“The Calling” Scene 31: “The Adventure”

Kemena stopped along the side of the mountain road and took in the view of Landeck, Austria, and the Inn valley, situation about eight hundred feet below. Penny and she had been hiking up the road for about an hour after being dropped off by a drive, who said he’d come and pick them up when they called. And it was a good day for a hike, with the sky clear and temperatures in the low 80s that still made the mountain air feel just a touch cooler than the same temperature would feel back home.

She looked back down the road at her hiking partner who was still about fifty feet away. “Come on, Ariel.”

Penny stopped and exhaled hard. “I wish you wouldn’t call me that.”

“Well, it would be easier not to if your mother’s genes didn’t decide to take over your hair.”

Penny looked up at the locks hanging in her face. “True that.” In the last five years since they married, Penny’s hair had begun turning from the dirty blond she’d had as a child into a luxurious mane of cascading red locks. Leigh told daughter during last year’s visit to the pod that this sometimes happened and there was little anyone could do.
As Kemena had also remarked on a few occasions, the red hair made Penny’s gray eyes look that much more incredible as well as imposing—and also a lot more alluring.

Penny finally pulled alongside her wife and turned her gaze out upon the valley below. After a suitable amount of time she sighed. “That is so beautiful.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Kemena gave Penny a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you for bringing me here, my darling.”

Penny shrugged as she wrapped an arm around Kemena’s waist. “Last couple years we went to the Bahamas and to the Keys, so since you been asking to go the mountains for a while, I figured this would be a good place to spend our fifth anniversary.”

This was something that Kemena loved greatly, that Penny had made arrangements nearly a year before so they could spend a vacation in the Alps, and that in three days time they would be having an anniversary dinner in Vienna before going to the opera.

It was all part of the Grand Adventure…

Since marrying Penny had never given the slightest hint that she was interested in anyone else, nor that she ever wanted to return to the pod. Kemena was aware that another five to ten years from now they could be a different story, but she didn’t believe that to be true. Penny was dedicated to her and loved her tremendously, so she felt no fear that The Calling would take her love from her.

She wasn’t even concerned with the six-week visits Penny spent every summer at the pod. She understood the need: her mother and family lived there, as well as a few of her mermaid friends, so every June she traveled to the Oregon coast with her wife to see her off, and would be there with a rented boat to pick her up when it was time to come home.

And while she was aware of the possibility that Penny might decide to bond with one of her friends while visiting the pod, she didn’t consider it important. Any it explained again and again how mermaids were not monogamous, and that if someone wants to bond with you it’s an indication that they love you more deeply than they love the other members of the pod. Kemena knew that Singing Nymph and Curious Squid loved her wife tremendously and given that neither of those mermaids would ever come to Albuquerque and tried to take her wife away, she was of the opinion that what happened in the pod could surely stay in the pod.

All this knowledge meant Kemena was secure in her relationship with Penny. She knew her wife loved her, and she loved her little mermaid dearly.

Kemena leaned in to Penny. “Can we just sit here for a while and look at this? I want to remember this moment.”

“Sure, why not?” Penny led her wife to the edge of the road where they found a large rock to sit upon. They held hands as they sat and gazed upon the splendor before them. “It’s not like were going anywhere soon…”

 

The End

“The Calling” Scene 30: “The Vows”

The Ariel left her slip Portland’s Tomahawk Bay Marina at 9 AM sharp and began her three hour journey down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. There were two occupants aboard, both women, one of whom had taken lessons for the last six months to learn how to pilot a sixty-four foot long yacht. They stopped at Astoria to pick up one passenger, a woman, then headed out of the Columbia River into the ocean before turning due south.

Little was said during the trip. Penny sat on the flying bridge and pretty much allowed the boat to pilot itself, while Kemena busied herself with chores, preparing the main cabin for their expected guests. Her problem was she had ninety minutes work to do over the course of four hours, which meant by the time they reached the Pacific Ocean she was antsy and ready to begin entertaining.

