Mermaid Drawings

Submitted into Contest #43 in response to: Write a story about an unlikely friendship.... view prompt



It was Isla’s fault that they transferred the same day as the school’s Family Day. Ken’s twin sister was so excited to meet other children, she couldn’t wait till Monday. Three years of being home-schooled bored her to death, as she would always complain.

“I can read already. I can write my name and Ken’s, too! Please, mama? I wanna make friends,” Isla cried. When asked if she could count from one to a hundred, she would rush to her room screaming, “I know fifty!”

Staying at home didn’t bother Ken, though. But his sister was so insistent that he had to come with her when their mother finally agreed that they should attend school with the others.

Now, they’re surrounded by different families of kids they don’t know.

“What were you saying about wanting a playmate?” Ken gave her a mocking grin.

Isla looked around. Everyone was with an adult or two. “We should’ve brought mom.”

Her twin brother shook his head. “You know she’s got work this afternoon. You shouldn’t have whined on wanting to come here."

Isla rolled her eyes at him. He was trying to be the strict brother again, maybe even forgetting that she was older than him. It was his excuse and she's not buying it. She knew that he was just afraid to get out of the house. Her twin's whole world was her and their mother, he didn't dare let anyone in ever since the day their father left them.

They look up to their mother and seeing her bawling her eyes out about how she wasn't good enough affected them gravely. They didn't know how to comfort her that day. She said that their embraces were enough. Isla heard how Ken swore to protect them both. They were seven and he was a minute younger than her, Ken couldn't even protect himself. If she was clumsy, he's worse than her. So Isla promised that she'll always be there for him, too.

The teacher clapped her hands together to get everyone’s attention. Ken had met her before. They were with their mother when she enrolled them. Her brown hair was in a tight bun and her eyes were drowsy, it gave him the impression that she's always irritated. But her lips say otherwise. She always says nice things, complimented his mother about her make-up a few times. She thanked her and called her Miss Carla.

And he had been noticing Miss Carla’s stares since they arrived. Her eyes were still as tired as ever, but there was a different emotion held in them. The same emotion that people give them whenever they answer the question '...and where's your dad?'. He didn't like it very much but he wondered what she had been thinking.

“Everyone, we have new classmates here with us today,” she called both Isla and Ken to stand beside her, in front of the whole class. “How would you like to say hello to them? Maybe after that, we could have the activity of introducing our parents to others.”

There were cheers followed by excited echoes of hi’s and hello’s. Ken saw how Isla’s blue eyes twinkled the moment they received their greetings. Typical Isla.

Miss Carla continued with a warm smile, “That’s nice, isn’t it? Now, little ones, would you like to introduce yourselves?”

Isla jumped happily, her pigtails bouncing. She was planning on wearing her hair down before but their mother said that she didn't even know how to brush them properly, the other children might mistake her for a ghost and then they wouldn't like to be her friend anymore. Ken would like to be the ghost now. “I’m Isla and this is my brother, Laiken! It’s very nice to meet everybody.”

“It’s nice to meet everybody,” Ken followed, bowing his head in respect. He returned his gaze up the class and his cheeks turned pink when he noticed how they were all looking at them with great interest.

“Since you’re both in front already, why don’t you tell us more about your mother?” Miss Carla was beaming and Ken wondered if she ever gets tired of smiling.

“You’ve seen her, haven’t you, Miss? She’s pretty. I wish I was pretty, too,” Isla made everyone laugh, even the parents. She was being honest, though. Isla has always mentioned how she wanted to be like their mother when she grows up.

“She’s a pretty mermaid,” Ken blurted out with a soft voice. They stopped laughing. For a moment, they did. And then they laughed again. But it was different from before. Ken was embarrassed.

Isla noticed this and looked at her brother. She grabbed his hand and nodded. “She is a mermaid. That’s why she can’t be here now. She has mermaid work.”

And it’s true. The twins have watched their mother’s performances on local aquarium shows. They've watched how her blonde hair dances with her under the water. She would wave hello to the other people watching her, blowing bubble kisses. And then she would flip with her tail like a real mermaid princess. It was magical and the twins never get tired of watching her.

They’ve also been invited to a lot of birthday events with their mother as the special guest. When they weren’t learning how to read and write, they would help her with designing and sewing her collection of tails. They have their own tails at home, too. They would go swimming and she would teach them how to swim like a real mermaid. Even joking how mermaid blood flows through her veins. Whatever that means. It was their bond with her.

