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First pages

Chapter 1: Symbols

Callie hurried through the empty locker room, her heart beating furiously in her chest. Breathing hard, she paused before a partially fogged-up mirror. Nervously dragging her hand across the glass to better see herself, Callie turned this way and that. She looked and felt the same, but knew that something had changed. Feeling a fresh wave of adrenaline surging through her limbs, she stepped closer to the mirror, and carefully inspected her reflection. Her blue eyes matched her spandex swimming suit almost perfectly. Tall for sixteen, Callie was a slender girl with wavy chestnut hair and pleasant facial features. A few freckles spilled across the bridge of her nose, and her wet hair fell to her shoulders in untidy spirals. Noticing nothing at all different about the way she looked, Callie quickly changed into her clothes. Her hands shook as she wrung out her bathing suit and stuffed it into her gym bag. Pulling open the locker room door, she hurried out into the hallway.

“Callie, wait up!” called a boy’s voice from behind her.

She turned around to find her friend Adrian rushing to catch up to her. “Hey, what’s the rush?” he asked, smiling openly. He looked closely at her face and grew suddenly serious. “Are you alright? You look a bit shaken.”

“I’m fine,” Callie lied, looking away.

“Did something happen?” he asked.

Callie studied him, trying to decide if she trusted him enough to tell him the truth. Adrian was a dark-haired young man, with hazel eyes, who spent a good deal of his time working out. Even now, a few stray girls passing them in the hallway stared at his muscular shoulders with open enthusiasm. Oddly enough, Adrian remained single in spite of all the attention he received.

“It’s just that—” began Callie, “Well something—er, happened when I was swimming, and um…” she shook her head. It was impossible to explain without coming off sounding completely crazy. “It’s nothing really, I’m just not feeling so hot today,” she concluded.

Adrian looked unconvinced. “But you didn’t even dry your hair,” he said, picking up a dripping strand of Callie’s brown hair and moving it back behind her shoulder. “And your shirt’s on inside-out.”

Callie looked down at her t-shirt in alarm. The seams stood out along the sides of her body and around the sleeves. “Guess I was in a hurry,” she muttered. Setting down and unzipping her gym bag, she yanked out a sweater and quickly pulled on the knitted garment to cover up her shirt.

“Come on, I’ll walk you home,” said Adrian, showing mercy and letting her off the hook. They headed out the door. “How long have we been friends?” asked Adrian. He slid down the railing as Callie walked beside him down the steps at the front of the school building.

“Three years,” said Callie.

“And in three years, how many times have you tried to lie to me?”

“Only once,” replied Callie, helplessly breaking into a smile. They passed a sign that read Summerset High School in large blue letters.

“And when was that?” asked Adrian with a knowing smile.

“Just now,” laughed Callie.

“I’m not going to pry into what’s going on with you, but I’ll tell you this, either you need to get better at lying, or you need to commit to a life of honesty,” said Adrian. “Pick one,” he teased.

“Alright-alright, I get that you can read me like an open book, but I suppose there are just some things…” she trailed off.

“Some things you can’t tell me about?” he asked.

Callie nodded.

“Believe me, I know all too well how that can be,” he said.

“Thanks for understanding,” said Callie.

“Sure thing,” he answered. Leaving the school grounds, they cut across the park. It was fall, and the grass was littered with red and yellow leaves. They walked for a while in silence.

“Is it a guy?” asked Adrian unexpectedly.

“Adrian!” exclaimed Callie. “For Pete’s sake!”

“I’m sorry, okay? That was my last question, I promise.”

“I thought you weren’t going to pry? Sheesh, what business of yours can I stick my nosey nose into?” chided Callie.

“I’m sorry. It’s just that, well—if anyone ever hurt you…” Adrian trailed off, and Callie noticed that his hands were clenched into fists.

“Relax, okay? It’s nothing like that, trust me,” reassured Callie, linking her arm with his.

“Good,” said Adrian.

“Geeze,” said Callie.

“Glad it’s not a guy,” he laughed, and fought back as Callie poked him in the ribs.