Penny wasn’t worried she’d find the location for which she was aiming: a few weeks before she’d been out in the stretch of ocean with a GPS locater placed inside a waterproof, pressure proof case, and marked the location with incredible precision. It also built during this time that she extended invitations to the guest were arriving for the special event.

Technically, Penny and Kemena had married two weeks earlier in Albuquerque, with Kemena’s mother and relatives in attendance, and they were on their honeymoon–but both women knew that the real vows were going to take place today. For it was one thing to take your vows in front of human parents of one bride: it was something else to take them in front of the family and friends of the other.

And these vows would be quite unlike the others…

As soon as the Ariel was within a few hundred feet of their intended destination Penny cut the engines and sent out a ping on the sonar. She hurried down to the main cabin and out to the fantail, for she knew it wouldn’t be long before the guests would arrive. Penny had already placed all the robes on the stern deck in anticipation for those coming.

As Penny expected, a number of heads broke the surface around the boat and made her way to the fantail. Penny, Kemena, and the third woman—a mermaid named Gloria who’d been living on the West Coast now for eighteen years—helped everyone aboard, giving them time to transform their tails into legs before helping them into robes and leading them to the main cabin.

Leigh—who was now sporting a small sunburst tattoo on her right shoulder—took it upon herself to introduce Kemena to the other women in the cabin. After all these years of hearing there names, she was finally able to eat meat Singing Nymph, Curious Squid, Penny’s binding grandmothers Swirling Maelstrom and Breaking Waves, Leigh’s two binding sisters, and four cousins who’d decided to come along. Kemena felt a bit overwhelmed as she realized she was the only human on the boat—the very soon she would be considered part of this family.

After the introductions the champagne came out in a couple of toasts were made to the happiness of the new brides. Only two bottles were brought: Penny indicated that her family wouldn’t drink much, so the other bottle was for them after they arrived back in Portland. Until then they would keep it nice and chilled.

Finally the time came for Penny and Kemena to change. The wedding dresses and worn in Albuquerque were in bags back home, and they had sprung for simple white dresses to wear here on board. There was no need for makeup, hair styling, or shoes, as their vows were going to be taken in a rather special way. There was one thing, however, that Kemena needed to where before the vows could be taken…

In the years since Penny and Kemena had decided to marry, and Penny explained how they would take their vows in front of her family, they had worked to have instructed a special piece of equipment: a nearly sixty pound articulated tail worn by “professional mermaids”. It it actually been Kemena’s idea, for she remembered the year before Penny left for the pod and the two of them swam about in Penny’s swimming pool, both of them sporting their tales.

Kemena decided if she was going to marry a mermaid, and she was going to marry her in the water, she was going to do it in style.

After she was fitted into the tail the members of the wedding party carried her out through the main cabin and on to the fantail. Nearly all the wedding party jumped in the water and transitioned while Curious Squid, Singing Nymph, and Penny helped Kemena into the water when she was comfortable floating about in certain that she wasn’t going to sink to the bottom, the last three mermaids dove into the water—Penny wearing her dress just as Kemena was—and traded their legs for tales.

Twenty feet from the stern of the boat they all tread water. Penny and Kemena were side-by-side and holding hands with the other surrounding them, while Gloria spoke of how to childhood friends were now embarking on a Grand Adventure, and they would forever be of two worlds. Kemena actually felt as if she were a member of the pod while she swished her tail front and back maintaining position next to the woman who decided to stay on land to be with her.

And at the end, Penny and Kemena sunk ten feet underwater and exchange their kiss while the others watched. Never for a moment did Kemena think of the fact that she was marrying a woman who was an aquatic being while they were five hundred feet above her family’s home.

After about twenty minutes in the water they all made their way back on to the fantail, with Penny and several others helping Kemena out of the water and onto the deck so she could get out of her tail. The other stayed for about another hour and then, one by one, said their farewells and began returning to the pod. Gloria, too, also left, telling Penny and Kemena she she had close in a car on shore and she’d make her way home from there.

