Don’t read this unless you’ve already read all of Shearwater!
End of final chapter…
I’d used up all my magic. As I sank deeper into the dark ocean, the sparkling lights around my body dimmed. I was done healing—but I was also out of air. My blue dress trailed behind me, the thin fabric billowing in the water, a rainbow colored sheen of scales that reminded me of a peacock. Wait, what? My eyes widened as I tried to kick my legs, and saw only the magnificent tail that wrapped around my lower body and sliced cleanly through the water. I gasped and felt the sea water rush into my lungs. The pain was unbearable as I filled up with ocean. After all these years, I was finally drowning for real. Rather than dying, however, I felt oxygen reenter my blood stream. It felt like a glowing flame, spreading through my body, making it stronger. A surge of energy hit me and I realized I’d finally changed.
I was a mermaid, a real one. But now I was chained to a massive chunk of stone that was sinking to the bottom of the ocean. I wondered if I’d end up like that seal, trapped and starving to death. A casualty of human greed. But then, I saw a pale white figure swimming towards me through the endless abyss. It had been so long since I’d seen him, I was sure I was just hallucinating after my traumatic experience. But when he smashed through the restraints and ripped open the metal cuff around my neck, I knew he was really there with me. Sebastian. Somehow he’d gotten my message. I started sobbing, from relief and exhaustion, as he carried me to the surface in his powerful arms.
I couldn’t stop admiring my tail. It was dark green and purple, with flecks of blue and gold that sparkled like glitter in the sun.
“If you keep smiling so much, your face might get stuck like that.” Sebastian said, pulling his upper body out of the water and splashing water at me. We were on the rocky island off the coast that I’d begun thinking of as our island. It was so small it didn’t have a name, and wasn’t on any maps.
It had been three days since I single-handedly destroyed one of Ireland’s most famous historical icons. Of course the media thought it was some kind of localized earthquake. The truth was much harder to believe, even for those of us that knew magic was real. After Sebastian brought me back to land, he let me dry out until my tail was eggshell-thin, then snapped it off in pieces like he was unwrapping a present. The salt water healed my wounds, but I was weak from blood loss and barely conscious. He and Aedan tucked me in and I slept for sixteen hours.
When I woke up, Sebastian was at my side.
“Where were you?” I demanded, a single tear dripping down my cheek.
He brushed it away with the back of his finger.
“I’m so sorry,” he said, squeezing my hands in his. “My father locked me up as soon as I got back. I thought, if he knew there was a surviving heir… but he already knew. He killed the royal family. Phyllis escaped somehow and he’s been looking for her ever since. He thanked me for tracking you down and then put me in a dry chamber.”
“Before I confronted him, however, I told some friends about you, to get the word out. The news spread, it was too big to contain. It was the excuse the merrow needed to challenge my father. There were protests, even riots. I got a message to a friend of mine, to find you and tell you what happened—he’d been waiting for his chance when he heard the whales and knew something was wrong. So he organized a team to break me out. We’re all on the run now. Outlaws, according to my father.”
“I can’t believe you’re really here,” I said, stroking his face with the palm of my hand. “I thought I’d lost you.”
On the second day, the coast guard recovered the body of Father Murphy. He’d washed up on shore missing his leg—it looked like a shark had taken more than just a test bite. Since he was fully clothed, they assumed he must have been in the castle when it collapsed, though nobody could guess why. I was glad he wasn’t a threat anymore, but I knew we hadn’t heard the last of the Worrem.
I spent all day swimming with Sebastian and filling him in on what he’d missed, which wasn’t actually that much. Then in the afternoon we met up with the others at the Runkerry house. Jackie made Ethan come look for me at Aedan’s when I didn’t show up at her place. After Sebastian brought me home, Aedan let the others know I was okay, but they were still anxious to see me.
“I’m sorry I ruined the debs ball,” I said after Jackie, Patricia and Derry had given me long hugs.
“There will be other dances,” Jackie said. “We’re just happy that you’re safe.”
“You should have seen me in my tux though,” Derry said, “I looked amazing.”
We cooked hotdogs on a grill over an outdoor fire and celebrated our victory. I told the others that Father Murphy had been the one after me from the beginning. Aedan looked crushed when I exposed Helena’s involvement, but he tried not to let it show. We all knew this wasn’t the end of our problems, but we were going to enjoy the win while we could. There was no telling how long it would be before we got another one.
“There’s one more thing,” Sebastian said at dusk. We were standing alone near the water, away from the others. He had his arms wrapped around me like he was afraid to let me go. “Before I knew that my father was the one responsible for the disappearance of the royal family, I told him about your grandmother’s necklace. I was trying to convince him of your claim, so that he’d have to listen to you. He wasn’t too concerned, he said the merrow would never follow anyone with legs. But now that you’ve turned, you’re a real threat to him. And he’ll stop at nothing to get the necklace—it’s the key he’s been waiting for to start his war against the humans.”
I nodded. So what if I had a target on my back? I was both Tuatha Dé and Merrow, and soon I’d be at the center of a conflict that just might consume civilization. But I wasn’t the same girl I’d been when I came to Ireland. And I wasn’t alone anymore. Looking around at my friends on the beach, their smiles illuminated by the campfire, and standing with Sebastian as the sky turned purple and the sparkling stars reflected on the dark waves, I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time. Something I wasn’t sure I was ever going to feel again. Hope.
When my parents died, I tried to shut the world out so. I didn’t dare dream about a future where I could be happy again. But then I met Sebastian, and now I had friends and family who accepted me, even though I was different from them.
“I told you once you couldn’t lift the whole ocean,” Sebastian said with stars in his eyes, brushing my hair behind my ears. “I’ll never doubt you again. I have no idea what you’re capable of. I look forward to being continuously surprised by you.”
His kiss felt comfortable, like a favorite jacket you never wanted to take off. I knew exactly how the curves of his body fit against mine, and I had the shape of him memorized. Behind us, the warm glow of the Runkerry lights beckoned in the distance. Gazing out over the ocean, I saw a long shooting star burn across the sky. I watched its bright tail reflect off the dark blue water of the ocean. The future was still uncertain, now more than ever. But it was worth fighting for. And somehow I knew, whatever else was coming, no matter how powerful the forces against us, somehow we’d find a way through it.