She froze, staring unblinking into the tunnel, unsure if her imagination was playing tricks on her. She didn’t know if it had been seconds, minutes or hours when she became aware of the boy, unmoving, staring straight back at her. Her head was yelling run! But she found herself rooted to the spot as the boy slowly began to walk towards her. As he approached her his curious frown turned to a smile and his dazzling green eyes shone, she was mesmerised by him and realised she was not only unafraid but was smiling back.
He held out his hand and she took it, feeling inexplicably happy and excited as they walked back down the tunnel together.
It was a short journey through the small tunnel but when they reached the end she found herself in another world. The room was filled with a soft, orange light, glowing from huge shells placed around the seaweed covered floor and all four walls of the room they had entered were shimmering with thousands upon thousands of shells. Two more children looked up from where they were placing shells on the wall, another boy and a girl, they beamed at her, jumped up and held out their arms to welcome her but Emeline was transfixed by the walls, covered in a myriad of shells.
The other children waited patiently as Emeline stood mesmerised, her eyes wandering slowly over each of the walls, almost completely covered with shells of different shapes, sizes and colours, she could see blue black mussel shells, ivory, pale brown and pink cockle shells, dainty whelks with orange, brown, purple and white stripes, their spires pointing a little scarily from the walls, there were larger shells, oysters, some grey and white, others with black, pink and purple patches and there were many others which she didn’t recognise at all. She noticed that some were placed with the surface of the shell outward whilst others were placed to expose the shiny, white, iridescent interiors, the effect was a beautiful, shimmering, multi coloured room that seemed to be rippling with ever changing light and colour. One of the walls had a smaller wall coming from it, forming a shelf for the strangest plants and huge shells, the likes of which she had never seen.
No-one had spoken. Emeline turned to the children and looked at them quizzically, she was afraid to speak, she didn’t know if these other children could speak, were they even real? As they all stood staring at each other, she tentatively asked, ‘what is this place’ and ‘who are you?’ The children smiled at Emeline and at each other and finally, the boy that had taken her hand spoke, ‘this place is our story’ he said ‘and we’re from the sea’. ‘Mermaids!’ she exclaimed. They all laughed and replied that yes, that was one name they had been given. She looked down at their legs and raised her eyebrows dubiously. ‘There is so much for you to discover’ they told her, ‘if you are ready and want to know?’ She hesitated, it was almost too much to take in and she still wasn’t convinced that she wasn’t dreaming, she closed her eyes and gave herself a good, hard pinch, when she opened her eyes to the glimmering room and the kind gazes of the three children she nodded, yes, she was ready.
The boy that had spoken told her his name was Bo, the other boy was called Gal and the girl was called Marilla and that yes, they were called mermaids by some but they were known by many names across the world, sirens, enchanters, nisse, water nymph, he said that they were actually fay, just as there were fay on the earth, there were fay in the seas and oceans. ‘Fay?’ Emeline asked, ‘faerie’ he said, with a smile and shrug of his shoulders, guessing that Emeline wouldn’t believe in faeries. Emeline laughed aloud and told them how delighted she was, she’d always suspected that faeries were real and had never understood why her mother had insisted that they were just stories, legends and myths; but even as she said it she realised that she wouldn’t be able to tell her mother the truth of it. She was about to tell them her name when Marilla said ‘we are so happy to meet you Emeline’, she closed her mouth abruptly and sank down onto the spongy, seaweed covered floor, shaking her head in bemused disbelief.
Emeline wanted to stay and talk, to know everything about them and what they were doing but much time had passed and the children urged her to go back upstairs before her mother returned, they told her that there would be time enough to learn everything but she needed to be cautious. The words didn’t need to be spoken for her to understand the necessity for secrecy and so they said their goodbyes and made plans for her next visit.
Her chores and studies done, Emeline was calmly preparing supper when her mother arrived home, as her mother asked about her day, her heart thumped as she told her it had been as dull as usual, her mother smiled and said ‘dull is painless Emeline, be happy for it’ she gave her mother a big smile and replied ‘Oh, I am!’