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       Diary of a Radical Mermaid, p.1

           Deborah Smith
 
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Diary of a Radical Mermaid


  Diary of a Radical Mermaid

  by Deborah Smith

  Praise for Alice At Heart

  Book One: WaterLilies

  Awards

  • Romantic Times BOOKclub magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Fantasy Novel, 2002

  • Winner of the prestigious 2003 Maggie Award for Paranormal Romance, presented by the Georgia Romance Writers of America

  • Finalist, Dorothy Parker Award for Paranormal Romance, presented by the Reviewers International Organization (RIO)

  Reviews

  “Readers of Alice Hoffman will enjoy Smith’s surprisingly convincing blend of romance and magical realism.”

  — Booklist

  “Old secrets, revenge, and passion fuel this compelling, intricately plotted story of love, trust, and acceptance, which successfully straddles the line between romance and fantasy and should appeal to fans of both genres.”

  — Library Journal

  “Absolutely magical and, in my mind, a real masterpiece. Kudos to D.S. for producing something so fresh and so perfect.”

  —Susan Elizabeth Phillips,

  New York Times bestselling author

  “Wonderfully original and different — brava!”

  — Susan Wiggs, bestselling author

  Alice At Heart is available in trade paperback direct from BelleBooks at www.bellebooks.com and at fine bookstores everywhere.

  Praise for the novels of

  Deborah Smith

  “When this generous book [Charming Grace] throws its arms open to assemble a family with Boone and Grace at its center, the reader rejoices. Romance is about the future, and everyone gets a new one in this big-hearted Southern tale.”

  —Washington Post

  “Deborah Smith is one romance novelist who just keeps getting better.”

  — Publishers Weekly

  “Nobody can create strong, interesting and intelligent female lead characters the way Ms. Smith does.”

  — www.readertoreader.com

  “A spellbinding storyteller.”

  —Booklist

  “For sheer storytelling virtuosity, Ms. Smith has few equals.”

  — Richmond Times-Dispatch

  “One of the best romantic writers in the business today.”

  — Woman Magazine

  “A great Southern novelist.”

  — The Romance Reader

  The books of

  Deborah Smith

  Beloved Woman

  Blue Willow

  Silk and Stone

  A Place to Call Home

  When Venus Fell

  On Bear Mountain

  The Stone Flower Garden

  Sweet Hush

  Charming Grace

  Alice at Heart (WaterLilies, Book One)

  Diary of a Radical Mermaid (WaterLilies, Book Two)

  Deborah Smith

  Deborah Smith is the award-winning, nationally bestselling author of 35 novels, including the New York Times bestseller, A Place to Call Home. Film rights to her 2003 novel, Sweet Hush, have been bought by Disney. Her WaterLilies series for BelleBooks will continue in 2005 with The Radical Mermaid Gets Rude.

  Learn more about the books of Deborah Smith at

  www.deborahsmith.com

  www.bellebooks.com

  www.deborahsmith-solomonseal.com

  Diary of a Radical Mermaid

  Deborah Smith

  BelleBooks, Inc.

  ISBN 978-1-935661-14-6

  Diary of a Radical Mermaid

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons or fish (living or dead), events or locations is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2004 by BelleBooks, Inc.

  Printed and bound in the United States of America. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.

  Published by:

  BelleBooks, Inc. • P.O. Box 67 • Smyrna, GA 30081

  We at BelleBooks enjoy hearing from readers. You can contact us at the address above or at [email protected]

  Visit our website— www.BelleBooks.com

  First Edition July 2004

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  Cover art: Sheila Aldridge

  Cover design: Martha Shields

  Map: Deborah Smith

  Hidden between Earth and Water Await Miracles

  — from the Bonavendier family crest

  Diary of a

  Radical Mermaid

  “Most of the world is covered in oceans. Ninety-five percent of the world beneath those oceans has not yet been explored. We can only imagine what may exist beyond our shores.”

  — Marine biologist, a Lander

  “What may exist? How about who?”

