Chapter 1

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I don't know what drove me to buy the ticket to Aqua World. I stepped in the cool aquarium from the hot midday of the June weather. I slid my backpack off to take out my ticket I purchased online and walked to the check in desk. I slid my ticket under the plastic pane to the receptionist, a woman with long black nails. She boredly took my ticket, scanned it, and gave it back to me. She went back on her phone and waved me away. 

I quicken my pace through the familiar exhibit tunnel, I kept my head down, avoiding to stay in the tunnel too long. Will the merboy still be there, I wondered. Will he remember me? It had been a week since I last saw him last Saturday. Will he remember my face after seeing more than a million faces from all over the world in a week to see him? I had to avoid bumping into people as I made my way to the mer section–the largest section here and I turned right, stepped into a giant, glass globe. I felt like I stepped inside a giant snow globe, but instead of snow, mers floated around.

I walked over to the familiar spot where I last saw the merboy, but he was nowhere seen. Disappointed and slightly worried, I searched around the massive aquarium. There was a huge crowd gathered before a trainer in a scuba suit, submerged in the aquarium. In this part of the globe, it was closed off with acrylic panes on either side of the trainer, isolating only the trainer and a small mergirl. This prevents the trainer from being attacked by older and stronger mers.

The trainer was commanding a young mergirl to do a flip. The mergirl obeyed. She performed an elegant back roll. Her hot pink tail trailed back over her long blond hair then righted herself up. Everybody cheered and wow-ed. The trainer smiled broadly and mimicked a bow underwater, as if he performed the trick himself and not the mergirl. The young mergirl did not bow, but stood still and stared at the crowd with uttered sadness on her face. She was so young... I would guess she was just six or seven years old. She was just a child...

A movement occured out of the corner of my eyes and I swiveled to it.

There he was.

The merboy was floating before me in the aquarium once again. His black hair moved mystically and his sea green eyes gleamed with curiosity. He swam up to the glass pane methodically and floated down to meet me at eye level. I sucked in a breath, forcing myself to breath. He was close, closer to me than he was last time I was here, and he was beautiful, inhumanly beautiful. Up close, I could spot a small cluster of translucent blue scales on his cheekbones and on his broad shoulders. He was no boy, but a young man. A merman. He looked maybe a few years older than me–older than seventeen–but no older than twenty.

The man studied me hesitantly. He must not trust me. My stomach lurched from that thought. Why should that bother me? My kind, the human race, captured them and forced them to live in glass prisons. We stole their freedoms.

I moved closer and smiled somberly. I hesitantly waved at him. He waved back. I jolted in surprise. I hadn't expected him to wave back. He remembered me. I'm probably smiling like a total goof.

He scrunched his brows and gave me a quizzical grin. Probably thinking how stupid I must look now. I wish he could talk, but according to scientists that studied them and the Aqua World's brochure, mers cannot speak nor be able to respond to any form of communication. That didn't stop my curiosity when I shrugged off my leather backpack and set it next to me when I sat on the bench that faced the aquarium. I rummaged into my pack, searching. The merman floated closer out of curiosity. I pulled out my worn sketchbook and a pencil.

I twisted my back, casually checking around to make sure nobody was paying attention to us. The crowd was too occupied with the trainer and the mergirl. I opened my sketchbook to a clean page and began to write.

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