The last to leave was Leigh, who not only gave her new daughter-in-law one last hug, but removed a bracelet from her left wrist and placed it upon Kemena’s, telling her she was now officially a part of the pod.

After everyone was gone Penny went up on the flying bridge, started the engines, and brought the Ariel about so they could begin the four hour trip back to Portland. Kemena and she stood on the bridge letting the wind whipped through their wet hair as he stared towards the horizon—

Both knew that their Grand Adventure was off to an auspicious start.

“The Calling” Scene 29: “The Calling”

Kemena hadn’t been too worried about Penny silence on the trip back to the hotel–nor was she that surprised when Penny suggested they pack and leave for Portland. She wasn’t suggesting they fly back to Albuquerque that night, but rather they get a hotel room and spend the evening in the city, then take a 6 AM flight out of Portland International which would take them home with a one hour layover in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Kemena didn’t see this is a problem, and she thought that having an evening together in the city, with good restaurants in a nice, large hotel room, would be a good way of lifting Penny’s spirits. Since they hadn’t unpacked much since arriving at Tillamook, they were loaded up and back on the road to Portland less than half an hour after returning from Cape Lookout.

They settled on staying at the Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront, which gave them access to the riverfront and a number of restaurants. From the hotel they were only twenty minutes from the airport, so Penny left a 4 AM wake up so they could clean up, gather the things, and leave to catch the flight.

As Kemena hoped, by the end of the day Penny seemed almost back to her normal self. She knew her friend would be upset about her mother going away, but she reminded her that her mother and went to the same sort of sadness when she left twelve years ago.

When they returned to the hotel about 8 PM Kemena was told to use the bathtub first, and she knew why. After she cleaned up and dressed in her robe, she was drying her hair when Penny walked in, ran the tub full of hot water, and slipped out of her robe and into the tub without saying a word. Moments later she gave a satisfactory sigh and Kemena turned around to see Penny’s tail rise up out of the water, unfurl, and lay down on the end of the tub. Kemena went back to wrapping her hair in a towel. “I figured that’s why you wanted me to bathed first.”

“Yeah, I needed a Daryl Hannah moment.” Penny chuckled as she referred to the scene in the movie Splash where Daryl Hannah reverted back to her mermaid form and relaxed while taking a bath. “I’ve gotten to where I don’t even like taking showers anymore; I’d much rather just lay here, soak, and then clean off.”

“I can’t blame you.” Since the bathroom is large enough to have a chair were one could sit while changing, Kemena pulled up next to the tub so she could sit while speaking to her friend. “So, how long do you think your mom’s going to be gone?”

Kemena splashed a few bubbles on her tail before looking up at Kemena. “We’re not going to see her for a while.”

“You think she’ll be down for five or six years before she comes back, like you did?”

“Kemena—” Penny let out a soft sigh. “Mama’s not coming back. Maybe she’ll come back for a few weeks every so often, but she’s never coming back to stay.”

Though she wanted to ask if Penny was serious, Kemena could tell by the girls expression she was. “She’s gone back for good?”

“She’s wanted to go back for some time.” Penny lay back stared up at the ceiling. “She’s been hearing The Calling for years.”

This was an expression Kemena had never heard. “The Calling? What’s that?”

“It’s an urge one feels to return to the ocean.” Penny kept a slight smile on her face as she looked at Kemena, but there was little humor in her voice. “Mermaids are creatures of the sea and though we can come on land for extended periods of time, eventually there’s a feeling telling the mermaid she should head back to the ocean and returned to her pod.

“There are things mermaids can do to anchor themselves to land, and Mama’s been doing it most of her life. First she started the business and worked hard to build it up, and then—” Penny shrugged. “She had me. These things kept her anchored to land—and she did that because she liked living here.

But she told me that a few years after I went to the pod she started feeling The Calling again and she said if it hadn’t been for you, she’d have been tempted to join me.” The right corner of Penny’s mouth curled upwards. “You remember last few years I was away, mama seem to want to spend more time with you so she could talk about me?”