  — Marine biologist, a Mer

  Donald and Me

  Chapter 1

  I was herding Paris Hilton and her shopping entourage down a Manhattan boulevard when I broke the biggest rule of mermaid life: Don’t show your tail in public. It seemed like such an innocent joke, dissing Donald Trump. But a Mer-babe of real class does not, simply does not, shout across Fifth Avenue, “Bad hair is not a symbol of self-confidence! Donald, I don’t care how big a hit The Apprentice was last season, the seventies are over. Stop with the comb-over, already! Or shave your head and get some transplants!”

  Doing a bitch slap on a man’s hair is never a good thing, especially if a loud, beautiful redhead (me) yells at his (Donald’s) hair in the company of a famous heiress (Paris, who asked for my fashion guidance after recent public fiascoes) while a crew from Entertainment Tonight happens to be filming his (Donald’s) Manhattan stroll.

  Because then they started filming Donald’s hair.

  Donald’s a charming and rich man, but like most ordinary, plain-footed people on the planet he thinks he rules the whole globe when, in fact, he only rules the dry parts. The rest, which is covered in sweet, deep water, belongs to us — the Merfolk, aka Water People, aka People of Water, if you want to be politically correct about it.

  Landers, one fourth. Mers, three fourths. Who’s more important? Donald or me? You do the math.

  Still, I shouldn’t have pissed him off when he was on the verge of signing a huge New York real estate deal with Riyad bin Mahadeen, who is my great aunt Lilith’s lover, one of the world’s richest men, and a senior member of the worldwide Mer Council. Not that Donald knows he does business with Mers. Like all Landers, he never suspects. His hair would probably stand on end. What a mental image.

  “Juna Lee Poinfax,” Donald told Riyad, “needs to be locked in a room somewhere and forced to look at pictures of my hair until she apologizes to me.”

  Horrors. I refused.

  So Donald pulled out on the multi-million-dollar deal, and Riyad banished me from polite Mer society for costing him a small fortune, and, thus, here I am, just another Mer rebel without a cause, sentenced to community service in the boondocks. Jane Austen could have written my woeful tale of class and privilege purloined, it’s so sad. She was a mermaid three times removed on her father’s side, you know.

  Anyway, here I sit. Serving time on the beautiful but bucolic Georgia coast. What am I to do? How can I possibly preserve my Je ne sais quoi de mermaid?

  I know. I’ll start a diary. A really hell-raising one.

  Be warned. Mermaid at work.

  Sainte’s Point Island, Georgia

  Chapter 2

  Dear Diary:

/>   All right, first, you ordinary people (Landers) need to know why my name is Juna Lee Poinfax. Yes, I know how it sounds.

  Juna Lee. I might as well buy a beauty parlor and a house trailer.

  Juna Lee is a very Southern name in the sense of being melodramatic and a little fey, thanks to a streak of pomposity among Mers, who love classical names, and a streak of humor in the Poinfax family tree, which is rooted in the Southern mint julep waters of Charleston, South Carolina. Juna is from the Roman goddess Juno, queen of just about everything. Lee is from my mother’s family, who claim to be related to Confederate General Robert E. (Lee).

  I say claim because Mers are related by blood or marriage to just about every Lander of any consequence, or, should I say, more accurately, Mers believe every Lander of any consequence is related to a Mer.

  We Poinfaxes are proud to be Southern Mer gentry. We always believe in gilding the lily. If we had a motto on our family crest, it would probably be this:

  We’re Better Than Everyone Else, And We Know It

  That motto has become my cri de couer since I’ve decided to write this subversive little journal. Where to start, hmmm, where to dive in? What do you Landers need to know first about us Mer people? Well, the obvious:

  Mermaids are real.

  Do I mean that half-naked, flipper-bottomed people are hiding in your local lake? Absolutely not! How tacky! But, as with most worldwide mythology with ancient and abiding roots, there’s always a pearl of truth in the middle of the oyster of folklore.

