Aukai had always loved adventures. That’s probably why her parents named her Explorer in Hawaiian (and yes, the jokes about that weird Legged TV about a girl named Dora got old very quickly). The only other problem with that was that her name really meant Explorer of the Sea. Aukai wanted to explore the Land. And she was about to. To boldly go where no mermaid has gone before! Well, merpeople had been on land before. Just not her family. Aukai had never been more excited in their entire life. Real Leggeds! Aukai had only met, like, three, and that was at the interspecies relations assembly her school had held, so that didn’t count. She wondered idly what they were like as she sat patiently among a cove of rocks for the transformation to finish. Would they have little pets like her family’s dolphin? Aukai giggled at the thought. Well, maybe not a dolphin, she reasoned. What did those old books say? Dogs and cats. Yes, that’s it. Leggeds have dogs and cats. Did the leggeds also name their pets? Talk to them? Aukai laughed again at the thought. There was no use wondering when she’d find out in a few minutes. She could tell the transformation was almost complete, so she grabbed for the pile of Legged clothes she’d swiped from a costume rack at the school.
Turning Legged and going on the beach wasn’t exactly illegal. At least, not for adults. For kids, it was, ah, discouraged, shall we say. Aukai had laughed out loud when she heard that rule. Seriously, whoever made the laws had obviously not spent enough time with teenagers. Like any high schooler would listen to that rule!
Looking down, Aukai gasped out loud. There were real legs attached to her! How cool was that! She rushed to pull herself on top of a rock and tug the clothes on. To get to the shore, she jumped from rock to rock, the shorts she borrowed feeling restrictive and awkward. Panting from the effort, she made it to the sand. She stood there for at least a minute, feeling the way the tiny grains spilled over her feet when she took a step. A smile slowly took over her face. She barely even noticed that she wasn’t wearing shoes.
Didn’t notice, that is, until she stepped onto the road leading away from the beach. The hot asphalt burned her feet, making her leap off the road. Grimacing, she decided to make the rest of the journey to the town center on the sidewalk.
The concrete was much cooler, so Aukai could focus more on the people. So many! And some were actually walking their dogs, right there, next to her! Of course, she had to stop and pet, like, all of them, so walking to the main street took longer than anticipated. Once there, Aukai wanted to go in. All. The. Shops. But the spell would wear off in a few hours so she just ducked into the first door on her right.
The main ware of the store seemed to be something called socks. Aukai was fascinated. Socks were so soft and cool, and there were so many fun designs and pictures that could go on them! She wanted all the socks.
Aukai grabbed ten pairs: one with dogs, one with waves, one with flowers, one with fish, one with YOLO written all over it, one with polka-dots, one with stars all over it, one with something called snowflakes, one with the beach name sewn on to it, and one with pictures of mermaids on it. She brought it up to the counter and pulled her bag out. As the clerk rang up the pairs, she counted out ten sand dollars. That would probably cover the cost pretty well. She might even have some left over for Legged food!
“No,” said the clerk.
Aukai jerked her head up. The clerk had stopped scanning the socks and was instead staring at Aukai’s method of payment in her hands.
“We don’t accept sand dollars,” he explained gently. “You’re a Turned or Temporary?”
“Temporary. First time,” she mumbled, head hung low.
He smiled kindly at her, tilting his head like a curious puppy. “Next trip, you’ll have to use the currency exchange. I’m sorry. We can save these, if you want.” He gestured to the pile of wool in front of him.
Aukai thought for a second. She wanted those socks. But the chances of her getting the ingredients for the potion again and stealing another Legged costume were slim. She couldn’t even wear them when she turned back. Shaking her head sadly, she put the sand dollars back in her bag. Too bad. At least I got to see them. Thanking the clerk politely, she left the store. Aukai was about to walk back down the road to the beach when she heard a voice behind her.
“Hey! Hey, hold up, hang on a sec! Turn around!” She obeyed, her eyes widening at the sight of a Legged girl about her own age barreling towards her. Aukai stares as the girl stops in front of her, panting.
“Hold… on. . . one. . . sec.” she muttered as she tried to get her breath back. “Okay. Better now. Um. I’m Leimomi. I saw you were looking at the socks.”
Aukai blushed. Leimomi probably thought she was weird if she liked socks that much. And she really wanted to impress this Legged girl. “Oh, yeah, well-”
“You’re a Temporary, right?” Leimomi flashed a smile. “You guys seem to be fascinated with footwear. Probably because, y’know-” She wiggled a foot. “Tails.”
Aukai laughed in agreement. Leimomi got it! “Tails. We don’t exactly have socks down under.”
“Then why did you want socks?” Leimomi didn’t sound accusing, just curious.
“I’m not sure. They felt cool.” Aukai added at the end. She thought she should add it for some reason.
“Well, I bet you don’t make things with cotton over there!” Leimomi laughed. That is the sound you hear in a seashell, Aukai thought. “Which raises the question: how did you get those clothes?”
“Um. I kinda, sorta, stole them from my school drama department,” she said, a little embarrassed.
“No way! Cool! That’s what I did for my homecoming dress last year. Stole it from the costume rack in the school basement.” She wiggled her fingers. “That place is spooky. Oh, I completely forgot!” Aukai watched in shock as Leimomi pulled a pair of socks out of her back pocket. The ones with the mermaids on them. “I got these for you. You looked like you really liked them.” She held them out.
Reaching out quickly, Aukai grabbed the socks and examined them. “Thanks!” she said breathlessly, hugging them to her chest. “Thank you so much!” She could have stood there forever with Leimomi, but her legs were starting to tingle. Remembering the potion she used, she knew it meant she would turn back soon. She groaned. “Leimomi, I have to go. Um,” Aukai grappled for a second. She wanted to spend more time here, with her, but then she’d be stranded. “Listen. Meet me off the east beach at three o’clock tomorrow. By the rocks. Look for me!” Turning around, she started to run.
“Wait!” Leimomi called after her. “What’s your name?”
“No, really!” She laughed.
“See you tomorrow, Aukai!” Leimomi paused for a second. “It’s a date.”