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To most mermaids, salt has a capital S, but Eadie is not your average siren.
"If being a siren means I’ll eventually have to leave everyone who ever meant anything to me, then I don’t want it."
I’m the youngest of a set of triplets, and I share little in common with my sisters. Larimar and Lazuli don’t seem bothered by the fact that they’re destined to live their semi-immortal lives controlled by their salt cycle. But after it took Mom, I flipped the ocean a set of double-birds. The salt can’t have me. My life is mine. My voice is mine. My fins and legs are both mine—and I prefer the latter.
I try to live as a normal highschool senior, but I have my own personal bully who makes my life hell. I have a serious crush on Seth Foster, who doesn't seem to know I exist, and a reputation as a socially awkward science whiz.
When I find a mermaid in salt-flush trapped inside a wreck, she is proof that the salt is a hateful master, with no compassion for those whose lives it ruins, whose memories and identities it erases.
Can the weakest link in the Jackson chain figure out a way to free her when my hard-earned front as a normal teenager starts to unravel.
Or have I picked a fight I cannot win?
Return to the siren realm of A.L. Knorr with Pretty Little Mermaids, which expands the lore established in Born of Water, Mermaid’s Return and The Siren’s Curse, but is set before the events of the latter. Aquamarine is a true YA contemporary fantasy, complete with high school angst, a prom, bullies, a sweet romance, team sports drama and family drama, all intertwined with the author's beloved mermaid mythology.
The paperback format of Aquamarine also contains the prequel novella: Cobalt.
Read Chapter One
Read Chapter One
Thump, thump, thump. My heart beats against my ribs like a caged bird desperate for freedom, or maybe it’s my soul’s desperate attempt to escape the confines of my physical form. Water has that effect on me. It tugs at me, pulls at the deep, dark recesses of my being, like the moon beckoning the tides. And I am destined to answer its call. All sirens are.
I close my eyes to block out the image of the girl in a swim cap, reflecting on the pool’s mirrored surface. Coach Carsen shouts critiques, but she isn’t talking to me. My ears are tuned for the blare of the horn and nothing else. Toes and fingers curl around the starter blocks; I move into position, raising my hips high. Coach sounds the horn and I launch into the crystal clear, chlorinated water. I break the surface, jetting straight into a front crawl. I am fastest off the block and in the lane. Sometimes I am too fast for my own good.
I reach the touch plate embedded in the tiled wall of the pool. After four lengths, I reach up to grip the pool’s edge, glance at the other lanes, then at the digital clock. I shaved two tenths of a second off my top time. Another hundred-meter record, shattered without even trying.
I am a martini shaker filled with mixed emotions.
I am supposed to pull back. My sisters made me agree to throw some races: Let someone else take first place. Sirens aren’t supposed to draw attention to themselves. Protect yourself. Protect your sisters. On land and in the water. Our mother drilled it into our heads from the day of our salt-birth until the day she left.
I pretend to gasp for breath as I prop my elbows on the pool deck and hug the wall. But I am not the only person putting on a show. Catherine Fisher, our team captain and president of the Eadie-is-a-doper fan club, puts her hands together in a slow unenthusiastic clap, glaring at the clock. She refuses to believe anyone can swim as fast as I do without assistance of a pharmaceutical nature.
She isn’t wrong. But she isn’t right either. My performance is enhanced, just not by drugs. A fact competitors have to prove to school administrators, the school board, and swim officials with drug tests before every meet. The lab results speak for themselves: I’m clean. My siren side goes undetected because they check for performance enhancers, not biological anomalies. Despite evidence to the contrary, Cathy remains convinced I am a user, and another record-breaking performance will do nothing to change her mind. I’m not surprised, Cathy has hated me since she joined Brightrock District Secondary School in our sophomore year, like a ghoul popping up out of nowhere. That year—the year she established her dominance over the girls in our grade with a reign of terror I hope is never repeated by anyone after her—her locker was right between mine and Lazuli’s. Cathy used her locker as a make-out station and Lazuli got tired of asking her and her flavor of the month to move. Finally, one day Lazuli said loud enough for the whole hallway to hear: “If I throw a stick, will you leave?!”
