I'm alone in the girl's bedroom. Pickles is in the common room with Fintan. Lily-Bella is still at the dance. And Shelly? She wasn't even at Enchanted Dance class. Will she end up on Princess Iridessa's Bad List? The last time I saw Shelly was in Interspecies Bio where she looked like she was molting.

It's stuffy in our room, and the smell of perfume is overwhelming. I open the window. Outside, owls hoot, and the wind whistles past the cabin. I want to take a quick shower and go to sleep, but first I'll need something to wear to bed. We left our room pretty messy, so I have to rummage around to find something. Finally I see a hint of turquoise peeking from beneath the pink. Yay! It's my debate team sweatshirt! Now, where are my underpants?

Through the door, I hear Pickles giggle. When we returned to the cabin after the dance, I tried to get her to go to bed and get some sleep, but she wanted to ... um ... talk to Fintan a little longer. Fintan seems pretty nice. He heated a mug of water with his hands and made Pickles bergamot tea. I asked him about his abilities with fire, and he said he'd always had them. Like baby fry being able to swim, or a fawn being able to walk right after its birth, controlling fire is just something he apparently does naturally.

I take a long shower, worrying about Pierce the whole time. I hope he doesn't get caught. At first I wonder if I should go check on him? But he's smart and fast and has better hearing than a dolphin. And I'm so exhausted, I'd probably do something stupid that would get us both in trouble.

The warm water in the shower is bliss, and I wash my hair with some of Lily-Bella's shampoo. It's a scent called jasmine, and it's kind of nice. Afterward, my hair is smooth and slick and sticks to my body like thick blades of kelp.

I put on my underwear and throw on the sweatshirt, noticing the mustard stain. Who's going to see me anyway? I crawl between the cool sheets. My eyelids are heavy, and the back of my eyeballs ache. The air is smoky and dry from the fire blazing in the common room, and I'm lulled to sleep by the low, even murmur of Fintan's voice.

***

Pierce and I are holding hands and swimming on the surface of the open ocean. The salmon sky is streaked with gray clouds; the sun ahead of us is a pinprick of light on the horizon. It seems to get farther away the faster we swim.

A pod of bottlenose dolphins joins, flanking us like sentinels. They have sleek grey skin and permanent smiles. They're chattering in their native dolphin tongue. I am able to pick up a few words. They are commenting on my hair. (Dolphins are a little jealous of mermaid hair. Don't know why. It would look totally ridiculous on a dolphin.)

A shimmering wave of anchovies swarms within our ranks. So do bat rays, eels and even sharks. In the air, a flock of gulls tracks our movement.

The headwind picks up, slowing our progress. The ocean water swells and chops and turns into the same oily, freaky kaleidoscope of color that was inside the cave.

"Pierce, we've got to get out of here!"

The dolphins bite the ends of my hair and tug. "Hey, that hurts," I think. Pierce's hand tightens around mine, but they pull harder. "No!" I scream as Pierce's hand slides away. "Pierce!"

The dolphins let go of my hair and poke my body with their snouts. "Ouch!"

Now they're arguing.

"You said she was smart!"

"She is."

"Is not. She's as sentient as a piece of driftwood."

"She's sleeping."

"Poke her harder. Neptune's spear! If a shark came in here looking for dinner, she'd be halfway through its digestive tract by now."

"Sharks don't come on land."

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