i'll tell you a tale of the bottomless blue
and it's hey to the starboard, heave ho
look out, lad, a mermaid be waiting for you
in mysterious fathoms below
"You'll never feel any better if you stay down like that. You should really stand and enjoy the breeze!"
Charlotte narrowed her eyes for a moment and wiped the sweat off her brow. "You know, I wouldn't be feeling sick if someone hadn't insisted on dragging me out into these god-forsaken waters."
Lizzie couldn't help but laugh at Charlotte's frustration. A quarter of a century living beside the ocean, and her seasickness had never faded. It was one of the great mysteries of life that had always stumped Lizzie, but she'd never let her best friend's dislike interfere with her own love for the water. And what better day could there be to be out on the ocean than this one?
"Would you please at least stand and look at the horizon, Char?" she called out, keeping her eyes closed as she tried to enjoy the salty smell in the air. "It'll help with your stomach."
Charlotte did as she was told and gripped the side of the boat tightly. "Remind me why you thought bringing me out here would be a good idea, Lizzie?"
"Because look at how beautiful it is today, Char!" Lizzie practically skipped to where Charlotte stood shaking. "Every time you've gotten sick before, the boat was rocking from the waves. But today, there's only the fresh air and blue skies as far as the eye can see!"
"My lame older sister is actually right, for once." Lydia popped up between the girls, spreading her arms out and over their shoulders. She beamed at the blue water that spread before them and bounced on the balls of her feet. "Just look at that. Catherine must be in a good mood today."
"Catherine?" Charlotte asked.
Lydia ignored her and continued. "Looks like the perfect afternoon for a swim!" She perched her foot on the wall and started heaving herself upwards off of their shoulders, but Lizzie quickly grabbed her arm and pulled backwards.
"Not today, Lydia. You saw Mom's face the last time you came home soaking wet! You were sick for weeks!"
Lydia just rolled her eyes and groaned. "It's just a swim, and we're heading home soon anyways. Jeez, do you have to be such a party pooper all the time?"
"When it means keeping you out of trouble, yes, I do."
"Okay, you two. Shake it off and answer my question before your fighting makes me lose my lunch. Who's Catherine?"
Lizzie only shook her head and turned back toward the water. "She's supposed to be the queen of the merpeople. Dad always read us stories about them when we were kids, but Lydia has chosen to believe in childish fairytales way longer than anyone ever should."
"They're not fairytales, weirdo," Lydia insisted, crossing her arms against her chest. "I'm telling you — If you swim down far enough, you'll find Catherine's kingdom. They're down there, and they just don't want us to know about them!"
"Lydia, stop being ridiculous for once in your life."
With that, Lydia stormed back below deck and left the two girls to stare quietly at the ocean where there were absolutely, positively no mermaids.
They simply didn't exist. Everyone knew that.