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coming of age

By Lilly CooperPublished 7 months ago 8 min read
Photo by Alice Alinari on Unsplash

Sitting in the darkened viewing room, Delphine felt as close to the peace she used to feel before the passing of her Mémé a year ago. The fish swam through the iridescent blue that reminded her of her grandmother’s eyes, with a grace she envied. Delphine herself had two left feet and was all thumbs. Being clumsy just made her even more self-conscious than the average fifteen year old girl.

Every year, for her birthday, Mémé bought her on a trip to the aquarium. They would wander all over, enjoying the sights and smells that smoothed the rougher edges of Delphine’s moods. They had begun these yearly trips when she was just a little girl, when her feet did not touch the ground when she sat on the bench in the viewing room. After her mother passed and her father remarried. After her stepmother had moved the family from their beautiful seaside village to the noisy, dirty city they now called home.

Delphine sighed, hearing her stepmother’s voice in her head.

Delphine, stand up straight child!

Delphine, for goodness' sake, you need to make an effort to look neat child!

Delphine, ma chérie, watch where you put your feet! Your legs are always covered in bruises.

Her stepmother wasn’t really evil or nasty. Delphine felt she just never seemed to live up to expectations. For others. Or herself. But with her Mémé, she never felt there were any expectations to live up to, other than to just be Delphine.

Now the seat next to her was occupied by nothing but air and memories. She sucked in a slow, deep breath and let it out again. She imagined Mémé sitting beside her and what she would say.

Ma Chérie, there is no one who can tell you how to be you. You shine a light that is unique, and it is beautiful.

A family with two small children walked through the viewing room disturbing the quiet with delighted squeals.

“Look at the Nemo, Maman!”

The Mother smiled indulgently. “Yes, he a very pretty little fish. Hush now, inside voices please.”

Delphie smiled at the wonder and fascination of the children as their whispers filled the room. She could see herself in them. She disliked that the fish were in a tank, not in their natural habitat. But the aquarium always looked clean and the animals looked like they were happy. She honestly believed the education provided here made people more aware of how their actions impacted the environment.

The family moved on to the next display and left her immersed in the room lit softly by wavering light shining through water. It wasn’t the same without Mémé but she still felt the peace she hadn’t felt anywhere else since moving to this city.

While she watched two fish chase each other through the colorful coral, a worker from the aquarium approached before respectfully clearing his throat.

“Mademoiselle Martin? I apologise for disturbing you. But I have something for you.” The young man held out a small box wrapped in brown paper and a thin red ribbon.

Delphine blinked and took it from him and lay it on her lap. “Merci Sir.”

“Perdon me, but she instructed me to wait with you while you open the box.”

“Oh. Alright.” Delphine frowned. “Pardon my rudeness Monsieur, but who instructed you?”

“Your Mémé Mademoiselle. She left this box with us more than a year ago with instructions that you were to receive it on your fifteenth birthday if she were not here with you.”

She looked down at the parcel. Mémé was always one to forward plan. Gently tugging the ribbon, the wrappings opened slowly like a flower blooming revealing a box in the particular blue green of the sea. Lifting the lid revealed the most delicate chain with a gorgeous and delicate silver Conch shell. She drew the fine chain from the box and held it up to the light, delighted by the beauty of it. To the side of the small cushion of soft fabric the necklace had lain on, a folded paper peeked out. Pulling the paper out, she unfolded and read Mémé’s neat hand writing.

Delphine, ma chérie,

Bon Anniversaire! You are now on the cusp of becoming a full grown woman, no longer a child.

And what a woman you will be! I can see it when I look at you, even if you do not see it in the mirror yourself.

Please know you are loved and that you are special.

More special than you know. Have you ever wondered why living near the ocean made you so calm, why the underwater viewing room brings you such peace?

Even without our heritage, you are special.

We come from a long-forgotten branch of a very old royal family. Your great grandmother many times removed was the youngest daughter of the prince Eirikr and his beautiful wife princess Ariella, though through the ages their names have been altered.