Kemena nodded slowly. “I figured she was doing it because she was lonely.”

She did it because she needed an anchor. Otherwise she’d been tempted to sell the business and take off. And another reason she didn’t do that was she wanted me to be able to come home—and if she was in the pod, I’d never be able to do that.

“Mama and I knew a couple years ago that when she went back to the pod that was pretty much it; she might return home once in a while for a few weeks here and there, but she was going to spend the rest of her life under the waves.” Penny closed her eyes as a few tears trickled out. “I told her this morning at come back next summer and visit the pod for about a month. I figured you could let me get away for that much time.”

“I don’t see that being a problem.” A fear clutched at Kemena’s heart, one that made her hesitant to ask the next question. “What about mermaids born on land? Do they hear this Calling, too?”

Penny spent nearly five seconds looking everywhere except at Kemena, but she finally locked her gaze with her. “I don’t hear it now, but I figure and about twenty years—yeah, I’ll probably hear it. And it likely won’t be long after that go back to the pod.”

“What—” Penny’s voice caught in her throat. “What about the business? What about what were trying to do for us?”

Penny snorted and shook her head. “I didn’t make you my partner to do this for us: I did all this for you. I figured when it was time to go back I’d sign over the business so you’d have something after I’m gone.”

Kemena was almost shaking on her chair. “No.”

“I’m not worried about myself. I can get money: there is an underground on land of mermaids dealing in precious gems. If I wanted to—”

“No.”

“—I could get access to a couple of million in no time. I—”

NO.” Kemena jumped to her feet, knocking the chair back. “No, you can’t.”

“I can’t what?” Penny was somewhat puzzled by Kemena’s actions, she figured she’d be somewhat upset, but not like this.

“You can’t just leave like that.” Kemena stomped around the bathroom for close to thirty seconds, looking down as she paced the same figure-eight over and over. She finally stopped and turned toward the tub, thrusting and accusing finger at Penny. “I didn’t join you because I wanted something I wanted something from this business. I joined because I wanted something for us, together.”

Penny set up slightly. “Kemena, what do you mean?”

Kemena shook her head as she stared up at the ceiling, mumbling in her voice just loud enough to be heard. “I thought when you said your pod was a matriartical society that—” When she turned to Penny there wasn’t anger in her eyes: there was sadness. “Don’t you understand? Do I have to spell it out for you, you stupid mermaid?”

And in that second Penny did get what her friend was trying to tell her—while at the same time she realized that it’d been ridiculous for her to conceal some of the things that she should have said during the last five years.

She patted the side of the tub. “Kemena, please sit by me.” Reluctantly her friend did his asked, sitting crosslegged on the floor. “There is an anchor that mermaid speak of, almost with reverence. It’s called the Grand Adventure.”

Kemena’s words stammered out between her tears. “And what’s that?”

“That’s when one mermaid falls in love with another and the love between them is so powerful that neither of them want to be with anyone else. No other binding partners, no other binding partners with whom they want to make a child: they stay together for life.

“It’s considered mythical because mermaids aren’t exactly monogamous creatures: I think I’ve made that pretty clear.” She chuckled at her own lame joke. “It not only happens with one mermaid to another, but it also happens with one mermaid to human, and that kind of pairing is even more mythical, because the mermaid is essentially renouncing the sea’s hold over her.”

Penny drew a deep breath before reaching over the tub edge and taking Kemena’s hand. “There’s a lot of things I should have told you in the last five years. I should have told you about The Calling, but there’s something else I should have told you as well—something I was afraid to tell because I didn’t know how you’d react.”

Kemena’s face brightened as a soft smile formed through the tears. “What are you trying to tell me?”

“Do I have to spell it out for you, you stupid human?” Penny chuckled as she brought Kemena’s hand to her lips and kissed it. “Do you want to go on a Grand Adventure with me?”