A girl wearing a huge butterfly clip on her wavy red hair raised her hand. “Does she live in the sea? Is she a princess? Do you have a kingdom under the sea?”

“Are you mermaids, too?” another asked.

They shook their heads. “No, we live in a house. But mama sometimes brings us to the beach to protect the sea.”

“We pick up trash,” Ken added.

The sea is home to many creatures that's why keeping it clean and protecting it is very important, their mother would say.

The people in the class were in awe of the two new children. Well, most of them. Some of the boys already lost interest the moment they started talking about sea princesses. After questions on how mermaids breathe underwater and how do mermaids become humans (one also asked if true love’s kiss was real but Miss Carla stopped her), they were sent back to their seats.

“And now, we introduce the parents that are here with us today.”

Isla leaned close to her brother. “He’s a baker.”


“See that girl with the yellow coat?” Ken nodded. Isla grinned and pointed at the adult beside the said girl. He was tall, much taller than the other dads in the room. “Guessing Game: Guess what the adults do.”

The boy laughed. Guessing games were their go-to game. It wasn't the time to play it but he had a hunch that his sister probably just wanted to push him off his discomfort.

So they started guessing. It was a bit hard because nobody was wearing their work clothes. Adults were in either yellow or blue shirts. Something about the event's theme, they guess (although the children were free to wear whatever they want). The final score was 7-5 with the brother taking the lead. There were about twenty of them present (one or two for each kid). Both giggled, realizing that they were terrible at the game.

The activity ended and Miss Carla let the children have their playtime hour outside. She encouraged her two new students to get to know their classmates which Isla was more than happy to do. Ken, however, wasn't comfortable with the idea - but he didn’t want to worry his sister.

“You can go,” he pushed. “I want to read a book.”

“Are you sure? Or do you want me to read it for you?” Isla teased.

The brother stuck his tongue out in response. Despite being twins, Isla acts more of an older sister to him. It was her who would comfort him whenever he feels scared, but it was also her who would start arguing with him about little things. Like wanting to borrow his Lego set. He doesn’t let her because blocks would mysteriously disappear under her hands.

Ken picked up a storybook about talking trucks and sat on his seat. He flipped the pages about a few times before glancing at the window. He saw how popular his sister was with the girls their age. She was like the sun to them, bringing everyone joy, and he was content with that. Or was he?

At least Isla is happy.

“I drew something.”

The voice came from a thin boy in a striped shirt. He was standing in front of Ken, his hand holding out a piece of paper towards him. “Hi, I’m Cory. Have you heard of the word ‘lonely’?”

“I’m fine?” It wasn’t meant to be a question.

“But you’re alone,” Cory insisted. “My older brother said that lonely means sad and alone. He would tease me about it. I’m not sad. But you look like you are. Laiken, right? That’s a weird name.”

“Ken. And my name isn’t weird. Mama said that it means lake. She loves water.”

Cory took a seat beside him, looking at the truck book before meeting his eyes. “Right. And that’s why I drew this. Your mother’s a mermaid, isn’t she?”

He slid the paper in front of Ken, smiling proudly. Ken stared at it, his nose scrunched. It was a drawing of a fish (or was it a snake?) with a long green tail and red flowing…is that supposed to be hair? There were circles which he recognized as bubbles, while everything else was blue. “My grandma told me that I’m good at drawing. When you and your sister said that your mother is a mermaid, I remembered the movie that I watched at my cousin’s place. And I decided to draw her for you.”

He gaped at the mermaid’s lifeless eyes, wondering if Cory was kidding. Was he, perhaps, teasing him? Is this what bullying is like? Ken has read of it in one of his books. He even accused Isla of bullying him once. She didn't know what it meant so she brushed it off and continued tickling him. Ken was quite certain that it meant making fun of another. But Cory's brown eyes seemed sincerely proud of what he's giving to him. What was he supposed to say?

“This is terrible.” He said, not being able to stop himself. He knew that it was rude. His mother reminded them to be nice to people before dropping them at school. Isla would probably scold him if she heard him being mean to the poor boy.

“Sorry,” Ken whispered. What if, right now, he was the one doing the bullying?

