And then I was in his arms, my mouth pressed against his.
It was a sunburst. A rainbow. A million brilliant colors coalescing into one and then exploding outward.
I love you, Tempest. I love you. He didn’t say the words out loud, but then he didn’t need to. I could hear them in my heart, could feel them in my soul.
I love you too, Kona. I really do.
I pulled away then, and though he made a sound of protest deep in his throat, Kona let me go. And that made all the difference. Was this what my mother had felt like all those years ago, when she had walked out of the ocean and straight into my father’s arms? Like his love filled her to bursting even as his understanding gave her the confidence to take a huge leap of faith?
I thought of her letter, of her warning to choose more wisely than she had. And then I looked at Kona and the ocean and knew I had done just that. They were my present and my future and nothing I had known before or since could ever compare with the way I felt when I was with Kona, really with him, as a mermaid. As I was meant to be.
“Take me home, Kona.” I said the words out loud, wanting there to be no misunderstandings.
“Are you sure?”
I turned and looked at my house one last time, saw that Kona was right. If I looked hard enough I could just make out my father and Moku and Rio standing at the family room window, looking down at us. Moku’s hand was pressed against the glass.
I extended my own hand and for a second I swore I could feel the cool smoothness of the window beneath my palm. I smiled and my family smiled back, nodding as if they understood my unasked question.
It was enough, though my heart broke just a little at the sight of them.
I turned to Kona, grabbed his hand. “I’m more than sure.”
And then we were running toward the surf as fast as our human bodies could carry us. As I dove beneath the surface, relishing the feel of the water in my hair, I realized that I had been right all along.
You really could go home again. You just had to want it bad enough.