The guy Cathy was making out with couldn’t stop laughing, not to mention everyone else in the hall. Lazuli didn’t care if that meant war, but Cathy is my biggest competition, and now she’s team captain too. Hurrah for me.
Coach Carsen breaks into applause as the rest of my teammates hit the wall and their results flash on the digital screen. Regionals are in March, but Coach has her eyes on state—and so do I. It is my senior year. One of the best years of our lives, according to the nostalgic teachers and guidance counselors responsible for molding the futures of Brightrock, South Carolina’s youth. I want to make the most of high school because once it’s over, there’s no going back.
Coach calls the practice and sends us to the showers a half-hour earlier than usual. It is team photo day.
My sisters—Lazuli and Larimar, older than me by mere minutes—have never understood my obsession with collecting memories. They are eager to start new adventures, leave high school behind. They will get their wish soon enough. My aspirations feel simple compared to theirs: I want one final epic year of high school. I want to graduate with honors in science—the only class I realistically have a chance to get honors in—and to win for my swim team at state. I want my first real kiss, and to dance at prom with someone who makes my heart jump gears. Love, if possible, but that is pushing it, I know. I want a glimpse of a human happily-ever-after, or at least a happy-for-now. An all but impossible feat when I am one-third of the Jackson Three and the least notable outside of the pool.
My teammates file into the locker room, gossiping about the latest break-ups and hook-ups among the senior class. I long to join the conversation but I don’t have the courage. Lazuli mopped up Mom’s fearlessness and quick wit, Larimar got her intelligence and iron will. As the last one out, I guess I got the leftovers.
I shower and wrap my hair in a towel. Peeling out of my Mariners swimsuit, I dry off and pull on a pair of faded jeans and a loose V-neck sweater in a shade of blue that complements my eyes.
“I am still deciding between Grant and Joel.” Cathy grabs a wooden paddle brush from her locker and runs it through her thick auburn locks. “Musician or football star? I just don’t know which to choose. Grant has that bad-boy, rocker thing going on. I like his style, although I do find it a little manufactured.”
“You’d know,” snipes Aubrey, with a pointed glance at Cathy’s rubbery lips.
“Ha, ha.” Cathy throws a wet towel at Aubrey and misses.
I blink at their vitriolic display. Aubrey and Cathy are supposedly friends, but who needs enemies with friends like these?
Aubrey examines her skin in the mirror before popping the lid off a shade of red lipstick that I will never be brave enough to wear. She layers it on like a professional, without a smidge out of place, makes a kissy face, then eyes Cathy in the reflection. “There are also those musician’s hands to consider.”
I hide a blush behind my locker door as I rummage for my hair pick. How these girls got so blasé about sex over the course of a single summer has implications I cannot process. I’m sheltered compared to them, which is ironic, given that I’m a siren, and supposedly come with siren allure… Although I think someone forgot to tell my crush that he’s supposed to be inexplicably drawn to me. It seems to work for my sisters just fine, the guys can hardly keep their eyeballs in their heads when Larimar or Lazuli walk by.
“Joel is a quarterback,” Sarah interjects as she rubs hair gel that smells like pineapple between her hands before finger combing it through her curls. “I doubt there is anything wrong with his hands.”
“What happened to Colin?” Beth-Anne asks as she shoves her wet suit into the spinner and clamps the lid shut, making it buzz and whirl. “I thought you two would be homecoming king and queen for sure.”
“Colin?” Cathy waves her hand, brushing off the mention of one of the most popular and best-looking boys in school. “I broke it off with him in the summer. He got so clingy. Poor thing is devastated.” She makes an expression of plastic empathy.
A few girls exchange glances, a glimmer of hope in their eyes at the possibility of being the one to pick up the pieces and mend Colin’s heart. I have my doubts about whether he pined for Cathy; he is not the kind of guy who has trouble getting a date. None of Cathy’s exes are.