“The Calling” Scene 28: “The Goodbye”

It was just after 9 AM when Penny, Kemena, and Leigh finally reached the beach at the south end of Cape Lookout. The surf was still a bit rough from the storm that had come through last night, guaranteeing that there would be few people in the trail head parking lot above and even fewer who might be slightly interested in whatever they were doing.

The reason for starting out early was simple: Penny wanted to leave a cash of items for her mother—which included clothes, cell phone and battery, and money—about two thirds of the way down the trail. She also wanted to find a good location on the beach itself where they could hide her mother’s clothing so that when she returned she wouldn’t have to spend too much time walking around naked. Finding places and setting them up took about forty-five minutes, but once they were finished they were convinced that someone simply passing by would not find the items.

Once they were finished there was little else to do except to prepare for Leigh’s departure–and there was little that needed to be prepared. The trio had already spent two days in the Portland area and had spent the night before in a hotel in Tillamook. All the things that Penny and her mother were going to say have been said during the last month, and during their last night together as a trio they discovered there was nothing left to say—

Except goodbye.

Leigh scanned the surf while Penny and Kemena flanked her. Penny waved out toward the onrushing waves. “You gonna have any trouble getting through that?”

“No.” Leigh shrugged before smiling at her daughter. “I’ll transition here in shallows and pushed through at no time. At worst I might catch a hard downwash and scrape along the bottom a little. Not a big deal for me.”

“We could have picked a better day for you to leave.” Kemena looked up at the sky which still seems somewhat threatening. “At least the sun could have been shining for you.”

“The sun is shining for me, Kemena.” She turned and faced both girls. “I’m proud of you both. You said you’re going to take over the business in five years and you did. I have nothing to worry about while I’m gone.”

Penny took her mother’s hand. “Not a thing, Mama. It’ll still be here when you come back.”

“Yeah, well…” Leigh sighed and grabbed the bottom of her long sleeved tunic. “No point in dragging this out.” It took her less than a minute to strip completely out of her clothes and hand them over to Penny and Kemena, who proceeded to stuff them in a large, waterproof bag that they would hide in the cash at beach level. She swung her arms a couple of times against the chill of the beach air. “I better get moving before I catch cold.”

Kemena felt tears welling up in her eyes. “Goodbye, Leigh. I hope you have fun in the pod.”

Leigh wrapped her arms around the lovely Mexican girl. “I’m going to miss you, girl.” She pulled back and there was tiny streams of tears running down her cheeks. “You take care of Penny, now. See to it nothing happens to her.”

It was all Kemena could do to speak. “I will: don’t worry.”

Penny took her mother’s hand. “I’ll walk you down to the surf.” She looked back at Kemena. “I’ll be right back.”

Kemena saw Penny and her mother walked down to the very edge of the surf and even stand in it so that water was lapping up to their ankles and lower thighs. They stood close for about a minute not saying much, just touching and keeping their heads bowed. Finally they embraced and after a long hug they kissed each other on the cheek. Kemena took three steps back up on to the beach as Leigh turned and ran into the surf. She dove into a wave stayed submerged for about fifteen seconds; when she popped up she gave the girls a wave before turning and flipping her tail high in the air. She vanished from sight but a minute later she leapt high into the air and flipped over in a somersault, much as Penny had done twelve years earlier.

And then she was gone.

Penny walked back up the beach and joined Kemena. She stood by her side for about twenty seconds before she began sobbing. Kemena took her in her arms and held her for close to a minute, letting her best friend cried herself out.

When she was done Penny gave Kemena a hug and then motioned with her head for the trail. “Let’s go.” Without another word the two girls left the wave crashed beach behind.

“The Calling” Scene 27: “The Challenge”

Leigh, Penny, and Kemena were an hour into their two hour drive back to Portland International Airport and all was quiet. Penny had taken some Dramamine before leaving the hotel to help with motion sickness, which Leigh said she might encounter due to having not written in the car for seven years, but despite the precautions she felt fine. She was, however, happy that today was cloudy, and figured she was going to need some time acclimating to all the sunlight she’d encounter back home in Albuquerque.

