8. mermaids and mistakes

2.3K 174 20

I don't know how I dragged all the gear down the sidewalk, across the yard, and into the house without combusting with rage

Oops! This image does not follow our content guidelines. To continue publishing, please remove it or upload a different image.

I don't know how I dragged all the gear down the sidewalk, across the yard, and into the house without combusting with rage. I vaguely remember speaking to the parents, making an excuse for Ian, and then plunging into the backyard with my princess-perfect smile in full force and four inflatable seahorses hooked on each arm.

The kids emit piercing shrieks when they see me, and the birthday girl is the first to scramble out of the pool. Dripping wet, she picks up her jeweled tiara from a lawn chair and places it with somber precision on her head.

I press the button at the top of my seashell bra, activating the speaker. "Hello, boys and girls! What a wonderful pool!" I croon, my magnified voice oozing with sweetness.

Some of the kids openly look at my feet. Satisfied that I have a tail and aren't trying to trick them, their eyes shine with unbridled childish belief.

Over the cacophony of Ariel! Ariel! Look at me, Ariel! C'mon! Come play with us! the birthday girl sticks out her hand. "Princess Ariel," she greets in a very somber little voice.

"Happy Birthday, Kaylee," I say, crouching down to her eye level. "Would the birthday princess like to help me pass out some of my friends from the sea?"

I hold one of the inflatable seahorses in front of her. The orange creature has a seat for children to sit in, and if they pump their legs, they can participate in a seahorse race. It's popular with the kiddies and are stable enough that parents didn't have to worry.

Kaylee eyes it, then nods. "Okay."

She sticks close to my side through the seahorse race, finding excuses to hold my hand as often as she can. It's normal for the birthday girl or boy to monopolize my attention, but my patience frays with each new question she asks me. Clinging to me like a spider monkey, she keeps up an incessant stream of chatter, asking me about my dad, King Triton, and if I was scared when I lost my voice, and when is Prince Eric coming?

The first two questions I can answer with ease, but when it comes to making an excuse for my partner, the erstwhile Prince Eric, I fumble. Looking at her sweet, innocent face, I can't tell her what a lazy slime ball Ian really is. Seriously, how much of a jerk do you have to be to leave a little girl hanging on her birthday?

"Oh, sweetie," I stammer, "you know, I think he just hasn't found his way here, yet. The ocean's a pretty big place."

She opens her mouth to ask another question.

"Time for a song!" I all but bray, hurrying to my black roll-along suitcase. The front flap holds a tablet programmed with the theme songs from Ariel's world. "Shake a fin, children! Join me on the grass, if you please!"

One press of a button and music pipes out, earning a new round of squeals from the children who recognize the opening of Under the Sea.

I ignore the parents videotaping from the sidelines, focusing instead on the words of the song. I can't afford to fumble on the lyrics, so I push all thoughts of Ian out of my mind.

Keeping Up with the Kapoors 💃🏻 | ✓Where stories live. Discover now