Toby watched his feet sink into the wet sand and smiled as foamy waves splashed round his ankles. He wriggled his toes out of the sand then found a new place to stand, starting his little game again. He looked up towards the sea and saw something which made him jump a foot in the air.
A girl was standing in front of him. Toby hadn't sensed her presence or heard her come splashing through the waves towards him. It was rather like she had just . . . appeared.
She was smiling shyly at him, but when she noticed him staring at her she bit her lip and looked down. Her dark hair fell to hide most of her face; it was clumped together in wet wavy locks, which made it resemble seaweed a little. She was wearing an old fashioned greyish-blue dress which was frayed and dirty, but still managed to show off her tiny body. Toby tried to guess how old she was. She couldn't have been much older than him, so seven or eight probably, but she had an ageless quality about her which made him feel like he had guessed wrong.
It was at this point when Toby started noticing several strange things about her. Firstly, her skin seemed to have an unnatural green tinge to it. Next, her eyes were silvery grey and the white bit surrounding them had thin stripes of blue swirling round them. She was standing in water which was about a foot high and the sea seemed to flow round - no, through her - like she wasn't there at all. Toby couldn't see her feet sinking into the sand like his were and noticed that her dress blended right into the sea. The pleats fanned out into waves and moved along side them. It was like she was part of the water and the water was a part of her. Even seven year old Toby knew that this was strange.
'Are you a mermaid?' Toby asked quietly.
The girl looked up at him, smiled and shook her head.
'I didn't think so,' said Toby. He pointed at her dress, where he assumed her legs were though he couldn't see any other sign of them. 'No fish tail.'
She smiled at him, more broadly this time, then she reached out a pale green hand.
'Come with me,' she whispered.
Toby, who was desperate to find out more about this girl, raised his hand towards her. He didn't think twice about what he was doing and his fingers were only centimeters away from hers now.
He spun round and saw his mother hurrying towards him.
'We need to go now, Toby,' she called.
He turned back round and with a sinking feeling in his stomach, he realised that the girl had gone. He looked around wildly for her but she was nowhere to be seen - there weren't even any waves in the water to show that she had waded her way through it. She had simply vanished.
His mother had now reached him and was standing by his side.
'Where's that girl?' he asked her earnestly.
His mother looked at him blankly. 'Which girl?'
He tried to tell his mother about how she had disappeared so suddenly, but she didn't seem to understand.
'She's probably just seen her parents and has gone back to them,' she told him. 'Anyway, Toby, we really need to get going now.'
While his parents packed their things away, Toby searched and searched for any sign of where the girl had gone. But she really had just vanished.