Leo the Mer-Guy! Chapter Twenty: New Beginnings (END)

Leo woke up on the shore of the pond, naked, human, and soaking wet, gasping for breath.


“Leo!” Someone exclaimed, but his ears were too full of water for him to tell who.


He shook off, roughly, like a dog. His ears popped.


“Give him some privacy,” a sharp voice hissed. That was Yasmin.


He saw her teal skirt move toward him. She pulled off her oversized hoodie and held it out as a privacy screen.


“Thanks,” Leo mumbled, thoughts swimming around in his head. He stood up on shaky legs, wiggling his human toes. He changed into his clothes, shivering in the October night. The bonfire was just embers now, illuminating everyone’s faces in deep oranges and reds.


When he was finished, he stepped out from behind Yasmin’s privacy barrier.


Ash stepped forward. “What happened?” they asked. “We thought you were dead.”


Leo’s heart pulled at the emotions in their voice. “No, I’m okay,” he said, offering a wobbly smile. “I was supposed to be down there. Turns out, I’m uh, a Mer person. And I’m going to help them.”


His words were met with silence, only the last crickets of the fall chirping to fill the void.


“Dude. Seriously?” Tinashe eventually said.


Leo nodded. “Like, full tail and everything. But only during certain moons.”


“So you’re a were Mer person,” Juan said, raising an eyebrow.


“That’s awesome!” Ruby said. “I know we just met, but I am so proud of you.”


Ash checked their watch. “Just as midnight hit. Fitting.”


Leo nodded, smiling.


Wait. “Midnight?” he gasped. “It’s already midnight? My parents are gonna kill me. I gotta go.”


One at a time, Leo got a firm hug from each of his new friends. They traded numbers, promising to text him when they met next.


With that, Leo ran through the night, his feet carrying him out of the woods and back onto the neighborhood streets.


Heart pumping, Leo whooped as he ran.


He was ready to meet his new life head on.


Maybe he would like it here.


The End


Theo Poling is a Creative Writing and Arts double major at the University of Michigan. In their free time, Theo enjoys fostering cats, baking, and going on hikes. Theo is transgender, nonbinary, and bisexual, and is passionate about representing LGBTQ people in positive ways in genre fiction. Theo's series, We Exist! is a weekly serial that publishes short story chapters about empowered queer protagonists in science fiction and fantasy settings, where queer people have previously been excluded. Check out the newest installment of We Exist! every Thursday.

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