“You can date, why can’t I?” accused Callie.

“When have you ever seen me out on a date?” he asked.

“Come to think of it—never,” shrugged Callie.

“And why do you think that is?”

“I don’t know, you can’t stand small talk?” she offered.

“Man, you just hit the nail on its head,” he said sarcastically.

“Well, why don’t you date?” asked Callie, suddenly curious.

Adrian sighed. “It’s complicated.”

“Haven’t met the right girl… or guy?”

“In fact, I have met the right girl,” he said looking straight into her eyes.

“What’s the problem then?” asked Callie.

“It’s sort of a secret,” he answered vaguely.

“How mysterious,” smiled Callie. “Looks like I’m not the only one with something to hide.”

They had made it to her house, and Adrian walked her to the front door. “In all seriousness though, you know that I have your back, right?” he confirmed.

“I do,” said Callie.

“And you know that you can talk to me even about difficult stuff?”

“Yeah,” she replied.

“Alright, Cal, guess I’ll see you tomorrow then.”

“See you,” she answered, and went inside. Callie could feel Adrian lingering for a moment behind her even though she did not turn around. He always did that for some reason, and it was one of the many things Callie liked about him. It made her feel safe, as though he was watching over her. Kicking off her shoes and wandering into the kitchen, Callie wondered if she knew the girl that Adrian had feelings for. She found a note from her mother letting her know that there was some leftover lasagna in the fridge from the night before. Remembering what had happened at school, Callie felt a panic rising in her chest. Deciding that she was not the slightest bit hungry, she went upstairs into her room.

In the empty house, Callie struggled to keep her mind off of what that had taken place at the pool. She scolded herself for having stayed late after school. If she had somehow guessed what was to come, she would have gotten on the bus with all the other students heading home, or even called in sick. Callie’s head reeled as she tried to make sense of things. She consoled herself with the thought that she had probably imagined the whole thing and should put it out of her head, but all she could do was go over and over the details of what happened. Callie paced her bedroom for a while, and then sat down on the bed. Biting her nails, she found herself nervously rocking back and forth. Callie closed her eyes and told herself to stop! She would do everything in her power to forget what had happened. She had to go on with her normal life.

Being normal was what most teenagers strove for, and Callie had managed it quite nicely. She was the captain of the girls swim team and was heading toward what both her coach and her mother believed to be a bright future. Callie didn’t date bad boys, or stay out late partying, or strive to acquire a bunch of bad habits in order to feel more grown up. Why then was this happening to her? It was like a punishment she had done nothing to deserve. Callie felt tears welling in her eyes and a lump rising in her throat. She picked up her phone and called a number that was saved in her favorites and marked with a gold star. Pressing her cellphone to her ear, she heard it ring three times.

“Hello?” said a girl’s lazy voice on the other end.

“Sarah, do you have a minute?” asked Callie.

“I’m sort of busy…” began Sarah, biting into something crunchy.

“It’s urgent,” insisted Callie. “Something happened after school today, something strange. I’m sort of freaking out.”

“What happened?” asked Sarah, starting to sound mildly interested.

“Well, I stayed late to get some extra practice in the pool,” began Callie.

“And then?” urged Sarah.

“I’m getting to it,” said Callie. “So there were these large spiraling symbols painted on the pool room wall in green and gold. They weren’t there before, but—”

“I know,” said Sarah. “Remember that art competition that was going on last month? I’ve told you about it a bunch. I even entered it, but of course my idea for the mural was turned down, and Gretchen Greenwald won. She’s totally the teacher’s pet, you know? She got the okay to paint those ugly symbols on the wall by the swimming pool,” explained Sarah. “I would have painted something cooler, of course, like a skull and bones, or a shark attack or something. Oh well, I guess it was rigged from the get-go.”

Callie sighed. “Anyway, I swam for almost an hour, and then…” She was quiet for a moment. “Then it happened.”

“Then what happened?” asked Sarah.