As Oregon State Highway 6 crossed the Wilson River for the third time Penny slightly turned in her passenger seat so she could see both her mother driving and Kemena behind her. “When are you going to return to the pod?”

Leigh kept her eyes on the road. “I don’t know that I can, Honey.”

Penny shot a skeptical look at her mother. “Why’s that?”

“You know why. There is you—”

Penny held up her left arm and shook her hand back and forth to show off her Age of Attainment bracelet. “Remember this? I can take care of myself. Also, you should wear yours now.  There’s no need to hide it from me.”

Leigh shot a sideways glance at her daughter before turning back to the road. “I also have the business. It’s impossible for me to walk away from that.” She half turned this time to look at Penny. “It’s that business that keeps us fed and gives us a home.”

“Okay, I can see that.” Penny stretched her legs. “What would it take for you to hand over the business someone else?”

Hummph.” Leigh seemed almost aloof as she negotiated the turns of the winding highway. “And to whom in my supposed to hand my business and let them run it in my place?”

Penny softly cleared her throat. “Me.”

This time Leigh shot an unbelieving sideways glance at Penny. “You?”

“Well, Kemena and me. Before you say anything, hear me out.” This time she scooted around her seat, with her left leg folded under her right, so she can look at both her mom and Kemena without having to turn her head. “I know how to get fake school transcripts for the time I was supposed be away at private school: Swirling Maelstrom told me how it’s done. Once I get those, I’m going to take online courses so that I can get a degree. I haven’t decided what I’m going to get yet, but I will finish college.”

She nodded towards her friend in the back. “Kemena’s going to attend UNM starting in the fall and she’s going to major in business administration with an emphasis on accounting. So whatever I don’t pick up from my classes, should be able to help me later.”

Leigh’s voice was soft as if she knew where Penny was going. “Help you with what?”

“With running the business.” Penny wiggled her foot for a few moments as she looked at her mother. “Why I’m taking classes at night for college, let me go to work with you. Show me everything there is to know about running the business, and I mean everything. If you want me to lay out landscaping, I will. If you want me to work typing up manifest or cleaning up stuff, I will. But show me everything that you did to make the business successful.

“Then when Kemena gets out of school, let heard me start running things day-to-day. You can still be there, but let us take care of the business. If after a year we’ve proven were not going to bankrupt the place, you sign over the business to me, I’ll make Kemena a partner, and you—” She shrugged. “You can go back to the pod for a while.”
Leigh was uncertain as to what she should say. It wasn’t that she was uncertain of Penny’s ability to do what she wanted to do—she was uncertain as to her motives. “Honey, I—”

“Mom, people in the pod miss you.” Penny’s tone was soft and comforting, with a bit of sadness apparent as well. “Swirling Maelstrom and Breaking Waves miss you; your binding grandmothers miss you; your sisters miss you; your nieces want to see you. I left the picture of you and me with the pod, because your binding mothers have nothing else to remember you by.

“In five years you going to be sixty-one, almost sixty-two. You will have been away from the pod for over fifty years and there are so many people to whom you are either a memory or a tale. So many people wanted me to tell them of everything I knew of you ‘cause they had no recollections of their own of what you were like when you were a member of the pod.

“I’m not trying to do this to prove I can run things better than you, or because I’ve got an ego, or because I have to prove myself. Doing this for you, Mom.” Penny looked down inside. “I know you want to go back. I’m giving you the chance.”

Leigh watch the road unwind before her. She understood what Penny wanted to do and why she was doing this. And though Leigh wasn’t ready to admit that her daughter was right, she knew Penny would keypad her until she finally agreed to the terms of her challenge.

And she was certain she knew how this was going to affect Penny in the coming years.

The road was straight giving Leigh the opportunity to fully turn her head and look at her daughter. “Five years, huh?”

Penny looked up and nodded slowly. “Yeah, five years.”

“The Calling” Scene 26: “The Difference”

“What did Curious Squid save you?” Kemena leaned in, a curious look upon her face. “Was it something bad?”

