Flipping the Scales

The mermaid adventure trilogy from Pete Tarsi!

Skipping Flipping

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Chapter One

Chapter One - Flipping the Scales

“We should not be doing this.” Marina brushed away wet strands of blonde hair that had clumped together in front of her eyes.

Her friend Lorelei danced ahead along the boundary between the ocean and the shore, and her long, wavy red hair streamed behind her. “Running on the beach, Marina. No other experience like it.” Her outstretched hand held a piece of some translucent material, which rippled in the air behind her like a pennant blowing in the breeze. In the early morning sunlight, it shimmered with almost every color of the spectrum. When she stopped running and started twirling, her teal sundress billowed in the breeze, and while she fluttered her arm up and down, a rainbow appeared to circle around her. “Look at the sky from out here!”

Yellow and orange filled the panorama as the morning sun slowly revealed itself through the wispy clouds streaking the sky. Waves rustled as they gently rolled onto the island beach, and seagulls squawked as they glided above the water. The air was warm but breezy, filled with the light aroma of ocean salt. It may have been as close to a perfect summer day as possible.

Marina lagged behind her friend and kept one arm at her side against the damp yellow sundress, even though it was already clinging to her thighs. Clasped tightly in her other hand was a similar iridescent piece of material, but because she held it close to her with her back to the sun, it wasn’t sparkling. “Lore, are you sure we should do this? The others—”

Lorelei looked over her shoulder at the ocean stretching to the horizon. “The others have not come this far north yet. My father knows we are here, so there is no reason to worry. He has allowed me to do this before.”

“I know you have, but I have not. We should be back in the—”

“You almost did that one other time. Little steps, Marina.” Lorelei turned around and saw Marina walking tentatively over the sea foam towards her. “Today is time for bigger steps. Come and catch me!” Then Lorelei skipped off in the opposite direction.

Marina ran as quickly as she could, but by the time she reached her friend, she was breathing heavily, almost hyperventilating. “You move…much quicker than I do…out here.”

“Can you feel that?” Lorelei pointed at their bare feet. “The way the wet sand squeezes its way between your toes? Between your toes, Marina! There is no other experience like that feeling.”

“Lore, please listen to me.”

“Try it.” Lorelei grabbed Marina by the shoulders and then pointed down at their feet. “Do it there with those toes! Oh, there has got to be a better word to describe this sensation. Scraping, but crunching the sand—scrunching! Yes, that flows. Scrunch the sand between your toes.” Lorelei swiveled her hips, which dug her feet deeper into the moist sand.

“I do not want to scrunch sand. I want to go back.”

“One day, Marina. It will be like no other experience.”

Marina sighed. “What if I think otherwise?”

“Give it a chance.” Lorelei pranced around her friend, who simply stood there with her arms and the translucent pennant folded across her chest as the tide rolled in and out at their feet. “Simply feel the water on your feet. Your feet, Marina! And the bottoms of your legs. If that is not one of the flowiest feelings ever, well, then what is?”

“Lore, you know I trust you, but what if—?”

“You know what I always say, Marina. Sink or swim.” Taking Marina’s hand, Lorelei tried to lead her friend away from the water.

After a few steps, Marina hadn’t budged. Letting her arm flop back by her side, she said, “I choose swim.”

“That flows, Marina. Today is going to be an adventure like no other.” Lorelei continued ahead while she babbled to herself about the day’s plans.

Marina turned toward the water and started smoothing out the object in her hands until it separated into two layers. Once Lorelei realized she was walking alone, she turned and saw Marina opening the material into one continuous tube. Dashing back, she snatched the coarse material out of Marina’s hand and said, “You promised me.”

“Please give it back to me,” groaned Marina.

“Not until you promise me that you will not put it back on.” Lorelei held the sparkling object high above Marina’s head. “Please share the day with me.”

“Lore, be careful with that.” Marina tried to stretch as much as her legs could, but she felt like her feet were firmly stuck into the ground.

“Do you know what really flows?” Lorelei glanced down at Marina and giggled. “I did not expect my head to be so much higher than yours.”

“This is not funny, Lore.” Marina wiped tears from her eyes. “If anything happens to my—”

“Nothing will happen. You have got to come out of your shell sometime.”

Marina’s shoulders slumped as she sighed. “Not going to let this one float, are you?”