Ariella was of the sea. I know this makes little sense right now, but it will soon.

Put your necklace on. After today, it will protect you from changing when you do not want to.

Now, trust in me. Follow the person who delivered this package. They will show you something incredible.

All my love, always,


Delphine looked up as she fastened her chain around her neck.

“She says I am to follow you.”

“It is so Mademoiselle. Please,’ he bowed, ‘follow me.”

The young man lead her back through the aquarium building, taking hallways and turns until she felt turned around and lost. She fingered the shell pendant. Trust in Mémé... I do. I do trust her.

The attendant stopped at a door with ‘Do Not Enter. Authorized Personnel ONLY’ written across it. Swiping a card, he pushed it open and held it for her. Slipping through the door way into a softly lit room, she looked around with curiosity. Petitions set up around the room with towels folded up beside each one gave the impression of a changing room. To the side of the room, a stair ran up the side of a curved wall, echoes of water reaching her ears. A woman appeared at the top of the stair.

“There you are! But my, how you look so like her!” She strode with an enviable grace down the stairs and crossed the floor to cup the girl’s face. “Oh, how she would have loved to be her for this day. Ah, but let’s not dampen this auspicious day with laments and tears!” The tall woman took a shift from a hanger and held it out to her. “My name is Marie. I am here to guide you. Put this on. Just this. And follow me.” Marie smiled at the expression on her face. “I know, it’s awkward the first time. Next time, you will know better and come prepared."

Delphine replaced her own clothes with the shift of light fabric. Keeping her hands by her sides to keep the hem down, she rounded the partition to look at Marie.

“I feel.... so exposed.”

“I know my dear. I’m sorry for the intrigue. But it is easier to show than explain. Follow me.” Madam Marie led the way up the stairs, Delphine trailing behind trying not to trip or let go of the hem. Staring at her feet she couldn’t help but think of how her knobby knees and dark bruises looked so ugly.

At the top of the stairs, she looked up. The stairs climbed the side of a huge tank, deep, wide and teeming with sea life. This must be paradise! She thought happily, forgetting herself consciousness.

“Come, sit on the edge.” Marie smiled.

Delphine didn’t think twice. She hurried to the edge and sat, swinging her legs into the water. The water felt warm and soothing, washing away all of her worries and concerns.

A strange tingling started in her toes, creeping up and up. When the sensation reached her ankles, the light appeared. Like a bioluminescent something wrapping around her legs the light continued up to her knees where she thought it would stop. Instead, it continued wrapping up her thighs. Surprised, Delphine tried to pull her legs out of the water again. Her legs would not work the way they were supposed to, both shifting together like they were tied together. The unexpected movement threw her off balance and rather than lifting herself from the water, she toppled sideways with a splash.

Something wasn’t right. Every time she moved, her body responded differently to what she expected. The light grew bright around her legs, up to her hips and as suddenly as it started it vanished.

Laying back in the water, she elevated her legs so she could see them.

Instead of legs, she saw a long, graceful fish-like tail covered in pearlescent scales like mother of pearl that moved when she flexed her toes.

With a gleeful cry, she flipped in the water diving down propelled by her powerful tail. The fish darted out of her way as she moved through the water, far more graceful than she ever managed on land. Turning a tight 180 degrees at the bottom of the tank Delphine thrust herself at great speed through the water. Broaching the surface, she lept high into the air, spraying water droplets like diamonds before diving back in.

Marie watched on with a smile. “Oh, if only your Maman and Mémé could see you now, our princess.”

By Gavin poh on Unsplash

Fan FictionFantasyShort StoryYoung Adult

About the Creator

Lilly Cooper

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.

I may be an amateur Author, but I love what I do!

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Comments (4)

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  • U.Rdiya6 months ago

    wow... I was transported to Delphine's world. well written!!

  • Babs Iverson7 months ago

    Lovely tale!!! Loved it!!! I Subscribed & left a heart!!!

  • This was lovely or rather is lovely

  • Bex Jordan7 months ago

    What a beautiful story 😊

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