Over the course of the next few weeks Kemena and Penny spent nearly every day at Penny’s pool. Every once in a while Penny would come over to swim at Kemena’s house, but Penny’s pool was the only place where she could swim freely as herself.
When she was home with Kemena Penny no longer swam as human: she was always her true self. She grew comfortable enough that she would even sit on the edge of the pool with her tail dipped in the water and chat as if there was nothing unusual. For her part Kemena didn’t think it was strange that her best friend had a tail and could breathe underwater.
Right before school started Leigh bought Kemena a cosmetic mermaid tail and swim fin like the ones used by women who rented themselves out as mermaids for parties and other entertainment. It didn’t take long for Kemena to learn how to swim underwater alongside Penny, though the best she could hope for was perhaps a minute before she had to break the surface and catch a breath.
Every so often Penny would invite over her other friends, lease they thought there was something strange about the two girls spending so much time together. Still, though, it was only when she was swimming with Kemena that Penny felt both most relaxed most happy. She loved the fact she had a friend who knew her secret and didn’t mind that she was different.
The return to school meant Penny could not spend as much time in the pool as she had during the summer, but every night after finishing her homework, she would find time to dive in and swim. These nocturnal swims were done without Kemena and it was only on the weekends but they were now able to get together and enjoy a few hours in the water.
It was also during this time after returning to school that Penny began to learn more about her mother’s pod, or lease what her mother remembered of her time there. After so much time away Leigh’s memories were slightly fuzzy, though she had no need to worry that she was about to forget large chunks of her childhood. As she explained to her daughter, a mermaid’s memory didn’t deteriorate like those of some humans, and while they may not remember everything with perfect clarity, they still remembered enough that they could pass on stories from the childhood to great-great-grandchildren a hundred years later. As she explained, the story she was telling Penny today she would still be able to tell to Penny’s young grandchildren perhaps sixty or seventy years in the future.
As the end of the school year approached so did Penny’s birthday, which fell on May 31. Lee knew that this one, her eleventh, was going to be special, as her daughter had learned of her true existence only a few days after her tenth birthday the year before.She considered the possibility of splurging on a vacation to either the Florida Keys or the Bahamas, where they could find remote stretches of beach that they could both swim along as themselves. She wanted to ask Penny about this first, however, because there was always the possibility that she might want to ask Kemena along.
When her eleventh birthday arrived Penny went to school as she always did but returned that evening with Kemena in tow, as she had been invited to Penny’s birthday dinner. They went out for pizza and ice cream before returning home and opening a few presence that both Leigh and Kemena had bought for her.
It was after all this was over that Leigh brought up the idea of going somewhere for the summer where they could swim in peace. Penny listened politely, but Leigh could tell there was something on her daughter’s mind. “You’re deep in thought tonight.”
Penny nodded. “I was thinking of something else for the summer.”
“And what’s that?”
Penny glanced at Kemena for second before turning to her mother. “I was thinking I’d like to go live with the pod for a while.”