Mermaids Never Drown – Read a Tale to Dive For

Article | Issue: Jan 2024

Mermaids Never Drown: Tales to dive for contains 14 Young Adult short stories from bestselling and award-winning authors. They make a splash and explore mermaids like we’ve never seen them before! Read one of the short stories.

We’ll Always Have June

Julian Winters

I’m 10 years old the first time the ocean whispers her name to me:

Death.

One moment, I’m on the edge of the boat, singing along to the music coming from someone’s phone. My mums are laughing with their friends on the other end of the deck. Then we hit a wave. I lose balance and the ocean takes me.

She doesn’t embrace me like a concerned parent. No, she swallows me like a starved shark.

The descent is quick. I’d secretly slipped out of my life jacket 10 minutes ago because we were headed back to shore, and it felt so constricting while I sang. Now, the ocean’s strong fingers tug on me. I fight to hold my breath. I thrash and kick, but I’m not a great swimmer, so I sink.

Down, down, down.

Everything slows like the space between the end of a dream and waking up. I almost don’t believe someone is swimming toward me.

A boy, who looks my age, but different.

His eyes are amber like Mum’s favourite pair of teardrop earrings. Short locs dance in the current. Rich brown skin all the way to his navel. After that, it’s a burst of fire and gold. He has a tail. The scales shimmer like a slice of the sun.

But shock and fear seize my limbs. It’s just the two of us in the pounding silence of the sea.

His small hands catch my limp arms. He studies me with sad, bright eyes. Carefully, he pinches my nose and leans in. His mouth covers mine. It’s not a kiss. He exhales small pockets of breath into me. The coil around my lungs loosens.

I’m . . . alive.

He propels us up. I don’t struggle. I let this boy with a tail rip me from Death’s determined hands.

In the distance, I hear the ocean again. This time it shrieks my name:

Kai!

Or maybe that’s my mums. They find me spluttering on the shore. Soaked clothing pinning me to the soft, grainy sand. Salty water burning my eyes, scratching my throat.

Echoes of ‘Are you okay?’ surround me. Am I? My only response is, ‘A boy . . . saved my life.’ I know what he is, but I don’t want to say it out loud. Not yet.

No one listens. And the boy with a tail and careful touch is gone.

 

***

 

Six Junes Later

‘What’s the worst that could happen?’

Nothing good has ever come of those words, especially when said from the wolfish mouth of Vicente Pérez.

We’re at our favourite spot – the railing leading down to the beach. The sky’s an explosion of crimson and tangerine. Sunset looks nice on his tawny complexion.

Vic knots his hair into a messy bun. ‘Just ask him out already.’

Me and Vic are complete opposites. He’s loud and reckless. I’m chill, cautious. Even down to our bodies – where he’s short and defined, I’m long and lean, a level above scrawny.

We’ve lived on Talisa Island, a coastal town deep in the belly of Georgia, all our lives. Nine months out of the year, nothing really changes around here. But summers are different. Every June, tourists pour into our town for the beach and ocean. One of those visitors is Marc O’Brien, the boy who’s stolen my attention for the last two summers.

Even from here, I can see him kicking a soccer ball along the shore with kids from my school. Floppy ginger hair like a crown of flames. I can picture the spill of freckles across his face contrasting with his very green eyes.

‘Your pining is embarrassing.’ Vic hops off the railing, checking his phone. ‘And my break’s over.’ He works part-time at the surf shop. I pick up shifts at my mums’ restaurant. Being a busser isn’t glamorous but I’m already saving up for college. I’m looking at universities closer to the city. Far from the ocean.

‘So,’ Vic begins, a smile teasing his lips, ‘band rehearsal tomorrow?’

I roll my eyes. We’ve had this conversation a hundred times. Vic plays bass guitar in an amateurish cover band. He’s tried persuading me to sing lead for years. Everyone said I had a beautiful voice when I was younger, but I haven’t sung in front of people since almost drowning, only to myself or when goofing off with Vic in my bedroom.

I worry the moment I sing in public again, something awful will be waiting to swallow me whole.

‘We need you, Kai,’ Vic continues. ‘We landed a gig at my dad’s karaoke bar.’

‘I’ll think about it,’ I lie.

It’s the same answer every time.

Halfway back to the main road, Vic pauses. He looks out toward the beach, where Marc is still dribbling a soccer ball between his feet, then to me. ‘Kai,’ Vic shouts, eyebrows waggling, ‘you’re a six-foot god! Stop being scared. Any boy would be bananas not to want you.’

I wave him off, nose wrinkled. If my best friend only knew about the boy I really dream about.

 

MEET THE EDITORS

 

Zoraida Córdova authorZoraida Córdova started writing when she was 13 years old and hasn’t stopped. As a teen, she attended the National Book Foundation’s writing camp. She studied English Literature and Latino Studies but neglected her classes in order to write the book that would be her debut novel.

Since 2012, Zoraida has written more than two dozen novels and short stories. Her 2016 novel Labyrinth Lost, book one in the Brooklyn Brujas trilogy, won an International Latino Book Award.

When she’s not writing, Zoraida serves on the board of We Need Diverse Books, cohosts the writing podcast, Deadline City, and develops intellectual property for Cake Creative & Electric Postcard Entertainment as a Tastemaker. She’s the editor of the SFF anthology, Reclaim the Stars, co-editor of the bestselling anthology Vampires Never Get Old, and occasionally writes adult romance novels as Zoey Castile and other pseudonyms.

Zoraida was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and calls New York City home. When she’s not working, she’s roaming the world in search of magical stories.

 

Natalie C Parker authorNatalie C Parker is the author and editor of several books for young adults among them the acclaimed Seafire trilogy. Her work has been included on the NPR Best Books list, the Indie Next List, and the TAYSHAS Reading List, and in Junior Library Guild selections.

Natalie grew up in a navy family finding home in coastal cities from Virginia to Japan. Now, she lives with her wife on the Kansas prairie.

 

Author: Kalynn Bayron Julie Murphy Kerri Maniscalco

Category: Fiction & related items

Book Format: Paperback / softback

Publisher: Titan Books

ISBN: 9781803368122

RRP: $19.99

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