragged Lewis through the crowded airport. He pressed the button on his phone to call Cleo. Glancing once around the area, Juliette shoved Lewis through a door. Cleo didn't answer. Too late did he realize it was the door to the women's lavatory.
Balking at her, he asked, "Juliette? What are we doing? I'm not supposed to be in here!"
"Oh hush," she said as she locked the main door and proceeded to check every stall for an occupant. The restroom was empty except for them. "I have to make sure it's true."
She held her hand under the motion sensor facet until a steady stream of water ran over her skin. Then, she waited. Seconds passed. Lewis counted them in his head. When he got to ten, tiny bubbles or sparkles or whatever they were, covered Juliette's body. She flopped onto the tile floor, tail strewn out behind her.
She was a mermaid again.
Not good. Still, it was only one problem solved. Smiling like he would if he discovered a new fish species and got to name it, Juliette dried off, her legs reappearing. But he didn't have time for celebrations. Now it was his turn to grab Juliette's arm and drag her through the airport.
"Where are we going?" she asked.
He weaved through the crowds, being sure to keep a firm grip on Juliette's wrist. "We have to find Cleo and the others. I need to know what's going on."
Mercifully, Juliette didn't argue with him. She even offered to grab their luggage while he hailed a taxi. In the car, she jotted down Cleo, Rikki, Bella, and even Will's phone number so they could take turns calling them in hopes that one of them might get through.
He had to find out what was happening. And he had to do that before the full moon. He checked his watch—he'd already reset it to Australian time—but he was too late. The full moon was up.
He tried Cleo over and over again, but her phone only connected him to her voicemail. It was same with Rikki, Bella and Will. A glance over at Juliette and he could tell her luck was as rotten as his.
For the first time since leaving Australia, he actually regretted accepting the AMBI scholarship. If he hadn't flown to Florida—if he hadn't left—then he wouldn't be in the dark right now. And he'd be able to make sure Cleo was safe.
Juliette's voice yanked him from his inner thoughts.
"Is this Will?"
He grabbed the phone from her. "Will? Are you there? It's Lewis."
"Le-wis?" Will repeated back, his voice cutting in and out of the call.
"Will, where are the girls? What's happening at Mako?"
"Sophie and Ryan de—stroyed the moonpool. The wall that the water tentacle came from—they bl—up. It's gone," Will tried to explain through their bad connection. Lewis wanted to know but he didn't have time to wonder who Ryan was. "But, Lewis, there's a co—"
"A comet, I know," he said.
"Yeah. It's headed for us. The girls, they think they can stop it."
"Without the water tentacle?"
Even with the horrible reception, he could hear Will's nerves through the phone. "They said they'd find a way."
"Okay, thanks Will. Call me if you hear from them?"
He hung up just as the taxi driver dropped them in front of Rikki's cafe. He didn't wait for Juliette to pay the man or for her to get out of the car. He couldn't wait. Cleo couldn't wait. He had to get to Mako—to the moonpool. He bolted down the dock towards his small boat, listening to the staccato of his and Juliette's pounding steps.
"Umm, Lewis?" she asked from behind him.
"What is it? We have to get to Mako." He reached the end of the dock and moved to untie his boat.
When she didn't answer him, he turned. She was staring up at the sky. He looked up, following her gaze, and spotted the comet. Coming right towards them.
This wasn't good. It was entering the atmosphere. The comet was burning, but not fast enough. At the rate it was hurdling towards them, the size of the comet would still create a catastrophic impact. It would be as bad as the meteor that killed the dinosaurs, maybe even worse.
Lewis watched as a stream of bright light shot out into the sky. He raised a hand to keep it from blinding him. The light was beautiful and strong. And he knew exactly where it was coming from: Mako Island.
The light pulsed and hit the oncoming comet, sending it in a different direction, away from Earth. Staring at the fading comet, he collapsed on the dock in relief. It was okay. They were safe. He didn't know how but he knew Cleo, Rikki, and Bella had saved them.
Beside him, Juliette whispered, breaking the shocked silence. "That was why they needed our powers."
Lewis didn't know if she was talking to him or just speaking in general. It didn't matter. He knew she finally understood what happened—what had been at stake.
He nodded. "They needed to save the world."
The next morning, Lewis found himself back on the beach of his super-secret fishing spot. Only this time, he was accompanied by a different mermaid.
"You're not serious, are you?" he asked for what he knew was the fifth time.
"I'm dead serious," Juliette said, not even cracking a smile.
"You're going to swim all the way back to Florida?"
She rolled her eyes. "Yes, Lewis."
He should have trusted his gut when it came to this girl. She was most definitely insane.
"But that's like 15,000 kilometers!"
"If you're trying to tell me it's a far swim, you can save your breath, I already know it's far."
He pulled out his phone to check the time. "Then why risk it?"
She shrugged. "Because I don't see it as a risk," she said. "I see it as fun—as time for me to reconnect with my mermaidness."
"It's a working title."
Lewis grit his teeth. He really didn't like this idea. But he also knew he had no way of stopping Juliette. "Stay clear of sharks."
"And you can't be seen."
She heaved a sigh. "I know, Lewis."
"Just…be careful," he warned her.
"Don't worry. I will." She smiled at him. "If it makes you feel any better, I'll try to stop on a few islands to call and check in."
He nodded. "Please do."
Her sweet smile transformed into a normal wry one. "But no promises."
He watched as she walked into the water, pushing her way past the breaking waves.
When she was waist deep, she turned back to him. "Bye, Lewis. I'd say see you again, but, no offense, I really hope not."
He chuckled. "Goodbye, Juliette."
Then her legs changed into her mermaid tail and she disappeared beneath the water. He watched the spot she'd vanished from for another couple seconds before pulling out his phone to check the time again. He had someplace to be.
Standing at the top of the stairs, Lewis surveyed the aftermath of the graduation ceremony. He found Cleo standing with Rikki, Bella, and Will. Right where he expected her to be. All of them were chatting and smiling. Just seeing their faces, he knew he was home.
Rikki spotted him first, endearing confusion etching its way across her face. Pointing in his direction, she said something to Cleo. Cleo turned and that was all it took for his heart to melt. Hand over her mouth, a smile bleeding through—it was everything he'd hoped it'd be. She was so beautiful, so incredible. If he'd heard correctly he wasn't the only budding scientist from the school.
A mermaid and a scientist. Who'd have thought? But he really shouldn't have been so surprised. Magic and science, like any relationship, had their bumps in the road, but, by the end of the journey, they'd found a way to work together.
A laugh escaped her as she waved her diploma at him. Lewis smiled wide. Yeah, Cleo was pretty amazing. All the mermaids were, but Cleo—well, she was special. And he couldn't wait to see what adventures they'd encounter next.