Forgive My Fins Page 1

Author: Tera Lynn Childs

Series: Fins #1

Genres: Fantasy , Young Adult

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1

Water calms me. It’s like chocolate or hot tea or dulce de leche ice cream. After a rotten day, I lock the bathroom door, fill Aunt Rachel’s old-timey tub with steaming water and bath salts, and then sink into a world where my problems all melt away.

Some days it’s not enough.

“Did you ask him?”

Securing the phone against my shoulder, I scoop up a handful of bubble bath and blow the fluff out over my belly. I can choose to ignore the question, right? Especially since neither of us is going to like the answer.

“Lily…,” Shannen prods.

When the bubbles hit the water and dissolve into a frothy film, I sigh.

The whole point of this bath was to make me forget my disastrous day—including the subject of Shannen’s question—but that seems impossible. Even though I’m feeling slightly more mellow than when I slid in twenty minutes ago, nothing can completely wash away that memory.

Too bad bath salts can’t change the past.

“No,” I admit with a frustrated growl. “I didn’t ask him.”

“I thought we agreed,” she says, sounding exasperated. “You were going to ask him in trig when Kingsley had you trade papers.”

“We did agree,” I concede, “but—”

“But what, Lily?” she interrupts. “You’re running out of time.”

“I know that.” Boy, do I know that. The sand in my countdown timer is draining fast; graduation is just around the corner.

Leaning my head back over the tub’s graceful curved edge, I let my hair hang to the floor below. A long mess of blond that defies all attempts at control. I might as well have a sea sponge on my head, since no amount of conditioner or antifrizz serum can tame the effects of Floridian humidity.

“But Kingsley didn’t do the normal swap,” I explain. “He had us trade down the row instead of across the aisle.”

Shannen groans, and I can imagine the look of disgust on her face.

“I hate it when he goes to a professional development workshop,” she says. “He always comes back and tries something new that never, ever works.”

“I know,” I agree, latching on to this divergent train of thought in the vain hope that it will make her—and me—forget our original topic. I’m not above avoidance tactics. I’ll totally throw Kingsley under the bus to save myself from another lecture about seizing the day. “It was a total flop.” I sit up a little straighter, gaining confidence in my distraction. “The Danfield twins switched places, and most of the class ended up grading their own papers. Kingsley congratulated us on our high grades.”

Good grades are a rare thing for me. Shannen’s on the valedictorian track and she tries to help me out, but I’m clearly not learning anything by osmosis or association or whatever. Can I help it if all these subjects are like a foreign language to me? My brain just wasn’t wired for academic study. The only class I’m pretty sure of passing is art—and only because Mrs. Ferraro likes me. Everything else might as well be advanced nuclear physics.

Besides, lately our unified focus has been on the upcoming Spring Fling dance and not next week’s homework. With the dance only days away (as in three), it seems a lot more urgent than an English essay on Animal Farm.

Tonight, though, I’d rather talk about homework. Or beauty products. Or swarms of killer jellyfish. Anything other than the thing she’s asking about. I fumbled the plan…again. The last thing I need right now is Shannen telling me one more time that—

“You’re a coward, Lily Sanderson.”

—I’m a coward.

Son of a swordfish.

I give my tail fin a flick, sending the key lime bath salts sloshing up over my shoulders. This is the same admonition I’ve heard every week for the past three years. You’d think I’d get tired of hearing it, suck up my courage, and get it over with. But the trouble is…she’s right. I am a coward.

Especially where Brody Bennett is concerned.

We mermaids are a cowardly bunch. Keeping our existence a total secret makes cowardice pretty much a necessity. If we don’t flee fast enough at the first sign of a passing ship, we might end up on the cover of next week’s Flash Paper. We’re more of an escape-now-ask-questions-later kind of species.

But with Brody it’s like I take my flight response to a whole new level of spinelessness. I can make all the plans in the world, be fully ready to follow through, and then the instant he’s within sight, I totally clam up. I’m lucky if I’m able to breathe, let alone tell him how I feel. Hormones are cruel like that.

Still, the constant reminder of her cowardice can drive a girl to the edge. For a second—half a second, really—I consider blurting out the one thing I know will derail her lecture permanently.

But I’ve heard the stories.

I know what happens when a human finds out a mermaid is a mermaid. I love Shannen like a sister, but I can’t take that risk. I can’t put myself, my family, and my entire kingdom in jeopardy for the sake of avoiding an unpleasant conversation. No matter how badly I want to confess, my duty comes before our friendship.

Shannen would understand.

So, instead of blurting out my dirty little secret—actually, not so dirty at the moment, since my fins are currently gleaming green and gold in the salty water—I resort to the pathetic truth.

“I tried, Shan.” My head drops back against the porcelain tub with a well-deserved thud. “Really I did. This time I was super, super close. I took a deep breath, said his name, and…”

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