The Ties of Friendship

by

Maria Castricum


Cecilia

"Cecilia! What's wrong? You've been ignoring me all day!" That snapped me out of it. Plus the fact that my best friend, Alexandra, was waving her tail in my face. "I'm sorry, Alexandra. I didn't mean to. Just thinking about how I wish I wasn't a mermaid." Alexandra nodded, her jet black hair floating in the water around her. It was moments like these that I couldn't help feeling a longing to look the same way she did. Alexandra was beautiful. Pure and simple. She was tall and slim, with snowy white skin, complimented by that straight black hair. Her eyes were an icy blue, and her lips red and full. It wasn't that I wished she was ugly and I was beautiful. I was happy she was, but when other merpeople see us side by side, I know what they see.

I'm skinny, have pale white skin, freckles everywhere, pale blue eyes, crooked buck teeth, and blondish white hair. Even Alexandra has told me, "Your're ugly, but your're nice". "What's the reason for wanting to be human today? Or should I guess?" I playfully shoved her and she laughed while I blushed. I could never keep any secret from Alexandra. We've been friends ever since I can remember, and even though she's the princess of Pearl Reef, our kingdom, and I'm just a commoner's daughter, it's never made a difference to her. "You can't keep this a secret forever you know. Someday you're going to get caught," Alexandra said, suddenly serious. I knew she was right. It all seemed like yesterday when it happened...

I remember being about 8 and going to the surface for the first time. I swam to a beach and took in the sights and sounds. I watched the humans from afar, hidden safely behind a rock. It was a bunch of children my own age playing and laughing. How much fun it must be to walk and run, I thought. I could have watched forever but a woman came out of a large beautiful house and shouted, "Snack time! Come and get it!" All the kids raced up the long flight of stairs to the house, except one. "Stefan! Hurry up!" "I'll be right in mom. I'm just looking for my glasses." "As soon as you find them come in." With that the woman went into the house and shut the door. I quietly moved closer to the shore. As I neared, I saw the glasses start to sink into the water. Without thinking I swam and grabbed them. I inspected them, turning them over wondering what it would be like to wear something like that when I heard someone say, "Who are you?" I jumped.

The boy Stefan was standing before me. He was short and thin, with brown hair and light brown eyes. I was so scared he'd seen what I was. He held up both his hands. "I'm sorry. I just don't recall seeing you before. Then again, my mom invited a bunch of kids to my birthday party I don't know." Without saying anything and keeping my whole body covered, I held out the glasses. His face lit up. "Thanks! My mom would have been so mad if I lost these!" He put them on and smiled at me. I smiled back shyly. He was cute and he seemed nice. "We better get inside before all the good stuff is gone. What's your name?" "Cecilia, but I'm not a party guest. I'm a... mermaid," I said. I don't know who was more shocked, him or myself. "What?" I flipped my tail up spraying him with water. His face was priceless. I burst out laughing. He just stood there stunned. "I'm sorry I sprayed you. I couldn't resist," I said, trying to get a hold on myself. Then, unbelievably, he laughed. "I don't believe it. You're really a mermaid! Are you related to like The Little Mermaid?" I frowned. "Who's that?" He laughed again. Not meanly though. "Never mind. Let's start again. I'm Stefan. Now tell me about where you live. What's it like? Are there millions of you guys? Do you eat fish? Do you go to school?" The questions poured out. I told him about how I lived at the bottom of the ocean in a house made of seaweed and seashells. I told him about how the streets are made of glass and how Pearl reef is protected by magic, so the temperature is always perfect, and how I played with other sea animals.

