The Mermaid's Gift

by Judith Wade


Chapter One

 "Bonnie!" shrieked a voice, and Bonnie scrambled over to the port side of the ferry, shading her eyes against the bright sun to peer toward the shoreline.

There, sprinting up the beach, was a girl dressed in bright green, her red hair glowing in the sunshine and all coming loose from its ponytail as she ran toward the ferry dock.

"Hi Bobbie!" Bonnie shouted in reply, hopping up and down and waving her arms in excitement.

Bobbie, dancing happily, beckoned behind her and another girl appeared, moving at a slower pace, but smiling just as broadly. It was Bobbie’s cousin, Moonie, carrying a book under her arm, her hazel eyes shining in welcome.

"Look Mom! Bobbie and Moonie VanGelderen came to meet us!" Bonnie exclaimed, waving to the cousins standing on the beach. Then she added, "And there are the bait shop and the Town Hall. Everything is just the same as when we left last summer!"

"Seems like nothing ever changes too much on Mermaid Island," replied Bonnie’s mother, who had come to join Bonnie at the railing, the wind ruffling her short blonde hair.

She smiled at the two girls on the shore, then spying a woman standing near them, she exclaimed, "There’s Bettina VanGelderen, too!"

"Well, if it isn’t Caro and Bonnie Campbell!" called Mrs. VanGelderen from the dock, cupping her hands around her mouth so her voice would carry up to mother and daughter. "Caro, isn’t this just like when we were kids and you came over on the ferry?"

"You used to wear a pink sailor hat so I could pick you out in the crowd!" Caro Campbell called back, teasing, and Bettina VanGelderen grinned.

The gangplank thumped down, and Bonnie hurried across it to greet her friends. For a few moments, they were all talking at once, laughing and hugging each other. Then their celebration was interrupted by a loud snort.

Bonnie looked down. "Moonie, you brought Carlotta Anastasia!" she exclaimed, bending to pat the small, tan dog at Moonie’s heels. "Remember when I first saw you?" Bonnie asked the little animal. "I thought you were so funny looking, with your flat face and big eyes. And you’re still snorting as much as ever!"

Carlotta Anastasia, her curly tail wagging madly, climbed into Bonnie’s lap, giving a contented sigh. Bonnie giggled.

"That’s a pug dog hello!" declared Moonie, and they all laughed.

Bonnie spied her mother and Bettina VanGelderen moving suitcases into the Campbell’s station wagon. "Maybe I’d better go help my mom," she said to her friends. "Can we get together later?"

"Sure," answered Bobbie. "Call us once you’re settled in. Moonie and I are working on a project. Maybe you’d like to come help."

"A project?" asked Bonnie, but Bobbie just smiled mysteriously.

"You’ll see!" she answered slyly, and she wouldn’t say another word.

So Bonnie waved good-bye and went to join her mother at the car, helping to load several boxes and her mother’s laptop computer, and throwing her backpack in on top of the pile. Then she climbed into the front seat and Caro Campbell pulled the car away from the parking lot.

For a few minutes they drove in silence, winding south through the Mermaid Island village.

Then Bonnie said curiously, "Bobbie and Moonie said they’re working on a project. I wonder what it is?"

"Seems like Bobbie’s always up to something!" answered her mother. She smiled at Bonnie, "I’m sure you’re very excited to go visit her and Moonie. As soon as we get these suitcases carried in, why don’t you run over there?"

"Okay," answered Bonnie, gazing out the window of the car and fingering the pearl on a thin gold chain around her neck. The pearl was a gift from her grandmother, and she wore it always.

So far nothing at Mermaid Island seemed any different from when she’d left last summer. But was everything really still the same? When she went down to the beach, would she see…

"Here we are," Caro Campbell announced happily, interrupting Bonnie’s thoughts.

She braked the car to a stop in the gravel driveway of a small cabin on the beach, and Bonnie opened the car door. In the distance she could hear the waves washing to and fro across the white sand. Their music had sung her to sleep night after night last summer.

It was hard to imagine that at first she hadn’t wanted to come to Mermaid Island. Now she thought it was the most wonderful place on earth.

Grabbing her backpack and a suitcase, Bonnie hurried to the front door of the cabin and burst inside, pausing to take a deep breath as the familiar odor of pine paneling and the tang of the wind off the water filled her nostrils.

Running to the window, she stared south toward Yeoman’s Beach, remembering its glittering white sand dotted with driftwood, the way the grass along the shoreline bent nodding toward the water, and the woods beyond where trails led to and from the main road. She would visit the beach just as soon as she had unpacked her things.

Carrying her bags, Bonnie climbed up the stairs to the little bedroom where she had slept the previous summer, its dormer window overlooking a garden and the quiet street below.

Bonnie sat down abruptly on the bed. It was almost too good to be true. She was back on Mermaid Island with her friends, and three whole months of fun and adventure awaited her. What would the island hold for the Campbells this time?

Last summer, Bonnie and Bobbie and Moonie had helped uncover a plot to turn Yeoman’s Beach, Mermaid Island’s precious natural area, into a private housing development.

While Bonnie and her friends solved that mystery, Bonnie’s mother had prepared a database of endangered plants growing on the island. Her work was published in a research paper after they returned home. Caro Campbell was beginning another study of island plants this summer.

And then there was the beach…the island’s beautiful, mysterious beach. Bonnie’s heart gave a little flip. Last summer, she had experienced something so incredible that as time passed and as she spent the school year away from Mermaid Island’s special magic, Bonnie had begun to wonder if it had actually happened at all.

Had her mind been playing tricks on her? Was that astonishing memory really just a fantasy formed by a lonely girl who had at first felt trapped for the summer on a remote island?

For Bonnie had discovered Mermaid Island’s awesome secret. It was a secret that perhaps only she and Bobbie’s cousin, Moonie, knew about…so important that the two friends had never dared discuss it aloud, and perhaps never would. It was too fragile, too precious, and if the wrong person found it out, it could be a disaster.

The waves off Yeoman’s Beach held a mermaid. Her coming was signaled by water turning every color of the rainbow, in wild swirls of hues and shades.

And the mermaid had approached Bonnie, had spoken with her. In the waves, Bonnie had gazed with awe at the mermaid’s beautiful silver hair, had seen the glitter of green and gold in her fantastic tail, laughed with her, cried with her. But was it real? Her recollections of the mermaid had become hazy–like an old wish or a wonderful dream, lost once morning came.

Jumping to her feet, Bonnie ran back downstairs and into her mother’s study, where the windows looked out toward the water. Putting her hands on the sill, she drew a deep breath, then looked almost fearfully out at the beating surf. Squinting against the island’s bright sunshine, she stared intently at the waves and waited. For a moment, nothing happened, and her heart twisted. What if...?

But then, there they were. Colors tinted the edges of the white caps in rose and aqua and jade. They blended and flowed through the waves…a glint of purple here, a touch of bronze there. Only a very few could see the colors so clearly, and Bonnie knew they were a sign of the secret hidden beneath.

At least the colors weren’t a dream. Though Bonnie longed to run to the water and call for the mermaid, she knew it was too early. The mermaid would not know the Campbells were back on the Island. She would have to leave a message in their special place, and then wait.


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The Mermaid's Gift copyright 2004 Loraine Hudson