Twenty

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When I wake, Muriel Two is standing over me. In the clear morning light that streams through the window I can see she has got her pale nightgown on, a sign she has been here all night.

I sit up quickly, smacking my head against the top bunk. At some point during the night, the trainers have snuck Muriel into my night enclosure and I hadn't stirred one.

"Morning, Aura," she says in a musical voice.

I rub my head, refusing to let her arrival unnerve me. I'm ready for this, ready to be done with Marine World and everything being a mermaid entails.

Yesterday was panicked. I felt afraid, confused, and I let my feelings take control, but today I wake up one step closer to freedom and this time, I embrace it with open arms.

Once in the main enclosure, I give Jewel and Asia a hug before the park opens, needing to hold them one last time before I leave them behind. When Jewel pulls away her expression is dark, her perfect eyebrows knitted together with distrust.

"Don't," she says, once Asia has gone. "Whatever it is you're planning on doing, don't."

I give her a feigned look of confusion, but her words bring my fear to the front of my mind, that small voice back to convince me this is the wrong decision.

"I'm not planning anything," I say, lightly touching her arm as the guests begin to crowd the glass.

Cameras flash as the guests take pictures and I put on the best performance I've ever given, using the trinkets we get as rewards to enhance their
experience.

I wonder if I'll miss this when I'm finally free. If I'll get out into the real world and ever wish that I was back in here, making people happy but sacrificing my own happiness in the process.

I won't have to wonder for long.

At three pm, Muriel Two and I head back into the night enclosure for our scheduled break, where we take off our tails before I race into the bathroom and close the door behind me.

I grab the bag Reece has left for me under the sink before taking the key card and stuffing it into my pocket. Next, I take the pair of scissors and, looking in the mirror above the sink, try to cut the bottom of my hair in a straight line, watching as the dark locks tumble to the ground like feathers. It is still long once I'm done but it doesn't reach my hips anymore, and I start to feel more normal.

More like the people outside of the glass.

Afterward, I fish out the contacts and pop them in the way Reece had shown me, sliding each one into place until my eyes turn to a dark, natural brown. With a deep breath, I head into the bedroom, where Muriel is laying on the top bunk with her hands propped behind her head.

"Listen to me, Muriel," I say, straightening out my uniform before placing the scissors on the bedside table. "We're getting out of this place. Come on, put this on." I hold out the uniform as she climbs down the ladder.

Confused, she takes the uniform from my hands before meeting my gaze. "I don't understand," she says. "What's going on?"

"We're leaving Marine World," I say impatiently, pressing the key card to the night enclosure door. Relief washes over me when the light flashes green.

"Hurry up, Muriel. We don't have much time."

When I turn back around, Muriel is on me in a second, taking me down to the floor as she screams out for help. Surprised, I grab her mouth with my hand but she bites down hard, causing me to pull back with a growl.

"What are you doing?" I hiss.

"You're going to get us all killed," Muriel snaps. "Believe me when I tell you there are worse fates than this stupid enclosure."

"Muriel!" I try to grab her arms but she continues to struggle, her nails leaving track marks along my skin. "I'm trying to save us."

"No," Muriel says, her expression darkening. "I'm saving us."

She continues to pin me down, her lithe body like a weight against my stomach. Any minute, someone is going to hear her high-pitched growls and my dreams of escaping will be just that.

Dreams.

"Muriel, don't do this," I say, but she continues to scream, the sound reminding me of the way Lucy had screamed when she'd found Jacqueline's body. It is a scream that seems to rattle me to my core, and with one quick glance to the bedside table, my hand reaches for the scissors of their own accord, my fingers latching around the curved grooves.

I grip them tightly until my fingers turn white and with my eyes squeezed shut, plunge them straight into the side of Muriel's neck.

A/N

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