by Julin Ooi
"Hey, let's try this place!" Colleen interrupted her three friends as they walked down a street near Pan Station, where they had met. Selina, Anne and Kellie stopped to look at the tiny restaurant Colleen had pointed out.
"Welcome Home Restaurant? The name doesn't fit the place. It looks more like a sea cave!" commented Anne.
The restaurant had a special charm that made the girls stop. The beautiful coral pillars by the door and the colorful seaweed curtains framing the wooden window panes were not like anything the girls had ever seen before.
Suddenly the door opened and a kind looking old man appeared and beckoned them in,
"Oh come in, come in, ladies. My name is Hamid. So pleased you have come today, much happiness will come your way." The restaurant owner's warm greeting was a pleasant surprise for the girls.
"He sure is a friendly fellow,"commented Selina.
"Yea, in a strange sort of way", replied Anne. "It's almost as if he was waiting for us." "Oh, stop it! ", said Colleen.
" Look! He even has the table set for four with our water poured too. It's the only table set-up", noted Kellie quietly.
"Oh well", chimed Colleen. "I'm starved! Let's order."
The restaurant was amazing. Their seats were humongous sea shells with soft cushions. The tables were beautiful, made from thousands of delicate corals and shells.
"Oh Wow! This place is really gorgeous." Selina was awed as she looked around the little restaurant.
The shop owner who had invited them in had a shock of white hair and twinkling eyes. Their waiter was a charming guy of 16 with curly brown hair, tied back with a seaweed and had eyes the color of the night sea. He lined their table with more than 12 small strange but delicious looking dishes.
After dinner, the old man recommended his special coffee. Colleen, a great fan of coffees eagerly agreed to try it. The coffee came in a very quaint old pot made from seashells. The old man poured the coffee into beautiful shells and served it to them. The strong aroma made them all light headed.
"This coffee tastes strange", commented Selina.
"That must be my special spices you are tasting, princess", explained Hamid with a smile.
The coffee made them relax and they had a great time laughing and reminiscing about their days back at the orphanage. They had known each other for a long time. They had met at Tipton Orphanage 10 years ago, when they were 11. All four were found washed up on the beach behind the orphanage. They had spent a year at the orphanage before they were adopted by four different families.
As young girls, they had always treasured the times they spent together on the beach. They had always felt like they were surrounded by love and warmth every time they were there. This made the beach a very special place for them. Through the years, they had kept in touch with one another. But these past few years, they had been so busy with their studies and work they had no time to meet up. However, today was special. It was today, exactly 10 years ago that they had met at the orphanage. Each awoke that morning with this strange need to get together for dinner.
Now at the age of 21, they had everything going for them, but they felt something missing from their lives. They had no recollection of their early years and they felt a deep need to know where they had come from and who they really were. This reunion, they hoped, would help them remember. But none of them could recall anything prior to their days at the orphanage. They were disappointed but they felt better after spending this night together at the strange restaurant.
It was getting dark so the girls started to get ready to leave. Seeing that they were about to leave, Hamid came up to escort them to the door.
" My princesses, come let me show you the way out."
Hamid led them through the back door.
"That's strange! I think we'd better go back in and leave through the front door. I'm not sure of the way to the train station from here ", Kellie said. They turned around but the restaurant was simply not there! They started getting this strange feeling and when they looked around, it felt as if they were back in the town where their orphanage was.
"Oh my goodness, Colleen! Your hair has grown into pigtails".
"What do you mean?", she laughed, revealing a mouthful of braces. "You must have had too much of that coffee."
Anne's brown hair was suddenly chin length and stick straight. Her work clothes changing into overalls and a t-shirt.
Kellie's carefully dyed red hair quickly turned brown and formed a ponytail. Her tailored suit turned to jeans and a halter top. They could not believe it. They were all eleven again!
"Oh my goodness!! What is happening? This is so weird."
Before they a could comprehend what was happening, a familiar blue and silver bus passed.
"Hey! Isn't that the bus to the beach? It looks like the same one we used to take as kids! Colleen shouted.
They ran after the bus, rode till the last stop and walked to their beach.
Colleen didn't know why, but she had this strong desire to go back to the beach again. The others felt the same.
The girls couldn't find a word to describe how they felt. They felt overcome by a very strong emotion that was beyond their understanding. It was like a great magnetic force drawing them to the sea.
Suddenly the sea opened to reveal a long flight of ivory stairs.
"Wh..at?", Kellie exclaimed in puzzlement.
Even though they were seeing it for the first time with their human eyes there was something very familiar about those steps. Everything around them had some kind of glow and sparkle to it. It was all so beautiful. The girls felt as if for some reason they belonged there. Up the stairs, a handsome couple appeared. The lady was dressed in a shimmering gown, her long flowing locks of bright red floating behind her in the water. From her dress hung the most exotic miniature shells and strings of tiny pearls. This lady was far from beautiful, she was exquisite! The man with his jet black hair wore a golden crown on his head. His body was lined with muscles and he had skin the color of gold.
"Mama?" spilled out of Selina's lips. It was the first word that came to her mind and she had no idea where it had come from. Suddenly memories of their childhood came flooding back.
"Oh! Mama ! Papa !" The girls ran into the open arms of their parents.
"Oh my darling girls, how we have missed you!"
From the moment the girls stepped into the sea, all memories of their days in the world above were erased. They were transformed back into mermaids.
"What happened to us? All I remember was being captured by the Wicked Witch of the Deep Sea", Kellie said. They all felt tired. It was like they had just returned from a very long journey.
"That Wicked Witch had cast an irreversible spell on the four of you. She changed you into human children and left you trapped in the world above. For years your father and I have tried to find ways to break the spell. Nothing could be done until you spent at least 10 years in the world above. When your ten years were up, we sent Hamid and his son up to help guide you home. They were not allowed to bring you home because this would cause the spell to recharge itself again." their mother explained.
"All this had to be done before the Wicked Witch had the chance to recast her spell. We were worried you might not find your way home immediately, so we had Hamid give you some spell repellant in the coffee you had drunk" their father continued.
"Coffee? What's that?", Colleen asked.
"Wow! We lived in the world above for ten years?", Anne was in disbelief.
"I'm just so glad to be home. It was so murky in the deep sea and the fishes there were horrendous looking!" Kellie told their parents.
"Come, why don't you girls take a bath and go to bed", their mother said, hovering protectively over them.
As they got ready for bed, they remembered the way things used to be before they were kidnaped by the witch. The spell was broken and they were once again 11 year old mermaids. It was like they had never left. Throughout the underwater kingdom, there was great rejoicing. The four princesses were home to stay forever.
Acknowledgments: Terry Heller, Julie Kluth, Tammy Lees, Leah Gass, Keri Badding, Christy, Dana Voss, Brenda Muench, Jason Shockley, Jeremy Pigg, Mike Duwe, Erin Fizpatrick and the Writing Center for rewrites, responses and grammar corrections.
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