The water is cold between Esme’s toes and the shingle is prickly against her skin.
The others giggle all around her, but she is silent.
Something isn’t right.
She can feel it in her feet, feel it tangling up her calves, growing over her knees. The sea is bleeding into her, melting to her flesh. Soon, she will not be able to leave.
She stumbles back and the others stop giggling. They ask what’s wrong.
She stumbles back and saltwater sloshes against her skirt. Worst of all, it sloshes in her heart. She feels the weight of it swim left and right inside her chest, feels it splash against her lungs.
She stumbles back and suddenly the cold is all around her. She closes her eyes and holds her breath – sinking and sinking, baptised.
Everything under is quiet. Everything under is calm.
Only her and her fuzzy heartbeat.
Before she feels them, she hears them – their shouts, their screams. And then their hands come – grasping, pulling, dragging her up until she is drowning in air.
Before she feels the sand, she hears the sand. It crunches against her ear and suckers to her face. Voices babble all around her but she cannot understand what they say.
Before she feels it, she sees it. She holds a leg up in the air and watches as her skin shimmers in the light and flashes in the sun. Blue and purple and green and silver. Scales.
She must get back to the water.
Land is not enough.