I'm swimming alone toward West Marin Heights for my first day. Dad left earlier to get his classroom prepared. I think he wanted me to go with him and hold his hand, but I told him he'd do fine on his own; then I went back to sleep.

The fog is so dense, it's like I'm propelling myself through a cloud. My head is above water, and I'm navigating by smell. As I get closer to the shore, the scent of sage and oysters and the wood smoke from the school chimneys intensifies. Apparently the school compound is "off the grid" meaning there's no human electricity or phone service or cable television.

My long green hair floats around me. I've worn it loose today; so when it dries it'll conceal my neck. That's just smart when you're going to hang out with vampires. Don't add to the temptation. My waterproof backpack contains a change of clothes because a shell bikini top won't be enough once I sprout legs. I plan to emerge on the shore a short distance from the school and change. Merfolk are pretty shy. We're not used to having, well, you know, "parts," so we like to cover up when we're tailless.

I'm supposed to be at school in five minutes, and I'm only about two-thirds of the way across. The fog is beginning to break up. I've just gone into turboswim, when I catch a glitter of Great White shark fins gliding toward me. I speak enough Shark that I'm not too worried. We had agreements with most of the sharks back in Pacifica. I send them a telepathic message in what is probably garbled Shark saying, "Hey, I'm new here. Nice to meet y'all."

Apparently my Shark is rustier than I thought, because they keep coming. Maybe there's a different dialect up here. I don't have time for this right now, but with bullies, you have to establish your position on the food chain right away, or they'll never leave you in peace.

I stop swimming. The sharks do their little threatening shark circle around me, only their fins sticking out of the water. I don't know if you've ever gotten a good look at a shark's face, but when their mouths are closed they look like an old human who's lost his teeth.

"Come on, guys. I mean you no harm, and I'm late for school. Move off," I say this out loud. Even if they can't understand the words, hopefully they'll get how serious I am. The one closest to me opens his maw, and it becomes very obvious these folks haven't left their teeth home in some jar. They smell terrible-like bloody, rotten, death. "Go away! I mean it!" I shriek.

These are the dumbest sharks I've ever encountered. I wonder if there's some kind of pollutant in the water that's taking them down a significant number of IQ points. I start to splash at them, but they get more aggressive. I don't want to hurt them. I plunge into the water planning to swim beneath them, but something grabs me around the chest and we plummet to the bottom of the bay. The instant we hit the sea floor, my tail accordions in an astonishing shock of pain.

My arms are pinned to my sides, as if I'm bound in yards of seaweed. I manage to straighten my tail. "Let go of me," I scream/think to the thing that's restraining me, but it either doesn't hear or care to hear. I'm thrashing my tail trying to escape the bindings.

In the meantime, the sharks are twisting and whirling, churning the water and slapping their tails in a blood-frenzy. Bubbles obscure my vision. A shark scrapes the back of my tail, and it stings with shark burn. "Let me go," I think angrily.

The bindings suddenly release, and I'm free. I twirl checking see where my captor has gone. Don't want him (it?) sneaking up on me again. The bubbles are now tinged with red. I check my body, and appear to be in one piece. Something bumps against my arm. It's a head. Please let it be attached to a body!

I feel for a torso, and it appears there is one, and it's in the right place. It's wearing clothing. Crab, it's a human, and oh, no, it's missing part of its leg. The sharks are crazed. Okay, I warned them, so I'm not going to feel bad about this.

The sharks are moving in to divvy up the human when I pull the tail on the one closest to me and throw it up and out of the water. It will probably end up a half a mile away. I do this to each one until I've cleared the area. Then I grab the human under his arms, and surge to the surface.

I launch myself onto the sand on my backside with the human, cold and limp, on top of me. I've squished the backpack, but there are only clothes inside. I barely feel the pain of my transformation into a biped. As soon as I have legs, I sit and lay the body on the sand. He's wearing a red plaid shirt. Does he have a heartbeat? I tear open the shirt; buttons fly off. I put my ear to his chest. No heartbeat, and he is ice cold. Holy crab!

I try to remember that course I took a few years ago in human physiology. We learned CPR. First you're supposed to do chest compressions but how many? Then you tilt the head back, pinch the nose closed, cover the victim's mouth and breathe. How many breaths? Oh, heck. I just get to work pressing on his chest as fast as I can. I am totally not noticing what a sculpted, hard, pale-skinned chest he has, nor am I noticing his six-pack abs, because even I know it's wrong to gawk at someone who is unconscious.

I execute about thirty compressions, then tilt his head and pinch his nose. Then I cover his mouth with mine and breathe. I twist my head, trying to watch his chest to see if it moves. Nothing happens. I breathe into him again. He's moving. He's alive! I am saving a life!

While I'm contemplating my triumph, I notice his tongue in my mouth. Moving against my tongue. Tinglings radiate down my body. So this is a kiss? I want it to last forever, but what the hell? As I pull my mouth away, something sharp snags my lip, and I taste blood.

The guy moans. "Mmmmmm." He reaches for me. "More."

I jump back so fast, he ends up clutching air. I pick up a nearby piece of driftwood and brandish it at him. Then I realize all I'm wearing is a backpack and a shell bra. I drop the driftwood and rotate the backpack to cover my "parts."

The vampire is laughing even though part of his leg is still missing.

"What is wrong with you?" I say.

He looks down at the mangled leg.

"Exactly, you're missing some serious flesh. What are you even doing here?"

"Rescuing you," he says, leaning back on his elbows. His leg begins to reform.

Now I laugh. "That's rich, you're rescuing me?"

"Yeah, I was hanging out near the top of that tree," he points to a hundred foot redwood. "And I saw those sharks circling you. I couldn't just let them eat you. Headmaster Crumpet said we weren't supposed to let the new kids die, so I dove in to rescue you."

He grins, and I do not notice that his smile is a bit crooked and adorable. He has very white teeth, a couple of needlelike fangs, dimples, and eyes the exact sapphire blue of the deepest part of the ocean.

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Thanks for reading! Britt


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