“It’s okay,” Cory shrugged before tilting his head, joining his new classmate on looking at the drawing. “But I put scales on the tail. The bubbles…I like the bubbles. The bubbles are perfect. Then, what do you think should I do to make it less terrible?”

Ken was unsure of what to answer. “I…Well, mermaids are half human and half fish.”

“I thought the hair was very human-y.”

Ken nodded, trying to hide a giggle. “It is. But they’re also human from their tummy to their head. I thought you’ve watched a movie about it?”

Cory looked deep in thought. “From my cousin’s TV. It was long ago. I was four, I think. Oh I know! We should both draw mermaids!”

“No, I don’t want to,” Ken replied, tapping his fingers on the table. "I was reading a book."

The other boy flashed a sly smile. “You don't look like you're reading. Good books are very entertaining but you're talking to me. Are you scared that your drawings wouldn’t be as good as mine?”

“I’m not scared!” he got up to get two pieces of paper from the teacher’s desk. One for Cory, one for him. Unlike Cory, Ken was quite good with colours. He didn’t want to seem boastful, but he didn’t want to be teased either. Isla was enough headache.

“Nice! I’ll let you borrow my crayons. Laiken, this is a challenge. Whoever wins this competition gains a friend.”

Ken was confused. “And whoever loses?”

“Is going to be won by the winner, duh.”

That seems fair.

Playtime hour ended and following activities started, but the competition between the two continued. Isla was surprised that there was another boy with her brother in their table but not as much as she was excited to befriend him. Both boys decided to let Isla be the judge of their drawings. “No favourites!” Cory warned.

“But that is terrible,” she laughed after taking a peek at Cory’s work. The boy glared at her while her twin quietly hums a tune while doing his.

At the end of the Family Day activities, the two showed their work to each other and as expected, Ken won. The mermaid's tail was most especially beautiful as it highlighted designs they've used on their mother's costume.

“Congratulations, Laiken. You just earned yourself a friend.” Cory announced and Isla gave them both applauses.

“Thank you,” Ken breathed out. He was still shy, but less antsy. He wanted to run away but he also wanted to stay. It was a confusing moment for him. Isla was the one who wanted friends while he's good with not having alot of people pay attention to him. But somehow, Ken was a tad glad that someone who never seemed to keep his mouth shut approached him. Maybe having a friend would be nice for him, too.

He studied both mermaid drawings in his hands. “If- if you want, I could teach you to get better?”

Cory’s smile widened. His grandmother had already been calling him about returning home but he couldn't leave the twins just like that. Ken's response was a good sign. “That would be cool. Monday?”


Isla watched them bid their goodbyes to each other. She knew her brother best. She knew how it was just the two of them were for him. How the first half of the day was quite rough to him, and it worried her. But the end of it was very much worth it. She was proud of Ken.

He was slowly learning to open up.

May 24, 2020 20:48

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Jubilee Forbess
04:36 May 27, 2020

Gold! I work with kids and even though I haven't been to school in person for a while, I can attest to the accuracy of this story! Kids are always looking out for each other at heart. I loved the premise of the story so very much. Mermaids! but now how you usually think of them. Wonderful. Again, great choices with the names. Match perfectly.


Jan Querubin
04:50 May 27, 2020

I love how kids think. Their imaginations are amazing, and how they interact with their surroundings regarding it even more so. I've thought of how mermaids sparks wonder in them and I've researched how professional mermaids keep the magic alive. They're wonderful.


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Noor Ahmed
14:32 Jun 04, 2020

love it!


Jan Querubin
15:39 Jun 04, 2020

Thank you :)


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A.J Blink
10:24 May 30, 2020

Very unlikely indeed. Weldone Jan♥️


Jan Querubin
17:25 May 30, 2020

Thank you, Blink!


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Kelechi Nwokoma
18:44 May 26, 2020

Jan, I really love your story! The unlikely friendship between Ken and Cory was really cute to me. I also love that Isla and Ken are twins- I love twins. Overall, great story. Keep it up!


Jan Querubin
18:59 May 26, 2020

Thank you, Kelechi. I just realized how Ken and Cory's friendship was the same as the quote "Introverts get adopted by extroverts" and it was quite funny for me. Anyways, I'm glad you enjoyed their story. Thank you for your feedback.


Kelechi Nwokoma
19:04 May 26, 2020

Yeah, the quote is true. It's also the same as "opposites attract." And you're welcome. I was more than happy to read your story.


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