“I was standing at the shallow end of the swimming pool taking a rest when I noticed a faint golden light moving through the water. I tried to get a better look, but I couldn’t quite tell what it was.”

“It was probably some new light feature or something that the maintenance guy or somebody installed the day before,” reasoned Sarah.

“At first that’s what I thought too, but then I noticed that the painted symbols on the wall were glowing! The strange light in the water suddenly changed course and came right at me!”

It was Sarah’s turn to be silent on the other end.

“I tried to get out of the way, but the light began to swirl around me and grow brighter and brighter until the entire pool was lit up by this swirling golden current!” rushed Callie.

“What the heck was it?” exclaimed Sarah.

“I don’t know, but it suddenly moved in on me from all sides! I could feel it swirling around my legs and feet. It totally freaked me out, and I lunged to the stairs!”

“Oh my gosh, that’s so freaky!” breathed Sarah.

“I know!”

“Then what happened?”

“It was hard to move, and then, just as my foot hit the first step of the staircase leading out of the pool, the light went out without a trace, and everything was still again, just like it never happened!”

“Are you sure you didn’t imagine it?”

“I’m sure!”

“What do you think it could have been?”

“I have no idea, but I’m really scared.”

“Well it’s probably nothing. I’m sure everything will be okay,” consoled Sarah.

“Right, nothing. How could it be nothing?” asked Callie.

“I have to go for now, but we’ll talk more about this later and figure it all out tomorrow,” said Sarah.

“Thanks,” said Callie.

“Sure,” replied Sarah.

“One more thing,” requested Callie. “Can you please not tell anyone about this just yet?”

“What are friends for? My lips are sealed,” swore Sarah.


That evening Callie’s skin felt extra dry from the chlorine in the swimming pool, and when she went to change into her pajamas for the night, she found that her legs had broken out in a pink rash. Horrified, she reached for her lotion and applied a generous amount. Within an hour the rash had subsided. Seeking comfort, Callie made herself a large bowl of popcorn and sat down to watch a movie.

Callie’s mother came home at a quarter past eight, and seeing her daughter in her nightshirt with her hair pulled up into a messy bun, she immediately asked what was wrong.

“Nothing,” said Callie defensively. “I just had a hard day at school, that’s all. It’s not a big deal. I don’t really want to talk about it, alright?”

“Okay-okay,” said her mother, pretending to back off right away. She watched the movie for a minute, and then returned her focus to Callie. “Are you stressed about the swimming competition next week?” she guessed. Because if you are, there’s no need to worry; we both know you’ll do well.”

“That’s not it, mom.”

“Is it Sarah, then? I always knew she was a bad friend.”

“What? Sarah’s not a bad friend!”

“Um, yeah, she sort of is,” said her mother.

“How can you say that about the girl I went to kindergarten with?”

“People change, and they often develop in different ways. Sarah has developed into a materialistic brat.”


“Honey, I can see that you’re upset, and I’m here for you if you need me.” She sat down on the couch beside her daughter and stole a handful of popcorn, making Callie laugh.

“Wow, your mom powers are super drained right now. You almost remind me of a mortal woman,” joked Callie.

“Nothing a hot shower couldn’t fix,” said Callie’s mother, getting up once more.

“You know, I’m not a bad judge of character,” said Callie defensively.

"I never said you were, honey.”

“And Sarah’s not a bad friend.”

“Yes, she is,” said her mother on her way out of the living room.

Once she was alone, Callie pulled back her sock and scratched at her ankle. Her skin was feeling itchy again. Something caught on her fingernail and came off in her hand. Callie furrowed her brow and slowly brought her hand to her face. There, resting in her palm was a pale orange, gold-tipped fish scale.

Chapter 2: The Tale

Callie slept badly that night, tossing and turning as she dreamt of golden rivers swirling around her. In the morning she awoke to the discomfort of her feet scratching against some kind of crumbs. Pulling back the blanket, Callie found that her sheet was covered not in crumbs, but in semi-transparent fish scales identical to the one she had found the night before. Suppressing a scream, she scrambled out of bed and stared at the scales in shock. "What is going on?" Callie whispered. She turned around with a jolt at the sound of her mother unexpectedly knocking on her bedroom door. Callie rushed to pull her blanket over her bed and managed to hide the scales just in time for the door to open.