Alisha, a nice girl I shared my biology notes with last year, yanks me from my usual place in the background, thrusting me straight into the center of the conversation.
“What about you, Eadie?” she asks casually, one foot up on the pine bench as she ties her sneaker. “Got your eye on anyone special for senior year?”
The unexpected attention makes me feel like a frightened rabbit, frozen in the glare of oncoming halogen headlights. “I mean… I haven’t… thought about it.” I lie, scrambling to come up with a decoy. “I guess, if I have to pick—”
“Please,” Cathy scoffs. “You’re not picking anyone and no one is picking you.”
“Ignore her, Eadie.” Alisha grabs her gym bag and puts it over her shoulder. “You could have whoever you want. You’re smart, an amazing athlete, and really pretty.”
“Yeah, pretty weird,” Cathy mutters, shutting her locker and spinning the dial. She addresses Alisha rather than me, in typical Catherine Fisher fashion. “She barely talks to us. Can you imagine her talking to a guy? Everyone knows the Jackson Three are frigid, and no guy wants to curl up next to an ice princess.”
I don’t know why I worry about embarrassing myself when I have Cathy to do it for me.
The problem is, Cathy isn’t wrong. At least not about that. My sisters have done a stellar job of thwarting any and all romantic advances that come their way, starting day one of freshman year. They earned themselves—and me right along with them—our reputation as the Jackson Three: Untouchables. Unapproachables. Don’t-even-think-about-it-ables. They aren’t interested in high school boys. The message is so loud and clear it might as well have been printed on a long red banner and pulled behind a low-flying plane. But I am too shy and awkward to know how to show people that I’d rather not be lumped in with them.
I yank my backpack out of my locker, hitching it over my shoulder. The zipper slides open and two textbooks and a bunch of papers spill onto the floor. Sighing, I kneel down to collect them. Alisha comes over to help, compiling the papers into a neat stack. She looks at the one on top, a recent exam.
“You got ninety-nine percent on Mr. Harper’s biology test?” She looks up at me, impressed, and puts on a deep voice. “‘You’re a wizard, Harry.’”
I smile, taking the stack from her. “Thanks. I only wish I could score so well in math.”
“Swimming and science, that’s your wheelhouse, huh?”
“I guess so.” I worm into my team jacket, with its navy and yellow chevrons across the back.
We join the swim team following single file behind Cathy as she marches across the pool deck. Championship banners, rows of them, are always our backdrop for the team snaps. Coach lines everyone up by height, which means I am at the back. At five foot seven, I am among the tallest girls in senior year, but still almost two full inches shorter than my sisters. How that happened, given we were baked in the same womb at the same time, I’ll never know. Cathy and Coach Carsen stand together on the far right, the guiding hands of the Mariners swim team. We give our staged smiles and the camera captures us for posterity. The girls fall back into relaxed banter, laughing and teasing in the way that friends do. I envy their easy way with one another.
After dropping off my order form with the photographer, I leave school, crossing the freshly mowed lawn to the bike rack at the end of the sidewalk. Larimar had offered to pick me up, but I enjoy biking across town to our house.
It appears I am not the only one.
Grant, the musician Cathy is considering for a potential boyfriend, fiddles with the combination lock securing his bike to the rack. He’s new to BDSS, the kind of guy referred to by the senior girls as “fresh meat”. He glances my way, doing a double take. To Grant’s credit, Jackson infamy doesn’t prevent him from talking to me.
“Hey, you’re one of the Jackson girls, right?” He gives up on the lock and rises to his full height. He has several inches on me, which puts him around six feet. “We have trig together.”
“Right. Ms. Harris’s class.” I hope I sound convincing. In truth, I haven’t noticed him. I’ve been too consumed with angles and ratios to notice. I like school, except for math. Mom told us that no mermaid likes math, but I don’t know how she could possibly know that.