  Mers are that pearl.

  I am a “person of water.” One of the Water People. merfolk, if that makes you happy. I don’t have fins, I don’t live in an underwater condo, I don’t shapeshift between a pouty Darryl Hannah clone and a half-fish cartoon figure. I have two legs, I always have two legs, and I look more or less like anyone else. Only better. And with webbed toes.

  Mers are real, yes. Very real. Thanks to certain psychic gifts and endless charisma, we live among you discreetly, though often in control of local and, indeed, worldwide events. If not for a hapless inability to reproduce like Landers, aka horny rabbits, we’d no doubt rule the planet.

  Mers are diverse. You have your purists, your anarchists, your outcasts, and your middle-of-the-streamers. But in general, we share the following:

  • Gorgeous good looks

  • Very long hair that tends to grow six inches per day (this is true for both men and women)

  • Ability to see very well under water, aided by a highly developed sonar talent

  • Ability to remain under water for long periods of time, up to several hours in rare cases

  • Incredible swimming ability (I mean, that’s a given, right?)

  • Beautifully webbed toes

  • Psychic abilities, including a “singing” type of thing among ourselves, plus a fair amount of mind control over you ordinary Landers

  You don’t believe a word I’m telling you, do you? No way will you admit that some of the mysteries that go bump in the night (or in our case, splash in the water) might be real. But, trust me, there’s a whole different world out there beyond your safe little shores. Hang in there with me, sweeties, and I’ll tell you about it.

  Even if I’m not supposed to.

  Ali Bonavendier, my cousin by virtue of being Lilith’s long-lost baby half-sister (don’t ask), wrote this little tidbit in her private journal when she came to Sainte’s Point. Her name was Alice Riley then. She’d been raised up in the boonies of the Appalachian mountains without knowing her father or his Mer heritage. She was practically a hillbilly. She had no clue that she was a superior human being. Poor baby. But she’s fine now.

  How did I get a peek at her private journal? Well, we’re both living at the island’s mansion right now, and we’re the best of friends, and she trusts me so much she shares her most intimate writings with me.

  Okay, okay. I swiped it when she wasn’t looking. Here’s what she wrote:

  “The Bonavendier sisters own Sainte’s Point Island and everything of importance in the town of Bellemeade, just across the bay. Lilith and her two sisters play with the village as if it were their pretty toy: the shops are exquisite, the bay front inn, WaterLilies, is a place of internationally renowned charm, and the marina along Main Street is a perfect combination of hardworking fishing boats and exotic little yachts. People swear a kind of enchantment comes over them when they visit the town. They gaze across Bellemeade Bay with wistful envy at the secretive island, which looks like a magical, wooded kingdom floating on the horizon. Look toward the other side of the world, people say, and you’ll see Bonavendiers.

  “Sainte’s Point Island, enclave of the Bonavendier family since Revolutionary War times, is glamorous, notorious, alluring, and haunted by gossip. It is said every Bonavendier for two centuries has been born with webbed feet, always swims naked, can seduce anyone at will, is beloved by dolphins, and drinks like a fish. Vodka, preferably.

  “Those rumors, as I’m coming to learn, are quite true.”

  Isn’t that perfect, how Ali put it? Glamorous? Notorious? Yum. Drinks like a fish? Double yum. Your vices are our virtues. Delicious.

  As Ali said, Bellemeade is a tiny, quaint, exceedingly rich little village perched on the Georgia coast near Savannah. If you look at a map of Georgia you’ll see that the coastline resembles the nubby fringe of a frayed scarf. There are hundreds of little coves, bays, inlets, and waterways — it’s a remarkable and sultry subtropical world of ancient history — Indians and pirates and brave Africans escaping slavery and bell-like Southern belles! — all sheltered by enormous maritime oaks dripping moss. If you know the right people you’ll be invited to the hidden mansions, the shaded lanes of the fishing villages, and the coves where some of the world’s richest Mers discreetly moor small yachts.