Her mother leaned her head into the room. “I’m in a hurry this morning, so you’re on your own for breakfast,” she said. Callie’s mother worked as an editor for a publishing company and often had to work late. “I have a deadline this Friday, so I may be home after eight again tonight.”

Callie nodded her understanding, and her mother closed the door only to open it immediately once more. “Are you sure you’re all right?” she asked.

“Everything’s fine mom,” said Callie.

"Okay, just making sure…" her mother trailed off as she disappeared once more. Callie listened to her mother walk down the stairs. She heard the front door open and close. Holding her hair away from her face, Callie pulled up the pant legs of her pajamas and looked down at her legs. Several new rashes had formed on her skin during the night. Callie swallowed hard. She pulled open her closet and hastily moved the hangers across the rack one at a time, looking for something to wear that would cover up her legs. There was a lot to figure out, but she could not be late to school or else people might begin to ask questions. How would she explain any of this? Perhaps she had some horrible disease, like leprosy—or something worse! At least she had to learn what was happening to her before it was announced to the entire world. She scratched her leg, and one of the scabs came off in her hand. Gold-colored fish scales fell onto the carpet in a sparkling cascade. Her skin was smooth beneath the scab. Mentally going over the worst-case scenarios, Callie pulled on some leggings, followed by a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. Putting on a sweater and grabbing her backpack, she hurried from the house.

Walking fast, Callie made it to the bus stop just in time. The yellow bus pulled up, and the front doors folded open. Callie took a deep breath before climbing up the steep steps. The students that were usually rowdy and loud grew quiet as she passed them. The bus moved on before Callie managed to find a seat.

“Over here!” said a blond girl with curly hair and brown eyes. She was sitting near the back. The girl scooted over and indicated to the seat beside her with a perfectly manicured hand.

"Thanks, Sarah," said Callie, sitting down beside her. She scratched her thigh through her leggings.

“What on earth are you wearing?” asked Sarah.

“Um, clothes?” replied Callie.

“Well, we obviously need to go shopping, if it’s getting this bad,” she said looking her friend over.

“I guess,” answered Callie distractedly.

“Anything else happen to you last night?” asked Sarah.

“No,” replied Callie.

“Are you feeling alright?” Sarah put her hand to Callie’s forehead.

"I feel fine, I just have a lot of questions," said Callie, moving her hand away. Several students sitting across the aisle from them shot Callie a sideways glance. Callie looked out the window at the passing houses to avoid their eyes. Everything appeared to be normal, but it wasn’t, not anymore. What was happening to her? Callie hoped the worst of it was over. She tuned out as Sarah launched off into a detailed list of the shops they would visit on the weekend. Callie scratched her knee and thought about what people would say if they found out about her condition. She wondered in horror if it was contagious.

"I found this new toner, it has real flecks of gold in it. Its real expensive, but I'm just dying to try it," said Sara.

“Sounds neat,” said Callie.

“What is wrong with you today?” asked Sara. “You’re not acting normal.”

“Nothing is wrong.”

“Good, because we have a lot of shopping to do and I need you at your sharpest!” whined Sara.

Callie rolled her eyes but smiled anyway. It felt good to be needed, even for something as trivial as shopping.

“You said you were going to help me figure this out,” said Callie. “Where do you think would be a good place to start?”

“I don’t know, I hadn’t really thought about it yet,” said Sarah distractedly.

The bus pulled over, and as the students filed out, Callie could feel people watching her from every direction. "Why is everyone staring at me?" she asked suddenly.

Sarah grabbed her arm and pulled Callie toward the school, “No one is looking at you! Stop being so conceited,” she answered. Students silently stepped aside as the two girls moved past them.

“You—” began Callie, realizing what had happened.

