"Dad, what's going on?" We're talking out loud since if someone walks by, it would look pretty weird if we were just standing there gesturing. The rock we're standing on is super slippery from the constant ocean spray. My clothes are getting soaked. Dad is in his waterproof poncho.

Dad grabs my shoulders, and looks down at me with the most serious expression I've ever seen on him. "Waverly ..."

"You're kind of hurting me." He lessens his grip, marginally.

"Look at me, Waverly. You never saw anything in that cave."

"If you're trying to hypnotize me, it's not working. I totally remember the cave because it nearly burned off my skin!"

"Waverly," he blows out a breath. "You need to keep out of this. I'm telling you it's for the best. Trust me."

"But, dad, if something is wrong with the water in the bay, we have to fix it. Fish are suffering, mom, Shelly ..." Beau. Poor Beau!

Dad exhales in frustration. "Waverly, if you want to help me, your mom, the new merbaby, your friends, you will never mention this to another living soul. No matter what happens to me or anyone else. Do you understand?" Bringing up the merbaby is a low move on his part.

"How can I understand what you refuse to explain? And what do you mean that something might happen to you?" He stares at me like he's drawing a picture of me in his mind-a photograph that no one can ever take away from him. "Dad, you're scaring me. What is your involvement in all this?" An enormous wave crashes on to the rock. Water is dripping down my nose. I try to wipe it with Pierce's shirt, but it's soaked and does no good.

"Waverly. Did you not hear what I said? I can't tell you anything. Just know that the problem is being addressed by the royal family, the Merfolk Council, the school board ..."

"I am not a fingerling, Dad. I am smart and useful. I could help."

"I know you're not a fingerling, Wave, but you're still my merbaby, always, and I can't even think about something happening to you."

"What, dad? Who would hurt me? I mean other than vampires draining my blood or Shelly tearing out my hair or Lily-Bella accidentally suffocating me in a pile of pink tulle. If you don't tell me, isn't that putting me more at risk?" I see a hesitation in his face. I know I've just scored big points with my excellent debate skills!

But instead of caving and telling me what's going on, he straightens his back in resolve. "The only way you can help is by letting the professionals handle the problem."

"Professionals? You're a math teacher, dad. You teach polynomials and irrational numbers and vectors, whatever those are. What in Hades do you know about espionage? I'm a teenager. Believe me, if you want subterfuge, hire a teenage girl. We are better than anyone at this kind of stuff."

"I don't even want to know what you mean by that, Waverly."

"Never mind." It's amazing to me that parents forget all this when they grow up. How they snuck around and forgot to mention exactly, specifically, what they were really doing on Friday night. It's like they go through some mandatory brainwashing ceremony the night before they have their first baby.

"What secret teen subterfuge?"

"I can't really tell you any of that dad," I pause here for dramatic emphasis. "Because if I told you anything, your life could be in danger."

"Waverly, do not take this situation lightly."

"I don't, Dad."

"And promise not to discuss this with another living soul."

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