  But you’ll rarely be invited to the private islands. A pretty string of them dot the waters off the Georgia coast, some no bigger than a glorified hummock, others vast enough to harbor all sorts of fascinating lives. Follow them up the continental coast and you’ll glide among the Outer Banks of the Carolinas, then on up into the cold beauties of the northeast, Long Island, Cape Cod, and the like. Only a few of the Georgia islands are public, and even the public ones are charming in their own way — St. Simon’s and the teensy islands around its gilded shores, and Jekyll, where we Mers have quite a history among the Rockefellers and other rich Lander clans who turned the whole island into their private playground during the early 1900s.

  But the most amazing islands are privately owned, and the most amazing of them all is, naturally, Sainte’s Point, which is owned by Mers. The Bonavendier mansion is a marvel of antiques and acquired treasures. I say acquired, because, quite frankly, Mers have never been immune to a certain love for piracy, although the modern Bonavendiers eschew such crude and graspy behavior. Besides, with so much inherited money to spend, why bother with any contemporary yo-ho-ho-ing on the open seas? What fun is it to waylay some ugly modern ship chugging along with all the challenge of a floating metal box? What fabulous treasure would one steal? A Toyota?

  As I am somewhat persona non grata in many of my usual world ports at the moment, Sainte’s Point is a lovely place to, well, let one say, it’s a lovely sanctuary where my, hmmm, controversial reputation for partying and meddling can take a little hiatus from deeper scrutiny of recent activities.

  Or some shit like that.

  * * * *

  Dear Diary:

  Okay, so much for discretion. Today I waltzed into my cousin’s fabulous jewelry shop in Bellemeade, and I announced, “I have a blog.”

  To which my cousin replied, “Juna Lee, I believe plastic surgery will remove that kind of thing.”

  Very funny. Tula Bonavendier is a wry snit, more smug than even the typical Mer, since she’s established herself as quite the high-end jewelry designer. Most Mers are content to live off the fortunes their families have amassed over the centuries, and most are players and wanderers, to sa
y the least. But not Tula.

  She’s as industrious as a crab in a garbage dump. You’ll see ads for her designs in almost every issue of Vogue and Vanity Fair, the stunning arrays of pearls and diamonds draped around the sleek necks of barely clothed models whose pouty cheeks are so sunken I wonder if they’ve had some molars pulled to achieve the look.

  Mers are magnificently built but not skeletal. We not only love spending inordinate amounts of time underwater, we aren’t much affected by even the iciest water temps. That kind of talent requires a lovely, softly dense layer of fat beneath our perfect skin — it’s quite the scientific marvel, not that we ever allow Landers to cop a peek at the cell structure under their microscopes. At any rate, we are lusciously endowed in more ways than one, and while we may pout to dangerous excess, we never look gaunt when we do it.

  But back to Tula. She’s a tall, svelte redhead, a few years older than moi, though she’ll never admit it. I gauge her at about fifty, but of course, that means nothing in mer-person years. She looks thirty and is always adorned with the latest designer fashions and the wry grimace of a self-righteous nerd.

  Tula spends a lot of her time trying to understand Landers, so she can sell them high-end trinkets. I think she’s been tainted by Lander attitudes, which are boringly anxious. Tula has never quite gotten over some Lander love affair from a few years back. Since I’m an expert on love and sex, let me say right now, with all fairness, that no Mer has any business diddling a Lander.

  It only ruins the poor Lander, who becomes totally obsessed with the mer-person (a given), and it puts the Mer in a watery pickle since Landers, well, like land. They tend to want to move far from the oceans and live in high places where the altitude is atrocious. (Did I mention most Mers can’t tolerate heights?) Also, Landers are sweet but fragile. They keel over at young ages, compared to us. Who wants to be in her prime at only 70 or 80 and care for some decrepit old Lander whose hunky Lander appeal long ago disappeared behind hearing aids, skinny legs, and a subscription to the large-print edition of Reader’s Digest?

 
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