“Of course not.” Lorelei grinned broadly. “So which is it? Sink or swim?”

Marina hung her head in the knowledge that once Lorelei had her mind on an adventure, there was no convincing her otherwise. As she was going to give her answer, Marina noticed that the wet sand had swallowed her feet and ankles. “Sink,” she replied.

“Sink? Not swim?” Lorelei frowned. “Please join me for the day, Marina.”

“I mean I have sunk in this stuff.”

Lorelei crouched down, her eyes following Marina’s legs from the knees downward until she saw Marina’s ankles and feet buried in the over-soaked sand. A wave broke nearby, and foamy water rushed toward them. Some splashed against Marina’s legs, which sprayed and tickled Lorelei’s shins. As the wave receded, the ground underneath Lorelei shifted as it got softer. “I never knew that would happen.” She looked up at Marina. “Now I see why our heads were at different heights. See all the things you can experience out here?”

“One day,” said Marina, holding up one finger. “Now get me out of this.”

After Lorelei hopped up, she returned the shimmery skirt to Marina and took hold of her free hand. Together they counted to three, and then Lorelei pulled Marina out of the wet sand and away from the water. They took off quickly, but Marina’s footing gave way as the terrain changed, and she tumbled onto the sand.

“The ground is different here.” Marina sat up and sifted some sand through her fingers. “What is it?”

“Dry sand. And it gets everywhere.” Lorelei helped Marina back to her feet. “Now come on. Today will be a wondrous adventure.”

Marina held up the translucent skirt. “What do we do with these?”

“Hide them.”

While walking away from the water, the girls scanned the area. A sign stated that it was a private stretch of the beach, which Lorelei insisted would be better for them because fewer people would be around during the day. Of the three houses in view, she focused on the one in the middle because it would be the easiest to recognize later. While the other two stood only one story, had expansive back decks, sliding glass doors, and many windows, the middle house looked more old-fashioned and welcoming.

Less sprawling than the others, probably because it had a second floor, it was a small cape-style cottage, though the girls didn’t know the specific architectural names. It was painted red, making it stand out to them more prominently than the bland shades of white and gray of the two more modern-looking houses. After a few wooden stairs upward over the line of large rocks that served to stop stronger waves from reaching the houses, a small footbridge led to the yard behind the house.

Lorelei ran up the steps and then lay down across the length of the bridge. Carefully, she inched forward until her head was underneath the lowest crossbar of the railing. She peeked underneath the walkway and fiddled around with some of the boards.

Meanwhile, Marina was a little further down the row of rocks, cautiously climbing over them. Each step was difficult, especially while barefoot, and she found herself holding on tightly to some of the protruding stone edges just to keep herself steady. Between two rocks, she saw a space barely wide enough to fit her arm. She reached inside and explored the nooks and crannies. It was a dry place and out of direct view, and since getting there required balancing skills, she deemed it the perfect hiding spot. After a quick check to both her left and her right, she stashed the piece of material deep into the crevice and then slowly climbed back down to the sand.

“Are you ready?” Lorelei had unexpectedly appeared beside Marina and startled her.

“Yes. Now will you please stop bobbing up and down so much?”

Lorelei bounced one more time and flailed her arms. “Wait, you have got to see this! It looks much better from some distance.” Lorelei put her arm around Marina to face her toward the water. “That way is south, from where we came. Now look this way.”

They turned to the left where the sun had made its full presence known in the eastern sky. The ocean water reflected the sunlight and caused the crests of every single ripple to sparkle.

“Beautiful. Would you agree?” asked Lorelei.

Marina nodded her head, having never seen the sun so large and magnificent. As she basked in its post-sunrise glow, she took a deep breath, a little anxious about whatever Lorelei had planned for the day.

Lorelei took Marina by the hand and led her to the footbridge. “First, we find shoes, so we do not injure our feet. There are so many wonderful things we can do with them.” She clapped her hands and then hopped off the other end of the bridge onto the cool green grass. “Later, we get ice cream.”

“Ice cream? Does it flow?” Shaking her head, Marina knew the exact answer Lorelei was going to give her.

“Flows fastest.”

They swiftly made their way past the red house, hoping not to wake the sleeping residents inside. As they headed down the road to begin their adventure, Marina hoped that her stay on land wouldn’t last too long.