“You have no idea I sit right behind you, do you?” Grant grips the top of the bike rack and leans against the metal frame. One leg crosses over the other at the ankle. I admit that he does have that rock-star vibe Cathy likes: too-long, roughed-up hair, chipped black nail polish, and smudges of eyeliner across his bottom lids. I can see why she’s considering him.
His brown eyes twinkle. “I guess the rumors are true.”
“Rumors?” I swing one leg over my bike in preparation for a hasty retreat, pretending not to know what he’s talking about.
“That the Jackson sisters are too busy preparing to take over the world to have time for the guys at Brightrock High.” Grant’s lopsided grin reveals a small dimple in his left cheek.
I deflate with a relieved sigh. I’ve heard worse. Ice princess. Frigid and rigid. Flinty and linty (sirens like natural fibers, so sue us). World domination is a welcome change and—when it comes to Larimar and Lazuli—not far off the mark, especially if you swap “world” for “ocean.”
“I’m just trying to make it to graduation.” I put my foot on the pedal, ready to push off. I know better than to engage in conversations like this. I’ve had plenty with Cathy and her besties, and they always end the same way, with me looking like an idiot.
“So, you’re not too busy then. Just school and the swim team?” He turns the last half of his sentence into a question, pointing at my team jacket. “Or the dive team? You don’t strike me as a surfer.”
“I actually love to surf.” I turn my handlebars, pointing the tire toward the parking lot. I’m done with school, with practice, and I’m hungry.
“Yeah? I guess I better learn how then.” Grant cranks up the voltage on his thousand-watt smile. “Maybe you can teach me sometime?”
I pause, blinking. Is he making a pass at me? He is. Definitely new here. The only time I’ve been hit on in actual years, and it’s from the wrong guy. Even if Cathy didn’t have her sights on Grant, I’m not interested. There’s only one guy at BDSS that I’d love to teach to surf, but he’s even better at it than I am, and there’s the minor problem of him not knowing I exist.
“Maybe.” I glance at my watch. Half-past five. “See you around.”
I pull away before he can say more. My sisters will have started fixing dinner, and I’ll never hear the end of it if I’m not there to pull my weight. We split everything in thirds and do our best to keep our home organized since Mom left.
I spare a glance over my shoulder as I turn onto the road. Grant is still watching me from the bike rack. I smile to myself. He’s no Seth Foster, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I hadn’t enjoyed being flirted with. He’ll stop after he’s been around a while. I’m still smiling as I take the roundabout exit and head toward the water.
Brightrock is home to South Carolina’s prettiest harbor, a busy tourist marina, and a roaring fishing industry. Most of the Painted Lady Victorian homes around the town square have been converted into cozy bed-and-breakfasts, and you can’t throw a frisbee without hitting a seafood restaurant. On this autumn evening the sun turns the horizon into a million shades of orange and pink. It’s too warm to need my team jacket, but the breeze lifts the hair at my temples and cools me down. The busy summer season has come to a close. The tourists who flocked to our beaches for surfing and sunbathing have long ago packed up their boards and blankets. Our population, which doubles and sometimes triples during peak season, has dwindled to locals only. I love this town and the place our family has carved out in it. The beach where we have bonfires most summer nights, the quaint shops, the smell of the ocean in the air, and the screams of gulls.
I wind my way through town, passing Henrietta’s Café, where I work as a barista on weekends and holidays, then cross a narrow bridge over a freshwater stream. Businesses and expensive summer rentals are replaced by sand dunes and beach grass. Our house sits at the end of a dead-end street, quiet, and right on a low bluff, with a stunning view of the Atlantic and a little-used cove that’s perfect for midnight swims. All the houses along our road have big yards, so even though we have a neighbor on the south side, they seem far away. We have a beach road and boardwalk running between us and the water that gets zero to no traffic.
As I reach our home, I pause and admire the horizon, thinking of Mom. Things aren’t always easy. We’ve had our share of heartbreak, but for the most part, we’re alright. I’m alright. As long as I don’t think too hard about whether I’ll ever see her again, or the cycles that will eventually try to rule my life.