“It’s not what you think,” rushed Sarah, as they burst through the school doors.

“I told no one but you!”

“I honestly don’t know how the word got out,” shrugged Sarah.

A boy passing by in the hallway saw them talking. “Sarah called me to personally deliver the news that you’d lost your marbles,” he said as he passed, pulling one headphone out of his ear and then replacing it.

Callie was astonished. “Sarah how could you?”

“I’m sorry, I only told a few people,” began Sarah.

“Then how come the entire school knows?” asked Callie.

Sarah was silent.

“I guess that’s what friends are for,” said Callie acidly. Dodging the eyes of strangers, she bent her head down and hurried to her first class, all the while looking only at her feet. Everyone grew quiet when they noticed her. Callie ducked into the math classroom and took a seat in the last row. As the day dragged on and the rumors continued to spread, people whispered about her more and more openly. Callie caught bits and pieces of the stories that were being spun about her. Apparently Sarah had told people that Callie was losing her mind. Sarah claimed that she had seen this coming for a while, and was only friends with Callie because she felt sorry for her former friend who was struggling with delusions.

By lunchtime, Callie knew she would never manage to contain the gossip and was sure that her hard-won reputation was ruined for good. She was the talk of the school, and she felt trapped wherever she went. Sarah had sacrificed her friendship with Callie to temporarily elevate her own social status. The worst part of it all was that Callie half-believed the wild rumors Sarah was circulating, and she feared that Sarah’s words might end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“She always seemed so normal,” Callie heard a girl whisper to her friend. Both of the girls stared at Callie as they went by.

Callie could clearly recall helping one of the girls study for a math test one time. As she put some mushy, overcooked beans and a jiggly block of red Jell-O on her tray, Callie felt fairly certain that her life would eternally be a living hell from this day forward.

“You’re not really going to eat that, are you?” asked Adrian coming up beside her.

Callie smiled at him. “I might.”

“Don’t toss in the towel just yet,” Adrian grinned.

“You probably shouldn’t talk to me. Haven’t you heard? I’m not all there.” Callie tapped her temple.

“I’ll take my chances,” he said, sitting down with her.

"Don't worry. They'll all get bored and forget all about it by the end of the week. Someone has to be the victim of gossip. This time it just happens to be you."

“I’ll probably never be this popular again,” snorted Callie. “What I don’t get is how I could have trusted Sarah of all people.”

“She’s a sly little minx,” said Adrian.

“Do you think I’m a bad judge of character?”

“No, I just think you are a good person, and you assume everyone else is like you.”

Callie looked across the cafeteria at Sarah, who was chatting up a storm with some of the most stuck up girls in school. Only the day before those same girls had wanted nothing to do with her.

“Don’t worry,” said Adrian, “There’s a certain freedom to not being watched. I think you might enjoy it.”

“Do you enjoy it?” Callie asked, recalling that a few years back Adrian had been a star player on the football team before he quit for no apparent reason, claiming he simply lost interest in competitive sports.

"Yup," Adrian replied, cheerfully stabbing an extra cheesy chunk of baked potato onto his fork. "Almost everything that people worry about doesn't really matter," he said stuffing the tasty morsel into his mouth. "What's your next class?" he asked before he was fully done chewing.

“Swimming,” sighed Callie, her stomach in knots.

“Here, you can have my chocolate milk.” Adrian placed the small carton on her tray. “They say its good for athletes.”

“Thanks,” smiled Callie.

After Adrian left, Callie picked at her food for a while, intermittently sipping the chocolate milk he had given her. When she could no longer stand the pressure of being late, she dumped her mostly uneaten food in the trash and headed over to the girls’ locker room.