I would have told him more but his mom called him. Stefan told me he had to go and that I could meet him the same time the next day. This went on for months. Then one day he told me that summer vacation was over and that he had to go home. Stefan said his family owned the house and that they vacationed there every year. I was sad to see him go, but when the next year came, I looked and saw him again. This went on for years. He never told anyone about me, and I never told anyone about him, except Alexandra. I watched him grow and change. He talked and taught me things about his world and I taught him about mine. We were the best of friends, but that changed during this past summer. He was older looking, taller, tanner, and even more handsome. I barely recognized him. He no longer wore his glasses and said he got something called contacts instead. I knew the way he looked at me was different, as well. Our friendship was the same, but something had changed. As I left that day I figured out what had happened. I'd fallen in love without even realizing it. Then I remembered the way he was with me. He loves me too, I thought. I'd never been so happy before. Then it hit me. We can never be together unless... I become human.

Alexandra

I was sick of Cecilia and her talk of becoming human. It was all she ever thought about, dreamed about. After I'd said good-bye to Cecilia I'd pretended to go home, but I could never rest until I knew It was safe. I swam faster, anger spurring me on. My dolphin, Snickers, swam ahead of me, seemingly unpleased with my present temper. I came to Shadow Cove Cave. Snickers made an unhappy noise, refusing to go in. He hated me when I was like this. I'd deal with him later. I swam deeper into the mouth of the cave until I reached the end. It was still there. I breathed out, relieved, the way I always did. I'd discovered It, thanks to Snickers' stupidity, when he'd been chased in here by a shark. Being the angel I am I'd gone in to rescue him, and found It, a magic mirror and a mirror of truth, ten times the size of me, willing to grant me any three wishes. I wished for the gift of magic, then for all Cecilia's beauty. Ah, yes, she was once the most beautiful mermaid in all the land. I was once plain and homely. I cast a spell that made everyone forget, including herself, she was ever beautiful. How it did my heart good to see her so lowered and teased! I was at peace, saving the last spell for the future.

Then I saw how happy she was lately. So accepting over her fate. Then when she talked of becoming human, I knew it was the boy. She was in love with him. The mirror was no longer safe and it couldn't be moved. It was built into the wall of the cave. Even my magic couldn't move it, but it's safe for now. I can keep her away from here, I thought. Then with one last glance, I swam out.

Cecilia

I got up early the next day to start exploring. I'd always liked to swim around and find new places to hang out. This trip, though, was about finding something, anything that could help me become human. The day went slow. Same old caves, cliffs, and pretty much everything else. Depressed, I decided to go home for the day. On my way home I heard some familiar snickering. I looked up to see Snickers, Alexandra's dolphin, swimming playfully in front of me. "You bad boy! You ran away again," I said smiling. I made the mistake of swimming towards him fast. Thinking I was playing with him he raced away. Straight into the Kill Area. The Kill Area is a canyon outside our protected walls. It is usually where sharks go and every other unfriendly animal. I've only gone in there once, and almost gotten killed(long story). Bottom line, it's not some place you want to drop in during meal time. I swam slowly into the canyon. "Snickers! Snickers!" I whispered loudly. It became darker the further I went. Finally, at the edge of a huge cave I saw Snickers. "Come here now! Do you want to die?" I almost shouted. Instead he zoomed into the cave. "That's not funny! Get out!" No movement. I looked around and my heart stopped. A few yards away I saw a shark. I had no choice. "I'm going to kill that thing," I said to myself as I swam into the cave.


Stefan

The sunlight glaring onto my face woke me up. I sat up, realizing I hadn't closed my curtains last night. Too lazy to get up and now not able to fall asleep, I look up at the ceiling and think about my life. Only two more days. In two more days I'd go off to college and probably never see Cecilia again. You know in movies, where the main guy and girl take the whole movie to figure out they love each other, and you're sitting there saying, "You stupid idiots. It's so obvious you're perfect together! How can you be that dumb?!" Well, I'm living proof you can. At the start of this summer when I saw Cecilia, I could have smacked myself for not realizing what I had had all along. We both felt it but neither of us said anything, I mean what could we say? I'd never told her everything about my life. I never lied but some stuff is hard to explain to someone who lives in the water. That was actually one of the reasons I valued her friendship so much. Because she didn't know who I was.