Penny shook her head. “It wasn’t bad.”

“Then what was it?”

When they had begun this conversation, Penny considered not bringing up this part of her life to Kemena. However, since Kemena wanted to know everything about her life below the waves, she felt she would be cheating her friend if she didn’t disclose what happened in the infirmary. “Curious Squid told me that she wanted me to be her first bonding partner.”

Kemena gave her friend a strange look. “What’s bonding?”

“Uh…” Penny looked down for second and she tried to think of the best way to explain the next part. “It’s like—getting together.” She stared in the Kemena’s eyes as her eyebrows arched. “You know, like, together?”

Kemena needed only a few seconds to put it together. “Do you mean like hooking up?”

Penny’s side came out sounding almost like a chuckle. “Yes and no. I mean, if you want to look at it as something physical going on, yes, that’s what it is. But it’s not the same thing. Mermaids are emotional, empathetic creatures, and we take any sort of intimate connections seriously. I mean, even Singing Nymph and I sleeping together like we did—while nothing ever happened, we both realized there was an emotional connection between us that made our time like that all the more enjoyable.”

Kemena searched her memory for her time together with Penny before the later left and found several examples that seem to confirm this fact. “I remember before you left for the pod and, like, it seems as if all your feelings were stronger than everyone else’s. Is it like that with all mermaids?”

Penny nodded. “Pretty much. When we get angry, we’re angry. When we get upset, we’re upset. And when we love—” A wistful smile appeared on Penny’s face. “We take it seriously.”

“Does that mean you fell in love with someone?”

“I loved everyone equally, but I felt far closer to both Singing Nymph and Curious Squid.”

Kemena gave several seconds of thought to her next question, for a while she wanted to ask it, she didn’t necessarily want to know the answer. “So, did you and Curious Squid—bond?”

Penny waited a few seconds before nodding. “About a year ago. And maybe like four times between that first moment and when I came back.” She looked around the room a few times as she worked through her memories. “The last time was two nights ago.”

Kemena let out a soft sigh. “I would’ve thought you to been with her last night.”

Penny shook her head. “No, I spent my last night with Singing Nymph.”

There was something in her friends tone that caught Kemena’s attention. “Do you mean that you—”

“Yeah.”

“Wait—” Kemena’s eyes went wide. “You did with your cousin?”

Penny shrugged. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

But she’s your cousin.”

“We don’t look at it that way.”

“But—”

You can’t judge us like that.” Though she wasn’t angry, Penny’s tone changed just enough to let Kemena know she was slightly upset. “Were not human: we don’t follow human laws.”

Nearly five seconds passed before Kemena broke out of her shotgun off to speak. “What you mean, you’re not human?”

Penny seemed somewhat uncomfortable as she spoke. “I’m not human. I mean, I look like you and I talk like you, this is not really my true form. You see my true form, and that’s how really how I’m supposed to look–how I looked for the last seven years.”

She slid closer to Kemena and softened her tone to help reassure and comfort her. “You’re Homo sapiens; I’m Homo aquatica. We can live together and do things that we used to do, but I’m never going to be human. In a way, were both kind of aliens to each other.”

She took Kemena’s hands and gave them a squeeze. “And you’re still my friend. That didn’t change while I was away and is not going to change now. We may come from two different species, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to go back to what we had before I left. I want to continue our friendship and even strengthen it.” She gave the hands a small shake. “What do you think?”

Kemena refused to look at Penny for almost ten seconds: when she finally looked up there were tears in her eyes and on her cheeks. “I don’t care if you are different than me; I just want you to be my friend.”

Penny and Kemena hugged and for the first time in seven years Penny felt tears filling her eyes. When they broke Penny kissed Kemena’a cheek. “I’m not going anywhere, silly. You’re stuck with me as your friend.”

Kemena laugh. “And you’re stuck with me, too.”

“That’s good, because—” Penny’s expression turned serious. “I need to know something…”