The summer cabin was wonderful. We all thought so. It was white with blue trim around the windows and doors. The roof was gray like mist. I had been waiting all summer to visit this cabin, but it was the beach I was most eager to see.
My name is Jasmine, and I love the beach. I love the sound of the waves, finding empty shells on the sand, swimming. The pretty little cabin my parents, my little brother, and I were staying in was on the edge of a little forest, right near the beach. I would be able to go down every day!
When we arrived, I hauled my two bags into the cabin, helped my little brother, Cody, carry in his five, and then had to wait patiently while my parents slowly explored the cabin.
“So, Jasmine, Cody, do you want to have lunch first?” Mom asked.
“No thanks!” I said, then turned and ran out the door, onto the beach. The sand was unbelievably hot, so I leapt into the water. It was very, very cold. I stood there, shivering as I waded slightly deeper. Then I heard her voice.
“Is it cold?”
I turned around and saw a girl. She looked like she was my age, but she was really tall, at least three inches taller than me. She had light brown skin, like mine, and big gray-blue eyes. Her hair was black and really long. Wait, was there a breeze? I couldn’t feel one, but the girl’s hair was waving steadily, like the gentlest puff of wind was passing by.
“Is it cold?” she repeated. Her voice was soft and it reminded me of wind chimes.
“Um, yeah,” I said, “it’s pretty cold.”
She nodded and put one foot into the waves. She kept wading in until she was farther in than I was. She was wearing jeans, but she didn’t seem to mind getting them wet. She didn’t bother pulling them up. She smiled. “Doesn’t seem that cold to me,” she said.
I stared at her. “You’re kidding, right?” I asked.
The girl smiled and shook her head. We stood there for a while. I was shivering, while the girl just stared peacefully out to sea.
“Um,” I said, wanting to hear the girl say something else, “so, what’s your name?”
The girl cocked her head. “Does that matter?” she asked.
“Well, uh…” I stammered, unsure how to reply.
The girl shrugged and her hair slid over her shoulders. Was it shimmering? “But,” the girl continued slowly, “you can call me Aqua.” She nodded her head thoughtfully, like she thought her name sounded good. “Aqua…”
I saw her mouthing the word, as if she was trying it out.
“Aqua,” I said, “that’s a nice name. Mine is Jasmine.”
The girl smiled, but didn’t say anything.
I shifted my feet in the icy water. “I’m getting out of the water,” I said. “Do you, um… want to look for shells with me?”
Aqua’s gray-blue eyes lit up. “Yeah!” she said, and splashed to shore. “Come on.” I followed Aqua out of the water. She was already holding a shell. “I found one,” she said, gesturing to the shell. “Want it?”
I declined the offer, and Aqua settled the shell into her pocket.
All day we hunted for shells, smooth pebbles, beach glass, and driftwood. Aqua found the most of everything. Things just seemed to leap out at her, including a little green crab that practically jumped into her hand. It didn’t pinch her or anything. It just scuttled up and down her wrist. Aqua laughed and set it back on the sand. After we were done hunting for shells and other treasures, we spread them on some big logs. Aqua started laying her stuff on the sand again, making intricate patterns.
“Maybe…” I said, “maybe you could come over and have a snack with my family? I can ask, if you want.”
Aqua shrugged and smiled happily. “Sure,” she said.
I stood up, brushed the sand off my knees, and started up to the cabin. “You can wait here, if you want,” I said. “I’ll just go and ask my parents.”
Aqua nodded, trailing her fingers in the soft sand. I ran up to our little cabin and pushed the door open.
“Mom! Dad!” I called.
My mom pushed her head around the corner. “What?” she asked. “And if you’re asking why we didn’t come down to the beach, Cody jammed the peanut butter jar on his head. I don’t know how, or why, but he did.”
Yep. That sounded like my little brother. Last year, he got stuck under a bus seat.
“Um, well,” I said, “I was going to ask if a girl I met could come here for a snack.”