My phone vibrates on my nightstand. I reluctantly roll over and look. I groan. It is a text from my mom reminding me of my photoshoot today and asking if I was going. Honestly, I had it up to here with modeling. I only did it because my dad insisted. "It gets you used to this kind of work," he'd say. "Gotta get experience on every level." I could never escape. Even on my summer vacation. You see my dad is Edward Sykes, founder and president of On The Corner Of 1885. Yep, we are up there with Chanel, Marc Jacobs, Michael Korrs, Gucci, and pretty much every other major top-notch brand. We do everything from red carpet dresses to your average t-shirt and jeans. I'm literally a walking posterboy for the company. If you walk into my closet right now you'll find almost everything says On The Corner Of 1885 ( though secretly I've bought some Calvin Klein t-shirts and Diesel jeans.)

Ever since I can remember I've gone to fashion shows. I mean enough to make the most girliest girly girls want to scream and run home. My dad insisted it was good for me to learn as much about the fashion industry as possible. Because of all the traveling I never spent much time in school. At one point in my life I can honestly say I had no friends. Mom understood. She was a retired model and knew what it meant to give up your whole life for a job. She told my dad to promise her that he would leave me alone until I was at least 17. He said he would. Then on my seventeenth birthday he said he had a big surprise for me. I thought it was a car. Turns out he got me a modeling job at the company. I remember looking at my mom asking silently, "Help". She only shrugged. I knew I was doomed.

The job was a jeans ad. The photoshoot took place at the beach. I would ride a bicycle and a girl would sit on the handlebars and we would have to look like we were having the time of our lives ( they didn't exactly say that, but you know how those ads look.) I met the girl I was to work with. Whoa. Believe me I've grown up around models and never really cared for them. Too fakey and stuck-up, but there was something different about this girl. Her name was Emily Springfield. She had red hair, green eyes, and was all around gorgeous. We talked. We liked almost all the same things. She, like me, said modeling was something her parents wanted her to do to help pay her way through college. She said she wanted to be a doctor. She was also an actress, but hadn't landed any roles. At the end of the two weeks of the shoot, I asked her out. It was great. We went everywhere together, movie premieres, social events. I was walking on air. I should have known it was too good to last.

After the success of the jeans ad campaign, everyone wanted Emily. She even landed her first movie as the lead. I was happy for her, just would miss her being away. Then she said she got me a role and begged me to take it. I decided to ( well my dad decided for me.) I got the part of the "nerdy guy". I kid you not. That was how I was described in the script. It was a stupid teen movie called Finding Love. It was about a girl who is dating a bully and is scared of him and can't break up with him, and then at the end of the movie she gets the courage to dump him and ends up with the nice guy.

All I did in the movie was get beaten up. My character gets shoved into the bully and we both end up in a big fight. Dumbest movie, right? Imagine my surprise at the MTV Teen Choice Awards when the "bully kid" ( his name was Dylan something) and me took home the award for Best Fight of the year. I'm getting off track. Even now I'm trying to block out what happened next. A month after the awards show, I was was sitting at home watching TV, when I got a text. It was from Emily saying it was over and she had found someone else. After more then 8 months of dating and all I get is a text message. She left me for, guess who? The "bully kid", Dylan whatshisname. The irony of it was too much for me to handle. I'd like to say I found out where the guy lived and beat him up for real. Nope. Try sitting at home and looking at every picture of Emily and me ( plus eating 4 cartons of ice cream and every available piece of junk food in the house.) May sound girly, but it works. The aftermath wasn't too pretty, either. I can't imagine a hangover feeling any worse then the way I felt the next day.

My phone vibrates again. My mom wants an answer. I sit up and look out the window. The sun is shining on the ocean, making it look like the water is sparkling. Somewhere out there is Cecilia. Someone who, unlike Emily, never would use me, even if she knew who I really was. She loves me for me, as I do her. One of the only people that loved me for myself and I would be leaving her behind forever. With a sigh I text my mom back. I'll be there. Might as well try to keep myself as busy as possible. "Until I forget," I say to myself.

