Molly McIntire marched down to the pond, muttering to herself. “‘Visit a freshwater lake or pond and identify four animals and plants living there. Take photos of the animals/plants and make a collage which you show to your family, leader, or unit.'”
She had memorized the requirements for American Heritage Girls’ Freshwater and Marine Biology badge. The one she was repeating to herself was the one she was hoping to accomplish that day.
The breeze carried a soft, mesmerizing melody to her ears. Molly rushed down to the pond and clamped her hand over her mouth. She had discovered the source of the music.
In the shallows were two mermaids. One was lounging in the ankle-deep water, her grand sky-blue tail flopping lazily. The other was perched on a rock, running her fingers through her long, wavy, dark brown hair. The pink mermaid on the rock was the one singing.
An amazed, barely audible sound wheezed out of Molly’s mouth. Mermaids.
The mers’ heads snapped in Molly’s direction. The blue one darted behind some aquatic plants, while the pink one cowered behind a boulder.
“I won’t hurt you! Please come back out!” Molly begged desperately. In the past, she’d met sprites, but never mermaids.
Slowly, the pink mermaid poked her head above the boulder. She seemed to think that Molly wasn’t a threat, because she said, “I’m Brisa. Who are you, human?”
“Molly McIntire,” she gasped, overjoyed.
Brisa waved at her blue friend, urging her to emerge from behind the pond plant. “Hello, Molly. What brings you to Murky Pond?”
Molly sat on the rocks next to the mermaids. She could scarcely believe that there were mermaids in the pond — but the fact that they wanted to talk to her was almost too much. She stammered, “I’m, um . . . working on a badge for my s-scouting troop. Freshwater and Marine Biology. I need to take pictures of . . . four animals or plants in a pond.”
“Oh, we can help with that!” chirped the blue one. “I’m Alana, by the way. Brisa, we can help her out, can’t we?”
Brisa nodded. Then she dove into the pond without another word.
“Oh, no!” Molly cried, peering into the muddy water. “Alana, where did she go?”
“Don’t get your tail in a tizzy. She swims off all the time,” Alana explained.
They waited for her to return, occasionally catching a glimpse of Brisa’s watermelon-pink tail streaking across the pond.
A minute later, Brisa popped out of the water. Her pink-streaked hair lay flat against her head, water dripping from the ends. She pointed to the far end of the pond. “Quick, Molly!” she exclaimed. “I stirred up the fish. They’re near the surface. You can get a picture!”
Molly pulled the camera out of her AHG vest’s inside pocket. She scampered over to the fish, who were gulping air bubbles on the surface, and took a picture. She glanced down at her camera screen to view the photograph:
“Perfect, thank you!” Molly beamed. “Now I only need three more pictures.”
“Frog!” Alana squealed, flopping through the shallows after the amphibian. “Don’t you worry,” she panted, “I’ll catch ‘im . . .”
Brisa caught a floating, flower-like plant with the tip of her tail and pushed it toward Molly. “How about this?”
Molly took a picture, just as Alana held a slimy mud-brown frog triumphantly above her head. She photographed that, too, a moment before it squirmed out of Alana’s grasp.
“Just one more picture! What else is there to photograph in this pond?” Molly asked.
The girl and the mermaids sat in silence, thinking. Three minutes had passed before Alana edged over to Brisa and whispered something to her. A shocked expression flashed over her face, but Alana stared at her pleadingly. Reluctantly, Brisa sighed and nodded.
Alana faced Molly and suggested hesitantly, “How about us?”
Molly’s jaw dropped. “You?” she spluttered. “But — but what if someone finds out that you live in my pond? What if they come and take you away? What if –“
“It’s OK!” Alana urged. “We want to help you. If anyone finds out that we’re here, run to tell us and we’ll move on. Somehow,” she said with a small smile.
Molly took a deep breath. “Thank you so much,” she gushed. “Thank you, thank you!”
Brisa and Alana posed, and the camera clicked.
Molly thanked them again, waved, and headed back to the house. She looked at the picture on the camera’s screen and smiled.