Callie hadn’t made contact with water since the incident in the swimming pool. She changed into her swimsuit very slowly, nervous about getting into the water again. Her teammates left her alone. It was obvious they had heard the rumors about her, but they always showed their team captain respect, and today was no different. They cast her quiet, compassionate glances, and several of them patted her on the back in an attempt to console her. As the last of the girls headed out of the locker room, Callie realized she was out of time. She moved to the shower. Swallowing hard, she reached out a trembling hand and turned on the faucet. The shower instantly rushed passed her in a surge of orderly streams. Callie hesitantly reached out her hand and touched the warm water. Gingerly stepping into the shower, she let the spray run down her body and sighed with relief, leaning against the wall as the shower hit her. Suddenly, she felt one of her knees go weak and give out. She tried to catch her balance with her other leg, only to find that she could no longer move her legs independently of each other. Callie looked down to see scales pushing rapidly through her skin. Unable to stand, she slid down the wall of the shower onto the floor tiles as her legs turned into a long, glistening tail! Her swimming suit was ruined, torn through at the bottom. The ragged fabric of the suit twisted over to one side and curled up at the torn edges like a cut off t-shirt. Callie's breath caught in her throat as she stared down at her body in horror. From the waist down, sparkling scales covered her skin. A sleek, silky fish skin wrapped tightly around her hips, thighs, and calves. Where her feet had been only moments before there was now a wide, V-shaped fin with a radiating fan of fine bones. The huge fin tapered until it was nearly transparent along the bottom edge. Callie pressed both hands over her mouth to keep from screaming. The water from the shower rushed down upon her and the steam curled up in plumes as Callie tried in desperation to rise. Discovering that she no longer had knees, she helplessly slid back down onto the floor. The fin at the bottom of her tail hit the opposite wall of the shower with a smack. Callie struggled in futility to rise.

A girl came into the locker room, “Callie are you still in here?”

"I'm coming. I'll be right there!" Callie answered stiffly, hoping with all her might that she would not be discovered.

“We’re waiting for you,” the girl called back.

“Start without me—I need a minute!” shouted Callie, moving her tail out of the girl’s line of sight.

"You'd better get out here soon. Coach is getting kind of frustrated." The girl left in a hurry, and once Callie was sure her teammate had gone, she fell forward onto her elbows and dragged herself across the cement floor of the locker room. Further and further across the floor she crept, struggling not to cry. Reaching for a discarded towel that was left behind on a bench, Callie grabbed it and began to dry off quickly. Nothing seemed to be happening. Callie was starting to worry that her condition was permanent, when to her great relief, several of the scales at her hip came free, revealing normal human skin beneath. Hoping she had found a cure, Callie rushed to rub the tail dry. More and more of the scales came off. Sparkling flecks cascaded onto the floor as Callie rushed to recover her legs. Suddenly, she heard footsteps coming her way once more.

“Coach is now furious with you!” cried the same girl as before. “He said that if swimming is so unimportant to you, and that you are willing to let your teammates down, then you don’t deserve to be team captain! I think you’d better get out there!” She had come back for Callie, and this time she sounded determined to retrieve her no matter what.

Unsteady on her legs, Callie used her hands to push herself up to a standing position and wrapped the towel around her waist. She did her best to sweep the pile of scales beneath the bench with her foot just as the girl came around the corner. "I can't swim today," said Callie, stumbling forward and sitting down on the bench. She felt weak in her legs.

“Why not?” asked the girl, looking first at the running shower, and then at Callie.

"Somebody ruined my bathing suit," said Callie, pointing to her torn-up suit, curling at her stomach. "I think they thought it would be funny or something."

“I’m sorry that people are being so mean to you,” said the girl. “I know you’re not crazy, Callie.

“Thanks,” said Callie. “That means a lot to me.”

“Alright then, I’ll let Coach know,” said the girl. She turned off the running shower, casting Callie a puzzled look before heading back out to the pool room.

Callie was relieved the girl had not seen the scales. She got dressed and gathered what she could of the sparkling flakes, throwing them in the trash bin. Then she grabbed her gym bag and hurried out of the girl's locker room, only to run into her coach waiting for her in the hallway.

“Callie!” he said, “Where are you going? Are you ditching practice? The swimming competition is right around the corner!”

“I can’t—stay!” cried Callie.

“What does that mean?”

