Sand filtered through her fingertips in fine grains. She watched it tumble back down onto the top of the castle she had been building.
She sighed, and dusted the pile away, revealing the turret beneath, still intact and unscathed from her bombardment.
She sat back, her wings twitching as she looked around at the other sandpits, all much smaller and yet far fuller than hers. Laughter echoed across the moat that separated her sandpit from the rest and loneliness sent a pang through her.
In a fit of anger, she stood and kicked at the Sand Castle. Sand blasted out from one of the buildings, and the castle tumbled back to the ground. Then, in slow motion, the fine grains picked themselves up and began to reattach to the sand castle.
She scowled and turned her back on the castle to come face to face with a boy. Well, not quite face to face. His arms crossed on the wooden boundary containing the sand and he peered up at her with seaweed green eyes.
‘Lo,’ said the boy and he looked across at the ruined sandcastle. ‘That was pretty big. Why’d you ruin it?’
She blinked, her mouth dropping open but no words coming out. She was too surprised to think of an answer. Her wings fluttered, and the boy’s eyes shifted from her face, to their thinly visible outline.
He smiled. ‘Pretty.’
A faint flush crept up her neck. She shook her head, remembering her manners, and dipped into a clumsy curtsy, brushing away the sand from her silver dress.
‘How did you get here?’ she asked in a soft voice, like the wind through summer trees.
The boy shifted, leaning back away from the sandpit and slipping further back into the water of the moat. She stared at him. Had he swam from one of the other sandpits?
A slim, green tail lifted out of the water, fins splaying before splashing gracelessly back into the water.
Her eyes went wide, and she dropped to her knees in the sand, leaning out to study the tail that swished just below the water. ‘You’re a mermaid.’
‘Emmett,’ said the boy, flashing her a dimpled grin, as he splashed his tail through the water one more time. ‘You’re Emmalyne. Last of the angels.’
She frowned. ‘I’m not last. There are others’
He tilted his head. ‘But they’re adults, ain’t they? Not kids, like us.’
Emmalyne glanced back at her large, empty sandpit. ‘There aren’t any other children.’
‘That’s kinda sad.’
Emmalyne’s fists clenched, her wings drooping.
‘I thought maybe you might like someone to play with?’
She looked up, starlight eyes wide and hopeful. ‘Really?’ she asked, leaning forward on the edge of the sandpit. ‘You want to play with me?’
Emmett nodded, the dimpled grin returning. ‘It wouldn’t be any fun if you were here all by yourself while everyone else was playing.’