Mom nodded, “Oh sure. We almost have Cody’s head free.” She disappeared around the corner again.
I walked back down to the beach. “Hey, Aqua!” I called. “You can come over for a snack.”
Aqua bounded over and smiled. She didn’t say anything, as usual, but followed me back to the cabin. I introduced Aqua to my parents. Aqua didn’t even ask about a half-empty peanut butter jar being thrown away or about a very peanut-buttery Cody, who joined us before being dismissed to wash his face.
After a while, Aqua said she had to go home. I watched her walk down the beach until she disappeared from sight. Aqua came over every day. She loved the beach even more then I did. She was nice, but I noticed even more weird things the more I got to know her. It always looked like she was in one of those weird shadows that you see underwater, and her hair was always moving, like it was being tugged by a steady current. She never talked much, and she was always ready to eat.
Things got weirder and weirder. One day, I found her with a little ring of seagulls all around her. She was talking to them, just like they were people. The seagulls cocked their heads and flapped their wings in response to everything that Aqua said. When I said, “Aqua? What are you doing?” all of the seagulls flew away.
But Aqua was really fun. She always found pretty shells, she loved playing games, and she could swim like a seal. I’m serious. She was faster than an Olympic swimmer.
Then one day she didn’t come to the beach.
“Aqua!” I yelled. “Aqua!” I was walking down the beach with Cody, shouting for Aqua.
“Why are you so frantic?” Cody asked. “She was kind of weird anyway.”
“But she was fun,” I protested, “and don’t call anyone weird, it’s not nice.”
“OK, OK,” Cody said, “but how about we…” Cody looked around for something to do. “How about we have a swimming competition? We’re both wearing our bathing suits. Maybe one of us can actually win without Aqua around.”
“Well,” I looked around, “we haven’t ever been swimming here…”
“Aw, please?” Cody begged. “Just one little race? I’m dying to have a fair chance at a race! Please?”
I looked out at the water. It seemed cool and inviting. “OK,” I said, “but just one race.”
“Yes!” Cody cheered. “Ready, set, go!”
Cody darted into the waves. I was close behind. It hadn’t occurred to us to mark a spot to swim to, so I kept going for a while. After a while, I figured that I’d gone far enough, and I should go back. Then I felt the current tug on my legs. For a moment, nothing happened. Then I was wrenched under the water. I swam up, but I didn’t get anywhere. The current swirled me around madly. I clawed my way up. I broke the surface and gasped for breath and I heard Cody yelling from the beach. I tried to yell back, but I was yanked under again. I choked on the water. I had no more air in my lungs.
I’m going to die, I thought, I’m going to die. I closed my eyes.
For whatever reason, I started thinking about Aqua. I started seeing her blue-gray eyes in front of me. My eyes snapped open. Aqua’s eyes were in front of me. Then I saw her body forming in front of me. Forming out of bubbles. Then she solidified. It was Aqua, right in front of me. But she was different. Her skin was tinged a greenish-blue, and her hair was a dark, dark green. She smiled at me, revealing sharp teeth. Her eyes were the same though. The exact same. But I had no more strength. Before I closed my eyes, I saw Aqua’s smile fade, and a look of concern flashed across her face. My eyes were closed, but I felt something push me up. I felt air on my face and, instinctively, I gasped for air. Something was still pushing me. No, Aqua was pushing me out of the current. She had no trouble pushing me out of the swirling water. She kept going until my feet touched the wet sand of the shallow water. I started crawling to the beach and felt Cody tugging my arm. I heard him yelling about something. As soon as I felt dry sand, I threw myself onto the ground.
“Just stay here, Jasmine!” Cody yelled. “I’ll get Mom and Dad!” He ran off.
“Aqua?” I rasped. I heard the waves whisper something… What was it? I listened harder.
“You were saved by the child…” the waves said, “the Ocean Child.”
Aqua… the Ocean Child.