Today's Reading

"It isn't so simple," the crown princess said.

"But it is. You're making yourself sick. The Disease takes those who are too weak to rise above their feelings. This is all in your head."

"Maybe." The answer bled of resolve. "But the Disease affects the heart, Father. And mine is breaking. If only you could understand—"

"You will sing, Daughter. Tonight."

The crown princess did not respond to his final word. He'd silenced her. She would sing. Then she wouldn't speak again until morning.

It took everything in Coral's deepest fathoms not to swim down the hall, barge into the sitting room, and defend their oldest sister. She hated that they weren't even allowed to use her given name anymore. She was simply "the crown princess" or "the future queen."

The king was detaching himself. They all were.

"Will Father sit by and wait for Red Tide to come as it has for others before her?" Coral whispered. "We've heard the stories. The Disease spares no one who contracts it. If our sister is ill, if she's getting worse . . . How long before Red Tide takes her too?"

Was that disappointment lingering behind Jordan's gaze? "I told you he'd calm her." She released Coral's hand, backed away, and found the sand-length mirror as if it had been waiting all along.

"You wanted the solo. You were hoping Father would allow our sister's request." Coral's ears burned. How could Jordan be so selfish?

"There you go again with your make-believe ideas." The middle mersister combed her fingers through her hair, then touched her fingertips to the corners of her eyes, lifting the skin at the nonexistent creases ever so slightly. "You worry too much, little sister. The crown princess has her spirals, but she comes back. She'll be fine. We'll all be fine."

Fine. A word Coral had come to loathe. A word so yellow, so cowardly, it couldn't carry its weight in goldfish.

She released a long sigh. Bubbles rose. One, two, three, four . . .

Jordan lowered her hands and smoothed them over the scales on her tail. "What you should be worried about is your performance." Her deadpan expression chilled the room. She eyed Coral through her reflection. "Or have you forgotten what's expected of you?"

Coral broke eye contact. "Of course I haven't forgotten." Jordan would never let her. "I know my place."

"Good." Jordan's gaze shifted and shadows lay to rest across her lashes. "We've waited a long time to show off that pretty little voice of yours. We are our father's daughters. And so we sing."

Her voice. Her vice. A curse of its own. Coral swam to her pallet, sat, and drew her tail to her chest. The bedclothes were wrinkled and her pillow slept in the sand. She shuddered. When had the water grown so cold?

"Have you thought of what you will sing for your first concert? We've traveled all the way here to our Pacific palace for the occasion." Jordan twirled before the mirror, a whirlpool of muted silver and green. With each swirl burst a symphony. Silver was the spray of a whale at the surface. Green became fins grazing grains of sand.

"I have a few selections in mind." The lie was easy, another added to the bucket of fibs Coral had learned to tell over the years.

Jordan joined her on the pallet, plucked a red flower from a pore in the wall, and stuck it into the hair tucked behind her right ear. Jordan may have seen the color, but she had no idea what sound it produced.

Another curse, but this one extended to Coral alone.

Her senses intertwined, two playing as one. The colors made sounds and the sounds created colors. Yet another oddity that would only serve to raise suspicion. Every shade had a note, a melody distinguished by its particular hue.

The Diseased were different, as unique and one of a kind as a mermaid out of water.


This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book It's My Life by Stacie Ramey.

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