My ocean adventure never would have happened if it weren’t for my best friend, Kai. It’s not like it had anything to do with Kai directly, since the luminous Star-Angel hadn’t appeared to her - she’d appeared to me.
But, if I hadn’t known Kai, I would never have agreed to go on that wild expedition across the Satchandian Divide. Such spontaneity was not in my nature. It definitely was in Kai’s, though, and my sense of adventure had been awakened by being her friend. Kai loved convincing me to join her on outdoor escapades; she was constantly telling me to just ‘chill out’ and enjoy the thrill of not knowing what will happen next. I was totally certain that if it wasn’t for Kai, I wouldn’t have even seen the mermaids, let alone joined them.
It all started on an average Tuesday in February, during our last year of middle school. Kai convinced me that, instead of following our usual routine of taking the bus home, we should walk. “C’mon, Sara. Don’t be such a slave to the routine. It will give us a chance to talk before we have to do our homework.”
I agreed, and we set off. The winter sun touched Kai’s dark-red hair, and it gleamed like a crimson sunset. Several shades deeper than her mother’s strawberry blonde, her hair is an exquisite color that I have never seen on another person. Her bronze skin and defined musculature are like prizes passed along her father’s bloodline, which is pure Hawaiian. Her father also gave Kai her name, which is actually Kailani – Hawaiian for ‘Heavenly Ocean.’ I wouldn’t know much about those, being an Arizona girl my whole life.
There is something unique about the way Kai holds herself – differently from the other kids at school – with her head high. She is strength and grace rolled up together. It’s like she knows something we don’t, some great, shining secret handed down through her ancestral line straight from the sea itself.
“I can’t wait to go to high school next year,” Kai was saying. “Middle school is really starting to get my down…” she was interrupted by a sudden thunderclap so loud it seemed to rock the earth itself. We stopped walking to shield our ears from the intense reverberation.
The sky suddenly changed color, from the icy blue of a clear winter’s afternoon to the heavy dark-grey of a summer storm. Monsoons are a summer occurrence in Arizona, but the wind that blew down the street in a powerful gust seemed oblivious that it was now February. The wind whipped my long, white-blonde hair against my face, stinging my cheeks. Again the thunder raged so loudly, it had to be close.
“What is going on?” Kai asked excitedly, as if a monsoon was the perfect distraction to her irritation with school.
“I’ve lived in Arizona my whole life and I’ve never heard of a monsoon this time of year,” I said, my voice shaking. The wind continued to whip around us, carrying little sticks and old schoolwork papers. We covered our faces with our arms. “We’re too far from home. Let’s go back to school.”
Kai groaned, “That’s the last place I want to go…” She was interrupted by a fantastic display of light against the darkening sky and then a crack of thunder so loud I was surprised my head didn’t explode.
“I don’t care,” I shouted. “This is freaky!”
The sky flashed with electricity and the wind picked up intensity so that the bushes and trees swayed crazily. An arm of electrified-light reached down from the sky and touched the outstretched branch of a tree across the street from us. There was another deafening clap, and fire burst into life in the leafless tree, blazing brightly against the dark-grey sky.
“Wow that was awesome,” Kai said - she thrived on outdoor adventure and was not easily shaken.
“Are you kidding me? Let’s go!” A jolt of hot fear pumped through my veins as the angry-looking fire continued to consume the dry branches of the tree. I began running as fast as I could back toward school, my school-bag thumping against my side awkwardly. Kai ran right next to me; apparently the fire was not awesome enough to make her want to stick around the scene of the lightning-strike by herself.
As soon as we reached our schoolyard, the echoing voice of Mr. Wright, our principal, was amplified by the outdoor loudspeakers, “Students, get back into the school building! A monsoon warning has been issued, effective immediately. I repeat, get back into the building right now!”
We ran toward the building as a powerful gust of wind blasted us, again stinging our arms with the small sticks it had picked up on its reckless journey. Kai and I made it to the school-building just in time; as the heavy glass door shut behind us, a large tree branch slammed into it with an unsettling thud. I gasped for air as panic constricted my throat. It was creepy to have a monsoon in February, and I wished I were home.
There were kids everywhere inside the front foyer; most of them looked pale and scared. “Wow,” Kai said, her eyes glowing with excitement. “That was cool.”
“You’re crazy,” I said.
There were more shockingly loud thumps as other large pieces of debris collided with the building. Teachers and administrators ushered all of us into the assembly room, which was in the center of the school and secure from the tempestuous wind, where we waited out the storm together.
It’s weird, I was never able to clearly remember that half hour in the assembly room; I spent that time in a mild state of shock, I guess. The time during that freak storm has a hazy cloud surrounding it when I search for it in my memory. But Kai remembers, and she told me that the whole school building had shaken with the intense force of the unseasonable monsoon until she had been sure it was going to crumble right onto our heads.
The following weekend, Kai and I were sitting on my queen bed with my cloudlike down-comforter over our feet, talking. That storm had passed after a half an hour, but the weather had remained windy all week.
My room was always a cozy place to hang out on a day like this. The wide-paneled, dark wooden floor was mostly covered by a creamy, soft rug that you could sink your feet into pleasantly on a windy day. The large windows were covered by filmy-white curtains that allowed in a lot of natural sunlight, which today was muted and mellow. My ballet slippers hung from one wall, their shiny pink ribbons twirling as if in remembrance of me spinning across the dance studio. A large cork board had fun cutouts from magazines, and silly pictures of Kai and me taken in those little booths that emit your pictures from a slot, as if you had won a prize.
“I can’t believe Mrs. Leon said that the monsoon was due to global warming,” I said, referring to our biology teacher, who had dedicated a whole period to a discussion of last week’s storm.
“It makes sense,” Kai replied. “Like she said, there’s too much pollution on this planet, and it’s trapped in our atmosphere, causing the temperatures to rise unnaturally. The warm air created the perfect conditions for a monsoon. The wind doesn’t know it’s not supposed to blow like that in February.”
“I mean, I’ve known that global warming was a possibility, but knowing about it and experiencing it are definitely two different things.” I shivered and pulled the comforter up over my legs.