We're all moved into our new cave up the coast in Marin. It's the night before I start at West Marin Heights. My dad and I are having a "heart to heart" at a nearby beach on Tomales Bay called Heart's Desire. Does he even get the irony? Dad says the bay water is warmer than the ocean, so I should be happy. As if all one requires in life is warmer water. Yeah, maybe you have to leave all your friends and give up your whole life, oh, and go to school with vampires, but the average water temperature is two whole degrees less freezing, so count your blessings.

I'm lying on my back in a shell top and bikini bottom flapping my arms and newly sprouted legs, making angel impressions in the wet sand. It's just after sunset and the foggy air makes it almost as wet as being in the water. There aren't any humans. Turns out they have to be out of here by sundown. I can't believe humans have such stupid rules. How can you close a beach? It's like closing the air.

A gob of cold wet sand splats onto my stomach. I practically levitate off the ground. "Hey," I cry. "Stop it." I've ruined my perfect sand angel.

He's laughing, out loud of course because we're landside. We can still use our thought-voices on land, but we try to practice outside voices when we're above water. It's like immersing yourself in a new language. Except that we're not immersed when we talk out loud. I'm babbling. Sorry.

"You aren't listening to a word I'm saying." He's still having a good chuckle at my expense. "And I said them quite well, too." He balls up another wad of wet sand and holds it threateningly over his shoulder, aimed in my direction. "You're listening now, though. Right?"

"Why do I always have to listen to you, but you never listen to me?"

"I'm the parent. You're the fingerling. That's why. Now, as I was saying, this is the first year West Marin Heights is opening up to new species. The vampire community is trying to improve its reputation. They're tired of being thought of as bloodthirsty monsters."

I've found a sand dollar, and I'm dragging it through the sand in a circle. Then the water crashes on to it and erases my work.

"Waverly Marie Fishwater," he yells, and splat, another ball of wet sand hits me, this time in the neck. I gather up a glob of sand, making sure to include some slimy seaweed in the mix and throw it at him. I get him right on his forehead. We both laugh as we scrape off the sandy muck. "That's my girl. You have great aim, Wave."

I glow a little at the compliment. I know it's my dad saying it, and parents love to dole out the accolades, but it still feels good.

"Now, about your listening skills ..."

"I heard you, Dad," I say. "You were telling me about the vampires being monsters who are going to bite my neck during lunch and slurp up all my delicious mermaid blood."

"Waverly," he says in that "why do I have to try to reason with my hormonal teenage daughter?" tone. "They are forbidden to bite you. You are perfectly safe. They want to learn about our culture, and we'll learn about theirs."

"I don't want to learn about murderers."

"They don't do that any more," Dad insists. "And it's not only mermaids attending. Most of the non-human species will be there."

"Like who? Or what?" I say, casually. I'm interested, but I don't want to sound like I am.

"Werewolves ..."

"Oh, it just keeps getting better."

"And fairies. A few minor gods."

"Sounds like a freak show," I say, but I'm a little bit excited too. I've never met a full fairy let alone a god, minor or otherwise. I hope they're Greek gods. They have the hottest abs.

"I'll pretend you didn't say that about your future schoolmates," my dad says. "But what I haven't told you yet is going to make you very happy. You're not going to be the only mermaid. One of your friends from Pacifica is attending as well."


"Her name is Shelly Sharkweather."

"You're joking, right?"

"No, Isn't it great?"

Suddenly, vampires aren't the scariest predators at West Marin Heights. "Terrific," I say, standing. "I'll see you at dinner."

"Wait, we're not done heart to hearting." He grabs my hand and tries to drag me back down. But I'm almost as strong as he is. I free my hand and jump into the water. It's freezing. My legs tingle and itch as they transform into fins. My head bobs above the surface, the cold water encircling my neck.

"I'm done," I say. "Why did we have to do this?" Yeah, I'm full-on whining now.

Waverly," he says. "Come on. It'll be an experience."

"So's having a death match with a Great White," I say. "And I don't have to do that to know it sucks."

I submerge and swim out to the middle of the bay lamenting the fact that I can breathe both in and out of the water. It's hard to drown yourself when you're a mermaid.

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