Hannah looked out the window and gazed at the people on the shore across from her beach house. They played volleyball, swam, built sand castles, rested, or just hung out with others.
But Hannah looked down, letting her long golden hair fall down her torso. The two months she’d moved here to New Jersey had not done much for her. In a week, she would start eighth grade. Unlike her old school in Delaware, this one would mandate uniforms. It was a private school, but Hannah still experienced palm sweats and energy drains when thinking about not getting to wear what she wanted anymore.
She also had not made any friends at camp. She still remained in touch with those from her previous town on Facebook. But she wouldn’t see them ever again unless she visited the area.
Hannah breathed and headed to the door. Her parents hung out in their bedroom. Plus, Hannah would not stray too far. She just planned to talk to somebody on the beach.
She walked outside—only to hear grunts coming from the backyard.
“Will someone help me, please?” cried a teenage boy.
Gasping, Hannah rushed to the property behind the house. The boy stuck out of the sand. He wore no top, had dark tousles of hair, and appeared to be a few years older than Hannah, who was thirteen.
“Oh my God, are you okay?” Hannah approached the kid.
“I think the water pushed me here and now I’m stuck,” the boy said.
“I’ll pull you out.” Hannah grabbed the kid’s hands and pulled back. She clenched her teeth, and her arms ached.
The boy ascended from the ground. More of his torso showed. But he stopped and got stuck again.
“I can’t climb out,” the kid said. “You need to keep pulling.”
Hannah inhaled and exhaled. She added more pressure to free the boy from the ground. She squeezed her eyes shut. Some weight increased as Hannah continued to let the boy out. But a flap sounded.
“Thank you,” the kid panted.
Hannah opened her eyes and jumped back, shrieking. The boy had a fish tail. Hannah’s chest tightened and her muscles stiffened.
“I swear I’m not wearing a costume,” said the boy.
Hannah said nothing and just sucked in her breaths.
“I guess you’ve never seen a merman before,” said the kid.
“I… I was going to invite you for dinner,” said Hannah.
“I wish I could join you.” The boy looked down. “But I will thank you for saving me.”
“You’re welcome.” Hannah kneeled down at him. “My name’s Hannah, by the way.”
The two shook hands.
“I need to get back to the ocean,” Troy said. “I’m supposed to be around humans.”
“So how did you end up here?”
“A current pushed me—it’s complicated.”
“So if you’re not supposed to be around people, how am I going to get you back to the water?”
Troy sighed. “I guess you’re going to have to wrap me in a towel and cover my tail completely as you carry me back.”
“Okay.” Hannah rushed back inside her house. Her parents stood in the kitchen.
“What you were doing outside?” Hannah’s dad asked.
“I… uh… was talking to a boy.”
“Where is he from?” asked Hannah’s mom.
Hannah remained mute for a couple seconds. “Far away. He wants me to hang out with him.”
“Oh, okay.” Hannah’s dad nodded. “Can we meet him?”
Hannah remained silent and frowned. “He’s a little shy. I’m going to go get a towel for him.” She continued to the closet and grabbed a towel. Then she returned outside. But Troy wasn’t there. Hannah gasped. “Troy?” She looked around. “Troy?”
There was no answer.
“You stay away from here, you mutant fish!” yelled an old man.
“Oh no,” whispered Hannah. She ran to the front property. A fisherman carried a net. A large fish tail stuck out of a sack. Muffled noises sounded.
“Hey, you!” Hannah dashed to the guy. “Let the boy go!”
“What do you think you can do to me?” the man asked. “You’re just a kid.”
“You let that boy go right now, or I’m—”
“You can’t threaten me, child,” said the guy. “I am going to do something with the young merman that I do to every fish I’ve caught. And you can’t stop me.”
“He is not yours,” Hannah said. “He belongs in the ocean, where he can roam free whenever he wants.”
The man grasped Hannah’s shoulder and pushed her down.
“You’re not stopping me, little one,” the guy snarled.
“Leave them both alone!” cried another girl around Hannah’s age.
She sprinted to the fisherman and jumped onto his back. She grabbed his neck, and he dropped the net.
Hannah removed the sack and the handkerchief around Troy’s mouth.
“Thank you so much,” Troy moaned.
“You’re welcome.” Hannah untied the rope around him. She pulled him out of the net.
But the girl who tried to defeat the fisherman screamed. The guy stepped on her belly. “I am going to hurt you next.”
“Leave her alone!” yelled a woman, probably the girl’s mother. She took out her cell phone. “If you don’t get out of here, I’m calling the police.”
The man didn’t move. But the lady touched her device. She pressed a few more times.
“Fine!” the old man exclaimed. “You win!” He ran away from the shore and behind the beach houses.
The woman put her phone down.
“Thank you so much, everyone,” Hannah said. She turned to the girl who’d tried to save her before. “Thank you, as well.”
“Don’t mention it,” the child said. “If anyone needs to be thanked, it’s my mom.”
“Oh,” said Hannah.
“Can you take me back, please?” asked Troy.
“Yes.” Hannah picked him up and carried him to the ocean.
“I’m sorry I can’t stay with you,” Troy said. “But I’ll always remember you.”
“Me, too.” Hannah continued to the water. She reached it and lowered Troy.
“Goodbye, Hannah.” Troy waved. “And thank you.” He turned around and swam away.
Hannah sighed and looked down. She turned around and dragged her feet.
“We can hang out with you if you want?” the same girl as before said, walking with her mom.
“You can?” Hannah asked.
“Yeah, absolutely,” the mom said.
“You want to have dinner with me and my parents?” asked Hannah.
“We’d love to,” smiled the mother.
The girl held her hand out. “My name’s Jennifer.”
“Hannah.” She and Jennifer shook hands.
The weather cooled down.
“Let’s go meet your parents,” said Jennifer’s mom.
“Sounds good to me.” Hannah nodded.
The three walked back to the house. Hannah hoped to become friends with Jennifer. And a new life would start.