Cecilia

The cave is dark. It takes my eyes awhile to get used to it. "Snickers!" I whisper. It is hopeless. I lost the silly dolphin. I swim deeper, and as my eyes get adjusted, I notice how big it is. I feel so small compared to it. I hear a soft whimpering and realize it's coming from up ahead. I swim faster and gasp as I enter a massive cavern. Leaning up against the middle of the wall is a massive mirror. A huge mirror ten times the size of me, if not more. Around the base of the it is a treasure box. I mean real treasure, like diamonds, rubies, pearls, and most beautiful of all, a crown. I hear Snickers, and look up to see him right in front of me. " There you are, you troublemaker. What is this place?" I ask him. At the sound of my voice the mirror starts to glow. I jump.

"You have only one more wish, Alexandra," the mirror says pleasantly. My instincts tell me to get the heck out of there, but I stay. "Alexandra? What do you mean, mirror?" I ask. It sounds like the mirror chuckles. Then it changes and I see images of Alexandra. It was like, what did Stefan call them? Oh, a movie. The images shows Alexandra asking the mirror what it is. It answers and says it's a wishing mirror. The mirror is a wishing mirror! I feel my heart leap with joy, but only for a second. It now shows Alexandra wishing for the power of magic and talking of her hate for...me! I'm speechless. It shows her wishing for my beauty. The image switches to me before she took my beauty. The biggest shocker? I really was beautiful. Then it shows how she cast a spell on all kingdom, including me, to make everyone forget how I looked. It goes on to show more horrible images of Alexandra talking about how much she hates me. I feel tears streaming down my face. How could my best friend be like this? How could she hate me so much? I look up again and realize it's Alexandra saying how she'll never let me find the mirror. The image fades. I hear Snickers start to scream a warning. Too late I realize what it means. Then I see Alexandra's face on the mirror, but it isn't recorded.

"Hello Cecilia." I spin around. Alexandra is standing there. With a knife in her hand. My body feels frozen, unable to move. "I guess we're going to have to do this the hard way," Alexandra smiles.


Cecilia

"Alexandra, what are you doing?" I ask softly. I've never been more shocked or scared in my life. Alexandra on the other hand is as cool and collected as ever. She toys with the knife, but her eyes are locked on me. I'm trapped, as well. Alexandra is blocking the only way out. There is no way I'd make it past her alive.

"What am I doing?" Alexandra asks in a calm voice. "Oh, Cecilia. You know as well as I do what is going to happen." The look in her eyes says it all. Any doubts before I had of her being capable of killing me or anyone else vanish. She means what she says. "You're my best friend. I'd never do anything to hurt you. I love you," I say, my voice cracking. I see her shake with anger.

"You? Love me?" She almost yells. "You pitied me! I was the ugly girl and you were beautiful. The only reason you were friends with me is because it made you look more beautiful to be compared with someone like me!"

"That's not true!" I say firmly. I know I'm not just saying that. I would never treat anyone like that, even if I can't remember everything. I can't believe how much she distorted our friendship. How long had this jealousy built up inside of her for it to turn into such hatred? I see Alexandra swing the knife. "Any last words?" she asks bitterly. I try to think. What should I do? What should I do? I say frantically to myself. I'm trying not to visibly shake. I think about my surroundings. The only way out is blocked. So not an option. Behind me is the mirror. The mirror. Then something clicks in my head. I feel a fresh wave of pain shoot through me at the thought. It's the only way, I say to myself. I don't try to hold back the tears any longer.

"I'm not going to let you do this, Alexandra," I say. This makes her smile. A cruel smile. "Try and stop me," she says. Then Alexandra lunges. I'm prepared for her. Just as she's near enough to me I whip me tail as hard as I can in her face. It's all the time I need. Alexandra is momentarily stunned. I grab the arm that's holding the knife and try to twist it out of her hand. Alexandra starts to punch me everywhere with her other hand. It really hurts, but I hang on, literally, for dear life. "Snickers! Snickers! Help me!" Alexandra screams, as she fights against my grip. If Snickers helps her, the battle's over, I think inwardly. Alexandra slams me so hard on one of my arms, that one arm loses its grip. This is all she needs. She punches me in the throat and I let go. My hands go instinctively to my throat and I know I've done a fatal move. It's over, I think. I only wish I'd gotten to tell Stefan how much I loved him. Then I hear Alexandra scream. I look up and see something I never thought I'd see. Snickers is biting Alexandra's arm so hard I see blood start to float into the water. This is it, now or never. I face the mirror, still trying to breath properly.

