She was surprisingly fast in the high heels and I caught up with her at the end of the street.
“There’s a river through the town centre,” I said. “Or the sea’s not far. We could get a train out there if you wait til morning. Should I request an Uber to the station?”
“What’s an Uber?” Faith asked. But I didn’t answer. I was desperately rummaging in my pockets.
“If you’re looking for your phone I stole it,” she said over her shoulder. “I threw it away.”
“Why?” I asked.
“You won’t need it when we get home, and besides haven’t you ever heard of adventure? What’s the fun in getting an Uber when you can explore?”
“I thought you didn’t know what Uber was,” I grumbled falling into step with her.
We walked for what seemed like hours: out of the suburban huddle of houses where I lived and into wide, open fields, interspersed with country lanes. I had long since lost track of where we were and simply followed Faith as she seemed to follow her instincts. Eventually though, I had to ask.
“How do you know which way to go?”
“I’m drawn to water,” she answered, “I can sense which direction it’s in, feel its flow towards the sea.”
Her words sparked a memory of a family photo album. Dozens of pictures of me in my swimming costume, with armbands and rubber rings and all sorts of other inflatables. Me splashing in the pool, in the sea, in a stream, looking for critters in rock pools… ‘You always were a water baby,’ I heard my mother’s voice in my head, ‘a real natural.’
I gulped and turned to Faith, finding her already looking at me with a warm smile on her face. “We’re all drawn to it. Try it, tell me where the river is.”
I paused and was about to ask how but then I felt it. It was like a gentle breeze against my conscience, soothing, quietly beckoning. I raised a hand and pointed in the direction it told me. Faith beamed.
She kicked off her heels and scooped them up in her arms. She was a few inches shorter than me without them. “Race you!” she shouted, bounding off across the field in the direction I’d pointed. I laughed and shook my head, then struck by a sudden, urgent need to be near to water, I ran after her.
I was panting by the time I found her, paddling her bare feet in the shallow river’s edge, staring out at the beginnings of the sunrise.
“Let’s take a break here,” Faith said, sitting down on the river bank, feet still in the water. “We can rest and I can try and contact someone.”
I nodded and began taking off my shoes and socks. I dumped them on the grass, along with my jacket, and sat next to her, splashing my own feet in the stream.
Faith took out the seashell again and filled it with water from the river. She put it to her ear again but shook her head sadly.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “I’ve never been cut off from everyone before.”
“Who’s everyone?” I asked.
“Our sisters, our father. Every creature of the sea… Keep up.”
“What are you?” I asked quietly. She looked at me expectantly. “Fine, what are we?”
Faith sighed. “I suppose I have time to explain now, don’t I?”
I watched the sun paint the sky pink and gold as it dawned over the lush green countryside and listened to my would-be sister.
“We’re Sirens. Not mermaids, I don’t want anyone thinking I’m one of those fishtailed freaks. We’re water guardians. It’s our duty to keep the sea safe.”
“I feel like the sea can take care of itself, I mean, it’s pretty big.”
“It’s not the sea so much as the things in it. We protect them from predators, pollution… and man.”
Her face suddenly turned solemn. “Human ships don’t belong in the sea. They’re too big and they’re full of oil which pollutes and hurts our creatures.” Then she smiled and chuckled a little. “It’s why we have a reputation for luring sailors to their doom.”
“What are your powers then?” I asked her. “If you protect the whole sea, how do you do it?”
“Well, like I showed you we can manipulate water, summon light – basic arcane stuff. But mostly we use our voices. Up here, in the air, there’s not much we can do with them. But down there, under the water, they’re the most powerful weapon we have.”
She looked wistful for a moment, smiling and gazing out at the lightening sky. She was even more beautiful now, bathed in the golden light of sunrise – truly otherworldly.
And apparently we were related.
I shook my head. I was delusional: it was impossible.
“I’m sorry,” I gulped. She cocked her head at me. “I’m sorry, I just – I can’t believe all this. You’ve got the wrong person.”
She gently put a hand on my arm, staring at me with those turquoise eyes full of concern. “Why would you say that?”
I felt shame moisten my eyes and tighten my throat. “How can I be related to you? You’re so beautiful and I’m so… not. And how could I be a Siren? I’m quiet and I’m shy, I’m the furthest thing possible from a Siren! I’m… I’m nobody, I’m nothing. I’m not important enough for some crazy destiny like this.”
Faith didn’t reply straight away. Her face turned dark, her eyes simmered with anger and her mouth tightened, as if she were holding something back.
Quietly, almost menacingly, she said: “is that what they’ve made you believe?”
She swung her legs around to sit cross-legged on the ground, splashing us both as her feet breached the water’s surface, and faced me fully. Gripping both my shoulders she stared long and hard into my eyes. Fury danced in them. Fury… and sadness.
“You will never say those things about yourself ever again,” she growled. “Don’t you ever think you’re anything less than perfect.”
Tears were trickling down my cheeks by now. Tears for all the times the bullies had called me weird. Tears for all the times I’d doubted myself. Tears for all the times I’d held myself back from life, because I didn’t think I was good enough.
“I don’t want to wake up from this dream.” My voice cracked. For I could not remember ever feeling as right as I did in that moment. The flow of the river soothed my mind, while the presence of this beautiful, golden woman soothed my soul. I felt a connection to her. I felt it. I could almost see it, like a hot, burning rope of light binding us together at the waist.
“It’s not a dream,” Faith whispered, pressing her forehead against mine. Tears fell from her eyes now too, hot and wet on my arms. “You’re coming home, Serenity, you’re coming home. And nobody will ever make you feel worthless again. If they do, they’ll have me to deal with.”