Flipped Off
Chapter One
     
     
    Ever since the cartoon came out, Lorai had been afraid to tell folks her deepest desire. She wanted to walk on the land and live with the humans. It turned out that the theory was a lot more appealing than the fact.
    Taking a position at the Crossroads had solved the problem of gawkers, and now, she was free to swim when she wanted and dance whenever she chose.
    Lorai spent her days designing light and summery dresses for her shop in the Crossroads and outside of it. This day, she was busy with a confection of pleats that clung close to the body with the distance of a lightly skimming hand. It was fun to see a woman’s eyes light up when she was in a dress that held the colours she loved in a fashion that flattered.
    A slight chime rang and Juno came in. The frisky fox shifter had a swing in her step that morning.
    “Morning, Lorai. How is business?”
    “Pretty good, both here and away. How are bookings?”
    “Brisk. The fey have gotten the hang of the internet, and Teal and Tony are only too happy to send them our way when they arrive.”
    Lorai grinned. “The internet has been a revelation for us. Some are quicker than others, but as a few have lived for thousands of years, ten years of adaptation shows rapid progress.”
    Juno nodded in acknowledgement. “True. I forget to think about things like that.”
    “You will have to now. Your lifespan will extend far past what you originally anticipated. Technology will come rushing up and surround you before you know it. Things will make your head spin, and you will learn and be struck with the beauty of the invention.”
    Juno smiled softly and then shook herself. “Can you pick out something suitable for a date night? Derix is taking me to the new restaurant, and I want to try and make an impression.”
    Lorai got down from her elevated stool by her drafting table and looked Juno over. “I think for the oncoming fall, you need something in sunset colours. I have just the thing.”
    Now that the shop was just the way she liked it, it was easy to find the wispy silk that would be perfect with Juno’s complexion.
    The happy chortling that Juno engaged in as the dress was folded and slid into the folds of a matching wrap made Lorai’s day.
    It was that smile, that laughter that drove her to design clothing for women. Each light caress of sound increased her magic as well as brightened her soul.
    Lorai waved her customer and friend off and returned to her drawing board.
    She had nearly withered to a hag before she had started making clothing. She had crawled to the shore to die, and women laying out kelp to burn had taken her in, hidden her from their husbands and clothed her. In the abandoned rope shed, she had woven clothing for herself and the others out of the hemp. In her hands—strengthened by the depths—the rough rope turned into tough but beautiful fabric that made the women smile and laugh. With each laugh, Lorai grew younger until she was fit once again.
    She had crept back to the sea under cover of darkness, leaving enough clothing for generations in her place. The clothing she had made contained threads of her hair. She would know if the women needed her. She would come without hesitation and call the waves to do her bidding.
    Lorai smiled at the memories and kept working, humming to herself until she got the urge to swim. She got up, stretched and walked to the door of her shop, turning the sign to CLOSED.
    The salt water called to her, and she headed down the street toward the exposed shoreline. It was time to do what mermaids usually did best.
     
    Lorai cruised through the deepest water, circling the shipwreck that appeared to have come with the clear blue sea.
    With a smile on her face, she played with the wheel and swam around the mast. She circled it and pole danced with it, giggling silently as she frolicked where no one could see her.
    A flash of pale colour shot through her peripheral vision. She turned her head and stared,

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