"Mirror," I say. "No! Don't you dare! Alexandra screeches even louder. The mirror glows to life. "Yes?" It says almost laughingly, like before. "Mirror, I wish that my friend Alexandra will go back to the way she was before she became hateful and jealous. The way she was when she was really my friend," I say crying. A pause. I hear Snickers scream. I prepare for the knife in my back. Then, "Your wish is granted." I turn around and am face to face with Alexandra. The knife is raised as if to strike me, but a look of realization is on her face.

"Cecilia? She looks at her arm which holds the knife and is bleeding badly. She drops it. "Cecilia, what have I done?" She whispers. I look into her eyes and I see tears forming. "Alexandra? Is this really you?" The next thing I know we're hugging each other and crying. "I'm so sorry, Cecilia. I'm so sorry," Alexandra sobs. I can barely hear her though because I'm crying just as hard. Not just for what I've gained, but for what I've lost. I'm just about to tell Alexandra that it's okay, when I hear a familiar snickering.

"Snickers!" I yell. How could I have forgotten him? He was the real hero here. Alexandra and I swim over and she takes him in her arms. He freaks out at first, but then calms down, noticing the change in her. "I'm so sorry, Snickers. I didn't mean it," she says. He seems more traumatized then anything, but I don't notice any wounds on him. Alexandra looks at her arm and closes her eyes. My eyes widen when a second later it looks as good as new. She sees the look on my face and shrugs. If only I had those type of powers. My chest aches. I think of Stefan. I've lost him forever.

"I know what you did for me." I notice Alexandra is looking at me and I know she is reading my thoughts by the look on her face. "What?" I say trying to smile. "I tried to kill you. You could have wished I dropped dead on the spot. Or you could have wished you were with the boy you love as a human. But you saved me. You saved me," Alexandra says quietly. "You're my best friend. I did what any friend would do," I say feeling close to tears again. "No, I don't believe it. Not everyone would." She takes a deep breath and looks at Snickers. "You really love that boy don't you?" "Yes," I say softly. She nods. "I'm going to miss you." I frown. 'What are you talking about?" I ask. She looks at me. "I can make your dream come true." "You can make me...human?!" I can barely breath. Was this really happening? She smiles. A genuine smile. "Just take my hand," she says. "Will you tell my parents that I love them and that I'll be happy?" She nods. Then I throw my arms around her. I've dreamed of this moment for so long, but I never thought about how hard it would be to say good-bye.

"I can bring back your beauty so everything will be like before. I'll confess to everyone as well," I hear Alexandra say. I pull away. "No, don't tell anyone. I forgive you and that's enough for me. As for my beauty..." I turn and look at my reflection in the mirror. I always dreamed of a chance like this. To change the way I look. I've long hated my white blond hair, too pale skin, but now faced with the decision I realize I no longer care. This is how Stefan knows me, I say to myself. How he loves me. "I can stay just the way I am," I hear myself say. She smiles and blinks back tears. "Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you," she says in a low voice. I smile, not trusting my voice. "Let me do this before I can't," Alexandra says.

I hug Snickers one last time. I ask him to forgive me for ever calling him stupid. I'm pretty sure I hear him snicker smugly in reply. Finally I take Alexandra's hands. She closes her eyes. I feel nothing at first. Then a blinding pain shoots through my tail. I look down and see two human legs. Alexandra smiles and I realize I'm encased in an air bubble. I also notice I'm wearing a stunning light green floor length dress. "Good-bye Cecilia," Alexandra says, and I start to float away.