“Swimming just isn’t—possible. It isn’t for me! Not anymore, I have to quit!”

“But I thought it was your dream?” asked the coach, looking deeply hurt. “Don’t quit on me now! I know I’m not supposed to say this, but you are the most talented student I have ever trained!”

“I just can’t stay on the team,” whispered Callie, tears welling in her eyes.

“I don’t understand,” her coach shook his head. “What about the scholarship?”

Callie turned away.

“If you leave now, I’ll have no choice but to replace you!” the coach called after her.

Callie paused, closing her eyes for a moment, and then continued down the hall. She heard the door slam as her coach went back into the pool room.

The only thing Callie felt she needed at that moment was answers. She headed to the school library to search for clues that would help her understand what was happening. Sitting down at one of the round tables, she opened up her laptop and tried a few quick Internet searches. Frowning in disappointment, she found nothing applicable to her condition except for a Disney movie and some storybook drawings. She closed her computer in frustration and went over to the front desk where a woman with gray hair was filing paperwork.

“Um, excuse me? May I ask you a question?” asked Callie.

“Yes dear, what can I help you with?” the woman inquired, looking at Callie over her glasses.

“Do you have any books on m-mer-mermaids?” stammered Callie, forcing out the last word a little harder than was necessary.

“Follow me,” said the librarian, leading Callie to a small section of books near the back of the library.

“Thank you,” said Callie.

“It’s my pleasure,” said the woman. She turned to leave. “You’re Callie, right? Callie Morgan?”


The woman glanced over at the bookshelf once more and reached over to retrieve a thin, old book with a tattered paper cover. "I think this one in particular, will be of interest to you since it is about a mermaid with the same last name as your own."

“The same as my own?”

"Yes," smiled the woman. She handed the book to Callie and moved back in the direction of her desk.

Not wanting to be seen lest her actions should provide fuel for the wild rumors being spread about her, Callie sat down on the floor right there in the shelter of two towering bookshelves and began to read.

The book was about a woman who had lived in the area a long time ago and was thought to be a mermaid. She married a sailor in the year 1920, and soon after that, the couple was met with disapproval from people who learned of their union and suspected the truth. The newlyweds were chased out of several cities, and eventually took up residence in Gold Beach, Oregon, a small coastal town where they lived out the remainder of their lives in peace. Over the years, several people claimed to have seen the woman transform into a mermaid, and their accounts were collected and included at the end of the book. One of the witnesses was a fisherman, who described meeting the mermaid's son, Jonathan Morgan. “The boy had eyes as blue as sapphires,” the man was quoted saying. “I’ll never forget those eyes, they seemed to cut right through me, so clear and bottomless they were.” On the last page of the book were several spiraling shapes very similar to the symbols that were painted on the wall in the pool room. It was explained in a short passage that these were ancient water symbols that were often found on the keels of ships, and were thought to be the written messages of merfolk. Callie checked out the strange little book along with everything else she could find on mermaids.

“Working on a research project?” asked the librarian, when Callie brought over the stack that she intended to check out.

Callie nodded.

“I always like seeing students who are so passionate about learning,” the woman smiled as she scanned the barcodes on the books.


About me

Valya Boutenko graduated from Southern Oregon University in 2007. Valya is the author of several fantasy novels including, The Pillar of Dominance, and The Curse. She resides in Ashland, Oregon with her husband and their two miniature dachshunds. On top of writing books and short stories, Valya enjoys playing her accordion, knitting sweaters, and planting fruit trees.

Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
To date, I have written two novels, and am now releasing my third. Writing fiction is the passion of my life, and it gives me a profound sense of purpose and fulfillment. In the end, all my stories are about friendship. This is the underlying theme that hides between the lines of each book I write.
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
I have known that writing is my calling since the age of six. Even as a child I kept a journal, and every page was filled with stories and thoughts that I felt compelled to write down.
Q. What draws you to this genre?
I find that my imagination can be truly set free in the fantasy genre. I enjoy this freedom immensely, and I get a profound sense of joy from seeing where the story takes me.