Alexandra

Snickers whimpers softly besides me as Cecilia floats out of sight. I sigh deeply. I'll miss her dearly. I'm also scared that without her I'll lose my way again. How am I going to be a good queen someday if I'm constantly worried and unsure of myself? I know I should go back home, but I swim towards the mirror. It's still. I guess it doesn't work anymore since the last wish has been used. I look the mirror up and down and my eyes stop when they come to the base of it. I'm surprised to see an open wooden treasure chest, full of jewels, diamond earrings, pearl necklaces, gold lockets, and a beautiful silver diamond tiara, among countless other items. I smile grimly to myself. I've been so paranoid about guarding the mirror I never noticed the treasure before! Snickers curiously swims around the treasure chest, then dives headfirst down into it.

"What are you doing? I ask playfully.

He lets out a distressed snicker. "Let me help you there, boy," I say as I gently ease his stuck head out of the box. I laugh as I see the diamond tiara stuck around his mouth. Snickers snorts indignantly. "I'm sorry." I carefully pull the crown off and Snickers swims away, clearly pouting. Still chuckling, I examine the crown. The jewels and design are intricate. It's an old crown. Probably scavenged from a human shipwreck and brought here many years ago by other merfolk. All of a sudden I notice an inscription on the inside of the crown. It says: "A true queen isn't recognized by her beauty or pearls. A true queen is known by her heart and actions."

All the way home the words echo in my ears. They ring so true to me. I feel like I've aged a million years since I entered that cave. As I near the gate to Pearl Reef I decide it's time to start again. Even without Cecilia I can do better. It's time to be a real princess, I say to myself.

Stefan

As I sit on the beach waiting for Cecilia at our spot, I feel sure life can't possibly get worse. Today is the last day before I leave for college and I haven't told Cecilia that I'll probably never see her again. I know it is selfish of me, but every time I've tried to tell her I get all locked up and the words won't come out. And now this is it. Maybe it's all for the best. If I can't man up and even speak to her about something as important as this, what kind of boyfriend would I make? Small consolation. I lay down and put my hands over my eyes. I wonder if heartbreak heals faster than they say, I think to myself. I've read some frightening stories of what guys do when they're heartbroken. According to doctors, if I don't become a drug addict or try to commit suicide, I'm doing good. Finding no hope there, I researched and looked for any myth or legend that said anything about making a mermaid human. Yeah, desperation makes you do funny things. Suddenly I hear a huge splash and I am covered in seawater. Thinking it's a shark or something I blindly start running away.

"Stefan! Wait!" I hear a voice call.

Still sputtering for air, and wiping the stinging water out of my eyes, I look to see who could have spoken. My heart stops. Standing a few feet away is Cecilia. Standing. With two human legs. Wearing a long gorgeous lime green dress that is old fashioned, but beautiful. I wonder briefly if the stress of the last few days has gotten to me. My dad will be sad. He really wanted me to model for the new winter line.

"Stefan, please don't be scared. It's me, Cecilia."

It really is her. I watch as she takes a step towards me and almost falls on the ground. I make a move towards her.

"Stefan! Let me do it on my own," she says as she holds up her hand.

It takes all my self control, but I obey. I watch again as she slowly starts making progress towards me. Her legs are weak and she trips and almost falls again. She looks up and smiles at me, and I know she's enjoying this challenge.

Cecilia

There are no words to describe how I feel as I take that last step and trip and fall into Stefan's arms. I feel my eyes fill with tears as I look up at his face. "You did it," he says, and it sounds like he's fighting back tears. He puts both his hands on my face. His forehead is pressed against mine. "I love you," I say in a whisper. "I love you, too," he says in a normal voice. Then he kisses me. I wrap my arms around his neck and wonder if I'm dreaming. Only in dreams when you pull away it's always the wrong guy. He pulls away first and I smile. Stefan is still real. My Stefan, I say to myself. "Um, I don't even know where to start," he says. We both laugh. "Neither do I," I say sniffing. "Seriously, how is this possible?" I smile and look out at the sea. "When you love someone, anything is possible."


LPH Writing Class stories 2013-2014